Luxury Villas in Crete

Crete is the largest sun-bleached island of Greece, home to sparkling blue Mediterranean waters, golden beaches (many of them awarded Blue Flag status) an assortment of dreamy, white-washed villages and steeped in ancient history. It’s also said to be the birthplace of Zeus (you can actually hike to the cave where he was born), so you’ll find that island life is immersed in Greek mythology.

But not only that, the island benefits from a warm climate all year-round, and because of this, we’ve ensured almost all of our villas offer a pool, so you can cool off in those hot summer months. Prefer a beach? Over half of our Crete villas have a beach nearby. At Oliver’s Travels we make sure that destination experts put together our collection of villas, so we (and you) can be sure wherever you choose to stay in Greece, you won’t be far from the action – unless you want to be.

Why visit?

  • It’s the ideal place for a family holiday, as it offers something for everyone, from exploring Minoan sites like the ruins of Knossos, hiking the mountainous terrain inland or just chilling by the pool with the kids.
  • The lifestyle is laid-back and social, so expect warm hospitality, tasty food and lots of relaxation. It’s all about the good life in Crete.
  • It offers a diversity of landscapes – from the coastline and natural lagoons, to the mountainous interior.

Read the Crete Travel Guide

Why stay with us?

Style and character are everything at Oliver’s Travels, and our collection of handpicked villas in Crete have this in spades.

We have destination experts who know the ins and outs of all our regions, picking villas that aren’t only unique, but also in the best locations. What's more, our villas are 100% family-friendly, and have the ‘wow’ factor.

Our helpful concierge team are on-hand to make your stay extra special. Whether you want a fully-stocked fridge, a local in-house chef to cook your meals, housekeeping or any other extra service – consider them your holiday genie, who will happily grant your wishes.

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Luxury Villas in Crete: Our Top Picks

Overview

Just under four hours’ flight time from London is the fabulous island of Crete, in Greece. Sitting in the middle of the Mediterranean, this big island has had a massive influence on the culture and history of the entire region. It’s bigger than you’d think, at around 260km long and 60km wide, so you've got plenty of exploring to do. Besides, here you will also find plenty of great accommodation, so check which is the perfect luxury villa for you.

Historically important

The island has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and while Crete is best known for the Minoan culture that created such historical wonders as the Palace at Knossos, there are hundreds of other sites across the island. It’s an absolute haven for history lovers, and even the tiny little ‘Folklore’ houses in even the smallest villages will tell you all about the history and culture of the people and their island.

Look out for other influences from a wide range of cultures, including the Dorians, Romans, Venetians, the Ottoman Empire, the Germans, and naturally, the Greeks.

Knossos palace at Crete

Knossos palace at Crete

Great food

Greek food is delicious, but Cretan food is even better! From fish so fresh it’s only just stopped flapping by the time it reaches your plate, to mezze, local drink 'Raki', and the island’s famous honey, it’s a gourmet delight, so why not book self catering holidays in Crete and experiment for yourself with the local produce from one of the thousands of markets? Wash it all down with the local wine, which is fruity and delicious.

If you want more information, check the Crete Travel Guide or discover the one week itinerary we have created for you in our blog.

You can also get some ideas on where to eat in Crete and what to do with family in this amazing island.

What Oliver loves

The sheer choice on offer, from superb beaches to cultural hotspots and family-friendly theme parks. The road system is good, so it’s very easy to get around.

Best time to go

  • Crete is most popular during the high season from May to September. This is when you’ll also get the warmest temperatures, but bear in mind that this is also when you’ll get the biggest crowds. During the summer, temperatures average in the high-20s to low-30s, with the mountainous regions being considerably cooler and less humid than the coastal areas.
  • From early May and in September you’ll have fresher conditions with slightly lower temperatures, but less humidity. The sea is warmest in September, and the south coast is significantly sunnier than the north, where you may encounter the occasional evening shower or thunderstorm in the middle of summer, when the humidity maxes out.
  • Events: There are lots of festivals to enjoy all year round, from the religious Saints days and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on August 15, to summer carnivals and the Anogia wine festival.

