The Best Things to do in Crete, Greece

The 15 Best Things to do in Crete, Greece

The largest island in Greece, Crete feels more like a small country than other Greek islands, such as Mykonos and Santorini. The perfect balance between being not too large and not too small, the gorgeous island is packed with plenty of fascinating things to see and do while still being home to remote, hidden places where you can forget that the rest of the world exists. 

Whatever type of vacation you’re seeking, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in Crete. From historic ruins that go back to the beginning of time and beaches that are almost too stunning to be real to beautiful villages just waiting to be explored and traditional Greek foods you won’t be able to get enough of, Crete is guaranteed to enhance and dazzle you.

With such a huge number of fun things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Crete. Add these activities and attractions to your Crete bucket list, and you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time exploring the Island of Heroes! 

The 15 Best Things to do in Crete

1. Fall in Love with the Sleepy Village of Loutro

Unique Things to do in Crete: Loutro

Visit the beautiful village of Loutro, and you’ll discover some of the best sights in Crete. Located in the southwest of the island, this idyllic neighborhood is exactly what springs to mind when you picture a quaint fishing village. 

What makes Loutro so special is that it’s always blissfully quiet – even in the middle of summer. This is because it’s really secluded and is only accessible via boat or by following a coastal path. Whichever option you choose, the hassle is more than worth it for the chance to surround yourself with paradise.

Here you can wander around the narrow streets, stopping at any cafe, bakery, or boutique that piques your interest. When you need a break, head down to the coast and lounge on the beach. With golden sand, crystal-clear waters, and the tempting smell wafting over from nearby seafood restaurants, you’ll never want to leave. 


2. Bring a Mythological Story to Life at Knossos

Must do things in Crete: Knossos

Whether or not you’re into Greek mythology, spending a couple of hours at Knossos is one of the coolest things to do in Crete. Situated just a short drive from Heraklion, Knossos is one of the most popular Crete attractions that you’ve absolutely got to check out.

Although the place is mostly in ruin today, Knossos was originally the name of a spectacular palace and the city that surrounded it. Way back in the 18th century BC, the city was home to 100,000 people who would walk by the royal structure and be amazed by it.

If you’ve heard of King Minos or the Minotaur, the name “Knossos” may sound familiar. The palace at this famous landmark was said to be the seat of King Minos, who had a complex labyrinth built to hold his son, the Minotaur. Although you can’t see the maze today, you can see many remains of the palace, some of which still have the original paint from 3,000 years ago. 


3. Take a Day Trip to Balos Lagoon

Crete Things to do: Balos Lagoon

When you need a break from all the Crete sightseeing, make plans to spend the day at Balos Lagoon. One of the most beautiful parts of the island, Balos Lagoon is hidden away from the major tourist resorts and is only accessible by hopping on a ferry at Kissamos and making the 11-mile journey across the sea. 

Balos Lagoon is nestled between the Tigani and Gramvousa capes. This prestigious position means the water in the lagoon is always perfectly calm and safe for swimming. It boasts the most alluring azure color and is wonderfully shallow, making it perfect for small kids as well as experienced adults. 

Although the lagoon can get very busy in summer, this stretch of gorgeous white sand is usually large enough to accommodate everyone. For a real deserted island feel, try and get there as early as possible before the crowds descend on the bay. 


4. Discover the Oldest Civilization in Europe

Best Things to do in Crete: Heraklion Archaeological Museum

One of the oldest and most fascinating museums in Greece, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum is bursting with some of the most interesting things to see in Crete. Much more than a collection of ancient artifacts, this entrancing museum invites you to unveil the many mysteries of the oldest civilization in Europe.

Take a look around, and you’ll discover a staggeringly comprehensive compilation of Minoan relics, with countless pieces on display throughout the 20 rooms. Each of the rooms focuses on a set period of time, and they’re all in chronological order, making the museum really easy to understand and follow, even if you don’t know much about Greek history. 

Some of the most amazing parts of the museum include complete frescoes, which have been transported from various Minoan sites, as well as a spectacular ivory statue rescued from Knossos Palace. There’s one special piece called Phaistos Disc. Experts still aren’t sure what it was used for or what the symbols mean. See if you can figure it out!


5. Graze on Cretian Cheese

Crete Bucket List: Cretian Cheese

One of the must-do things in Crete is to try the local cheese. Cheese production is something people living on the island feel very strongly about, and each village seems to have its own variety of cheese, giving you more than enough to sample.

Cretian cheese is most commonly made from goat or sheep milk (or a combination of the two) and goes well with absolutely everything. Whether you eat the cheese on its own with some local honey, in a sandwich with juicy tomatoes and freshly baked bread, or with thin crispy pastry as part of a Cretian pie, you won’t be able to get enough of the stuff.

