The largest of Greece’s islands, Crete is famous for its stunning natural beauty, wonderful weather and incredible beaches. But there is so much more…
Holidays to Crete
Although quite-rightly known for its fabulous beaches, Crete is much more than just sun, sea and sand. It has a fascinating history, and there are many wonderful palaces, ruins, monasteries and museums to keep culture lovers busy, whilst its incredible diverse landscapes provides endless options for those wanting to explore its great outdoors, whether rock-climbing, hiking or rambling along one of its many walking paths.
The more developed tourist resorts are in the north of the island, as are the largest towns, including Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos. The south of the island is quieter, with a more secluded feel and less crowded beaches.
Chania and Rethymno’s old towns are bound to please those looking for a traditional feel, Elounda is the jet-setters playground and frequently sees celebrities visit, but it’s not only for the rich and famous and is a perfect spot if you fancy a smaller town. Malia is the famous party capital of the island, and is crammed full of bars, discos, and a younger crowd letting their hair down!
June to September is the most popular time to visit Crete, when like much of the Mediterranean you are all but guaranteed long blissful days of pure sunshine. Summer sees temperatures averaging around 28-30°C, lovely warm seas and very low rainfall. At night the average lows are around 18°C, however it can feel a lot cooler than this due to the low humidity and the sea breeze so you might appreciate the odd jumper. The South of the island can experience much hotter temperatures, sometimes up to a stifling 40°C, due to the hot winds blowing over from North Africa.
Spring arrives in April, and sees temperatures go from approx. 18°C to 25°C by the end of May. There can be a little rain during spring, but considerably less as the days go by so May is a great time to visit if you prefer fewer crowds and more manageable temperatures. Evenings do get much cooler, dropping to an average 10°C so definitely bring something warmer for the evening, and if you fancy a swim in the sea, just be warned… it might be chilly!
Things to do on holiday in Crete
Here is just a selection of the many treats Crete has to offer.
If you’re looking for beautiful beaches, Crete is certain to please. Famous for its crystal clear waters and with 650 miles of coastline, there are hundreds of beaches and no matter which part of the island you are on, you’re certain to find one to suit your tastes – secluded or busy, developed or remote, sandy or pebbled, Crete has them all.
Balos, Elafonissi and Falassarna, in Chania are particularly impressive with Caribbean-esque water and stunning natural beauty. Preveli in Rethymno and Vai in Lassithi are also among some of the best, and with the long days of sunshine during the summer it is easy to lose entire days of your holiday doing nothing but enjoying that superb sun, sea and sand.
Water sports and activities
Watersports are of course widely available on the island, and everything from inflatable rides to water-skiing to sailing is available… and the winds in summer can make for some pretty exciting windsurfing and kite surfing! Snorkelling is always a great bet for those wanting something a little calmer, especially with the waters being so perfectly clear.
Boat trips are also a great way to enjoy more of the sun and sea, with trips to Balos and Gramvoussa being some of the most popular. Chrissi (or Gaidouronisi) is another one well worth a visit thanks to its amazing crystal waters and golden sand.
Kids will be pleased to hear that there are 3 fabulous waterparks on the island, plus the Labyrinth Theme Park which has all kinds of activities for the family, such as mini-golf and pottery making in addition to the landmark labyrinth. There are also two great aquariums, one of which allows hands-on experience with reptiles in addition to the usual sea-life displays.
History & sightseeing
From its history as the base of Minoan civilisation, there are many Minoan sites scattered across the island. The Palace of Knossos near Heraklion is the most famous, and the most extensive, however there are treasures to be found all over. The ruins of Phaistos and Gortys, the Palace of Zakros, Ancient Vassiliki and the site of Gournia are bound to please anyone wanting to explore this islands history. There are world-class museums in all the big cities, but you’ll also find fascinating smaller museums even in the smallest and most remote of villages.
Spinalonga Island, located in the Elounda Bay in Eastern Crete is a fascinating outing that comes highly recommended. Made famous by Victoria Hislop in her novel “The Island”, it was a leper colony from 1903 until 1957, when a cure was found and the island was abandoned. But initially a Venetian fortress that was later occupied by the Turkish towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, it has a fascinating history and is a beautiful example of architecture of the periods.
The landscape of Crete is widely diverse, and stunning throughout. From beaches to mountains, lush valleys to olive groves and vineyards, and dramatic gorges and caves, it’s well worth getting out to explore the island. You’ll need a car to get around most of it, although there are excursions to some of the more popular places.
Feeling active? Crete is a walker’s paradise and it is one of the best ways to really see the island. There are thousands of kilometres of tracks and options to suit all levels of fitness and experience, short walks or longer hikes.
The famous Samaria Gorge has to be top of the list for any dedicated hikers, but there are gorges, mountains and coastal paths across the island that will be perfect for anyone wanting to stretch their legs – whether a little, or a lot!
Crete has nightlife to suit all tastes and ages, whether in a local tavern, a relaxing lounge bar or a wild nightclub. For wilder party nights you want to head to Malia or Stalis, where there a big clubs that will keep you satisfied well into the early hours. The bigger cities have great evening venues in abundance, whether in picturesque alleys in the old towns or lining the waterfronts. Most bars stay open until around midnight or 2-3 o’clock in the morning, and you’ll find plenty of options to suit whether you fancy dancing, or simply relaxing in a local tavern.
And if you have the chance, don’t miss the famous panigiria – one of the endless celebrations and local festivals that will keep you entertained with local music and dancing until sunrise!