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Our Crete Travel Guide

To the point Discover our complete travel guide to Crete: the essentials to see, taste, experiment and do with family or friends, as well as many tips! And of course... how to travel with points!

Introduction

Crete is an ultimate sun destination.

You will discover still wild nature, beautiful beaches, charming towns and villages.

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You will appreciate the kindness of the Greeks, their history with the presence of archaeological sites, their culture for wine and olive oil, and finally their cuisine made of simple and fresh ingredients.

Don’t be surprised, if the restaurant service is slow, it’s in the culture of the country. Take your pain in patience, enjoy and let yourself be tempted at the end of the meal by a glass of raki!

The landscapes of Crete are enchanted by the multitude of olive trees. Cicadas are ubiquitous and wild goats are regularly encountered on the roads.

The essentials

To See

Chania / La Canée

Nicknamed Little Venice, we come here for a drink, to enjoy the sunsets over the port, to get lost in the alleys and its shops, to taste the different cuisines. There is no lack of choice!

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La Canée
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La Canée
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Phare de La Canée
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Aucuns frais pour les achats en devises

Rethymnon

The city of Rethymnon is very friendly. We loved walking around. Again there are the same small tourist shops but the city has a lot of charm.

You like to get lost in the less commercial parts and discover beautiful nice alleys where you can observe traditional wooden balconies of Turkish origin.

You can visit the Fortezza citadel that dominates the city and protected the inhabitants of the Ottomans.

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Close to Rethymnon, we suggest a visit to a sanctuary, the Arkady monastery where the resistance against the Ottoman occupation has settled. Ideally be accompanied by a guide.

Heraklion

Capital of Crete, this city is not a must for us, but several historical sites may be worth a visit:

  • The Fortress, built by the Venetians
  • The Heraklion Archaeological Museum
  • The Palace of Cnossos, archaeological site
  • Crete Historical Museum
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Photo by Yuliya Kosolapova on Unsplash

Lake Kournas

Lake Kournas is a freshwater lake unique in Crete.

To access it, several free parking lots around the lake. Cretans like to relax, swim, paddle and have a picnic. You can see turtles, geese and ducks.

Several restaurants and craft shops took the opportunity to settle around.

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The beaches

Several beautiful beaches are present. The best known are Elafonissi, the lagoon of Balos and Falassarna. In contrast to the east, wild beaches access is usually well marked and car parks are available. We detail them below in the family section.

However not all are easy to reach (Balos lagoon and Seitan Limania beach), so be careful if you are with children!

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Nikolaos Agios

Very touristy city that is not as authentic as it could be. It’s still nice to walk around it whether it’s its pedestrian street or around its natural lake, however you’ll quickly have done the tour.

As for bars and restaurants, there is no shortage of choice.

Stop at the statue of Zeus at the end of the pier!

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Spinalonga Island

The Venetians originally built a fortress on the island of Spinalonga in 1579, opposite the city of Elounda, to protect Crete from Turkish forces.

From 1904, the island became the leper island. Anyone carrying leprosy was deported to the fort, as the cretans thought the disease was highly contagious.

Spinalonga has a nice little waterfront with restaurants that are by the waterfront offering daily fishing.

Victoria Hislop, a British woman, write the book “Island of the Forgotten” which traces the tragic life of a family affected by leprosy.

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To be Tasted

Cretan specialties

Don’t miss out on the different Cretan specialties that are:

  • mezzes
  • Greek salad
  • olive oil and its local olives
  • fried snails
  • stuffed or fried sun vegetables
  • moussaka,
  • stews, grilled meats (pork, lamb, beef, rabbit)
  • Fish (swordfish, sea bream, red mullet, sea bass), cuttlefish, squid, octopus and saganaki shrimp.

Check with your hotel concierge or Airbnb host to find out the right tables and avoid tourist restaurants!

Ask the restaurant specialties to the waiter and fish side, check the weight of the fish you are given so that it matches the price announced at the time of the order!

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Suggested restaurants

Spelios

At the Spelios restaurant,we shake your hand when you arrive! The place is crowded, no mistake, this is the place to be.

After a day at the beach nothing better than a beautiful terrace to watch the sunset accompanied by a glass of wine.

Enjoy a very good moussaka (the best we have ever had in our lives, that is to say!), or let yourself be tempted by good grilled meats, octopus or a shrimp saganaki!

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Corinna Star

The Corinna Star Restaurant has a terrace overlooking a beautiful pool and sea, perfect for watching the sunset during your dinner!

Very good food. Several menus on offer. Beautiful flavours. A very good Greek salad, a delicious tuna. We loved it!

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Mon.Es

Mon.Es is a restaurant set back in one of Chania’s alleys , very friendly, in a beautiful setting. Delicious food, fine food, we really enjoyed the service! We recommend it to you.

Visit the toilets, you will be dizzy with the archaeological remains… under your feet!

