The popular Greek island of Crete is served by two airports, Heraklion and Chania. Both are located on the northern coast and both are served by a wide array of airlines, including many budget operators.
A 150 km stretch of highway separates the two airports, so it you’re making your own way to your resort it pays to work out which one will fit the bill before you book that flight.
Heraklion (also known by its full name of Nikos Kazantkazis HER, named after a famous Greek writer) is Greece’s second busiest airport and the principal airport in Crete, with over 40 airlines bringing around 6 million travellers a year from some 80 destinations, including direct flights from British airports London Gatwick, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, London Luton and Newcastle.
Heraklion’s passenger terminal was built in 1971 when mass tourism to Crete was still in its infancy, so it’s not overflowing with facilities but you can expect to find a tourist helpdesk, banks and currency exchanges, medical services, a baby room, post office, duty free shops and retail outlets, snack bars and a café bar serving basic drinks and snacks.
Heraklion is just off the E75 motorway and 4 kilometres from the island’s capital and commercial hub of Alikarnassos. Herkalion is served by the local KTEL bus service with departures every few minutes from Monday to Saturday (early mornings until late evenings) and a slightly less frequent service on Sundays. Both airports provide a multitude of car hire firms, including Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar and Sixt.
Heraklion can get quite congested during high season with queues often snaking outside of the building, so it’s due to be replaced in 2018 by a new airport Kastelli located on a south western air force base with an expected capacity of up to 10 million passengers.
Chania (Ioannis Daskalogiannis CHQ, taking its name from a heroic 18th century rebel who saw off the Ottoman army) accommodates around 2 million passengers annually, served by around 30 airlines across Europe. There are fewer direct flights from UK airports, with most carriers coming from London Gatwick and Manchester, plus Ryanair flights from Bournemouth, Bristol, Leeds Bradford, East Midlands, Stansted and Glasgow.
Chania’s facilities are much the same as Heraklion’s, with additions including a VIP Lounge, several bars, a newsagent, gift shop and paid long stay parking.
Chania is also on the popular northern coast, but further west – the right side of the island for some of its best beaches, like Elafonisi. Resorts conveniently located from Chania include Platanias, Souda Bay and the Akrotiri peninsula, Agia Marina, Gerani, Kissamos and Maleme.
Chania is 14km from Chania City, which is renowned as a beautiful and historic destination in its own right. KTEL buses also serve Chania but are far less frequent with around 7 daily departures starting at 7.15am until 9.15 pm. These will take you to Chania City in half an hour, but taxis are reliable and inexpensive.