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Where To Stay In Crete – THE ULTIMATE 2020 GUIDE

These are the best places you can stay in Crete. Where to stay in Crete really depends on your situation as you can find something for you in every area whether it is Chania, Heraklion, Malia, Rethymnon, Hersonissos, Agios Nikolaos or western Crete.

where to stay in crete

Depending on your situation this is where you should stay in Crete (jump quickly with the links below or keep reading):

Crete is a massive island (in case you don’t know it…). It’s the size of Hawaii’s big island!

You need more than 5 days in Crete and you won’t be able to explore the whole island in one trip, so you have to choose which one of its prefectures you will focus: Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion or Lasithi .

It’s really not your typical little cute greek island with the little white-washed houses and the small picturesque roads.

There are big cities with more than 500.000 people living in them in Crete.

READ ALSO: Where To Stay In Mykonos

READ ALSO: Where To Stay In Santorini

You are probably wondering: western Crete or somewhere else?

Or maybe just Chania?

What about Rethymnon, Heraklion , Malia , Hersonissos or Agios Nikolaos?

Where would you be able to find the best beaches in Crete?

Here is what I believe about Crete:

“Unless you are staying in an all-inclusive resort in Crete then you would definitely need a car on the island and more than 5 days in total. The best area to stay in Crete is the western part of the island or the “Chania prefecture”, as it has the most picturesque villages, the gorgeous Samaria Gorge, the beautiful beaches of Balos, Falassarna, Platanias, Elafonissi and obviously the most picturesque town of Crete which is Chania old town”

Keep reading…

RECOMMENDED WEBSITES FOR HOTELS, VILLAS, FERRIES, TOURS AND FLIGHTS TO GREEK ISLANDS:

