Best Places to Stay in Crete

Crete encapsulates a trove of turquoise beaches and bucolic villages, threaded by the remnants of ancient civilizations. Its nuances of natural wonder are instrumental in pleasurable pursuits.

Located eastwards of Heraklion, upscale resorts meld with serene living in Hersonissos. Its beachside vistas, pool-decks, and palm-lined tavernas are an ideal choice for families seeking relaxation.

1. Chania

Chania, the gateway to Crete’s western coast, is a rich amalgam of captivating castles and natural splendour. Its enchanting medieval town has the charm to attract both the discerning traveler and families, and its tavernas, museums and boutique stores make this one of the best places to stay in Greece.

Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans have all settled here, giving the quaint city a diverse cultural palette that’s reflected in its architecture. Those who like to walk will be delighted by the labyrinthine streets and sprinkling of old buildings, while lovers of history will be fascinated by its museum treasures.

Beyond Chania’s city limits, the white sand beaches of Agia Marina and Stalos are a short drive away. A little further and you’ll reach the Platanias resort town, home to a range of accommodation options and a plethora of conveniences.

The southwestern corner of the island has some of the most stunning natural sites on the island. The Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains and the emerald-colored Elafonisi beach are easy day trips from here, while the 15th-century Kiutsuk Hasan Mosque and the Etz Hayyim Synagogue add a touch of history to your trip.

Unlike Chania, Rethymno is not as picturesque and as peaceful, but it offers a good mix of culture and the chance to enjoy some of the best beaches in Crete. Some of the highlights here include its 16th-century palaces and the Patriarchal Monastery of Chrysopigi, which draws thousands of pilgrims each year who kneel before the miraculous icon of Panagia Zoodochos Pigi.

Rethymno is also close to Heraklion, so if you don’t want the hustle and bustle of a large city, you can head up north. But if you prefer to be near the sea, Rethymno has some lovely seaside villages that are a short drive from the town center. Some of the best include Bali, Karavostasi and Livadi. If you have more time, it’s worth spending a few nights here to get a taste of what Rethymno has to offer.

2. Rethymno

The Rethymno region is one of the best places to stay in Crete if you’re looking for a mix of beaches and quaint fishing villages. It’s also home to significant historical landmarks and a vibrant city life that appeals to all travelers.

The city’s historic Old Town captivates visitors with its Venetian architecture and enchanting alleyways. Stepping past the city’s honey-colored lighthouse, you’ll be greeted by the aroma of fresh fish dishes and baked goods coming from local tavernas.

You can explore the 14th-century Fortezza and Rimondi Fountain on a stroll through the Old Town or hop on a segway tour for an in-depth exploration of the area’s history. Rethymno’s beach is a 13-kilometre stretch of gorgeous sand that’s popular with families and offers water sports. It’s the perfect spot to relax and soak up the sun with a cocktail in hand.

If you’re craving a relaxing getaway, Rethymno has an array of charming hotels and villas that offer up tranquility along with modern conveniences. Choose a hotel with a pool or sea views and enjoy the warm waters and calm atmosphere. Many of the best hotels are located in the historic center and within walking distance to the city’s main sights.

Rethymno is a popular destination for couples, families, and solo travellers. The area is also a hit with history enthusiasts who enjoy the city’s mix of Venetian and Ottoman influences.

Taking the ferry from Chania or Heraklion to Rethymno takes less than an hour, making it easy to make a day trip of the city. Rethymno’s upscale resorts and tranquil vibe are great for a relaxing retreat, while the nearby beaches and archaeological sites add an element of adventure.

Crete’s island buses are a popular option for getting around the island, though checking timetables ahead of time is recommended. You can also catch a taxi for short trips or airport pickups. Just make sure to use a meter or negotiate a price beforehand.

If you’re pondering where to stay in Crete but aren’t set on the standout cities, the alternative destination of Agios Nikolaos is a wonderful choice. The laid-back city is abundant in accommodation and attractions, including boutique stores, sunny-filled cafes, and beautiful beaches. Agios Nikolaos’ unique cultural mix of creativity and leisurely lifestyle gives it a dynamic identity that sets it apart from the rest of Crete.

