When visiting Crete, the largest of all the Greek islands, some careful planning is required as you can’t see it all on a one or two week holiday and each place offers something different with beaches, mountains and gorges, lively cities, sleepy towns, and so much history.
In this guide, we list the best places to stay whether you’re a younger or older couple, solo traveller, or family travelling with young kids or teens. People who enjoy sightseeing and culture, relaxing on the beach, seek epic nightlife, or picturesque landscapes where peace awaits are all taken care of as there really is somewhere to suit every style of traveller on this beautiful island.
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Where to stay in Crete: The best places around the island
The best areas to stay in Chania region, Crete
The second largest city on Crete and one of the most beautiful, Chania (aka Hania) has 2 parts, the new part, and the old part. The old town is full of historic character, the picture-postcard harbour instantly recognizable with its Venetian lighthouse and lively bars, cafes, and restaurants that surround the waterfront. Behind the Venetian harbour, in the heart of the old town visitors can wander the narrow backstreets that contain countless souvenir shops and boutique hotels but also family homes with kids bikes thrown down outside the front door and old ladies in traditional black gossiping together on their front steps.
The new town contains a good range of shops including international designer fashions and the historical indoor market with Saturday street market close by. Along the seafront, leaving the old town a short walk behind, there are many large hotels catering to family beach holidays.
A large Naval Museum plus smaller museums can be explored and there’s a glass-bottomed boat along with other boat day trips to go on. Limnoupolis water park is a 30 minute journey away and there are buses every hour to Rethymno and Heraklion. If you hire a car you can easily take a day trip to visit the surrounding countryside to see ruins, village life, and the famous pink-sand beaches of Balos and Elafonissi.
Chania is popular with young families and couples seeking a good mix of culture and sightseeing with beach time as well as solo travellers who are backpacking around Europe for the Summer. It has enough going on that you don’t need to leave the city if you don’t want to.
in Chania Crete
Suggested places to stay in Chania Town, Crete:
Splanzia Boutique Hotel – Located in the alleyways of the Old Town and just 15 minutes on foot from the beach, the Splanzia Boutique Hotel offers contemporary rooms in a Venetian building. Rooms are equipped with Internet, air-conditioning and satellite TV.
Scala de Faro – A 5 star boutique property situated in the old town close to the Archaeological museum and 18 minutes on foot from the beach. The hotel is built in a historical building of the 15th century but was recently renovated and offers luxurious rooms equipped with Internet, Smart TV, air conditioning, coffee facilities, slippers, bathrobes and toiletries. The highlight of the hotel is the breathtaking view of the lighthouse and harbor from the Sea View rooms.
Pension Eva – Located in a quiet part of the old town and just 9 minutes from the beach, Pension Eva is a housed in a 17th-century Venetian building. It offers elegant rooms with Internet, Tv and air conditioning among other amenities. The highlight of this hotel is the roof terrace with the stunning views of the Old Town.
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The village of Loutro, with it’s quaint-essential Greek white-washed houses can only be accessed by boat (from Hora Sfakion) or on foot over the cliffs making it a charming and peaceful place all the more special due to its limited accommodation in the form of boutique hotels and self-catering accommodation. Due to its idyllic location on the South coast, Loutro does see a lot of day trip visitors during the height of the season but we’re not talking cruise ship levels of busy! Enjoy the picturesque streets to yourself in the early morning and walk up to the old Venetian fort ruins to admire the view. Then take a boat trip to the stunning Sweetwater Beach, to the opening of the gorge at Agia Roumelli or explore Chora Sfakion and the wider area with trips out to the Frangokastello Castle or the Imbros Gorge. At the end of the day, enjoy the traditional tavernas once the daytime visitors have left and it’s just the other people staying in the village who remain.
Loutro makes a beautiful honeymoon location or retreat for artists and hikers who can do the day-hike to the lesser known Aradena gorge or walk to Marmara Beach whilst those looking to sunbath, read, and snorkel their way through the sun drenched days will be more than satisfied.
