The Greek island of Crete is a perfect destination for people who love nature and history. The island is fairly large and has a variety of attractions for people of all ages. It’s a great place to visit during summer, but there are many things to do year-round. So no matter what you’re looking for from a vacation, Crete will certainly deliver. To help you plan your vacation, I will give you a list of 14 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit on Crete that are worth visiting. Read on!
Things To Do In Crete
Heraklion is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Crete and the largest urban city on the island. This makes a perfect base to explore all that Crete has to offer. I stayed here for a few days, and it quickly became one of my favorite places to visit in Crete. It is very busy and bustling with tourists, but it is full of life and character.
Most interestingly here is visiting the Venetian Harbor. This was once a flourishing trading port, and is now a popular destination for tourists. Here you can see yacht marinas, cafes, restaurants with seaside patios, several museums, ancient shipyards, a children’s park, and more.
The Koules Fortress is another must-see attraction in Crete. It is an old fortress built by the Venetians in the 16th century. Here, you can see the city’s old walls, towers, churches, public buildings, beautiful architecture, and more. There is also a city museum inside, which is certainly worth stopping by.
Additionally, don’t miss out on the Byzantine Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. Both are amazing places to visit with your family, as they contain many artifacts from ancient civilizations. There is also an extensive collection of unique exhibits here, so it’s a great place to spend several hours if you’re interested in learning about the history and culture of Greece.
Then, check out other popular attractions such as the Agora, Venetian Loggia, and the Market. All are excellent places to visit here with your friends and family.
Since it is a large city, there are many other things to do and see here. So, if you have the time, be sure to explore as much of Heraklion as you can before departing to another town.
Read More: 19 Best Things to Do in Heraklion
2. The Palace of Knossos
The Palace of Knossos is probably one of the most popular Crete attractions. The palace, located in Heraklion, was uncovered by Sir Arthur Evans back in 1900 and now features a museum filled with amazing artifacts found on the island.
A lot of information has been gathered from the ruins of the palace. This includes a large variety of pottery, many intricately designed vases, and statues, as well as frescoes depicting religious rituals and everyday life. You can see how these artifacts were made by using tools found on site, including a hammer and anvil where ceramics were manufactured.
Also, in the museum, you can see a collection of frescoes and paintings depicting bull-leapers and wrestlers. These were done in Minoan style, which is characterized by naturalistic art that shows people as they appear in life rather than how artists imagined them to be. Many famous artists such as Picasso were influenced by this style when creating their artwork.
The Palace of Knossos is definitely worth a visit, whether you have studied the site before or not. You can spend hours looking through the artifacts and frescoes on display, which are beautifully displayed throughout sumptuous halls and rooms. If you’re a fan of archaeology or history, this is an attraction that you won’t want to miss.
3. Aquaworld Aquarium
If you love water creatures, the Aquaworld Aquarium Crete is another of the best places to visit on Crete. This aquarium features more than 100 species of fish, amphibians, and reptiles in beautiful recreations of their natural habitats.
Most of these animals were rescued or were unwanted pets, so you are now able to appreciate them in their natural habitat. And one of the best things is that it really brings you up close to all of the animals on display. This makes for a unique experience as you can see these animals in their natural habitats more clearly.
In addition to the animals, there is also a variety of plants and other wildlife on display here. One of my favorite parts of this aquarium was visiting the jellyfish exhibit, where I got a chance to see some huge jellyfish close up.
Overall, there is far more than just fish and other sea creatures to see here. This is a great place for all ages, with lots of interesting exhibits to explore.
Read More: 14 Best Things to Do in Greece
4. Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos is a beautiful coastal town located on the east coast of Crete. It’s especially popular during the summer for vacationers and holiday-makers. Here, you can enjoy some of the warmest waters in Crete on beautiful beaches, as well as some excellent restaurants and bars.
One of my favorite things I enjoyed in this town was going on a tour of Spinalonga Island. This island was once home to an isolated leper colony during the Byzantine Empire. Today, it is one of the most popular historical attractions in Crete. Tour guides are available to educate you on the history of the island and its inhabitants, as well as point out some great photo opportunities.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing day by the water, I recommend heading over to Elounda Beach resort. This area is known for its posh beach hotels and villas that have been carefully designed to take advantage of the beautiful views of the bay. Here, you can enjoy a delicious meal and watch the breathtakingly beautiful sunset. It’s also a popular destination for water sports, with windsurfing and scuba diving among the most popular activities here.
Overall, Agios Nikolaos is a great town for all ages to visit, especially during the summertime when it’s nice and hot outside. Particularly, it is one of the best places to visit in Crete for families.
