The Beach Bum, The Adventurer, The Yogi, The Foodie
Crete might not get the attention that Mykonos and Santorini do, but it deserves some time on your Greece itinerary. It’s known as the breadbasket of Greece, and locals near and far know the best produce comes from this island. This means you’re guaranteed to eat very well while you’re here. But there’s no shortage of things to do to help you work up an appetite, from beaches to boning up on history. Follow this guide for three rich and memorable days on Greece’s biggest island.
For a short trip to Crete, we’d recommend flying into Chania. Our preference is to stay on the water in Chania to bookend the days with ocean views and air, or in the town of Rethymnon. Regardless, on your first day head out for a drive to Rethymnon – it is truly one of the most picturesque towns on the island - and also a good alternative option as a base for a short trip.
Begin your day wandering Rethymnon: grab a coffee and explore the winding streets filled with Venetian Renaissance and Ottoman architecture, cobblestone alleys and artisan studios. Art fans will love the town’s small Museum of Contemporary Art; the permanent exhibit that showcases over 700 pieces from contemporary Greek artists who work in several disciplines. Enjoy lunch under bountiful lemon trees at Limonokipos, the model for what al fresco dining should be, or at the charming tucked-away courtyard restaurant Avli – also a good spot for dinner.
It’s beach day! Grab your gear for this early start – it’s worth it to get prime positioning at Balos Beach. The blues of this lagoon will take your breath away. You’ll need to either drive and hike down, or take a boat via Kissamos, roughly a 60-minute trip. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Gray Malin photograph once you arrive. Relax under the sun and perfect the art of doing nothing for a few hours.
Spend the rest of the day:
In Chania. After a 60-minute drive, you’ll arrive in this historic town. Take the rest of the afternoon or late evening to wander through the city’s colourful Old Town. Don’t worry about getting lost, all roads lead back to each other and eventually the harbour – plus, getting lost is part of the fun. Watch the sun set over the harbour, then dig in to dinner at Kritamon (they’ve got a fantastic wine list), Ellotia or Tamam. You’ll want to book a reservation if Tamam if your top choice – and ask to have a table outside on the patio. Order the fresh avocado dip and moussaka. Classics made all the better thanks to ultra-local ingredients.
While it’s less common on a shorter trip to visit the south of Crete, it was our favourite part of the trip. For a fully packed – but magical day drive through Igros Gorge to Sfakia Region (Hora Sfakio). Stop at a café with a view for a coffee and Sfakia Pie (this is the famously delicious Cretan dessert with cheese + honey). Make your way to the E4 Hiking Trail for a gorgeous hike overlooking the Libyan Sea: start from Glyka Nera beach, keep hiking towards Loutro and Finikas (stop for glorious swims along the way) (https://creti.co/blog/crete-hiking-e4-path-sfakia-agia-roumeli/). For a longer hike continue to Marmara beach, or find a boat to take you to Marmara. Have lunch at the seaside taverna there, swim in the ocean caves and lose yourself in what will be the dreamiest day in a long time. If you have more time, stay overnight in Loutros to allow more time for a seaside exhale.
Have extra days? Here are a few builds:
Fly into Heraklion instead of Chania. Stay on the Aegean at the luxurious Abaton Island Resort and Spa. Start the day sipping a morning coffee while taking in the blues of the sea. Go for a dip to clear your head before getting ready to discover and take in the rich history that this mighty island has to offer. If you want a deeper dive into Grecian history, start your journey back in time at the Heraklion Archeological Museum where you’ll find artifacts covering over 5,500 years of history. Then hire a guide to help you get the most from the Minoan ruins at the Palace of Knossos. If you’re not a history buff, just head straight to the Palace. It’s one thing to look at ruins; it’s another to have a local guide there to bring them to life for you. If you’re feeling ambitious or have more time before the museums, head to Kapetaniana, a tiny historic village that has epic views of the southern coastline and Libyan Sea. This is a great spot to grab an authentic Cretan lunch at Thalori Retreat. Enjoy dinner at the hotel restaurant, Bony Fish, where seafood is the specialty, or at Peskesi – one of the best restaurants in town, it’s known for its local dishes.
If you want more beach time, Elafonissi and Gramvousa are both incredible options.
Heraklion: Abaton Island Resort and Spa for beachside luxury on the Aegean.