After spending 10 days exploring Crete we came to a realization… It wasn’t nearly enough time! We went off the typical tourist track and ended up circling the entire island to find the best of Crete, and a side of Greece that we weren’t expecting. The ever-changing landscapes of lush olive fields and massive canyons are just part of what makes the island so diverse. This Crete itinerary will help you find all the points of interest, as we break down the best places, beaches, and where to stay on Crete Island in Greece!
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Crete Travel Inspiration
- Best Food in Crete Greece: Our 19 Favorite Things to Eat & Drink
- Pros & Cons of Traveling Crete By Bus
- 20 Wild & Fun Facts About Crete Greece
- Crete Greece: The Ultimate Island Travel Guide
- The Ultimate Greek Cyclades Island Hopping Itinerary
Driving in Crete Island Guide
1. Make sure to drive on the right side of the road!
2. Standard and automatic cars are readily available.
3. Gas is expensive, but a full tank will get you around the entire island and to all the best places to stay in Crete.
4. Most of the roads are in great condition. Some of them turn to dirt if you get too far off the beaten path, but that’s to be expected!
5. Even with 10 days, you’ll be rushing to take in all the amazing spots on your Crete itinerary. Plan wisely.
6. With how massive Crete is it’s easy to forget that you’re on an island.
7. Please take this Crete itinerary as a guide and potentially only focus on one area of Crete Island in Greece. In 10 days we wanted to see as much of the island as possible, which is the perfect way to travel for us. However, it might not lead to a very relaxing vacation for you!
→ 6 Reasons to Rent a Car on the Island of Crete
10 Day Crete Itinerary
Day 1 – Heraklion Airport to Malia Beach
Distance: 32 km
Driving Time: 30 min
Estimated Time with Stops: 30 min
Welcome to Crete! Time to get your rental car and head straight for the smaller (but just as exciting) town of Malia. We don’t recommend spending the night in Heraklion, just because we prefer a smaller town than a large port city.
After settling into your hotel, walk the main street to take in the bars, restaurants, and endless party scene.
Relax at the pool or on the beach to finish up the first day on your Crete itinerary.
→ Tip: We use Discover Cars when renting cars on the Greek Islands. For $150-$200 per week it’s great to have a way to get around and see more of the island!
Where to Stay in Crete Day 1: Malia
Pyrgos Beach Hotel Apartments – This might have been our favorite hotel in Crete. It’s located just outside the party hub of Malia, but still close enough to all the action. This is one of the best places to stay in Crete, and we could have easily stayed here for a week!
Day 2 – Malia Beach to Agios Nikolaos
Distance: 30 km
Driving Time: 30 min
Estimated Time with Stops: 30 min
No need to rush out in the morning as you have a quick drive to your next stop on this Crete itinerary. Stroll along the beach, take in the views, and have a relaxing morning in Malia.
-The coastal drive will be short and beautiful as you make your way to Agios Nikolaos.
After checking into your new hotel visit the lake, swim at Kitroplateia Beach, day trip to the island of Spinalonga (book your cruise tickets), and enjoy a meal at one of the many seaside cafes.
Where to Stay in Crete Day 2: Agios Nikolaos
Sgouros Hotel – Located right on the beach and within the heart of the town, you won’t find a better location to explore Agios Nikolaos.
Day 3 – Agios Nikolaos to Vai Beach to Kato Zakros
Distance: 92 km Agios Nikolaos to Vai Beach – 35km Vai Beach to Kato Zakros
Driving Time: 2 hour Agios Nikolaos to Vai Beach – 1 hour Vai Beach to Kato Zakros
Estimated Time with Stops: 8 Hours with Stops
Get ready for a full day of adventure, but we promise that it’s worth the fun! Starting in the morning from Agios Nikolaos, make your way into the steep mountains of Crete and toward the northeast corner of the island. Make sure to stop at the lookouts along the way for stunning views of the island.
Spend the afternoon swimming at Vai Beach. Not only does this sandy beach look like it’s straight out of the Caribbean, but it’s home to the largest palm tree forest in all of Europe. Grab lunch at the cafe overlooking the beach and dive into the magical forest.
You can read all about this part of the Crete itinerary in our post Going Coco-Nuts at Vai Beach.
After swimming, sightseeing and exploring Vai’s palm tree forest, jump back in the car for your next stop, Kato Zakros!
Along the drive from Via Beach to Kato Zakros you’ll pass small villages and large fields of olive trees.
Kato Zakros is a tiny beach with only a handful of restaurants and a couple of hotels. It’s the perfect place to take in the best of Crete and relax after a long day of adventure.
