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Where to stay in Crete to explore all unexpected treasures

Bali views

Where to stay in Crete is one of the first questions that arises when deciding to organize a trip to this island. This quandary is usually of little relevance when visiting most of the other Greek islands. Small and compact with most attractions located very close by, travelers usually don’t have to worry too much about the base location they choose.

Crete is very different. To move between the eastern and western extremes takes more than four hours by car! The choice of where to stay in Crete will also be dictated by how long you can stay and what kind of trip you are looking for.

In this article you will not find a description of each location on the island, but we will focus on 4 areas that include 6 different places. These are the best areas to stay in Crete because they allow easy access to all the beauties of the island and the most picturesque Crete villages.

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Where’s Crete?

Crete is the largest island in Greece, as well as one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean. Crete is one of the southernmost islands in the Mediterranean, which makes it pleasant to visit even in winter.
The ideal months for a visit that combines sightseeing and beach life are certainly the months from April to May/June and from September to October, when the days are warm, but the temperatures are comfortable for trips and historical visits.

AREAS IN CRETE

CRETE MAP WITH BASEpsd
Where to stay in Crete: in pink the places to choose as a base and in green the places to explore from there

Crete is divided into 4 prefectures where the 4 main cities, Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, and Agios Nikolaos, are located. In terms of travel, however, it is more practical to refer to the eastern and western areas, and then differentiate the north coast from the south one. As we said, where to stay in Crete is dictated by the time available and preferences and it is key step when self-planning a family trip. At the end you will find some simple itineraries based on the time available


These are the areas that you will find analysed in this article:

  • On the North-West coast: Chania. Overall the best place to stay, but in particular best place to stay in Crete for beaches, if you are looking to visit some of more stunning beaches on the west coast then Chania is your base.

  • On the North coast:
    • Rethymno and Balion. Two of best places in Crete if you want easy access to the beaches and you have enough time to visit both Chania and Heraklion, but you prefer to stay in one place.
    • Heraklion. Best place to stay in Crete for nightlife, history lovers, and if you are moving with public transport.

  • On the North-East coast: Agios Nikolaos. Best part of Crete for families looking for the comfort of a great resort

  • On the South coast: Loutro. Where to stay in Crete if you want to disconnect completely and enjoy beach life with good food.

Overview of the best hotel in those areas

This is a list of the best hotels you will find across this article in the different areas for an easy overview.

Scroll right to see them all

WEST CRETENORTH CRETEEST CRETESOUTH
CHANIARETHYMNOBALI HERAKLIONELOUNDA/
AGIOS NIKOLAOS
LOUTRO
SANSAL BOUTIQUE HOTELCASA
DEI DELFINI
BLU BAY
LIFESTYLE
AQUILA
ATLANTIS HOTEL
DOMES
OF ELOUNDA
MOLOS
APARTMENTS
-design hotel
-rooftop swimming pool
-family room

CHECK THE PRICE
-medium price
-kitchenette available
-traditional

CHECK THE PRICE
-best in Bali
-stunning views
-secluded

CHECK THE PRICE
-modern
-centrally located
-gym and swimming pool

CHECK THE PRICE
-luxury resort
-perfect for couples and families
-amazing services (pool, spa, private beach, activities) and superb kids club

CHECK THE PRICE
-best in Loutro
-modern apartment
-stunning views

CHECK THE PRICE
MONASTERY ESTATESUTOR
CHIC MANOR
VILLA VASILISKASTRO HOTELELOUNDS GARDEN SUITES
-luxury hotel
-romantic escape
-perfect for honeymooners

CHECK THE PRICE
-boutique hotel
-small swimming pool
-charming hotel

CHECK THE PRICE
-breathtaking views
-great for families
-great terrace

CHECK THE PRICE
-quirky design
-simple functional room
-budget hotel

CHECK THE PRICE
-heated pool
-great price
-perfect central location

CHECK THE PRICE
NIVAL LUXURY
SUITES
AQUARIUS BOUTIQUE HOTELAPARTHOTEL SOFIADOM BOUTIQUE HOTELCANDIA PARK VILLAGE
-design apartments
-great value for money
-good for families

CHECK THE PRICE
-budget hotel
-colourful and modern
-rooftop swimming pool

CHECK THE PRICE
-budget hotel
-half board included
-stunning views

CHECK THE PRICE
-design room
-good location
-good value for money

CHECK THE PRICE
-perfect for families
-great services (pool, private beaches, spa, activities)
-kids club

CHECK THE PRICE
west

WEST CRETE. CHANIA: OVERALL THE BEST LOCATION TO STAY IN CRETE

1CHANIA MAP
Places to visit from Chania

Chania is, from my point of view, the prettiest town in Crete. It is large enough to offer a variety of entertainment, but at the same time small and cosy keeping alive an ancient charm among its cobbled streets.

