With over 1000km of beaches around its shores, the island of Crete is as close to paradise as a Mediterranean island could get. The stunning beaches and diversity of sights make for an unforgettable destination if you are up for beach holidays in Crete, providing you with some of the most spectacular settings that you could witness, let alone explore. Delve into our guide top up your tan and discover your perfect summer getaway!
Crete is one of the most spectacular islands in the world to visit and even though it’s a Greek island the Cretans have a spirit that’s entirely their own. Here we whittle down the choices of things to do in Crete so you can make the most of Crete holidays.
1. Visit the Palace of Knossos in…Knossos
Image via @Ania Mendrek
Knossos was the capital of Minoan Crete and was inhabited for several thousands of years. The palace is connected with such mythology as the Labyrinth with the Minotaur. Knossos is easily reached by bus from Heraklion.
Image via @ IdleFormat
We’re nothing if not helpful here at Purple Travel, so make the most of your Greek holiday with our favourite facts about Crete.
#1 It’s said to be the birthplace of the supreme god Zeus. Legend has it; Zeus’ mother Rhea hid the newborn baby in a cave so he wouldn’t be killed by his father Cronus.
#2 It can be walked in 50 days. Well, if you follow the route of Belgian hiker Ivan Van Driesche. He decided to walk around the island as a fundraiser for stray animals and he did it in exactly 50 days.
#3 Crete has thousands of miles of beaches, making it an unparalleled choice for sun worshippers. There are lots of options for surfing or sunbathing, naturist beaches or scuba diving.
#4 A study in 1980 by Ancel Keys revealed that Crete is the healthiest country in the world and philosopher Hippocrates said the air of Crete has healing properties; this is a legend that continues today.
#5 It was Crete where Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, was from. Kept in prison by King Minos, he escaped with wings made from feathers and wax, but, unfortunately for him, he flew too close to the burning rays of the sun, his wings melted and he drowned in the sea.
#6 Many people in Crete own guns, but don’t worry it’s mostly for celebration reasons, especially at weddings.
#7 Crete is one of the oldest settlements in Europe, with remnants found that date back to 7 million BC.
For more information or to book cheap holidays in Crete talk to the experts at Purple Travel now.
Tradition is an integral part of life for the Cretans in particular – even their dialect is considered the oldest in Greece, frequently becoming a study for university research. Most Greek dances and music first appeared in Crete, the island where it is said that the mother of the Gods, Rhea, taught them to the Curetes (Cretan tribe). The most famous Cretan dance was the pyrrhic, while the violi, the lyra and the laouto remain the characteristic musical instruments. Customs of Crete are a serious business and you better get to know a few before you travel. Here’s our handy cut-out-and-keep customs of Crete guide. Just go easy on the raki on a fab Crete holiday from Purple Travel.
Image via @ Idleformat
Here are some of our favourite Cretan traditions and customs:
This alcoholic beverage is a real part of Cretan culture. And take it from us, after a few shots of this fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy, you won’t be standing upright. Tsikoudia is sometimes served cold from a bottle kept in a freezer. Tsikoudia is commonly offered as an after dinner digestif, and in most taverns in Crete it is offered complimentary after the meal. It’s flavored using lemon rind, rosemary or honey.
Mantinades (derived from the Venetian mantinada, meaning ‘morning song’) are Cretan rhyming couplets, typically used in music to accompany dance. They usually have either love or satire as their topics. The production of mantinades in today’s Crete continues at much the same pace as it did in the 15th century, especially in the villages. Cretans combine tradition with modern technological developments in the mantinades, often with a great deal of humour, as you can see from the following mantinada:
“In the sheepcote I set up a modem to use,
For to sell on the Net the milk from my ewes.”
You should read… Purple Hearts Heraklion, Crete
Most Greeks take their names from a religious saint (Nikolaos, Ioannis, Dimitrios etc). They then celebrate their name on that saint’s given day of the year, much as you may do a birthday. On the “name day” of someone, his friends and family visit him without invitation and offer their wishes and presents. In Greece, name days are more important than birthdays.
