Special Covid-19 refund policy: We'll refund you in full if you can't travel due to Covid-19 governmental changes in travel restrictions. Details here.

Our Top Things to Do in Crete

Beaches, caves, palaces - the list goes on. Crete is replete with things to do

~

Waves crashing onto the sand at a beach in Malia at sunset, Crete, Greece

The largest of all the Greek islands, Crete is also one of the most varied - with landscapes ranging from pink sand beaches to dramatic mountains, it has thousands of years of history just begging to be discovered. With a firm local identity (residents often refer to themselves as being Cretan rather than Greek), these islanders are famed for their friendliness - so you might just leave your holiday with a few new acquaintances. And we hope we will be one of them, because here at Plum Guide, we've done a lot of hard work to ensure that your home and holiday are both up to your extremely high standards. So, with that being said, here’s our pick of the top things to do in Crete.

  • Hike the Samaria Gorge
  • Relax on Elafonisi beach
  • Marvel at Knossos' Minoan Palace
  • Discover Psychro Cave
  • Visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum
  • Take a trip to Rethymnon Old Town
  • Wonder at the War Shelter of Platanias

Hike the Samaria Gorge

A close up view of rocks and a stream at Samariá Gorge, Crete, Greece

A close up view of rocks and a stream at Samariá Gorge, Crete, Greece

The Samaria Gorge is the longest hike in Europe, taking around six hours from start to finish (fair warning: wear your walking boots, not your flip flops). Located in the White Mountains of western Crete, in the regional unit of Chania, this is an 18km walk through some of Greece’s most spectacular scenery. If you’d prefer to spend the majority of your day relaxing on the beach, rather than hoping for a glimpse of the spiny mouse and the Cretan badger (look, we’re all animal lovers here, but sometimes a cocktail on a sun lounger really hits the spot), you can walk a portion of the trail as opposed to the full route. But just know you’ll be missing out on a spectacular view of the Libyan Sea at the end of the journey.

When you’re tired and dusty at the end of your day, return to our home Eulimene, in which almost every room has access to an outside space. Take a luxurious shower before enjoying a long, late dinner on the terrace. If you have the energy, you could always take a late-night dip in the pool. Ah, the luxury.

Eulimene, Plum Guide home in Corfu, Greece

Eulimene, Plum Guide home in Corfu, Greece

Relax on Elafonisi beach

The famous pink sand by the sea at Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece | Image by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The famous pink sand by the sea at Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece | Image by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho is licensed under CC BY 2.0

And speaking of beaches... Elafonisi beach is a pink (yes, pink) beach in Crete - it's also one of the most famous in Greece, thanks to its appearance in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. A low island that’s joined to the mainland on only its most south-westerly point, the pink colour comes from the naturally crushed shells mixed with the sand. It’s a protected natural area, and unlike many natural wonders, it truly is as good as it looks in the photos (you’ll definitely want to take photos of your own, so don’t forget your camera). The beach has many hidden coves to explore, so venture to one of these to take a break from splashing around in the clear, warm, turquoise-coloured water. You'll be spending hours in there otherwise.

Fans of beaches will be queuing up to stay at our home Kanella, which is just 800m away from the nearest stretch of sand. And as if that wasn’t enough, the private pool comes with a waterfall, and the terrace has amazing views over the Mirabello gulf.

Kanella, Plum Guide home in Greece

Kanella, Plum Guide home in Greece

Marvel at Knossos' Minoan Palace

A close up view of large clay jugs at the Palace of Knossos, Crete, Greece

A close up view of large clay jugs at the Palace of Knossos, Crete, Greece

Knossos is Europe’s oldest city, and its Minoan Palace should be on every list of things to do in Crete. Once the political hub of Minoan culture, as well as an important ceremonial and political symbol, the palace had more than 1,200 rooms (think about that next time you complain about having to hoover the spare bedroom at home) and was discovered in 1878. Incredibly, this is actually the site of two palaces - the one built here around 1700 BC was destroyed by an earthquake, before being reconstructed to be even grander. This second palace was then destroyed in 1450 BC. Now you can visit for historical inspiration, and of course to learn about the culture of the island.

Good Things Come In Threes, Plum Guide home in Greece

Good Things Come In Threes, Plum Guide home in Greece

Discover Psychro Cave

Just outside the village of Psychro lies this cave (also known as the Diktean Cave), which has huge mythological importance -which is exactly why it's on this list of things to do in Crete. Legend states that it’s this cave, otherwise indistinguishable from the other 3,000 caves on the island of Crete, where the Goddess Rhea gave birth to her son Zeus. She chose this spot to protect him from the titan Cronos, who attempted to eat all his offspring to prevent fulfilment of a prophecy that his downfall would be at the hands of one of his children. Yes, this is definitely a tale to tell your children right before they fall asleep - if you want them to have nightmares, that is. Today, the cave is a site of pilgrimage and worship, as well as a great spot for a hike.