If you decide to spend only 3 or 4 days in Crete and don’t want to use a car, then Chania is an excellent base. Chania will give you access to the best part of Crete to visit, and you will be able reach the top Crete destinations. Whether you are here for a city break or a beach holiday, it will satisfy you.

The most touristic part of the city directly overlooks the port where the imposing Venetian fortifications are still present. The port extends in a half moon shape and in addition to offering the perfect backdrop for your photos, it acts as a connection between all the points of interest in the city. From the eastern tip where the old lighthouse stands out, you can walk for about twenty minutes to get to the colourful old town. Winding streets invite you to get lost and let yourself be guided by your senses.

Why to choose Chania:

  • SHORT STAY: Chania is perfect for travelers who stop in Crete for only 3/4 days or who are happy to move later to another area

  • TRADITION AND DESIGN: Travelers who love design accommodation and new creative restaurants will find it the best place to holiday in Crete. Despite a traditional structure, the city begins to open up to a more sophisticated tourism. Old buildings are continually being refurbished keeping the original character but introducing modern comforts and details. Modern restaurants coexist alongside traditional taverns without disturbing each other.

  • EXPLORE BEACHES ON WEST AND SOUTH COAST: Travelers who are not afraid of back roads and want to take a rental car to explore the best locations in Crete on the west and south coasts.

Why not to choose Chania:

  • NOT INTERESTED IN THE BEACHES: Travelers who are not interested in spending much time in the car to visit the iconic beaches.

    Chania is still one of the best destinations in Crete and you should visit it, but you could consider staying in Rethymno if not interested in the beaches and visit it from there.

Things to do from Chania

Chania itself offers activities to fill at least one entire day. Walking the old city, the harbour, visiting the cathedral, and visiting the Maritime museum, but from the city you can easily reach other stunning places.

  • Kissamos is a lovely little village perfect for a walk on the way back from the famous Balos beach.
    It is 40 min. drive from Chania.

  • Balos beach is the most breathtaking beach in Crete…in all senses. The first glimpse you get when you start descending towards the beach are Instagram perfect pictures. Then when you arrive you get this white sand beach with transparent water (and usually lots of people).
    1h 20 min. drive from Chania, plus 30 min walking down a mountain. (more below). Local tours available here.

  • Phalasarna offers access to some of the nicest beaches in Crete. Well organised with great services and crystal clear water. Parking is also easy just beside the beaches. Phalasarna faces west so it is perfect to watch sunset.
    1h drive from Chania.

  • Elafonisi beach is famous for its white and pink coral sand (to be honest more evident in pictures than in reality), and a turquoise lagoon.
    90 min drive from Chania. Local tours available here.

  • Samaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe. If you are fit enough it is an amazing day excursion. Unless you are planning to only walk a little bit at the beginning and then come back (not recommended as the start is quite heavy) it is better you join a tour so you don’t need to worry to go back to your car.

OUR EXPERIENCE IN BALOS BEACH: we went to Balos beach independently, but not early enough in the morning. We were incredibly lucky and managed to park on the road leading to the parking, only 50m away (There were cars parked over 2 km away from the parking). Walking down the mountain with two 5 year old kids was long but ok. The day we went was windy, which helped with not feeling too hot. The way back is another story, for the kids it was very very tiring, not particularly challenging, but long and hot. It is doable, but if you have small kids I would definitely recommend you visit Balos beach with a boat tour.

If you prefer an organised tour check below the price of the best tours from Chania

Balos beach

Where to stay in Crete: Chania

SANSAL BOUTIQUE HOTEL

This hotel is just behind the Venetian fortress which stands out over the harbour. The building has been completely renovated in a minimalist but welcoming way with extreme attention to detail.

