Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, a place rich in history, culture, and some of the best food in Greece. Travelers come here to see the Palace of Knossos outside of Heraklion; Knossos, a spectacular archaeological site; and the Samaria Gorge, a destination for hikers around the world.
Crete is one of the most convenient islands to reach, as it has three different airports and six ports. Most travel will be through Athens as many flights to Crete include a stop in Athens. If you're traveling within Europe, there are a number of European and British cities that fly directly to Crete as well.
Piraeus, the major port of Athens, offers a number of ferries to the various ports of Crete. Alternatively, several Greek islands, such as Santorini, Naxos, and Mykonos, have ferry routes to Crete for those travelers looking to visit multiple islands on their trip.
While many visit Greece in order to island hop, you can easily spend your entire vacation on Crete and still have more to explore, so consider this six-day itinerary, which will take you on a culinary and historical tour of the island.
From Athens by Plane
Duration: 1 hour, plus travel to/from airports
There are direct flights from the Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos (ATH) to all of the airports in Crete: Heraklion (HER), Chania (CHQ), and Sitia (JSH). The Athens airport is about 30 minutes from the city center and can be easily reached by taxi, private transfer, bus or metro.
Alternatively, a number of locations in Europe and the UK also offer direct flights to Crete. London, Berlin, and Paris are just a few cities that fly directly to Heraklion. Note that the smaller airports in Chania and Sitia may not have direct flight options from these cities.
From Athens via Ferry
Duration: 6.5 - 13 hours, plus travel to/from ports
If you're looking for a more leisurely way to get to Crete, there are multiple fast and slow ferries available from Piraeus, the main port of Athens, or Rafina, a smaller port, which is closer to the Athens International Airport.
Piraeus is about 25 minutes driving from the city center and you can take a taxi, private transfer, bus or metro to get there. Rafina is 20 minutes from the airport and can be reached by taxi, private transfer or bus.
There are six ports in Crete: Heraklion and Chania are the most serviced; other ports include Rethymno, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, and Kissamos.
Ferry schedules tend to be more limited in the low season (mid-June through mid-September) but if you have time and the ferry is running, this can be a wonderful way to get to Crete. Economy seats, business class seats, and cabins are available for these journeys and the ferry can be a nice way to take in the wonderful sights of the Greek islands.
From Cycladic Islands
Duration: 2 - 9.5 hours, depending on your starting location
Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, and Paros are some of the Cycladic islands that offer direct ferries to Crete, primarily to the port in Heraklion. It's possible to reach Crete if you're staying on a different island in the Cyclades, such as Amorgos, Syros or Folegandros, but note that these will be "indirect" ferry routes with stops at other islands along the way.
Slow and fast ferries are available from the Cyclades to Crete and so your travel time will vary based on the ship you choose as well as your starting location. For seasick-prone travelers, slower ferries may be a preferable option as they are larger and have more outdoor space, so the rides on these ferries can be less bumpy.
Economy and business class tickets are available for all ferries and many offer private cabin options as well. You can bring transportation on board, which will increase your ticket price depending on whether you bring a car or motorbike.
From Other Greek Islands
Duration: 3.5 hours or more, depending on your starting location
If you prefer to travel by air, you can fly to Crete from another Greek island. Although not all Greek islands have airports, most of the larger and more popular ones do, including Mykonos, Santorini, and Lesvos.
All flights to the Greek islands go through Athens, so be aware that if you fly from another island to Crete, you will have a stop in Athens. This can be an easy way to get to Crete, particularly if you are traveling in the low season and would rather not rely on ferry schedules, which can be affected by weather.
For these short flights, only economy tickets are available and of the airports in Crete, Heraklion has the most flight options.