As the biggest island in all of Greece, Crete comes ready with resorts that are about as diverse as diverse comes. Cuddled up along the coastline, heavy on the cocktails or steeped in history, each resort has its own unique flavour to boast about.
If you’ve never been to Crete and are considering a holiday to this sunny spot in the Med, we can point you in the right direction. Here’s all you need to know about Crete’s top resorts and their hallmark attractions.
Best for history
Best time to visit – springtime, April and May
The second biggest town in Crete, Chania has the high level of history and culture you might expect. Its Venetian harbour is its biggest selling point, complete with a lighthouse and fortress. Down here you’ll find restaurants and an art gallery within a Turkish mosque, while museums and the old town market wait within.
Top things to do in Chania
Wander the ruins of ancient Aptera
If you scale the hill to the ruins of ancient Aptera, you’ll be rewarded not only with a peek into the past but amazing views out to sea. During the Minoan reign, Aptera was one of the most powerful cities on Crete until it was wiped out by an earthquake. Today, there are still remains of tombs, a Roman theatre and city walls.
Peruse the Mercato Agoura di Chania
The best way to live like a local is to shop like a local. Chania’s covered market is a key spot for grabbing fresh fruit and vegetables alongside the regulars. You’ll also find souvenir bits like jewellery, handbags and scarves.
Best for partying
Best time to visit – summer – June to August
Malia is Crete’s party capital, with a long stretch of beach to match. Its main drag is lined with neon-lit clubs and busy bars, edged by shopping avenues and just about every flavour of dining you can imagine. Don’t let the pulsing techno beats fool you, though – home to the third largest Minoan hub on the island, Malia is a cultural hotspot as well.
Top things to do in Malia
Get royal at the Minoan Palace
Malia’s Minoan ruins can be found at an open-air archaeological site that’s riddled with the remnants of not just a palace, but a market, temples and houses, too. There generally isn’t much literature for you to pick up once you’re at the site, so you’d be wise to look up your own guide online beforehand to help bring the ruins to life.
Cruise the coastline
Malia’s five-kilometre stretch of coast is broken into six beaches, with the main beach starting just at the bottom of Beach Road. It’s here where you’ll find beach bars, watersports and sunbeds, but if you go further afield to Tropical Beach and Potamos, quieter vibes await.
Best for luxury
Best time to visit – spring and early summer, April to June
Coming in platinum, Elounda is a luxury-heavy resort, rumoured to house more 5* accommodation than any other Greek town of its size. Its waterfront and Blue Flag award-winning beach have attracted celebs and dignitaries alike, as well as holidaymakers that are keen on soaking up the rays and as many spa treatments as they can get.
Top things to do in Elounda
Sail to Spinalonga
The mysterious and uninhabited isle of Spinalonga resides just off the coast of Elounda, and is the backdrop for Victoria Hislop’s novel The Island. Crowned with a Venetian fortress, it was the site of a leper colony up until the late 1950s.
Lounge on Elounda Beach
The main beach in town is only a tiny one, stretching out for just 200 metres, but its Blue Flag award means it’s got something to say. Tucked up just north of the harbour, the beach comes at the ready with sunbeds and umbrellas for maximum relaxation.
Best for families
Best time to visit – August and September
Hersonissos has all the makings of an action-packed family holiday with three waterparks, three beaches, museums and worldly dining to round out your schedule. There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from too, so parents of picky eaters need not fear dinnertime.
Top things to do in Hersonissos
Whip down the slides at the Aqua Plus Waterpark
Aqua Plus is the biggest waterpark in all of Crete, complete with tube slides, body slides, a wave pool, lazy river and the ominous black hole slides. There are a range of little kid-friendly slides and a splash park too, plus a spa for the odd massage treatment while the rest of your party waits in the queue.
Escape the Minotaur at the Labyrinth Theme Park
Modelled after the ancient myth of the Minotaur in the labyrinth, this unique theme park features a wide range of puzzle-solving activities harking back to ancient Greece. The standout game is the park’s elaborate labyrinth, though the mini-golf course, laser maze, horseback riding activities, archery and pottery workshops are close runners-up.
Best for a little bit of everything
Best time to visit – June to August
A Renaissance resort in its own right, what we love so much about Stalis is that its sandwiched by two other major players in Crete’s holiday game. Stalis has Hersonissos on one side and Malia on the other, so when you want to venture away from Stalis’ beautiful beach and long list of tavernas, you’ve got Hersonissos’ waterparks and Malia’s nightlife just on your doorstep.
Top things to do in Stalis
Stalis Beach fans out for six kilometres down the coastline touching up with Hersonissos and Malia. The shore here is backed by restaurants and bars, though the vibes tend to stay on the quieter side – beach days that are heavy on the cocktails is what Malia is for.
Explore the town on horseback
Within Stalis are a number of horse ranches where you can sign up for a horseback riding session and wander around the sights on four hooves. Found in the shadow of the Dikti Mountains and with so much coastline to explore, Stalis provides more than enough fodder for a scenic trot.
Have you been on holiday to Crete? Share with us your favourite spots and holiday memories in the comments below.