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Crete is a true paradise with turquoise sea waters, charming villages, lively seaside towns, and reddish mountains. With a rich culture that you can discover in the many archeological sites, museums, and historical buildings, Crete is a wonderful all-year-round destination in Greece.  

The island is huge, so deciding where to stay in Crete is not a straightforward choice. We are here to help you with this complete guide on the best places to stay in Crete. We have narrowed down the island’s top towns to stay in with a list of their unmissable attractions and will also give you tips for spending a wonderful vacation in Crete.

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Where to stay in Crete?

  • For the best prices on accommodations and the most choices, Booking.com has been my go-to choice especially once you reach Genius 2 tier and you can find an additional 10-15% off places to stay.

Where To Stay In Crete

colorful waterfront town in cretecolorful waterfront town in crete
Image via Unsplash by JR Harris

Crete is an enormous island divided into four prefectures that are characterized by slightly different atmospheres. The north of the island is more populated and is also more frequented by tourists, contrary to the southern coast. 

This breakdown of the island’s top towns will help you find the best places to stay in Crete for your travel needs. 

The main neighborhoods of Crete

Following are Crete’s best towns to stay in for a wonderful holiday.

1. Chania – The island’s second-largest city, Chania is perfect for first-time travelers thanks to the many accommodation options, great historical sights, and stunning beaches.

2. Heraklion – Crete’s capital, this city boasts great nightlife and numerous historical sites, among all the legendary Knossos Palace.

3. Rethymnon – Combining old-world charm with trendy eateries and stunning beaches, the town is where to be if you are interested in visiting Byzantine, Ottoman, and Venetian landmarks.

4. Hersonissos – An ideal stay for families, this town features many fun and exciting activities, from a water park to shallow beaches ideal for swimming.

5. Agios Nikolaos – Less touristy than other towns in Crete, Agios Nikolaos has stunning beaches and a picturesque seafront with a lake, restaurants, and cafès.

6. Matala – Boasting a unique hippie vibe and peculiar man-dig caves, Matala is a popular tourist spot on the island. 

Crete travel tips

How to get around

Crete is a big island, so the best way to explore it is by car rental. A car will give you maximum freedom to explore at your own pace. On the island, you will find most major car rental companies at airports and major port towns. To be eligible to rent a car in Crete, you must be 21 years old or older and have an International Driving Permit (IDP) if you are not from the European Union. Besides cars, you can rent scooters to have the same freedom plus an easier life when it comes to parking. 

Another option is to get around via bus, the only public transportation on the island. The company KTEL operated all of Crete’s bus routes; however, bus rides are more frequent on the island’s north coast as it is more populated. The southern coast has fewer bus routes. You can purchase tickets at the kiosk at the different bus stops, directly on the coach (although it will be more expensive), or reserve them online on KTEL’s official website

The last option you have is to call a taxi. You can reserve your ride in advance by calling one of the companies that offer this service on the island or hail on the street as taxis usually stop around the towns’ ports or centers. 

Neighborhood map 

Crete is divided into prefectures encompassing many towns and villages. Here you will find a handy map with the best places to stay in Crete.

descriptive map of cretedescriptive map of crete
Map via Wikipedia
Plan your trip

Be Patient with Cretans’ Timing – Life on islands is usually more relaxed, and there is nothing truer in Crete. The slow rhythm characterizes the Cretan way of life, so be prepared to wait longer than you are told, especially in less touristy areas.   

Pack a Pair of Hiking Shoes – The island is famous for its spectacular mountain landscape with many gorges and canyons to discover. If you are into active walks and hikes, bring a suitable pair of shoes to explore the many hiking trails.

Bring a Reusable Bottle – In Crete it’s safe to drink the tap water, so having a reusable water bottle in your bag will not only save you money but also have ready-to-drink water at all times. 

Budget-Friendly Local Food – Greek cuisine has many delicious and healthy street food options, so if you are traveling on a budget, you can save a lot of money if making the right food choices. From Gyros to Souvlaki to Cretan dakos, you can easily have a complete meal for less than 10€.

Visit Sites on their Free Admission Days – Another great money-saving tip is visiting museums and archeological sites when they offer free admission. The free day changes from place to place, so make sure to check the website of the site you are interested in visiting to know it.  

1. Chania

kucuk hassan mosque in chaina cretekucuk hassan mosque in chaina crete
Image via Wikipedia by Jebulon

What’s there and why visit

Chania is the second biggest city on the island and is the best area to stay in Crete if it is the first time you are visiting. 