  • Booking.com is the website with the most available rooms and Private Villas in Santorini , Mykonos & Crete (more than Airbnb)
  • Let’s Ferry is the best website to book your ferry tickets or check the timetables for Santorini, Mykonos , Crete & all greek islands
  • Expedia has all the available flights from Athens or other European cities to Santorini, Mykonos , Crete and all greek islands
  • Get Your Guide has the best and largest variety of Tours on Greek islands
  • Rentalcars is the best website to rent a car for the greek islands (highly recommended as you won’t waste time waiting for local buses)
  • Bikesbooking is the best website to rent a quad for Santorini or other greek islands
  • Transferwise is the best service for travel money with the lowest rates compared to any bank worldwide and their Mastercard is accepted all over Greece (you can thank me later…) 
  • Best Place To Stay in Crete: Chania and Western Crete– this is the best area to stay in Crete as it has the best beaches, the famous Samaria Gorge and the beautiful Chania Town 
  • Best Hotel in Crete: Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas
  • Best Villa in Crete: Elounda Luxury Villas  (but there are lots of amazing villas in Crete)
  • When Should I go to Crete?: the best time to visit Crete is in June or September because the weather will still be hot but you won’t find that many tourists on the island; avoid July and August by any means if possible
  • North Crete or South Crete: South Crete (that basically looks to Africa continent) is full of unique beaches (like Agia Roumeli, or Palaiochora) , cute remote villages (like Hora Sfakion) but no big towns (like Chania or Heraklion); the best hotels in Crete and the best towns in Crete are all on the north side of the island; it’s also good to know that the roads network between north and south Crete is really not that good so it’s really not worth it staying on the south side of the island
  • Best Hotel in Chania Town: Domus Renier Boutique Hotel
  • Best Area To Stay if it’s your first time in Crete: I suggest you stay as close to Chania as possible because it is the best area in terms of hotels availability, beautiful villages and towns; however you should definitely visit Knossos Palace and the Heraklion area because it’s where most of the historic sites of the island are
  • Best Hotel in Western Crete: Minoa Palace Resort & Spa
  • How to Book a Hotel for Crete: go to Booking.com and make your choice. Airbnb has far less available rooms and villas for Crete.
  • Best All Inclusive Resort in Crete: Amirandes Grecotel Exclusive Resort
  • Best Beaches in Crete: you can definitely stay close to one of the Crete beaches but undoubtedly western Crete (close to Chania) has the most impressive beaches; the island has literally thousands of incredible beaches and some of them are also close to Heraklion, Hersonissos, Elounda and Agia Pelagia – the best beaches in Crete (with Google Maps links) are: Agia Roumeli , Palaiochora , Falassarna , Balos , Elafonissi , Kolokitha , Preveli , Agios Pavlos , Vai , Ammoudara , Seitan Limania , Potamos
  • Best Area for culture and History: if history, archaeological sites and museums are your top priority then you should stay as close as possible to Heraklion area as this is where Knossos Palace is along with the wonderful archaeological museum of Heraklion  and the less famous Phaistos Minoan Palace
  • Cheapest Hotels in Crete: generally as a rule of thumb if you stay in less picturesque or remote areas you will find better prices but there is always a catch as you may spend lots of hours driving to and from your hotel – however I believe that Rethymnon (which is very picturesque but less touristic than Chania) is an excellent spot for you to explore both Chania and Heraklion areas as it is in the middle 
  • Best Area in Crete for families with kids: Hersonissos – the best thing about Crete is that it has hundreds of all inclusive resorts that are probably the best thing for families with kids as they have plenty of amenities and everything in walking distance; Hersonissos is the area with the most family resorts around but there are family resorts all over the island and if you find another one that you like go for it (especially if it is around Chania)!
  • Best Family Resort in Crete: Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort
  • Best Area for Nightlife: no it’s not Malia as many online guides suggest; Malia is a teenagers resort with cheap nightlife and junk food restaurants (unless this is what you want…). I honestly believe Chania is the best place for nightlife with beautiful bars, elegant clubs and lovely wine bars and restaurants 
  • Best Alternative Places to Stay in Crete: Agios Nikolaos , Rethymnon , Sitia 
  • Is it Always Windy in Crete?: no it’s not always windy but it can get windy in July and August (especially on the north side that looks over the aegean sea) so you should get prepared for that scenario; most important thing to remember is to check the wind and go to a beach that is not hit by the winds and the best way to know that is if you ask any locals! 
  • What is Crete Greece famous for?: Crete is famous for its history (Knossos Palace and Minoan civilisation), the amazing landscape with the thousands beaches, the incredible Samaria gorge, the delicious cretan food, the picturesque towns of Chania, Rethymnon, Agios Nikolaos and of course the lovely and extremely hospitable Cretan people who are some of the proudest people in Greece
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where to stay in crete

1. Best Place To Stay In Crete (Overall)

elafonissi beach
Elafonissi beach is in Chania prefecture on western Crete and it is one of the best beaches in Greece

The best place to stay in Crete is Chania area or western Crete that actually has the best beaches of the island and some of the best hotels along with the beautiful Chania town with its elegant restaurants, the picturesque Old Town of Chania and the incredible Samaria Gorge (which you should hike).

Chania Town on Google Maps

If you have ever seen a picture from Crete, chances are it is probably from Chania or from one of the western Crete beaches.

Chania has an international airport with direct flights from/to all over Europe. 

The hotel that you will stay in Crete can literally make or break your holidays as there are literally thousands of options to choose from.

You have to understand that even though it’s not necessary to have a car in Crete, there is no other way to explore the beauty of Crete in the most effective and quick way. 

Yes, there are local buses in Crete (there are also Santorini buses and Mykonos buses as well) but they won’t take you everywhere and not when you want them.

So, western Crete is the best option for all occasions but it is definitely the best option if you want to have the best beaches, access to amazing restaurants and great resorts.

Western Crete (and Chania) is the best option if it is your first time in Crete.

I highly recommend staying in Chania Town itself even if it is not on the beach as you will have plenty of options for dinner, lunch and nightlife at your doorstep and beautiful beaches within a 30 mins drive.

2. Chania or Heraklion ?

chania old town
Chania with its picturesque old town is much better than big urban Heraklion but Heraklion is much closer to the Knossos ancient ruins and it also has an amazing archaeological museum

Heraklion is the capital of Crete and it is the biggest city of the island.

