Are you in the mood for a relaxing vacation? Sun, beach, delicious food and a rich culture? Then off to Crete. Let our itinerary inspire you to plan your trip.
Recommended duration of the trip: 8-14 days
Number of places to stay: 7
Start and finish in Heraklion (alternatively you can start your journey in Chania and then first go east towards Heraklion and Ágios Nikólaos, then south to Matala and via Rethymno back towards Chania)
Travel time: We made the trip at the end of October. We had warm days and could still swim in the sea, however, there are windy days in late autumn. So if you travel in this time, it's best to pack swimwear and also clothes for windy and fresh weather.
Heraklio (alternative spelling 'Iraklio') is a lively city with a bustling center. Ideal for getting to know the customs and food of Crete. However, it is not the loveliest city in Crete, has no direct city beach and no promenade by the sea. But Heraklion is worth a stop for the world-famous Archaeological Museum alone. And there is the most delicious bougatsa (a typical Cretan dessert) in the middle of Heraklion, in PHYLLO SOPHIES.
We arrived by plane late in the evening, so we booked an overnight here at the beginning and end of the trip. If you don't land late at night, you can also just put Heraklion at the end of your trip and book your first night in Rethymno, for example.
Arkadi Monastery is the most important national monument of Crete. The monastery played a prominent role in the Cretan struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire. The moving story of the monastery and its people is vividly and movingly told here. It is located about 30 minutes from Rethymno. If you can arrange it, it is recommended to make a detour to the monastery on your way to Rethymno.
Rethymno is a small town with 29,000 inhabitants and is located between the larger cities of Chania and Heraklion. Rethymno is located directly on the sea and the many small streets with the many small stores, invite you to stroll. To see there is a Venetian fortress, the Fortezza with a wonderful view of the sea and a Venetian harbor, which is still used as a fishing port. Rethymno is a student town and therefore there is a wide range of bars, taverns and also clubs. The sandy beach of Rethymno is within walking distance only 1 km east of the city center. There is a good tourist infrastructure there with umbrellas, sunbeds, showers and restaurants.
Chania is the largest city in Crete after Heraklion and there is much to see. A Venetian harbor with a 16th century lighthouse, waterfront Venetian arsenals, an orthedox cathedral, a maritime museum and an archaeological museum. The many small streets of the picturesque old town and the waterfront restaurants give Chania a unique atmosphere. In my opinion, Chania is rightly considered the most beautiful city in Crete. In the western part of the city there are several small bays with shallow sandy beaches. From Chania you can also make a trip to Elafonissi Beach. The one-way trip by car takes 90 minutes. You can perfectly combine this day trip with a visit to the monastery of Panagia Chrysoskalitissa, which is perched 35 meters on a rock above the sea.
We chose this station purely for practical reasons. Namely, we wanted to hike through the famous Samariá Gorge. The most famous hike in Crete leads through one of the longest and deepest gorges in Europe. The rock walls rise up to 400 m in height. The gorge is not accessible in winter. The pure walking time of this hike is at least 5, with rest and photo breaks more like 6-7.5 hrs. It is therefore a demanding hike and hiking boots, as well as a certain basic condition are absolutely recommended. The return journey at the end of the gorge is then by boat and then by bus. You should start early for the hike, then you are on the road before the large crowds of tourists. And the best way to do that is to find an accommodation that is quite close to the entrance of the gorge. That was our plan. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating at the end of October and the gorge was closed. So we took off our hiking boots and went to our next stop: Georgioupolis
Georgioupolis is a small tranquil town, but offers everything necessary for tourism, including a good selection of restaurants. However, the town is known for its long sandy beach, which stretches almost 10 km to the east. Excursion tip: South of Georgioupolis lies Lake Kournas in the middle of one of the most beautiful areas of Crete.
The main attraction in Matala is clearly the Matala cliff, in which there are numerous caves from the Neolithic period. These caves were later used by the Romans as burial caves and rediscovered in the 70s by dropouts and hippies. Even Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Cat Stevens lived here for a while. The caves can be visited today for a fee. In front of the caves, directly adjacent to Matala, there is a slightly coarser but beautiful beach on a picturesque bay.
The palace of Phaistos is located about 11 km from Matala. The ruins of the Bronze Age settlement show an almost perfect layout and are considered the most beautiful representative of all Minoan palaces. Admittedly, there are mostly stones and a few clay jars to be seen and you need some imagination to picture the palace in your head. Nevertheless, in the evening light we took many nice pictures. The most famous excavation is a clay disk stamped with symbols, the 'Phaistos Disc' can be admired in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklio.
The lively and hilly town, considered the most beautiful town in Crete after Chania, offers an archaeological museum (the second largest in Crete after Heraklion), a folklore museum and one of the oldest chapels in Crete, the chapel of Agios Nikolaos. The unusual feature of the town is the combination of fresh and salt water. In the middle of the town is the small lake Voulismeni. Agios Nikolaos is also ideal for visiting the former leper colony, the island of Spinalonga. Excursion boats depart daily from the port. Only one kilometer from the center is the clean and well-kept Ammoudi beach.
I've listed Knossos as a separate stop here. But since it is just 5 km south of Heraklion, I recommend staying in rather in the capital. The gastronomy there is unbeatable and the hotel prices moderate.
The Palace of the Minotaur is considered the centerpiece of the ancient city of Knossos and is the cultural highlight of the island of Crete. It is an ancient city with 3000 years of history. The palace is based on the legend of the Minotaur, a monster half bull and half man, who was defeated by the Athenian Theseus. King Minos, son of Zeus, is said to have ruled over a city of no less than 100,000 people. The excavation of the ancient city by the British Sir Arthur Evans is considered notorious. Instead of sticking to the history, the reconstruction was partly done without any clues and, as mockers say, turned into an ancient Disneyland. However, the partially colorful temple buildings are, I think, highly worth seeing and photographing.
.... many great impressions and experiences during your trip around Crete: Kirsten & Thorsten