As Greece's southernmost and largest island, Crete puts a twist on the typical Greek island ambiance. With a mix of ancient history, diverse landscapes, and some of the country's best beaches, you'll find many ways to explore the birthplace of Zeus and European civilization. Discover charming villages surrounded by olive groves, hike through scenic gorges, spend a day relaxing in the year-round warm waters, and learn more about the island's ancient civilizations.

Getting Oriented

Compared to Greece's other islands, Crete is huge. To get from one side of the island to the other requires at least five hours, but with so much to see and do in between, you could easily focus your entire vacation on Crete alone. The island is home to vibrant and historic cities like Chania, Rethymno, and Heraklion, plus a diverse landscape dotted with charming villages, olive groves, and mountains. Visit coastal towns like Agios Nikolaus and Sitia or experience the unique culinary scene at inland farms and wineries.

Many consider Crete as the cradle of civilization since it sits at the trade routes between Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Its location was home to the Minoans, who flourished as far back as 3,000 BCE. Explore the ruins of Knossos and peruse archeological museums. Or take your explorations outside and hike through the striking Samaria Gorge. Crete offers endless activities in nature. You can laze at Elafonissi's blue-pink beach one day and find yourself at the top of a mountain the next. Discover the ultimate guide to Crete and learn more about what this island has to offer

Discover Cretan History

If you're a history buff, Crete is the place for you, with a history dating back to the 7th millennium BCE. Explore the ruins of Minoan civilization — the most ancient civilization in Europe — and discover the influences of Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Venetian rulers on the island's cities. 

Old Town of Chania Walking Tour

The charming streets of historic Chania.

Spend the day following a local guide through Chania's historic neighborhoods, including Topanas, Splantzia, Kolombo, and Kasteli. Each features a distinct character and offers a picturesque setting of cobbled streets and hillside views. Discover the architecture influenced by some of the island's prominent rulers, such as the Cretans, Venetians, and Ottomans. Pop into shops and cafes and get an authentic feel for the city. Then explore Chania's surroundings with a visit to the ruins of Kydonia and learn about the area's history, culture, and mythology as you stroll along Byzantine-Venetian moats. Read More

Palace of Knossos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum Tour

The ancient ruins of Europe's oldest civilization, the Minoans. 

You can't miss exploring the incredible ruins of the Palace of Knossos, known to be Europe's oldest city. Discover this 3,500-year-old mansion by navigating its maze of royal chambers, grand staircases, storerooms, workshops, and the first European theater. Your guide will divulge the historical, mythological, and cultural details, including the always popular story of the minotaur. Then head to the world-renowned Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, where you'll peruse unique Minoan art and a complete collection of Minoan artifacts. Spend some free time meandering Heraklion's historic center, visiting the Morozini Fountain, the Venetian Loggia, and St. Titus Church. Read More

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Explore Crete's Unique Culinary Scene

Many visit Crete for its refreshing and unique Mediterranean diet. Discover Cretan villages, farms, and parks as you tour the island with your tastebuds. 

Farm to Table Cooking Class at the Botanical Parks

Enjoy a fresh, locally produced lunch on the terrace of the Botanical Gardens.

Discover the secrets behind Cretan gastronomy by preparing and cooking traditional recipes with the help of a local chef. You'll source your ingredients from the Botanical Gardens, which hosts flora from three distinct climate zones. Enjoy herbal tea and fresh fruit before exploring the grounds at your leisure. Then put on an apron and help prepare a delicious lunch while you learn about Cretan recipes and nutrition. Savor your meal on the scenic terrace of the Botanical Gardens overlooking the surrounding countryside. Read More

Olive Farm Visit and Traditional Greek Lunch at Archanes

Crete's countryside is filled with endless olive groves and mountain peaks.

Olive oil is one of Crete's most coveted local products, and you'll learn all about its history and production at an organic olive oil mill near Heraklion. Enjoy a tour of the groves, discovering harvesting procedures and organic farming practices. Then observe the extraction process in action using a traditional pressing technique and a modern cold extraction. Put your knowledge to the test with an olive oil tasting and learn what makes the oil unique from other countries. End the day in the charming village of Archanes, where you'll enjoy a traditional Greek lunch in the main square (called plateia). Read More

Cretan Villages Food and Culture Tour

Explore some of Crete's most charming inland villages and try the local cuisine. 

Enjoy a day in the Cretan countryside, specifically the Apokoronas region just southeast of Chania. As you explore charming, pastoral villages, you'll meet with locals and learn about rural daily life. Peruse the Folklore Museum of Apokoronas before heading to the small town of Vrises, where you'll tour a traditional distillery and taste the local spirit tsikoudia (or raki). You'll also visit the villages of Emprosneros and Fres, touring a cheese factory and sipping local wine varieties, including Graviera, Mizithra, and Anthotiros. End the day with lunch at a traditional kafeneio with the locals. Read More

Get Outside on Crete

No trip to Crete is complete without some form of outdoor activity. With such a diverse landscape, you can easily spend a day at one of the famed beaches and the next hiking through a scenic gorge.

Elafonissi Beach Day Trip 

The perfect, warm, and clear waters of Elafonissi Beach.

Elafonissi Beach is one of the island's most beautiful and popular beaches. You may recognize photos of its pink-and-blue-hued sand complementing the shallow and clear turquoise waters. A driver will take you to this famous stretch of coastline, passing through small traditional villages and crossing the scenic Topolia Gorge. You'll make a quick stop at the cave of Agia Sofia to view the small chapel at its entrance. Then spend the rest of the day enjoying Elafonissi, where you can relax, swim, and snorkel. Stop in the small village of Elos on your way back to enjoy a traditional meal at a local Cretan tavern. Read More

Samaria Gorge Hike 

The staggering beauty of Crete's Samaria Gorge.

Trek through Europe's longest river gorge, the Samaria Gorge. You'll start in the town of Omalos and enjoy a quick introduction to this UNESCO site over a cup of Greek coffee. Then make your way down into the gorge from the Omalos Plateau, which sits at over 4,000 feet (1,250 meters). Enjoy the incredible views as you walk down toward the river surrounded by dense forests and towering mountain peaks. At the Iron Gates, you'll stand between the narrowest point of the trek, where the 1,600-foot walls (500-m) are just 13 feet (4 m) apart. The hike ends at the village of Agia Roumeli on the shores of the Libyan Sea. Read More

How Does Crete Fit into a Greece Itinerary?

The serene Cretan countryside combines perfectly with the bustle of Athens or the Cycladic Islands.

Connected by domestic flights and overnight ferries, you can easily combine Crete with a trip to the Cycladic Islands, Greece's mainland, or any other region of the country. Although you could zip through the top sites in a day or two, to truly get to the essence of this diverse island, we suggest spending at least 3-5 days. Learn more about how to allocate your days in Crete

Past kimkim travelers have enjoyed the following trips that include Crete: