To help you plan your trip to Crete Greece, here is Our Crete Road Trip Guide for the Chania Region! There is so much to see and do in the Chania region of Crete, and renting a car and driving around will allow you to experience beautiful gorges, mountains, beaches, and traditional Cretan villages.
This Crete road trip guide will help you decide when to visit Crete, what the different regions have to offer, and assist in planning your Crete road trip. We have also added our top tips for driving in Crete so you know exactly what to expect before you get there.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains affiliate links and Exit45 Travels are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more information
Did You Know?
- Crete is the biggest Greek island and the 5th biggest island in the Mediterranean.
- It is said Crete is the birthplace of modern European civilization and can be traced as far back as the 7th millennium BC, more than four millennia before the Minoan civilization appeared on Crete.
- Crete was not a Greek island until December 1913 when it was liberated and united with Greece. Crete had been foreign occupied for endless years by the Venetians and Ottomans before becoming part of the Greek state.
“It takes a lifetime for someone to discover Greece, but it only takes an instance to fall in love with her.”– Henry Miller, American Writer –
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Our Crete Road Trip: Chania Region
3.1 By Plane
2.2 By Ferry from Athens
4.1 Rental Car Companies
5.1 How Much Time Do You Need For Touring Crete?
5.2 Chania Region
5.3 Rethymno Region
5.4 Heraklion Region
5.5 Lasithi Region
6.1 Chania Region – Crete Road Trip Day 1 – The White Mountains (Lefka Ori)
6.2 Chania Region – Crete Road Trip Day 2 – Balos Lagoon and Falassarna Beach
8.1 Chania Old Town – For History
8.2 Agia Marina – For Beach Lovers
9.1 Is Crete Safe?
9.2 When Is The Best Time To Visit Crete?
9.3 How Long Should You Stay in Crete?
9.4 Best Tours, Activities and Day Trips in Crete
11. Greece Travel: Related Blog Posts
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Why Vacation in Crete – Greece?
Crete lies just short of 100 miles south of the Greek mainland. It is the largest Greek island and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is about 100 miles long and 30 miles wide, with a population of approximately 650,000 people.
There are many reasons why people choose to holiday in Crete. The main highlights being the fascinating culture, food, weather, and the diversity of the scenery. From glorious beaches, modern cities, rugged limestone mountains, and incredible ancient ruins, to quaint, traditional mountain villages, there is something to offer every type of tourist or traveller.
Best Time to Visit Crete
Crete is an amazing destination no matter what time of the year you choose to visit.
The months from April to November are very popular as the weather is starting to warm up, and the archaeological sites and museums are officially open to the public.
July and August are considered the peak season and as such, it gets very busy with tourists and accommodation prices are high. If this is the only time available to you to visit and travel in Crete, plan accordingly and book accommodation and car rental well in advance.
How to Get to Crete
Most travellers will fly into the Heraklion International “Nikos Kazantzakis” Airport by either a direct flight, if flying from within Europe, or via Athens for most other flights. This is the best airport if staying in regions on the eastern side of the island i.e. Heraklion Region and Lasithi Region.
The second most visited airport on Crete is Chania International “Daskalogiannis” Airport which has flights operating from cities all across Europe. Chania is frequented by travellers who are heading to the western side of Crete i.e. Chania Region and Rethymno Region.
By Ferry from Athens
Most ferries arriving from Piraeus Port in Athens arrive in Heraklion and take about 9 hours depending on which company you choose.
There are only two ferry companies running the route between Athens and Crete;
- Minoan Line – up to 7 services per week
- Anek Superfast – up to 7 services per week (don’t be fooled by the name – this trip is 45 minutes longer than Minoan Line)
The cost of the ferry is much less expensive than an airfare, however, it will take much longer.
Renting a Car in Crete
The absolute best way of getting around Crete is by car! Upon arrival at the airport, there are many car rental agencies available to you, both recognisable international brands and smaller, local companies.
If you arrive by ferry, or alternatively, rent a car later in your stay as we did, check RentalCars.com for the best deals. We were extremely happy with them and they also have a zero-excess insurance policy. Also, they dropped the car off to us at our hotel and collected it from there upon completion of our rental agreement. Great service!
