Crete Bucket List: Top 15 Best Things to Do in Crete, Greece

Crete is the largest and one of the most visited islands in Greece. It has some magical vibe of its own and is big enough to cover your entire holiday. As far as Mediterranean islands are concerned, Crete is the fifth largest and is believed to the origin of the oldest European civilization, dating back to 2700 BC. The island is filled with fascinating archaeological sites as well as many historical landmarks and 1,000 kilometers of the shore. The highlight of the island is its golden sand stretches of beaches and clear seawater. It also has some interesting cities and towns with Venetian quays and fortresses.

Best Things to do in Crete Greece photo via DepositPhotos.com.

If you are planning a trip to Crete, below are things you should be looking to do and see.

15 best things to do in Crete

Try out the beaches of the island

Elafonissi beach with pink sand on Crete photo via Depositphotos.com
Elafonissi beach with pink sand on Crete photo via Depositphotos.com

There is no secret Crete has some of the most beautiful Mediterranean beaches in Europe. In fact, the majority of people visiting the island in spring and fall usually go to the lounge on the stunning beaches.

The beaches on the island come in different sizes and forms. Some are pebbly while others are soft. Either way, they all provide excellent beach experience.

The most popular beaches you should add in your bucket list include Elafonissi, which is popular for its pink and silver sand and Balos Lagoon.

The town of Matala also has endless stretches of sandy beach lined with a cavern at one side.

Wander around Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos is a picturesque town in the eastern part of the island Crete built on the northwest side of the peaceful bay of Mirabello. photo via DepositPhotos.com
Agios Nikolaos is a picturesque town in the eastern part of the island Crete built on the northwest side of the peaceful bay of Mirabello. photo via DepositPhotos.com

This small, charming city is located on the northern shore of eastern regions of the island. Despite its beauty and large crowds, it doesn’t feel as touristy as other cities on the island.

Enjoy drinks and meals at one of its many seaside restaurants and cafes or just walk around from the harbor to a beach called Kitroplatia.

Explore Chania

Habour of Chania photo via Depositphotos.com
Habour of Chania photo via Depositphotos.com

Located in Western Crete, Chania is one of the largest cities on the island and used to be the capital until 1971. The city’s backdrop is spectacular as its foreground, thanks to the White Mountains rising in silhouette at the back. Chania overlooks the Aegean Sea and is lovely for walking around on foot.

There is a maze of romantic passageways with pastel-colored houses enclosed within the 16th-century fortress.

Check out the Palace of Knossos

Panoramic view on ruins of ancient Knossos palace via Depositphotos
Panoramic view on ruins of ancient Knossos palace via Depositphotos

The island of Crete has many archaeological sites and the first one you should visit is the Knossos near the town of Heraklion. The palace centers on a massive square, where it looks like it hosted Bull-Leaving events (a sport where you run towards a raging bull, grab it by the horns and somersault above it).

The palace was abandoned circa 1450 BC, for reasons still unknown to date.

Hike at Samaria Gorge

Passage of famous Samaria Gorge, Crete, Greece photo via Deposit Photos
Passage of famous Samaria Gorge, Crete, Greece photo via Deposit Photos

Located inside the Samaria National Park, Samaria Gorge is perhaps the most impressive of all gorges on the island. The major attraction of the gorge is the 16 kilometers trail that runs through it.

The gorge begins at Xyloskalo, outside the Omalos village on the mountains, and descends 1,250 meters and stops at the Libyan Sea.

Check out old buildings at Rethymno

Streets in the old part of Rethymno photo via Depositphotos
Streets in the old part of Rethymno photo via Depositphotos

Rethymno is situated midway between Heraklion and Chania and consists of largely old Venetian buildings with some traces of Turks.

The town is a perfect destination for a day trip away from the resort cities of the northern coast. If you want to escape the sand and water, Rethymnon has just about everything to keep you busy all day.

Admire art at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum allows you to learn some Cretan history, as it contains treasures from 550 years ago exhibited across 27 different halls.

