This is the most popular island in Greece, which many of us get to know as children and read the myths of Ancient Greece. A trip here will be remembered not only by history buffs, but also by those who prefer a comfortable beach holiday for a reasonable price. Crete is a great place to start exploring the country. Here you will be greeted by cats, squat white houses, hearty moussaka and wine. In addition, in the era of the coronavirus, there are not as many tourists here as usual.
What’s the route | Crete
For a closer look at the island, rent a car and explore the area on your own. We have prepared a rich car route for those who want to swim, sunbathe and get a lot of impressions. The route runs along the northern coast of the island (from west to east) and is designed for six days. But if you have time, don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan and make longer stops. Although Crete is small, it can be explored endlessly, wondering over and over again.
When to go | Crete
The ideal time to visit the island is May, if you want to find it blooming, fresh, not yet tired of the hot summer. The fruit season kicks off in August, plus there is a breeze on the island and the heat is easier to bear. September-October are good for the absence of crowds of tourists. At this time – the velvet season with a still warm sea, a rich harvest and reduced prices for housing and food in a cafe.
Day 1: Pink sand beach and Balos bay
We advise you to fly to the capital of the island – Heraklion. Rent a car right away: the cost of rental on OneTwoTrip starts from 4,700 rubles * per day.
In order not to waste time, go to the first point of the route – Elafonisi beach . We will still have time to get to know Heraklion: we will drop in here on the fourth day of the trip. Until then, to the sea and pink sand!
On the first day, you need to overcome the longest segment of the route to the other part of the island – 250 km and about four hours on the way. If you are tired after the plane – it is better to spend the night in Heraklion and go on a journey early in the morning. A night in a decent apartment in the center of the capital costs from 4,200 rubles * per night for two.
Elafonisi Beach is a piece of the Maldives in Crete. The turquoise clear water is ideal for diving and fish watching. The seashells give the sand the pink color that made this place famous. Two sun loungers and an umbrella for a day will cost € 10 *. You can stay on the beach for a long time, but if it gets boring, go to Balos Bay . Leave your car in the city of Kissamos : sightseeing boats run from the pier of Kavonisi to the bay. An adult ticket costs € 27 * round trip. Children – half the price. In an hour on the way, you will have time to enjoy the view and lunch: there will be no cafes and shops on the islands.
The ship first stops at Gramvousa Island . There is a fortress built by the Venetians in the 16th century. From above, the best view of the Balos Bay opens, but before it you need to overcome many steps and climb to a height of 137 meters. Be sure to visit the fort, it’s worth it. Wear athletic shoes for comfort. There won’t be much time on the island: the ship runs on schedule, no one will be waiting.
The next stop is the bay itself, which is the confluence of three seas: Ionian, Aegean and Libyan. There are currents here, so the colors and temperature of the water in the bay are different in places: shades of blue, emerald, turquoise. This beach is considered one of the most beautiful not only on the island, but also in the world.
After a busy day, drive 40 km to Chania – the former capital of Crete – and stay overnight there. A room in a guest house in the old town costs from 5600 rubles * per day for two.
Day 2: Venetian Heritage in Chania and Devil’s Harbor
In the morning, take a stroll through the narrow European streets of the old town. Look for medieval houses in the Venetian quarter of Topanas , walk around the Firkas Fortress , and visit the Maritime and Art Museums . Another important attraction is the Venetian Harbor . An obligatory excursion point is a visit to the market , where you can buy fruits and cheese, as well as products of local craftsmen. If you have time, walk to the Tabakaria architectural complex to see how leather goods are made.
The first half of the day is enough to explore the old part of the city. When the heat hits, head to Devil’s Harbor for a dip and a refreshing dip. The secret beach is located 20 km from the city. Get ready for a steep descent with mountain goats. He will lead you to a bay with azure water surrounded by rocks. Return to Chania for the night. You can dine and enjoy the sunset overlooking the port in one of the panoramic restaurants: Thalassino Ageri or Glossitses . At the tavern, try seafood, rakia and hot flatbreads.
Day 3: Lake Kourna and Rethymno
On the third day, we change the salt water to fresh water: we go to the largest lake on the island – Kurna . On the way from Chania – 50 km. On the shore, rent a catamaran (from € 10 *) and take a walk on the water. Look for birds, turtles, large fish and crabs near the shore. You can dine at the seaside tavern.
After relaxing on the lake, drive to Rethymno , another important city on the island, built by the Venetians. Drive about 30 km. The main attraction here is the Fortezza fortress . For four euros *, get a breathtaking view of the sea and the city, and buy interesting souvenirs at the local shop. You can escape the heat in the Mili Gorge , located 10 km away. In the shade of the forests, you will see abandoned houses, mills and churches. Tracking will take two to three hours. A night at a hotel in Rethymno overlooking the sea costs 4600 rubles * for two.
Day 4: Palace of Knossos and shopping
On the fourth day, we will return to the capital of the island – Heraklion to devote a day of history (drive 85 km). The city has a good Archaeological Museum , one of the largest in the country. Here are the most important exhibits of the Cretan-Mycenaean culture. The ticket costs 12 euros *.
A trip to Crete cannot be imagined without visiting the Palace of Knossos – according to legend, it was here that the minotaur lived in the labyrinth. The palace is located in the suburbs, 5 km away, accessible by public transport. A visit to the monument will cost 18 euros *.
Heraklion is a great place to shop. The main street is full of famous shops and Greek shops. After shopping, head to the port to watch the sunset overlooking the lighthouse. Dine on the waterfront or in a cozy café, such as the Plani Restaurant, which offers Mediterranean cuisine and traditional specialties.
Day 5: Agios Nikolaos, gorge and beach from Bounty advertisement
In the morning we follow to a new city – one of the most beautiful on the island – Agios Nikolaos. It is located 60 km east of the capital. If you have time, devote it all day to take a leisurely walk, have a siesta on the waterfront, explore the main church and natural landmark – Lake Voulismeni , around which there are many cafes and taverns for lunch. Climb up to the observation deck in the evening for panoramic views. You can spend the night here. A modest hotel room will cost 3500 rubles * per night. Near the town, 10 km away, there is the cozy village of Kritsa – there you can meet Greeks in traditional costumes, escape from the hustle and bustle and observe the daily routine of local residents.
If you don’t want to stay here for the whole day or don’t have time, go to the Richtis gorge . It starts in the village of Exo Mugliano , 50 km from the city. The trail along the gorge stretches for 3 km, and in the middle you will meet a waterfall. The route is well marked, but wear comfortable shoes and be careful if it rains – it can be dangerous.
You can end the day at Vai Beach , located 40 km from the gorge. This is where the Bounty ad was filmed. This place is more reminiscent of the Caribbean islands: the beach stands out against the background of those we have already seen – date palms grow on the coast, and the sand here is whiter and finer than anywhere else. On the way you will come across small monasteries. Stop at one and buy a combo skini, a Greek bracelet worn by monks and tourists who buy for good luck.
Day 6: Chrissi Island, Crete
An item for those who are ready to drive further and move from the north of the island to the south. We’ll have to make a detour 130 km. Move from Vai Beach to Ierapetra and spend the night there. For 4300 rubles * you can rent a villa with a magnificent view . But the city itself is not the purpose of a trip to these parts. The uninhabited island of Chrissi is located 20 km from Ierapetra , and it deserves special attention. Chrissi is famous for its beaches, dunes and Lebanese cedar and juniper forests. At the port you can buy tickets for an express ship, the journey will take about an hour. Spend the last day of your vacation on the island, swim in the sea and go back: it takes about two hours from Ierapetra to Heraklion.