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Crete Travel Information

Crete is the biggest and most southern of the Greek islands, there's so much to see and do. A coastline that varies between spectacular backdrop of snow topped mountains divided by green valleys.

Crete
Crete
Greece

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Crete Travel and Flight Information

As the most southerly of the Greek islands, Crete lies in the south east Mediterranean, 322km off the north coast of Africa. It is also the largest Greek island, with a size of 258km from east to west and 56km from north to south. Crete is a place of contrasting landscapes, with tall rugged mountains, deep gorges, lush countryside and both rocky and sandy coastlines.

Hersonissos

Most of the holiday resorts are on the north coast served by 2 airports: Heraklion, 3km east of the capital city of the same name, feeds the old-established resorts in the east of the island like Aghios Nikolaos and Hersonissos; the other, 9 miles east of the major town of Chania, serves the third of the large towns, Rethymnon, as well as the host of newer, developing resorts on the west half of the coast. A main highway links the major towns along the north coast but roads inland are less good. Lots of beaches offer good bathing, particularly in the north west and eat at Malia.

You'll find towns and resorts offering everything from historical buildings to bustling shops, tavernas, bars and nightlife.

The three perfect bays of Hersonissos are pretty but can get busy, whilst the long sweep of Chania Bay is the one if you think you might be tempted by windsurfing or scuba diving.

Visit Knossos and the remains of the palace of King Minos or put on your walking shoes for a stroll down the Samaria Gorge.

Chania and Rethymnon are both historical with lots of Turkish and Venetion influence. Evenings can be as relaxed or as lively as you choose. Linger over dinner as you watch the boats in the harbour or head for the exuberant bars and nightclubs.

Getting There
There are many charter flights to Crete with various tour operators. To search for flights to Crete you can visit our 'Flights' page. If you are looking for an inclusive holiday to Crete you can also search via Hessle Travel. Just visit our 'Holidays' page fill in our holiday search form.

Sightseeing
Crete has some of the most fantastic natural scenery in Greece, as well as the old towns of Chanis and central Rethymnon. Home of the ancient Minoan civillisation, legendary birthplace of Zeuz, and the home to the fabled Minotaur.


Crete is home of the Minotaur

Nightlife
Party the night away in Malia and Hersonissos, or enjoy a harbour front cocktail in Chania Town. Whatever you want, Crete can offer.

Shopping
With the resorts of Rethymnon, Chania and Heraklion to choose from, plus the traditional ceramics and resort boutiques, shopholics will be more than happy.

Main Resorts in Crete

Hersonissos Resort

Measuring 3.6km by 2km, Hersonissos is a real mixed bag of a resort, comprising numerous villages and rural areas lumped together with a substantial and busy town that forms the main resort centre. The main town is basically a modern development and although there are no tower blocks, its historic past – as evidenced by a scattering of small ancient ruins – is largely lost from view.

Nowadays the focus is a substantial harbour area with numerous bar/eateries on a busy raised waterfront stretching along most of the resort's length; periodically there are steps down to small unimpressive beaches. Just inland is the long, lively central commercial area where a good selection of bars, shops, tour agencies, restaurants and nightlife flanks the main road that continues to be busy despite the addition of a bypass to take most heavy vehicles and some of the traffic.
The town straggles east before virtually merging with the more focused neighbouring resort of Stalis. The resort also encompasses the traditional villages of Koutouloufari, Piskopiano and Old Hersonissos, which sit 1.6km or so inland on the hillside overlooking the main town. These are much quieter and more picturesque despite modest modern development causing them to slowly merge and presumably one day become a single entity.

To the west of the main resort are large areas of low hills and open farmland dotted with small tourist accommodation blocks and several large hotels; beyond lies the more substantial village of Analipsi. Most accommodation here is well-removed from commercial amenities and local alternatives can be limited. These more rural locations tend to have access to substantial though less developed beaches – only those associated with larger hotels have more facilities.

Area
On Crete's north coast, 27km east of Heraklion and 37km north west of Aghios Nikolaos. 26km east of Heraklion airport. On the northeast facing shore of a large bay, stretching both sides of the busy main coast road and filling a narrow coastal plain that rises to the foothills of the Dikti Mountains, where several small villages overlook the resort.

To the west lies a wider undulating agricultural area with small fields, polythene greenhouses, olive groves, a scattering of tourist accommodation and the large village of Analipsi. The resort's east fringes virtually run into the neighbouring resort of Stalis.