Consider these points prior to renting your car:
- Most rental cars in Crete are manual, so you will need to pay more to get an automatic
- Rent a small car as roads can be quite narrow in some of the smaller villages i.e. Toyota Aygo, Toyota Yaris
- Renting a 4WD is not necessary as rental companies will not allow you to drive off-read anyway
Rental Car Companies
Our preferred car rental search engine is RentalCars.com as we have found them to be trustworthy and offer some of the best deals out there! RentalCars.com will search over 500 trusted rental local and international companies for you to ensure you find the best deals out there.
Planning Your Crete Road Trip and Places to Visit in Crete by Car
So, How Much Time Do You Need For Touring Crete?
The island of Crete can be divided into four main regions. If you only have one week in Crete (like we did), focus on just one of the regions and take your time. However, if you have longer, use our planning time frames to help you plan your Crete holiday itinerary through the regions. See below for an overview of each of these regions to help you plan your Crete travel itinerary:
1. Chania Region
Plan between 4 to 7 days to see this region at a leisurely pace.
- Located on the west of the island
- Some of the most beautiful beaches in Crete – Balos Lagoon, Elafonisi, Falassarna, Glyka Nera, Kedrodasos, Stavros, Seitan Limania, Aspri Limni, Frangokastelo
- Old Town of Chania – Venetian harbour
- Hiking – Samaria Gorge or Imbros Gorge
- Mountain towns – Therisso and Sfakia
N.B. This is the region we explored and will provide more information about our Chania itinerary below.
2. Rethymno Region
Plan between 3 to 5 days to see this region at a leisurely pace.
- More quiet and relaxing
- Rethymno has a very long sandy beach with seafront hotels
- Old town of Rethymno is built around a Venetian Fortezza
- Beaches – Preveli, Plakias, Triopetra, Livadi
- Hiking – Mili Gorge
- Famous Monasteries – Arkadi, Preveli, Agia Irini (nunnery)
- Anogia Village – the most picturesque mountainous village in Crete
- Kournas Lake – surrounded by The White Mountains
3. Heraklion Region
Plan between 2 to 5 days to see this region at a leisurely pace.
- Home to the capital of Crete – Heraklion (Archaeological Museum)
- Knossos Palace – the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete
- Phaestos Palace – another palace of the Minoan civilization built around 1600 BC
- Archanes Village – a very beautiful village with picturesque streets, flowered yards and balconies, and several superb neoclassical houses
- Gortys – evidence of human occupation as far back as the Neolithic era (7000 BC)
- Beaches – Matala (caves), Agiofarago, Malia
4. Lasithi Region
Plan between 4 to 8 days to see this region at a leisurely pace.
- Boasts traditional villages, ancient sites, secluded beaches, impressive gorges, old monasteries and Medieval Castles
- Agios Nikolas – cosmopolitan city
- Voulismeni Lake
- Elounda – coastal village
- Spinalonga Island – Venetian fortress, former leper colony
- Lasithi Plateau – Dikteon Cave (Cave of Zeus), Windmills
- Archaeological Museums – Agios Nikolas, Sitia, Ierapetra
- Ancient Minoan Civilisations – Lato, Zakros Minoan Palace, Gournia, Town of Vassiliki
- Monasteries – Toplou, Kapsa, Agios Georgios Selinaris, Vidiani, Faneromeni, Kroustalenia
- Beaches – Vai (palm forest), Chrissi Amos Island, Istron Bay, Xerokambos, Koufonissi Island, Voulisma
Places to Visit on Your Crete Road Trip – Chania Region
As mentioned above, we had only one week in Crete so we chose to focus on the Chania region to drive around and explore on our Crete road trip. The hotel we stayed at was in Agia Marina so we used this area as a base to explore Chania old town using the local bus transportation system.
We decided to rent a car for 2 days and extend if we needed to. Below we have detailed the places we visited over the 2 days of car rental.
Chania Region – Crete Road Trip Day 1 – The White Mountains (Lefka Ori)
The White Mountains or Lefka Ori
In Greek, the White Mountains are known as Lefka Ori, and occupy a good part of the centre of Western Crete and as such, are the main feature of the region. They are made of limestone and called White Mountains because they are covered in snow between the months of November and May. In summer, the sun reflects on the water-laden limestone summit making them appear white in the bright sunshine.