3. Heraklion

The capital of Crete, Heraklion is a multifaceted seaside city that delivers holiday fun, archaeological treasures, fabulous Cretan cuisine, and gorgeous beaches. Its historic Old Town is a well-preserved maze of tree-shaded walkways and enchanting buildings, from a grand Venetian harbor to the beguiling Heraklion Fortress. Heraklion also offers a vibrant nightlife scene, featuring pubs, clubs, trendy venues and a buzzing waterfront promenade.

Those who prefer to stay away from the hustle and bustle of Heraklion may find refuge in the quieter suburbs like Chania, Rethymno or Plakias. These charming communities feature a handful of incredible hotels, as well as plenty of great restaurants and taverns. Many of these hotels offer fantastic children’s facilities, so they are some of the best places to stay in Crete for families.

Heraklion offers a variety of top-notch hotels that are ideal for couples, groups and solo travellers alike. For a luxurious, romantic stay in the heart of the capital, consider the Heraklion Castello City Hotel. Its rooms range from spacious suites to family rooms that include sitting areas. You can enjoy stunning views of the Old Town from your room or dine at the hotel’s restaurant and bar.

If you are planning to visit Crete with a larger group, the Heraklion Residence is another great option. This 4-star property is conveniently located in the central business district, within walking distance of major landmarks. The spacious rooms have flat-screen TVs, a minibar and a balcony with scenic views. Guests can also enjoy the hotel’s wellness centre and on-site massage services.

One of the most beautiful coastal towns on the island, Matala is a tranquil oasis that looks like it’s been ripped straight off a postcard. This picturesque spot is home to weather-worn caves, azure beaches and the second-largest Minoan palace in Crete. You can also explore nearby villages to get a glimpse of authentic Cretan life.

Visiting Crete for the first time and want some help planning your trip? Connect with a Fora Advisor and we’ll put you in touch with the local experts who can plan a tailor-made itinerary just for you.

4. Bali

Crete’s a trove of gorgeous beaches (think white, red and pink) that rival the Caribbean, enchanting cities with picturesque old towns, peaceful mountain villages, absolutely delicious cuisine and a genuinely warm and welcoming local culture. It’s the largest and most southern island in Greece and a must-visit for history buffs, sun seekers, adventurers, gastronomy lovers and nature-immersed travellers alike.

Despite its size, this magnificent Mediterranean gem is easy to explore. The four main regions of Chania, Heraklion, Lasithi and Rethymno envelop the island with their distinct flair and offer a curated snapshot of Crete’s richness.

A trove of ancient ruins and a vibrant nightlife are hallmarks of Heraklion, Crete’s capital city that exudes cosmopolitan charm. The 9th-century Koules Fortress and legend-laden Knossos Palace are must-see attractions, while a stroll through the maze of tree-shaded footpaths in the old town offers a glimpse into Crete’s Byzantine, Ottoman, and Arabic past. Heraklion’s also the best place for shopping in Crete, with upscale boutiques and a wealth of artisan crafts.

Rethymno is a charming, quieter alternative to Heraklion, offering a less hectic holiday experience. Its mostly pedestrianized Old Town showcases restored historical monuments surrounded by a sea of cafes, restaurants and taverns. Its central square is adorned with fountains, minarets, domes, and archways that recall its Venetian past. The old port and fortress are stunning, while the area east of the city boasts upscale beach resorts like Spilies.

The southeastern part of Crete is a lesser-known, yet no less stunningly beautiful destination to visit. Here you’ll find the well-known ’70s hippie village of Matala, along with the Phaistos and Malia archaeological sites as well as the calm and peaceful Odigitria Monastery. The beaches in the south of Crete are also less crowded than their northern counterparts. For windsurfing, check out the beach of Kouremenos in Sitia. It’s one of the best places for windsurfing in Crete as it offers strong winds and easy access to equipment.