The rooms all have huge windows with sea view, some even have a small plunge pool. But the best part is the rooftop with an incredible swimming pool the length of the entire front of the hotel.

+room also for families

MONASTERY ESTATE VENETIAN HARBOUR

This hotel is a small jewel hidden in the narrow streets of the old city. Once home to a noble Venetian and later to an officer in the service of the Ottoman Empire, after years of painstaking renovation it has now been transformed into a small boutique hotel.

A minimalist style enhances the beauty of the structure itself, but with spacious rooms and modern comforts. Many of the suites have a small terrace with lovely views over the old city and some even have an outdoor hot tub. If that’s not enough you’ll find also a spa with an original Turkish hamman. Pricey but enchanting!

+perfect for honeymooners

NIVAL LUXURY SUITES

Not a hotel, but a series of apartments completely renovated in 2017 that offer incredible value for money. We stayed in the terrace suite during our visit to Chania and although I generally prefer hotels I found this an amazing place and would definitely go back.


Located a few steps from the port, the apartments are not very large, but offer both a sleeping area and a living area with a comfortable large double sofa bed and a small kitchenette, with fridge, sink and microwave. Ours had a fantastic terrace equipped with a large table and comfortable seats, plus an umbrella and 2 sunbeds.
All extremely well-kept and very clean.

HOT TIP: in booking.com the room seems to be for 3 people max, but I enquired if we could book it having 2 kids and they were ok with it.

ALCANEA BOUTIQUE HOTEL

Only eight rooms in this hotel directly on the harbour.

The rooms have a traditional feel, but with character and personality. If possible, book one of the rooms with a small balcony or terrace with beautiful views of the harbour.

Whichever room you choose, book well in advance as it is often fully booked!

NORTH

NORTH CRETE. RETHYMNO, BALI, AND HERAKLION

RETHYMNO.BAL.HERAKLIONI MAP WITH BASE
Places to visit from the north coast

Rethymno and Bali are the perfect base if you prefer to stay in the same place for 5/6 days and want to visit some attractions on the eastern part of the island and towards the western part. Located about halfway between Chania and Heraklion, if you decide to stop in Rethymno you can count on public transport to move around. If you stay in Bali apart from visiting Chania, Rethymno, and Heraklion you will need a car.

Heraklion is a lovely city, but I wouldn’t recommend to stay more than one night there (more later)

BALI


Yes, it’s not a spelling mistake, you read that right, in Crete there is a small seaside village called Bali. Bali is the classic fishing village that has developed and expanded to offer a base for tourists eager for sun, sea, and little else. Before the highway connecting Heraklion and Chania was built, Bali was cut off from tourist routes and more difficult to reach. Now it is also easily accessible by public transport.

Bali does not offer the traditional charming streets or colourful buildings typical of other villages. Bali is a simple place with a sleepy air that seems to have remained in the eighties, where people come back more by habit than anything else. Yet it is precisely this simplicity and atmosphere that captures. When looking where to go in Crete, do not dismiss Bali if you have time, you will not regret it.

In Bali, everything revolves around 3 main coves. The central one houses the equipped beach and the marina. Around it is where you will find the liveliest part of Bali with some restaurants, bars, shops, and minimarkets. Immediately on the right of this (with access via the beach or from the upper part of the town) there is a more intimate cove, equipped with basic services. With a short walk to the left of the village you reach a last smaller cove with a very large tavern.


Why to choose Bali:

  • MEDIUM STAY WITH A CAR: Stop here for 5/6 days to explore Heraklion to Chania and beyond without changing base. Travelers who travel only by public transport will find easy connections to the main cities, but the ideal is to have a car to explore independently.

  • SLEEP EAT RELAX: Travelers looking for a place to slow down the pace, eating at Greek tavernas, relaxing with a beer looking at the sea are in the right place

  • FAMILY WITH KIDS: Some people might contest this statement, certainly less in line with those who think families with children should only stay in super-organized resorts, but in my opinion Bali offers a simple and practical, perfect context.

Why not to choose Bali

  • NIGHTLIFE: There are some bars with disco music, but the offer is very limited

  • EXPECTING DESIGN HOTELS AND POSH RESTAURANTS: the building development, while not offensive, was not guided by any kind of architectural or design research. Most of the hotels are simple and the food offer consists almost exclusively of traditional taverns with typical Cretan dishes.