The city features a lively harbor with traditional restaurants and amazing attractions such as the Venetian fortress. The perk of Chania is that, although big, it has a small-town feel for an authentic local experience. Chania has all the conveniences as well as scenic areas you can reach with a short drive or bus ride. 

Suggested hotels near Chania

BUDGET

best places to stay in crete samaria hotel living area divided by wall with tv to bedroombest places to stay in crete samaria hotel living area divided by wall with tv to bedroom

Samaria Hotel

“The location was ideal, very close to everything both the old venetian port, the centre and the central bus station. The staff was very polite and very helpful on everything we needed. The pool area was nice to swim and eat. The food was excellent and the prices were legit. The welcome treat was nice and appreciated. It is highly recommended.”

MID-RANGE

casa delfino hotel spa with fountain and massage tablecasa delfino hotel spa with fountain and massage table

Casa Delfino Hotel & Spa

This hotel is inside a 17th-century Venetian mansion, situated in the middle of Chania’s old town, within close walking distance to the sea. The hotel features a top of the line spa with many services and a bar. You can enjoy your breakfast in the beautiful courtyard or the rooftop terrace while overlooking the views of the town and harbor.

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Atlantica Kalliston Resort

This is an adults only resort, perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway! The resort is located next to several beaches and it features an indoor and outdoor pool, hot tub, restaurant, bar, rooftop terrace, fitness center, free private parking and room service. Breakfast is available to guests daily and offers a wide range of options.

LUXURY

domes noruz chania autograph collection aerial view of pool and beachdomes noruz chania autograph collection aerial view of pool and beach

Domes Noruz Chania, Autograph Collection

This adults-only resort features private access to its own beach, a state-of-the-art spa center, fitness center, two pools overlooking the azure waters and a poolside bar. All rooms include an extended outdoor living area with either a plunge pool or hot tub. Several bars and restaurants are within walking distance from the resort.

Things to see near Chania 

Firkas Fortress – Among the city’s most important landmarks, it is one of the several Venetian fortresses you can see around Crete. The Firkas Fortress dates back to the 1600s, and it was built to protect Chania’s Venetian harbor. Today, it houses the Maritime Museum of Crete, which displays interesting exhibits, including ship models. The fortress is also among the best panoramic spots in the city!

Venetian Lighthouse – In the Venetian harbor, opposite the fortress, is a massive lighthouse. Not functioning anymore, Chania’s Venetian Lighthouse is one of the oldest in the world. There is nothing better than taking a leisurely walk along the pier of the old harbor at sunset to get to this lighthouse.  

Kucuk Hassan Mosque – This gorgeous mosque is the oldest Ottoman building on the island. It was constructed in 1645 when the Turks seized Chania. The mosque is no longer a place of worship, and over the years has been used for a variety of purposes (it was also a restaurant for a while). Today, it is a venue for temporary exhibitions. 

Balos Lagoon – The Chania prefecture has the best beaches in Crete, and a must-visit is the Balos Lagoon. Boasting white sand, emerald green waters, and reddish mountains in the background, the Balos Lagoon is breathtaking. Perfect for a half-day trip of relaxation and loved by any photo geek, the Balos Lagoon will leave you speechless. 

Getting there 

Firkas Fortress – From Chania’s ferry terminal, you need to walk on the right on the seaside promenade for about eight minutes to get to the fortress. 

Venetian Lighthouse – From the ferry terminal, take Ag. Markou Street. Walk to its end and turn left on Kanevarou Street, and then turn at the first left to take Archoleon Street. At this point, you just need to follow the seaside promenade for 860 meters to get to the lighthouse.

Kucuk Hassan Mosque – From the ferry terminal, take the seaside promenade on the right, and after 220 meters, you will be at the intersection with Sourmelis Street on the left. Take it, and in 60 meters, the mosque will be on your right.

Balos Lagoon – To reach the lagoon, you will need to drive on the E65 for 1 hour.

Suggested activities in Chania 

From Chania: Day Trip to Elafonisi Island – Relax on the gorgeous small island of Elafonisi, characterized by a stunning pink sand beach, with this day-trip from Chania city.

Chania: Authentic Cooking Class in the White Mountains – Learn more about Crete’s traditional cuisine by joining this cooking class in the majestic landscape of the White Mountains. 

