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.

The ruined Minoan palace at Knossos on CreteKnossos

Day One

Morning

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 in Central CreteArolithos Traditional Village

Afternoon

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.

Evening

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.

Day Two

Morning

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 on CreteThe 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.

Afternoon

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.

Sign for Keramos Studios Accommodation in Zaros on Crete

Evening

A few minutes from the Keramos is the unique dining experience that is Vegera. Don’t miss this one-off restaurant.

Day Three

Morning

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 on CreteThe Archaeological Site of Gortina

Afternoon

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.

The Archaeological Site of Phaistos on CretePhaistos

Evening

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 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.

  • Battle of Crete

    The Battle of Crete during World War 2 inspired several books and took place with an airborne invasion over Maleme on the north coast of the island.

  • Lonely Planet Crete

    Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

  • 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.

  • Kritsá, Lato, and Panagía Kerá

    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.

  • How to Make Petimezi

    How to make Petimezi, the sweet Cretan syrup made from wine must, is explained to Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Chania, in Western Crete

    Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Gortina ancient archaeological site in southern Crete

    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.

  • Maleme and the German War Cemetery on Crete

    Maleme near Chania is where the people who died during the battle of Crete are buried, in the German War Cemetery with the Commonwealth War Cemetery nearby.

  • Irakleio

    Crete's capital and largest city is Irakleio, also called Iraklion or Heraklion, a large and busy place with good restaurants, museums and historical buildings.

  • Olive Grove Walk

    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.

  • Rouvas Gorge Walk

    This Rouvas Gorge walk starts and ends in Zaros in southern Crete and should take three to four hours with a distance of eight kilometres or five miles.

  • Crete

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

  • Hiking in Southwest Crete

    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.

  • Dining at Vegera

    Greece Travel Secrets eats at Vegera in Zaros and finds a cheap but wonderful feast of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes cooked daily with fresh local food.

  • 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,

  • Elounda and Spinalonga, setting for The Island by Victoria Hislop

    Elounda on Crete's north coast is a popular holiday town with a pretty harbour, from where you can take day trips by boat to see the island of Spinalonga.

  • Where to Stay in Central Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.

  • Making Rakomelo on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Arkadi Monastery

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

  • West Coast of Crete Drive

    This drive along the west coast of Crete and inland from there will take a whole day and starts and ends in Kastélli Kissámou, west of Chania.

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