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Where to stay in Crete – Our complete guide

Welcome to our guide on where to stay in Crete! After spending time exploring this diverse Greek island and researching some of the best towns, cities, beach resorts and rural mountain hotels, we’ve created a guide to help you plan your own place to stay. Each corner of Crete has something unique and exciting to offer, from east to west and north to south. Are you a history lover or would you prefer to relax on the beach? Maybe a bit of both?

Our ‘where to stay in Crete’ guide takes all interests into account to help you compare which destination is best for you. We’ve also included a selection of top-rated hotel options.

So, without further delay…

Chania

Starting with a firm personal favourite on our list of the best places to stay in Crete, Chania is a charming old town with a lot of character. With the island’s second largest airport just a 15-minute drive down the road from the centre of town, it’s a very popular place to stay, and not just for its location. It boasts a magnificent Venetian harbour that dates back to the 1300’s. This main attraction is the perfect place to go for a walk, or relax with a drink and enjoy the view.

It also has a picture-perfect marina that’s instantly recognisable by its lighthouse, and a labyrinth of narrow old-town streets. Market stalls, old ruins and impressive churches are all waiting to be explored. The accommodation within Chania town is mostly apartment rentals and small boutique hotels, so a stay here feels a lot like a city break.

Many tourists actually opt to stay on the outskirts of town in the wider Chania prefecture. The hotel selection is much wider and the environment is more relaxed, as opposed to the upbeat atmosphere of town. Choose whichever option you like the sound of most and you’ll have a great holiday either way!

Where to stay in Crete - Scenic view of Chania Venetian Harbour

Top reasons to stay in Chania:

  • One of the prettiest local towns on the island, with plenty to keep you entertained.
  • Well located for some of the best Beaches in Crete – Balos, Seitan Limania and Elafonissi
  • A good mix of beach relaxation and town sightseeing if you stay in one of the Chania prefecture resorts. Agia Marina and Kolymvariare are excellent.

Why you might not want to stay here:

Chania is quite a trek if flying into Crete from Heraklion (the biggest airport).

The best Chania hotels

Luxury: Domes Zeen Chania, a Luxury Collection Resort, Crete
Moderate: Monastery Estate Venetian Harbor
Affordable: Hotel Kedrissos

Rethymno

Located right in the centre of Crete, to the north of the island, Rethymno instantly convinced us that it’s one of the best places to stay in Crete within hours of arrival. We loved the fact that you have a sprawling city beach alongside a charming old town. As a booming tourist destination, Rethymno has countless amenities, restaurants and bars to keep you entertained. Alternatively, you can simply relax on the beach all day long.

Rent a boat from the Rethymno harbour or get lost in the narrow alleyways of the old town. Small bakeries, market stalls and ancient statues are all overshadowed by the towering fortress on the hill above them. Walking around the old town on an evening is what a trip to Crete is all about!

Aside from the plethora of things to keep you entertained in town, the number one reason to stay in Rethymno is its central location. Visit amazing monasteries, beaches, lakes, ruins and mountain ranges in only a short drive.

Rethymno town from above

Top reasons to stay in Rethymno:

  • A central Crete location that’s great for exploring all areas of the island. You’re an equal distance between Chania’s attractions and Heraklion’s historic sites.
  • Plenty of accommodation options for every budget and an endless number of restaurants, bars and shops.
  • There’s an old town, marina and beach all in one place – unlike many of the other towns in Crete.

Why you might not want to stay here:

Rethymno can feel quite touristic compared to other Crete towns. Expect a lot of tourists, hotels and gift shops in the beach area.

The best Rethymno hotels

Moderate: Rimondi Boutique Hotels
Moderate: Atlantis Beach Hotel
Affordable: Steris Elegant Beach Apartments

Bali

We’re not talking about the exotic Indonesian island, but instead, the scenic beach town of Bali in Crete. This small but vibrant beach town is located in the centre-north of the island. Its position is ideal for day trips to the far corners of Crete, making it a perfect base for exploring. It boasts the same great location and upbeat atmosphere of Rethymno, but with less traffic and population density.