Where to Stay
A wide choice of apartments, from the absolute basics to attractive modern developments, but all reflect the simplicity characteristic of Greece. A good selection of hotels, from a few small and homely places to large, dated bed and breakfast tourist establishments and a handful of superior options offering varying degrees of comfort and luxury.

What to Do
Daytime: topping up the tan by the pool or on the shore; open-air museum of traditional Cretan life; full range of water sports, from scuba diving to para-sailing; hill walking; self-drive tours of local villages.

Nightlife: bars and restaurants along the raised waterfront while the main road and side streets are also busy with eateries, watering holes, games arcades and shops that stay open until late at night; reasonable selection of nightclubs and bars, some with live music, offer entertainment into the early hours and beyond.


Restaurants
There is a wide selection of middle range taverna type restaurants serving traditional fare, pizza and pasta dishes. Local and international fast-food joints. Local fish is widely available, with a couple of speciality restaurants.

Dining here tends to be relaxed and casual, with formal dining limited to a few small a la carte options in the larger hotels. Ethnic options include Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Lebanese restaurants.

Shops
A good supply of supermarkets and bakeries. A wide range of souvenir shops offer everything from tacky plastic trinkets and T-shirts to quality locally produced crafts and artwork. Locally made leather is good value, as is Cretan pottery and crochet work. Numerous shops offer herbs, spices and foodstuffs produced and gathered in the mountains.

Excursions
Full day tour: boat trips including neighbouring island of Santorini or Spinalonga Island; trips to archaeological sites, including impressive Minoan palace at Knossos combined with Heraklion Archaeological Museum; Lassithi Plateau, with its picturesque Greek-style windmills and small traditional Cretan villages; general tour of west end of island; jeep safaris; mountain-bike tours; water parks; walking trips through Samaria Gorge could be a 2 day tour.

Beaches
The town beaches of the main resort are small and tend to get very crowded in high season, making the poolside a better option for those staying in the main resort. The only reasonable central option is slightly west of the harbour and a good trek from most accommodation.

Farther west are decent sized, undeveloped stretches of coarse sand, which, while serviceable, do not match the stereotypical image of pristine tourist beaches; these tend to be more appealing when adjacent to larger hotels, which provide loungers and sun shades and frequently lifeguards.

Much of the coastline is rocky, with sunbathers perched just above the water or on tiny pockets of sand flanked by boulders; some of the sandy beaches have a rocky sea entry. No development is allowed on beaches so amenities and refreshments are provided by hotels and bars at the roadside

Getting Around
Frequent bus service along the main road connects all the resorts along this stretch of coast with Heraklion and Aghios Nikolaos; no connections from outlying areas to the main service. A daytime minitrain makes circuits of the resort, taking in the hill villages behind the resort, but it does not offer an efficient means of transport.

Taxis are readily available and relatively cheap. Car and (considerably more dangerous) motorbike or quad-bike hire is possible.

Who is it for?
Hersonissos is a mixed resort offering a catch-all holiday cocktail and no particularly outstanding attributes. The main resort is a busy town with an attractive waterfront and a healthy nightlife, bringing young and more mature guests side by side. Less suited to beach connoisseurs or those looking for a traditional town.

The outlying hill villages and west coastal agricultural areas suit more independent holidaymakers seeking a quieter, less commercial environment. Predominant nationalities are German and Scandinavian and it is very popular with Irish visitors

The resort of Hersonissos offers fun to rival the rest of the Mediterranean, with its attractive, small harbour and sets a fast pace with its many bars and restaurants. The shingle beach in Hersonissos has both rocky and shady bays.
Transfer Time from Crete Airport - Approx 1 hour

Malia Resort

Malia

Measuring 3km from east to west and 2km from north to south, and split by a busy main road, the original old village of Malia lies inland to the south with the sprawling, highly commercialised resort in the north, towards the beach.

Most holidaymakers choose to stay in the resort area, although there are a few traditional pensions in the village. It's a tightly packed, 24-hr party town, with a plethora of bars, restaurants, fast-food outlets and nightclubs. The main "strip" is the best part of 1.6km, leading down from the main high street to the sea front. Everything is in English.

