Central Crete in Three Days
Driving central Crete in three days gives you time to see the highlights including the Minoan palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the beaches and the Diktean Cave.
Try to get to Knossos by opening time, to have any hope of beating the crowds – and heat -- and also allow a good hour or two at the site. Head back towards Irakleio and take the main coast road west towards Rethymnon, but turn off towards the craft village of Arolíthos. The drive from Knossos to Arolithos is only about 20 minutes. For lunch, the restaurant at Arolíthos is surprisingly good, but don’t linger too long.
Arolithos Traditional Village
The ancient site of Tílisos is only a 5-minute drive away but usually closes at 3pm so try to get there by at least 2pm to enjoy the site before continuing on the winding mountain road to Anoyia. This should take about 30-40 minutes. If time and daylight allows, drive on to visit the Idhaean Cave now, though you’ll need to allow at least two hours and it’s a 40-minute drive to get there from Anoyia.
Spend the night in Anoyia, where there are hotels, apartments, and private rooms to rent. A good dining spot is the simple Ta Skalomata on the right as you leave the village on the road to the cave, which has great views.
Visit the Idhaean Cave if you didn’t manage it the night before, then retrace your route back through Tílisos to the main coast road. Head west towards Rethymnon but look for the turning to Fodele, the birthplace of El Greco. Visit his birthplace, and see the Church of the Panagia near the house.
The Church of the Panagia in Fodele
Photo by Gerd A.T. Müller
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Lunch at one of the simple tavernas in Fodele, like the Giasemi. The drive from the cave to Fodele via Tilisos should take about 90 minutes, though there are a couple of other routes that are a little quicker.
Head back towards Irakleio on the coast road but as you reach the city look for the right turn marked to Míres. This fast road still makes a pleasant drive as it eventually heads up into the hills. In Ayía Varvára watch carefully for the almost-hidden right turn to Záros, one of our favourite little towns on Crete. The drive should take about 70-90 minutes, and we recommend an overnight stay at the wonderful Keramos Studios.
A few minutes from the Keramos is the unique dining experience that is Vegera. Don’t miss this one-off restaurant.
Explore Záros and do a short walk up the Rouvas Gorge before heading south on the road to Míres, turning left to reach the archaeological site of Gortina. The drive should only take twenty minutes or so. Ten minutes east of Gortina is the church of Áyii Dhéka and in the village are several authentic tavernas where few tourists venture.
The Archaeological Site of Gortina
It’s a 20-minute drive west from your lunch stop to the Minoan palace of Phaistos. Allow plenty of time for visiting here, before deciding where to spend the night: in the small resort of Mátala, or the bigger but prettier Ayía Galíni. Matala’s about 15 minutes away from Phaistos and Ayia Galini about 25-30 minutes.
In Mátala the Korali has good food but you have plenty of choice. In Ayía Galíni there are also numerous good places, including Madame Hortense and Onar.
Where to Stay in Matala
Where to Stay in Ayia Galini
Other Crete pages
The Byzantine Church of Panagía Kerá near Kritsa and not far from Ayios Nikolaos is one of the most famous in Crete, and close by is the site of Ancient Lato.
Matala Beach on Crete is a guest blog for Greece Travel Secrets from the We Love Crete website, inviting you to Awaken Your Inner Hippy in Matala, Crete.
Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.
The most famous Cretan writers and artists include the painter El Greco and the author of Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis.
This olive grove walk from Limnes to Vrises on Crete also takes you through orchards and gives close-up views of some of the island’s windmills.
Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.
Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.
Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.
This Amari Valley drive in southern Crete starts and ends in Ayia Galini, takes four to five hours and cover 100 kilometres or 62 miles.
Greece Travel Secrets goes hiking in southwest Crete with Ramblers Walking Holidays based in Paleohora and hiking the E4 footpath and to Anidri and Azogires.
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.
Western Crete in five days allows time to visit Chania and Rethymnon, enjoy the beaches, hike the Samaria Gorge and see the monasteries at Arkadi and Preveli.
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.
Cretan music is part of the island’s soul and visitors will hear live music wherever they go, with several distinctive Cretan musical instruments and songs.
This tour around central Crete lists some of the area’s highlights such as the traditional village of Arolithos, Minoan remains at Tilisos, and Agioi Deka.
Visiting Knossos near Iraklion is one of the best things to do on Crete, and this page has a history of the site with visitor information.
Ancient Gortina is an archaeological site in southern Crete famous for the church of Ayios Titos and for the Law Code inscribed here, the first in Europe.
Margarites is known on Crete for its pottery, with ceramics shops and workshops lining the streets of this charming small town not far from Rethymnon.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has four ENUESCO sites, which are Sitia, Psiloritis, Asterousia, and the Gorge of Samaria.
Western Crete has some wonderful golden sand beaches as well as mountain villages, monasteries, caves, and archaeological sites to discover.
Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.
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 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.
Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.
This Lasithi Plateau drive on Crete starts in Neapoli and ends in Malia, covering a distance of 80 km (50 miles) and taking two to three hours.
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