For a house that is decidedly un cave-like, with glass walls, a freestanding bath with a view of the mountains and even a tennis court, our impressive home The Gleeful Swimmer is ideal for the whole family. Just don’t tell the kids about the hot tub, so you can keep it all for yourself.

The Gleeful Swimmer, Plum Guide home in Greece

The Gleeful Swimmer, Plum Guide home in Greece

Visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Crete has an absolute abundance of things to do, so whether you prefer beaches, hikes, or famous archaeological museums full of historic artefacts, you’re certain to find your calling. One of the oldest museums in the whole of Crete, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum takes you back in time, guiding you through the story of the island’s fascinating history. Many of the eye-catching artefacts on display date back to the ancient civilians that called the island home more than 5,000 years ago - see, you’re still very young).

Time your trip here to catch a temporary exhibition, or simply come to admire the generations of history that stand before you - it really will take your breath away. The objects on display include weapons, jewellery, artwork, and so much more to captivate you and the family for hours. You can even get a glimpse of Venetian Monastery of Saint Francis’ ruins in the garden, with the museum being built on the very same patch of land - the monastery was destroyed by an earthquake in the 19th century. Lose yourself in the wonder of the day, before heading back to your luxury Plum home to try your hand at creating your very own piece of Minoan art. How hard can it be, right?

Take a trip to Rethymnon Old Town

People walking outside a restaurant in Rethymnon Old Town, Crete, Greece

People walking outside a restaurant in Rethymnon Old Town, Crete, Greece

While Crete is primarily famous for its remarkable beaches, its awe-inspiring history, and its title as the largest Greek island, its towns and cities are equally as memorable. Wander through the narrow streets of Rethymnon Old Town for a taste of what life is like for the Cretan locals, and wonder if there’s any way you could get yourself a place in these parts - work and home responsibilities can take a back seat. This fantastically-preserved town can be found right in the centre of modern Rethymno, and displays classic Venetian architectural techniques - something that can also be found on other Greek isles.

Interestingly, the layout of this eye-catching town is directly connected to the sea, with the main street running parallel to the shore - perfect for a morning walk to catch the sunrise over the horizon. Enjoy a family visit to the Four Martyrs Church and hear the bells ring, before stopping for some classic Cretan cuisine at one of the countless nearby restaurants. You could easily spend a day here, so make the most of the occasion by buying some unessential souvenirs to commemorate the time you finally visited Rethymnon Old Town. No one will blame you.

Stroll through Richtis Gorge

A close up of someone hiking across a river on a long walk

A close up of someone hiking across a river on a long walk

Yes, this is another hike, so dust off the walking boots. Situated in Lasithi on the eastern side of Crete, Richtis Gorge offers an unforgettable day full of views, waterfalls, and total adventure - this is certainly one for the whole family to enjoy. Start your trek at the Lachanas Bridge, a charming bridge with a darker history than its peaceful serenity suggests - it is thought to be the place where multiple Turks were killed in the early 20th century. So not only are you experiencing the remarkable views of the trail, but you're discovering its unique history too. That's what we call a win-win.

Once you've passed the bridge, the trail runs for approximately 3 kilometres, and houses an array of wildlife to encounter. Butterflies, birds, and even reptiles may interrupt you as you make your way up the picturesque route - and while it isn't too long, the ascent can catch you out. The end of the trail sits roughly 350 metres above the start, but you'll soon forget that as you swim beneath the gushing waterfall at the midpoint of your walk. If that isn't the perfect way to replenish, then what is? The hike ends on the Richtis Beach, so reward yourself with a hard-earned break in the sun - you're on holiday after all.

Wonder at the War Shelter of Platanias

For a slightly different look at the history that looms around every Cretan corner, take some time to visit the remarkable War Shelter of Platanias. Away from the luxurious beaches and traditional small towns, Crete has a more dramatic tale to tell, being taken over by the German fighters of World War II after more than a week of intense combat. The War Shelter of Platanias was then built by the Germans, initially to store ammunition and equipment, and today makes for an incredibly eye-opening day trip.

Venture underground and stroll through the tunnels, encountering artefacts including uniforms, weapons, and photographs as you go. Get a taste of what life was like in this part of the world back in 1941 as the Battle of Crete took place, and truly appreciate your own circumstances - this is the perfect spot for reflection, as well as fascination. The shelter is also within walking distance of a number of top restaurants, all of which offer unforgettable views across the sea, so don’t worry about rushing through. Trust us, you’ll want to take it all in.

Related Articles

Stay in the world's most beautiful homes

Search for a holiday home