Deciding where to stay in Crete
The island’s capital, also known locally as Heraklion, is a vibrant city, full to the brim with art and history, making it an ideal place for history lovers to visit. The Minoan Palace of Knossos is a major attraction, as is the Museum of Natural History. During summer and autumn you will be welcomed by crocuses and narcissi adorned against traditional white washed houses and churches that are synonymous with Greece.
The centre is packed with bars, restaurants and traditional tavernas where locals meet with tourists for a relaxed but fun evening. The nightlife in Heraklio Town can get a little wild but there are plenty of bars to cater for those who prefer a quieter holiday. Heraklion is the place to stay for visitors wishing to experience the heart of Crete with easy access to surrounding areas. Hotels are scattered in and around the centre and range from boutique hotels set in historical buildings to modern five-star hotels boasting pools, childminding, gourmet restaurants and unobstructed views over the harbour and old Venetian fortress.
>> Hotels in Heraklio Town
Chania, also known locally as La Canea, is a beautiful town, where you can stroll around and soak up the Cretan atmosphere and live as the locals do. If you want to stay in a place that is steeped in tradition but still offers you the opportunity to have a beach getaway, Chania is a great place to stay.
You can walk along the harbour and along the lively promenade, dipping in and out of its many cafés to watch locals go about their everyday life. You will find Cretan people very friendly in any town you visit and do not be surprised if people ask you into their homes. This charming old town offers accommodation to suit all holiday budgets. Ranging from family-friendly three-star hotels located only a short walk away from the Venetian Harbour, to five-star hotels featuring spas and trendy courtyards and bars, visitors will be able to experience Crete in all its glory.
>> Hotels in Chania Town
Those looking for a full-on party head to Malia and Hersonissos for a hedonistic Greek holiday. Situated in the Heraklion region, it is close to the airport and has long stretches of sandy beaches to rest and recuperate after a long night of drinking and dancing. Big name DJs fly out to Malia during the summer months, rivalling Ibiza as the number one destination for young people to rave their summer breaks away. Glozanie Beach is an infamous party destination, where the days roll into one and the party never stops.
There is a total of 6 beaches in Malia to choose from, so you will be spoilt for choice as to where you rest your weary head. If there are no hangovers to be seen, a day of water-sports or beach football is on offer and the blue flag beaches mean that a swim in the sea can blow away any remaining cobwebs. There is a little respite in Malia, with the old town still hanging on to some of its traditions, with tavernas serving up tzatziki and Moussaka by night and the quaint cobbled streets welcoming people into their shops and churches during the day. Malia is home to traditional three-star family-run hotels and, for bigger holiday budgets, luxury complexes of villas and suites that are conveniently located close to the beach and spoil guests to pools and exquisite views.
>> Hotels in Malia
26 km east of Heraklion Town, and 20 km of the Heraklion Airport, lies Hersonissos, the largest tourist resort in Crete, a town that sees masses flocking to its picturesque, yet lively, beaches and attractions. Nightlife is abuzz in this hedonistic town, with offerings by numerous bars, traditional taverns and popular night clubs. Despite the energetic party scene, Hersonissos caters equally for families. Among the top attractions are the aquarium and reptile rescue centre, an open-air folklore Museum and the monastery of Agios Georgios. Children will also love getting lost in the Labyrinth Park.
A holiday in Crete won’t be complete without experiencing its luxury, and often all-inclusive, resorts and hotels. For visitors who regard hotels not only as a means of accommodation, but as part of the holiday experience, then Hersonissos is the place to stay. Boasting jumbo pools, wellness centres, kids’ clubs, dining and evening entertainment, visitors will only need to venture beyond resort walls for the occasional beach day and shopping spree. The town is also home to the one and only golf course in Crete.
>> Hotels in Hersonissos
Rethymno celebrates having the best beaches on the island, making it the place to head if you love spending time on the sand and in the sea. A holiday in Rethymno is all about taking things easy, soaking up the sun and sipping cocktails of an evening. The relaxed pace of life also makes Rethymno a good place for families to stay, as there are no huge crowds and you can partake in as little or as many activities as you want to.
There are large water parks for children to have fun splashing about in and the town centre has many child friendly restaurants and outdoor bars. The surrounding area of the main centre is very hilly and makes for great photographs, as well as the opportunity to stretch the legs and take brisk walks. Rethymno raises the bar when it comes to boutique hotels. Restored Venetian-Ottoman mansions serve breakfast on stunning rooftop terraces and are within walking distance from the centre’s attractions, making Rethymno the perfect place to stay to appreciate the culture and relaxation Crete has to offer.
>> Hotels in Rethymno Town
Elounda is just over an hour’s drive from Heraklio Town and is a popular destination for tourists who want a mixture of traditional Greek holiday and modern beach holiday. Along the coast from Elounda is Agios Nikolaos where you can find The Voulismeni Lake, which is said to be bottomless! The lake attracts hundreds of tourists every day, meaning that Agios Nikolaos has gradually become a small resort in its own right.
The pace is very relaxed in both Elounda and Agios Nikolaos, making it an ideal place for couples and young families. Quiet tavernas and bars can be found along the main streets and there are lots of boutique shops where you can buy unusual trinkets for the family back home. While Elounda boasts stylish hotels, villas and suites, with some being adults-only, many are child friendly and most have family activities to keep everybody entertained.
>> Hotels in Elounda
Crete may be renowned for all night parties and typical beach holidays but there are many hidden gems to be found, if you take time to explore this wonderfully diverse island.