Crete's Best Things to Do: Top Attractions & Activities

Krzysztof Dubiel, Unsplash
January 2
Written by Elena Kostas

Discover the best things to do in Crete, Greece's largest island, with stunning beaches, beautiful cities, and ancient archaeological sites. Explore the charms of Crete and enjoy an unforgettable experience.

Crete, the cradle of European civilization, is an island full of contrasts that quite literally has it all. From magnificently rich cultural heritage to stunning landscapes, the only dilemma faced by travelers is where to go next and what to see in Crete.

Tied to its past, the local population is proud of its culture that is evident in the island's grand monuments. Every nook and corner there is brimming with history, every pathway holds a secret, offering countless things to do in Crete.

A trip to Crete is a journey through time, where the blend of the old and the new is seamless. Whether you are seeking the thrill of adventure or solace in nature, you'll find it all here. With this Crete guide, we aim to inspire and facilitate your visit to this vibrant island, aiding you in picking the best places to visit in Crete.

1. Elafonisi Beach

Natural Spaces and Parks
woman wearing white floral dress standing near the body of water
Elafonisi Beach /

Elafonisi Beach, located on the southwest coast of Crete, is one of the island's most popular tourist destinations. Known for its idyllic landscape, this beach offers the perfect combination of crystal-clear waters, pink shimmering sand, and impressive rock formations.

Elafonisi also stands out for its unique biodiversity. Here you will find a wide variety of plant and animal species, including migratory birds and sea turtles. This is a perfect place for nature lovers who want to explore a unique marine ecosystem.

In addition to its natural beauty, Elafonisi also offers full tourist services. There are sun loungers and umbrellas available for rent, as well as cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy delicious fresh seafood dishes.

2. Knossos Palace

Historical Monuments and Architecture
brown concrete building near green trees during daytime
Knossos Palace /

Knossos Palace: located on the island of Crete, is one of the main tourist attractions in the region. Built by the Minoan civilization over 3,000 years ago, this ancient palace is an impressive testament to the history of Crete.

Explore the Minoan civilization: immerse yourself in the history and culture of the ancient Minoan civilization as you walk through the halls and rooms of Knossos Palace.

Discover the treasures: admire the frescoes, sculptures, and artifacts that have been preserved at Knossos Palace. From the famous bull frescoes to ceramic objects, each piece tells a fascinating story of life in ancient Crete.

3. Samaria Gorge

Natural Spaces and Parks
a couple of people standing on a rocky river
Samaria Gorge /

The Samaria Gorge is one of the top tourist attractions in Crete and a must-visit for nature lovers and hikers. Stretching 16 km long, this impressive gorge offers an incredible hiking experience through dreamlike landscapes.

The Samaria Gorge is renowned for its natural beauty and abundant wildlife. As you walk through the canyon, you'll be treated to stunning cliffs, lush vegetation, and the soothing sound of the river flowing along the trail.

If you're looking for an outdoor adventure in Crete, you can't miss The Samaria Gorge. Discover this natural treasure and marvel at its stunning beauty and incredible rock formations.

4. Chania of Crete

Historical Monuments and Architecture
a group of people on a beach
Chania of Crete /

Chania of Crete: A must-visit destination

Located on the northwest coast of Crete, Chania is one of the most picturesque and fascinating cities on the island. With a rich history dating back thousands of years, this charming city offers visitors a perfect combination of beautiful beaches, traditional architecture, and a vibrant cultural life.

Discover the architectural treasures

Explore the narrow streets of Chania's old town and marvel at its magnificent Venetian houses, Ottoman mosques, and ancient Byzantine churches. The Chania Lighthouse, one of the city's symbols, offers breathtaking views of the harbor and the Mediterranean Sea.

Enjoy the beaches and natural landscapes

Chania boasts an impressive coastline, where you can find crystal-clear beaches and natural landscapes of indescribable beauty. Explore the beaches of Balos, Elafonisi, and Falassarna, where you can relax under the sun and enjoy the peacefulness of the sea.

5. Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Museums and Art Galleries
brown concrete building near green trees during daytime
Heraklion Archaeological Museum /

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of the most fascinating tourist destinations in Crete. It houses an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibitions that tell the ancient history of the island. If you're looking for things to do in Crete, this museum is a must-visit.

The museum features a wide variety of pieces ranging from prehistoric times to the Roman era. You can marvel at the beauty of Minoan sculptures, admire the frescoes from ancient palaces, and explore the collection of everyday objects from daily life in ancient Crete.

In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that provide a deeper insight into Cretan history and culture. A visit to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum will immerse you in the island's rich past and allow you to discover its fascinating historical and cultural heritage.

6. Cretan Cuisine of Crete

Food and Markets$$$
tall grass blowing in the wind on a sunny day
Cretan Cuisine of Crete /

Cretan Cuisine is famous all over the world for its rich variety of flavors and authenticity. When visiting Crete, you must try the traditional dishes that reflect the island's history and culture.

One of the most iconic dishes of Cretan Cuisine is the famous Dakos, a salad made of tomato, feta cheese, and crispy bread. However, this is just the beginning.

Food enthusiasts will discover that fresh and local ingredients are the key to Cretan Cuisine. Olive oil, fresh herbs, typical cheeses, and seafood are just some of the ingredients that make this gastronomy one of the best in the world.

7. Cretan Dakos

Food and Markets$$$
tall grass blowing in the wind on a sunny day
Cretan Dakos / Cristina Meléndez

Discover Cretan Dakos

Cretan Dakos is a traditional salad from the island of Crete, Greece. Also known as 'koukouvagia', this delicious dish stands out for its unique combination of flavors and textures.

The history of Dakos

Dakos has its roots in ancient Greece, where Cretan farmers used fresh, local ingredients to prepare this dish. Over time, it has become an essential part of Cretan cuisine and one of the island's most popular meals.

Where to try Dakos in Crete?

If you visit Crete, you must try authentic Dakos in local restaurants and taverns. The main ingredients of this delicious salad include toasted bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, feta cheese, and black olives.

8. Souvlaki in Crete

Food and Markets$$$
barbecue and potato fries
Souvlaki in Crete / Joshua Kettle, Unsplash

Discover the delicious Souvlaki in Crete.

Souvlaki is a traditional Greek dish consisting of grilled meat, usually pork or chicken, on a metal skewer. It is one of the most popular street foods in Greece and can be found all over the country.

In Crete, Souvlaki is especially flavorful due to the fresh and local ingredients used. The meat skewer is seasoned with a blend of traditional Greek spices and served with warm pita bread, tzatziki, and fresh vegetables.

You can't visit Crete without trying authentic Souvlaki, a culinary experience that will transport you to the culture and flavors of Greece.

9. Rethymno of Crete

Historical Monuments and Architecture
beige lighthouse
Rethymno of Crete / Branko Besevic, Unsplash

Rethymno of Crete is a hidden gem on the island of Crete, seamlessly blending history and natural beauty. With its well-preserved Venetian architecture and imposing Rethymno Fortress, this city will captivate history lovers.

In Rethymno, you can't miss the charm of its old town, with its cobblestone streets and colorful buildings. Stroll along the Venetian harbor and explore the narrow side streets, where you'll find charming shops, cafes, and traditional restaurants.

If you enjoy the beach, Rethymno won't disappoint. Golden sandy beaches stretch along the coast, providing you with a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the sun and sea. Additionally, the surrounding mountains offer opportunities for hikes and breathtaking panoramic views.

10. Phaistos Palace

Historical Monuments and Architecture

Phaistos Palace: One of the archaeological gems of Crete and a must-see thing to do in Crete. This Minoan palace, located on the Phaistos Plateau, will captivate you with its history and architecture.

