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Things to do in Crete

Things to do in  Crete

Welcome to Crete

The largest of all the Greek islands, Crete entices travelers with its white- and pink-sand beaches, Mediterranean cuisine, laid-back coastal resorts, and ancient Minoan treasures. The island’s capital, Heraklion, is home to the most impressive of the Minoan ruins: the Palace of Knossos, where the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur originated. Separate fact from Greek mythology with a guided tour of the archaeological site—most excursions depart from Heraklion or Rethymno, roughly an hour’s drive from the capital. In Chania, Crete’s second city, a walking tour of the Old Town reveals Venetian and Ottoman architecture, and winding streets lined with craft stores and old-world tavernas and delicatessens. Chania is also an ideal jumping-off point for excursions to Samaria Gorge, one of Europe’s longest gorges and a popular (albeit challenging) hiking route. For a more relaxed walk, visitors can stroll through the winding alleys of the well-preserved old town of Rethymno, the capital of the Rethymnon prefecture. In the region of Lasithi, Agios Nikolaos—the go-to party destination before Malia—is a relaxed and charming spot. And only 6 miles (10 kilometers) away, is the fishing village of Elounda, from which travelers can cruise to Spinalonga Island. In between these major highlights, Crete's traditional villages, its music and poetry, and its fabulous food and wine is likely to enchant any traveler in Greece.

Top 10 attractions in Crete

#1
Palace of Knossos

Palace of Knossos

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Once the glorious capital of Minoan Crete and one of the most powerful cities in the eastern Mediterranean, ancient Knossos is a place steeped in legend. Today, it’s Crete’s largest and most important archaeological site, crowned by the hilltop Palace of Knossos—built around 2,000 BC—which reveals a fascinating history that stretches all the way back to the earliest European civilizations.More
#2
Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi Beach

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With shallow waters, pale pink-tinted sands, and sweeping dunes, Elafonisi is frequently and deservedly listed among Europe’s best beaches. The beach is connected to a protected island nature reserve, which is home to a variety of rare plants and animals, including loggerhead sea turtles.More
#3
Venetian Lighthouse

Venetian Lighthouse

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Perching on the end of the breakwater, the Venetian Lighthouse is the most striking of all the buildings around Chania’s imperious Venetian Harbour, and was constructed around 1570 when the town was under control of the Republic of Venice. It is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world and its spindly, butter-colored stone tower stretches up 69 feet (21 m) high. Last renovated in 2006, the tower was modified several times in the intervening centuries, gaining the mini-minaret above its light in 1839, when Ottoman Turks occupied Crete.Although it’s no longer operational and closed to the public, the lighthouse is the landmark building in Chania and has an unusual three-part construction; its base has eight sides and its middle section has 16, while its upper reaches are circular. There’s an enjoyable stroll along the walls of the Venetian Harbour to admire its spectacular architecture and this is a romantic spot to linger when it’s illuminated after dark; better still, enjoy the view over an ouzo in one of Chania’s many harbour-side tavernas.More
#4
Old Venetian Harbor

Old Venetian Harbor

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Chania’s spectacular Venetian Harbour is a symbol of the town’s rich and varied history, built between 1320 and 1356 when it was first under control of the Republic of Venice. Made of butter-colored stone and with its walls stretching for just under a mile (1.5 km), it provided sheltered waters and safe anchorage and was originally a thriving trading port with berthing room for up to 40 galleys. A breakwater was constructed to the north of the harbor to protect the ships from storm damage, and on this St Nicholas Chapel and bastion were built. During Venetian times condemned criminals were executed on this spot. The Firkas Fortress (now the Maritime Museum of Crete) at the entrance to the harbor was built with the dual purpose of safeguarding Chania from invasion and housing Venetian troops.However the most striking of the edifices along the Venetian Harbour is the lighthouse (no public access), which dates from around 1570 and looms majestically skywards at the harbor entrance to this day. It is Chania’s most-photographed monument and was restored to its original splendor in the 1840s; the lighthouse is magical when illuminated at night.Today, the Venetian Harbour offers mooring for local fishing boats and pleasure craft; in summer it is a romantic spot to stroll and then enjoy eating and drinking in the many harbor-side restaurants, tavernas and ouzo shops. Even in winter, it’s usually warm enough to sit outside in a café while sipping coffee and enjoying the Cretan sun.More
#5
Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

