From natural wonders to ancient ruins that tell of the rise and fall of one of the most powerful civilisations of the ancient world, Crete has so much to offer.
It is a large island, so you’ll find the north coast is very different from the south, while the interior is mountainous and an adventure playground if you love your extreme sports. Canyoning is popular, as is mountain climbing, cycling, and hiking. For outdoor activity lovers we suggest staying in one of these villas.
In the larger cities you’ll find museums to explore, while for the kids there are plenty of attractions, water parks and theme parks. Keep reading to discover some of the top things to do in this island:
Minoan Palace at Knossos
This internationally-famous and important palace is where the Minotaur roamed the labyrinth, and was the epicentre of ancient Minoan culture.
Explore the wilderness
From hiking tours in the White Mountains to gentler routes along the unspoilt southern coastline, Crete is perfect if you love hiking, mountain biking and outdoor adventures. Check out Imbros Gorge, or the gorgeous Valley of the Dead. Take to the mountains on a Jeep Safari, or work those quads on a mountain bike. Strap on your hiking boots to explore the stunning Samaria Gorge, or dive in to the blue water at Balos Lagoon.
Aside from lazing by the pool of your villa, you should also definitely explore the island’s famous beaches, like the pretty-in-pink Elafonissi. Check out our beaches tab for our fave picks. You could even hire a yacht to see them from the ocean with SeaStar Chania. If you see a private beach that takes your fancy, hop ashore and have an explore – or ask the crew to whip you up some lunch while you admire the view.
‘Ancient trees’ island tour
Crete’s natural wonders include many ancient trees, some of which are over 2,000 years old. A ‘tree tour’ is a great way to see unexplored spots you might otherwise miss.
Castaway island vibes
For true Robinson Crusoe-style island living, Gavdos, Crete’s largest offshore island, is about as far from civilisation as you can get. Luxurious it isn’t, but if you’re looking for an isolated beach and a quiet place to cook your fishing catch, this is the place to come. Nowhere on the island has 24-hour electricity, but the silver lining is that the nightly blackout makes for excellent stargazing.
The island has more than 3,000 caves, including one where St Paul is said to have lived and preached. Two different mountain caves claim to be the birthplace of Zeus, the Ideon Cave and the Dikteon. If you can manage the steep walk to the entrance of Dikteon, near Psyhro, it’s well worth a look. According to legend, a newborn Zeus was hidden from his father here. A dark staircase descends through stalactites into the 2000-square-metre cave, where there is evidence of cult worship from the Minoan period.
This Venetian fortress was occupied by the Turks, has been a leper colony, was the setting for Victoria Hislop's book 'The Island', and is today a popular tourist spot.
Crete’s fabulous ancient history has been well-preserved, and you can explore it in detail at one of the many museums across the island. Look out for ‘Folklore’ or ‘Traditional houses’ in the smaller villages, which are small, local museums that can be just as fascinating as the big ones in Chania and Heraklion.
Minoan Palace of Zakros
The tiny off-the-beaten track hamlet of Zakros in eastern Crete is home to little more than a pebble beach and, impressively, the Minoan Palace of Zakros, which dates from between 1600 and 1450 BC. Daytrippers to the palace make up most of the seaside village’s visitors, so arriving here in-between coach journeys will give you the place more or less to yourself.