Heraklion has the biggest airport and port of Crete and it also has one of the best archaeological museums in Greece. 

Heraklion on Google Maps

Heraklion is a big city (more than 500,000 people live in Heraklion and its suburbs) and there is almost nothing reminding you that you are on a greek island while you are there.  

On the other hand, Chania (or Hania) has an amazing old town with lots of cute little shops and amazing restaurants.

But that doesn’t mean Heraklion is not full of nice restaurants as the food in Crete is amazing everywhere!

Stay at Heraklion if:

– you are only planning to visit Crete for 2-3 days (which I do not recommend) and ferries and flights only go to Heraklion

–  you want to be close to the museums and the amazing Knossos Palace

– you don’t care much about the beaches and swimming (though there are some really nice beaches at Heraklion prefecture)

Stay at Chania (or western Crete) if:

– you want to be closer to the best beaches of Crete

–  you want a more picturesque town to wander around

– you don’t really care about archaeological sites and museums

3. Best Place for a Honeymoon in Crete

honeymoon crete
Crete is a great place for a honeymoon but the hotel you choose will make or break your honeymoon

Let’s admit it: Crete is not the first greek island that comes in mind when you are thinking of a honeymoon in Greece.

A honeymoon in Santorini is what you think first.

But Crete has some of the best hotels in Greece with amazing food and incredible service.

And in fact, Crete might be a more affordable option for a honeymoon in Greece than Santorini and Mykonos (which can be extremely expensive).

The reality though is choosing the right honeymoon hotel in Crete is the most important decision because this is where you will be spending most of your days (and nights…).

The other great thing about Crete is that it has a million things to do, cute villages to visit, beaches to swim and even amazing lakes and gorges to hike; this might be a great opportunity for a couple to explore an amazing island with lots of natural beauty, amazing food, magnificent history and lovely people. 

Read Also: Best Honeymoon Hotels in Santorini

As I said, the hotel is one of the most important thing while planning your honeymoon.

The place with the most impressive hotels in Crete is (by far) Elounda (on Google Maps) which is on the east side of Heraklion and it has some hotels with celebrity level service and facilities…

DO NOT make the mistake to book a honeymoon package for Crete as I have discovered from friends that these are charged surprisingly more than just a hotel room that you’d book by yourself.

Travel Agents market amazing Crete, Mykonos or Santorini honeymoon packages like the holy grail of honeymoons, but it’s really just a nice room with your private pool maybe.

You may get some extras depending on the hotel but it’s not worth it in my opinion.

Just head over to Booking.com and book a suite or a room at Elounda.

BEST HOTELS AT ELOUNDA :

4. Best Place for Families and Kids

family hotel crete
Crete is a great place for family holidays and it offers some of the best family resorts in Greece (that's Lyttos Palace!)

Crete is the perfect place for family holidays as it offers amazing family hotels, lots of beautiful beaches and the island is full of history and activities for the kids.

The area that has the most family hotels on Crete is called Hersonissos but you may find great family resorts scattered everywhere on the island from Chania (west) to Agios Nikolaos (east).

I am personally not a big fan of the all inclusive hotels and resorts as I believe they don’t really give you the opportunity to travel properly and explore a place and feel its vibes as you mostly stay in a hotel.

If you don’t want to stay at an all inclusive hotel in Crete then you should definitely consider renting a villa that can possibly sleep more than one family! There are literally hundreds of amazing villas all over the island.

Read also: Best Villas in Crete

However, I do understand why they appeal to so many families to be honest…

Hersonissos (or Chersonissos) is a place with a massive sandy beach , lots of waterparks, amazing family resorts and even aquartiums

The great thing about Crete is that the island has many water parks that you can visit even if your hotel does not have a swimming pool or water features for kids.

Read Also: Best Beach Hotels in Santorini

Crete and Greece are super safe and you don’t have to worry about anything (but that doesn’t mean you should not be careful every time you are on holidays).