  • ACCESSIBILITY: Bali is not one of the most accessible places for strollers and wheelchairs. It develops on a fairly steep slope and some accesses are only via stairways.

  • LOW SEASON: If you travel in the very low season between November and March you may find many closed places and a dull atmosphere.


RETHYMNO

Rethymno is the third largest city in Crete. Very lively all year round as it is the seat of the University. Therefore an excellent base even during the very low season. It reminds a little of the charm of Chania. As in Chania, the old city of Venetian origin is perfectly preserved, there is an old super-charming port and a fortress as a symbol of defence from other times.


The old town with its enchanting narrow streets and historic buildings fascinates, and despite teeming with small shops, cafes, and taverns that attract crowds of tourists, it is the best place to look for accommodation. It is true that in summer the old town can be quite crowded, but the new and more modern hotels in the new part of the city, albeit with better services, cannot compete with the atmosphere you breathe there.


From the old town in 20 minutes you will arrive at the first beaches. The beaches are wide and equipped, gently sloping, perfect for children.

Why to choose Rethymno:

  • MEDIUM STAY WITHOUT A CAR: Stop here for 5/6 days to explore Heraklion to Chania and beyond without changing base. Rethymno has a good connection with public transport to the major attractions of the central western part. Check the timetables and make sure that the bus you need is operational all year round.

  • NIGHTLIFE: The presence of the university makes it a youthful town with a varied offer if you are looking for some more lively evenings.

  • LOW SEASON: If you travel in the low season other locations may be a bit too quiet like Chania or you may also find many closed businesses like in Bali. Rethymno however is always animated.

Why not to choose Rethymno:

  • BEACH LIFE: If you are interested in spending most of your time on the beach it would be advisable to choose Chania as a base as it’s closer to the best places to visit in Crete

Things to do from Rethymno and Bali

Bali, as mentioned, is a small village where activities revolve around the sea. Rethymno on the other hand, like Chania, offers various attractions such as museums, churches, handicraft markets, and of course the beaches. Once finished with exploring the city, this (like Bali) is an excellent base for pleasant excursions.

You can reach some of the attractions mentioned under Chania (and visit Chania itself), but consider that for example from Bali to Balos beach it takes at least two hours and half by car. Here are some of the most interesting excursions or tours:

  • Preveli beach is located on the south coast and contrary to the fairly arid landscape that characterises these areas, Preveli beach will give you tropical lagoon scenery. Lush palm trees and vegetation populate the banks of the Kourtaliotis river which here has its delta and joins the sea creating a surreal landscape.
    50 min drive from Rethymno (add extra 20min from Bali). No public transport, but local tour available.

  • Kournas lake will give you rest from the crowded beaches. A pleasant freshwater lake with an equipped beach, calm waters and the possibility of renting a pedal boat for a ride on the water. Perfect for a half day trip.
    It can be reached in 30 minutes from Rethymno and 50 minutes from Bali. You can also combine a visit to Chania and Lake Kournas.
  • Crete is full of caves, but one of the most majestic is certainly the Sfendoni cave. Admission is subject to a fee, but you are accompanied by a guide who, following the well-positioned internal walkways, will add interesting details to the incredible show in front of your eyes. Absolutely not to be missed. Approximately 1 h drive from both Rethymno and Bali

  • Heraklion and Knossos palace are easily accessible to immerse yourself in Greek mythology for a day. First visit the archaeological museum located in the city, and then move to search for the labyrinth in the ruins of the palace. The palace of Knossos can be visited independently, but to appreciate its history it is worthwhile to follow a guide.
    Just under 1h drive from Bali and about 75min from Rethymno. Local tour available to combine easily museum and palace.

If you prefer an organised tour check below the price of the best tours from Rethymno

Sfendoni cave

Crete is only a few hours by speedboat from Santorini. If you are not planning to spend some days on the famous island, then you could join a tour that over a long day will give you a glimpse of Santorini.

Read this article to decide if Santorini is worth a visit for you and if so, consider an organised tour. Tour start at around £150 and In high season could really be a great solution to visit the island. You can check here the tours starting from Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, and Rethymno.

Where to stay in Crete: Rethymno

CASA DEI DELFINI

This small boutique hotel hides in the heart of the old town, obtained from the renovation of two historic stone buildings.

