Crete is the largest island in Greece, situated southeast of Athens in the Aegean Sea. It attracts both local and international visitors every year.
The island is famous for its beautiful beaches, different mountain ranges and landscapes, exquisite cuisine and historical towns and cities.
Crete can be a perfect holiday destination for who is looking to sunbathe and relax. It can also be a cultural tourism stop for who wants to learn about Cretan life and history.
Here I am going to share what you need to know about Crete before visiting this pretty island.
How to get to Crete
Flying to Crete
You have different options for travelling to Crete since the Island has three airports: Heraklion International “Nikos Kazantzakis” Airport, Chania International “Daskalogiannis” Airport and Sitia Public Airport.
You should choose your airport wisely since Create is a big island. If you are staying in the west, you can book your flight to Chania Airport, the second busiest airport in Crete. You can fly directly to this airport from different European cities and other Greek cities.
But if you are staying on the east side, it is better to fly to Sitia airport. The airport is quite small and it only serves domestic flights from Greek cities including Rhodes and Karpathos.
The main airport is Heraklion Airport with an average of 40,000 international and domestic flights per year located in the northern part of the island.
Getting a Ferry to Crete
There are different ferries travelling from Greece’s mainland and other islands like Rhodes, Karpathos, Kassos, and Khaliki to Crete. The boat trip is cheaper than flying, but it takes longer.
Note: we could fly directly from London to Crete, but we decided to go to Athens first and try the overnight ferry. Our journey with Let’s Ferry took seven hours. We arrived at Souda Bay in Chania just after sunrise. We had a small window in our cabin, where we could enjoy watching the sunrise. To get back home to London we took an EasyJet flight from Chania airport to London Gatwick.
Best Time to Travel to Crete
Crete like other Greek islands can get very crowded, expensive and hot in high seasons (July to early September).
The weather from April to early November is good enough to go for sightseeing, visit attractions and exploring around, but if you are a big fan of swimming in comfortable warm water, it is better to travel to Crete between mid-May to early October.
The best time to travel to Crete is in May, June and late September to October. In these months the island is less busy and the prices of hotels and food are also cheaper.
Where to stay in Crete
Planning a trip to Crete requires some deep research to find the right place to stay, as you won’t be able to visit all of Crete during a short stay of one or two weeks.
Chania aka Hania
It is highly recommended for first-time visitors to stay in Chania, also known as Hania, the second-largest city in Crete, which is close to some beautiful beaches, restaurants and shops.
If you rent a car you can also take a day trip to the most famous Cretan beaches of Balos and Elafonissi.
Note: We stayed at Top Hotel Crete, which is a 10 minutes drive from the city centre and we had a swimming pool with a great view of the sea.
Rethymno is located between Chania and Heraklion. This large university town is famous for its lively nightlife which attracts many young travellers. When you walk through its gorgeous cobbled streets, you can find various souvenir shops and restaurants.
There are different types of accommodations in the city or even around the area. You can stay in boutique hotels, luxury villas or beautiful resorts.
Note: We stayed in Amazing Villas in Crete, where we had a private swimming pool with a lovely little garden. Staying in a villa out of the city gave us the opportunity to relax and learn more about the locals’ life. I would highly recommend you to book a villa if you are travelling to Crete as a family or with a group.
Elounda was used to be a picturesque fishing village located in the northeast of the island and south of the seaside resort of Plaka.
Elounda has been a favourite destination for many celebrities and politicians including, the former Prime Ministers of Greece, Andreas Papandreou and Kostas Simitis. There are numerous luxury resorts, 5-star spa hotels and luxury villas.
How to travel around Crete
Buses and taxis are the main public transports in Crete, but they are not very convenient. You can get to some beaches by taking a boat, but you still need to get to the boat. For this reason, it is highly recommended to rent a car when you are in Crete and you want to move around the island.
Renting a car in Crete is quite common amongst tourists and there are various car rental companies which have offices at Crete’s airports.
Keep in mind that if you are staying in a town or a city or even a resort and you don’t plan leaving the town or your resort, you might not need a car. All the cities are small enough to walk around.
Note: having a car made our trip to Crete more fun and enjoyable. We had the freedom to visit different parts of the island. Driving between towns and cities helped us finding off-beaten places on the island. We booked our rental cars through Rental Center Crete. We picked them up at Souda Bay in Chania and returned it at Chania Airport. You can do the same when you book the car in advance, you just need to select the pick-up and return location carefully.
Food and Drinks in Crete
Food is a significant part of Greek culture and Crete is no exception. Cretan cuisine uses fresh and healthy ingredients and most of them are grown on the island.
Olives and olive oil are essential in any Cretan kitchen and dining table. I was shocked when I saw how much olive oil goes into a Greek salad, I can’t even imagine how much olive oil is considered enough to make a tasty Moussaka or Cretan stew.
Crete is also home to some local wines, but the most important drink on the island is Raki. You will get free Raki with each meal and even if you happen to visit some locals at their homes.
Note: Raki is a strong alcoholic drink and it is very important for the locals to offer it to their guests. You should not refuse to drink it as it can cause an offence. You can just take the glass and bring it to your mouth or smell the Rakin and then put it back down on the table. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t take a sip, it is important to show respect to your host by accepting their offer.
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