The Perfect 7 to 10 Days in Crete Itinerary

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by Lizzie Fitzgerald

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As the largest island in Greece, planning a 7 to 10 days in Crete itinerary allows you to see quite a bit of this incredible island while still allowing you a good amount of time to chill on the beach. Though it’s certainly a popular place to visit, the sheer size of the island makes it easy to get off the beaten path and avoid the crowds, if that’s what you’re after.

Crete really has something to offer everyone, from millennia of history to gorgeous beaches, from exciting cities to impeccable nature. If you’re planning a holiday on the island of Crete, you’re in for a real treat. There is so much to on this incredible island that you’ll only wish you had a lifetime to explore it.

How Many Days in Crete?

It can be tough to figure out how many days to spend in Crete when planning out your holiday. Crete is a massive island, and distances between major towns and cities are measured in hours rather than minutes.

With this in mind, plan to spend at least one week in Crete in order to have the best balance between sightseeing and relaxation.

If you have 7 days in Crete, you will get a good feel for the main towns and cities, as well as some of the most iconic beaches.

If you have the time, you should stretch your trip to 10 days, taking in some off-the-beaten-track sites, and enjoying a little more chill-out time on the beach in Crete.

Lighthouse of Chania in Crete
Lighthouse of Chania in Crete

Getting To & Around Crete

Many people will visit Crete as a single trip. This means overseas visitors will arrive at either Heraklion or Chania – the island’s two international airports.

If you’re visiting from mainland Greece, or another of the Greek islands like Santorini or Mykonos, then you might be arriving on a ferry.

The most popular island to arrive from is Santorini. Most ferries dock at Heraklion, but a few will arrive at Chania. The Santorini to Heraklion ferry will take just under two hours by fast boat, and three and a half hours by slow boat. You can book ferries here.

Ferries from Athens are an overnight affair aboard the slow boat, but it’s a clever way to save on accommodation costs. This is also a great way to bring your own transport, why not turn this into a Crete road trip itinerary?

Crete is a large island, and whilst the KTEL bus system runs on the island, you will see far more if you rent a car. Rentals are very affordable, costing around €150-200 for 1 week in Crete. You can browse to compare prices for rentals.

Port of Heraklion
Port of Heraklion

7 to 10-Day Crete Itinerary

The main hubs of Crete are the biggest towns, Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Rethymnon and Chania. But don’t stop there, from the rugged snow-capped mountains to its beautiful golden beaches – Crete has so much to offer.

Day 1 – Heraklion

The hustle, the bustle, the noise! Welcome to Heraklion – Crete’s largest city and the fifth largest in Greece.

Wandering along the waterfront, you will spot the imposing Venetian-era Koules fortress protecting the harbour, as well as the dockyards across the road.

Take a stroll up 25th August Street, you’ll see windows overlooking the pavement that look like they’re from “Arabian Nights”.

Glimpse the atmospheric Greek Orthodox Agios Titos church, and continue to the Morosini fountain, which is beautifully ordained with Venetian lions. Grab a frappe and a traditional bougatsa at a cafe overlooking the square.

Next, it’s time to explore the Palace of Knossos. Located five kilometres from the city, this bronze age site is the finest in Crete. Partially restored by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, it gives you a great idea of what the city would have looked like, with vivid colours, frescos and the beautiful throne room. You can book a guided tour here.

Spend the night in Heraklion.

Knossos Palace
Knossos Palace

Where to Stay in Heraklion

Metropole Urban Hotel – This hotel in central Heraklion is a great option for those looking for a swish place to stay in Crete’s capital. They have a range of rooms on offer and plenty of amenities, including room service and an on-site bar.

Artion Boutique – This cool boutique hotel is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a hip and cool place to stay in Heraklion. Well-located for exploring all of the highlights of the city, they have a number of great rooms on offer and both continental and buffet breakfast options are available each morning.

