7 days in Crete: The unmissable attractions

From dreamy beaches to rugged canyons and fantastic local cuisine, discover the best things to do in Crete in one week.

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and a highly sought-after holiday destination. Thanks to its rich history and diverse landscapes, time flies on this gorgeous island as you spend your days going from beautiful beaches to hiking trails, local tastings and top tourist attractions.

But with so much choice, it’s hard to decide what to see on a one-week trip. How do you make sure you’re visiting those essential sights and experiencing the real spirit of the island?

Look no further than our day-by-day itinerary, which includes all the must-sees from Heraklion to Elafonissi, while fitting in some relaxation on beautiful beaches that seem to be straight out of the Caribbean.

Keep reading to discover what to visit in Crete in one week.

Day 1: Heraklion and the Palace of Knossos

Begin in Heraklion, the capital of the island and an excellent starting point for exploring Crete. Once here, take the time to discover the old town surrounded by ancient walls, the harbor with the Venetian fortress, and enjoy your first delicious Cretan lunch. If you have time, a visit to the prestigious Archaeological Museum is well worth it. It’s also a good idea to visit during the hottest hours of the day and escape the heat.

Then it’s on to the Palace of Knossos, the most famous attraction on the island and one of the most fascinating in all of Greece. The site is located outside the city but can be reached in about 15 minutes by car or by bus from the city center. It’s an ancient citadel built around 1700 BC and is unique testament to the art and culture of the ancient Minoan civilization. Note that the frescoes that you’ll see are reproductions. We recommend visiting the Palace of Knossos with a small guided tour to fully appreciate all the details and learn about the palace’s history and legends.

Day 2: History and relaxation at Spinalonga

Dedicate your second day to the island of Spinalonga, the easternmost place you’ll see during your trip. Spinalonga is an abandoned island where a majestic Venetian fortress was built and beautifully preserved. Having been both a sought-after strategic settlement and a leper colony at different times, the island has a long and turbulent history. Today it’s both a charming and fascinating place to visit.

You can walk around its perimeter, explore the ruins of ancient settlements, and visit the old hospital and theater. And then, it’s time to relax! The bay where it’s located is truly stunning, with crystal-clear waters. Stop by the beach of Spinalonga or return to the beach of Plaka for a swim with the fortress in the background.

Day 3: Rethymno and a sunset tour

Rethymno is a historic coastal city with a relaxed vibe. Spend your third day in Crete exploring its old town, where you can still see the remnants of its Turkish and Venetian past. This is also the perfect place to indulge in some shopping. And don’t miss the beautiful Venetian fortress, where you might have the chance to attend an outdoor event or concert.

To cool off after all that wandering, take a break at the well-equipped city beach or venture a bit further to one of the many beautiful beaches in the area.

Lastly, join a sunset safari on a 4×4 vehicle that will take you on a journey through the Cretan countryside. Starting from the city, you’ll leave the coast behind and drive up the hills where you’ll enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the surroundings. Finally, a delightful dinner awaits you, featuring traditional meze and wine.

Day 4: Regional products and delicacies

Among the many things the island has to offer, its gastronomic products are a true gem. That’s why we recommend dedicating half a day of your vacation in Crete to discovering its regional delicacies. Join a food and wine tour of the Rethymno countryside to taste products at a local winery and an olive oil producer. You’ll also get to climb up to the Vosakou Monastery, one of the most beautiful on the island, and finish the tour with a delicious traditional lunch.

Afterwards treat yourself to some well-deserved relaxation, whether it’s on a beautiful beach or simply by the poolside.

Day 5: The paradisiacal Elafonissi Beach

The beaches of Crete are truly spectacular and one of the most famous is Elafonissi Beach. Known for its pristine fine sand and crystal-clear waters, Elafonissi is a true paradise. In front of the beach, you’ll also find the islet with the same name, which can be reached either by walking across a sandy isthmus or by sea, depending on the tides. If you want to combine relaxation with exploring the island, an organized tour to Elafonissi that includes a visit to Agia Sofia Cave and Chrissoskalitissa Monastery is an excellent option.

Spend the evening in Chania, the third-largest city in Crete. Here, you can enjoy dinner at a restaurant in the historic center, take a stroll along the beautiful Venetian harbor and savor a drink by the seaside.

Day 6: Samaria Gorge and its famous trek

Now it’s time for some adventure! The Samaria Gorge is a truly fascinating national park, home to the famous 13km trek through the canyon. It’s a long downhill hike that offers up some incredible thrills. The trail starts in the village of Omalos and ends in Agia Roumeli; from there you’ll need to take a ferry back. Along the way you’ll pass through towering rock walls, the narrow passage known as the Iron Gates, and abandoned villages. Make sure to bring water, food and comfortable shoes.

Once you reach Agia Roumeli, you can wait for the ferry on the beach, taking a refreshing swim or enjoying a nice meal at a taverna.

Day 7: Sandy dunes and relaxation at Falasarna

For your last day, we suggest spending a day of complete relaxation at Falasarna Beach. Another beautiful beach in the Chania area, Falasarna is a protected area with white sandy dunes and clear waters. The beach is pristine and well-equipped with snack bars and umbrellas, so you can spend the day in total peace and tranquility having all your needs met.

If you prefer something a bit livelier, we recommend a tour that combines wine and olive oil tastings with a free afternoon at Falasarna.

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