Read More: 15 Best Things to Do in Agios Nikolaos
5. Phaistos Palace and Archaeological Site
The Phaistos Palace is one of the most popular attractions in Crete for the history-lovers. This palace is Crete’s second most important after Knossos Palace. It was the palace of the brother of Minos (Radamanthus), and it’s located in a small town in south-central Crete.
A visit to Phaistos Palace and Archaeological Site is like stepping back in time, as it’s possible to walk through ancient streets and see the foundations of buildings long since destroyed. The site itself has several different areas: a residential area, an agora (or public square), a shrine, and of course, the palace itself.
The site has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site, and you can explore the ruins, which are surrounded by an impressive stone wall. You can easily spend a few hours or more walking around and checking everything out. The scenery around is also quite lovely, as the surrounding area is full of trees and other greenery.
I suggest that you wear comfortable walking shoes because there is a lot of walking involved. And don’t forget to bring water with you.
6. Elafonisi Beach
The Island of Crete is known for its wonderful beaches, and Elafonisi is one of the most beautiful. But what’s so special about it? Well, for one thing, the sand ranges from sparkling white to a soft pink hue. This makes it just about the prettiest beach you’ll ever see. The water is also a beautiful clear blue color, and its coastline boasts dozens of small coves and bays.
As far as tourist attractions go, this is one of Crete’s best places to visit. It’s incredibly beautiful and peaceful, making it a great place for spending time swimming, sunbathing, or taking some romantic walks with your significant other. It’s also perfect for children because the water is shallow, so they can run around freely.
It’s also worth mentioning that the beach attracts many travelers. But because of its size, you still won’t feel crowded or overwhelmed like you would at other popular beaches. Plus, there are plenty of hotels and resorts nearby, so you can easily find a quiet spot that suits your tastes if you want to relax.
Overall, the experience here is unlike anything. It’s a beautiful, fun, and unforgettable place for all ages to enjoy some beach time.
Read More: 14 Best Beaches in Crete
7. Arkadi Monastery
If you’re a fan of history, then visiting the Arkadi Monastery should be on top of your list. This Orthodox monastery is located 20 kilometers southeast of Rethymno. It was built in the 5th century by Byzantine emperor Arcadius.
Arkadi Monastery is famous for the major uprising that took place here in 1866 and the massacre that followed. The uprising began as a protest against the Turks who ruled Crete. The Turks were furious with the rebels and, in retaliation, murdered many women and children who had walled themselves at the monastery.
Today, the monastery features a beautiful 16th-century Venetian Baroque style Makeover with many smaller ones surrounding it. You can walk around the monastery and see where the massacre took place.
Overall, Arkadi Monastery is one of the top tourist attractions in Crete, not to be missed. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or architecture, there’s plenty to see and do here. Plus, there are some great views from the monastery as well, such as looking down on the Rethymno plain.
8. Chania town
Chania is hands down the best town on Crete and one of the most pleasant places to visit in all of Greece. It’s a gorgeous town, full of well-preserved Venetian architecture and traditional Cretan charm. Wander around the winding streets, looking at all the white houses with red roofs, as well as churches and mosques, all built in the distinctive “Old Town” style.
The town is a great place for shopping as well. Take a tour to The Municipal Market, where you can shop for fruits and vegetables, see handmade jewelry, leather bags and shoes, and traditional Greek clothes. In fact, it’s a lot of fun just to wander around the market, looking at all the souvenirs for sale. In addition, there are bars and cafes within this market that serve local cuisine. So, don’t forget to stop for something to eat. There are lots of delicious dishes here that you won’t want to miss out on.
And of course, Chania is a great place to go out and have fun as well. There are lots of things to do in town after dark. Whether you want to hang out at bars or go dancing in clubs until late in the night, this town has it all. And don’t worry about getting lost either, just use Google Maps (download the offline map), and you’ll always be able to find your way back.
Overall, Chania is one of the best places in Crete to visit for history buffs, architecture lovers, foodies, and anyone who wants an authentic glimpse into Greek culture. Wander through the winding streets looking at all the beautiful buildings, try local dishes in the town’s many cafes and taverns, or just relax with ice cream. It’s a truly spectacular place to visit in what is already a fantastic country.
9. Preveli Beach
A beach to rival Elafonisi, Preveli beach is equally paradisiacal. It’s like finding an oasis. As you walk towards this beach, it feels like the perfect escape from reality. It’s hard to believe that you’re in Greece.
The beach itself is stunning, with clear turquoise waters and fine white sand. It’s the kind of place where you could spend hours either swimming or just sitting and sunbathing. It’s a quiet place, with not very many people around.
The beach is surrounded by a rocky hill, giving it a unique allure. It’s like you’re in another world, not on the shores of Crete like everyone else. A trail runs through the rocks, where you can climb up to get an even more incredible view of the beach.