Suggested places to stay in Loutro, Crete:
Daskalogiannis Hotel – Located right on the waterfront with all rooms featuring a stunning sea view, Daskalogiannis Hotel is a welcoming and accommodating hotel for those seeking relaxation in tranquil surroundings as well as hiking opportunities.
Villa Niki Studios and Apartments – Look down on the beautiful bay below from your peaceful room at the top of the village. Traditionally decorated with wood beam ceilings, the rooms at Villa Niki are full of Cretan charm and have a kitchenette and veranda.
This South coast fishing town, also known as Chora Sfakion or just Sfakia, is made for those people who love being out in nature whether admiring the coastline, hiking the shady gorges, or sunbathing nude! With tavernas lining the seafront, boats leave regularly taking passengers to nearby Loutro, Agia Roumelli (the end of the world-famous Samaria Gorge hike), Sweet Water Beach, and the island of Gavdos which is the most Southerly point in Europe. For hiking, there are 2 lesser known but equally beautiful gorges on offer to visitors if they worry about completing the Samaria Gorge hike, those are Imbros Gorge which ends just outside of the village and Aradena Gorge with bungy jumping bridge.
Hora Sfakion is a bit too quiet to enjoy a family holiday with kids but is a good location for couples who want either a relaxing retreat spent on secluded beaches or a hiking retreat surrounded by nature. Hiring a car offers ample opportunity to explore the rugged region further with Frangokastelo Castle and the Cave of Daskaloyiannis both nearby.
Suggested places to stay in Hora Sfakion, Crete:
Samaria Hotel – Located 10 metres from the beach, this seafront hotel has spacious rooms with an elegant rustic touch to the décor. Surrounded by restaurants, guests can enjoy the sea, port, or mountain view from their balcony.
Livikon Hotel – Stylishly decorated rooms look out across the Libyan sea with the harbour/bay directly below with a small unorganized beach area, a larger beach with sunbeds being less than a five minute walk away.
This fairly remote and sleepy seaside village is just 20minutes away from Chania airport and falls within the Akrotiri peninsula. It’s the place where Zorba The Greek was filmed and has breathtaking scenery with a mountain and lagoon. There are two beaches to choose from, one busy due to the lagoon and mountain view and a quieter ‘back beach’, perfect for snorkelling and walking as you admire the rocks. There are a handful of tavernas here and a couple of supermarkets but not much else, a hire car is really needed to enable you to explore the beauty of the local area although there is a bus service to Chania.
Stavros is good for couples happy to while away their time on the beach with a beer and a book, there’s good snorkelling, some boat trips, and a cave that overlooks the lagoon for travellers who have packed their hiking boots!
Suggested places to stay in Stavros, Crete:
Paradice Hotel – Stay in a brightly decorated suite just 1km from the beach in stunning Stavros. The hotel is set in a quiet location and has a pool with sun terrace, a fitness centre, restaurant and bar.
Little Bay – Spacious self-catering accommodation set within peaceful grounds that reach to the seafront with sea, mountain, or garden views. The main beach of Stavros with surrounding taverna’s is just 50 metres away.
This remote and rather sleepy seaside town, once a hippy town, is on the South West Coast and offers a tranquil break with gorgeous scenery for those who appreciate rocky rugged beaches with sea caves but there are also long sandy beaches to lay out on. The quaint town with old castle ruins that are perfect for watching the sunset, has enough restaurants and bars so as not to visit the same one twice on a week long holiday and sightseeing boat trips run from the port enabling you to reach the famous pink sand beach of Elafonissi if you don’t want to make the 1 hour drive. There’s also horse riding, scuba diving, jeep safari’s, and an open air cinema.
Paleochora is good for couples seeking a relaxing break in a quaint touristic town and who plan to either spend their days on the beach or hiring a car to explore the breathtaking surrounding scenery.
Suggested hotels in Paleochora, Crete:
On The Rocks – Located opposite the beach and just a short walk from the shops and restaurants in the centre of Paleochora, all rooms at the friendly On The Rocks Hotel have a sea view.