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Meltemi

Meltemi is a bar and restaurant. We suggest you make a stop to cool off and especially admire the breathtaking view!

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Other tables

To Experiment

Hiking

Lovers of hiking or climbing, you will find all the information on the website of theAssociation of Mountaineering Clubs of Chania. Between canyoning, climbing and trekking, you’ll have something to enjoy.

We suggest the
Samaria Gorge.
, well laid out, very popular with hikers (16km) and therefore to start early in the morning.

Go to Omalos or Sougia. Ask about taking the ferry to Agia Roumeli.

Diving and Snorkeling

With these clear and deep waters, snorkeling is ideal. Many caves are to be seen. Contact one of the diving centers to observe morays, scorpion fish, octopuses and other fish. There are many of them.

Several spots to try:

  • around Elounda to see the sunken town of Olous, Blue Cave near Agia Pelagia,
  • Dia Island to see the wreckage of a boat,
  • in Malia to see the wreckage of a German fighter jet
  • or on The Beach of Skinaria, towards Plakias.

Other activities

For the more sporty, quad activities or Jeep off piste to visit the Cretan scrub, horseback rides,biking, climbing, or kayaking.

For wine lovers,a tasting is essential and you can visit a vineyard: Klados, Douloufakis or Manousakis are a must try!

For the most gourmet,we suggest you visit an olive oil factory. Why not Astrikas or Vassilakis?

Finally, a boat trip, whether for the day or watching a sunset!

Doing it as a family

The beaches

Ideally we suggest you go to the main beaches early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the large numbers of tourists in peak summer seasons. On each, Transats and umbrellas are available.

Elafonisi Beach

After 1 hour of winding and narrow roads but which can be done very well in a small cars if you come from the North, you will be on the protected beach of Elafonissi, registered in the Natura 2000 network.

A very large parking lot all along is available, we will tell you where to park.

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Plage d'Elafonisi

The sandy beach is very large and very busy. Some places have pebbles. Sand can become pink in places due to shell debris.

With an average depth of 1 meter over long distances, it is perfect for families with children. The water is very clear.

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Plage d'Elafonisi
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Plage d'Elafonisi
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Plage d'Elafonisi

Kitesurfers will appreciate it! It is exposed to winds so slightly colder than other beaches.

Kedrodasos Beach

Too many people on the beach of Elafonissi? Located about ten minutes away, this wild, well-hidden beach is very beautiful with its junipers. Perfect for snorkeling!

Falasarna Beach

Located in the northwest, this beach is more pleasant, full length with certainly more waves, less clear and deeper but less windy unlike the previous one.

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Balos Beach

You will have to drive on 7kms of dirt road at 20km/h to get to the lagoon of Balos! With an ounce of hope, try to go to the main car park to find a place.

The rest is done on foot. A beautiful “hike” of 2kms made of steep climbs and descents.

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Beautiful views reveal the lagoon! You will be amazed by this turquoise water protected by rocks.

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Make sure you have good walking shoes (flip-flops to avoid).

Prefer to climb after 4pm to avoid the heat.

Fill up on water and food and save some for the ascent. Everything is more expensive downstairs of course (well it’s relative: halfway, you’ll find a stand. Count €2 a bottle of fresh water when reuniting).

A few large tourist boats drop the plagists in the distance during this time.

The right side is busier of course because of its clear water and fine sand and tourists dropped by boat. Prefer the left side if you want more tranquility even if it can be a little more rocky.

On the way back, a surprise could await you on the roof of your car… Goats are many around and friendly!

If you are with young children, maybe consider to take the boat from Chania. The journey takes just as long by car as it is by boat!

The price can be high and you certainly won’t have the view of the lagoon but the lift can be rough with the kids in your arms. We have seen parents “struggling”, the tiredness of the day not being for nothing either.

For babies, the baby carrier is perfect.

The Natural History Museum of Heraklion

The Heraklion Natural History Museum is not very big but very friendly. It appeals to the youngest with its interactive equipment.

Aquaworld

The Aquaworld Aquarium located at the port of Hersonissos is a children’s paradise. It is also a care center for injured or orphaned reptiles. You can interact with the animals in the center

Limnoupolis Water Park

Need freshness and to keep your kids busy? This park is located 15 minutes from the center of Chania.

On the spot

Getting there

With your passport or French Identity Card. a stopover is required for Canadians.

It will cost 75,000 aeroplan miles in economy class and 115,000 aeroplan miles in business class.

Several flights are available with an arrival:

  • either on Chania Airport
  • or Heraklion Airport

We departed Nice with Easyjet to Chania: a 2:30 flight.

To stay there

Save on accommodation with points

To save on travel accommodation, you can use hotel program points like Marriott Bonvoy.

Thanks to these credit cards, it is possible to have several free nights all around the world

Or, you can use travel points offered by certain programs such as American Express membership rewards or Scotia Rewards.

Thanks to these credit cards it is possible to apply your points in credit for any trip or accommodation (Airbnb, Sonder, Marriott…).

Use points in Crete

In Crete, there are only 3 member hotels of Marriott Bonvoy where points can be used:

We tested the first 2, each located on a different side of the Island, find our reviews below:

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Domes of Elounda - Autograph Collection

To get around

By land

The easiest thing is to rent the car. Present your French or international driver’s license,which is required. We have chosen the company Sixt – by booking via Holiday Autos – fast and convenient since it is located just outside the Chania airport on the left.

Gasoline is expensive, prefer a compact car that consumes little, diesel.

The driving is on the right. Cretans are not the most disciplined in driving:

  • Don’t be surprised if they double, honk or cross white lines
  • Don’t be surprised if you see other drivers driving in the emergency stop lane. It’s their way of letting themselves be overtaken!

Radars are present and the police are rare but present to have seen it in action, so be careful and respect the limitations.

Other ways to travel for long distances, the bus. I refer you to the company ktel (central and eastern region) or this site of Ktel (West region).

In the city, we recommend taxis, and make sure their taximeter is activated.

By sea

Different ferry links (with the possibility of boarding the car) are available between villages such as Paleochora and Agia Roumeli, however it is necessary to check the weather conditions and schedules on the same day.

We recommend the gtp site Ferry Connections, in order to see all the connections and schedules of the ferries that have places on the Greek islands or check the other one company, Anendyk.

Other information

As a family,the stroller will only be useful in the city. Outside, you will be more comfortable with a baby carrier or children on the shoulders, the roads and paths are not suitable especially if you are a fan of archaeological sites!

You will find many Mini/Super market, gas stations or pharmacies with late opening hours. Choices are sometimes limited in small shops but the main thing is, don’t worry!

Budget

Count on average a budget of about €70/person/day for Crete, less if you use the points!

Flight: Either by using your Aeroplan miles (75,000 in economy – 115,000 in business), or by paying directly for your ticket. A mandatory stopover in Europe.

Food: it remains affordable, from €15 to €30 but the bill can quickly rise in the restaurant if you desire to taste the local food ! Do not automatically order dessert, since usually, a sweet touch is offered with the digestive!

Accommodation: everything will depend on the types of rentals Hotel, Airbnb,home or other types of rentals. All prices are available.

For our first 3 nights, we had booked this accommodation via Booking.

Get a travel credit for your first booking on airbnb via our sponsorship link!

Car:For our one-week trip, we used the Holiday Autos website, which offered excellent rates at Sixt. The rental cost €150 and we refueled once (after 1,000kms!), when we returned to the airport for about €60.

A free car rental thanks to the membership points of our card Cobaltᵐᶜ American Express applied to the cost of the rental!

Activities: Admission to sites and museums can range from a few euros to around €12. If you plan activities such as boating, quad biking, diving, the costs will of course be higher.

Practical information

When to leave?

Crete is a destination where the weather is good all year round, with mild temperatures in winter. To visit, we suggest the period from April to mid-October, and avoid July-August when attendance, prices and heat are at their peak.

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What to take with me?

In addition to the classic sun kit (sunglasses, hat, cream, etc.), we recommend you take:

  • Mask and snorkel, if you are a fan of snorkeling
  • Good sneakers to walk to the steep beaches as well as flip flops so you don’t burn your feet in the sand.

In addition, beach shoes can be practical since some beaches are rocky.

The essential guides

To go further in the discovery of this place, nothing like a good paper travel guide… or electronic!

Our partner, Ulysses Travel Guides,offers a10% discount to milesopedia members through the exclusive promotional code, to be used online or in bookstores: MILES-10

Ulysses Travel Guides have an important collection of books on this destination:

Useful links

Visa and Canadian representation

We recommend that you complete the registration form for Canadians abroad on the Government of Canada website to be notified of any events, civil disturbances or natural disasters during your travels abroad.

Canadian Embassy:

Consulate of Canada

Tourist offices

Feel free to visit the website of theCrete Tourist Office if you are looking for inspiration. The site provides a map with all points of interest, all the information is there.

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Health and safety

It is recommended to have up-to-date vaccines and a list of your drug profile in case of a problem, with a copy of your prescriptions for opioid-containing treatments.

Many pharmacies are present, you will have no trouble finding one.

This geographical area does not present a risk of unsanitary conditions, conventional hygiene rules apply and tap water is safe to drink.

Long clothes and high-boots are recommended for hikers due to the presence of snakes that can be dangerous on the island.

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Suggested route

It takes about 2 weeks to visit the island of Crete. 1 week for the west side for its well-known beaches and another week for the East, more wild and authentic. We suggest you a minimum stay of one week to discover it in part!

To continue the discussion and discover other suggestions from travelers, go to the forum!

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