Theriso Gorge and Theriso Village
Just 30 minutes or 16 kilometres from Chania is Theriso. This drive is really pretty and will take you past a small village called Perivolia and then through the narrow, steep-sided Theriso Gorge. This stunning gorge with its dramatic scenery and pretty stream runs alongside the road for 6 kilometres and is surrounded by the greenery of oak and chestnuts trees.
The gorge ends in the peaceful historic village of Theriso which sits at 580 metres at the base of the White Mountains range or Lefka Ori. This village has a remarkable history, intrinsically interwoven with the freedom and independence of the Cretan people.
The Theriso revolt was a rebellion that broke out in March 1905 led by the Cretan politician Eleftherios Venizelos against the Cretan government, then under Ottoman rule. The revolt was named after his mother’s native village, Theriso, which also happened to be to the focal point of the revolt. The Theriso revolt not only established Venizelos as the leading politician in Crete, but also brought him to the attention of the wider Greek world. His reputation led to him being appointed Prime Minister of Greece in 1909.
Visit the historical museum in the former headquarters of the Cretan rebels, and the Church of Panagia, and the Byzantine Church of St.George and St. Haralambos in the village square.
Enjoy Therisos’ famous Cretan goat and meat dishes at any of the traditional tavernas that are plentiful throughout the village.
Located at a height of 720 metres, Zouvra has a sealed, but steep, road that leads to the border of the White Mountains or Lefka Ori. You will see a pine tree forest which grows just above the inhabited area, the gorge of Tromarisa and the spectacular view towards the North and the sea.
Meskla is a small and quiet picturesque traditional village built at an altitude of 200 meters in the hills in the valley of the river Keritis, and behind it towers the White Mountains.
The village of Meskla was destroyed during the Venetian period (when the leader of the revolt, Kantanoleon, had his headquarter in Meskla) and also during the Turkish period.
Fortunately, the Church of Panagia and the Byzantine Church of Sotiros Christou with wall paintings from the 14th-Century survived the destructions.
Fournes is a small village built against the hills of the White Mountain and is a part of the “Orange Valley’ in Crete. In this village is the crossroad to Omalos and the Samaria Gorge (on the right hand side) and the village of Meskla (on the left hand side).
This area is well known for their oranges and you will see rows of orange trees between every house in the village. The main harvest takes place between December and April, and the second harvest for another kind of orange is in May and June.
Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete
High above the village of Fournes is the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete. This private garden is set on 20 hectares of land and is the home to over 150 different kinds of fruit trees from all over the world, herbs and medicinal plants, flowers and blossoming shrubs.
You should plan to spend at least 90 minutes to complete the 2 kilometre (plus 1 kilometre of side tracks) circuit of the park, and nature lovers will need even longer. The park is open daily and opens at 9am and closes 75 minutes before sunset.
Stop in at Lake Café at Lake Agia for a coffee and watch herons, ducks and geese from the terrace. You can also take a walk along the shore to the little wood opposite beside Agios Konstantinos church.
N.B. If you only have one day to explore Chania in a rental car, follow this one day itinerary. It is one of the best drives in Crete!
Chania Region – Crete Road Trip Day 2 – Balos Lagoon and Falassarna Beach
Balos Lagoon is about a one hour drive from Falassarna, with the last 30 minutes being along a dirt road. From the car park, the walk down to the beach is pretty steep, so ensure you wear good shoes.
Balos beach is the most photographed beach in Crete due to its white sand and exotic white, vivid blue and turquoise waters. In many places the sand has a lovely pinkish colour due to the millions of crushed shells. Beyond the rocks near the edge of the lagoon, the water is deeper and colder, and is ideal for a snorkelling.
During the summer, it is visited by thousands of people, who arrive mostly on tours and by the ferries running from Kissamos port. The day trippers swamp Balos between 12pm and 2pm, so we recommend arriving before 10am so you can have a couple of hours to enjoy the place by yourselves.
Falassarna Bay is comprised of five beaches, so there are plenty of options to suit your needs. Several times in the past, this area was voted as one of the 10 best beach areas in Europe, as the water is crystal clear and turquoise in colour.