Oreia – Self-catering studios located in a peaceful garden setting just 30 metres from the beach with the main shops and tavernas within walking distance. These spacious, well-decorated rooms have a kitchenette and look out to a garden or sea view.
Located between Rethymno and Chania, this village caters to tourism with a selection of small family-run hotels and self-catering apartments and friendly tavernas located around the village square with fountain. More shops and tavernas located in the shady side streets lead down to the waterfront with the iconic white church located in the sea that you can walk out to, the long sandy beach stretching out to either side. You can actually horse ride along the beach if you’re an experienced rider otherwise, you can enjoy inland trips on horseback.
There’s a skate park here so it might be worth packing or renting your teens gear to keep them quiet for the duration of the holiday although with hotel pools, a small water park, and the sea on offer too, it may not be needed.
A road train takes visitors out to the nearby Lake Kournas where it’s possible to rent a pedalo and enjoy a drink and the view before browsing all the shops selling pottery and other souvenirs. There is a bus service to Chania and Rethymno every hour although visitors must make their way to the nearby highway to catch it, therefore a hire car affords more freedom and less walking in the hot sun!
Georgiopolis is popular with families and couples looking to enjoy a beach holiday with bars and restaurants moments away. Culture vultures won’t find much to do within the village itself but there are some nice walks and if you rent a car it’s easy to explore the local and wider area.
Suggested places to stay in Georgioupolis, Crete:
Georgioupolis Beach Hotel – Across the street from the beach with the centre of the village 100 metres behind, Georgioupolis Beach Hotel is recently-renovated family-friendly hotel with a swimming pool, rooftop bar and restaurant.
Sofia Apartments – Located opposite the fishing harbour with access to the village on one side, and the river and beach the other, these clean, comfortable, and spacious self-catering apartments with kitchenette are perfect for family holidays.
The best areas to stay in Rethymno region, Crete
This large university town thrives on tourism in the Summer months with a long stretch of large hotels and self-catering apartments plus tavernas lining the seafront. The long sandy beach isn’t the most picturesque but with plenty of sunbeds and water sports, most sun-worshippers will be more than happy.
The Old Town is a maze of souvenir shops, restaurants, boutique hotels and rooms for rent with history around every corner. It’s easy to get off the tourist trail and escape into the quiet backstreets where old ladies sit outside their homes on flower lined streets. The new town contains many fashion shops and on a Thursday, the large farmer’s market takes place on the municipal car park. The large park with modern cafe at its centre is a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of town life and tourism when you need some shade and serenity.
A visit to the 16th Century fort will while away a few hours and there are some small yet impressive museums to explore. The kids will enjoy the road train, there’s a hop-on-hop-off city sightseeing bus, and the Pirate Ship cruise is a fun day trip for all the family. In the evening, you can do some shopping and enjoy a seafood dinner listening to the waves lapping at the harbour, it’s always romantic to take a stroll along the waterfront to the Venetian lighthouse before stopping at a lively bar to watch the world walk by.
Rethymno is good for families and couples whether seeking a sightseeing holiday or relaxing beach holiday. There’s so much to see within the region so renting a car is a popular choice for many allowing them to visit beaches and towns/villages on the south coast, the nearby Arkadi Monastery, and archaeological site of Ancient Eleftherna. Chania and Heraklion are an hour away in either direction too so you can never be bored and buses run regularly to each city.
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Suggested places to stay in Rethymnon town, Crete:
Veneto Boutique Hotel – In the heart of Rethymnon’s old town is the Veneto Boutique Hotel, in a 14th century, restored Venetian building with original features and boutique furnishings that complement the historic building. The hotel is minutes from the old town shops and restaurants as well as a four-minute walk from the beach. However, if guests choose to dine at the hotel, they can select wines from the expansive cellar and enjoy traditional Cretan cuisine from the local chefs.
