Crete is a wonderful place for a holiday as it has something for everyone. It’s home to much of Greece’s cultural heritage as well as being a picturesque place that’s ideal for those who like to explore.
We all know how beautiful the Greek islands are. Santorini, Mykonos, Zakynthos, and Crete island are all known as being the most wonderful islands in Greece.
Rich with history, ancient monuments and temples, Crete has something else to offer.
Don’t visit a naturally beautiful place like Crete without checking out everything nature has to offer. We’re going to take you through the top things to do in Crete.
Things to do in Crete
1. Visit Balos Beach and Lagoon
The main must-do on the list of things to do in Crete is visit the beach! Visiting Balos Beach and Lagoon is the first of our top things to do in Crete. An off road drive, which is part of the adventure, takes you to incredibly picturesque world-class beach where amazing, calm, shallow and warm water greets you.
2. Samaria Gorge National Park
Our second suggestion is to take in Samaria Gorge National Park. Gorgeous views, clear water and a challenging hike await you there. Safari Club Crete offer nature but with a little more excitement thrown in. You’ll see wild goat herds while you travel in the mountains with a knowledgeable driver who will be more than happy to explain the Cretan way of life while giving you insights into the land.
Book a full day hike in Samaria National Park here.
3. Boat tour
While you’re in Crete you should take at least one boat tour. There are loads to choose from including day cruises that take you around the island, sailing trips that take you on swimming excursions to otherwise impossible to reach places.
Go on the fantastic semi-submarine that offers tourists a chance to glimpse life under the sea.
5. Black Rose Pirate Boat
Augment whichever one of those you chose with a trip on the Black Rose Pirate Boat. Seeing the island from a boat decked out like a pirate’s ship complete with crow’s nests and a jolly roger is something that people of all ages will get a kick out of. Book your spot on the pirate boat here.
6. Sea Shark Glass Bottom Boat
The Sea Shark glass bottom boat is the 6th thing we’re suggesting to do in Crete but it’s quite possibly the best activity on our list. The boat itself is modern, comfortable and new so it’s a great place to spend a few hours but the best feature is of course its glass bottom that will allow you to take some of the holiday’s most remarkable images.
7. Scuba dive or snorkel
Scuba and snorkelling adventure trips are another attraction in Crete that shouldn’t be missed. There’s nothing quite like getting up close and personal with nature while on holiday.
8. Palace of Knossos
By far, the biggest attraction on Crete is the Minoan palace named Knossos. You can’t visit Crete without taking a trip the The Palace of Knossos.
This is quite possibly the most important archaeological site in Crete. According to some documents, it was the seat of King Minos, from whom the whole civilization got its name. This place was the cultural and political centre for the Minoan civilisation that populated the island between 2600 to 1400 BC.
Minoan civilization is linked to a great number of myths in Greek mythology. It is the place where Zeus abducted Europa in the form of a bull. Daedalus and his son Icarus are also important, along with Theseus (but we’ll get to that later). Bronze giant Talus and the Argonauts have also been linked to Crete.
Minoan civilization was very well developed. Its strategic location as the link between Europe, Asia, and Africa provided many treasures which enabled prosperity.
The site offers a collection of original and reconstructed architecture which combine to give you a clear picture of life back in those days. Book your ticket online beforehand to skip the line when you get there. This one includes a smartphone audio tour which is super handy if you don’t want to join a guided tour.
History of the Palace of Knossos
The palace of Knossos was built around 2000 BC and the myth about its architect goes like this. King Minos hired the Athenian architect, mathematician, and inventor – the famous Daedalus, who proceeded to build the palace. His design was so complex that everyone who went in alone, couldn’t get out without a guide.
Greek Myths Associated with Crete
In order to ensure that Daedalus wouldn’t reveal the palace’s secrets, King Minos captured him, along with his son Icarus and held them locked away in the high tower. Dedalus, being the genius he is, designed wings made from wax and bird feathers for him and his son. They managed to escape their captor, but you probably know how this ends – Icarus got carried away with his ”power’’, flew too close to the Sun, crashed and burned… Great metaphor in any case.
Another myth is about the Labyrinth and the half-bull half-man creature called Minotaur. When you get to the site and see the ruins, you can guess why this myth came to be. It really does resemble a labyrinth. And you also probably know that Theseus beat Minotaur with the help of Ariadna.
9. Anciient Aptera
Ancient Aptera is another important historical site. At least 4 civilisations have built on the site so you’ll see a mixture of Doric temples and Roman baths along with an ancient theatre that will take your breath away.
If you’re interested in activity holidays, get in touch with Cycling Creta. Your trip can be as energetic as you like though because your guide will ride at your pace. Whatever you choose to do make sure you take plenty of photos!
11. Eat the local food
Try out as many local Cretan food. These Mediterranean delicacies not only will satisfy your appetite, but also dive in a sea of flavours! Watch the below video for the 10 top Cretan specialities to try.
12. Visit Stalis Beach on Crete Island
Stalis is just half an hour away from Heraklion City and “Nikos Kazantzakis” airport. It is less than 10 minutes away from Malia and Hersonissos. The location is ideal for exploring the central and easter part of Crete Island.
13. Visit Elafonisi Beach
Elafonisi is a pink sand beach located in the west part of the Crete island, this small idyllic beach is a magnet for everyone. During the season, it is packed with tourists (May – October), while out of season it is just a wonderful and quite place.
The Elafonisi area is protected as it is part of the national park. So be careful to not spoil that lovely place with garbage. The beach itself is very well organized and has everything you need. The western side of the beach gives you an outstanding chance to enjoy a magnificent sunset.
For me as nature lover this fantastic spot is more than perfect for my yoga activities and meditation. For those who love to have a few drinks while watching the sunset, there are plenty of counters and bars on the beach.
Elafonisi during the high season is full of tourists. This is why I love to go in the off-season. At this time, you can rather chat to the locals and enjoy this fantastic spot all to yourself.
How to get to Elafonisi Beach
From the airport in Chania to Elafonisi is 78 km. It’s not far at all, plus the road is very colorful and fascinating and is always a pleasure to drive. When you arrive at the airport you can catch a bus to Paliochora and from there to catch local transport to Elafonisi or rent a car.
14. Go on a road trip
As you can see from above, there is a lot of Crete to explore. We recommend hiring a car and road-tripping around the island. Our guide on driving in Crete shares the top road trips to take around the island.
With so many incredible things to do in Crete, make sure to make time for relaxing on the beaches. You are, after all, on a Greek island holiday.