Crete Travel Guide
The island of Crete in Greece has a long, long history. It was once home to the ancient Minoan civilization, which predates Greek civilization and was once one of the most influential ancient civilizations in the region. Growing up, I was fascinated by the Minoans – I even did a special history report on them. Crete holds a special place in my heart because of it and the capital of Knossos has some impressive ruins. More than ancient ruins though, Crete has beautiful beaches, great hiking, quaint towns, delicious food and wine, and friendly, welcoming locals. I love the island and it’s size ensures you can visit and find little places to escape the crowds of tourists (this travel guide can help!).
- Hostel prices – An average price of a hostel here is $15-30 USD per night for a dorm bed, depending on the season. Consider coming in the fall or winter months for cheaper prices (plus fewer crowds).
- Budget hotel prices – Budget hotel rooms begin at $50 USD per night, or $30 in the off-season. During the summer, expect to pay much more as Crete is a popular destination during July and August.
- Average cost of food – Restaurants will cost about $20 USD for a nice dinner even in a tourist area. But if you really want to eat cheap, eat Gyros. A Gyro is only about $3 USD and easily fill you up. Cooking your food for a week will cost between $40-50 USD.
- Transportation costs – Public transportation is easy and cheap. There are buses everywhere and they only cost $2 USD per trip.
Money Saving Tips
- Visit in the off season – August is the most expensive month, so if you can arrange for a visit before June which would really cut down your accommodation and flight costs by up to half.
Top Things to See and Do in Crete
- Check out the Yakinthia Festival – This is an annual festival of music and dance that features presentations on Greek mythology. It’s a festive party that locals really get into. Don’t miss it.
- Visit Loutro – On the southside of Crete, this village offers beautiful and sweeping views and a clean, white sand beach. It’s a nice place to relax away from the crowds for two or three days.
- Visit the Castello del Molo – For a $5 USD entrance fee, you can explore this ancient castle and ruins on a self-guided tour. The view from on top of the fort is worth the trip in itself. You get to see the lovely hills that dot the island.
- Visit ancient Aptera – A wonderful day trip and opportunity to try local wines and cheese. Besides indulging in food and drink, you can walk through the ancient town and explore the underground water reservoirs.
- The Lassithi Plateau – If you enjoy Greek mythology, come here. Rumored to be the birthplace of Zeus, it’s a fascinating sight and also another low-cost way to spend your day.
- Visit Knossos – This was the ancient capital of the Minoan empire and the ruins are some of the oldest in Greece. This old palace is wonderfully preserved and some of the original colors are still visible on the walls. It takes a long time to see it all, and if you want to understand the history of the island, you can’t miss it. This was also the supposed home of the Minotaur.
- Samaria Gorge – The walk down the Samaria Gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea is very tough but the beautiful views and rewarding finish at the beach town are well worth it. Try to avoid midsummer as the heat it tough to bear. The walk takes between four and seven hours.
- Visit Chania Town – The second largest city in Crete, Chania Town also happens to be one of the major tourist hot spots. There are a number of fascinating historical sights as well as numerous harbor cafés, great shopping at the Old Cross Municipal Market, and more. This is a great town to explore.
- Waves on the Rock – This little restaurant serves the freshest and tastiest seafood that you can ever hope to find. It is tucked away and slightly difficult to find, but recommended by anyone who knows about it. There are even rooms for rent above the restaurant for those that want to hang out in the area for a few days.
- Dikteon Cave – One of the major sights of Lasithi, this cave system covers over 2000 square meters. Surrounded by ancient Greek mythology, there have been various discoveries that indicate this cave was once a place of cult worship. Additionally, if that isn’t enough to spark your interest, there are various stalactite and stalagmite formations, which make for awesome photo-ops.
- Visit Rethymnon – Located in the northwest part of Crete, this city is most famous for its spectacular, 11-km long beach and the Venetian fortress. After you have had your fill of beach days, head over to the fortress for an engaging afternoon. It is the largest Venetian castle ever built.
- Take a trip to Spinalonga Island – It’s not every day that you visit an ex leper colony, but that’s what Spinalonga Island was for the first half of the twentieth century. It was abandoned when a cure for the disease was discovered in the late ’50s. Long before it was a leper colony, the Venetians built a fortress on the island, and then it was taken over by the Ottoman Empire. This is truly a place that’s seen a lot of hands (excuse the pun).
- Have a drink at a kafeneion – The kafeneion is a staple meeting spot in the culture of Crete. People (men especially) come to these little shops to socialize over a coffee, a beer, or an ouzo. It’s a great way to take in village life at its most local level.