As the largest of the Greek islands, Crete has been welcoming throngs of eager tourists for decades, pleasantly surprising each and every one of them with its near-endless list of immersive, unforgettable activities.
With cruises, theme parks, hiking trails, historic ruins, beaches, and more, the selection of things to do in Crete is nothing short of amazing.
Considered one of Greece’s most significant points of interest, unravel ancient sites and monuments that date back to the Minoan civilization — originating in this part of the country around 3500 BC.
The main city on the island is Heraklion (where many travelers choose to make their base), but there are plentiful cute oceanic towns and local seaside villages to day trip to, or spend the night.
Explore the countryside, travel Chania’s coastline or cruise out to nearby surrounding isles and go snorkeling, diving and sea cave hunting. A paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, abseil down canyons, join an ATV safari or pretend to fly during a paragliding expedition.
Offering a fantastic mix of culturally-enriching experiences, adventurous activities and foodie escapades, Crete is a bustling and vibey island not to be missed.
1 – Visit the Knossos Palace
As the most important Bronze Age archaeological site on the island, Knossos Palace has welcomed nearly 600,000 curious visitors per year. The best way to explore the historic site is with an expert historian — they’re always delighted to share the real-life and mythical stories associated with this 22,000-square-meter ruin complex.
Dating back thousands of centuries, it’s believed that palace construction began around 1950 BC and through excavations, archaeologists have found that Knossos must have been renovated and added onto multiple times since its earliest days.
During a dedicated walking tour to Knossos, uncover ancient artifacts and ruins from prehistoric times, and the palace is a prime example for investigating the Minoan civilization.
2 – Relax at Elafonisi Beach
Photographers, rejoice — with its champagne pink coral sand and sparkling crystalline waters, Elafonisi Beach on the island’s western shores is the definition of gorgeous. The area is dotted with restaurants and bars, allowing you to turn a laid-back afternoon into a romantic evening with ease.
3 – Tackle Samaria Gorge, Europe’s longest gorge hike
One of the island’s most visually stunning hikes on the continent, the main trail in Samaria Gorge National Park is a must for adventure and outdoor enthusiasts. Across the roughly 15-km-long trek, towering rock faces provide both shade and beauty, with flowing streams and unique wildlife popping up along the way.
4 – Check out Spinalonga Island
Known for the Venetian-era Spinalonga fortress sitting atop the glistening Mirabello Bay, the postcard-worthy Spinalonga Island is a must for any Crete visitor — if not for the notably dark history, then for the sublime views looking out from the bastion. Guided tours often include time to swim or snorkel, plus a couple of stops at equally impressive nearby attractions such as Agios Nikolaos or Elounda.
5 – Lather on the suncream at Balos Lagoon
Boasting some of the brightest turquoise waters in the Mediterranean, the Balos Lagoon —about an hour and a half’s drive from Chania — is nothing short of delightful. The main beach, while beautiful, is shallow and clear, making it a safe, family-friendly swimming destination. Grab a sunbed, a refreshing drink, and let the serenity whisk you away.
6 – Stop by Amazonas Park Crete
Families on vacation with young children will especially love Amazonas Park Crete — a small, private zoo in the hillsides.
Come and say hello to your furry friends and the park focuses on habilitating rare bird species (especially parrots), as well as monkeys from places like South America. Other animals to see include donkeys and lemurs and speaking of, there are lemur feeding times in which guests can get involved in.
7 – Zoom along canyons and mountains on a jeep tour
As an island lined with rugged hills and sprawling canyons, there’s no better way to explore the great outdoors than strapped into an open-air Jeep, with a seasoned local escorting you to all the most underrated locations on Crete’s southern coast. If a private journey to places like Preveli Palm Beach isn’t quite your style, rent your own car and explore at your own pace.
8 – Head to paradise on Earth: Preveli beach
Undisputedly one of the best things to do in Crete thanks to its warm, crystal-clear waters; famous ‘Heart Rock’; and its location at the mouth of the Kourtaliotikos Gorge, a day at Preveli Beach is simply non-negotiable.
At first glance, visitors quickly realize why Preveli has developed the reputation as the island’s most famous southern beach.
Reaching this beach involves a bit of trekking, and visitors need to do a short hike from the parking lot down to the shores.
Thanks to Prevali Beach’s positioning, there are a few more activities to do, such as abseiling in Kourtaliotiko down the side of a waterfall and landing in the Megalos Potamos River. Speaking of, this waterbody is famed for the dozens of palm trees that line the banks and you can swim here too.
9 – Hike through the imposing Imbros Gorge
Running parallel to Samaria Gorge, the lesser-known yet arguably more spectacular Imbros Gorge — which starts just below the village of Imbros — runs 11 kilometers through some of southern Crete’s premier canyon landscapes. As you hike under the steep, rocky walls, keep an eye out for curious rare birds like ravens, griffon vultures, and falcons.
10 – Sail along the coast on a boat tour
You’re in the Greek islands, after all — there’s no excuse not to explore the surrounding waters! Whether you’re hoping to party like it’s 1999, sit back and relax, learn about the island’s fascinating history, or dig into a delicious feast on the water, there’s a boat tour suitable for every budget and every kind of traveler.
Choose from sailboats, pirate ships, high-speed motorboats, and plenty more!
Traveling with kids? Feel like Captain Jack Sparrow and his gang onboard the Black Rose, and spend half the day visiting St. George’s Bay. Other boating expeditions head to Dia Island instead for snorkeling and fishing trips.