Rimondi Boutique Hotel – The nearby Rimondi Boutique Hotel is a luxurious hotel housed in two separate buildings with a large pool and courtyard in between. Suites here are equipped with air conditioning, a mini bar, free wifi, and a modern bathroom with deluxe amenities. Rimondi Boutique Hotel also has a small spa for guests.
Bellagio Luxury Boutique Hotel – The Bellagio Luxury Boutique Hotel is a small, family-run hotel in a beautiful Renaissance building in the heart of the old town. With only five suites, the hotel is a great place for couples because it is intimate yet in the middle of everything. Rooms have plush bedding, comfortable bathrobes, and small seating areas.
Loggia Traditional Suites – Guests in Rethymno seeking the sun might enjoy the Loggia Traditional Suites, which boasts a rooftop terrace, complete with a hot tub and sun beds. Some rooms (but not all!) also have private balconies or terraces; all suites come equipped with a private bathroom and kitchenette facilities.
Yes, there’s a Bali on Crete! This fairly remote holiday resort is located on a peninsula between Rethymno and Heraklion and contains many self-catering apartments and hotels with beautiful views of the rocky coastline. There are 3 small sandy beaches to choose from, Evita Beach having sea caves with the option to rent a pedalo from the harbour beach so as to explore the coastline in more detail from the water.
Couples looking to enjoy a relaxing beach holiday with beautiful scenery and enough designer cafes, bars, and tavernas will enjoy a stay here and kids also if they’re happy with the hotel pool and sea although there is also a road train to take a ride on. The resort is spread out and hilly and there’s no bus service in to the village itself so it’s not the best choice for people with mobility issues or backpackers who won’t have their own transport.
Suggested places to stay in Bali, Crete:
Paradise Hotel – With stunning sea and mountain views, Paradise Hotel is located 100 metres from the beach in garden surroundings. The hotel has 2 pools, 2 restaurants, a kids playground, and a mini spa centre with sauna, hot tub, and a variety of treatments for you to try.
Amalia Apartments – This hillside self-catering apartment complex has panoramic views overlooking the village of Bali and the sea. It has 2 swimming pools with the beach 50 metres away. The rooms are spacious with a bright and airy feel and have a kitchenette and patio or balcony.
The best areas to stay in Heraklion region, Crete
The bustling capital city, also spelled Iraklion, is not many peoples first choice for a holiday but with top museums, a working fishing harbour, designer shopping, and tourism mixed with local life, it can tick a lot of boxes for culture vultures and families seeking a city break no matter if it’s Summer or Winter.
Heraklion contains some of the top museums including the Archaeological Museum, Natural History Museum, and Municipal Art Museum with plenty of smaller museums and art galleries to explore too. The world-famous archaeological site of Knossos Palace is a 20 minute drive away and Creta Aquarium, located 30 minutes away, is sure to keep the kids happy.
The fishing port is still very much a part of daily life and you can see the fishermen bringing in their catch and sorting out their nets with a 16th century fort behind that you can visit. All sorts of shops can be explored, from high-end Greek and international designer stores to quaint indie boutiques and you’ll never be far from a trendy cafe or restaurant, there’s also good local nightlife thanks to this being a University city.
Heraklion is a good place to stay if you an independent traveller or family who seek the hustle and bustle of a working city, prefer culture and history to beaches, and want to avoid tourism to some extent. Although you miss out on the picturesque sea and mountain views from your window, being based in the capital makes it easy to move around the island due to the extensive bus network and if you’re island hopping, the ferries at the port will take you on to Santorini, Rhodes, or to Athens.
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Suggested places to stay in Heraklion, Crete:
GDM Megaron, Historical Monument Hotel – This 5-star historical hotel has spectacular views over the old fishing port and fort from its rooftop pool area. It may have been built in 1925 but has been beautifully refurbished to ensure guests can enjoy modern day comforts.
Atrion Hotel – A short walk from the vibrant city centre and the History Museum, the modern and comfortable Atrion Hotel enjoys sea views located across from the promenade where you can take a morning or evening stroll with the locals.