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Second in size and importance to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum houses the most magnificent collection of Minoan art and culture in the world. The museum's exhibition contains more than 15,000 artifacts from all periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,000 years, from the Neolithic era to Roman times.As the Museum is still under renovation, its temporary exhibition is a curation of the most famous and representative items of the collection. Notable items include: the Prince of the Lilies' fresco, the Phaistos Disc, the snake goddesses from Knossos, the black stone bull’s head, the "Bull Leaping" and "La Parisienne" frescoes.The various artifacts form a valuable record of the artistic, social and economic life of the island during the ancient period. You’ll find examples of pottery, jewelry, goldwork and metalwork (household utensils and weapons), and seal engraving - a miniature art where the Minoans excelled.More
#6
Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge

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Samaria Gorge, in southwestern Crete, is one of Europe’s longest canyons. A popular hiking destination, its rugged river valley trail runs 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Xyloskalo in the White Mountains to he coastal village of Agia Roumeli. The gorge is part of Samaria Gorge National Park, which enjoys a seat along the Libyan Sea coast.More
#7
Balos Beach and Lagoon

Balos Beach and Lagoon

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Bridging the gap between the wild Gramvousa Peninsula and the idyllic Cape Tigani, Balos Beach is a startlingly blue lagoon, framed by jagged sea cliffs and pristine pink and white sand beaches. A pocket of paradise, Balos Beach is one of Crete’s most photographed natural beaches.More
#8
Chrissi Island

Chrissi Island

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Measuring just 4.35 miles (7 kilometers) long and 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) at its widest point, Chrissi Island, also known as Gaidouronisi, is small but undoubtedly lovely. This protected nature reserve off Crete’s south coast is blessed with pristine beaches, shallow snorkel-friendly waters, and swaths of old cedar forest.More
#9
White Mountains (Lefka Ori)

White Mountains (Lefka Ori)

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Crete is renowned for being a divinely sun-baked Greek Island, boasting great beaches and hot weather—but it’s less known for its spectacular White Mountains (Lefka Ori). Found in the west of the island, the mountains are a paradise for hikers and nature spotters when not dusted with snow in winter and early spring.More
#10
Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos

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Spread across three hills overlooking the crescent-shaped Mirabello Bay, Agios Nikolaos is a picturesque and cosmopolitan seaside resort. By day, visitors flock to the beaches, while at night, patrons fill chic waterfront restaurants and bars in the harbor and Voulismeni Lake—connected to the harbor via a narrow channel.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 3 Days in Chania

How to Spend 3 Days in Chania

How to Spend 3 Days in Heraklion

How to Spend 3 Days in Heraklion

Top activities in Crete

Your Tailored Elafonisi Escape and Cretan Dream Where Time Doesn’t Exist

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Your Tailored Elafonisi Escape and Cretan Dream Where Time Doesn’t Exist

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$569.17
per group
$632.41  $63.24 savings
Crete Wine and Olive Oil Tour

Crete Wine and Olive Oil Tour

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$109.23
Portrait of West Crete: Six Senses Mosaic & Venetian Rethymno

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Portrait of West Crete: Six Senses Mosaic & Venetian Rethymno

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$556.06
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$597.92  $41.86 savings

