The Most Spectacular Places to Visit in Crete by Car!

Best Places to Visit in Crete by Car

Looking for the best places to visit in Crete by car? You’re at the right place!

Nothing wiser than renting a car when arriving in Crete to see and enjoy the best of this big Greek island.

Driving in Crete isn’t as hard as you may think, so get behind the wheel and discover some unforgettable places, think of historical monuments such as Phaistos, Gortys, or Agia Triada, to name only a few.

Exotic Beaches as if They Come Out of a Card Postal

There are hundreds of amazing beaches to discover on the island of Crete, some of them have often been included among the best shores on the Greek Islands.

Falasarna Beach

Region: Chania (West coast)
Latitude: N 35.503712 | Longitude: E 23.577256

Best beaches in Crete
Falasarna Beach, Crete Island.
It is a fantastic long beach and one of the best sand beaches on the island of Crete.The beach is located about an hour away from Chania and it’s a fantastic day trip you can take when you’re staying in the region. Falassarna is also one of the widest beaches of Crete, it is ideal for swimming and practicing water sports due to its windy weather conditions, however, when there are very strong winds it can be difficult to spend long hours on the shore.On the other hand, on those days when the wind doesn’t blow, Falasarna is perfect for sunbathing and snorkeling too. There are excellent tavernas in the area, including one of my favorite restaurants in Crete.
There are also beach bars and places to buy drinks and snacks. Overall, the beach is fairly well organized and it’s also an enchanting spot for a few days of complete relaxation.

Palm Beach of Vai

Region: Lasithi (East coast)
Latitude: N 35.254528  Longitude: E 26.265406

Where to stay in Crete for Beaches - vai beach
Palm trees in Vai Beach.

Another top beach in Crete is the fantastic Palm Beach of Vai. Vai is so popular among the people visiting the east of Crete that it is very common to find it crowded in summer even if it is not located in a central position. The best way to get there is by car, the beach is a short drive from the city of Sitia.

Vai hosts Europe’s biggest natural pam forest which gives magic and an exotic feel to the area. The bay is wide and calm, the sea very clean and shallow, all conditions that make it a perfect place to swim especially for children.

Indeed, the beach of Vai is great for families with children, and much better if you visit in more tranquil months The best time to visit are the months of April, May, and the end of September. Due to the dry and hot weather in the east of Crete, you can enjoy the best of Vai even until late October and sometimes well into November.

The Hippie Beach of Matala

Region: Heraklion (South coast)
Latitude: N 34.987405 | Longitude: E 24.747813

Matala beach, Crete, Caves, Sunset

Matala, Crete’s hippie beach, is located on the southern coast of Heraklion and it’s another popular beach on the island that everyone wants to visit. Immortalized in a song by Joni Mitchell, the beach and the village of Matala is an unmissable stop during your holiday on Greece’s largest island.

The beach combines both soft golden sand and pebbles, with a clear sea quite deep and subject to currents when it’s a bit windy. The coast of Matala is a good place for snorkeling and it’s also possible to explore the seaside caves along the shore by renting a boat as well as to visit the caves on the western side of the beach, located on a cliff right by the sea which.

Inhabited by hippies and ex-pats during the ’60s and ’70s, the caves became a legendary place that made Matala a popular destination. Every year in June, Matala also hosts a 3-day summer music festival.

Seitan Limania

Region: Chania (Cape Akrotiri)
Latitude: N 35.551902 | Longitude: E 24.193404

Best beaches in Crete
Seitan Limania Beach.

Stefanou Beach (popularly called Seitan Limania or the Devil’s Ports) is a spectacular beach at the end of the Akrotiri Peninsula, about 30 minutes away from the center of Chania town.

Here, the sea is quite wavy and subject to currents, however, the unique colors of the sea and the rough, steep cliffs that surround the bay, make it an irresistible spot for those in search of the perfect postcard picture of Crete.

The beach lacks organization, so you should carry with you everything you need to spend the day.

Agia Pelagia

Region: Heraklion (North coast)
Latitude: N 35.404731 | Longitude: E 25.018634

Best beaches in Crete

Agia Pelagia is another popular beach in the region of Heraklion, as it is conveniently close to the city, and yet it manages to keep a somewhat relaxed village atmosphere.