The architects have preserved the initial character but adapted it to modern comforts. The inner courtyard is perfect for relaxing in a peaceful corner.
With only seven rooms available, you’ll need to book early enough to guarantee your stay

+

SUTOR CHIC MANOR

If the previous hotel is fully booked you can try the Sutor Chic manor. A historic building restored to enhance the luxury of simplicity.

As soon as you enter, you feel welcomed in a house from past days. High quality design objects and local craftsmen enrich the environment without distracting from the beauty of the structure itself. A small swimming pool completes this oasis of relaxation.

+boutique hotel

AQUARIUS BOUTIQUE HOTEL

If you are looking for a modern hotel, but with reasonable prices even in high season, this is the right place. Aquarius boutique hotel is located in the Old town, but also close enough to the beaches.

The spaces have modern furnishings, functional with fresh colours. Cherry on the cake? At this price you will also have a rooftop swimming pool where you can cool off after a day of sightseeing

+great value for money

Where to stay in Crete: Bali

Bali unfortunately is not a place where to stay in Crete for luxury. There are a couple of nicely designed hotels, but the majority of accommodation, hotel, and private houses, are inline with the area’s old fashioned style. That said, you will find the cheapest accommodation on the island, if style is not your concern staying in Bali will help you to save some money.

If you decide to stay in Bali make sure to pick a hotel or villa directly on the sea front to enjoy the beautiful view.

BLUE BAY LIFESTYLE

This is certainly one of the best hotels in Bali with modern, bright rooms and incredible views. The location is perfect overlooking the sea on three sides, but still easily accessible from the center of the village.

The beaches can be reached with a short walk if you do not want to take advantage of the comfortable sunbeds placed on the rocks or dive from the rocks. And as if that were not enough, there is also a large swimming pool on the rooftop.

+family room

VILLA VASILIS

Simple but modern with functional furnishings, these apartments are where you will find everything you need for an independent holiday.

If you can, book the apartment with the terrace. The terrace is spacious and equipped with a table and sunbeds and a breathtaking view.

+family room

APARTHOTEL SOFIA-MYTHOS BEACH

We spent three days in this hotel. I made a non-refundable booking at the last moment because I could not find anything else on the seafront and it was high season. This was followed with immediate repentance and concern for what we would find on arrival.

I was doubtful whether to include it on this list, but if you arrive with the right expectations then this hotel is excellent value for money. The structure (consisting of two separate buildings but less than a minute apart) as well as the apartments are simple and clean. The furniture is from the eighties, but all have balconies or terraces with incredible views of the sea. There is also a small swimming pool at one of the buildings.

The room price includes buffet breakfast and dinner. The food is very acceptable for 2 or 3 days. But the best is that in the low season the apartment for a family of 2 adults and two children can be found for as little as £35 per night !!!

+low price

HERAKLION

Heraklion is the capital of Crete and a must-visit place when visiting the island, but in my opinion a place to stop for no more than a day or two before moving to other areas. I would not recommend a Crete holiday staying all the time in Heraklion.

The capital has a lot to offer especially if you are interested in Greek history (the archaeological museum and a visit to the Knossos palace will fill at least a day), but it is a big city which could disappoint those in search of the typical charm of Greek towns.

That said, Heraklion offers a great variety of entertainment, excellent restaurants, lively cafes, and an incredible and young nightlife fuelled above all by the many students who live here.

The historic centre is almost all pedestrianised and teeming with shops, which makes Heraklion very attractive if you are looking to buy something different than just the typical souvenirs.

The offer of accommodation in Heraklion is very wide and truly for all budgets. The only thing missing really are good beaches. If you decide to stop in Heraklion and want to do beach life you will need to have a rental car or coordinate with bus schedules.

Why to choose Heraklion:

  • SHORT STAY BEFORE MOVING TO OTHER AREAS: Perfect stop for one or two days before setting off to explore other areas

  • PERFECT FOR HISTORY SEEKERS: Travelers fascinated by Greek mythology must see the island’s most important historic attractions

  • NIGHTLIFE: Travelers looking for a varied offer will not be disappointed and can also decide to mingle with local university students in the numerous bars.

  • TRADITION AND DESIGN: As in Chania, travelers will find traditional hotels and taverns flanked by new and sought-after hotels and restaurants offering creative cuisine by interpreting traditions.

