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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 15 things to do in Crete

#1
Old Venetian Harbor

Old Venetian Harbor

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Venice ruled Crete for more than 400 years and built Chania’s scenic port during the 14th century. Today, the Old Venetian Harbor is the beating heart of Chania Old Town, with restaurants, bars, and stores nestled beside landmarks from the Venetian Lighthouse to the Firkas Fortress, Grand Arsenal, and Hassan Pasha Mosque.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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Perched at the end of the breakwater, the Venetian Lighthouse—constructed around 1570 when Chania was under the control of the Republic of Venice—is the most striking building on the town’s Venetian Harbour. One of the oldest lighthouses in the world, its spectacular architecture makes it one of the most photographed landmarks in the city.More
#4
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
#5
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
#6
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
#7
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
#8
Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

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With artifacts covering some 5,000 years, from the Neolithic era (c. 7000 BC through to Roman times (c. 300 AD, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete is second only in size and importance to Athens’ National Archaeological Museum. It’s also widely regarded as one of the most important historical museums in Europe.More
#9
Spinalonga

Spinalonga

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The now-uninhabited island of Spinalonga (Kalydon) sits in the Elounda Gulf along Crete’s northeastern shore. During the 16th-century Venetian occupation, the invaders built a defensive fortress here protecting Mirabello Bay. Today visitors can tour the massive structure and the abandoned buildings that sit along its turreted walls.More
#10
Marathi Beach

Marathi Beach

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Comprising two sandy stretches extending from either side of a pier, Marathi Beach overlooks the vivid blue waters of Souda Bay and the White Mountains of Chania. The beach is well sheltered from the elements, meaning the waters are waveless and calm. Traditional tavernas near the sand serve fresh fish to hungry beachgoers.More
#11
Archaeological Museum of Chania

Archaeological Museum of Chania

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Archaeology buffs can trace Crete’s history from the Neolithic and Minoan to late Roman times at the Archaeological Museum of Chania, with its collection of treasures found during excavations around the town and across western Crete. Located in the historic Church of St. Francis, the museum is a highlight of Chania’s old town.More
#12
Kournas Lake

Kournas Lake

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Situated in a valley surrounded by dramatic mountains, Lake Kournas offers a picturesque alternative to Crete’s many beaches. It’s the only freshwater lake on the island, and its warm, turquoise, spring-fed waters reflect the rocky peaks above like a mirror. Summertime visitors come to swim, boat, or just loll on the beach.More
#13
Limnoupolis Water Park (Aqua Creta Limnoupolis)

Limnoupolis Water Park (Aqua Creta Limnoupolis)

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Chania’s most popular water park, Limnoupolis Water Park (Aqua Creta Limnoupolis) offers 11 large slides, including steep “free-fall” options, plus a lazy river, a kids’ pool with smaller slides, and a big central pool with a zipline. The park also has sun loungers, a bar, a restaurant, fast-food options, and a minimart.More
#14
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
#15
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

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

Zeus Cave & Lassithi Plateau (Safari Adventure Offroad Excursion)
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Crete Pirate Ship Cruise with the Black Rose to Stalis and Malia
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Private Full-Day Knosos-Lasithi Plateau-Cave of Zeus from Heraklion
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Crete Wine and Olive Oil Tour
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Full-Day Land Rover Safari from Heraklion with Lunch
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Full-Day Santorini Island Trip from Crete
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Your Tailored Elafonisi Escape: A Dream Where Time Doesn’t Exist from Heraklion
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Mythical Escape: Zeus Cave & Knossos Palace with Lassithi Plateau from Heraklion
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Private Sail in Chania

Private Sail in Chania

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Stand -Up Paddleboard and Multi-Surprise Elements Tour in Crete
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Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in Crete