There are several bays along the coast, some of them accessible only by boat. Others, instead, have organized structures and offer water sports such as SUP surfing and kayaking.

On the main beach of Agia Pelagia, there are a few good restaurants along the seaside, some of them serving also to the people who rent umbrellas at the beach.

The village is quite alive also at night, with a few well-known pubs and beach bars as well.

The Most Stunning Gorges in Crete

Crete is not only about beaches, friendly people, and tasty food. The landscape is also unique. And there is nothing more spectacular than its gorges. Crete is full of breathtaking natural canyons where you can hike while enjoying the scenery and spectacular views.

The Most Spectacular Gorge in Crete

Samaria Gorge in Crete
                                                                                                                                          The Gates, Samaria.

The gorge of Samaria is the most visited canyon in Crete, if not in all of Greece. Thousands of tourists and locals visit it every week from early May to October. It is usually crowded even during the shoulder season. But this hype happens for a good reason. Samaria Gorge is one of the greatest masterpieces of Mother Nature, as it truly has it all. Mountains, trees, rivers full of clear and drinkable water, plenty of sunlight, and a pebble beach for those brave enough to finish the 6-8h trail. The various terrain that you go through and the scenery are magical. You feel the power of nature. You will often want to stop and enjoy the view. Just be careful and pay attention to the path in front of you as the rocks can be slippery at times.On the other hand, you don’t need to worry about water or toilets. Along your way, you can find several washrooms and natural springs where you can fill your water bottle. Once you reach Agia Roumeli you can either refresh at the beach with a relaxing swim or choose to spend the night in the small seaside village. This is probably the smartest thing to do, spend the night in Agia Roumeli, and then sail back to Chora Sfakia the next morning. Your tired feet will appreciate it!

Imbros Gorge
Family Friendly Gorge in Crete

Chania Imbros - gorges in Crete

If Samaria seems too long and tiring for you, or you prefer a less crowded hike, then the gorge of Imbros is the next best choice around Chania.It can take around 2 hours for the whole hike which is fairly easy, ideal for families and those who want to enjoy the natural beauty of a Cretan canyon without sore legs the next day. The main reason hikers prefer Imbros to Samaria is no other than the serenity and freedom of movement you will have in this not-so-popular alternative. There are almost no people since everyone prefers the neighboring Samaria.It is the ideal gorge to soak in the natural beauty and enjoy the breathtaking views while crossing narrow paths between large rock formations. The route is pretty easy to follow so you don’t need to worry about getting lost. Just be aware that it can get too hot at times, especially if you visit later in the day. If you have time, remember to stop by the village of Imbros, and have a drink or bite in an idyllic traditional setting. It truly is one of Crete’s hidden gems, a place where time stands still.

Aradaina Gorge
The Heart of Sfakia Region

gorges in Crete

South of mount Pachnes (the highest summit of the White Mountains, 2453 meters), in the western half of the island, lies Aradaina (or also Aradena). It is a 7-kilometer-long gorge ideal for those who want to avoid the crowds of Samaria, 4 kilometers away. Aradaina is a wild hike but with a well-maintained path surrounded by a few oaks and olive trees in an otherwise mostly barren landscape.  The gorge of Aradaina can be a great adventure too. Occasionally, you may jump over small rock formations or even slide down through steep cliffs. Ideally, plan for 3 to 4 hours depending on how fast you are and how much time you spend taking pictures and admiring the views. Just remember to bring with you plenty of water, at least 2 liters per person, and proper hiking boots. At the end of the gorge, you will reach the pebbled beach of Marmara where you can enjoy a great swim in deep blue clean water. Just next to the beach, you will find a local tavern where you can taste their fresh seafood while you enjoy the marvelous view over the bay. Fuel up, go for a swim, and relax for a bit.

