The island of Crete, Greece, has a lot to offer: beaches, mountains, gorges, islands, monasteries... Every traveler is looking for something different: from a quiet retreat to a dynamic nightlife. Below is my guide to help you navigate the best destinations on the island, find out where to stay in Crete for your perfect holidays and book your Crete accommodation.
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Best areas to stay in Crete - Map + Top destinations
Let's start with an overall view of the island with the main cities, the main attractions and what each region has to offer.
This will help you get a better understanding of which area in Crete might be better for you to stay in.
Where to stay in Crete - Map
First, below is a map to get you oriented. I have included the main towns (in black), all the locations listed in this article (in blue), as well as some of the most famous sights in Crete in red (although not all best things as it would make the map unreadable - see my complete list here).
This should already give you a better feel for which area would suit more your visit expectations.
And to help you thinking about the best places to stay in Crete to be able to see see all that you want, consider the following driving times:
- Heraklion to Rethymno - 1h15
- Rethymno to Chania - 1h10
- Chania to Palaiochora - 1h30
- Palaiochora to Hora Sfakion - 2h30
- Rethymno to Hora Sfakion - 1h20
- Heraklion to Malia - 40min
I make a lot of suggestions further in this article, but if you already know in which general area you would like to stay, you can find a very large choice of accommodations in Crete via Booking (the website I personally use):
Best destinations in Crete
This is quite difficult to choose. Some of my favorite places to visit are all around the island.
So my first answer would be to do a road trip and stay in different areas of the island - see my guide to help you plan a road trip
However many people will want to stay in one place for a week. In that case my top 3 would be:
- Chania - it has it all: a city with lots of charm, mountains and beaches close-by...
Check out the best rated accommodations in Chania
- Palaiochora - less for those wanting to explore and more for people who want to relax away from the main touristic spots with mountains plunging into the sea. More sport activities rather than visits.
Check out the best rated accommodations in Palaiochora
- Malia or Elounda to have access to a wide variety of activities and sights: mountains, archaeological sights, churches, beaches...
Check out the best rated accommodations in Malia
But this can be answered a million different ways. Therefore read the next sections with answers depending on your objectives and desires.
Where to stay in Crete - short answers
If you have a specific interest, below is my opinion to answer some of the questions you may have
Best place to stay in Crete for access to a variety of landscapes?
Crete has a lot to offer and driving times can be long because of mountain roads. So to see it all, I recommend road tripping and changing hotels almost every night. However if you want a quieter holiday, I would recommend opting for half of your trip staying in Chania (West) and the other half stay on the East side either in Elounda or Malia.
Where to stay in Crete for the best beaches?
Ohh that can be debated a long time. I think the best beaches are away from the towns (you can see my list here).
But some people want the lifestyle and nightlife that can go with it.
So here are various options (see details further in the article):
- Bali - one of the most famous beaches area on the North shore close to many sights and with an active nightlife - See options
- Plakias - The main beach area on the South Coast - great for families and sunbathing - See options
- Palaiochora - More off the way on the South Coast with splendid views of mountains dropping in the sea - See options
- Malia - Another party resort area on the North shore (but to the East) close to many sights and activities - See options
- Elafonisi - one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete with pink sand. Not many accommodations but by staying there, you can enjoy the beach for yourself instead of sharing with the flow of tourists from the day trips - See where I stayed
However note, that the famous beach of Balos Lagoon is isolated on the West coast and you can't find any accommodations at the beach.
Where to stay in Crete without a car
In that case, it is clearly easier to stay in one of the main towns so that you can enjoy the pubic transportation and the many day tours organized from those towns. And in a smaller town so that it is easy to get around.
Best area in Crete for History
If for your trip you are mostly interested in history, I recommend Heraklion:
- The Archeological museum is fascinating
- You are closed to Knossos and are a short drive to Phaistos, Gortyna and Malia (see my article about the best archeological sites)
- You are also not far from the Arkadi Monastery and its dramatic history
Check out the best rated accommodations in Heraklion Town or near Amoudara beach
Best place in Crete for Nightlife
This is not my area of expertise, but from what I read, the answer would be Malia or Bali
Quiet areas to stay in Crete
You can read my full section on this further in this article. My short answer is to choose small seaside villages with easy access to the main roads to explore around. My top choices are
Best areas in Crete for Hiking
Most beautiful gorges are on the South and the East coasts of Crete.