Visiting this place should definitely be on your list of things to do in Crete. There are even water sports available, such as kayaks and snorkeling gear. And if you’re tired from all the activities, you can find a spot on the beach to relax. All in all, Preveli beach is one of the top tourist attractions in Crete to spend a day relaxing, swimming, and enjoying nature.
10. Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge is one of the top places to visit on Crete, and definitely up there as one of the best natural attractions in Greece. The gorge stretches for 16 kilometers, with sheer cliffs on both sides. In addition, River Tarraios flows through the George, but dries up during summer.
The walk through the gorge is breathtaking, with many remarkable views of impressive mountain scenery. The trip starts at the village of Omalos and ends at the Libyan Sea in Agios Nikolaos. It will take you about five to six hours to reach the end, but this will depend on your walking speed and how fit you are.
Note that the walk along this gorge is not easy. There is a good amount of stairs and steep climbs. Therefore, it is not recommended for people with knee problems or trouble walking. I suggest carrying your water and wearing proper shoes. In addition, this is a one-way hike, so you’ll have to plan your transportation ahead of time to make sure you get back to the starting point.
11. Diktaion (Psychro) Cave
The Diktaion Cave, or simply the ‘Psychro’ cave, is one of Crete’s most famous cave sites. It’s known for its stunning stalactites and stalagmites, as well as its historical significance. In fact, among the 4,500 caves and sinkholes found throughout Crete, this is considered to be one of the best. Therefore, I may not be wrong to say that this is one of the top tourist attractions in Crete that draws in thousands of visitors.
Inside the cave, you’ll find fascinating rock formations, as well as an underground river. A path takes you around the five different chambers of the cave, to the bottom, where you will find a calm lake surrounded by immense stalactites and stalagmites. Note that a guide is required for everyone entering the cave.
Besides just exploring the cave and admiring its beauty, this is also a great place to hike. The path around the cave takes you high to the Lassithi plateau, where you can admire a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. The hike is extremely popular, and it’s considered one of the most scenic hikes in Crete. This makes it an ideal place to explore during the day, and you can combine it with other nearby attractions.
12. City of Rethymno
The city of Rethymno is one of the best places to visit in Crete, and for a good reason: it has some truly amazing sights. This is an old city with deep roots, and you can feel its age throughout the narrow streets and alleyways. The city has a medieval feel, with historic buildings and architecture from various eras next to brand new buildings.
One major tourist attraction here is The Fortezza Castle above the town. This is actually an old Venetian fortress, with a dry moat and tall stone walls that protect its residents from attack or misfortune. Ruins of Byzantine churches are scattered throughout the area and provide an interesting backdrop for photos.
If you’re looking to experience the true spirit of Crete, this is one of the best places to visit. It’s not famous for being a tourist hotspot, so it retains its authentic character while still being safe enough to explore freely at any time. The winding streets are also great to walk through, and the views from up above on the castle walls are really great.
If you’re just visiting for a day or two, this is a place to go and get away from the more touristy cities and beaches. It’s also a great place to experience something truly different than what you may be familiar with at home.
Plakias is a small, seaside fishing village located right on the coast of the Libyan Sea, which gives it a unique and picturesque atmosphere. It’s a quiet town, with a small population, perfect for spending a day, especially during the summertime.
This quietness is one of the best things about Plakias. The town is far from overcrowded and loud, as it’s only visited by a few thousand people every year. In fact, the summer months are the only time of year when you can expect to see more tourists on any given street.
The beach itself is beautiful, with blue waters perfect for swimming or sunbathing without getting too hot. It’s also a good place to have a nice time away from the city, relaxing on the beach while enjoying what nature has to offer. There are also sunbeds and parasols for rent on the beach and a snack bar.
One of the nicest things about Plakias is that it feels safe and open, with people freely walking around in bikinis and trunks. Therefore, it is one of the top attractions in Crete for people who want to try something new while seeing how people enjoy life.
14. Matala Beach
Located in the southern part of Crete, Matala Beach is one of the most well-known tourist attractions on the island. It’s no wonder the place is packed with visitors from all 0ver the world during the high season.
The beach itself is gorgeous, with fine sand and clear blue water. It’s not overcrowded either, with plenty of space to spread out. Rent a chair or umbrella and lounge in the sun all day if you’d like. There are also several restaurants along the beach that serve excellent Greek food at great prices. Just choose your fish, order some wine, and enjoy the view.
The best part of this beach is the wonderful caves. These are located on one side of the beach, where you can explore these natural wonders to your heart’s content. So if you’re looking for a relaxing day at a beautiful beach, then Matala Beach is an excellent choice.
There are many other excellent tourist attractions in Crete, but these are some of the best. They are all quite different from one another, so you can experience a wide range of things on your visit. So if you are planning on visiting Crete in the near future, be sure to check out these places before leaving.
Where to stay: Best Hotels in Crete Lowest Price Guarantee