Discover the history of Crete: Phaistos Palace is a window into the past of Minoan civilization. Here, you can explore the remnants of one of the oldest cultures in Europe and learn about its legacy.

Admire the archaeological treasures: Numerous objects of historical value, such as ceramics, jewelry, and tools, have been discovered at Phaistos Palace. Witnessing these treasures will deepen your appreciation for the ancient greatness of Crete.

11. Spinalonga Island

Historical Monuments and Architecture

Spinalonga Island is a hidden gem on the island of Crete, Greece. Located just off the northeastern coast of Crete, this island has witnessed a rich history and is known for its breathtaking natural beauty.

Known as 'the island of the lepers,' Spinalonga was used as a leper colony from the 17th century until the mid-20th century. Today, the island is a popular tourist destination for those seeking to learn about this dark chapter in Crete's history.

In addition to its history, Spinalonga also offers stunning panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and the surrounding mountains. Visitors can explore the cobbled streets, abandoned houses, and well-preserved historic buildings, which provide a fascinating glimpse into life on the island in times past.

12. Agios Nikolaos

History and Cultural Heritage

Agios Nikolaos is a wonderful coastal town located on the beautiful island of Crete. Surrounded by the Libyan Sea and its captivating mountainous landscape, this town offers a variety of unique experiences for visitors.

Known for its incredible crystal-clear beaches, Agios Nikolaos is the perfect place to relax under the sun and enjoy exciting water sports. Moreover, its charming boutique hotels and bustling harbor create a welcoming and vibrant atmosphere.

In addition to its stunning natural beauty, Agios Nikolaos also boasts a rich cultural heritage. Explore its archaeological sites, such as ancient ruins and magnificent monasteries. Immerse yourself in the history of Crete as you stroll through narrow cobblestone streets and visit local museums.

13. Preveli Beach

Natural Spaces and Parks

Preveli Beach is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Crete. Located on the southern coast of the island, this beach combines stunning natural landscapes with a rich historical and cultural heritage.

With its crystal-clear turquoise waters and impressive cliffs, Preveli Beach is perfect for relaxation and sunbathing. Moreover, its lush vegetation and the Kourtaliotis River flowing into the sea create a unique and lush environment.

If you're visiting Crete, you can't miss this natural paradise. Preveli Beach offers a unique experience in a tranquil and incredibly beautiful setting. Enjoy a day of sun, sea, and sand in this corner of Greece.

14. Venetian Harbor of Crete

Historical Monuments and Architecture$$$

Discover the charm of the Venetian Harbor of Crete. This beautiful place is one of the most popular destinations on the island and attracts visitors from all over the world. Its unique architecture and rich history make it a must-visit for those who want to immerse themselves in the culture of the island. Stroll through the picturesque streets, admire the ancient buildings, and immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere of its charming squares.

The Venetian Harbor is famous for its crystal-clear waters and stunning landscape. Whether you want to enjoy a relaxing walk along the coast or explore the traditional boats that still dock in the harbor, this place has something for everyone. You'll also find a great variety of shops and restaurants where you can taste the delicious local cuisine. Don't miss out on this hidden gem in Crete!

Things to do in Crete. The island of Crete offers a plethora of interesting places to visit, but the Venetian Harbor stands out for its beauty and historical significance. Marvel at the Venetian architecture, relax in one of its charming waterfront cafes, and enjoy panoramic views of the harbor. An experience you can't miss on your visit to Crete!

15. Arkadi Monastery

History and Cultural Heritage

Arkadi Monastery is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Crete. Located in a picturesque setting, this 16th century monastery is an important religious and cultural center.

It is known for its role in the fight for Crete's independence in the 19th century. During the Cretan Revolution, the monastery became a refuge for rebels and was the scene of a fierce battle.

Today, Arkadi Monastery is considered a symbol of Cretan resistance. Its impressive architecture, with its fortress-like church, and rich history make it a must-visit destination for lovers of history and culture.