From Chora Sfakion you have easy access to several of them: Samaria, walk to Loutro and further, Imbros Gorge, Kallikratis..
See the best rated accommodations in Chora Sfakion (advanced booking is recommended)
Where to stay in Crete for a honeymoon?
It is really difficult to answer this one, because couples will have different objectives on honeymoon: relax, party or be adventurous. So the other answers should help narrowing it down.
However the places I have found the most romantic where : the white village of Loutro (see my article) and the pink beach of Elafonisi (see my article) or accommodations isolated in the olive trees
Accommodations in Crete - Tips
Before you start booking away your accommodations, here are a few things to know about the accommodations in Crete:
- They have a tendency to have small showers (even in renovated buildings) - on the picture below you can see one of the rare bathrooms I enjoyed. So if this is important to you, pay closely attention to the pictures and reviews
- What you will find are mostly resort, hotels or rentals.
- Most accommodations accept Credit card. Although some in rural areas may ask for cash
- Free camping is not allowed - it is illegal to camp outside of campsites
- You can find campsites but there are not many of them
Which town in Crete to stay
The easiest options for your accommodation is to stay in one of the 3 main towns. They have all the facilities, organized day trips, beaches and lots of excellent restaurants. Plus you can find accommodations for all budgets.
Where to stay in Chania - accomodations
Chania is often considered as the best touristic city in Crete.
Its Venetian harbour has a lot of charm! Simply walking around the city is exquisite. So staying in the city center is great.
For those who are looking for beach time - There is no beach right in the center but you have a couple of options just 15 min walk away - Koum Kapi beach (on the picture to the East) with nice rocks and soft sand and Neo Chora Beach to the West.
It is the best option to explore Western Crete such as the Balos Lagoon, Samaria gorge, Elafonisi beach...
I stayed in a rental which I have decided not to recommend here.
So here are other suggestions for your accommodation:
- Luxury - Casa Delfino Hotel and Spa with a lot of charm! - Check out pictures, prices and availabilities
- Boutique Hotel - Residenza Vranas with fantastic views - Check out pictures, prices and availabilities
- Hostel - Cocoon City Hotels is well located in the center - Check out pictures, prices and availabilities
- Apartments - The Semeli Studios close to the beach - Check out pictures, prices and availabilities
- Family - Palazzo Duca with spacious suites sleeping 4 - Check out pictures, prices and availabilities
- or Check out the best rated accommodations in Chania
Where to stay in Heraklion - Accommodations
Heraklion is the main town in Crete. It has an old town and a large harbour. In the city center you can enjoy Venetian architecture and visit the amazing Archaeological museum with many Minoan artefacts, including the Phaistos disc.
However you will not find a beach inside the town (whatever article your read, the beaches listed are outside of the town center).
The closest beach West of Heraklion is Amoudara. A very long beach with brown sand. And to the East is Karteros Beach or a little further Arena beach.
You can find accommodations either in the city center or near all of those beaches.
Below are some suggestions:
- Apartment - I stayed in a beautiful rental apartments with lots of character close to the Venetian fort: Dio Downtown Boutique Apartment. The owner was really nice - Check out more photos and availability
- Hostel - So Young hostel is located in the center just 4min from the Museum - Check out photos, prices and availabilities
- Boutique Hotel - The Veneziano Boutique Hotel is located in a historical building and it has kept a lot of charm - Check out photos, prices and availabilities
- Luxury - The GDM Megaron is located in a historical monument. It overlooks the old port - Check out photos, prices and availabilities
- or Check out the accommodations in Heraklion Amoudara near the beach
Where to stay in Rethymno - Accommodations
I must admit that Rethymno was my least favorite of all towns. It was too beach tourism for me. However I must admit this is the best located town to explore all of Crete, right in the middle of the North coast. It also has a fort and some Venetian architectural pieces.
