Eastern Crete in Five Days
How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches, and mountain and coastal scenery.
Malia Archaeological Site in Eastern Crete
Get an early start from somewhere like Malia or Neapoli and follow our recommended drive around the Lasithi Plateau, including a visit to the Diktean Cave. There are several places to choose for lunch in the village of Psychro near the Diktean Cave, and the village of Krasi is another lunch option, a 25-minute drive north of Psychro.
The Lasithi Plateau in Eastern Crete
From Psychro it’s a 40-minute drive north to the coast at Malia, where you can spend an hour or so visiting the Malia archaeological site and still have time for a swim.
Where you stay depends on what kind of place you like. Stay in Malia if you want rowdy nightlife, but our preference would be to make the 20-minute drive into the hills and spend the night in Neapoli at the excellent Neapolis Hotel. There are some great places to eat, too, better than in Malia, including the Finikas Raki Taverna.
Where to Stay in Malia
Where to Stay in Neapoli
From Neapoli it’s a half-hour’s drive south to Kritsa to see the remarkable church of Panagia Kera, or if you’re in Malia allow 40-45 minutes. You can then make the easy 15-minute drive down to Agios Nikolaos to have lunch. We suggest La Casa, right by the lake.
After lunch, make the 20-minute drive north from Agios Nikolaos to Elounda, from where you can take a boat trip out to Spinalonga island, the one made famous in Victoria Hislop’s best-selling book, The Island.
There are numerous choices of places to stay in both Elounda and Agios Nikolaos, for all budgets, so choose whatever you fancy. In Elounda we recommend dinner at the Ferryman overlooking the water, or if you’re in Agios Nikolaos, one of our favourites is Pelagos, a seafood specialist.
Where to Stay in Elounda
Where to Stay in Agios Nikolaos
Spend the morning looking around Agios Nikolaos, and don’t miss its Archaeological Museum. We like the Patriko Taverna at Minoos 11, which we think has some of the best traditional food in Agios Nikolaos.
After lunch make the 20-minute drive east to the archaeological site at Gournia. The superbly-preserved ruins here will keep you occupied for an hour or two, after which head to the south coast. It’s only 20 minutes from Gournia to the main south coast town of Ierapetra, and we recommend driving a further 20 minutes west to the fun little town of Myrtos, and checking-in at the central Hotel Myrtos.
We recommend having dinner at La Sera, just around the corner from the hotel, although the hotel’s own restaurant is also very good.
From Myrtos retrace your route to Ierapetra and continue east along the south coast to a lovely little place called Makriyialos (or Makri Gialos), which is almost an hour’s drive from Myrtos. We once spent a delightful week here, so stop to stretch your legs and walk around. Beyond here the main road turns to the north to take you to the lovely town of Sitia. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Makriyialos and you can have lunch at one of the waterfront tavernas.
After a good lunch head for Sitia’s Archaeological Museum, a 5-minute walk back from the waterfront. We recommend spending the rest of the afternoon walking around the town and/or cooling off with a swim from one of the town’s several beaches right in the centre.
Spend the next two nights in Sitia, at either the Itanos Hotel or the Elysee Hotel. Both are on the waterfront and both are very pleasant and inexpensive. Enjoy dinner at The Balcony Restaurant, where the food is definitely a cut above the average.
Where to Stay in Sitia
From Sitia it’s an hour’s drive east and then south to see the small but absolutely fascinating and atmospheric remains of Zakros Palace. Tiny Zakros is a place we love, and it’s great to chill out here and have an excellent lunch at the Kato Zakros Bay Restaurant, right by the sea and with lots of the produce coming from the owner’s farm.
From Zakros it’s just under an hour’s drive north to the remarkable and popular Vai Beach, where you’ll see Cretan date palms. Don’t linger too long if you also want to visit the monastery at Toplou, a 20-minute drive inland from the beach and where you can sample (and buy, of course) some of the monastery’s own wines.
It’s a 20-minute drive from the monastery back to Sitia where you can enjoy a final dinner at one of the waterfront tavernas like the excellent Limani, happy that you’ve seen the best of eastern Crete in five days!
Other Crete pages
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.
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.
These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.
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.
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.
The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.
Hiking the Samaria Gorge on Crete, one of the best things to do on Crete, by Greece Travel Secrets.
Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.
Ancient Gournia is a Minoan archaeological site between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia in Eastern Crete where the visitor can see evidence of a maze of back streets.
Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.
Greece Travel Secrets discovers Sitia, the main town in eastern Crete, with its relaxing waterfront, inexpensive hotels, good food, and nearby ancient sites.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to make Petimezi, the sweet Cretan syrup made from wine must, is explained to Greece Travel Secrets.
Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.
Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.
Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.
For a Crete olive oil tour Greece Travel Secrets visits Biolea, one of the few olive oil factories on Crete that you can visit.
Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.
What was daily life as a Minoan like on Crete, living in palaces like the ones at Knossos, Malia, Phaistos, and Zakros, and what were their religious beliefs?
Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete and has a Venetian fortress, Archaeological Museum, Old Town area and Venetian harbour,
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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