Where to go on Crete?
Family Holidays in Crete: Young families with children are looking for a family-friendly resort with a good beach, with small hotels and studios. You can book the rooms from home, and there is not too much traffic on the street, which is great for kids. Georgioupolis, Bali, Agia Pelagia and Agia Galini make wonderful destinations for a relaxing family holiday.
Young Backpackers: Seeking relaxation, good beaches and fun at prices that won’t break the bank? You should head towards towns that don’t have the full tourist infrastructure. That is, towns with no big nightclubs or international food joints. Plakias, Malia and Paleochora are good examples.
Young People on Package Holiday: Package holiday tourists aged 18-25 are generally after sun, sea, sand and sex, all doused with liberal doses of alcohol. The biggest parties in summer last until 6am in Malia. You can also find a great nightlife in Agia Marina and Platanias. These places have nice beaches (though crowded in high season), and are fully developed holiday resorts such as you might expect to find in Mallorca or the Canary Islands. Malia is mostly visited by English tourists, whilst Agia Marina and Hersonissos (next to Malia) are more German.
Hikers on Crete: My favourite hiking area is the White Mountains. There is no big holiday resort, hotel or shopping here. You can stay in Omalos, a tiny village with ten houses, or at the Kallergi Mountain Lodge. Both are good, cheap options. Sougia and Loutro are also good bases for hiking in the White Mountains (Lefka Ori in Greek).
Cultural Holidays in Crete: The important sites of Crete are spread over the whole of Crete, making a cultural holiday something of a grand tour of the island. The ‘Must See’ places are Knossos, the Archeological Museum Iraklio and Phaistos. A good base would be Crete’s capital, Iraklio, but the city itself is uninspiring, loud and dirty.
Places with excellent Buses: If getting around by bus is important to you, your best bet is to make a base on the north coast of Crete – there are no buses along South Crete. Rethymno has the most charming old town in Crete and the good youth hostel there is pretty central. If you want to see the west of Crete by bus, Chania is the place to stay. If you wish to explore the East, Agios Nikolaos is the best town.
Solo Travellers on Crete: If you’re travelling alone and want to meet people, then you’re in the situation I was in when I first came to Crete in 1997. I found my place in Plakias, on the south coast. You make contact and friends here, particularly in the “Youth” Hostel (the average age of guests there is usually over 35, some are over 70!). Rethymno Youth Hostel is also similar. Pitsidia and Mirtos are also popular with people travelling on their own.
Cheapest Destinations on Crete: At the moment, the cheapest area is that around Kalamaki and Pitsidia. There you can find a room for €15-20 and eat out for €5—8. The cheapest places to stay are the hostels in Plakias and Rethymno (€9-12) or one of the many campgrounds.
Extremely Cheap Way to Live in Crete: Wild, freelance camping remains the cheapest way. You want to emulate the hippies of the 1960s and 1970s who lived at one with nature on the beaches. Be aware of the fact that in most areas, the locals will not like you – pitching up a tent is prohibited in many areas. But take heart; in some places, such as Lendas, Sougia, Sweetwater Beach and the island of Gavdos remain havens.
Luxury Holidays in Crete:
The only place on the island with a five-star hotel and
big golf courses is
Elounda – many Greek politicians and
stars go there, and sometimes Hollywood aristocracy can be
found in the luxurious resort.
Map of Crete
Winter Holidays on Crete: There is virtually no winter tourism in Crete. Flights from abroad do not exist; not even 1% of tourists visit between November and March. Restaurants and Hotels in the tourist areas shut down. The few tourists that come will flock to the warmer (by 1 or 2 degrees) south coast, many of them in Paleochora, Mirtos and Ierapetra. My village of Plakias also has a good group of around 50 Northern Europeans, Australians and Americans in the winter. Newcomers are always welcome! Just come to Nufaro bar (on the Plateia) or Nikos Souvlaki (next to the Post Office).
Biggest Mass Tourism Destinations: The Malia-Chersonissos area is undoubtedly the hub of the traditional package tourism activity on the island. A slightly smaller hub can be found to the west of Chania in the Agia Marina - Plantanias area.
The Most Unknown Towns of Crete: Virtually no tourists go to the mountain towns of Crete. Anogia is the most Cretan place. Here, tourists are sometimes invited for dinner just for being a foreigner. Anogia is also the capital of many Cretan traditions, especially the music of Crete. The mountain town of Kasteli, east of Iraklio, is also interesting. The two towns of Kissamos and Sitia have good beaches but few tourists. Sitia is an excellent place for a holiday, if you don’t want to bump into lots of other holidaymakers.