The beach is not wide but it stretches all along the east of the town with hotels across the road the whole way.
There is a large choice of accommodations either in the old center (without parking) or along the beach:
- Apartment old town - I stayed at Sea Front Studios old town - it is a small apartment with a terrace. It is right in the old town and they have a parking system (10min walk). The location was great to explore the city however the welcome was not the best I had in Crete - Check out photos, prices and availabilities
- Apartment beach front - The Golden Coast Seaside apartments are modern accommodations just 3km from the city center - Check out photos, prices and availabilities
- Boutique Hotel - if you are looking for rooms with character, Leo Hotel is set in a listed 1450s Venetian house - Check out photos, prices and availabilities
- Luxury - Rimondi Boutique Hotel is a small hotel in the heart of town with a beautiful pool and 5 star facilities - Check out photos, prices and availabilities
- or Check out the best rated accommodations in Rethymno
And then you have Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Ierapetra... but they are less geared towards tourism.
Where to stay in Crete for best beaches
First all of all, there is the question of the best beaches in Crete. In my opinion those are away from the crowds and accommodations (see my list) which defeats the purpose here 🙂
Therefore the options listed below are places that are renowned as great beach destinations in Crete (not my choice personally)
Who wants to go to Bali??? LOL
The Bali beaches in Crete are a series of coves with sandy beaches. They look very different from one another.
The first one is long and for people wanting to sunburn, while the Northern beach has more a village feel.
They are mostly resort style - Loud music at tall bars and restaurants.
Plakias has a great central location on the South Coast. It is a good option for those who want to alternate between staying at the beach in town or explore the rest of the coast with its gorges and wilder beaches. For example from here you can take the boat to the magnificent Preveli beach with its palm trees.
The large beach has a mix of sand and small gravel.
Located on the North Coast (East side), Malia is famous for it archeological site. It is also a great area with sand beaches and rocky beach areas to explore.
However it is not for those who enjoy quiet. Malia is known for its nightlife and party vibe.
Palaiochora is one of my crushes in Crete. It is a beautiful destination that combines mountains, beaches and good atmosphere.
It is away from the crowds as it is located on the South West shore across the mountain range. But it is definitively a wonderful destination.
Best places to stay in Crete for peace and quiet
Village of Mochlos
Mochlos is a tiny village on the North East shore of Crete. It is facing a small island with Minoan ruins.
The village has kept its charm without big chains or loud party hotels. And lots of taverns are offering great food with sea views.
You can learn more on my article about Mochlos
Close to the water, you will find mostly rental accommodations or small hotels.
For example, you could consider:
- Hotel Mochlos with colorful rooms and terraces - Check out prices and availability
- Or Koilon apartments with amazing views of the blue sea and the island - Check out prices and availability
- Or check out accommodations in and around Mochlos
Note: there is only a mini-market in the village so if you are staying longer than a night you should shop for food before.
Village of Panormos
Not far from Bali, Panormos is a good alternative for those looking for peace and quiet in a village with charm.
It is centrally located on the North coast and easy to access.
I stayed at the Castello Apartments in Panormos and really enjoyed it. It was one of my favorite accommodations in Crete. Modern apartment, nice sea views and a great shower (which is rare in Crete) - Check out photos and book
Xerokampos or Zakros
The East coast of Crete has stolen my heart. Its bare landscapes and almost empty beaches are a great reprieve from the locations flooded with tourists.
Zakros is the most well known place of the 2 because it is home to the 4th largest Minoan palace. You can visit the ruins. And it is located at the end of the Valley of the Dead (a famous walk in a gorge).
Xerokampos is hardly ever mentioned but its bare mountains plunging into turquoise water and its 2 gorges with towering cliffs are worth the visit.
None of them have big resorts. Just smaller rentals and guesthouses
- You can find accommodations at the beach. Book by the beach (Kato Zakros)
- The Akti rooms (photo below) are located just in front of the Xerokampos beach - see more photos and availabilities
- Of higher up with open views of Xerokampos, you can find the Natica Mare Villas with a gorgeous terrace - Check out the photos and availabilities
- And if you want a building with a lot of character, get a little further away from the Xerokampos beach to find the Lithos Traditional Guest Houses - Check out the photos and availabilities
- Or check the short list of accommodations in Xerokampos
Places to stay in Crete for something different
Loutro is a charming white seaside village at the foot of mountains. You can't access it by car!!! Just by boat or on foot.
