Crete holidays

When you think about Crete holidays, powder-white soft sand, pristine waters, and stunning sunsets spring to mind. After all, this Greek island (which is the biggest of them all) is home to a wealth of beautiful beaches where couples and families can soak up the Mediterranean sunshine.

But there’s so much more to explore beyond the beaches. For a start, 4,000 years of civilisation have left behind impressive archaeological sites, and it’s well worth hiring a car to see them for yourself. When you’re not off hunting the minotaur, you can experience the warm hospitality and traditions of the locals, who’ll always be able to offer some insider tips. Just ask them about the island’s best beaches and most picturesque villages.

Things to do

Beyond the island’s glorious beaches, holidays to Crete will take you to some of the oldest and most beautifully preserved remains of the ancient Greek world. It’s well worth taking a trip to Phastios, where you’ll discover an archaeological site dating back to the Bronze Age.

For a taste of the island’s ‘hippie history’, take a stroll around the cave homes carved into Matala Beach’s towering rocks before heading underwater to explore the Roman ruins beneath the surface. All this exploring will surely make you hungry, so when you’re ready, join the locals in the seafront tavernas; you’ll be welcomed with a glass (or two) of ice-cold raki.

Crete beaches

This picturesque island is home to plenty of beaches where you can spend your days relaxing on the soft sands and basking in the sunshine. You’ll find breathtaking islets lined with pink coral sand and surrounded by crystalline waters in the south. In the east, party locations such as Malia promise energetic beaches with a buzzing atmosphere and lots to keep you occupied. Whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat away from the crowds or somewhere a little livelier, there’s a beach haven for everyone in Crete.

Elafonisi Beach, on the south-western tip of the island, offers a little slice of paradise. The beach stretches over almost a mile; it’s covered in lush pink and white sands, surrounded by shallow, lagoon-like waters. The breakdown of coloured coral in the Mediterranean Sea gives this beach its unique pink tinge. Take a walk across the mesmerising islet and discover the incredible rock formations and caves as you go.

Or head down to Falassarna Beach where you can enjoy clear turquoise-blue water and a sandy shore full of sun loungers, umbrellas, and a selection of snack bars. Located on the western edge of the island, it’s popular among day-trippers due to its interesting historical background. Those interested in archaeology can visit the ruins of a Hellenistic harbour here and learn about the area’s unique past.

History and culture of Crete

Holidays to Crete are about much more than just sand and sea. Crete’s rich history is shaped by a fusion of mythology, empire, and cultural traditions which characterise this island’s strong identity. Delicious Cretan cuisine, popular folk dancing, and upbeat music are all part of Crete’s culture. The historical background is particularly fascinating.  

By 3000 BC, the Minoan civilisation began to emerge in Ancient Crete. The island became the forefront of the Bronze Age culture. The Minoan civilisation peaked around 1600 BC and was renowned for its construction of impressive cities, palaces, and strong naval empire. Take a trip to the Palace of Knossos where you’ll find an example of just one of the many grand structures built under this civilisation. Located just south of Heraklion, the palace covers over 20,000 square metres with lots to explore. Legend has it this building was the location of the famous mythical Labyrinth.

Those with an avid interest in Greek mythology can also embark on a day trip to Psychro Cave, believed to be the birthplace of Zeus. Uncover his secrets while exploring an impressive chamber full of crystal formations. Here, you can choose to follow a guided tour or wander through at your own pace.

Crete resorts

If it’s your first time holidaying in Crete, head to the ever-popular ancient town of Chania on the western side of the island. Characterised by incredible beaches, towering White Mountains, and the National Park, this resort promises stunning scenery and plenty to keep the whole family entertained.

Suppose you’d like to spend the majority of your holiday sightseeing. In that case, the island’s capital of Heraklion is the place to be. This city is renowned for its incredible archaeological treasures. It’s home to several historical points of note and a vast valley complete with olive groves and vineyards. Hersonissos, situated about 25km east of Heraklion, is ideal for a family holiday. This resort boasts two water parks and lovely big beaches for children to play on.

And if you’re coming to Crete for the nightlife, consider staying in Malia in the north-eastern quarter. This lively resort is rightly known as Crete’s party capital, home to an array of nightclubs and bars which stay open from dusk till dawn. Put on your dancing shoes and leave your troubles aside as you boogie the night away.

What should I pack?

Crete’s Mediterranean climate means you’ll need to pack for hot sunny days during much of the year. Add a few extra layers and perhaps a waterproof jacket for the wetter, cooler weather during the winter months. Evenings and nighttime in winter can be chilly, particularly on the coast or mountainous regions, so make sure you pack a jumper.

If you’re planning a holiday to Crete in the summer, take plenty of light, cool clothing, swimwear, and of course, sun cream! Don’t forget your sun hat and sunglasses too for lazing by the pool or on the beach. Since there are plenty of ancient ruins and historical sites to explore on the island, comfortable shoes are a must if you’re planning on seeing everything that’s on offer.

