Best Things to Do on Crete

The best things to do on Crete include hiking the longest gorge in Europe, seeing the remains of vast Minoan Palaces like KnossosPhaistos and Malia, relaxing in pretty waterfront towns such as ChaniaRethymnon and Sitia, spending a day or more in Iraklion with its marvellous Archaeological Museum, and seeing religious sites like the haunting Arkadi Monastery and the beautiful frescoes in the church of the Panagia Kera. And that's without even mentioning the fantastic beaches!

Hiking the Samaria Gorge is one of the best things to do on Crete: https://www.greece-travel-secrets.com/Best-Things-to-Do-on-Crete.htmlThe Samaria Gorge

Here in alphabetical order is our list of the best things to do on Crete:

Aquaworld Aquarium and Reptile Rescue Centre

This lovely place in Hersonissos is an absolute delight. The animals here have all been rescued in some way, and are lovingly cared for by the owners. See the giant python, Dmitri the octopus (who can open a jar to get his lunch), the blind but contented sea turtle, and much more. Don’t just take our word for it. Read the rave reviews on TripAdvisor.

The Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery

It's a lovely drive up a twisty mountain road to get to one of the island's most important monasteries. In 1866 hundreds of Cretans were killed here by occupying Turkish forces, including many Cretan resistance fighters, and it has become a symbol of the islanders' struggle for independence. Don't miss the ossuary, where skulls and bones of those who died are preserved.

For more information on the history of the monastery, with maps, videos, and visitor information, see our separate page on the Arkadi Monastery.

Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos

Agios (or Ayios) Nikolaos is one of the prettiest towns on Crete, renowned for its twin harbours. It is therefore very busy too, and the crowds can detract from the enjoyment of it, but it's well worth seeing. It also has a good Archaeological Museum, and a little Folklore Museum, but its main appeal is the town itself. Visit our page on Agios Nikolaos.

Diktean Cave
We wouldn't rate the Diktean Cave as among the very best things to do on Crete, but it is certainly popular and worth it if you're in the area. See our page on the
Diktean Cave.

Chania

Chania, Crete's second-largest city, is many people's favourite place on Crete, and we'd find it hard to disagree. It has a really beautiful Venetian harbour, which is the perfect place for a drink or a meal especially in the evening when it bustles with people. The town has good shopping, several excellent museums, and some of the nicest hotels and best restaurants on the island. See our separate page about Chania.

Ancient Gortina

Gortina

Gortina (or Gortys) was a Greco-Roman city and the ruins, although small, sprawl pleasantly over fields and olive groves making it a lovely spot to explore. The 6th-century church of Ayios Titos is one of the main ruins, and nearby in what is thought to have been the agora, or market, is a truly unique find. Carved in about 500BC on huge stone blocks is what was the first Code of Law to have been written down in Europe. See our separate page for more information about Gortina.

Gournia

The ruins at Gournia are interesting because they are of an ordinary working Minoan town, not one of the great palaces. The ruins are from about 1500BC and it's really fascinating to walk among them and discover the houses and workshops. get to the top of the site for a good over-view, and when you do it remember that Gournia was originally four times as big as what you see in front of you. The rest has not yet been uncovered.

Iraklion

Try to spend at least a day in Iraklion, Crete's capital, or preferably a few days. It's a lively city with plenty of things to do, including the Archaeological Museum, its Venetian harbour, the Historical Museum, the Icon Museum, several interesting old churches, and plenty of good restaurants too. 

Knossos

Knossos

The Minoan Palace at Knossos is the biggest attraction on Crete, and well worth at least half a day of your time. There were once over 1,200 rooms here, and some of them have been recreated to give an impression of the scale and grandeur of the palace. The first palace was built here in about 2000BC, but that was destroyed in an earthquake 300 years later. Then an even greater palace was built, but that too was destroyed in 1450BC, possibly by the eruption of the volcano on Santorini, causing a huge tidal wave. 

See our separate page about visiting Knossos for much more information, videos, and a map. See also our page on the archaeologist forever associated with Knossos, Sir Arthur Evans.

We Love Crete
For much more info on what to do on Crete, visit the
We Love Crete website, an invaluable resource.

Malia Palace

Malia Palace is Crete's third-largest Minoan Palace. It was built in about 1900BC, destroyed in an earthquake then rebuilt in about 1650BC. Its remains with a reddish tinge to the stone make a great place to wander around, and because it's usually less crowded you have more time to make sense of the ruins. See our separate page on Malia.