A stay in Bali is all about the long walks by the white-washed beaches, eating out in the quaint and colourful tavernas, and sitting at your balcony admiring the view. The town is a small but excellent place to stay in Crete for those that want plenty of daytrip opportunities. It also suits those that want lots of shops, restaurants and bars, within close proximity to a nice beach.

Scenic coastal view in Bali, Crete - Best places to stay in Crete

Top reasons to stay in Bali, Crete:

  • A central location that’s great for exploring the centre, east and west of the island on daytrips.
  • The clash of tourism with Greek culture is the best of both worlds. There’s lots to see, many accommodation options and it feels authentic.
  • It’s part of a scenic coastline, with beautiful viewpoints from every balcony, restaurant terrace and street corner.

Why you might not want to stay here:

Bali is a very small town that has a great beach and restaurants, but there aren’t a great deal of other attractions. To see more of Crete, you’ll have to venture out.

The best Bali hotels

Moderate: Filion Suites Resort & Spa
Affordable: Bali Star Resort Hotel

Anissaras & Gouves (Heraklion area)

Classed as Heraklion in travel brochures and only a 25-minute drive from the thriving city metropolis, Annissaras and Gouves are small tourist beach towns. Heraklion hosts the largest airport in Crete, but it isn’t exactly the most charming destination for a holiday; it’s more of a working town and a good place to visit on a day-trip. Therefore, these charming tourist towns are the best places to stay when flying into Heraklion.

A long stretch of beaches with plenty of bars, gift shops and restaurants is the main attraction in both towns. They’re also home to some of the islands best accommodation options in Crete. Stay in anything from a 5-star luxury all-inclusive, all the way to basic but brilliant apartment options. The neighbouring resorts share a similar traditional Greek holiday atmosphere and make a great place to stay for those that want a relaxing holiday.

They’re also well located for exploring neighbouring beach towns, the vast mountains of the Lathisi Plateau, Heraklion, and the Palace of Knossos, which showcases the remnants of the island’s ancient Minoan civilisation.

View of Anissaras Beach from above

Top reasons to stay in Anissaras or Gouves:

  • A relaxing beach location with some of the most luxurious hotels on the island.
  • Well located for the historic sites of Knossos and plenty of town and countryside attractions.
  • Close to Heraklion Airport, the largest airport in Crete.

Why you might not want to stay here:

These towns are primarily beach resorts, with little history or sightseeing opportunities. You’ll have to venture out of town to see the main sites.

The best hotels in Gouves and Anissaras

Luxury: Mitsis Laguna Resort and Spa
Luxury: Amirandes Grecotel Boutique Resort
Moderate: Anissa Beach & Village Hotel
Affordable: Ourania Apartments Hotel

Elounda

If your idea of the perfect holiday destination is a laid back tourist town with scenic walks, a beach and an open pathway to the sea, Elounda is calling your name. Tiny in size but big in atmosphere, Elounda has long been the base for holiday seekers that like a short strolls by the marina, coffee shops with a view and eating outdoors. The main town is where it’s all happening. However, the winding road along the coastline is where most hotels are located.

Cliffside hotels with infinity pools, rooftop suites and top-rated all-inclusives make up Elounda’s accommodation options. They all have mesmerizing views of Mirabello Bay. When you’re not winding down, join a boat trip (or rent your own boat) and explore the region at your leisure. The iconic Spinalonga Island is only a 30-minute ride across the bay, and the rest of Mirabello is equally worth exploring.

Elounda is somewhat secluded from many of Crete’s famous attractions due to its far-east location, so it suits those that mainly want a relaxing holiday. It’s also a great place to stay in Crete if you’re visiting the island for a second time.

Where to stay in Crete - Shows boats docked at Elounda harbour

Top reasons to stay in Elounda:

  • You have one of the best selections of luxury hotels to choose from.
  • The location is ideal for lovers of boat excursions. Explore the nearby islands on a day-trip or rent your own boat and explore.
  • A quiet and peaceful resort with a laid-back tourist atmosphere.

Why you might not want to stay here:

Elounda is in a secluded section of Crete, a long distance from many of the top attractions and beaches (Knossos Palace, Elafonissi, Balos Lagoon, etc).