Top tips

  • Cash: ATMs are plentiful in town and cards are accepted in most major resorts, but you’ll need cash for petrol stations and rural shops and restaurants.
  • Tipping: In restaurants it’s usually included as a service charge, but you can either round up the bill or leave a tip of 10%. Round up the fare for taxis, or add a couple of euros.
  • If you visit monasteries, make sure you’re appropriately dressed.

Where to go

It’s no secret anymore that Crete is a gem amongst the Greek islands. Stunning, sandy beaches, a delicious regional cuisine and a rich history – Crete has got plenty to offer. The cherry on top are the hot temperatures all summer long, guaranteeing you to make the most out of your holiday and making sure you get your tan on!

Our holiday homes are located all over the island. Whether you enjoy tasty seafood, are keen on exploring ancient ruins, or want to discover a less known part of Crete – we’ve got the right villa in the perfect spot for you! Have a look at our eclectic portfolio and find your dream house.

Heraklion

With its world-famous building Knossos Palace and Phaistos Palace, Heraklion is the most visited area in Crete. But it’s got much more to offer than that! Stunning squares, a Venetian harbour and even a shopping centre await you in the bustling town, providing you with the best mix of culture and leisure.

Rethymno

Despite being the third biggest city in Crete, Rethymno still has a rural and quiet atmosphere to it. With charming Venetian and Turkish-influenced buildings, ancient churches and mosques - it booms with culture and diversity. One of the hotspots is undoubtedly the historic fortress, a highlight not only for photographers!

Chania

Located in Northwest Crete, Chania has got plenty to offer. A beautiful, old Venetian-style harbour, delicious seafood restaurants, and historic buildings are just a small part of what you can expect in one of the more popular areas of Crete. Surrounded by mountains, it’s a great opportunity to explore inner Crete and its rural villages.

Elounda

Nestled in Mirabello Bay, Elounda is exactly how you’d picture an idyllic Greek fishing village. Beautiful coastlines with a shining blue sea and sandy beaches turn this area into a dream destination for the whole family who are looking to discover a part of Crete that is not yet on the tourist’s radar.

Family friendly

With amazing beaches, water parks and attractions galore, Crete is one of the most family-friendly of all the Greek islands. Greek people are very family-oriented meaning that they welcome children almost everywhere.

Great for half-term breaks

Because the weather in the south of the island is so sunny and warm from early May right through to October, it’s the ideal destination for a half-term break.

Throw in easy access to Aqua World water park in Hersonissos, the rip-roaring adventures on offer at Dinosauria Park, or the stunning surroundings of Samaria Gorge and you’ve got all the ingredients you need for the best family holiday you’ve ever had.

History lessons

Even if they’re not into history at the start of your holiday, your kids will love it by the end! Take them on a tour of the Minoan Palace of Knossos, and let their imaginations run riot with tales of the dreaded Minotaur lurking underneath the city complex!

For more information about things to do with family in Crete, keep reading our blog!

Minoan Palace, Crete

Minoan Palace

Why it’s perfect for families

  • Good for babies: With a relatively short flight time of just under four hours, and cool temperatures during the shoulder seasons, it’s a great my-first-holiday destination for tiny tots. Discover our villas for babies.
  • Good for kids: Loads of amusement parks, fabulous beaches, and a warm welcome for kids makes villa holidays in Crete ideal for young travellers. These are our villas ideal for kids.
  • Good for teens: There’s enough water sports, outdoor activities and adventures to keep teenagers entertained. See our villas for teens.

Top tips

  • Head to Dikteon Cave on the east of the island, one of the most important caves in Crete.
  • Go sightseeing in Old Chania and go for a ride on a horse and cart
  • Check out the best beaches for kids such as Bali, Elafonisi, and the wonderful rock pools of Kato Gouves.

Best beaches in Crete

From secret coves to vast sweeps of powder-soft, golden sand that’s just perfect for families, the beaches of Crete have something for everyone.

The larger, more popular beaches have all the facilities you’d want for an idyllic day at the beach with the kids, complete with sun loungers, water-sports, and even shops selling buckets and spades. However, if you want something a little more secluded for a romantic walk along the beach at sunset, Crete delivers plenty of those, too.