Area
Malia is on the north coast. 6.5km east of Hersonissos8km west of Sissi. 32km east of Heraklion airport. On the coast with the main road running through it; part of a sprawling holiday area that has grown to incorporate the neighbouring resorts of Stalis and Hersonissos. Some patches of undeveloped scrubland dotted around. Overlooked by the impressive Dikti mountain range to the south.

Where to Stay
Across the range from small, simple taverna rooms to studio blocks, with most standards of hotel are represented in the resort.

What to Do
Daytime: beach, beach, beach!

Nightlife: seemingly endless supply of pubs, bars and discos along the "strip".


Restaurants
Numerous tavernas, bars and fast-food joints, including McDonalds, as well as a handful of more upmarket restaurants; there's even a couple of curry houses. The old village boasts a number of quaint, attractive restaurants serving traditional Greek food.

Shops
Unlimited choice from cheap and cheerful souvenirs to expensive ceramics and Cretan weaving. Range covers boutiques, jewellery shops, more than enough minimarkets, food and liquor stores, and ice-cream parlours.

Excursions
Half day tour: ancient site of Palace of Malia; horse riding.

Full day: Minoan Palace of Knossos; Heraklion Archaeological Museum; Plateau of Lassithi; Aghios Nikolaos; Spinalonga island; Sitia and Vai, a palm beach; water park at Anopolis; boat trips (from Heraklion).

1 or 2 days tour: Samaria Gorge.


Beaches
Long, sandy but uninspiring beach packed with sun umbrellas and loungers, and lined with hotels and bars, many playing loud music. Swimming in the sea is safe but there is a strong undertow during windy weather. Choice of water sports from jet-skiing, water-skiing, paragliding, parascending and pedallos. No private beaches – all open to the public.

Getting Around
Frequent bus services to Heraklion, Aghios Nikolaos and other destinations. Local taxis are never a problem to get, as are car-hire and bike-rental establishments.

Who is it for?
Young singles, couples, families – all fun sun seekers who want a full-on party town at a value price. In high season it appeals mainly to rowdy British youngsters – anyone over 22 is likely to feel old.

You name it Malia has it! Crowds flock to the endless bars and restaurants, and you'll be spoilt for choice with the discos. The lively atmosphere and nightlife lures young people to party until the early hours. Those who make it to the beach can relax on the fine, golden sand with plenty of sunloungers and parasols and a host of watersports.
Transfer Time from Crete Airport - Approx 1 hour 30

Rethymnon Resort

A university town, and the island's third largest, it is thought of locally as the intellectual centre of Crete. A place fashioned by a history of turbulent upheaval, it offers an interesting mixture of ancient and modern, meeting the demands of today's tourism with charm and elegance. The old town, measuring a compact 1.2km east to west and 0.8km north to south, shows signs of its Venetian inheritance in its stone archways and fountains but principally in the remains of an extensive 16th-century fortress, which dominates the area and looks out over the bustling waterfront with its palm-lined promenade and bright, multicoloured boats.

Rethymnon

There is also a definite Eastern flavour – a legacy of the Turkish occupation of the island – with 3 mosques, including the Neratzes Mosque with its towering minaret, and the wooden Turkish balconies on many of the houses. Beyond the centre, tourist development has extended along the coast on both sides of the town, particularly to the east, where it has incorporated smaller village resort areas.

Area
About midway along Crete's north coast. 19km east of Georgioupolis. 80km west of Heraklion and its airport. 40 miles south east of Chania and its airport. Faces north on a promontory jutting into a small bay. The fertile Amari Valley and Nida Plateau stretch out behind, with olive groves, forests and agricultural plastic greenhouses, and the town is bounded by the rocky mountains which characterise the region.

Where to Stay
Very good choice of hotels are available in all standards, along with some holiday complexes and apartments.

What to Do
Daytime: beach- and water-based activities including water-skiing, diving and windsurfing; exploring the town, taking in the fortress, mosques, churches and archaeological museum. A wine festival is held at the City Park every July.

Nightlife: good selection of bars of which some have music, tavernas, discos and bouzouki nightclubs, concentrated at the harbour and in the old town; cinemas.

Restaurants
Some good restaurants with excellent seafood around the harbour, although they are not always cheap. Many local tavernas and restaurants at the hotels serving traditional food.


Shops
A good selection of shops are in the old town including food stores, leather and jewellery outlets, and local craft shops, all crowded together on narrow streets; more modern outlets on the main high street and in hotels. An open-air market on Mondays and Thursdays.