The best Elounda hotels

Luxury: Domes of Elounda, Autograph Collection
Moderate: Tui Blue Elounda Village by AQUILA
Affordable: Elounda Heights Adults Only Hotel

Agios Nikolaus

Located just a 20-minute drive south of Elounda, the town of Agios Nikolaus is a more upbeat destination to stay on Crete’s Mirabello Bay coast. Centred around the stunning Lake Voulismeni, this popular tourist town has plenty of bars, restaurants and scenic walks to keep you entertained the full holiday. There’s an amazing view of the bay wherever you choose to dine!

Like Elounda, many of the accommodation options sit alongside the cliffside on the edges of town, but there’s a good collection of smaller hotels in Agios Nikolaus itself if you prefer to be in the centre of the action. Rent a boat by day to explore Mirabello Bay and the historic Spinalonga Island, then kick back in a bar on the promenade for a sunset cocktail. Agios perfectly suits those that want lots going on in their destination.

It’s quite a distance from some of Crete’s other major tourist attractions, so you may need to rent a car or join a few tours.

Agios Nikolaus promenade and lake

Top reasons to stay in Agios Nikolaus:

  • An endless selection of bars and restaurants, all with a nice view of the lake.
  • A central base for exploring Mirabello Bay and Crete’s east coast.
  • Perfect for those that like long scenic walks. A marina, promenade and lake shore provide endless hours of exercise with a view.

Why you might not want to stay here:

Agios Nikolaus can attract a lot of tourists and is a busy place to be in the summer months due to its small size.

The best Agios Nikolaus hotels

Luxury: Minos Beach Art Hotel
Moderate: Candia Park Village
Affordable: Lato hotel

Loutro

Loutro is a secluded town on the south coast of Crete, with white washed buildings and a beautiful coastal location. It’s so secluded, the only way to get there is by boat! That means less tourists, a relaxing local atmosphere and a taste of traditional Crete away from the busy beaches of the north. It’s the perfect place to escape for a long weekend or as part of a multi-stop adventure.

Go for long walks by the promenade, eat and drink with a view, or take a dip in the turquoise bay. There isn’t a great deal to do in Loutro, but that’s the beauty of it! We recommend visiting for 2 or 3 nights. There aren’t a great deal of accommodation options, but the hotels that are available are excellent.

Where to stay in Crete - Shows a beautiful lagoon in Loutro

Top reasons to stay in Elounda:

  • You’ll enjoy the peace and quiet of one of the most scenic and secluded places on the island.
  • Experience a cool sense of adventure whilst staying in Loutro, as it’s only accessible by boat.
  • A local atmosphere with very few tourists compared to other towns.

Why you might not want to stay here:

There isn’t a great deal to do here except explore town and relax by the sea. We recommend staying for up to 3 nights.

The best Loutro hotels

Moderate: Daskalogiannis Hotel
Affordable: Villa Niki Studios & Apartments

Matala Beach

Matala is widely regarded as one of the best beaches in Crete and has been a famous laid-back hippie retreat since the 1970’s. Every summer, hundreds of tourist flock to the south of the island to relax on its beautiful sands. The tiny beach cove is the highlight of the area, with turquoise waves crashing against the shore and a number of caves that have been decorated with paintings.

Set back from the beach, the small town is occupied by a number of cool restaurants, handmade gift shops and scenic viewpoints. It also has a number of affordable accommodation options, plus a large campsite. Matala best suits those that want a relaxing beach holiday far from the tourist centres. Life here is bliss…

Shows Matala Beach from a cave viewpoint

Top reasons to stay in Matala:

  • It’s the perfect beach location; secluded with plenty of amenities and beautiful scenery.
  • Whilst popular, Matala Beach still seems off the beaten trail compared to elsewhere in Crete, due to its remote southern location.
  • Much of the Matala Beach crowd is made up of returning visitors, creating a vibrant ‘community-like’ atmosphere and some great evenings out.

Why you might not want to stay here:

Aside from the stunning beach, there isn’t a lot to do nearby. You’ll need to drive 30-minutes+ for more attractions. Accommodation is also basic compared to other towns.