A whole range of beaches

You’ve got hundreds of beaches to choose from, including some of the more remote spots along the south coast that can only be reached by boat. Throw in some incredible caves to explore, water so clear that you can see all the way to the bottom, and gentle breezes, and you’ve got some of the best beaches in the whole of the Med, all packed onto one island.

The larger beaches are very family-friendly, with water-sports, facilities, and that soft golden sand that’s perfect for sandcastles. Head off along the coast and you’ll find tiny coves and inlets where the only people walking along the shoreline will be you.

To make it easier for you to get to the coast, we have made sure we have villas near the beaches. Some properties are even a walking distance, so you don't have to go far to dig your toes into warm sand. And for priviledged views, check out these waterfront villas.

Oliver’s Hidden Gem

Balos beach (Chania): This beach is only really accessible down a narrow and windy track or by boat, but the effort is well worth it. Because it’s so tough to get to, it’s almost deserted. The sand is soft and white, the pristine waters are glass-clear, and there’s even an island to explore.

Balos beach, Chania, Crete

Vai (Lassithi)

Surrounded by the largest palm tree forest in Europe, this arc of golden sand is a popular spot for sun worshippers and snorkellers. It’s sheltered, and the water is safe even for timid paddlers and young children. It can get crowded during the high season, although during the shoulder seasons it’s a little quieter.

Paleohora (Chania)

One of the most popular beaches on the south coast, it’s close to several Crete luxury resorts and within easy reach of many of our villas. Staying in this part of the island gives you and your family instant access to some of the best beaches, with lots of water-sports and facilities on offer.

Tymbaki Beach (Heraklion)

This beach is huge, so even during the busy summer months there’s plenty of room for everyone. Part sand, part pebbles, there are lots of sun loungers on offer, local restaurants and bars for refreshments, and plenty of water-sports to try. It can be windy, so perhaps not the beach for you if you’re a novice or young swimmer, as the currents can be strong.

Plakias (Rethymno)

A good spot for escaping the usual crowds, especially during the summer. It’s big, sandy, and very clean, with clear, shallow waters and plenty of family-friendly facilities. It’s surprisingly secluded, although it’s quite close to some of our properties. Check out the local fish shacks for a midday snack of fresh fish and seafood dishes.

Falassarna (Chania)

Probably one of the best beaches on Crete for families, this huge sandy beach is close to Kissamos town and within a short drive to many of our villas in Crete. It’s also a top spot for windsurfers, as the bay is sheltered and the wind reasonably constant. Look out for the historic site of Ancient Falassarna above the beach.

Elafonisi Beach

Remote, gorgeous, and with a distinctive pink hue that works just perfectly alongside the brilliant blue water, Elafonisi is one of those beaches you’ll come back to again and again. Tucked away in the southwest corner of the island, it’s a protected area under the Natura 2000 scheme, which means it’s kept that unspoilt look.

Things to do

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.

Imbros Gorge, Crete

Imbros Gorge

Beaches

There are so many to choose from, you could visit a beach a day for the whole of your stay and still come back again for more.

‘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.

Caving

The island has more than 3,000 caves, including one where St Paul is said to have lived and preached, and others that are not so famous but equally dramatic.

Spinalonga Island

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.

Spinalonga Island

Spinalonga Island

Museums

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.

Oliver's Hidden Gem

The Holy Trinity Monastery: Close to Akrotiri, the island is covered with holy sites, but this one is home to some of the finest golden decorations you’ll ever see. Keep a look out for the monastery’s cats, which are very friendly!

 The Holy Trinity Monastery

Towns and villages

From tiny villages that seem to have been locked in time, to ultra-modern shopping centres in the heart of the island’s capital, there’s plenty to see and do right across the island. You’ll find that the towns and villages on the north coast are very different from those of the south, and the mountainous interior is home to remote villages where nothing has changed much in hundreds of years, and goats still wander freely along the cobbled streets. We recommend you hire a car to really explore the island, as it’s considerably bigger than you might think.

Across the island you’ll find boutiques and stores that sell local handicrafts, regionally-specific food and drink, and the usual touristy trinkets as well. You’re also spoilt for choice when it comes to the sheer amount of historical sites, many of which are of international importance.

All of Crete’s towns and villages are filled with tavernas and restaurants (and you can stay close to them) where you can try the freshest fish or delicate lamb dishes that melt in the mouth, and the island is also famous for its wines, which are predominantly white, fruity, and utterly delicious. If you want to be close to the main towns, discover these villas close to villages.

Oliver’s Hidden Gem

Chora Sfakia: Head over the White Mountains and to the tiny fishing village of Chora Sfakia. It’s off-the-beaten-track, but full of wonderful ruins and natural wonders like the Cave of Daskaloyiannis, and a gorgeous beach. Try the local pie, which is made from cheese and honey.

Chora Sfakia, Crete

Chania

One of the island’s prettiest big towns, with a mix of influences giving it an eclectic and unusual feel. Look out for the Venetian harbour and the Turkish traditional architecture, mixed in with typically Cretan touches. The harbour lighthouse is a must-see, and check out the Naval Museum to find out more about the town’s nautical connections through the centuries.

Rethymnon

In central Crete lies this historically important and visually stunning town. A complex blend of ancient and ultra-modern (the club scene here is popular with younger tourists), there are also plenty of ancient monuments to explore. It’s a top destination for shopping on the island too, especially the Marina harbour market on a Thursday.

Agios Nikolaos

Home to many of our top luxury villas in Crete and a magnet for sun worshippers, clubbers, and party lovers, Agios Nikolaos is one of Crete’s main resorts. It’s cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and glamorous, and one of the favourite destinations for anyone looking for villas to rent in Greece that put you close to both modern attractions and ancient monuments.

Spili

Often overlooked as people head towards the more-famous Rethymno, this village is all white-washed, sugar-cube houses and cobbled streets, dominated by the monastery. It’s lush and surprisingly green, thanks to the natural springs, and the mountainous landscape means it’s a little cooler than elsewhere on the island.

Heraklion

The capital of the island is not only the commercial and business heart of Crete, but home to its most famous ruins too, the Minoan Palace of Knossos. It’s surrounded by typically charming small villages, so it’s easy to escape the hustle and bustle of the main city by bus or via a short car journey.

Anogia

Head up to Mount Psiloritis and you’ll find the pretty town of Anogia. Close to the Ideon Cave (where the father of the gods, Zeus, apparently grew up), it’s a charming town filled with delightful cafés, boutiques and shady squares. The town also has a good selection of museums showcasing the local arts and crafts.

Getting there and around

Flights

It’s easy to get to this fabulous island, with regular flights (daily during the peak season) from most international and regional airports in the UK. Flights from most UK airports take around 3 hours and 55 minutes, depending on where you travel from.

There are three airports on the island, with most peak season flights landing at Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport (also known as Heraklion Airport), which is Crete’s busiest air transport hub for tourists. Out of season, you can fly to the mainland (Athens) and then catch a domestic flight to the smaller Sitia airport. Note that internal flights are less frequent outside the main summer season, and are usually around 3-4 times a week.


Get here by boat

Another alternative is to catch a ferry from Piraeus on Minoan Lines or to Chania with ANEK or Hellenic Seaways. During the summer there are daily catamaran sailings from Crete to Santorini if you fancy a spot of island hopping.


Travelling around

The island is much bigger than you think, so one of the best ways to get around is to hire a car. Crete roads are reasonably good, although bear in mind that up in the mountains they can turn from asphalt roads to dirt tracks quite unexpectedly. Petrol stations are common, but they do close at around 9pm in the more rural areas.


Public transport

The service in Crete is good, and the timetables are quite accurate, especially along the north coast. Taxis in the towns and cities are plentiful, but make sure you’ve agreed on a price before you get in, especially late at night.

Top tips

  • If you’re hiring a car on the mainland (which can be cheaper) and then taking the ferry or catamaran over, make sure you book well in advance, especially during the peak season.
  • For the more rural petrol stations, you’ll need to pay in cash. Petrol stations on the main highways are around 30 miles apart, and may be closed on Bank Holidays.
  • Road etiquette can be ‘flexible’, especially at STOP signs and junctions, so approach with caution.

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