Why not to choose Heraklion:

  • BEACH LIFE: There are no real beaches within walking distance from Heraklion.

  • CHARMING VILLAGES: Travelers looking for charming colourful villages will instead find a real city where the fascinating corners are a little more hidden and spaced out.

Things to do from Heraklion

I must say that although I discourage a long stop in Heraklion, it has interesting attractions to visit. As we said before, the centre of the old city is almost entirely pedestrianised and there is an interesting central market in 1866 street not to be missed.

Of course, you can stroll along the harbour, admire the Koules fortress from the 16th century or even explore it inside, as it has recently been renovated and offers beautiful interiors and fascinating views. From the port (after the natural history museum) you can also continue the walk along the waterfront promenade to appreciate the incredible views.


The archaeological museum (definitely to be visited before visiting the Palace of Knossos), the history museum and the natural history museum (scenically positioned on the waterfront) are other interesting stops to include during your stay in Heraklion as well as a visit to the cathedral of St. Minas.

Having exhausted the city attractions of Heraklion you will need a bit more time to reach other places, but you can take advantage of the better bus connections or in some cases it could worth joining organised trips (for example to reach further destination like Balos beach).

  • Knossos palace is easily accessible with a short 15 min bus ride from the old town. (bus #2 has several stops in the old town, check here the timetable ) First visit the museum, located in the city and then move to search for the labyrinth in the ruins of the palace. The palace of Knossos can be visited independently, but to appreciate its history it is worthwhile to follow a guide.

  • Like from Bali and Rethymno, also from Heraklion a visit to Sfendoni cave is not far away. Admission is subject to a fee, but you are accompanied by a guide who, following the well-positioned internal walkways, will add interesting details to the incredible show in front of your eyes. Absolutely not to be missed.
    Approximately 70 min drive from Heraklion

  • Matala beach should be on your list, especially if you are not planning a few days stay on the south coast. Come here to wonder in the colourful village, with the reminiscent vibe of the sixties. Spend a few hours on the the pretty beach set in the rocks. Then visit the natural cave which in the past was the refuge of the hippies.
    It is easy to reach from Heraklion: 70 min drive or a couple of hours by bus.

If you prefer an organised tour check below the price of the best tours from Heraklion

Where to stay in Crete: Heraklion

AQUILA ATLANTIS HOTEL

This hotel is centrally located convenient for exploring Heraklion. It is a smart hotel with nice decor. They cater both for business travellers and holidaymakers with good success. The rooftop pool is perfect in summer to balance out the hot excursions. An excellent solution if you stop in Heraklion before embarking on the ferry as the port can be reached on foot


+Gym and indoor pool

KASTRO HOTEL

Kastro hotel is in the city center and if you have to control your budget this hotel offers excellent value for money.

The rooms have been refurbished and are all modern and furnished with a quirky touch that makes them all a little different.


+budget hotel

DOM BOUTIQUE HOTEL

Excellent location, one block from the pedestrian area, good price and welcoming service.

Small boutique hotel with designer rooms, one of the rooms has a hot tub on the terrace.


+family room

east

EAST CRETE. AGIOS NIKOLAOS AND ELOUNDA

If this is your first time visiting Crete, then Agios Nikolaos or Elounda are perfect for visiting the east coast and maybe going on an excursion to the south coast. Remote Sitia is perfect if you have already been to Crete and want to experience more remote areas.


Agios Nikolaos and Elounda are very close and choosing one as a base over the other is a matter of subtle preferences. Agios Nikolaos, capital of the Lasithi region, is a very picturesque and somewhat chaotic but lively town. Developed around the unusual Voulismeni lake (also called bottomless lake) it has a fairly modern air as it lacks the Venetian fortifications that characterise other cities on the island.


Elounda, located a few kilometres away, once a quiet fishing village, has instead a more sophisticated and relaxed air. In the Elounda area you will find the most luxurious accommodations and some of the best places to stay in Crete.


Although some restrict their offer to adults only, there are many that welcome families with open arms, strengthened by the fact that this part of the coast offers large and comfortable beaches, and gentle slopes into calm waters. Many travellers define Elounda as the best place in Crete for families, I would say that it offers more great facilities, but Crete is overall very suitable for families.