Known for its hippy population in the 1960’s who lived in the historical Roman caves on the beach, the south coast village of Matala still carries an alternative and artistic vibe with lots of arts and crafts shops to explore selling unique wares that you won’t find elsewhere on the island. A range of bars and tavernas line the picturesque bay and the sandy beach is perfect for sand castles and sunbathing!
For visitors renting a car, the archaeological site of Phestos (otherwise spelled Phaistos), the second most important Minoan Palace after Knossos, is nearby along with a large working nunnery, the Monastery Panagia Kaliviani. The fishing village of Agia Galini along with the working town of Timbaki and numerous quaint Cretan villages are also a short car journey away not forgetting the Agia Marina Donkey Rescue Sanctuary for animal lovers.
Matala is a good option for people with that free spirited vibe, perhaps too quiet for families with kids, it makes a relaxing base for couples and friends who want to move between sunbed and bar on some days, and rent a car to explore the region on other days.
Suggested places to stay in Matala, Crete:
Hotel Sofia – Situated in quiet surroundings within walking distance to the shops, taverna’s and famous caves, Hotel Sofia is a family-run hotel set around a traditional courtyard. The clean and comfortable rooms are individually decorated in white with a bright contrasting colour and have a balcony.
Hotel Coral Matala – Tucked away in a quiet location yet still within easy reach of the beach with caves, shops, and restaurants the family-run Hotel Coral Matala has a garden pool and rooftop terrace where you can enjoy the panoramic views at sunset.
Malia & Hersonissos
Both of these places are the party capitals of Crete, Malia leading the way with its epic nightlife scene encompassing numerous Irish and English bars, a haven for the 18-30 club visitors during the months of July and August.
Hersonissos is the most developed resort on the island and is a good budget option for young couples and friends and families who want a typical resort holiday with beaches and bars plus good nightlife but without the level of craziness that Malia is known for.
You might not think that either of these places would be very family-friendly but think again – Low prices, water sports, jeep safaris, boat trips, mini-golf, fast food restaurants, and the nearby Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre keep the little kids as happy as the big kids. Hersonissos (aka Chersonissos) is the more family-friendly of the two but in Malia families can generally enjoy the beaches and streets to themselves in the morning, the teenagers sleeping off the effects of the night before in their rooms and not venturing out until lunchtime at the earliest! A taste of traditional Crete can also still be enjoyed in the Old Town of Malia, head away from the beach bars and you’ll find traditional family-run tavernas and picturesque back streets.
Suggested places to stay in Malia & Hersonissos, Crete:
Parthenis Hotel and Suites – A 5 minute walk from the beach and within 10 minutes of Malia’s bar district, Parthenis Hotel offers some respite in peaceful garden surroundings. The rooms of this apart-hotel have a kitchenette and there’s a pool, hot tub, and bar to make use of too.
Star Beach Village and Water Park – A great seafront hotel for those with kids as the pool has water slides and there’s a playground too. Located close to the port, a 10 minute walk from the main shop/bar area, Star Beach Village has studio and apartment accommodation with a selection of restaurants on site.
The best areas to stay in Agios Nikolaos region, Crete
This mid-sized town on the East coast has a cosmopolitan feel to it that somehow feels less Cretan than the other major towns and cities. It has a beautiful saltwater lake at its heart with panoramic views from the cliff-side that show the lake connected to the sea by a narrow inlet. There are several distinct waterfront areas with 5 golden sand beaches to choose from with tavernas and bars lining all of the waterfront areas.
There are modern sculptures to admire, museums to visit, and shops to peruse. Walk around the marina admiring the boats, take a boat trip to Spinalonga, enjoy water sports, or go scuba diving, there’s a water park nearby too. There are regular bus services to Heraklion, Elounda, and the South Coast town of Ierapetra when you seek a change of scene and plenty to explore in the vicinity if you rent a car or even a quad bike!
Often shortened to Ag Nik, this town is good for all types of travellers whether families with young kids and teens, couples seeking a relaxing holiday, or young adults seeking some fun in the sun without going overboard.