- Main beach (Pachia Ammos) – not as crowded as the beach is 1km long and 150m wide, offers beach umbrellas, snack bars and cafes, and services for water sports
- Long beach (north of main beach) – 800m in length, the bay is divided in half by a sand dune and a few rocks, quieter than Pachia Ammos, no facilities
- Further north (near the archaeological site) – small cove facing to the south, pebble beach, rocky seabed, a good choice when the winds blow from the west
- Livadi (south of Pachia Ammos) – long beach, sandy beach, rocky seabed, good for snorkelling.
- South beach (near the small harbor of Limeniskos) – small pebbly beach
The area around Falassarna is magnificent and is a protected nature reserve. At the northern end of the beach there are the ruins of the ancient Greco-Roman city of Phalassarna. If you have time and are looking for something romantic, you can wait for the sunset which is considered the best in Crete.
Crete Road Trip – Our Tips for Driving in Crete
We found driving in Crete to be very easy and we definitely recommend hiring a car to get out of the tourist areas and experience the true Cretan culture.
However, there are some important tips for driving in Crete that we wanted to share so you know exactly what to expect.
- Roads: The vast majority of roads in Crete are in good condition and the National Road (90 or VOAK) connects all four regional cities along the northern coast i.e. Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Agios Nikolas.
- Speed Limits: In general, roads are limited to 50km/h (30 mph) in built up areas and 90km/h (56 mph) on the National Road.
- Road Signs: Road markings and signs in Crete are few and far between so make sure you have a map or GPS to assist you with your navigation around the island.
- Tolls: There are no toll roads on Crete.
- Driving Side: In Crete, they drive on the right hand side of the road.
- Driving Landscape: Crete is a mountainous island so expect winding roads, hairpin turns, mountains and tunnels. The mountainous areas require a little more care and attention when driving so allow extra time when planning your itinerary. Also, be aware of hazards on the road such as goats, pot holes and inadequate road surfacing, rocks that have slipped from the side of the mountain, and in winter, snow on the road.
- Overtaking: Greek drivers tend to be a little impatient. Drivers in Crete that are wanting to overtake you (flick their lights) will expect you to pull over to the side of the road to let them pass if there isn’t adequate room.
- Inaccessible Areas: On the Southern coast of Crete, villages such as Agia Roumeli and Loutro cannot be accessed by car, only by foot or boat.
- International Driving Permit: Greek law requires a foreign driver to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as a country-issued driver’s license to drive a vehicle in Greece. However, European citizens with a valid driver’s license are exempt from this.
- Rental Cars: Typically, these have manual transmissions so if you require a car with an automatic transmission, book early and be prepared to pay more.
- Travel Insurance: We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance when travelling overseas. Insurance will cover important things like emergency medical hospitalisation / evacuation, baggage delays and trip cancellation. We recommend World Nomads for quality travel insurance you can trust, at affordable rates.
Best Chania Crete Hotels and Accommodation Options
There are a large variety of options for accommodation in Crete including hostels, hotels, resorts, apartment rentals and all-inclusive resorts. There is something to suit every type of traveller and budget!
Some of the best places to stay in Chania in Crete are:
Chania Old Town – For History
The districts of Splantzia and Kastelli are some of the best neighbourhoods to choose if you want to be centrally located and within walking distance of everything. You will find historical attractions, amazing cafes and restaurants and lots of shopping opportunities. There is also a great party atmosphere in the evening.
- Budget (Up to 50 USD): Earini Rooms and Apartments and Porto Antico are centrally located in Chania Old Town.
- Mid-Range (50 USD to 100 USD): Hanin Lounge & Studios in the heart of Old Town Chania and Viaggio Elegant Rooms.
- Luxury (100 USD and Up): La Maison Ottomane within 100m of the Venetian Harbour and San Salvatore Monastery which is located in the original Venetian Monastery.
Agia Marina – For Beach Lovers
On our last trip to Crete with stayed in Agia Marina which is located 10 kilometres west Chania town. This area has a great beach, plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and tavernas. The towns of Stalos and Platanias are nearby.
- Budget (Up to 50 USD): Dias Hotel Apartments and Raph’s Studios-Apts By The Sea for a private studio apartment close to the beach.
- Mid-Range (50 USD to 100 USD): Thea Apartment for amazing beach views and Eden Beach Hotel for beachfront.
- Luxury (100 USD and Up): Giannoulis – Santa Marina Plaza for an adults only holiday and Casa Nostos has amazing reviews by very happy guests.