Graviera is a delicious variety. This hard cheese is sweet when it’s recently made and develops a delicious nutty flavor after it’s been aged. If you prefer soft, creamy cheeses, seek out Myzithra or Pichtogalo Chanion. You’ll find various types of Cretian cheese available from almost all cafes and taverns, as well as farmers’ markets and grocery stores. 


6. Experience Venice without Leaving Crete

What to do in Crete: Chania

Exploring Chania is one of the must-do things in Crete. Here you’ll find a spectacular harbor that was built by Venetians in 1320. It took a staggering 300 years to complete the stunning harbor. Take a look around, and see if you think all that time was worth it!

Although there aren’t any canals, Chania does resemble Venice. The shapes and colors of the buildings, the style of the walkways, and the design of the restaurants are all really similar to what you’ll find in Venice. The only way you can really tell it apart is that everyone around you will be speaking Greek!

Here you’ll find loads of wonderful cafes and taverns where you can grab something to eat and enjoy the cool breeze coming in off the sea. There are also plenty of small stores and boutiques where you can pick up cute handmade souvenirs to remind you of your visit. If you’ve got a little extra time to spare, check out the Nautical Museum while you’re there.


7. Step Back in Time with the Renaissance Festival

If you’re planning on visiting the island in summer, you’re just in time for one of the most fun things to do in Crete. Held each year over two weeks in July, the island’s Renaissance Festival brings the usually sleepy village of Rethymno to life with singing, dancing, and color.

The 14-day program is always absolutely jam-packed with theatrical performances, choreographed shows, live music concerts, art exhibits, visual arts, and every other type of cultural event you could possibly imagine. The locations have a tendency to change, but you’ll find most performances at the Erofili Theater and the Neratzes Mosque. 

The Erofili Theater isn’t your standard theater. This incredible place is an ancient Greek theater with a stage and seating outdoors. There’s nothing like sitting in the exact spot that people did thousands of years ago, watching a cultural performance while the sun gently warms your face.


8. Let Your Cares Drift Away at Elafonisi Beach

Cool Things to do in Crete: Elafonisi Beach

All that Crete sightseeing can get very exhausting very quickly. Take it easy and reenergize by spending the day at Elafonisi Beach. One of the top things to do in Crete, whiling away a couple of hours here is guaranteed to make you feel refreshed and ready to carry on with your adventure.

Crete is home to many dazzling beaches, but Elafonisi Beach has got to be one of the most stunning. It has the most remarkable Instagram-worthy sand that can look bright pink under the right conditions. Even if the color is not quite as intense as you were hoping, the sand is always super soft and lapped by the most crystalline turquoise waters you’ll ever see in your life. 

There are loads of little sandbanks just off the shore. And because the water is so shallow, you can easily wade out and explore them without getting your knees wet. With the sand, the sea, and the stunning mountains in the background, this is the perfect place to snap pics. 


9. Be Mesmerized by the Arkadi Monastery

Must do things in Crete: Arkadi Monastery

You may not think visiting a monastery would be one of the best things to do in Crete, but Arkadi Monastery is so special that it’s worth the trek. Located around 12 miles southeast of Rethymno, this religious building is said to have been founded in the 5th century by the Byzantine emperor Arcadius. 

Most of the architecture you can see dates back to the 16th century. At this time, the monastery went through a makeover and was designed in the early Venetian Baroque style. Years later, during Ottoman times, it was filled with spectacular gold embroidery and boasted one of the best libraries in Greece.

Whether or not you’re religious, you’ve got to agree that the monastery is stunning. Despite being thousands of years old, it still boasts incredible detail and is in amazing shape. With vineyards, oak trees, and olive trees as far as the eye can see, the monastery’s stunning surroundings make the place even more magical.


10. Dig into Lamb with Stamnagathi

Greece is famous for its lamb and Crete is no exception. One of the most delicious Crete activities you’ve got to try, digging into a great big plate of lamb with stamnagathi is something you’ll remember for years to come. It’s also something you’ll find yourself craving again and again!

The Cretans’ unique take on lamb involves cooking it with stamnagathi. This is a type of wild green that has become really trendy as of late and appears on a lot of fine-dining restaurant menus. It’s a type of spiny chicory and has a really subtle flavor that pairs perfectly with the meat.

To make this dish, lamb is quickly fried with olive oil, oregano, and stamnagathi. It’s then served up with a delicious creamy lemon sauce or simply a squeeze of fresh lemon. We recommend ordering it from To Antikristo. This restaurant specializes in grilled local meat and dishes up an incredible lamb with stamnagathi.