The Cretan Dagger
The Cretan dagger’s symbolic value survived even until recently. Its great metaphysical value in protecting humans against the fiendish powers of the invisible world and “ill-fated moments” was deeply rooted in Cretan culture. One example of this was in marriage. When a man and woman were married, it was custom in Crete that the groom offer his new wife a small silver dagger – the argyrobounialaki (yeah, try and pronounce that one). This small dagger was then worn by the Cretan girl on her waist, tucked inside a silk sash; the dagger indicated to other men that the girl was married and that she belonged to one man. It also served as a reminder to the girl that she was devoted to her husband and that the price she would pay for any infidelity would be her own life. Sounds pretty misogynistic, right? Yes, however, in addition to its symbolic significance, the dagger also had practical value, because the young Cretan woman would be able to defend herself and her dignity when in danger.
Daggers, always black-hilted, (as black-hilted daggers were thought to be feared by demons) played a leading part in the practice of magic. Tiny black-hilted daggers were used in making talismans for young children and for protecting epileptics from the bad influence of the moon and the possessed from the pernicious influence of demons. When a child died, the mother would hang small black-hilted daggers around her other children’s necks as talismans, so that the Grim Reaper would not take them too.
The Evil Eye
Many Cretans, especially in villages, believe that someone can catch the ‘evil eye’, or “matiasma”, from someone else’s jealous compliment or envy. This person would feel bad physically and psychologically.To avoid the matiasma, a little blue marble glass with an eye painted on it must be worn. Blue is believed to be the colour that wards off the evil eye but it is also believed that people with blue eyes are givers of the matiasma.
Read more: Holidays To Make You Live Longer
Marathi Beach is ideal for Crete family holidays with small children. It’s very protected, the water is calm and even in August when the famous Meltemi winds are high, this stays more sheltered than most. Grab your bucket and spade and head for the beach!
Elafonisi is a bit of a trek, but the water is clear and perfect and it’s great for swimming. About two hours from Chania, it’s well worth the day trip and the kids will love it.
Stalis Beach is very clean and just a short drive from Heraklion. Boasting the softest of sands and very clean waters. Just watch out if the wind picks up as the water can get a bit choppy.
You should read… The best family friendly beaches in Crete
The old town in Chania makes for a great afternoon of exploring. It’s a little touristy, but we’re willing to bet kids will enjoy watching the boats come in at the harbour, stopping for ice cream in a cafe and wandering the winding streets.
Knossos Palace is a huge site where kids can learn about life dating as far back as 1900 BC. The best option is to get a tour guide to show you around and enthral you and your kids with the legends of ancient Minoan society.
Food in Crete is a way of life. Cretans take their food very seriously. So why not head out for an evening enjoying local favourites like dakos, dolmades or bougatsa for breakfast.
You should read… What to eat in Crete
There are thousands of caves dotted throughout the island; Head for Dikteon Cave, on the Lassithi Plateau in the east of Crete, where legend has it Zeus was born. It’s open every day, so if you get fed up of the beach, it’s an obvious choice.
The Museum of Sea Life in Rethymno is located in a former abbey and has a huge display of all kinds of fish, fossils and shells, offering a good afternoon out.
Hike a gorge definitely one for more active or older children, Crete is actually home to several spectacular gorges. There are routes right along the coast and although some of them can be tough, it’s well worth it for the views out to see. Head for the Samaria Gorge, one of Europe’s longest at 18km.
The Aquaworld Aquarium and Reptile Rescue Centre in Hersonissos is the perfect way to discover the underwater world. Learn about the marine life of Crete with hundreds of fish and reptiles, get your picture taken with an unusual reptile and get up close and personal with a shark.
Aqua Plus in Hersonissos has tonnes of water rides to suit all ages. Just check out the names they’ve given the rides, how could anyone resist giving the Acquaslalom, Black Holes, Kamikaze Hydrotube or Crazy River a go?
WaterCity in Heraklion is the largest water park on the island. Offering 36 different slides, pools and amusements, as well as a couple of bars and restaurants, you can spend all day long here and not get tired.
Image via @ gterez
Who doesn’t absolutely love Crete? Once you’ve been we’re sure you’ll fall in love with it, so here’s a little extra inspiration, especially for you expert foodie types (and beginners) on what to eat in Crete.
Cretan food is not just food, it is mouth-watering temptation, it’s twice baked breads and oozing cheeses, honey drenched sweets and rich flavours, slow cooked meats and the freshest fish you can imagine. It’s more than just food, it’s Cretan food!
