The Greek island of Crete has always been an ideal destination for a relaxing holiday. It is full of exciting experiences and is ideal for any type of traveler. In fact, there are so many awesome things to do in Crete that it can be difficult to decide where to go on the island!

Crete is the largest island in Greece and offers beautiful shores where you can laze lazily all day under the warm Mediterranean sun. On the other hand, there are imposing peaks and gorges waiting for you to conquer.

Home to unique natural landscapes and endless possibilities for enjoyment, it is always difficult to compile a list of the best things to do in Crete.

Places to visit in Crete

I have been living on the island for more than 4 years now and I have discovered all the awesome places to visit in Crete, as well as the best sights and attractions.

This list of 15 unique things to do on the island will definitely help you decide why you need to visit Crete at least once in your life — it really is one of the best places to see in Greece.

Here is my list of the top 5 things to do in Crete, Greece.

1. Discover the Beautiful Beaches

There are several beaches that you can explore in Crete Greece.

Three of the most famous beaches of Crete are located in the Chania region — visit them all or choose the one that best suits your holiday style. Some of the best beaches in Greece can be found in Crete, don’t miss them.

Balos Beach and Lagoon

Balos Beach is located near the end of the Gramvousa peninsula, about an hour’s drive from Chania.

If you prefer to avoid the road to Balos, which is mainly a dirt road next to a steep hill overlooking the sea, it is a good idea to book a day cruise from the nearby port of Kissamos.

A one-day cruise will take you not only to Balos, but also to the neighboring island of Imeri Gramvousa.

Balos Beach is one of the most exotic places on the island. The crystal clear waters form a shallow lagoon surrounded by a harsh mountainous landscape contrasting with the turquoise seas.

The beach is well organized although there is only one canteen on the beach. If you have a limited budget, I suggest you prepare your lunch in order to save money.

Whether you are visiting Balos by car or by boat, don’t forget how unforgiving the sun can be in Crete. Take enough water with you and a high SPF sunscreen lotion.

Pink Sandy Beach of Elafonisi

Elafonisi Beach is another spectacular place to visit in Crete. It is a world-famous coast known for its fantastic pink sand, but also for a fairly calm sea with seductive shades of blue.

The shore is wide and although it can get really crowded in the summer, there is always enough space for everyone.

Elafonisi is about 70 km south of Chania, and although there are buses that go there from Chania Central Station, the best way to get there is by car.

To reach Elafonisi, you can cross the Topolia Gorge or combine the trip with a stop at the third famous beach in Crete, Falasarna, along the coastal road. For those of you who don’t have a vehicle, join this much-loved trip to Elafonisi Beach.

Falasarna Beach

The wide shores of Falasarna are located on the west coast of Crete and it is the best place in Crete to enjoy the sunset. The village is small and relaxing, with not much to do.

In fact, the main reason to visit Falasarna is the spectacular bay and the ideal weather conditions that make it an ideal place to practice windsurfing and other water sports.

There are a few beach bars and restaurants serving basic dishes and cold drinks, so you don’t need to pack a lunch if you plan to spend your day in Falasarna.

2. Walk through the alleys of the old town of Chania

The old town of Chania has often been described as the prettiest town in Crete, and for good reason! The old town is home to an elegant Venetian quarter, a romantic old port, a magnificent Egyptian lighthouse and much more.

A great way to get to know the city when you first arrive is to take part in this walking tour with a local guide. During the experience, you will discover hidden areas, fantastic restaurants and learn more about Chania and the island of Crete. Read more about this affordable and much-loved trip here.

The Venetian quarter of the old town of Chania is the ideal place to admire the beautiful cityscape of the city. You can also visit the old Jewish quarter of Zudecca which houses a synagogue dating back to the 15th century.

In the seaside area, you can enter the Ottoman past of the island by visiting the small Janissary Mosque, one of the most famous monuments of Chania with its typical pink domes and arches.

In the evening, you can dine in one of the many taverns that line the Venetian arsenals. It is the ideal place to enjoy a sunset while sipping a glass of local Vidiano white plonk.

Also known as the New Marina, the Arsenals are an ideal place to discover the unique flavors of Crete.

Choose Salis for a refined culinary experience with products coming directly from the producers and from the restaurant’s cellar.

If you have a limited budget, opt instead for a tour of local meze (small Greek dishes) in Faka. The views of the harbor are equally inspiring in both places.

To end the day, have a cocktail at Pallas, right in front of the lighthouse. There you can listen to music and engage in conversation with the friendly locals.

3. Take a ferry to Loutro (one of the best things to do in Crete)

One of the most picturesque roads in the Chania region is the one that takes you to the southern village of Chora Sfakion, passing through the impressive Imbros Gorge.

Once in Chora Sfakion, reach the port and board a ferry to spend a day… or even two, in the small fishing village of Loutro.

If you are an experienced hiker or just like adventures, you can also reach Loutro by walking the coastal mountain path that connects Chora Sfakion to the village. On your way, you can stop and swim in the beautiful hidden beaches of Illingas or Glyka Nera.

There’s not much to do in Loutro, but that’s the beauty of it.

Loutro is the ideal place to relax and spend a peaceful holiday, and it is not uncommon for day trippers to change their minds on the spot and book a stay once there.

You can swim in the emerald green waters and enjoy the simple but tasty local cuisine served in one of the taverns by the sea. My favorite has always been Notos, specialized in seafood but also for vegetarians. Their prices are also very economical.

4. Explore local history at Arkadi Monastery

The Arkadi Monastery is the most important spiritual center of Crete. A place loved by the locals not only for the beauty of the church and the gardens, but especially for the key role it played during the Ottoman occupation of the island.

The Arkadi Holocaust is an important event in the island’s past. About 900 people -mostly children and women – chose to commit self-destruction rather than surrender to the Turks.

These events did not lead to the immediate liberation of the island, but launched a process of international support, which in 1898 finally ended 267 years of oppressive Ottoman rule on the island.

The Arkadi Monastery is one of the many monasteries in Crete. It is about 25 minutes from the city of Rethymno, and if you are a true fan of local history, this could be a great day trip if combined with a visit to the archaeological site of Eleftherna and its museum.

5. Admire the Turkish architecture in the old town of Rethymno

Another great thing to do in Crete is to visit the old town of Rethymno.

Rethymno is not only a magnificent Venetian city with a picturesque harbor and a maze of cobbled alleys, it is also the place where the rest of the island’s Turkish past is best preserved and easy to discover.

In the city, it’s a good idea to explore the fantastic Venetian mansions with wooden balconies in a perfect Turkish style. You will also find tall minarets, such as the Sultana Minaret and the Neratzes Mosque minaret.

However, the most imposing mosque in the city can be visited inside the Fortezza, the imposing Venetian fortress that faces the Cretan Sea.

For a quick and light lunch, choose Raki BaRaki for the endless choice of meze. For a more refined meal, Avli is one of the most famous restaurants in Crete. It has a beautiful herb garden and one of the best plonk lists in Greece.

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