2. Heraklion

waterfront view of boats surrounding venitian fortress of kouleswaterfront view of boats surrounding venitian fortress of koules
Image via Wikipedia by Bernard Gagnon

What’s there and why visit

Crete’s capital city, Heraklion, is the easiest city to reach on the island as it has an international airport. The city harbor has daily ferry connections to nearby islands, so Heraklion is ideal if you plan to visit other places besides Crete. 

In Heraklion, you will find the most visited landmark on the island, the magnificent Knossos Palace, and many other attractions, like the unmissable Archeological Museum of Heraklion.

The city also boasts lively nightlife thanks to the university’s presence, and here you will find the best hotels in Crete.

Suggested hotels near Heraklion

BUDGET

lato boutique hotel bedroom view with artwork covering walllato boutique hotel bedroom view with artwork covering wall

Lato Boutique Hotel

This hotel is situated right across the street from the harbor and it overlooks Heraklion’s Venetian Fortress. Archaeological and the Historical Museum of Heraklion are within walking distance. The hotel features a rooftop restaurant-bar, a steam room with a hot tub and room service. Many shops, bars and restaurants are within walking distance.

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best places to stay in crete olive green hotel suite with bed and deskbest places to stay in crete olive green hotel suite with bed and desk

Olive Green Hotel

With this hotel sitting in a central location to the town, it’s close to so much! Venetian Walls, The Minoan Palace of Knossos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum are all close by, and the hotel sits right in a popular shopping area of the town! Featuring a 24/7 restaurant and front desk services, you’ll always have what you need at your stay here!

MID-RANGE

atlantica akti zeus hotel aerial view of pool with lounge seating next to oceanatlantica akti zeus hotel aerial view of pool with lounge seating next to ocean

Atlantica Akti Zeus Hotel

“Very friendly staff, very good atmosphere and family friendly. The facilities are good. A great water park for children and the beach, when it’s not windy, great too (beware, there is a barrier of big rocks to get into the sea, but then it’s sandy and shallow). Food was great and the snack bar was very handy!”

LUXURY

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GDM Megaron Historical Monument Hotel

This hotel is located in the business and shopping district, within walking distance of the Archaeological and the Historical Museum, as well as many other sites and restaurants. It features on-site restaurants, a rooftop plunge pool, a health club and free parking for guests.

Things to see near Heraklion 

Koules Fortress – This Venetian fortress stands in the old harbor. Built in the 16th century, you will see the Koules Fortress already from a distance due to the building’s massive size. Squared and lined with thick defensive walls, the main entrance gate is surmounted by the bas-relief of the Lion of Saint Mark, the symbol of the former Republic of Venice. Walk to the top of the fortress to enjoy incredible views!

Archeological Museum of Heraklion – This is one of the most important museums in Greece. The Archeological Museum of Heraklion displays finds from the Neolithic until the Roman times, with important pieces from the Minoan civilization. Among the museum’s most valuable treasures are the magnificent frescoes from Knossos, which are 3,500 years old.

Cathedral of St. Minas – The city’s cathedral is dedicated to Heraklion’s patron saint of Heraklion, the martyr Agios Minas. The Cathedral of St. Minas was built in the late 19th century and is the largest church in Crete. Famous for its religious iconography, the inside is particularly beautiful, with the frescoed dome and a central chandelier. 

Knossos Palace – Right outside Heraklion’s city center is an unmissable archeological site, the most important on the island. The Palace of Knossos was the center of the Minoan civilization. This palace is believed to have been where the mythical Labyrinth of King Minos was, so it makes for an exceptional visit where history blends with mythology. 

Getting there

Koules Fortress – From the ferry terminal, walk on the seaside promenade on the left for around 13 minutes. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit, and the fortress will be on the right.

Archeological Museum of Heraklion – From the ferry terminal, exit the roundabout to get to Leof. Eth. Antistaseos Street. Take the third street on the right toward Efessou Street, which you will need to walk turning left. After 70 meters, turn right to take Leof. Ikarou Street and walk it all the way to the end. At this point, you will intersect Doukos Mpofor Street, take it by turning on the left, and then exit at the first street of the roundabout (on your right) to get to the museum. 

Cathedral of St. Minas – From the Archeological Museum, take the 2nd exit at the roundabout to be on Giorgou Anemogianni Street. Walk it all the way to the end and then turn right on Averof Street. Proceed straight for 600 meters, and the destination will be on your right.

Knossos Palace – From Heraklion’s center, you can drive on the EO99 for 20 minutes to get to the palace. Alternatively, you can catch bus n. 2 (‘Knossos’) from the bus stop at the Archeological Museum’s roundabout.