Why to choose Agios Nikolaos and Elounda

  • BEACH LIFE: Perfect for travelers who are not afraid of back roads and with a rental car want to explore the east coast and some areas of the south coast

  • SHORT STAY BEFORE MOVING TO OTHER AREAS: Perfect stop for two to three days before setting off to explore the west and south coast

  • BEST RESORTS IN CRETE: in this area you will find really lovely and luxurious accommodation.

Why not to choose Agios Nikolaos and Elounda

  • SHORT STAY: If you have only a few days available in Crete then I would consider to stay on the west coast

Things to do from Agios Nikolaos and Elounda

Agios Nikolaos is a quiet town where the main activities outside of spending the day on the beach are to stroll around the lake, visit the two small museums (folklore museum and archaeological museum) and relax observing the magnificent views while sitting at a cafe/restaurant by the sea. However, if you stay in this area for a few days it is not difficult to go exploring.

  • Heraklion and the Knossos palace are just 1h away. Even if you decide to not stay in the capital you will have opportunity to spend a day visiting it and including the palace (as mentioned before, go to the Archaelogical museum first and then to the palace. )
    1h drive from Elounda or Agios Nikolaos

  • If you head east, a very scenic coastal road will take you to Sitia. Small little tourist town with an interesting fortress, to be explored for half a day. If you enjoy driving then after a stop in Sitia you can continue to almost the extreme tip of the island of Crete, the Vai beach. Famous for its palm grove which makes it look like a tropical beach.
    Sitia is about 1h 20 min from Agios Nikolaos and Vai beah almost 2 h.

  • Spinalonga is a very small island north of Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. It can be visited independently, but it can be interesting to have a guide to appreciate the fortifications of the Venetian and Ottoman era. Above all a guide will help you to better understand its history as a leper colony in the twentieth century.
    Spinalonga can be reached by boat from Elounda and Plaka, respectively in 25min and 10min. From Agios Nikolaos usually only organized tours depart.

  • The south coast is not far and if you have decided not to stay longer, from Agios Nikolaos you can easily reach Lerapetra and enjoy the slower pace of life in this part of the island. Only 45min from Agios Nikolaos (1h from Elounda)

If you prefer an organised tour check below the price of the best tours from Elounda and Agios Nikolaos

Where to stay in Crete: Agios Nikolaos

In Elounda, as anticipated, you will find the best Crete resorts. Often referred to as the best area to stay in Crete for families, however, it offers resorts that suit everybody. You will find resort for adults only, for couple and families and most important with different price level. Some of the most famous hotel chain have resorts in this area. If you stay in Agios Nikolaos you could count in a little less expansive solutions.

DOMES OF ELOUNDA – AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION

This is probably the best resort in Crete overall. It is spacious and offers a variety of different spaces, swimming pools, and a private beach, perfect to cater for families with kids or couples. Staff are attentive (it is a 5 star resort after all), welcoming and helpful. Most villas offer amazing sea views, and some have a private pool. If you are travelling with kids you will receive fantastic treatment and the kids club is superb. Probably the best place to stay in Crete with kids.

+luxury level, family oriented

ELOUNDA GARDEN SUITES HEATED POOL

If you want to stay in Elounda on a more moderate budget this is the right place. Located in the centre of the picturesque town and 5 minutes from the beach, it offers spacious suites and pleasant furnishings.

Having a heated pool this is the perfect solution if you plan to visit Elounda in the spring or late autumn months when the weather may be too cold for a swim in the open sea.

+ value for money

CANDIA PARK VILLAGE

Another perfect solution for family holidays in Crete. Large enough to guarantee excellent space for families and couples.

There is a spa, three swimming pools, and two private beaches, and the possibility of practising various sports. For children there is an active kids club with many art and craft activities that are particularly interesting for the little ones

+ great for families

RELATED: If you are looking for a stunning place with incredible views you should consider to visit Santorini. You can read here about the most breathtaking hotel in Santorini.

south

SOUTH CRETE. LOUTRO

Loutro MAP
Place to visit from Loiutro

A trip to Crete is not really complete until you have explored at least a small part of the wild southern coast. Overlooking Africa, the southern coast is often a quiet refuge from the crowd and the summer winds that often beat the northern coast. Not only that, but as it is more difficult to reach and explore unless you rent a car, this part of Crete guarantees a truer contact with nature and traditions.


Numerous small villages dot the coast, some more difficult to reach than others, in this article I focus on Loutro, one of the nicest places in Crete.