Therefore you won't find a large resort with swimming pools. The contrasts of colors is stunning.
You can see more photos on my article about Loutro
All accommodations are small hotels or rentals. You can consider:
- The Molos apartments (see picture below) - beautifully decorated apartments with kitchenette and balconies - Check out photos and book
- Or see all accommodations in Loutro
Note that if you stay longer and are not eating at the restaurants, there are only small mini-markets in the village. You need to bring your food.
Elafonisi Beach (Pink beach)
Elafonisi is one of the most famous beaches in Crete. It has a large sandy area with some pink sand in places, shallow warm waters and a lagoon.
The problem is that everybody knows about it, so it gets very busy during the day.
However if you stay overnight, you can enjoy it at the end of the afternoon and in the morning when it is quieter. Plus it is a perfect place to admire the sunset!
You can learn more and see many pictures on my article about Elafonisi beach
You can find a few accommodations close to the beach (not on the beach though), they are up the unpaved road.
I stayed at the Elafonisi Resort by Kalomirakis Family - Very close to the beach is the Elafonisi resort with its modern villas surrounded by Olive trees. There is a main building as well as separated nice spacious villas.
The decor is modern, the kitchen is fully equipped, the terrace is large and the bathroom is good with a large shower.
Check out the latest prices now and book
Or you can find all the accommodation options
Matala is a very unique place in Crete. It has a very different atmosphere because it used to be a hippie capital.
The beach is enjoyable with the caves cut in the cliffs.
You can see more pictures on my article about Matala.
There is a very large choice of accommodations in Matala, either in the town or in the valley behind if looking for cheaper options.
I will not be recommending where we stayed. It was the one I was the most excited about and it looked beautiful but it was not practical at all.
There are a few apartments with very good rating, but in general I have not found any hotels on Booking with an excellent rating (above 9) given by people staying there.
I think one of the apartments with the best views would be Matala cave on the South side of the Bay. Check out pictures and availability
Otherwise, check out the best rated accommodations in Matala
Of course, as I share a lot from this website, my favorite way of traveling is road tripping.
Even though Crete is not a huge island, it is still quite big and mountains make the roads slower. So you need to plan time to visit all the places.
Going on a road trip all around and changing accommodations almost every night is a great option.
You can check my article to help you plan you road trip here.
The places where I would not miss spending a night at during that trip are:
- Elafonisi (the pink beach)
- Chora Skafion or Loutro
And I wrote an eBook with practical maps to help you plan your road trip:
- 5 easy-to-plan Maps
- 60+ Scenic locations for your itinerary
- 16+ extra photo stops and places to see
- Planning info to make the most of your time
- GPS coordinates for peace of mind
- 150+ original photos to help you select where to go
Best resorts in Crete - all inclusive
If you are not planning on exploring too much and just want to relax on the beach and enjoy the sun, you can stay at one of the many beach resorts around Crete.
There is quite a large choice, especially on the North shore around Hersonissos.
Some of the best rated include:
- Royal Marmin Bay Boutique & art Hotel with its private beach, wonderful pools and relaxed atmosphere - Located in Elounda (North of Agios Nikolaos) -
Check out pictures, prices and availabilities
- Lytthos beach - Right by a beautiful public beach located in Anissaras (Hersonissos), it has 10 swimming pools (some private) as well as an aqua park with slides! -
Check out pictures, prices and availabilities
- Stella Island Luxury resort & Spa (adults only) with an amazing series of pools, terraces and bars. It feels like walking on water - located at Analipsi, Hersonissos
Check out pictures, prices and availabilities
- Miramare Resort is for people looking to relax with incredible views. Built on a hill so that everyone can enjoy the locations (some from their private pool) - located in Agios Nikolaos
Check out pictures, prices and availabilities
Want to see more of CRETE?
Where have you chosen to stay?
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