Sandy beaches, seafront tavernas, ancient palaces, 24-hour nightlife – this sun-soaked island has the lot.
Crete is the largest of all the Greek islands and comes with swathes of beach-blanketed coastline. You’re sure to find the perfect spot, whether you’re after sandy stretches for sunbathing, rocky coves for snorkelling or wind-swept waters for surfing.
Looking for a family-friendly holiday with sun, sea and sand? Agios Nikolaos, Sissi or Stalis will tick all the boxes. For a taste of tradition or a romantic retreat, head to the hills where you’ll find quaint villages like Koutouloufari and Piskopiano. If it’s world-renowned nightlife you’re after, make a beeline for Malia, the island’s party capital.
Crete is steeped in history. Some of the mountainside villages have barely changed in centuries, while the sprawling ruins at Knossos are over 3,000 years old. The archaeological museum in Heraklion is one of the finest in Greece and will tell you everything you need to know about the island’s past, including its ancient glory days under the rule of King Minos.
For the widest stretch of the softest sand, head to Istro Beach near Agios Nikolaos. Agia Pelagia Beach is the place to go for cute seafront tavernas serving fish fresh from the Med. Families will love the laid-back vibe and watersports on Stalis Beach. And if you want to dance on the sands, make for the seafront bars in Malia.
A trip to the ancient palace complex at Knossos is a must while you’re in Crete. The ruins are thought to be part of Europe’s oldest city and some of the buildings have been reconstructed so you can see them (almost) as they were 3,000 years ago. Crete is also home to some impressive medieval castles – Spinalonga near Agios Nikolaos is one of the most fascinating.
If you’re after a family-friendly day out, Crete has 3 waterparks to whet your appetite – Limnoupolis near Chania, Water City near Heraklion and Acqua Plus in Hersonissos. Hardcore hikers will not want to miss a ramble through the Samariá Gorge, said to be Europe’s longest canyon.
Traditional Cretan food is fresh and rustic – think hearty lamb pasties and olive oil-drenched salads. Being an island, the seafood is second-to-none and is served fresh from the net in many of the seaside tavernas. Raki is the local tipple and tastes a bit like Italian grappa. It’s strong stuff, so be warned!
Crete is famous for its leather goods and you’ll find plenty of beautifully crafted bags, shoes and belts at boutiques and markets all over the island. Keep an eye out for ceramics and silver, too – in some shops you can watch the craftspeople as they create their wares. Foodies will want to take home the local olive oil and honey. For international fashion stores, head to Heraklion.
Malia is Crete’s hottest spot when it comes to nightlife. Its beachfront bars and clubs promise booming sound systems, laser shows and all-night foam parties. Elsewhere on the island, Heraklion has its fair share of waterfront clubs, while many of the smaller towns boast live music bars where you can listen to everything from traditional Greek tunes to jazz.
Crete is the southernmost island in Europe, located about 160 kilometres south of the tip of mainland Greece. It has two international airports – one in Chania at the western end of the island, the other in the capital city of Heraklion.
Time differenceGMT +2 hours
Beerfrom €3 a bottle
3 course mealaround €20