Crete – the largest island in Greece is a real all-rounder and should definitely be on your holiday list. Turquoise sea and bright sandy beaches meet breathtaking natural wonders and cultural sights – a top destination for swimming, hiking and exploring!
Since my first holidays to Crete, I literally fell in love with the island. A short flight from Germany, fantastic weather and just this fascinating versatility of the island have convinced me.
I’ll tell you the top 10 of my absolute favorite sights on Crete. A few helpful tips are on top 😉
Enjoy reading and be sure to leave me a comment, what is your favorite sight on Crete.
Table of contents
Place 10 – Vai palm beach
#instagram #postcard motif: Especially for fans of dreamy photo spots and sandy beaches, I can recommend the trip to the palm beach of Vai on Crete. It’s on the east coast of the island and for me it’s like the Caribbean in Europe: soft, light sandy beach, turquoise sea and countless palm trees. This palm grove is even the largest in Europe and, according to legend, was created by pirates’ discarded date seeds. A nice idea, isn’t it? Nevertheless, this beautiful beach only makes it to 10th place for me, because it is no longer an insider tip. If you make a trip here, I recommend that you arrive early enough to get one of the sunbeds and enjoy the Caribbean flair before many other visitors arrive – or simply bring your beach towel and make yourself comfortable in the warm sand.
Place 9 – Fortezza of Rethymno
The next top sight on my Crete list is the Fortezza of Rethymno – a ruined fortress from the 16th century. It’s worth a visit just for the magnificent view you get from the fortress, which is located on a hill next to the old town of Rethymno. It is surrounded by the sea on several sides and is located on the north coast of the island. The best way to get to the fortress is to walk from the old town and simply follow the signs.
What I find particularly impressive is that many parts, such as the 1.3 km long wall, are still so well preserved, even though the fortress is so old. If you are on Crete, don’t miss this sight. The entrance fee is only a few euros and you will feel as if you have been transported to another time when you walk through the large complex. In addition, events are often held on the grounds of the Erofili theatre in the summer – maybe even when you’re there?
But Rethymno is not only worth a visit because of the fortress. Especially in the evening, a unique atmosphere develops in the town. The narrow alleys of the old town and the harbour are particularly appealing to me. I enjoyed spending the evening hours here with a cocktail and a view of the sea and the reflecting sunset.
Rank 8 – Chania and the Venetian Port
The next place to visit on your Crete holiday is the beautiful city of Chania with its historic Venetian harbour built between 1320 and 1356. It’s worth strolling through the old town of picturesque Chania or along the harbour. I was lured straight to one of the many tavernas by the delicious smell of culinary creations. It was simply cute and really super tasty, an absolute recommendation.
Chania is located in the northwest of Crete. If you are staying at the TUI BLUE Atlantica Creta Paradise, TUI BLUE Atlantica Caldera Beach or the TUI BLUE Atlantica Kalliston Resort on Crete, it only takes between 20 and 30 minutes to drive to Chania by rental car. Otherwise, you can simply book a Crete excursion to Chania with TUI.
Place 7 – Lefka Ori
he next highlight on my list is a must-see for hikers. The white mountains of Crete, Lefka Ori, are the largest mountain massif in Crete in terms of area and are located in the west of the island, south of Chania. They are impressively beautiful and, at over 2,000 metres, also quite high. There is practically no infrastructure here, which is why only experienced hikers should climb the mountains. In addition, the weather can be very changeable, which is why you should pack warm clothes when visiting, even in summer. Also, don’t forget to pack enough water, because it can also get quite hot.
I don’t consider myself an experienced hiker, but I didn’t want to miss out on one of Crete’s top sights, which is why I took the Crete Offroad Tour with TUI. Here you drive through Crete and the Lefka Ori in an off-road vehicle. Besides great views and super photo motifs, I had a blast.
Place 6 – Arkadi Monastery
When it comes to my next place of interest on Crete, those interested in culture should read carefully. The Arkadi Monastery is considered the most important national monument in Crete. It played a fundamental role in the fight for Crete’s independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1866, when 15,000 soldiers attacked the monastery. The monastery, which dates back to the 14th century, is not only worth a visit from a historical and cultural point of view. The view you get here over Crete is also worth a trip.