Recent reviews from experiences in Crete

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Great off-road Cretan experience
Deborah_D, Jun 2021
Full-Day Land Rover Safari from Heraklion with Lunch
The off-road experience gave us a chance to see Crete from a shepherd’s perspective.
star-5
The Best Tour I’ve Ever Had
Catherine_L, Jul 2021
Zeus Cave-Traditional-Villages-Old Wind Mills-Olive Oil Factory-Small Group.
He made us feel like old friends coming to visit and the places he took us were once in a lifetime experiences.
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Samaria Is No Walk In The Park
Jayk, Jul 2021
Samaria Gorge Hiking from Chania
The money shot (the image you see in all the advertisements) is toward the end of the hike after the dry stream bed turns into running water from some hidden spring.
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Olive Oil & Wine - Great Combination
Jayk, Jul 2021
Uncharted Escapes: Crete's Wine and Olives Safari Tour from Chania
You will also make a brief stop to visit the world’s oldest olive tree.
star-4
Wonderful water afternoon!
Tarsi_D, Jul 2021
Boat Trip with Guided Snorkeling Tour & SUP in Chania
However, they switched our boats for the activities and then we needed to swim into shore with the SUP folks and leave our stuff on the boat (basically we could take it, but unless it's in a water sealed thing, it will get wet).
star-5
Wonderful relaxing fun!
Tarsi_D, Jul 2021
Sunset - sailing cruise on yacht catamaran, Heraklion, Crete
Pro-trip, the title doesn't include the water activities you get to do.
star-5
Cool trip, great guides, guaranteed fun!
Melissa_W, Jul 2021
Crete Real Inland 4x4 Safari with Lunch from Chersonissos
We got to see a lot of beautiful things and had a a great time exploring Crete.
star-4
It was good.
Melissa_S, Jun 2021
Full-Day Santorini Island Trip from Crete
Going to visit the black sand beach was advised as a “waste of time” due to the almost hour drive there and was mentioned several times.
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Chrissi Island day trip
Gordon M, Oct 2019
Chrissi Island Cruise from Heraklion
Good way to see more of Crete on the way to visiting the peaceful nature reserve of Chrissi Island with it's excellent beaches
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An excellent day out, Jason our driver...
Brian B, Nov 2016
Full-Day Land Rover Safari from Heraklion with Lunch
Made a real change from the typical tourist activities, would definitely recommend.
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A great bus tour and we were able to...
Rachelle P, Jul 2017
Heraklion Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
A great bus tour and we were able to see some beautiful views of Heraklion, which is an absolutely amazing part of Crete.
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The guide was fantastic and spoke in...
Krista H, Aug 2017
Full-Day Land Rover Safari from Rethymno with Lunch Swimming
But we did not had opportunity to see Preveli beach as after the delicious lunch we had a bit time just at Libyan sea not at Preveli beach.
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This is a very highly recommended...
Marilyn_H, Oct 2017
Full-Day Land Rover Safari from Rethymno with Lunch Swimming
It was really interesting to see the completely undeveloped and dramatic south coast of Crete.
star-5
Amazing experience on the holiday in...
John P, Dec 2016
Off-Road Buggy Adventure in Crete
The buggies are great fun to drive around the off road course, can't wait to visit Crete again to go and do the full day out once more!
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An fun and educational trip into the countryside
Jennifer_H, Sep 2020
Wine & Olive Oil Tastings - Semi Private Safari Tour with Lunch
A special thanks to Nasos for adapting the tour to take a Kiwi and an Aussie to visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Souda Bay to pay our respects to our countrymen who gave their lives trying to defend Crete from the Nazi invasion.
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wonderful safari
Gabrielle_B, Nov 2019
Georgioupolis Safari Off Road Tours Outdoor Activities Land Rover Defender
We saw gorges, mountain springs and waterfalls.
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Wonderful day tour
Brittany_W, Oct 2019
Zeus Cave & Lassithi Plateau (Safari Adventure Offroad Excursion)
I booked this tour to see Zeus's cave, but was most impressed with the other parts of the tour.
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Wonderful day with great food in the real Greece
Carmen_N, Oct 2019
Traditional Cooking Class at Vatos Village Crete
It was a long trip, but we got to see more of Crete on the way.
star-5
Great place, great guide!
dgreenarc, Oct 2019
Knossos Palace Exclusive Tour (small group)
It's fascinating to see work done 1000 years before the birth of Rome.
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A great snapshot of the Cretan countryside and villages.
Angela_J, Sep 2019
Full-day Apokoronas Culture, Cuisine and Wine Tour from Chania
It was interesting to see wine and cheese production and I found the visit to the museum particularly enjoyable.
Frequently Asked Questions
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