Suggested activities in Heraklion

Heraklion: Scuba Diving Experience for Beginners – Explore Crete’s amazing seabed by joining this incredible scuba diving experience suitable for beginners. 

From Heraklion: Imbros Gorge Hike and Sfakia Private Tour – This private full-day tour will lead you to the Imbros Gorge for a fantastic hike before going to the charming seaside town of Sfakia.

3. Rethymnon

stonewall in front of ocean with mountain range in distancestonewall in front of ocean with mountain range in distance
Image via Unsplash by Igor Ladigin

What’s there and why visit

Crete’s third largest town, Rethymnon has a lot of charm thanks to the well-preserved old districts with lined-trees streets dotted by aristocratic buildings from the Venetian period. You will love the small harbor with the impressive Venetian Fortress and the several mosques scattered around the town. 

Rethymnon is a great accommodation in Crete for its many pros: central location, excellent food options, and affordable hotels.

Suggested hotels near Rethymnon

BUDGET

melrose rethmno by mage hotel balconies overlooking poolmelrose rethmno by mage hotel balconies overlooking pool

Melrose Hotel Rethymno

This hotel is within walking distance to the beach, all kinds of shops and Cretan taverns. It features a gorgeous pool, spa, fitness center, and a restaurant where you can find a delicious breakfast bar offered each morning. There’s also a snack bar available with drinks and coffee, and the front desk service is available 24/7 to help with any needs you may have!

MID-RANGE

rimondi boutique hotel courtyard and pool at night lit uprimondi boutique hotel courtyard and pool at night lit up

Rimondi Boutique Hotels

This hotel is made up of two different buildings, offering different styles of accommodations depending on what you’d like. Found in the center of the hotel is a large patio and pool, which is where a buffet breakfast is served every morning. The Venetian Harbour and Old Town is just a few minute walk away, consisting of a variety of eateries and bars.

MID-RANGE

best places to stay in crete ammos suites room with living space and ocean view balconybest places to stay in crete ammos suites room with living space and ocean view balcony

Ammos Suites

This hotel is ideal for beach lovers as it is situated right on the beach and even offers sunbeds on part of the beach for guests. The hotel features an outdoor pool and sun terrace with lounging, restaurants and bars, as well as room service. All rooms include a balcony with an ocean, pool or garden view!

LUXURY

casa vitae villas private poolcasa vitae villas private pool

Casa Vitae Villas

“Our stay here was INCREDIBLE!! Great location, great bathrooms, everything you could need in a kitchen! Our friends booked the other villa on this property and we looked around their villa and it was just as amazing. Host was very responsive to all our questions. 11/10! book it now you won’t regret.”

Things to see near Rethymnon 

Fortezza – Rethymnon has its Venetian fortress from the 16th century. The Fortezza was built to protect the city from invasions, and it hosts different buildings, including two churches, the Council Building, and the House of the Rector. The fortress used to house the Cathedral of St Nicolas, which was transformed under Ottoman rule into the Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim Han. The mosque features a stunning domed ceiling covered in tiles. 

Veli Pasha Mosque – The city boasts several mosques, with the Veli Pasha Mosque being the most beautiful. Now home to the Paleontological Museum of Rethymnon, this religious venue dates back to the Ottoman period. Veli Pasha Mosque has an impressive structure with its nine domes and tall minaret, which is the oldest surviving in Rethymnon.

Holy Church of the Four Martyrs – A must-see, this church is dedicated to several saints martyred for not converting to Islam. The Holy Church is a complex of multiple churches boasting a magnificent structure. One next to the other, you can see sacred relics, religious icons, and impressive frescoes inside each church. 

Rimondi Fountain – This gorgeous architectonical element is in the heart of the city’s old town. The fountain features three water basins with Venetian lion heads and three columns. Constructed during the Venetian occupation, the water that flows from the fountain is drinkable, and locals guarantee that drinking from the fountain secures a trip back to Rethymnon.

Getting there

Fortezza – From the ferry terminal, leave the venue from the left on Leof. Emmanouil Kefalogianni Street. After 200 meters, turn left toward Machedonias Street, and at the intersection with Chimaras Street, take the right. Walk for 93 meters, and the Fortress will be right before you.

Veli Pasha Mosque – From the ferry terminal, take Arkadiou Street, and after 350 meters, turn left on A. Melidoni Street. Proceed on the right side, and turn right on Katrinaki Street in about 350 meters. Turn immediately slightly to the right to take E. Makariou Street, and after 200 meters, turn right on Zimvrakaki Street. Keep walking straight for 85 meters, and the destination will be on your left.

Holy Church of the Four Martyrs – From the ferry terminal, take Arkadiou Street, and after 300 meters, turn right on Tsouderoun Street. Take the first street on the left (Kastrinogiannaki Street). After 212 meters, turn right on Gerakari/Kon/nou Gerakari Street, and the destination will be on your left after 74 meters. 

Rimondi Fountain – From the ferry terminal, take Arkadiou Street and walk for 170 meters. At this point, turn right on Kon/nou Paleologou Street, and the fountain is at its end.

Suggested activities in Rethymnon

Rethymnon: Cretan Wine Tasting Guided Tour with Local Food – Join this fabulous tasting tour of 5 Cretan wines with local delicacies to discover all about the island’s viniculture.

From Rethymnon: Half-Day Quad Bike Safari – Journey up into the mountains of Crete to discover a gorgeous landscape by riding a Quad Bike.

4. Hersonissos

best places to stay in crete waterfront housing and buildings with mountains in distancebest places to stay in crete waterfront housing and buildings with mountains in distance
Image via Unsplash by Erik Karits

What’s there and why visit

Hersonissos is Crete’s nightlife capital. The harbor area is vibrant and features countless bars, clubs, and restaurants open until late. Thanks to its size and popularity, in Hersonissos you can enjoy many activities suitable for different travel groups. Besides the bustling nightlife, Hersonissos has a fun water park, several splendid beaches, and a fantastic archeological site close by.

Suggested hotels near Hersonissos

BUDGET

aerial view of palmera beach hotel lit up at night next to oceanaerial view of palmera beach hotel lit up at night next to ocean

Palmera Beach Hotel

This 4-star hotel has everything you’d want on vacation for an amazing price! It features a restaurant and bar, outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a fitness center and a garden. It’s within walking distance to Limenas Hersonissou Beach, Glaros Beach, Golden Beach and Aquaworld Aquarium.

BUDGET

best places to stay in crete hersonissos maris room with balcony viewbest places to stay in crete hersonissos maris room with balcony view

Hersonissos Maris Hotel

Just a short walk from the center of Hersonissos, this hotel is right by the beach! It features indoor and outdoor pools, including a children’s pool, gym, tennis court and playground. There’s a poolside restaurant, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a snack bar that offers light meals and drinks by the sea.

MID-RANGE

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Grand Hotel Holiday Resort

“Recently enjoyed a week at this hotel and really enjoyed it. The staff are just amazing and the level of cleanliness around the hotel is of a very high standard. The food was nice, and we enjoyed our time around the pool. ”

LUXURY

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Nana Golden Beach

This hotel sits right on the shore of the Cretan Sea. The resort is huge and offers everything you’d ever want! With seven pools, a spa center, one main restaurant and seven a la carte restaurants, as well as a children’s area and evening entertainment programs, what more could you ask for?

Things to see near Hersonissos

Hersonissos Harbor – The city’s harbor is incredibly lively thanks to the modern cafès and bars, traditional restaurants, and different stores. If you are looking to experience Hersonissos as the locals do, make sure to spend time in its harbor! The place gets pretty busy, but it is the best part of the city for having fun.

Stalis Beach – The area around Hersonissos has one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, Stalis Beach. Frequented by locals and tourists alike, you will love Stalis Beach for its crystal-turquoise waters and fine golden sand.

Acqua Plus Water Park – This is by far the most popular water park in Greece. Located on top of a hill, the water park is split into two connected sections, one reserved for adults, with extreme slides, and the other for children. Whether you are traveling with your kids or grown-up friends, Acqua Plus Water Park will make for a fun afternoon!

Malia Palace – Malia Palace is technically not in Hersonissos, but it is so incredible that it’s a must-visit if you are in the city. Three thousand years old, Malia archeological site is Crete’s third-largest Minoan complex. Of the large palace remains mainly ruins, and strolling around what once were the royal apartments and endless corridors will be highly entertaining for every archeology geek! 

Getting there 

Hersonissos Harbor – The harbor is the city’s main hub, so it can easily reach by foot and car from every point of Hersonissos.

Stalis Beach – From Hersonissos Harbor, you will need to drive for 14 minutes toward El. Venizelou/Palaia EO Irakleioi – Agioi Nikolaoi.

Acqua Plus Water Park – From Hersonissos Harbor, you will need to drive for 12 minutes on the E90 or the E92 to get to the water park.

Malia Palace – From Hersonissos Harbor, you will need to drive for 20 minutes toward Iosif Chatzidaki. 

Suggested activities in Hersonissos 

Hersonissos: Catamaran Sailing Trip to Dia Island w/Lunch – Enjoy a catamaran cruise to the beautiful Dia Island with stops for snorkeling and swimming and with a tasteful Mediterranean lunch onboard.

Hersonissos: Sunset Catamaran Trip with Finger Food & Drinks – Sail toward St George Bay and admire the sunset on board, enjoying drinks and swimming in idyllic turquoise waters.

5. Agios Nikolaos

aerial view of boat in body of water engulfed by landaerial view of boat in body of water engulfed by land
Image via Unsplash by Evangelos Mpikakis

What’s there and why visit

Agios Nikolaos is a beautiful seaside town in East Crete. It’s a popular tourist beach spot all year round for the mild and warm climate.

The town has a cozy atmosphere and overlooks Mirabello Bay. The natural landscape here is stunning, with many kid-friendly shallow beaches

Agios Nikolaos is where to stay in Crete if you are looking for a laid-back vacation revolving around delicious food, endless beach days, and leisurely walks around the picturesque Lake Voulismeni.   

Suggested hotels near Agios Nikolaos

BUDGET

miramare resort & spa large suite with sea view balconymiramare resort & spa large suite with sea view balcony

Miramare Resort & Spa

This hotel offers accommodation in the form of hotel suites or bungalows, all offering stunning views of the town and Mirabello Bay. The hotel features three outdoor pools, one indoor pool, a lounge bar and poolside bar, a restaurant, a large terrace where meals can be enjoyed and a gym and arcade!

MID-RANGE

best places to stay in crete candia park village room balcony sea viewbest places to stay in crete candia park village room balcony sea view

Candia Park Village

This waterfront, 4-star hotel is the perfect spot for families! It offers two private beaches with sun beds and umbrellas, three pools and a children’s club. Not only does this hotel feature two on-site restaurants, but it also has multiple bars and its own coffee shop! It’s just a short drive from town, where many other shops and restaurants can be found.

MID-RANGE

minos palaca hotel & suites outdoor dining area next to palm trees overlooking seaminos palaca hotel & suites outdoor dining area next to palm trees overlooking sea

Minos Palace Hotel & Suites

“Our stay here was perfect. The room was brilliant with sea views all around. All staff were excellent, they could not have been more helpful or friendly. Location was ideal. Breakfast lovely and all other food was great at the various areas. Pool and the private beach areas were paradise.”

LUXURY

st. nicolas bay resort hotel villas private suite balcony with hot tubst. nicolas bay resort hotel villas private suite balcony with hot tub

St. Nicolas Bay Resort Hotel & Villas

Sitting on its very own private beach, this hotel has the most stunning views of Mirabello Bay. It’s just a short distance from town. The hotel features two pools, a luxury spa and wellness center, a fitness center, game rooms, FIVE restaurants and several bars, some even poolside!

Things to see near Agios Nikolaos

Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos – This great museum displays a wide range of objects through which you can understand the Ancient Cretan way of life. From furniture to handmade textiles to pottery, the Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos is one of the best spots to learn about the local history and culture. 

Lake Voulismeni – In the heart of the town is Lake Voulismeni, the locals’ favorite hangout venue. Go for a walk around the lake, admiring the cute fishing boats anchored in, and then take a break in one of the bars and restaurants around it. Several legends are linked with this sweet water lake, for instance that the goddesses Athena and Artemis would bathe here.

Voulisma Beach – This shallow beach with crystal-clear water is among Crete’s most spectacular beaches. The long strip of almost white sand and the calm and warm waters of the bay makes it perfect if you are traveling with children or just prefer to unwind instead of swimming.  

Kitroplateia Beach – Another unmissable beach in the area is Kitroplateia Beach. Located just steps away from the town’s harbor, this beach has a mix of sand and pebbles and characteristic crystal-blue waters. The best part of the beach? The scenic landscape created by the reddish mountains on the opposite shore of Mirabello Bay!

Getting there 

Lake Voulismeni – From the ferry terminal, walk the seaside promenade (Akti Koundourou Street), and you will be at the lake in around 8 minutes.

Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos – To get to the museum, pass by Lake Voulismeni and walk on Kon/nou Paleologou Street for 450 meters. 

Voulisma Beach – To get to the beach, you need to drive for about 17 minutes on the E90 in the direction of Periferiaki Ag. Nikolaos/Vorios Odikos Axonas Kritis.

Kitroplateia Beach – From the ferry terminal, walk the seaside promenade, and after 100 meters, turn left to take Evans Street. The beach will be at the end of the road. 

Suggested activities in Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos Morning Catamaran Cruise with Lunch – Hop on a catamaran to cruise along the stunning Mirabello Bay with stops to swim and a Mediterranean lunch on board.

Agios Nikolaos: Boat Trip to Spinalonga with Swim Stop – Join this boat trip to the stunning Spinalonga island and admire its Venetian fortress and the breathtaking waters of Kolokitha Bay.

6. Matala

people on beach in front of houses on hills people on beach in front of houses on hills
Image via Unsplash by Leonhard Niederwimmer

What’s there and why visit

If you are looking for a memorable stay in Crete, look no further! Matala boasts two unique features you won’t find anywhere else on the island, the caves dug in the rock and a hippie atmosphere. Matala became enormously famous in the 1970s when Canadian singer Joni Mitchell visited the town and wrote a song about it, and has been a hippie getaway ever since.

The town boasts great street art, a wonderful and equipped main beach, and many traditional restaurants and cafès.

Suggested hotels near Matala

BUDGET

best places to stay in crete armonia hotel view of pool in front of palm trees and mountainsbest places to stay in crete armonia hotel view of pool in front of palm trees and mountains

Armonia Hotel

Featuring a pool with a poolside bar, this hotel is just a short walk away from three beaches! All rooms at this hotel come with a mini fridge, seating area, Wi-Fi, air conditioning and a balcony. The breakfast buffet served daily offers a wide array of foods, including fresh, organic produce from Crete!

BUDGET

aerial view of hotel coral and pool with lounge chairs and umbrellasaerial view of hotel coral and pool with lounge chairs and umbrellas

Hotel Coral

“We loved Coral hotel so much, we had to book some more nights. The owner is very sweet and made us feel like home. The breakfast was amazing, maybe the best we had on our trip in Crete. The pool was always clean and nice to enjoy in the hot weather we experienced in Crete.”

MID-RANGE

hotel sunshine matala view from room bed of kitchenettehotel sunshine matala view from room bed of kitchenette

Hotel Sunshine Matala

This hotel sits in the perfect location, being just feet away from the beach one direction, and steps away from the town center in the other. You can spend the day in the water and then enjoy your evening out on the town! Don’t feel like doing much? Find a sunbed that’s offered in the hotel garden and take in the unbelievable views of the beautiful mountains.

GUEST HOUSE

boutique hotel die zwei bruder room view with bed and large glass sliding doors leading outsideboutique hotel die zwei bruder room view with bed and large glass sliding doors leading outside

Die Zwei Bruder Pension

This guest house offers rooms that are all uniquely styled and feature seating areas, private bathrooms, a flat-screen TV and a terrace or balcony overlooking the sea or mountains. Breakfast is available to guests every morning. There is free parking on site and biking, hiking and fishing services are available. Matala beach and Red Sand Beach are both nearby.

Things to see near Matala

Matala Beach – One of the most popular destinations in Crete, Matala Beach is the best spot in town to watch the sunset. With a mix of pebbles and sand, the sea here is wavy and gets deep fast, so it is not ideal for little kids. Matala Beach is then lined with dozens of restaurants and bars, which is one of the reasons why it gets so crowded at the peak of the summer season.

Matala Caves – The town of Matala has an unmissable attraction, a series of thousands of years old men-carved caves. Used as a resting place for the fallen during the Roman period, the Matala Caves were mostly used as living spaces for centuries after that. Take a look inside a cave, and you will see windows, porches, and even carved beds!

Street Art – Matala has streets on streets covered in wonderful murals that are painted every year at the Matala Beach Festival. Walk around to marvel at many murals designed in the unique Matala-style and make sure to shoot pics of as many as possible!

Matala Market – Established in 1973, the traditional market of Matala is one of the top spots to meet locals and shop for a wide variety of vintage garments. The stalls sell hippie items, including beachwear, t-shirts, and leather sandals. Don’t miss taking a relaxing stroll around the market for a very local experience.

Getting there

Matala Beach – The beach stretches throughout the town, so it’s easy to reach it on foot 

from anywhere in the center.

Matala Caves – The caves are located 26 meters east of Matala Beach.

Street Art – There is no specific location, as murals are everywhere in town. So just walk around to discover all the street art pieces.

Matala Market – The market is located at the end of Epar. Od. Gortinas – Matalon Street, which is the one that gives access to Matala Beach.

Suggested activities in Matala

Agia Galini/Matala: Imbros Gorge & Frangokastelo Day Tour – Join this day trip to get to the breathtaking Imbros Gorge while also stopping at the village of Frangokastello for a refreshing swim.

From Agia Galini/Matala: Samaria Gorge Hiking Tour – Explore Samaria Gorge, the longest in Europe, and the beautiful natural landscape of the Samaria National Park with this full-day hiking tour.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best month to visit Crete?

As much as Crete is perfect to visit from May to October, the best month is September. The hot temperatures give way to milder ones, but the days are still bright and sunny, and the water temperatures are enjoyable. The weather is also perfect for hiking, and the lesser crowds make the permanence on the island even more pleasurable.

Do I need to rent a car while in Crete?

Although not necessary if you intend just to explore a prefecture of the island, renting a car will make your life definitely easier. Besides, with a car you can visit the whole island. 

Where to stay in Crete for first-time travelers?

The gorgeous city of Chania is the best spot for first-time travelers. This is one of Crete’s largest cities and offers plenty of accommodation options and attractions.

What other islands are closest to Crete?

The Cycladic islands are well-connect with Crete by ferries. Beautiful Santorini is the easiest island to reach, and the port of Heraklion serves daily connections to Naxos, Paros, and Mykonos. 

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of areas in Crete to choose from for your stay, all with incredible things to see. From archeological sites to learning the island’s history to crystal-clear beaches for relaxing moments, narrowing down the best places to stay in Crete can be overwhelming. 

Following this guide, you should have a clear idea of the island’s town that best suits your travel needs so that you can get ready for your vacation in Crete!

What you should read next

Travel Resources For Your Next Trip

If you’re in the process of planning your trip and putting together your itinerary, these are genuinely the best resources that the Going Awesome Places team stands by 100%.

Credit cards: Don’t get burned by hidden fees on top of terrible exchange rates. When we travel now, we use the Wise Card. Simply load it with the currency you need before you go and use it as a regular VISA or their digital wallet card. Use their free app to track how much you have and top up when you need to.

Flights: Of all the booking search engines, Skyscanner is the most helpful and easy to use thanks to their Everywhere feature. Kayak is also another that’s we will often check as well.

Car Rental: If you’re looking to save money, these car rental coupon codes will be a true game-changer. Otherwise, DiscoverCars and RentalCars are great places to start.

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Airport Parking: You’ll need a spot to leave your car at the airport so why not book a spot at a discount. Use code AWESOME7 to get at least $5 off at Airport Parking Reservations or Park Sleep Fly packages.

Data: We’ve been a huge fan of wifi hotspot devices like PokeFi because their rates are so good and you can use it globally but recently, we’ve really loved using eSIMs. The best one is Airalo. Save money by getting region-specific eSIMs and use referral code WILLIA9500 to get $3 USD credit on your first purchase. Ubigi is another one that we’ve had success with where they uniquely offer 5G coverage. Use code AWESOME10 to save 10% on your first order.

Hotels: Our go-to is Booking.com because they have the best inventory of properties including hotels and B&Bs plus they have their Genius tier discounts. The exception is Asia where Agoda always has the best prices. TripAdvisor is also useful for reviews and bookings.

Vacation Rentals: Your first instinct will be to check Airbnb but we always recommend checking VRBO as well if you’re looking for a vacation rental.

Tours: When planning our trips, we always check both Viator and GetYourGuide to at least see what’s out there in the destination that we’re going to. They often have different offerings and prices so check both.

Travel Insurance: Learn how to buy the best travel insurance for you. This isn’t something you want to travel without.

  • Insured Nomads – Popular insurance provider for frequent travelers and comes with great coverage and special perks.
  • RATESDOTCA – Search engine Canadians looking for the cheapest insurance including multi-trip annual policies.
  • SafetyWing – A perfect fit for long-term nomads.
  • Medjet – Global air medical transportation.
  • InsureMyTrip – Best for seniors, families, and those with pre-existing conditions.

If you need more help planning your trip, make sure to check out our Travel Toolbox where we highlight all of the gear, resources, and tools we use when traveling.



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