Place 5 – Beach Elafonissi
I love the feeling of fine sand between my toes and warm sun rays on my skin. Then I know I’m on holiday. But when I saw the beach I’m about to introduce to you, even my jaw dropped and I couldn’t stop being amazed. Pink sand in front of me, I’ve never seen that anywhere before. That’s why I was all the more impressed when I arrived at Elafonissi beach, in the southwest of Crete. The look that presents itself to you here can definitely be counted among Crete’s sights, because it looks totally surreal: pink sand, turquoise water and mountains in the background. Here you can not only relax like a dream, but also take the perfect photos for your travel album or social media.
Place 4 – Agios Nikolaos with crossing to Spinalonga
In my 4th place, there are actually two sights on Crete: the harbour town of Agios Nikolaos and the island of Spinalonga. But if you are on Crete, it is perfect to visit both sights in one day.
Agios Nikolaos is located in the east of Crete. If you are staying at the TUI BLUE Elounda Breeze or the TUI BLUE Elounda Village in Crete, it is only a 15-minute drive by rental car. You can relax and stroll along the beautiful harbour or in the town and taste delicious Greek specialities in one of the many tavernas.
From here you can also take a boat to the uninhabited island of Spinalonga. The island was used as a leper colony for a while. The abandoned houses of the lepers stand in ruins today and can be seen on a visit, as can a Venetian fortress from 1579. Even though the trip to Spinalonga and the history behind it does not leave me untouched, I find it fascinating at the same time to imagine how the terminally ill people lived together in a village community and built up a functioning infrastructure.
Take a trip to this sight on your Crete holiday and I’m sure you’ll agree.
As an alternative to visiting on your own, TUI also offers a guided Spinalonga tour.
3rd place – Imbros Gorge
I love adventures, which is why the hike through the Imbros Gorge is one of my absolute highlights on Crete. You will find this gorge in the southwest of Crete near the village of Imbros. The path through the gorge is about 8 km long and you walk between steep rock faces. In the narrowest parts, you can even touch the rock walls if you spread out both arms. But don’t worry, the hike only takes about 2-3 hours and is not too difficult. Nevertheless, you should remember to wear sturdy shoes if you want to experience this sight of Crete.
I myself went on a guided tour with TUI to hike this gorge in Crete. On the “Imbros Gorge – Wild Sfakia” tour, you visit the castle of Frangokastello after the hike and can also take a refreshing dip in the sea.
What I particularly liked about the Imbros Gorge is that it is not yet as popular as the Samaria Gorge, which is why it is not so crowded. In addition, the trail conditions and duration are also suitable for beginners – the perfect preparation for the more demanding Samaria Gorge.
2nd place – Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge is considered one of Crete’s top sights. At 17 km long, it is one of the longest gorges in Europe, with rock faces rising up to 600 metres. Read my colleague’s Michael blog post about his hike through the gorge. I didn’t want to miss this impressive gorge. But since I am not one of the most experienced hikers, I preferred to join a guided tour by TUI through Crete’s most famous gorge. The hiking route is about 13 km long and offers almost non-stop sights that are worth capturing in a photo. We even encountered wild goats on our way. Here, too, you should definitely wear sturdy shoes and pack plenty of provisions. As the TUI tour starts very early, we didn’t meet many other tourists yet. However, I was told that this can be quite different if the tour starts only 2-3 hours later. And even at our early time, there was more going on than at Imbros Gorge. Nevertheless, a trip here and all the effort is completely worth it. The gorge is simply something special!
1st place – Knossos
My number 1 place is and remains the famous Knossos, an absolute must-see on holiday in Crete. The first buildings of the Minoan palace and today’s ruined city were already constructed around 2,000 BC. Between 1750 and 1700 BC there were severe earthquakes which destroyed a lot. Afterwards, the palace was rebuilt even more magnificently. You should definitely visit this Crete sight. Even though nowadays only the foundations and walls remain, it is still so impressive to see (with a little imagination and thanks to partial restorations) how well people built 4,000 years ago. It’s best to take a tour and let a guide explain more details and exciting background information. For me, this impressive sight is deservedly number 1 on my list of Crete favourites.
The Palace of Knossos is located south of Heraklion. If you spend your holidays at the TUI BLUE Insula Alba, you can drive here in a rental car for only about 30 minutes. A visit that is well worth it!
Discover the sights of Crete and stay at a TUI BLUE Hotel
Who wants to fly to Crete now? Pack your bags and get your own impression of the sights on Crete. You can stay in one of the TUI BLUE hotels. The local BLUE guides will give you helpful tips on the best excursion lines in the area and help you book tours.
Which sightseeing attraction on Crete is your number 1? I look forward to receiving more insider tips.