Crete is a the largest island in Greece. There are two main hubs - Chania in the west and Heraklion (the official capital) in the north. Crete has three airports: Heraklion International Airport, which is the main airport and handles most international flights; Chania International Airport, which is used mostly for domestic flights (and slowly more international flights); and Kissamos Airport, which handles mainly private planes and smaller commercial flights. The two airports in Chania and Heraklion have good connections to other parts of Greece and Europe.
Heraklion is the official capital and it is also the university city. It is also closed to many historical sites on the island, such as The east side of the island offers, Agio Nikolaos and Elounda are famous and offer accommodations, restaurants and beaches for all budgets. The city also has the largest port on the island and it offers connections to destinations such as Santorini, Piraeus and Naxos. and its surrounding is known for the budget options for tourists. Of course, there are also many businesses supporting tourists, such as restaurants, local tours and shopping options. With history packed with Minoan, Arab, Byzantine, Venetian and Greek influence, Heraklion is the place to witness the cross road of cultures. It has Minoan palace (The Knossos), a Venetian harbour, archaeological museums and many more. Yes, Heraklion could be crowded at time and many holiday makers choose to head south for a more personalised Greek holiday experiences.
The east side of Heraklion Agio Nikolaos, Elounda, Zakros and Makry Gialos are all beautiful villages to stay and to shop. The east side feels more sophisticated and the villages are relatively closer together, comparing to the west. The infrastructure for visitors is in general more advanced than in the west. There are also a wide range of hotels and resort to choose from. Many of them at the higher end especially around Elounda. Of course, if you are looking for a different and more traditional Crete experience like we did - consider Chania!
For our trips to Crete, we had chosen Chania in the hope of searching for a more relaxing and more intimate experience. Chania is the oldest and still one of the most beautiful fishing towns in Crete. It is located on the northeast coast of the island. The Venetian walls surrounding the old town are picturesque and well worth exploring. Chania is ideal for a relaxing holiday, with plenty of interesting things to do and see. It is an ideal base from which to explore the northern part of Crete. It is a great destination for those who are looking for a more laid back experience than some of the busier resorts on the island.Chania old town itself is walker-friendly. From the parking lot near to the Chania Venetian Harbor Guardhouse to the “end” - where the Maritime museum is a 1,2 km walk (about 15minutes, depends on your walking speed). It was a very pleasant stroll along the harbour with many restaurants and old buildings on the side.We stayed in a traditional house in the parking lot side and we were very satisfied with our choices. It’s close to a parking lot so it was easy to drive away from town, the house was tacked away in a small alleys by the ocean front so it was not noisy while the locations give you the feeling of staying in the old fishing town neighbourhood.You can find more information on XXX here.
West of Chania
There are so many villages and accommodations to choose from in even just the west part of Crete, which one is the best? We drove along the coast and examined each village we pass. Along the highway E69 towards the west, the coast is beautiful and most villages are specially catered for tourism - hotels in the sea front, lots of restaurants and shops on both side of the highway. Most of the accommodations are budget friendly. You also do not need a car if you intend to stay at the beach and not to explore the rest of the island. This could be an advantage. Kissamos is the last larger village on this stripe of coast where one could stock up for food or go a bit of necessity shopping before heading elsewhere.
We drove through the villages and olive groves and arrived at our chosen village in this side of Crete - Falassarna (also Phalasarna). It is about 50km away from Chania old town. There is a winding road driving downwards until sea level, where the village lies. There is a small center with two supermarkets with a bakeries and direct access to the long beautiful pink sandy beach of Falassarna. There is also a trail (or also a drivable road) to the famous Gramvousa and Balos beach. Falassarna is a beautiful location that offers peace and quiet, as well as some of the best beaches on Crete. One of the main reasons we had chosen Falassarna was its proximity to several good quality restaurants; there seemed to be options open for both lunch and dinner every day. Another big plus for this place was that there were also lots of accommodation options to choose from, ranging from hotels to self-catering apartments.The sunsets here are gorgeous, with views stretching across the bay and the sea on the horizon, where the sky becomes a gradient of pinks and oranges as the light fades away. We particularly enjoyed waking up in the mornings and walking along the beach as the sea gently lapped the shore.If you are interested in archaeology, there is an ancient greek settlement at the village that is open for public visits. But unless you just want to stay in one of the hotels with restaurants and rest most of your holiday, we do recommend renting a car to stay mobile here.