Cretan food is entrenched in the culture, Greeks themselves talk about Cretan food in haloed terms, and sharing as you eat is a big aspect. Families tend to gather and enjoy many plates over many hours, as they talk, eat, laugh and drink. It’s a really wonderful experience whether you want a whole sit down feast, or simply snacking for a few hours in the sunshine. So, here’s our beginner’s guide to Cretan gastronomy.
Image via @ Curious Food Lover
Dakos: This is a very typical dish, kind of like a bruschetta. It’s a traditional dried bread, baked several times. On top you add some chopped tomato, high quality Cretan olive oil, lots of cheese and oregano and hey presto! It’s the perfect snack on those hot days.
Dolmades: These are probably one of the most famous dishes in Greece, stuffed vine leaves. They are a little tricky to make, but when you get the good ones, they are really good. It’s usually prepared with a mix of rice, herbs and meat, wrapped inside grape leaves. Totally delicious.
Cheese: There are so many types; you could say Crete is famous for its cheese. How about kefalotiri, a firm goat’s cheese, graviera, a slightly salty cheese made of sheep milk, mizithra, made from sheep’s milk or anthotiro, that changes from mild and soft when fresh and becomes saltier as it hardens. A great idea is to walk through one of the locals and get some samples in. Of course a simple Greek salad, horiatiki will always tickle your tastebuds.
Meat: Crete is food heaven for meat eaters. Lamb, kid and pork cooked in a myriad of different ways until utterly tender and delicious are some of our favourites, while a local special you shouldn’t miss is kohlious boubouristous (snails), fried in tomato sauce for a delicious treat.
Vegetables: Although Crete might not be the first place you think of for vegetarian fare, the variety of absolutely fresh, locally grown produce is a real treat, and many dishes (e.g. dolmades) can be served in meat free versions. The kolokythokeftedes or fried zucchini dipped in a mountain of tzatiki will impress the most hardened carnivore.
Loukoumades: these are little handmade donut balls, fried in oil and served with lashings of honey and cinnamon. They are divine and possibly my favourite Crete food!
Bougatsa: you’ll find lots of pastries on offer in Crete and this simple filo filled with cream and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon makes an indulgent breakfast treat.
Kalitsounia (sweet): The sweet version of kalitsounia or lyhnarakia is made of home made pastry filled with mizithra or anthotyro, cinnamon and sugar.
Krasi or Cretan wine: Crete is one of the biggest producers of wine in Greece. It goes back 2000 years, and is essential with meals where you order by the kilo. That’ll certainly keep you going over a couple of courses!
Raki (or Tsikoudia): You couldn’t go to Crete and not sample at least a little drop of the local firewater, Raki. This potent but smooth little number will knock your socks off and makes a delightful digestif after a big meal.
To check out just how good fresh bougatsa or buckets of Raki can be, check out Purple Travel’s cheap holidays to Crete.
If you’re looking for a holiday that’s totally “off the beaten track” and disconnected from your usual hustle and bustle, you’d be pushed to find a nicer experience than at the Enagron Ecotourism Village in beautiful Crete.
High up on a mountain, slap, bang in the middle of the island, you’ll find a throwback to a simpler life, where olive trees grow and the air is filled with the scent of herbs and plants. Not exactly a hotel, but more a place to really get in touch with nature, Enagron is a working farm, where you can do as little or as much as you like.
If you’re on a foodie adventure, you couldn’t ask for a better voyage of discovery, it’s a great opportunity to head to the kitchen and find out the tricks for preparing the best in Cretan dishes like dolmades, or the difference between kefalotiri or graviera. (They are cheeses!) Our favourite part is to try a flaky bougatsa pastry in the morning as we soak up the sunshine.
If you’re feeling a bit more energetic, there are plenty of events and day trips to try out, from nature walks to sightseeing, either on foot or by donkey. Of course there’s always a ‘driver’ on hand to keep you on the straight and narrow around the Psiloritis mountain, and take you to the stone houses, where you can try out cheese making and indulge in a ‘herder’s meal.’