→ If you have an extra day and want to break up the drive consider staying in Sitia for the night.
Where to Stay in Crete Day 3: Kato Zakros
Katerina Apartments – Spend the night in the hills just above the town of Kato Zakros. Sweeping views from the Katerina Apartments show the beach, town, and hills where you can relax and enjoy one of the best places to stay in Crete!
Day 4 – Kato Zakros With Stop in Ierapetra to Myrtos
Distance: 77 km Kato Zakros to Ierapetra – 15 km Ierapetra to Myros
Driving Time: 2 Hours Kato Zakros to Ierapetra – 20 min Ierapetra to Myros
Estimated Time with Stops: 5 Hours with Stops
Going from the small town of Kato Zakros, Ierapetra will feel like a completely different world in this large seaside city.
If possible, plan to be in Ierapetra for lunch! We ate at special restaurant and the greek salad and gyros were some of the best we had in all of Crete!
After lunch walk to the left of town and go for a swim at Ierapetra beach.
Continue on to the small town of Myrtos. This is exactly what we imagined when we thought of the small seaside town in Crete! Grab dinner at one of the many oceanfront cafes, hike into the hills beyond Myrtos and soak in the clear blue water.
Where to Stay in Crete Day 4: Myrtos
Mirtos Hotel – This small hotel is right in the center of Myrtos town, and just a block from the beach! When you’re hungry you can sit at the small cafe that spills onto the street and relax.
Day 5 – Myrtos to Matala (Hippie Caves)
Distance: 105 Km
Driving Time: 2 Hours
Estimated Time with Stops: 2 – 5 Hours
On the drive to Matala we cut from high in the mountains down to the beach, and it turned out to be one of the best days we had on the whole island. I am not sure exactly where we went, but please take this part of the Crete itinerary into your own hands and explore new places.
We had lunch in a small seaside town, drove through thousands of olive trees, and had some of the most stunning views of the island! Yes, it added about 3 hours to our drive, but it was 100% worth it for the experience!
Arriving in Matala can be a little of a shock. This will be by far one of the most touristy places you visit, but still definitely worth seeing.
Swim in the ocean, explore the hippy caves, and eat at one of the many cute greek cafes! Just try to arrive later in the day to avoid the crowds. We also recommend visiting the hippie caves first thing when they open in the morning!
Interested in learning more about the caves? Check out our post Getting Lost in the Hippie Caves of Matala.
Where to Stay in Crete Day 5: Matala
Filia Rooms – Just outside the hustle and bustle of Matala, this is the perfect family hotel to spend the night. Relax in the room or sit outside and take in the nature of one of the best places to stay in Crete.
Day 6 – Matala to Agia Galini
Distance: 27 km
Driving Time: 37 min
Estimated Time with Stops: 37 min
As we mentioned above, you should explore the hippie caves of Matala right before leaving town! It will be wild to see where the free love crowd of the 1960’s lived overlooking the beach. Afterwards, the drive to Agia Galini will be short so you can have a full day of sun and relaxing.
This village built into the hillside was one of the best surprises we had during our time in Crete.
To the left of town you will find a long beach with a few bars and cafes to relax.
In town the buildings tower high into the mountainside and offer jaw dropping views of the small port.
Where to Stay in Crete Day 6: Agia Galini
Antigoni – This was one of our favorite stays in all of Crete. The owner was so kind and went out of her way to make us feel welcome. The rooms were spacious and clean with a cute balcony, too!
Day 7 – Agia Galini to Elafonisi
Distance: 187 Km
Driving Time: 3 hours 30 min
Estimated Time with Stops: 4 hours
Get ready for another long day of driving! Hit the road early so you can have as much time at the PINK SAND beach as possible.
You will literally have to go up to the north coast and around because of the massive canyon that cuts through the center of Crete Island in Greece. Be warned, the drive as you near Elafonisi is not for the faint of heart!
Spend all day soaking in the sun and enjoy hunting for pink sand At Elafonisi beach
Where to Stay in Crete Day 7: Elafonisi
Musagores Rooms – It’s all about location with this one! There are very few hotels near the beach, and Musagores Rooms is one of them. We spent the night here, and loved being able to walk down to the beautiful pink sand beach!
Day 8 – Elafonisi to Chania
Distance: 76 Km
Driving Time: 2 Hours
Estimated Time with Stops: 2 Hours
If you’re up for it you can actually pink sand hop now! After a morning of taking in Elafonisi head to Balos beach. Now this is a little more difficult to get to. We don’t recommend driving because the roads are unpaved and many consider them dangerous. The best option is to book a boat day trip from Kissamos.