We stayed and recommend Kouki’s House - find out more details from the link. We were lucky to be able to book it as it is really popular!
There are many small villages that are unaccessible by car. Those accessible by car are also popular with visitors, such as Palaiochora or Sougia. These villages offer nice beachs, hotels and restaurant and a sense of community. Others, such as Agua Roumeli or Loutro, one must go with a ferry or hike there. They are all excellent bases for exploring the nature of the island. If you enjoy the sense of remoteness in a holiday, they are excellent locations. If you don’t have to stay close to the sea or prefer being surrounded by mountains, there are lots of inland options in Crete and they are cheaper than the seaside options. Look for the key words “monastery and hotels” for some interesting stays in former monastery on the island. This part of island is closed to the famous Samaria Gorge and many beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails. It is also away from the hustle and bustle in some other parts of the island.
The Samaria Gorge is definitely worth the visit - many websites have offered tips and comments of the journey so we do not repeat here. . There are many ways to visit the Gorge and we had tried to make it efficient as we did not have too much time. We parked at the entrance in the entrance and after finish, we left with a rented boat and took a taxi from X to the car park. We successfully avoided the crowd and was had plenty of time to tour around the area before slowly heading back to our accommodation for dinner.
East of Chania
Due to the proximity to Chania airport, the east coast of Chania is also popular with holidaymakers. There are many buildings in the area, large and small, mostly accommodations for visitors. One could also make a good holiday in this area without a car, however, it could be crowded during high seasons.It is hilly but less mountainous than in the south, plus the fact that villages closer to the coast are quite densely built, so driving and navigation could be a challenge.
We managed to find a holiday house on top of a hill in a small village - Kokkino Chorio - it is 32km from Chania. This area the houses are further away from one another so it offer more privacy. It is developing but it is closed to nature. We do recommend having a car here if you are spending a few days or a week in the area, unless you are cooking yourself or don’t mind eating at the same restaurant the entire holiday. There is one restaurant in the village - not bad and very good sunset view. If you like other choices, you need to drive 5 minutes to nearby villages. If you're looking for a tranquil, relaxing getaway with stunning waterfront views, then Kokkino Chorio is definitely the place for you!The village is located in the picturesque mountains of eastern Crete. With a population of around 200 people, the village is incredibly peaceful, and is the perfect destination for couples seeking a romantic retreat. If you're looking to take some time out to relax and unwind after the hustle and bustle of daily life, Kokkino Chorio is the perfect place to do so. It's a beautiful and relaxing location, with amazing panoramic views of the nearby bays. It's also the perfect base for exploring the rest of eastern Crete, and has easy access to Chania airport (Chania is approximately a 1 hour and 10 minute drive away). It only takes 5 minutes to the beaches and restaurants on the popular waterfront villages, such as Almyrida or Kalyves. For more private swimming option, the nearby Omprogialos had some nice snorkelling in very turquoise water.
Another reason we stayed in Kokkino Chorio is that we have found a wonderful secluded house (but not isolated) with swimming pool and wonderful view at the village! See the picture above!
I always like to stay somewhere I could see the ocean. But we do found another lovely village towards the south from Kokkino Chorio called Vamos. There are some lovely accommodations from converted olive mill with excellent view to the ocean. Vamos also hosts various cultural events during summer time. We think it is an excellent place for an intimate family holiday for all. Between Chania and HeraklionFurther east to where Kokkino Chorio area, along the coast and towards the capital of Heraklion, is also a long sandy beaches with waterfront resorts and many restaurants and shops. For example the village of Rethimno. The long sandy beaches are much calmer here but most lies along the highway (but you won’t see it from the beach).
There is this wonderful house we visited in Vamos. We will definitely stay there next time when in town!