Something a little more laidback tickles your fancy? Then there are a whole heap of chilled out options; like reading on the terrace, snoozing under a tree, grabbing an chilled coffee, or lounging in the pool, with the company of the birds and the wind.
image by NH53
And it being a traditional Greek getaway, there’s always room for a little bit of letting your hair down. The owners are renowned for their raki dixies, or raki nights, with love music and dancing until the wee small hours.
Warm, shallow waters, baby soft sand and easy access comprise the ingredients of the perfect family friendly beach. Crete has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches on its shores, many of which are quiet, wave-sheltered, sandy and close to hotels and restaurants, making them ideal spots for the little ones.
While travelling with children can be stressful, being ‘in the know’ can make holiday life so much easier. Have a look through our ten best family friendly beaches in Crete, a must-have guide for a stress-free holiday:
Here’s our pick of the best family beaches in Crete…
Golden Beach (Chrissi Akti) is actually two beaches separated by a small hill. The beaches are named so for their soft, golden sand, which glows when the sun hits its surface. Situated in Chania, West Crete, the beaches boast clear, shallow waters that are perfect for children and one even has a small play area so they never get bored – giving you the chance to relax and soak up some Cretan sunshine. Golden Beach can get quite busy during July and August however, particularly at weekends, so make sure you arrive at the beach early to ensure you get a good spot and an umbrella.
Kalyves Beach Kalives (Kalyves) is a beautiful, picturesque village not far from Chania on the west side of Crete. The main beach of the village boasts wonderful clear waters, a central location that’s close to all the amenities you need and clean, golden sand that sweeps around the bay, backed by shady trees and excellent quality eateries. A great beach for families with young children.
Almyrida Beach Almirida (Almyrida) is a friendly fishing village that has become a lovely tourist resort. This small sandy beach has beautiful shallow water that’s perfect for kids. It is well-equipped with all the amenities a family would require for a day at the beach, including umbrellas, beds and nearby shops and restaurants. Again not too far from Chania, the beach benefits from being protected from the Meltema – the northern summer winds.
Rethymno Town Beach Endless Rethymno Town Beach stretches more than 20 kilometres along the sandy shore near Rethymnon, on the north coast of central Crete. The beach offers myriad amenities, including water sports facilities and plenty of great beach bars and tavernas, making it an excellent family friendly beach.
Agia Galini Beach Agia Galini is a popular and picturesque fishing village on the south coast of Crete (almost 60 kilometres south of Rethymnon). Its beach is luxuriously long, boasting crystal clear waters and powdery, white sand that’s perfect for the little ones to build sandcastles with. Everything for the tourist is available here with a wide range of water sports on offer and some tempting tavernas within reach.
Agia Pelagia Beach Agia Pelagia resort lies 16 kilometres west from Heraklion and its main beach is long, golden and sandy. The water there is almost always calm and clear, being well protected from the Meltemi (northern summer winds). In fact, the entire beach is well-organised and offers plenty of amenities – probably why it is renowned as one of the best beaches on the North Coast.
Stalis Beach Stalis (Stalida) is around 30 kilometres east from Heraklion Town, boasting a beach of soft sands and gem-like, turquoise waters. It is perfect for families with children as the beach is extremely clean and the waters shallow, however, the sea can become choppy on windier days.
Almyros Beach Situated in east Crete, just a few kilometres outside Agios Nikolaos, Almyros is a beautiful, long sandy stretch of well-protected beach. Set within a cosmopolitan and picturesque town, there are heaps of family comforts in the surrounding area. The water is also very shallow and calm, making it well-suited to families with children.
Aghios Panteleimonas Silver Beach (Agios Panteleimonas) is located in Istron, Kalo Horio on Mirabella Bay. Also named Church Beach, it is easily accessible with soft sand and just a few pebbles and has a small, sweet church on the right-hand side of the beach. Shallow waters make it great for children, while its quiet, isolated atmosphere make the perfect spot for parents to relax. A favourite with the locals, this beach is very well-equipped.
Makrigialos Beach Makri, meaning long in Greek, and gialos, meaning shore, gives you an idea of the look of this beautiful beach, situated on the south coast of the Lassithi region. The white, sandy is well protected from winds and the clear and clean shallow waters are ideal for families with small children. All facilities for swimming and sunbathing are available on this well-organised strip of sand, including umbrellas, sun beds and water sports.