Pavo Art Hotel – For those looking for their own space in Heraklion, this cool aparthotel is a great choice. Well-located for exploring Crete’s capital city, they have a number of chic flats available that range in size and are fully furnished with everything you may need.

Intra Muros Hostel – Located in the centre of Heraklion, this hostel is an excellent choice for those looking for a great social atmosphere or are travelling on a tight budget in Crete. Offering both dorms and private rooms, they have great common areas and self-catering facilities as well.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Heraklion hotels!

Day 2 – Agios Nikolaos

Driving in Crete offers excellent views once you get out of the city. Today we’re heading to Agios Nikolaos, an hour’s drive to the east.

Did you know Crete is the birthplace of Zeus, king of the gods? A worthwhile detour will take you into the mountains to the Cave of Diktaion Andron – an atmospheric mountain cave where Zeus came into existence.

Bring walking boots as the walk from the parking is about a kilometre overall. If you want to learn more about mythology, look no further than the Greek Mythology Thematic park! This family-friendly attraction has great recreations of many of the Greek myths, with an excellent audio guide.

Continue on to Agios Nikolaos and check in before going for a wander around town. Stroll along the beautiful Lake Voulismeni before settling in for dinner at Archontiko Taverna on the waterfront.

Spend the night in Agios Nikolaos.

Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos

Where to Stay in Agios Nikolaos

Sunlight Hotel – This 3-star hotel is a great option for mid-range visitors. They have a great location in Agios Nikolaos, amenities that include an on-site bar and swimming pool and a range of rooms that all include sea-view balconies.

Hotel Port 7- Boutique Collection – Located right on the beach in Agios Nikolaos, this is an excellent choice for those looking for an upmarket option. They have a number of wonderful rooms to choose from, breakfast on offer each morning and plenty of other amenities for guests to enjoy.

9 Muses Apartments – This aparthotel is a great choice for those looking for their own flat while on their trip to Crete. With a great location in Agios Nikolaos, they have a number of different apartments available ranging in size along with all of the convenience of staying in a hotel.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Agios Nikolaos hotels!

Day 3 – Spinalonga

Today you’ll learn a story of resilience with a visit to the former leper colony of Spinalonga. A now-abandoned 16th-century Venetian fortress on a tiny coastal island which became a community for lepers from all over Greece. Victoria Hislop’s novel The Island is an excellent look into how life was on the island.

You can catch a boat from Agios Nikolaos or take a guided tour but a drive up the coast will prove more rewarding. Set off early for the 25-minute drive to Plaka, the closest settlement, to try and get ashore before it’s too hot, and before the other tourists arrive.

After exploring the island, the town of Elounda is a great spot to stop, explore and grab lunch. Rakomelo Taverna on the waterfront is a lovely spot to tuck into seafood and Cretan cuisine. 

On your way back, stop for a dip at Kolokithia Beach, or learn about the traditional way of life at the Cretan Olive Oil Farm. 

Spend the night in Agios Nikolaos.


Day 4 – Rethymnon

Day 4 sees us heading west. The drive to the coastal city of Rethymnon (Rethymno) takes two hours from Agios Nikolaos.

There are plenty of beaches to stop and see along the way, including the small resorts of Bali and Fodele. If you want something quieter, there are countless beaches that are as wild and rugged as the coastline.

Rethymnon is much smaller than Heraklion and far more atmospheric. Once a renaissance-era walled city, it has grown beyond its walls, but the best experiences can still be found wandering the streets of the old town. Follow meandering alleys, relax in grand plateia, and peer at crumbling mosques.

Ever wonder how delicious filo pastry that wraps your spanakopita is made? A visit to 30 Vernardou, the ‘Handmade Traditional Philo Workshop’ will show you how painstakingly difficult it is to make the beautiful pastry, a skill that is being lost to machines.

For the best views of town, walk up to the Venetian Fortezza, the beautiful castle that sits above town. Omnipresent from wherever you are in the city, it’s an affordable attraction.

Spend the night in Rethymnon.