FAQs About Crete
Is Crete Safe?
Traveling in Crete is very safe to visit and explore. When driving around and exploring the small towns, everyone was extremely friendly and we felt very comfortable walking around at any time of the day. We advise though to remain alert of your surroundings and be cautious as you would in any new city when travelling.
We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance when travelling overseas. Insurance will cover important things like emergency medical hospitalisation / evacuation, baggage delays and trip cancellation. We recommend World Nomads for quality travel insurance you can trust, at affordable rates.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Crete?
Crete in Greece has a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters. This makes it a great year-round destination.
- High Season (July to early September) – Hottest and sunniest months of the year so there are lots of tourists and prices are at their peak.
- Shoulder Season – (May to September, and early October) – Sunny and warm weather, but not too hot, making it perfect sightseeing weather. Some businesses will start to close up in May and October in preparation for the low season.
- Low Season (late October to April) – The winter season brings cool weather and rain, and limited options for ferries and flights.
- Most Affordable (April, May and October) – This is the best time to save on the cost of accommodation.
How Long Should You Stay in Crete?
We highly recommend making Old Town Chania or Agia Marina your base for exploring the many Chania Crete things to do and attractions in its surrounding areas. A week in Crete will allow you the time to see the top things to do in the historical Old Town of Chania, and have the opportunity to do some day trips to nearby towns, the White Mountains and beaches. However, as mentioned above, renting a car and doing a road trip Crete is an ideal way to see more of the island.
Best Tours, Activities and Day Trips in Crete
Explore the best things to do in Crete with some amazing tours and activities.
Old Town Chania
- Chania: Old Town Highlights Private Tour with Street Food
- Chania: Self-Guided Scavenger Hunt and City Walking Tour
- Chania Old Town: Drawing Tour with an Artist
Day Trips from Chania
- Day Trip to Elafonisi Island from Chania
- The Miracle of Wine and Olive Oil: Day Tour from Chania
- Chania: Authentic Cooking Class in the White Mountains
- Knossos Palace & Heraklion Full-Day Tour from Chania Area
Day Trips from Heraklion
- Heraklion: Archaeological Museum & Knossos Ticket with Audio
- Afternoon Sailing Trip to Dia Island
- Day Trip to Agios Nikolaos and Spinalonga Island
- Chania, Lake Kournas and Rethymno Tour
Day Trips from Rethymno
- Knossos & Heraklion Archaeological Museum
- Elafonissi Pink Sand Beach Tour
- Full-Day Trip to Kissamos, Balos & Gramvousa
- The Samaria Gorge Hike
Day Trips from Lasithi
- Dikti Mountains and Lasithi Plateau Tour by SUV
- Tour to Cave of Zeus, Mochos Village & Knossos
- Monastery, Lasithi Plateau & Dictaean Cave Day Trip
Essential Travel Planning Resources for Greece
Below are our favourite companies to use for planning our travels to Greece. They consistently turn up the best deals and overall, are better than their competitors. These are always our starting point when we need to book a flight, accommodation, tour, transportation etc.
Book a Tour:
We prefer to travel independently, however, sometimes the best and cheapest way to see the highlights of a city / country is to book a tour or package. For Greece, we always use GetYourGuide and Viator for our tour bookings. If we are only going to be in a city for a day or two and want to make the most of our time there, we book through Big Bus Tours.
In Summary – Our Crete Road Trip
If you are looking for a holiday destination that blends amazing food with quality beach time, while throwing in a mix of historical and cultural treasures, then planning a trip to Crete is for you.
Have you been to Crete? Have you done a Crete road trip or would like to share your Crete itinerary? If you have, do you have a recommendation of a place to eat or stay, or any must do things to do in Crete? Share it with us in the comment section below.
Exit 45 Rating
The Exit45 Rating scale runs from a low of 1 to a high of 5 in each of the 9 categories. As such, the higher the score out of 45, the better the Exit45 Rating. N.B. These scores are our own personal opinions and are based on our experiences, budget constraints and what we love doing i.e. adventure seeking foodies who love snorkelling and water related activities.
|Value for Money||4|
|Friendliness of Locals||4|
|Ease of Language Barrier||3.5|
|Activities and Tours||4|
|Ease of Travel||4|
|TOTAL EXIT45 RATING||35.5 / 45|
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