One of the main attractions is the 3,500 years old murals from the Knossos era and glazed porcelain Snake Goddess from 1600 BC.

The museum is located in the eastern region of the old town of Heraklion.

Head over to the south coast town of Plakias

View of Plakias bay by Guy Hamilton via Wikipedia CC
View of Plakias bay By Guy Hamilton – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC

Having started as a fishing village, Plakias is today one of the most laidback and pleasant beach resorts in Crete. The town is still hugely underdeveloped compared to other beach towns on the islands, but what attracts many visitors here is its small-town vibe as well as some of the finest dining options available.

Don’t leave without enjoying the long horseshoe-shaped beach in an expansive bay.

Relax at Matala Beach

Matala Beach photo via Wikipedia Commons
Matala Beach photo via Wikipedia Commons

This beach is one of the most popular on the southern coast of the island. Despite that, you can’t afford to miss it owing to its setting. The beach has a rock wall with ancient caverns on one side and a waterfront restaurant and gift shops on the other.

Matala beach is ideal for a day escapades from other popular destinations such as Rethymnon and Heraklion on the north.

The caverns used to be a hangout place for hippies back in the 1960s.

Discover Crete’s hidden gem in Frangokastello

Frangokastello fortress in Crete photo via Depositphotos
Frangokastello fortress in Crete photo via Depositphotos

Frangokastello may seem like it has nothing much going on, but it is one of the most hidden secrets of Crete. Even though the town is located on the waterfront, it doesn’t have tourist facilities like other beach resorts on the island. However, it does have good dining options as well as lovely beaches and a prehistoric fort.

Watch over the Libyan Sea from the Preveli Monastery

View of Preveli monastery courtyard with the church of Saint John in Greece, Crete island photo via Depositphotos
View of Preveli monastery courtyard with the church of Saint John in Greece, Crete island photo via Depositphotos

Located near the summit of a peak, the Preveli Monastery offers a great vantage point to watch over the Libyan Sea. It can also make a day trip because of plenty of things to see including the terraces and courtyards, a tiny air-conditioned museum, and the mountain spring.

Tour Spinalonga Island

Crete Spinalonga Fortress via Deposit Photos
Crete Spinalonga Fortress via Deposit Photos

This small island is located a few kilometers from Crete and can be accessed through a boat. Contained by the Gulf of Elounda, the island is one of the greatest spots to learn a couple of things about the Venetians.

During Venetian rule, salt was harvested from salt pans around the island. The island has also been used as a leper colony. Spinalonga has appeared in novels, television series, and a short film.

Explore Mirabello Bay

Mirabello Bay photos via Depositphotos
Mirabello Bay photos via Depositphotos

Mirabello Bay is one of the largest bays in Europe. If you hired a car, drive around it and dip into the Sea of Crete to cool down. Agios Nikolaos is nearby and has lots of dining options to fill up before continuing with your journey.

Visit the Fortress of Koules

View of Koules castle in the harbour, Heraklion, Crete. via Depositphotos
View of Koules castle in the harbour, Heraklion, Crete. via Depositphotos

The Fortress of Koules is a must-see site in Crete. It was built back in the 16th century during the Venetian empire.  Today, the fortress is an archaeological site closed for public but you can watch it from a distance.

Check out the Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery photo via Depositphotos
Arkadi Monastery photo via Depositphotos

If there is an important landmark in Crete, it is the Sacred Monastery of Arkadi. It is located 20 kilometers from Rethymno and believed to have been founded by Arcadius, a Byzantine emperor, back in the 5th century. The monastery is set on a tableland surrounded by olive trees, vineyards, and oaks.

Now, the monastery is a national sanctuary.

To help you plan out your next holiday to Crete, we gathered a list of best places to visit as well as other amazing activities to include on your Crete itinerary. We also listed some of the best Crete travel and tour packages, as well as excellent flight deals and accommodation options.

Searching for the best Crete hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable Crete hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

Want more updates about new tourist attractions in Crete, Greece? Follow #TeamOutofTown, on Facebook, and TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest for more travel ideas.

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