11. Hike through the Samaria Gorge

What to do in Crete: Samaria Gorge

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Crete, you can’t go wrong with hiking the Samaria Gorge. This dramatic gorge is worlds away from the typical luxury holiday resorts and gorgeous beaches that you associate with the island.

The hike is around 10 miles long, so you’ve got to be pretty energetic and fit. But if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular vistas you’ll never forget. The hike begins at the Omalos Plateau – a viewing platform that gives you a good idea of the trek that awaits you. 

From here, you’ll travel down through one of the most impressive gorges in Europe. As you follow the hike, you’ll be flanked on either side by staggeringly tall cliffs which rise around 1,000 feet into the sky.

Be on the lookout for the endangered kri-kri as you walk. This is a type of feral goat that climbs up and down the rock face as if it’s nothing! 


12. Hold all Kinds of Exotic Species

Best Things to do in Crete: Aquaworld Aquarium and Reptile Rescue Center

Spending the morning at the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Center is one of the best things to do in Crete if you’re a fan of exotic animals. The very first aquarium in Crete, this small center is more like an animal enthusiast’s house than a typical aquarium.

Despite its small size, there are loads of different species here, from turtles, jellyfish, and seahorses to snakes, chameleons, and spiders. The majority of the animals you can see are unwanted pets or sick animals that have been nursed back to health. You can feel happy in the knowledge that your entrance fee is going to take care of these animals that have nowhere else to go.

While the aquarium section is truly fascinating, it’s the exotic animal part at the back that’s the real highlight. Here you’ll find a giant iguana that roams freely and behaves like a dog! As well as petting him, you can also pet and hold many of the other intriguing species that are surprisingly friendly. 


13. Get Lost in Rethymno Old Town

Fun Things to do in Crete: Rethymno Old Town

Rethymno Old Town is one of the most enchanting places in Crete. The third-largest city on the island, the neighborhood is wonderfully preserved and is full of so many surprises that you could easily spend an entire day wandering its streets. 

The town was originally kept safe behind walls, although there isn’t much left of them today. But one of the coolest things to do in Crete is to walk around the city’s tiny cobblestone alleyways, which were created way back in the 14th century when Crete was run by the Republic of Venice. See if you can spot the Renaissance arches, mansions, and Catholic churches. 

The Neratze Mosque is the most famous building in the area. This religious structure began life as a Venetian church before it was transformed into a mosque between the 1600s and 1900s. Now the impressive structure isn’t used for religious purposes at all. Instead, it’s used to host all kinds of fantastic cultural events, such as exhibits, concerts, and theatrical shows. 


14. Rock Out at the Chania Rock Festival

What to do in Crete: Chania Rock Festival

Planning on visiting Crete in the summer? Then you’ve got to check out the Chania Rock Festival. One of the biggest and best music festivals in all of Greece, this dynamic event takes place each year in the first couple of weeks of August in the ancient city of Chania.

The lineup changes each year, but it’s always bursting with amazing rock bands and artists from all over Greece and the rest of the world. It’s a great way to discover up-and-coming artists and see them perform live before they make it big. 

Some of the most famous performers who have taken to the stage in recent years include the Sisters of Mercy, Moonspell, Septicflesh, and Bad Habits. 

As well as the music performances, there’s also a battle of the bands contest, which is great fun to watch. The atmosphere is absolutely electric and is something that will sweep you up with it. 


15. Say ‘Cheers!’ with Cretian Brandy

Best Things to do in Crete: Cretian Brandy

Cheers to a wonderful vacation with some local brandy. If you visit Crete in the fall after the grape harvest, take a look around, and you’ll see locals all over the island lovingly tending open fires beneath copper stills. This is their generations-old way of making raki, a type of brandy made by distilling grapes.

You’ll find this alcoholic drink available in every taverna and coffee shop on the island. Some places call it raki, and others call it tsikoudia, but it’s the same thing. You drink it straight from small shot glasses. 

Unlike ouzo or Turkish raki, Cretan raki doesn’t have a powerful herb or anise flavor. It is wonderfully sweet and sometimes mixed with honey and cinnamon. When served like this, it’s a deliciously light alternative to a dessert. If you fall in love with the stuff, you’ll find bottles of it for sale all over the island and at the airport.

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Crete. What’s your favorite thing to do in Crete?


SHARE THIS ON PINTEREST


Author

  • Nicola Quinn

    Nicola is a freelance writer with an insatiable hunger for travel. She swapped her home in the UK for the sunny Canary Islands when she was just 11 and she has been based there ever since.

    From crawling on her hands and knees inside pyramids in Egypt to swimming with baby sharks in Bali and searching (fruitlessly!) for the Northern Lights in Iceland, Nicola takes every chance she gets to explore new places.

    The incredible experiences she has around the world fuels her writing and inspires her to plan even more adventures for the future.

    View all posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *