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The 7 Day Crete Travel Itinerary
Crete, the southernmost and biggest island in Greece, is a vast territory divided into four distinct regions with the northern and southern coasts separated by three different high mountain ranges that cut the island in half, and this One Week Crete Travel Itinerary will give you a taste of the four main cities, including the capital, and it will also highlight the best things you can do in each of Crete’s regions. Then, if you fall in love with this unique Greek island, it will be up to you to discover more and explore more.
The northern area of the island is more developed and populated, hosting two international airports, important ports, hotels, and touristic resorts. On the other hand, the south of Crete remains wild, unspoilt, and rather off the beaten track.
Given its huge territory, and all the things you can do in Crete, one week in Crete might be just enough to discover the most famous landmarks and popular spots, so the best suggestion I can give you is to spend more than One week in Crete if you are lucky to have the chance.
Keep Scrolling to discover, which are the best things you can do in this One Week Crete Road Trip.
Days 1 – 2 : Explore the capital of Crete – Heraklion
Chances are that your entry gate to Crete is Heraklion’s international airport or its ferry port. Heraklion is the capital of the island and Greece’s fourth largest city, quite a record for such a remote island. It’s located on the northern coast while the whole region extends towards the South to meet the pristine waters of the Libyan sea.
It’s a good idea to spend at least one day in the capital to discover the history and the past of Crete. Start with a visit to the Minoan Palace of Knossos, just a few minutes from the center of town. Here, you will discover the wonderful archaeological settlement where one of Europe’s oldest and most advanced civilizations once lived and thrived.
After visiting the archaeological site, head back to the city centre to visit the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, combining both visits on the same day is a great way to save money (a combined ticket is €16 and allows access to both sites). Checking both places will also help you better understand the mysteries of the Minoan civilization.
More time in Heraklion
Those who wish to extend their Heraklion stay a bit more, they can either remain close to the city center to visit some of the popular resorts of Malia or Hersonissos. Another good option it to rent a car and explore the south of the region, including the hippie beach of Matala or the fantastic Archaeological Site of Phaistos.
Insider’s tip: The island has a good road network on the northern coast, while the villages in the southern area are rather isolated. It’s not impossible to travel the island relying on the local public transport, however this will pretty much limit the places you can explore. Much of the south of Crete is not connected by the bus network, so, in this Crete Travel Guide, its highly recommended that you rent your own car, as renting your own vehicle, during your trip to Crete, will turn out to be the best way to explore Crete, and make the most out of this 7 Day Crete Travel Itinerary.
Practical tips for a stay in Heraklion, Crete
If you’re spending one night in the capital, check the city centre hotels. Galaxy Hotel Heraklion is one of the fewer hotels in town with a swimming pool, something you’d be really thankful for if you find yourself traveling to Crete in summer.
There are great places to eat in the city. Peskesi is a restaurant which proposes the traditional ingredients of the Cretan diet with a modern twist. Those on a budget will appreciate a convenient taverna such as O Tempelis. For a gyro on the go, check the popular meat joint Krasas in Heraklion’s main square or in their branch at the airport.
Days 3 – 4 : Head East towards Lasithi
The eastern region of Lasithi is usually overlooked since tourists often prefer the beaches of the West coast over the more isolated east.
One week wouldn’t be enough to fully explore the fascinating easternmost coast, a place with authentic traditions, a unique palm tree beach, and fantastic lonely monasteries. However, it’s still possible to discover the best of Lasithi if you spend two days, out of your 7 Day Crete Travel Itinerary, in the area.
Choose the capital of the region, Agios Nikolaos as your base and, from there, move along the coast to swim in some unique beaches or drive south to explore Crete’s mountains and traditional villages.
During your first day in Agios Nikolaos, start by exploring the close-by Spinalonga island, just minutes away from Agios Nikolaos, Spinalonga can be reached with a 10-minute boat trip departing from the small fishing village of Plaka or the bigger town of Elounda.
Spinalonga is one of Crete’s most visited spots, it’s a fortified islet that you can tour in less than an hour, and better-known for being one of Greece’s leper colonies during the last century.
Important information to visit Spinalonga: The full ticket is 8.00 € and the fee needs to be paid on the island. The first boats of the day depart from Plaka at around 9.00 and the fee varies from 10 to 15 euros.
An Afternoon in Agios Nikolaos
While staying in this small coastal town, you can either choose one of the city shores, or drive further east to visit Voulisma, one of Crete’s most beautiful bays in the heart of the Gulf of Mirabello.
Voulisma is a wide beach with golden sand and crystal shallow waters, ideal for families with kids but also popular among young people. The beach is only 12 km from the center of Agios Nikolaos and it’s an excellent day trip in the area.
One Day in the Mountains of the East Crete
Spend your second day exploring the unique Lasithi Plateau, one of the highest settlements in Europe which has been inhabited at least since the Bronze Age.
Drive along the plateau to check some unique traditional villages, such as Tzermiado and Agios Giorgos, marvel at the beautiful white sails of the windmills that made the plateau famous, or take a few hours to visit the Cave of Zeus in the village of Psychro.
Practical Tips for a Stay in Agios Nikolaos, Crete
The best place to stay in town is the comfortable and convenient Porto Maltese Boutique Estate with stunning views of the sea and of Lake Voulismeni, right in the center of the city
Make some time to visit the Folklore Museum and to walk along the pedestrian streets of the city, you’ll be surprised at the street art in the staircases that connect the different levels of the town.
Undoubtedly, the best place to eat in Agios Nikolaos is Karnagio, right next to the lake. Be aware that you might need to wait in line of you don’t book a table in advance. They’re known for serving the best dishes in the area made with locally sourced produce and a lot of imagination.
Day 5 : The Region of Rethymnon
When it comes to Rethymnon, you can either decide to spend two full days in the area and just one to the westernmost region of Chania. This option works great for those who don’t really care about beaches or are keen on visiting monasteries or archaeological sites.
Yet, if you really long to see Crete’s best beaches, dedicate only a day of your One Week Crete Travel Itinerary to explore Rethymnon’s old town, and then move towards the extreme west of Crete, to the region of Chania (next in our itinerary).
A perfect day in Rethymnon should include a morning wandering about the alleys of the old town so as to discover the impressive Venetian buildings, the Turkish mosques and minarets, the tiny Venetian Harbor, the Lighthouse and the Rethymnon’s Fortezza, an old-time fortress right by the sea.
In the afternoon, you can take a bus in the city’s public station or simply drive for about 20 minutes to the South to visit the historic Arkadi Monastery.
Crete’s monasteries are a must for those interested in learning about the bloody days of the Ottoman occupation on the island.
Not far from Arkadi, the pottery village of Margarites is a perfect example of traditional settlement where life is still simple and times flies at a completely different pace.
Practical Tips for a Stay in Rethymnon, Crete
Arguably the most convenient place to have a quick lunch in Rethymnon is in the familiar atmosphere of Kokkinos. For a more refined experience, instead, head to Prima Plora, right next to the sea.
For a more budget-friendly stay, book a room in Archipelagos, where you can enjoy the beautiful swimming pool and great views of the city skyline.
Days 6 – 7 : The best beaches of Crete: Chania Region
Home to a marvellous old town and a vibrant modern city, the region of Chania is one of the best places to enjoy a fantastic holiday in Crete. Chania offers countless opportunities for adventure, beach life, and cultural activities.
Two days in Chania is quite a short time to visit Crete’s most interesting region, and it’s fairly hard to decide which activities to include or to leave out.
For that reason, I’ve decided to include the best beaches to see and the hot landmarks to discover, it’s up to you to decide which of them to include in your 7 Day Crete Travel Itinerary… or if it’s better to extend your stay and discover them all!
Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Chania.
West Crete Beaches
Balos Beach and Lagoon is probably a popular image of Crete that you’ve certainly come across on the internet. Its unique exotic landscape features harsh low hills and a unique turquoise lagoon with shallow waters and white sand.
The best way to visit the area is by boarding a day cruise in the nearby port of Kissamos if you’re not happy about driving off road.
In fact, the second alternative to reach Balos includes a 45-minute drive on a dirt track right next to impressive cliffs plunging into the sea. Right after, you’ll need to hike for over 20 minutes down the hill to get to the coast. The experience can prove quite tiring in the heat of the summer, and definitely harder when climbing up on your way back. Despite the fatigue, the beach is worth the effort.
Elafonisi Beach is about 70 km from the city center, on the southern coast of Chania. This is another of Crete’s favorite shores and it’s also a natural protected area. Yet, Elafonisi’s most popular feature is the fantastic shade of pink that millions of crushed shells give to the sand. The whole look of the area is beyond compare.
Always in the West, this time in the fantastic Akrotiri Peninsula, no more than 15 km from the city center, it’s possible to discover the beautiful Seitan Limania, a beach with the shape of a lightning bolt enclosed by high orange cliffs that highlight the deep blue of the sea.
To reach the beach it’s necessary to hike down the side of a steep cliff. Since the shore also lacks organization, you should bring everything you need, including a lunch and drinks for the day. Don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes, leaving the flip flops for later.
Chania’s Old Town
The whole history of the island can be discovered along the cobblestone alleys of Chania’s Old Town. Starting from the city’s archaeological museum, hosted in a former Catholic church which was badly burned and damaged during the Nazi occupation of Crete in WWII.
The old town is also a fantastic place to learn about the Venetian period of the island, which lasted about 400 hundred years and left a characteristic architecture made of impressive aristocratic mansions, today turned into exclusive boutique hotels.
Take some time to discover the former Jewish quarter and Etz Hayyim, one of the oldest synagogues in the Mediterranean with an ancient ritual bath and a tragic history too.
The Turkish quarter of Splantzia is the most modest and yet bohemian part of town, home to traditional restaurants such as the top-rated Well of the Turk and the beer bar Plaka.
Practical Tips for a Stay in Chania
If you’re planning to stay in the old town, you can splurge in one of the city’s best boutique hotels, either Serenissima, Casa Delfino or Hotel OFF are hosted in great buildings with a one-of-a-kind history and 5-star services.
For a cheaper stay, check small boutique hotels such as Artemis, in the Jewish quarter, or Jonas Hotel in Splantzia.
For great food, check restaurants such as Tamam and Semiramis on the backstreets or walk all the way to the New Marina for a fantastic dining experience in Salis Restaurant.
For a quick and convenient lunch, check the Municipal Market (locally known as Agora), where you can sample native products or eat fresh homemade dishes from the most authentic Cretan tradition.
Best gyros in town? Oasis Souvlaki, has been crafting the best gyro wraps in Chania during the last 50 years.
7 Day Crete Travel Itinerary – Summarised
Day 1 – Arrival in Heraklion – Crete’s Capital City
Day 2 – Explore Heraklion
Day 3 – Head East towards Lasithi | Spend the day exploring Agios Nikolaos
Day 4 – Explore the unique Lasithi Plateau
Day 5 – Explore Rethymnon
Day 6 and 7 – Visit the best beaches of Crete in Chania | Explore Chania’s Old Town
Day 8 – Trip to Crete Ends with loads of happy memories.
There you go, here’s our 7 Day Crete Travel Itinerary to discover the best of Crete in One Week. The island has a lot more to offer if you have some extra time to visit, but don’t worry, chances are that after a first trip to Crete the first thing you’ll do once back home, is booking a second visit.
But before you leave, don’t forget to Pin these images, so you can refer to this Crete Travel Blog later.
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