BEST FAMILY HOTELS IN CRETE:

5. Best Place for Young Couples

santorini trip
Crete has a million things to do but if you want to explore the island then you should better start with the western part as it has the most things to do

If you are adventurous and you want to see the best of Crete with your other half I believe you should stay at the western part (Chania prefecture) or in Chania town itself.

Chania prefecture is probably the area with the most fascinating things to do on the island:

– visit the amazing beaches of Elafonissi and Balos lagoons

– hike the world famous Samaria Gorge

– explore the nightlife of Chania old town

– visit one of the most remote areas in Greece : Hora Sfakion

– visit the famous Zorba beach (where the famous movie was shot)

If you don’t want to rent and drive a car or a scooter on the island (which will make your life much easier to be honest…) try to find a place at Chania Town as all the buses start from and end there.

6. Best Place For Nightlife

chania nightlife
Chania's nightlife with its beautiful bars and elegant wine bars is much more appealing than the craziness of Malia area

You may have probably read online that Malia is the best area for nightlife in Crete.

So, let me describe to you who are the people visiting and partying in Malia: teenagers who probably get seriously drunk every night

You can definitely visit Malia and explore the very low quality cheap clubs and bars (you will rarely see any locals apart from the people who actually work there) but in my opinion this is bad nightlife.

You may have the time of your life in Malia if you just finished school and want a cheap  place to spend your holidays but is that proper nightlife…?

On the other hand, I truly believe Chania offers the best package for nightlife: elegant bars, mainstream clubs, beautiful cocktail and wine bars and amazing restaurants.

Read Also: My Ultimate Guide on Santorini Nightlife

Best Bars and Clubs in Chania are: 

7. Best Place for Beaches in Crete

chania beaches
Western Crete's beaches are some of the best in the world (this is the amazing Falassarna beach)

Hands down, the best area in Crete to enjoy the amazing crystal clear greek waters on beautiful long sandy beaches is Western Crete (Chania prefecture).

READ ALSO: Best Beaches in Crete

There is not that many places in the world that have so many beautiful beaches in such a close distance.

Bear in mind though:

You always need a car in Crete because buses (though reliable) won’t allow you to explore all the beaches of western Crete; the island is pretty big and you definitely need your own means of transportation (unless you stay in an all-inclusive resort and you don’t really care about moving around…)

VERY IMPORTANT: You won’t be able to swim in the sea water in the winter as the water will be pretty cold! If you are visiting Crete in November, December, January, February, March and April FORGET about visiting the beaches as you won’t be able to swim and these areas are pretty much deserted.

BEST BEACHES IN WESTERN CRETE (CHANIA PREFECTURE):

CONCLUSION

So, there are the best places to stay in Crete!

Always have in mind that Crete is a very big island with literally thousands of options for hotels and resorts to choose from.

If you are looking for a family hotel you an also consider renting a villa in Crete that can sleep more than 6 people.

There are some amazing family hotels to choose from but if this is your first time in Crete i strongly believe you should stay in Western Crete and as close as possible to Chania town as it is the most beautiful area of the island.

As a final note, always have in mind that you should book your accommodation at least 6 months in advance as most hotels sell out quickly every year!

Crete’s diverse landscape, beautiful beaches, incredible food and lovely people won’t leave you disappointed in any case and you will definitely want to return for more next year…!

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Highest Rated Hotels in Santorini:

Best Hotel in Oia: Maregio Suites
Best Hotel in Fira: Cosmopolitan Suites
Best Hotel in Imerovigli: Grace Santorini
Best Hotel in Firostefani: Tsitouras
Best Hotel in Perivolos: Orabel Suites
Best Hotel in Perissa: Anastasia Princess
Best Hotel in Kamari: Sunrise Studios

Highest Rated Villas in Santorini:

Best Villa in Oia: Anemi House

Best Villa in Fira: Anteliz Villa

Best Villa in Kamari: Eolia Villa

Best Villa in Pyrgos: Sensation Villa

Best Villa in Akrotiri: Cavo Ventus

Best Villa in Firostefani: Villa Aura

Best Villa in Imerovigli: Grace Villa

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