Even if you are spending two weeks around Crete it’s unlikely you will stay in more than one place on the south coast. In this case Loutro is absolutely your best option.


Loutro is a small paradise inhabited only 6 months a year during the tourist season, but do not think that for this reason it is a tourist trap. Indeed, it could happen that once you arrive you do not want to leave (as happened to us, who had only booked for two nights and at the last moment changed our plans to stay one more night).


It is difficult to say what exactly generates this fatal attraction. This seaside resort is small and can only be reached by boat from Hora Sfakion (where you have to leave the car), or on foot with a 3 hour hike.

The waterfront can be walked in ten minutes from one end to the other, the beach is pebbly and in some places there is room for only one row of umbrellas … yet despite the limitations this place is enchanting.


There are no permanent inhabitants in Loutro, all buildings house small hotels or apartments. 90% of which offer magnificent sea views … all being on the waterfront.


Along the waterfront there are taverns, bars, restaurants, and a couple of minimarkets, the more complex activities apart from eating and lying in the sun will be renting a pedalo or canoe. Don’t be lazy, venture a little offshore and you will be rewarded by waters of incredible colours in all shades of blue and green. (you may think I’m exaggerating, but the Loutro sea colours reminded me of the sea in Polynesia …)


Absolutely not to be missed !!!!

Why to choose Loutro

  • RELAX: add Loutro to your itinerary for two or three days of absolute relaxation !!!

  • SEA LIFE: from Loutro it is not difficult to reach other beautiful beaches nearby by boat … if you really feel the need to change scenery

Why not to choose Loutro

  • LOW SEASON: If you travel in the low season you may find everything closed

  • NOT EASY TO REACH: If you decide to use public transport, you will have to coordinate your arrival by bus at Hora Skafion with the timetables of the boat (there is also a taxi-boat service, at a higher cost of course)

Things to do from Loutro

If you are in good physical shape, you may certainly be interested in hiking some of the path that starts from the village. You can get to the castle ruins above Loutro, the Anopolis village, or even up to the Aradena gorge.

We did not undertake any of these routes, which in the high season with children would have been too demanding, but we had considered them for the breathtaking views which other travellers reported as being stunning.

Other places can be reached more easily with boats that constantly shuttle from various locations.

  • Sweetwater and Marmara beaches are the closest and most popular beaches if you want even more wild scenery.

  • The green Gavdos island is an land almost cut off from the world, perfect for a day trip, discovering its simple and wild beauty

  • Paleochora can be a pleasant excursion if you decide to stay in Loutro longer and after a few days you are looking for a little more lively air

Where to stay in Crete: Loutro

Loutro is not a place to look for luxury hotels. The accommodations are mostly basic hotels or apartments. Having said that, after careful research we found a fairly new small complex: Molos apartment which offers the most modern and comfortable accommodation in the village. We also stayed in another apartment, but I would only recommend the Molos apartments as the other was not adequate.

MOLOS APARTMENTS

A small complex built a few meters back from the waterfront. The apartments all have an equipped balcony with sea view. The interior space is not very large, but comfortable with a large bed and a sofa that can be transformed into a bunk bed if necessary.
The kitchen and bathroom are equipped and also include a washing machine. They often require a stay of at least two days.

+best in Loutro

BEST CRETE ITINERARY: 3 – 7 – 10 – 14 DAYS

Crete has so much to offer that you may stay a month and not be able to see everything. But since no one has unlimited time, here are some itineraries that, based on the days available, will help you to better organise your stay

3 DAYS ITINERARY

3 DAYS IN RETHYMNO/BALI OR 3 DAYS IN CHANIA

7 DAYS ITINERARY

4 DAYS IN CHANIA
2 DAYS IN LOUTRO or BALI
1 DAY IN HERAKLION

10 DAYS ITINERARY

4 DAYS IN CHANIA
3 DAYS IN LOUTRO
3 DAYs IN AGIOS NIKOLAOS/ELOUNDA

14 DAYS ITINERARY

5 DAYS IN CHANIA
3 DAYS IN LOUTRO
2 DAYS IN RETHYMNO / BALI
4 DAYS IN AGIOS NIKOLAOS / ELOUNDA

I hope this guide will help you to organise your trip! Enjoy!!!!

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