Excursions
Half day tour: 16th-century Arkadi Monastery; hikes, biking and climbing in surrounding mountains; Cretan village evenings; beach barbecues.

Full day tour: boat trips to Greek mainland and various nearby islands; ancient Minoan palace of Knossos and Heraklion archaeological museum; historic town/resort of Chania; Lassithi Plateau with its traditional villages and windmills; east Crete including picturesque resort of Aghios Nikolaos and island fortress of Spinalonga; Samaria Gorge.


Beaches
There are some long, curved stretches of good, wide sand and some shingle, fronting the promenade and stretching for around 19km to the east of town; said to be some of the best in Crete, bathing is good and generally safe with most water sports available. Beaches have plenty of loungers and parasols, and usually a public-access snack bar provided by beachfront hotels and apartment blocks. A rocky coastline to the west with some strong currents.

Getting Around
Lots of bus services to neighbouring resorts, Chania, Heraklion and Aghios Nikolaos, which makes exploring relatively simple. A minitrain runs around Platanes and town-centre seafront areas. Ferries to mainland Greece and some smaller islands. Many car-hire and bike-hire outlets.

Whos is it for?
Rethymnon has something for most visitors, whether seeking history and culture, top-of-the-range luxury or basic accommodation and the beach. A good base for exploring west Crete.

The harbour of Rethymnon, the third largest town in Crete, is dominated by a mighty 17th century Venetion fortress. Beneath it, the atmospheric Old Town is an appealing mix of tangled streets, elaborate fountains and delicate minarets. A palm fringed promenade backs a marvellous beach of pale sand and shingle which stretches for several kilometres.
Transfer Time from Crete Airport - Approx 1 hour 30 minutes

Gouves Resort

Measuring 3km east to west and 1.5km north to south, Gouves (or Kato Gouves, as it is more accurately known) is a friendly, relaxed resort with little going on, which developed – and is still developing – purely for tourism. It mainly comprises groups of accommodation set among rugged farmland, with the holiday action mostly centred along one main street full of friendly bar and taverna owners trying to reel you in. If you're looking for culture, you won't find it here, although there are some pleasant walks in open farmland just 2 minutes walk from the main strip. 3km inland lies the original old village of Gouves with a church and a few restaurants and bars.

Gouves

Area
Gouves is on the north coast, 19km east of Heraklion and the airport just off the national highway. Surrounded by scrubland with impressive mountains climbing up behind.

Where to Stay
Good mixture of most classes of hotel as well as budget self catering options.

What to Do
Daytime: lazing by the pool or sunbathing on the beach; water sports.

Nightlife: a number of local tavernas and bars; hotel entertainment.


Restaurants
A selection of tavernas and eateries offering local cuisine; hotels for international menus.

Shops
Most hotels have shops, small supermarkets, some boutiques and many souvenir establishments. Hersonissos offers greater variety; Heraklion for the serious shopper.

Excursions
Half day tour: archaeological museum in Heraklion and Minoan Palace of Knossos; Malia and its archaeological sites.

Full day tour: boat trip to Santorini; Spinalonga Island; Lassithi Plateau; Aghios Nikolaos; Chania with its magnificent Venetian architecture; Ottoman-influenced Rethymnon.

1 - 2 days tour: Samaria Gorge.


Beaches
Gouves beaches have stretches of coarse sand with some rocky areas. Most water-sports facilities are available at the hotels, along with sunbeds and sun umbrellas for hire. No concessions on the beach itself (it is illegal) but plenty of restaurants and bars in vicinity. It is generally considered safe for swimming with lifeguards on some beaches.

Getting Around
A minitrain trundles around the resort. Frequent bus service to Heraklion and Aghios Nikolaos. Local taxis are always an option. Car and bike hire available throughout resort.

Who is it for?
Couples and families of all ages and most budgets. The nightlife isn't as lively as neighbouring resorts so head elsewhere if you want to party into the small hours.

Gouves is the latest up and coming resort in Crete and is the ideal choice for those seeking a laid back, relaxed atmosphere or wanting a base for exploring the contrasting regions of Crete. Its stretch of the coastline features a long sandy beach which is ideal for families and tranquil rocky coves.
Transfer Time from Crete Airport - Approx 30 minutes

Weather in the Holiday Season
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