Where to Stay in Rethymnon

Menta City Boutique Hotel – This cute boutique hotel is an excellent base in historic Rethymnon. They have a range of rooms to choose from and plenty of amenities including a pool, bar and small spa/wellness centre.

Calla Luxury Seafront Suites – If you’re looking for luxury on your Crete holiday, this 5-star hotel is unbeatable. Located directly on the beach, they have a number of luxe rooms to choose from and countless fantastic perks and amenities for guests to enjoy.

Petalo Suites – Those after their own place in Rethymnon will love this aparthotel. They offer a range of fully-furnished flats to choose from, a perfect location for exploring the city and all of the grand amenities of a nice hotel.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Rethymnon hotels!

Day 5 – Balos Lagoon & Chania

Balos Lagoon is one of the most spectacular beaches in all of Greece and is a must for visitors to Crete. Although it’s technically accessible by road, it’s often unpaved and very wild, so you’ll have a more relaxing day if you take the ferry and enjoy breathtaking views of the coast of Crete!

Ferries leave Kissamos port, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Rethymnon, at scheduled times daily. You’ll stop at Gramvousa Island before arriving at the gorgeous pink and purple hues of Balos Lagoon where there’s time for snorkelling and sunbathing.

It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches in the country – keep in mind, however, that the beach is natural and undeveloped so bring a picnic. You can organise a tour here.

When you arrive back in Kissamos, drive ten minutes to Gramvousa Restaurant. Undoubtedly one of the best eateries on the entire island, many of its ingredients are grown in their own gardens, and meat and fish is all sourced locally and of the highest quality.

Finally, drive to the picturesque city of Chania in Western Crete, which will be your base for the next few days.

Balos Lagoon
Balos Lagoon

Where to Stay in Chania

Casa Leone Hotel – Mid-range travellers will love this 3-star hotel in the centre of Chania. Well-located for exploring the city, they have several lovely rooms available and breakfast is served daily.

Porto Veneziano Hotel – Situated right on the water, this luxury hotel is perfect for couples after a romantic getaway in Chania. They have myriad lovely rooms to choose from (some boasting sea views), a hearty breakfast served each morning and plenty of amenities for guests to use.

Suites Pandora – If you want the convenience of your own flat while staying in Chania, then this aparthotel is an excellent choice. They have a range of suites and apartments on offer that are fully furnished and include equipped kitchens. Some even offer sea views and the location is perfect for exploring the city.

Cocoon City Hostel – Those looking for a social atmosphere or budget travellers to Crete will love this highly-rated hostel. They have a great location for exploring Chania and offer both dorms and private rooms.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Chania hotels!

Day 6 – Samaria Gorge & Chania

If you’re feeling tired after the past few days, then today is a great day to explore the gorgeous old town of Chania.

But, if you want to see all that Crete has to offer, then why not go on a day trip to Samaria Gorge? This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Europe’s longest gorges, and certainly amongst the prettiest.

At its widest, the gorge is 150 metres wide, and at its narrowest only 3 metres. You’ll travel through a variety of unique ecosystems before finally emerging at Agia Roumeli, where you can reward yourself with a dip in the sea.

It’s a 14 km, one-way downhill hike (it is possible to make it a return hike but it involves moving uphill against the flow of hikers). For this reason, I recommend the organised trip from Chania.

This includes return buses and a ferry taking you from the beach to the bus, meaning you haven’t got to try and get back to the parking at the beginning of the gorge. You can book a tour here.

Spend the night in Chania.

Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge

Day 7 – Chania

This is where the 7-day itinerary comes to an end, but of course, you must properly explore Chania before you leave!

Of course, you will want to fill your bags with souvenirs and treats to feed your friends with, whilst you regale them with your tales of your trip. The municipal market is a great spot to stock up on snacks like dates, local cheeses, raki and the local wine ‘retsina’.