More Travel Guides

We also have travel guides available for destinations including Aghios NikolaosElounda | Heraklion | Hersonissos | Malia | Rethymnon | Stalis

 

Map of Crete

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11-40 ℃

A Mediterranean climate means warm summers and mild winters.

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Heraklion Airport (HER) and Crete Chania Airport (CHQ).

Crete is best for...

Beach lovers: Beautiful beaches are a big draw for holidays here. You’ll find sandy stretches dotted all over the island’s 650-mile coastline, including pretty spots in Aghios Nikolaos, Chania and Heraklion.  

Explorers: You’ll absolutely adore the tiny island of Spinalonga, which you can cruise over to and discover village ruins. If you love a bit of rock-climbing, head inland and you’ll find the spectacular White Mountains; ideal if you’re the outdoorsy type.

History buffs: Travel back into the Bronze Age at the ancient palace of Knossos and discover glorious Venetian architecture in the town of Rethymnon (which also plays host to the annual Renaissance Festival).

Fast facts for Crete

Language: The language spoken is Greek.

Currency: The currency used is the Euro (€).

Local time: Crete is 2 hours ahead of GMT/UK time.

Fly to: Heraklion International Airport. Transfers take between 15 minutes for Heraklion and 2 hours 40 minutes for Elounda.

Flight time from UK: The flight time to Crete is 3.5–4 hours.

Tourist information: Find further tourist information before your Crete holiday at www.incrediblecrete.com

Visa and health: For health and visa recommendations, visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/greece.

 

Getting around Crete

By hire car: Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, so the best way to cover long distances is with a hire car. It’ll also give you the freedom to explore in your own time. 

By bus: The island’s local bus services are regular and efficient; they run throughout the day to and from Heraklion (the island capital) and biggest cities to all the main resorts, beaches and archaeological sites.

By boat: Why not hop on board a boat tour from Chania and head for the unspoiled islet of Gramvousa and the luminous Balos Lagoon?

Events in Crete

Bands on the beach: Matala Beach Festival (held annually at the end of June) is a free summer celebration in the south; you can expect lots of music on the beach and a host of other events inspired by the 1960s hippie era. 

Renaissance Festival: Since 1987, this famous festival has taken place every year in late summer in the Cretan town of Rethymnon. Plays, music and comedy take place all over the town to celebrate the Cretan and European Renaissance and Rethymnon’s rich Venetian heritage.

Chania Summer Festival: From July to September, the ancient city of Chania plays host to a long list of cultural events; think theatrical nights, art exhibitions and traditional Cretan music and dance.

Crete safety and security

Passport and Visas

Do I need a passport?

All visitors to Crete will need a passport which must be valid for the duration of your stay. No specific period of validity is required beyond this.

For more information on Crete passport requirements and details of the country’s entry specifications, head to https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/greece/entry-requirements.

Do I need a visa?

British citizens travelling to Greece on holiday do not need a visa. If you’re unsure if you need a visa, it’s best to check with the Greek Embassy.

For more Greek visa information and details of entry requirements to the country, head to https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/greece/entry-requirements.

Health and Safety

Should I get travel health insurance?

Anyone planning a holiday to Crete will want to ensure they have comprehensive travel and health insurance. This way if you’re injured or become ill on your trip, you’ll be covered for the cost of emergency medical treatment or even your return back to the UK. It’s always a good idea to check your policy documents thoroughly before your trip, just so you’re aware of what is and what isn’t covered. We also recommend checking that any activities you’re planning for your holiday will be covered by your insurance.

Any other tips?

  • The currency here is the Euro, and you’ll find plenty of cash machines in major cities and busier resorts. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted but it’s worth noting your card issuer may charge you a fee for using your card or withdrawing cash abroad.
  • Smoking is banned in all public places in Crete.
  • For more information and travel advice for your trip to Crete, head to https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/greece.

 

Crete weather

Temperature: 11-40 (°C)

When’s the best time to go?

From the ancient capital of Heraklion to the sandy beaches of Ierapetra, Crete is one of the most beautiful Greek islands, and also the largest. Packed with beautiful beaches, ancient treasures and sleepy villages, a holiday to Crete is sure to be a memorable experience. But when is the best time to go and what do you need to know before you jet off? Our Crete travel advice is here to help.

Crete has a Mediterranean climate with hot, sunny summers and mild, wet winters. The hottest month is August with the average temperature reaching around 29°C, making summer the ideal time for a beach break. Sometimes a heatwave can see temperatures as high as 35-40°C, so don’t forget to pack your sun cream.

The sea is at its warmest from July-September which is ideal for swimming and snorkelling, while from mid-May to mid-September you may find the sea a little rough due to coastal winds.

Spring remains one of the most popular times to visit Crete, with temperatures in May ranging from 19°C-27°C and plenty of sunshine. During the months of October-March, Greece has its rainy season and it can be a little chilly, with temperatures averaging around 10°C during the day which often gets lower at night.

If you’re planning on visiting ancient ruins or taking excursions, spring or autumn is the best time to visit Crete, when attractions are less crowded, and the weather is cooler.

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