Patsos Gorge
Kid-Friendly Gorge in Crete

gorges in Crete

If you are looking for an adventure, a hike through Patsos Gorge is a must. Although just 1.5 kilometers in length, walking the full path will certainly feel longer. And it is not only the walking part; depending on the trail you choose, you might also need to climb using ropes and ladders that are readily available in the right spots. The three kilometers of active movement through the rugged terrain are not as hard as they might seem. However, it is a good workout if you think you spend too much time on the beach. Just remember to get the right sporting shoes with you with enough traction. As a side note, kids love this gorge and you do not need to cover the whole length of it either! Once you decide to go on the adventure, the natural beauty and landscape will not let you down. It is a beautiful hike with dramatic cliffs, rocks, streams, a waterfall, and fall-colored leaves spread all around the path. Once you come back, the reward can be a great lunch at the local tavern located at the gorge entrance.

Kourtaliotiko Gorge

gorges in Crete
Kourtaliotiko Gorge in Rethymnon, Crete.

Kourtaliotiko is a spectacular gorge located south of Rethymnon. Surrounded by craggy cliffs and trees, the gorge runs from north to south, alongside the road to Plakias and Preveli Monastery. The breathtaking scenery, waterfalls, fountains, old chapels, and monasteries create the perfect condition for a long and pleasant walk along the gorge. Although there is a cement road to drive through the gorge, it is best to stop and take a closer look. To do so, you can walk down the stone steps to the bottom of the gorge. You will find those steps about halfway down the road of the canyon. Once at the bottom, you will appreciate the true scale of the canyon. If you walk all the way to Preveli beach, you will come across one of the most authentic beaches in Crete. This is the area of the cheerful Lammergeiers birds as well as some smaller raptors and pigeons. These birds prefer to stick to the base of the gorge.

Best Towns in Crete That You Must Visit

There are several cities and small towns worth your time, in every region of Crete. Don’t miss them!

The Picturesque Town of Chania

souvenir road, Chania

If you have to visit only one town in Crete, that should be no other than Chania. Imagine a small charming settlement full of life and fantastic architecture. Its lovely harbor, the old city, and its lively market are only a portion of what Chania can offer. Above all, the food there will be the main reason you’ll want to extend your stay in the town!

The Cosmopolitan City of Heraklion

Places to visit in Crete by car: Heraklion

The capital of Crete is the third biggest city in Greece. In other words, it has everything, from renowned museums, cathedrals, and picturesque old towns to bars, restaurants, and shops of every kind. That is enough reason to visit Heraklion while you drive around Crete! Yet, if you want to give the city justice, take it slow and explore its well-hidden yet beautiful corners.

The Medieval Town of Rethymnon

places to visit in Crete by car

If driving the distance between Chania and Heraklion sounds too much, go halfway until reaching Rethymno. Not only will this medieval city captivate you with its sheer beauty and vibes, but you will also have the chance to explore terrific ancient sites.

The Lively Town of Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos, Crete

The seaside settlement of Agios Nikolaos has all you ever wished for from a holiday destination. Spectacular beaches, mild climate all year long, buzzing nightlife, and souvenir shops for every taste. Let alone the delicious local gastronomy that includes a blend of traditional and modern Greek cuisine!

Archeological monuments in Crete That You Must Visit

Knossos: the Symbol of Minoan Civilization


Perhaps one of Greece’s most important archaeological monuments, Knossos Palace, deserves a visit while driving around Crete. Imagine walking on a four-thousand-year-old structure that emits history in every corner or sign of ruin. If you like what you see, make sure to also visit the Archeological Museum of Heraklion, where many findings from Knossos have moved.

Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery, Rethymnon, Crete

A few kilometers south of Rethymno, you will come across one of Crete’s most prestigious and historical monasteries. Arkadi Monastery was a sight of martyrdom when sieged Greeks decided to bomb themselves after being surrounded by Ottomans during the Cretan Revolution in 1866. Today, the site is a national sanctuary worth visiting to discover more of its intimate history.

Malia’s Minoan Palace


No matter which stone you move in Crete, a great deal of history hides beneath it. And that is what happens around the modern resort of Malia, east of Heraklion. Here lies Crete’s third-largest Minoan Palace, home to prehistoric houses, streets, theaters, workshops, and royal tombs. All you have to do is drive to the site and explore its 7500 square meters at your own pace. You will love the whole experience!

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