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Old Town
Christo_K, Jul 2022
Rethymno Old Town
Our wonderful guide took us to see the Fortress and the history behind it.
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Excellent Private Tour of Crete
Russell_P, Jun 2022
Private Full-Day Knosos-Lasithi Plateau-Cave of Zeus from Heraklion
Overall, highly recommend to see the hidden spots of Crete.
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Great experience
NikolaiFelix_L, Apr 2022
Zeus Cave & Lassithi Plateau (Safari Adventure Offroad Excursion)
I definitely recommend the tour if you want to see and learn about the rural side and natural of Crete.
star-5
We had a wonderful time!...
Caitlin_H, Mar 2022
Full-Day Land Rover Safari from Heraklion with Lunch
We went to some wonderful places that we never would have thought to visit
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Great day in Crete !
JeanFrancois_D, Aug 2022
Zeus Cave-Traditional-Villages-Old Wind Mills-Olive Oil Factory-Small Group.
We did like the stops around the plateau to see local plantations and small villages.
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The Elafonisi Beach, Falasarna Beach and Vouves Village tour was the best!
Cynthia_A, Jul 2022
Elafonisi-Falasarna-Vouves village - (All inclusive) Full Day Tour from Chania
It’s nice to see a part of the country side and also to see the oldest olive tree in the world!
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Fantastic day!
James_A, Jul 2022
Elafonisi-Falasarna-Vouves village - (All inclusive) Full Day Tour from Chania
One of the best aspects of this tour was that it took us to Elafonisi beach first, and early, meaning we got there before the other tours arrived, giving us a chance to see the beach (and grab an umbrella/bed) before it was overcome with people, and the beds/umbrellas were snapped-up.
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Memorable Day in Crete
Walter_E, Jul 2022
Zeus Cave-Traditional-Villages-Old Wind Mills-Olive Oil Factory-Small Group.
It was funny to see how he added olive oil to typical Greek Salad.
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Best Day of Our Holiday
Anna_K, Jul 2022
Full-Day Land Rover Safari from Heraklion with Lunch
The island is beautiful and if you want to see some of its most breath taking views this is the tour for you.
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Crete by Jesus.
Flora_C, May 2022
Full-Day Small-Group Tour in Crete
And he did it in 2 languages: English and Dutch.
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Well worth it - a great tour
Elaine_C, May 2022
Full-Day West Crete Tour: Chania & Rethymnon Old Town and Kournas Lake
Both places are pleasant to visit and the sights are picturesque.
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Loved our guide,...
Karan_D, Apr 2022
Knossos-Arch.Museum-Heraklion City - Full Day Private Tour from Chania
The tour was relaxed and we had plenty of time to see everything.
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Great day in Knossos
Juan_C, Mar 2022
Knossos-Arch.Museum-Heraklion City - Full Day Private Tour from Chania
They gave us ample time in Heraklion to visit the museum and explore the City and have lunch.
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Loved it!!
Holly_P, Mar 2022
Battle of Crete WW2 Private Tour
We learned a lot about the history of Crete, and got to see so many small villages (and a bakery!
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Amazing trip
Matthew_G, Oct 2021
Full-Day Small-Group Tour in Crete
Very enjoyable and great to see what life is like in crete away from the coast.
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Great to learn about Crete
Tara_J, Oct 2021
Rethymno Land Rover Safari with Lunch and Drinks
We got to see lots of villages, learned a lot about Crete, it’s animals, plants, fruit and people.
star-4
Good tour with potential for improvement.
Jaguar, Aug 2021
Full-Day Kourna lake & Argyroupoli Crete Nature from Rethymno
Guide spoke good English and German and gave good information.
star-5
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.
star-5
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.
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All about Crete

Currency
Euro (€)
Time Zone
EEST (UTC +2)
Country Code
+30
Language(s)
Greek

People Also Ask

What is Crete best known for?

Crete is famous for offering some of the hottest summers, beautiful beaches, and history-steeped ruins in Greece. Its headline sights include Knossos, home to the UNESCO-listed, 4,500-year-old remnants of the ancient Minoan civilization. Don't miss the charming Venetian-built harbor city of Chania, top-tier archaeological museums, Samaria Gorge, mountains, or rural wineries.

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How many days do you need to see Crete?

Allow for at least a week, with any number of days on top, depending on your interests. Seven days is enough to cover Crete’s highlights including Knossos and Chania, the island's White Mountains, villages, and wineries; and the Samaria Gorge. Go for longer to delve deeper or add some beach downtime.

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What is the best part of Crete to stay?

For city sightseeing, consider Heraklion, the capital, for its Venetian-era walls, fortress, museums and proximity to Knossos. For additional history, dining, and shopping, both Chania and Rethymnon boast boutique-filled lanes, medieval mansions, and a restaurant-hemmed harbourfront. For family fun, stay at Hersonissos, or for beaches and partying, Agios Nikolaos or Malia.

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Is there a lot to do in Crete?

Yes. History enthusiasts have plenty of ancient and medieval gems to explore—think Knossos and Chania—while nature-lovers can immerse themselves in the wild White Mountains, Lassithi Plateau, and Samaria Gorge. Plus, all along Crete’s north coast are resorts offering beaches, watersports, and restaurant and nightlife scenes.

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Is Crete touristy?

Yes. Resorts like Hersonnisos cater squarely for sun- and fun-loving tourists with stacks of amenities, restaurants, and nightlife. Yet Crete still has many uncommercialized havens. Find the quieter pockets of Chania and Rethymnon; explore the White Mountains or Lassithi Plateau; or escape to Crete’s remote, rugged south coast.

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Is English spoken in Crete?

Yes. Although the prevalence of English speakers depends on location. Unsurprisingly, English is widely used in the hotels and restaurants of Crete’s resorts. And while English is less spoken in rural areas and the south, you’ll still find it's fairly well understood. It’s polite, however, to speak some Greek, wherever you are.

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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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