Where to Stay in Crete: A Local Guide
Create your own memories on Greece's largest island
It’s as though Crete can’t make up its mind. Does it want to be a sandy haven for beach dwellers or a labyrinth of vestiges for history buffs? Rocky bluffs and secluded coves make for a dramatic and picturesque coastline, while the cities showcase a history stretching back thousands of years. There are also countless fun opportunities for kids, with water parks, aquariums and other family-friendly options, and the summers here last longer than anywhere else in Greece, due to the island’s southern location.
It’s also the largest in the 6,000-strong archipelago, which raises a philosophical question of which the Ancient Greeks would be proud: when is an island no longer an island? Is Australia an island? We’ll leave you to ponder that. Being so vast, it might be difficult to choose where to base your holiday. The island (yes, we’re going with that) has all manner of quaint villages, beach resorts and impressive cosmopolitan cities, and here at Plum Guide we've undertaken extensive research into all of them to come up with the ultimate guide for you (you're welcome). So, here is our stance on where to stay in Crete.
If architecture and history are high on your list of things to do in Crete, you should definitely pay a visit to Rethymno. Walk next to the ramparts of the Rethymno Old Town, and marvel at the blend of Venetian and Ottoman architecture. Delve into the street markets of Arkadiou Street and Antistaseos Street for a sense of the local culture. Gaze up at the crumbling ruins of the Fortezza Castle, which looms over the city. Other highlights include the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete, the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno, and the Folklore Museum of Rethymno, which stands in an old Venetian Castle. Claim the castle for your own and live there forever. Make the most of the hot weather, with a picnic in the leafy environs of the Municipal Park. Wander through the Old Venetian Harbour of Rethymno and check out the deluxe yachts.
When it comes to where to stay in Crete, you should definitely consider the capital city of the island, which has countless treasures dating back centuries. The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is among the main draws, with all sorts of jewellery, tools and works of art dating back to the Bronze Age. You should also like the Natural History Museum of Crete, the Cathedral of St. Minas and the Knossos Archaeological Site, where the 3000-year old Minoan civilisation developed. Stroll through the place like you own it, and visit the Koules Venetian Fortress.
It’s not all history stuff - there’s something for everyone on this island. Why not try the local grapes (our way of saying 'gulp down masses of wine') at the Douloufakis Winery or the Lyrarakis Winery? Stumble back to one of our Plum Guide homes and take in the awe-inspiring views.
Old-world Greek cities
The island is packed with old-world cities with vestiges you wouldn’t believe. Marvel at the well-preserved ruins and ramparts of Chania, where you’ll find ruined Turkish Bath houses and Venetian structures. Stay in one of Plum Guide's homes, where we've sent inspectors to make sure they're just right. Just outside the city is the Samaria National Park, featuring an enormous gorge that makes for a five-hour hike (maybe just walk the first ten minutes and turn back - you'll get the picture). See the Venetian fort in Ierapetra and visit the traditional tavernas of Sitia.
After all the crumbling ruins, it’s time for a little glitz and glamour. Elounda is where to stay in Crete if you consider yourself posh; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are known to have stayed here, so you’ll fit right in amid the five-star resorts and upscale establishments. Just across the bay is Spinalonga Island, an abandoned former leper colony with a Turkish fortress.
Dine at the Terrassa Restaurant for spectacular views and classy cuisine. You’ll get a real sense of the best of Greek food here, while looking out over the islets across the bay. Ocean is another coastal treasure, serving up top-notch seafood, while Poseidon Gourmet Restaurant and Samurai Sushi Bar & Restaurant are other spots where you might just bump into Brad Pitt. Marry him so you can come back here whenever you want.
If you’re a little younger (or at least feel that way), you might enjoy the youthful ambiance of Malia. Head out for a night on the town and knock back ouzo and other spirits at the bars, which line the backs of the beaches. Go dancing until the early hours in one of the discos and drink enough to forget about all the culture and history you learned about in the previous days. After all, aren’t the Ancient Greeks known for their own rowdy indulgence?
A little off the beaten path (that blasted beaten path that everyone is always going on about), you’ll find the lush mountain plateau of Lasithi. See how the old stone windmills have been turned into converted homes.