We came up with a brilliant list of hotels in Crete, the southernmost and largest island of Greece, to discover with your favorite travel companion(s). We chose these hotels because of their high quality standards of service and the great feedback we get from you – our customer.
These properties are really something to get excited about, especially with the great prices we have on offer. If you like what you see, take a look at our website to get the holiday from your local airport. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Give our expert travel advisors a ring on 02079939228 for more of the best hotels Crete now.
Porto Elounda De Luxe Resort 5* Elounda
The ultimate in luxury, set in the stunning resort of Elounda, the Porto Elounda Deluxe Resort is the place to spend an unforgettable holiday. Exceptional service is combined with an array of high-quality facilities just steps away from the most beautiful resort in Crete.
Customer Rating: 5/5
Restaurants: Buffet, Mediterranean & Cretan, Seafood & Greek Tavern
Bars: Piano Bar, Beach Bar
Activities: Spa, Golf, Water sports, Tennis, Gym, Indoor Heated Pool, Entertainment
Children: Kids Club, 2 Children’s Pools, Children’s Entertainment, Babysitting
Right on the beautiful beach of Maleme Bay, the Louis Creta Princess offers bright and elegant rooms positioned around its lush gardens and pool, all with sea views.
Customer Rating: 4/5
Restaurants: Show Cooking Buffet, Italian, Chinese
Bars: Lobby Bar, Beach Bar, Disco
Activities: Entertainment, Varied Sports, Tennis
Children: Children’s Pool, Mini Club, Playground, Mini Golf, Kids Buffet, Mini Disco
Aegean Sky Hotel & Suites 5* Malia
Get away to the lively resort of Malia without compromising on great quality service and fantastic facilities. Just a short distance to the nightlife and to the beautiful beach, the Aegean Sky provides the ultimate accommodation for your lively holiday.
Customer Rating: 5/5
Restaurants: Snack Bar
Bars: Pool Bar
Activities: BBQ Nights, Pool Parties
Minos Hotel 4* Rethymnon
Just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Blue Flag beach, the Minos Hotel offers tranquility and excellent service that’s right next to the historic centre of Rethymnon.
Customer Rating: 4/5
Restaurants: Buffet, Mediterranean
Bars: Lobby Bar, Pool Bar
Activities: Entertainment, Varied Sports, Water Sports*, Tennis
Amazones Village Suites 4* Hersonissos
This boutique all-suite hotel is the perfect setting for any type of holiday you are looking for. Set in a good location with easy access to all the favorite Cretan resorts, the Amazones Village Suites offers you incredible service and luxury.
Customer Rating: 5/5
Restaurants: Main Restaurant
Bars: Main Bar
Activities: Fitness Centre, Tennis, Golf, Excursions
Marni Village Hotel 3* Hersonissos
Set just off the main area of Hersonissos, the Marni Village Hotel offers the ultimate combination of relaxation and great entertainment for the entire family. Enjoy the splendid sea views from the pool area or head over to the bustling town of Hersonissos for the sandy beaches and shopping.
Customer Rating: 4/5
Restaurants: Poolside Restaurant
Bars: Pool Bar
Activities: Sauna, Tennis
Children: 2 Children’s Pools, Playground, Playroom
Located a few meters away from the city centre, the Alantha Apartments offer the ultimate in style and functionality. Featuring all the room facilities you need for an incredible holiday, the Alantha Apartments are not to be missed if you’re looking for a great place to stay in a central location.
Customer Rating: 4/5
Restaurants: Snack Bar
Bars: Pool Bar
Activities: Roof Terrace Swimming Pool, Games Room
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As with most things, holidays are something best enjoyed with good company. After all, few people haven’t dreamt of packing up their things, taking their mates along and embarking on a holiday that will make history. Nonetheless, most of times group holidays seem to be a daunting prospect. Be it the fact that most people have to worry about day jobs and paying their rent, life seems to get in the way of the perfect group vacation more often than not. In case however, that you decide to go, another set of challenges might arise and in order to overcome these, you have to be prepared. Since we ‘re always about helping you with your holidays, we have gathered some of the best advice and suggestions of places to visit, in order to help you organise your perfect holiday without breaking your friends’ hearts, bones and of course the bank.