At 260 km (160 miles) long and 56 km (35 miles) wide, Crete is the largest and most populous island in Greece.
So, when it comes to choosing your accommodation in Crete, you have many options in each region.
To figure out where to stay, all you need to do is decide on which type of vacation you’re focusing on.
Are you into cultural experiences? Are you looking for the ultimate beach holiday? Would you rather just relax and disconnect from the rest of the world?
Crete can offer you all of that and more, you just need to choose your region wisely.
Let’s first take a look at Crete’s four main areas to help you decide which are the best places to stay in Crete according to your interests:
- Heraklion for History and Culture
- Chania for Best Beaches
- Rethymnon for Traditional Villages
- Lasithi for Relaxing Holidays
Here’s a short description of every main city in each of Crete’s four different regions.
Heraklion, the Capital of Crete
Crete’s main region and capital of the island is Heraklion.
The city is also one of the two main gates to Crete, with an international airport and an important port that receives ferries from mainland Greece as well as cruise ships almost every day.
This vibrant city offers endless choices of cultural activities, including art galleries and some of Greece’s most interesting museums.
But that’s not all. In this region, you can also visit three of the four Minoan Palaces that have been excavated on the island so far — the Minoan Palaces of Knossos and Malia, on the northern coast, as well as the mysterious Minoan Palace of Phaistos in the South.
Younger crowds love the nearby coastal town of Malia as it’s the place to be for nightlife.
This seaside town gathers a collection of beach bars, clubs, and discos that make it the place to party in Crete.
Those who come to Heraklion to enjoy the nightlife will want to choose an all-inclusive resort in the coastal towns of Hersonissos or Malia.
Chania, West Crete
Located on the western portion of Crete, Chania is a fantastic region that offers a plethora of opportunities for adventurous holidays.
Plus, some of the most impressive beaches of Crete are found along the coast of Chania.
The capital of the region, also named Chania, hosts one of the prettiest ancient towns in Greece.
Old Town Chania has an interesting past made of conquests and foreign rulers, all of which managed to leave their own trace and identity in the architecture of the city.
The old city is a great place to stay if you adore the romantic atmosphere of old Venetian mansions and Turkish facades. You can also go shopping for some authentic souvenirs in Chania’s Agora, one of the biggest municipal markets in the Balkans.
The region of Rethymnon is located halfway through Heraklion and Chania so a good base to visit both without driving long distances.
However, Rethymnon has more to offer — it’s not just a comfortable place from where to move around and explore.
If you loved the old town of Chania, you’ll be happy to discover the alleys of Rethymnon’s Old Town too.
Here, the Turkish traces are tangible in the wooden balconies and high Ottoman minarets shaping the skyline. The impressive Venetian Fortress, right by the sea, remains of Greece’s best examples of fortified castles.
A short trip towards the south of Rethymnon will take you through unique mountainous landscapes and traditional villages.
Visit historic monasteries active in the long years of fighting to oust different foreign rulers.
Whether they were the Venetians, the Ottomans, or the Nazi Occupation Forces, monasteries fought side by side with the Cretans to conquer their own freedom, which finally occurred in 1898.
The southern coast of Rethymnon (and of all Crete) is surrounded by the pristine Libyan sea.
The southern coasts of Crete are more isolated than the touristic North, meaning cleaner water, wilder landscapes, and a feeling of freedom hard to find anywhere else.
This is also the reason why most nudist beaches can be found on the southern coast. If you’re into sunbathing without a bikini, the southern beaches of Rethymnon are a great place to go.
Lasithi, East Crete
The easternmost region of Crete is Lasithi. Rather isolated and quite off-the-beaten-track, the region is home to magnificent beaches that you could even enjoy totally on your own during less crowded months.
The capital of Lasithi is Agios Nikolaos, a small town also on the northern coast of the island.
However, there are other cities you can check in the region which can prove to be excellent places to stay in order to drive around and explore. If you wish to visit the uninhabited island of Chrissi, it’s a good idea to stay in Ierapetra.
If instead, you want to discover the exotic Palm Beach of Vai, Sitia is a great city where to stay too.
If you prefer to stay in a more exclusive area, Elounda is the place to be.
There’s no shortage of luxurious resorts when it comes to this small village, all of them facing the tranquil Gulf of Mirabello and boasting exclusive beaches and rooms that open directly to the sea.