Panagia Kera

This little Byzantine church is one of the most famous on Crete, known for its 14th- and 15th-century frescoes. They seem to cover every inch of the walls, and make a great impact when you first walk into the church.



Phaistos

The ruins of the Minoan Palace at Phaistos (or Faistos) are just as enjoyable, if not more so, than the more famous ruins at Knossos. They're set on a hill overlooking a plain and the site is usually nowhere near as crowded as Knossos. Enjoy the central courtyard, royal apartments, the grand staircase, and the place where the famous Phaistos Disc was uncovered in 1903. This small disc was made in about 1700-1600BC and no-one has ever worked out what it's spiralling series of pictograms are meant to be, though there are several theories.

See our separate page for more information on Phaistos.

The Old Harbour at Rethymnon

Rethymnon

Crete's third-largest town has a busy modern side to it but also a great beach and a lovely little port area. It also has a huge Venetian fortress from the 1570s, thought to be the biggest ever built, a good Archaeological Museum, a Historical and Folk Art Museum, and some smart hotels and restaurants.

The Samaria Gorge
Photo by Mike Gerrard

Samaria Gorge

Walking the Samaria Gorge, the longest gorge in Europe, is definitely one of the best things to do on Crete, and the most exhilarating. The scenery is spectacular, and while it's hot and tiring to cover the 18kms (11.25 miles), it can be done by anyone who's reasonably fit. In fact it can get over-crowded in the summer, but nothing takes away from the sense of achievement when you reach the Libyan Sea at the southern end, having started from high up in the White Mountains. See our separate page with much more information on the Samaria Gorge, and our own account of Hiking the Samaria Gorge. You might also be interested in reading our account of Hiking in Southwest Crete.

Sitia

This north-coast town is more visited by Greeks than foreign tourists and so maintains a laid-back and still-Greek feel to it. It has a lovely waterfront area with some very good eating places, and has an Archaeological Museum and a Folk Museum too. The drive to it along the coast from Ayios Nikolaos is one of the most beautiful drives on Crete.

So there you have our personal list of the Best Things to Do on Crete, but it's hard to choose as there are just so many great things to see and do on this island.


You might like these other Crete pages...

  • Chania, in Western Crete

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  • Art Courses on Crete

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  • Crete

    Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.

  • Crete Olive Oil Tour

    For a Crete olive oil tour Greece Travel Secrets visits Biolea, one of the few olive oil factories on Crete that you can visit.

  • Crete Festivals and Events

    Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.

  • Cretan Writers and Artists

    The most famous Cretan writers and artists include the painter El Greco and the author of Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis.

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  • Battle of Crete

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  • Arkadi Monastery

    Visiting the Arkadi Monastery near Rethymnon is one of the best things to do on Crete.

  • Airbnb near Chania

    This Airbnb in the quiet village of Malaxa, a 30-minute drive into the hills above Chania, is a peaceful retreat with a delightful and thoughtful artist owner, with wonderful views and amenities.

  • Agios Nikolaos

    Agios Nikolaos is a pretty and popular town on the north coast of Crete and this page on Greece Travel Secrets covers its history, museums and beaches.

  • Goules Taverna Crete

    The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.

  • Eco-Tourism Accommodation on Crete

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  • Margarites

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  • Zacharioudakis Winery

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.

  • Touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.

  • The Icon Painter

    Icon painting is a centuries-old tradition in Crete and the rest of Greece, and Greece Travel Secrets meets a modern-day icon painter in Elounda on Crete.

  • The Herb Man of Kouses

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.

  • The Cretan Diet

    Studies have shown the Cretan Diet as one of the healthiest in the world, involving lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, and moderate amounts of wine.

  • Stilianou Winery near Knossos

    The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.

  • The Snails House on Crete

    The Snails House in Plouti near Phaistos in southern Crete serves the Cretan delicacy of snails, cooked in several different ways.

  • Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist at Knossos on Crete

    Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.

  • Samaria Gorge

    The Samaria Gorge is one the longest gorges in Europe and doing the hike is one of the best and most popular things to do on Crete.

  • Rethymnon in Western Crete

    Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete and has a Venetian fortress, Archaeological Museum, Old Town area and Venetian harbour,

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