Chania’s focal point is the old harbour with its beautiful lighthouse. There are plenty of tavernas on the waterfront, but as you head a few streets back, the food gets more authentic.

Wandering these streets is a pleasure – they’re a mashup of Venetian and Ottoman architecture dotted with ancient Byzantine ruins, making the old town incredibly pretty.

If you’re leaving from Chania airport, head to Stavros Beach for a last dip, and to check out where the final iconic scene from “Zorba the Greek” was filmed. What a week, you could dance your own sirtaki to celebrate!

Spend the night in Chania.

Chania Harbour
Chania Harbour

Day 8 – Sfakia & Loutro

If you’re spending ten days, then we’ll spend the last few days relaxing, and taking in the under-explored southern coast.

The hour-and-a-half drive to Sfakia will take you over mountains, and across beautiful gorges. A worthwhile break can be found deep in the hills, at the village of Askifou.

Hike up to the old Kastro to admire the view or stop and have lunch at a taverna. The most interesting sight, however, is the Askifou War Museum – housing thousands of artefacts from the Nazi occupation of Crete.

Continue on to Sfakia, and park up before jumping on a short ferry across to off the beaten track bay of Loutro. Isolated by a lack of roads, the only way to access Loutro is by boat – the perfect spot to unwind.

Spend the night at Loutro.

Driving near Sfakia
Driving near Sfakia

Where to Stay in Loutro

Daskalogiannis Hotel – This waterfront hotel makes for the perfect, tranquil bae in Loutro. They have a range of wonderful rooms on offer suitable for both couples and families, a great location and they offer both a continental and a la carte breakfast each morning.

Villa Niki – If you’d like your own apartment while staying in relaxed Loutro, then these are a great option to choose from. They have a number of differently-sized flats available and a great location for exploring the area and all it has to offer.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Loutro hotels!

Day 9 – Loutro

So, what is there to do in Loutro? Well, not all that much and that’s kind of the point.

This tiny bay with its crystal-clear water is a beautiful place to enjoy nature at its finest. Head down to the beach for a swim, snorkel above beautiful, mirrored fish, or rent a boat and go for a jaunt on the sea.

Alternatively, head out on foot for a stroll along the coast. About an hour’s hike west of Loutro will lead you to Agia Roumeli, the town at the end of Samaria Gorge, with beautiful views across the sea the whole way along.

But if you want to relax and spend the day chatting to locals, then that’s okay. To get a taste of traditional Cretan cuisine Taverna Stratis is a must! It has amazing food, Cretan specialities like Dakos (rusks, cheese and tomatoes), chochlioi (snails) and Sfakian pies, containing Mizithra goat cheese.

Spend the night in Loutro.


Day 10 – Preveli

It’s the last day of your Crete itinerary! Start early and get the ferry back to Sfakia, and from there drive east for an hour.

Preveli Beach is your stop today, but turn off just before the beach to explore the Preveli Monastery, to learn a little more about the life of Orthodox Greek holy men.

Driving from the monastery down to the beach, look out for the Cretan WW2 Monument, marking the sacrifices of the priests and partisans that fought the Nazi occupiers, helping British and ANZAC troops evade detection for years.

Preveli Beach is a mesmerising spot for a last dip, with palm trees and a river flowing out to the sea.

You won’t want to pack your towel and change out of your swimwear, but eventually you’ll have to start to head to the airport. On the way, stop at Agia Fotini Taverna for a final seafood dinner by the sea.

Preveli Beach is just under two hours from both Heraklion and Chania, making it a perfect final spot to end a perfect trip.

Preveli Beach
Preveli Beach

Crete is the perfect destination if you love hiking through gorges, swimming in crystal clear waters, strolling majestic old towns or simply stuffing your face with delectable Greek cuisine!

Are you planning a trip to Crete? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Lizzie is a writer for The World Was Here First. She loves travelling and discovering new places but also often finds herself returning to her favourite destinations. She has a particular affinity for Greece where she has visited countless islands and destinations on the mainland.

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