Suggested places to stay in Agios Nikolaos, Crete:
Minos Beach Art Hotel – With its idyllic waterfront location and world-class hospitality service this hotel packs a punch as it’s so much more than just a place to sleep! It’s an art gallery, a landscaped garden, and a health and fitness centre too with the sights of Agios Nikolaos centre within walking distance.
Mantraki Hotel Apartments – This family-run apartment complex is 100 metres away from a sandy beach in a quiet location but still within easy walking distance to the centre and all the shops and restaurants. The rooms feature fully-equipped kitchens with big fridges and rain showers in the bathrooms.
Elounda & Plaka
Elounda is a cosmopolitan seaside resort with harbour that mixes high-end tourism with traditional Greek hospitality, this being the location of many 5 star spa hotels and numerous luxurious villas; a favourite destination of the rich and famous whether Greek politicians, American actors and actresses, or Russian tycoons. It has seafront tavernas, shops, and backstreets to explore with some good scuba diving opportunities to see the Sunken City of Olous. The beautiful lake town of Agios Nikolaos is 20 minutes away with good bus links and it’s possible to get out into the countryside on a 4WD jeep safari. Zeus Cave and the Richtis Gorge are also within reach for those with a hire car.
Elounda is good for couples and families of all budgets who seek a relaxing beach holiday with the option to explore more of the island when renting a car. If going all-out on accommodation you’ll be able to move from the spa to the pool to the sea, drink in hand, living the life of luxury as you soak up the views.
Plaka meanwhile, is a beautiful small traditional fishing village a 10 minute drive from Elounda that’s quaint-essential Crete. Plaka is the village made famous in Victoria Hislop’s ‘The Island’ with the leper island of Spinalonga visible and accessible via boat from both Plaka and Elounda. Stay in Plaka and you’ll be welcomed into Greek village life with Greek hospitality like no other as you enjoy a peaceful couples retreat.
Suggested places to stay in Elounda & Plaka, Crete:
Elounda Bay Palace – This luxurious and modern 5-star hotel overlooks Mirabello Bay from its garden surroundings with direct access to a private beach. There’s an indoor and outdoor pool, tennis courts, fitness center, and seafront restaurant, the centre of Elounda a short walk away.
Blue Palace Resort and Spa – Located 500 metres from the center of Plaka with views out to the island of Spinalonga, the 5-star Blue Palace hotel ensures a luxurious stay in a suit or bungalow. The spa has 24 treatment rooms plus 2 Turkish baths and you’ll also find a gym, tennis courts, and swimming pool.
The southernmost town in Europe, therefore enjoying the warmest weather all year, Ierapetra is a fairly secluded working town large enough so that it has all of the amenities to keep local life running alongside tourism.
Numerous bars and restaurants line the seafront, and there’s a traditional fishing port to walk around as you watch the fishermen mend their nets and offload their haul. The small fort at Ierapetra is worth looking inside, particularly for history fans who will also want to visit the small archaeological museum, Napoleon’s House (where he is rumoured to have spent 1 night) and the Ottoman mosque. There are many picturesque flower-filled backstreets to explore, one of which is sure to lead you to the cathedral, and from there into the new part of the town when you want to hit the local shops. A boat trip to the golden sandy beaches of Chrissi Island shouldn’t be missed either.
Ierapetra is a family-friendly location with just enough to do whilst enjoying a relaxing beach break but a hire car will be necessary for people wishing to get out and sightsee further. Ierapetra is on the bus route so you can get to Agios Nikolaos and from there to Heraklion and other parts of the island but is not so frequent so pay attention to timetables!
Suggested places to stay in Ierapetra, Crete:
Galaxy Hotel – This hotel is sure to wow you with its eye-catching décor and the kind and caring staff. Centrally located, just 200 metres from the beach and close to the Fortress, there are plenty of bars and restaurants around too.
Coral Boutique Hotel – Centrally located and just 30 metres from the beach, the friendly Coral Boutique Hotel ensures guests have a comfortable stay in a cosy room with a great view from the balcony or terrace.
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