The best Matala hotels

Affordable: Hotel Neos Matala
Affordable: Hotel Nikos

Important things to note when choosing a place to stay in Crete:

  • Crete is a huge island, much unlike the other Greek islands and any other island in Europe for that matter. Its famous attractions spread the full width of the island, so it’s important to choose a place to stay near the top things you want to see. It’s very difficult to see everything on offer without staying in multiple regions. Consider a multi-stop trip if you want to explore as much of Crete as you can.
  • Crete has two main airports, Heraklion and Chania. You’ll fly into one of these, depending on your origin airport. For ease, you may want to plan your trip around the west or east of Crete, depending on the airport you fly into. Alternatively, fly into one airport and fly out of the other if that’s possible.
  • Are you a town or beach person? Do you like to stay off the tourist trail or be in the heart of the action? Ask yourself these questions when choosing a hotel. Each town is very different.
  • Are you planning on renting a car? We highly recommend doing so if you plan on doing a lot of day-trips. If not, consider staying in a destination with lots of tours and private transfer options.

Honourable mentions of places to stay in Crete

Malia – If good nightlife is important to you, Malia is the best place in Crete for it. It’s a bit rough around the edges but has an endless selection of bars and clubs to choose from.

Lasithi Plateau – Prefer a rural countryside location, at least for a few days? The small villages of Lasithi Plateau are a great place to stay in Crete. You’re secluded in nature and have some mountain amazing scenery to wake up to.

Kissamos – Do you like the sound of Chania but want a quieter place to stay outside of the city? Kissamos is a small local town with a lot going on. It’s just a 30-minute drive from Chania centre and is one of the best places in Crete for boat trips.

Booking.com

That concludes our list of ideas for where to stay in Crete. It’s a huge island with countless hotels, beach resorts and attractions, so we recommend staying in a couple of different regions if you can. Relax in peace and quiet, deep within the mountains, soak up culture in a bustling city, or kick back on a stunning beach. You’ll get all of the great aspects of Greece travel in one place when you visit Crete! If you have any questions about the hotels or towns we’ve featured on our list, let us know in the comments below.

Looking for more Crete travel inspiration? Check out our other guides:

The best places to visit in Crete

Elafonissi Beach travel guide

Balos Beach Lagoon and Gramvousa travel guide

The ultimate Crete itinerary

Ricky

By Ricky

Author bio:

An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.

Flying toucan image - World Travel ToucanTHANKS FOR READING! IF YOU LIKED OUR ARTICLE, SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS OR PRINT IT OUT FOR YOUR TRIP. FEEL FREE TO CONTACT US WITH ANY QUESTIONS YOU HAVE…

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Comments (4)

Hi I found all your info very helpful. I’m traveling to Crete first time to Europe next week. Flying into Heraklion but my son has us booked at Vergjna beach resort in Chania so I need to rent a car. (Can you share rental agency info) we’re there for 4 nights then he suggested heading back towards Heraklion for 2 nights as we catch a ferry to santorini early morning 9/3. Thinking I’d like to maybe stay in one of the nearest beach towns by the Ferry Port and chill in the sand. Can you recommend any places? Thank you kindly for your assistance. ~Dawn.

Hi Dawn, I’m glad you found our guide helpful! 🙂

We also flew into Heraklion whilst visiting Chania. The total drive time between the two is just over two hours. Some of the best car hire agencies to use at Herklion airport are the following (they’re all local companies, as opposed to the multi-national brands that have poor reviews):

– Athens car hire – https://athenscars.gr/
– Auto-rentals Crete – https://autorentals-crete.gr/
– The Best Car Rentals Crete – https://www.thebestcars.gr/en/

We recommend comparing the above companies to find the best price for your dates/chosen car.

Your plan of returning to Heraklion sounds good to me! As the ferry port is located at Herklion’s dock area, which is a huge city, we recommend staying just outside, in the beach resort area of Anissaras or Gouves. These are within 20-30 mins of the port.

The beaches aren’t the best in this area of Crete (compared to the west and south), but they’re still nice places to relax, and the hotel selection is very good.

Hi, where is the accomodation from the picture from? Best regards Steffi

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