If you’re not up for this detour then head straight to Chania from Elafonisi!
Walk along the harbor, get lost in the small streets of old town, and make sure to stop at the Chania market.
Take in the history of the town as one of Greece’s most historic ports. Many people agree that Chania is one of the best places to stay in Crete!
Where to Stay in Crete Day 8: Chania
Posidonio Hotel – Just a quick walk from old town, Posidonio Hotel is not far from the action and right on the beach! A great option for anyone looking for a comfortable stay.
Day 9 – Chania to Rethymno Town
Distance: 65 km
Driving Time: 1 Hour 30 Min
Estimated Time with Stops: 1 Hour 30 Min
After a morning of soaking in more of Chania, it’s time to head to the smaller coastal town of Rethymno.
Relax on the long sandy beach at one of the many upscale hotels.
Wander the back streets of Rethymno and get some souvenirs from the famous shopping street.
We LOVED Rethymno, and found it to be a smaller charming version of Chania!
Where to Stay in Crete Day 9 Rethymno Town
Aqua Marina – Situated 20 meters from the sea, this family-run hotel offers beautiful views of the ocean and is a quick walk from the main area.
Day 10 – Rethymno back to Heraklion to Fly Out
Distance: 86 km
Driving Time: 2 Hours
Estimated Time with Stops: 2 Hours
Depending on when your flight takes off hang out in the morning, or head straight to the airport.
If you have more time we recommend stopping at the small seaside town of Bali!
Cost Breakdown: 10 Days Exploring Create Island For 2 People
Car: 100-150 Euros
Gas: 100 Euros
Hotels: 20-40 Euros Per Night
Food: 30-40 Euros Per Day (2 People) *Not Including Alcohol
Rough Budget: 700 to 1,000 Euros For 2
*Prices reflect offseason rates on Crete Island (we visited in October). Hotel and rental car prices can sometimes double during peak seasons.
Have any recommendations for the best places to stay in Crete or any questions about our Crete itinerary? Please let us know below in the comments!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Greece Travel Planning
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
When island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies.
Flights: We always check Skyscanner and Kayak to search for cheap flights. That’s how we got from Crete to Athens for under $50 USD!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Rental Car: You can book a rental car for around $20 a day in Greece! We use Discover Cars to explore the larger islands with a vehicle.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities in Crete Greece. You can find everything from taking a boat cruise to Balos Lagoon, to a guided tour of Knossos Palace, and Trekking Samaria Gorge.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Travel Planning: Planning a Trip – Cyclades Itinerary – 30 Facts – Greek Ferry Questions – Sky Express Review
Rhodes: Planning a Trip – Renting a Car – 1 Week Itinerary – 23 Things to Do – Old Town – Elli Beach – Kallithea Springs – Lindos Guide – Lindos Acropolis – Monolithos – Melenos Art Boutique Hotel – 11 Best Beaches – Anthony Quinn Bay
Karpathos: Fun Things to Do – 1 Week Itinerary – Must Try Food – 6 Best Beaches – Olympos – Saria Island Boat Tour
More Dodecanese: Halki Island – Symi Island Guide – Symi Things to Do
Cyclades: Moon Beach Milos – Adamas Milos – Ios – Naxos Beaches – Naousa Paros – Galissas Syros – Mykonos Old Town – Santorini
Corfu: Old Town Food – Greece to Albania Ferry
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Reading about your trip just now and it srtruck me that you didn’t go to Elounda which I can confidently say is the nicest place on Crets having been around the island several times. You mention that you didn’t want the hustle and bustle of a large town like Heraklion and I’m very much the same. You really did miss the gem.
You’re absolutely right! There are a few places we missed and we’re so excited to go back and see more of Crete. It is the largest island in Greece after all! Elounda looks amazing. Thanks for the tip 🙂
Hi, we are travelling to Aghios Nikolas in Crete on Monday and wish to stay at the hotel you recommend ( Sgouros Hotel), but note there is no parking. Where did you park your car? Thanks
Hi Richard. It says on their website that free public parking is available nearby. Maybe give them a call or just ask when you get there. Good luck and enjoy!
We are planning a trip to Crete next summer. I do not want to change hotels every night. What two places would you suggest?
It really depends on what kind of vacation you’re looking for. Our favorite places were the quiet secluded villages, but they might not be somewhere you’d want to spend more than one night. Many travelers stay near Chania and take day trips especially to the pink sand beaches. Agios Nikolaos is also a very central place to stay with many shops and restaurants. Either way I’m sure you’ll have a blast! Hope this helps a little bit.