You can also snorkel as well as go diving during boat tours around the Chania coastline, or opt for a sunset cruise around these waters and spot the town’s famed attractions and monuments from out at sea.
Hot tip: check out the best boat trips in Crete for the perfect boating adventure!
11 – Take a day trip to Santorini
The most renowned of all the Greek islands, Santorini is just as beautiful in real life as it is in the pictures. With the blue water contrasting magnificently with black-sand beaches and whitewashed architecture, it’s an Instagrammer’s delight; and with fresh seafood available on every corner, it’s heaven on Earth for foodies.
To all the traveling couples, a Santorini sunset is the pinnacle of romance.
12 – Explore Rethymnon’s Old Town
Comprising tiny streets overflowing with amazing restaurants and unique stores, and yet, usually not as busy as the historic areas of Chania, Rethymnon’s Old Town is a regular crowd favorite. With friendly locals, an authentic atmosphere (especially compared to the nearby beach strip), and panoramic views of the Cretan Sea, it’s not to be missed.
Make sure to check out the Venetian Harbour and the Fortezza Castle!
13 – Sail over to Chrissi Island
Sitting about 15 kilometers south of Crete, Chrissi Island is an untouched slice of Mother Nature — the ideal destination for a day trip in the outdoors that’s all about one thing: relaxation. Transfers are available from Heraklion, Ierapetra, and a number of other Crete ports; even the journey itself is beautiful.
14 – Experience 2,000 years of history at the Heraklion Archeological Museum
Widely considered the world’s best museum for Minoan art, the Heraklion Archeological Museum showcases countless artifacts spanning coins, plates, jewelry, sculptures, and more.
For the best bang for your buck, opt for a tour that also includes a visit to Knossos Palace (another must-see Crete destination).
15 – Explore or stay at Chersonissos Old Town
More commonly known as Hersonissos, this coastal village is a 20-minute drive from Heraklion and well-loved by travelers thanks to its quaint, seaside feel.
Once a small fishing port, it’s become a popular resort destination home to cute tavernas, boutique shops, a strew of beaches and oceanic activities.
Spend your daytime hours beach-hopping, and when the stars come out, the streets are extra vibrant. Choose to visit Chersonissos Old Town during a city tour, or spend the night if it steals your heart.
16 – Sightsee the capital of Crete with Heraklion bus tours
Convenient and saving you time and money, book a ticket for a hop-on-hop-off Heraklion bus tour.
Cruising around Heraklion on a double-decker bus, jump on and off the tourist coach at your own pace from one of the outlined bus stops around town, hopping back onto the bus when you’re ready.
Tickets last for 24 hours or buy a 48-hour pass instead, and there are two designated line routes that the hop-on hop-off bus tours to. Some attractions to pass include Knossos Palace, the Venetian Walls and Ammoudara Beach.
17 – Meet the animals at the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre
Unlike most aquariums and animal sanctuaries, Aquaworld visitors are encouraged to get up close and personal with the creatures — feed the turtles, stroke the lizards, or (if you’re brave enough) grab a selfie with a snake around your neck!
Housing sea life and reptiles from all over the world, a couple of hours spent here is truly one of the most fun things to do in Crete.
18 – Join a wine & olive oil tasting tour!
Taste up to 15 wines, see the world’s oldest olive tree and learn more than you ever thought you could about the Cretan history of winemaking and olive oil production — all on a locally-led tour. These unmissable tasting experiences venture off the beaten track, exploring family-run vineyard and factories, and showcasing an authentic side of the island.
In a country where food forms an important part of its culture, there are other foodie tours to enjoy while you’re in Crete.
Indulge in an afternoon of cheese and wine and learn about the process of cheese production during cheese tastings. Satiate your thirst instead with a day of beer tastings, visiting local breweries and sampling some of the best craft drafts in town.
19 – Climb the Venetian fortress on Gramvousa Island
Make sure the camera’s fully charged because the views from Gramvousa are second to none. From the island’s beautiful white sands and rocky peaks, you’ll see shipwrecks, the colorful Balos lagoon, and neighboring islands in the distance.
With seals and endangered sea turtles inhabiting the local caves, it’s an unbeatable swimming destination too.
20 – Spend the day at Acqua Plus Water Park
Boasting the title of Crete’s largest water park, Acqua Plus plays hosts to the island’s tallest, fastest, and most exciting slides. Complementing the high-octane thrills, the park dishes up ample relaxation opportunities, with a lazy river, hydromassage beds, and wading pools all available.
Whether kids of age or kids at heart, it’s a perfect place to cool off on a hot day.
21 – Learn how to scuba dive!
The waters encircling Crete are temperature-perfect and magnificently transparent, making it one of Europe’s premier scuba diving regions.
Dives and dive courses are available for newbies and experts alike, with adventures exploring the surrounds of places like Chania (check out the Elephant’s Cave), Heraklion, and Karpathos (perfect for shipwrecks).
22 – Visit the 16th-century Arkadi Monastery
A hilltop structure that boasts a remarkable facade, the Arkadi Monastery is adored by architecture and history buffs alike.
Sitting about 23 kilometers southeast of Rethymno, it presents as a hassle-free activity to squeeze into any afternoon. While unaccompanied visits are possible, due to the monastery’s role in the 1866 revolution, an expert guide is often appreciated.
23 – Put the pedal to the metal during bike tours
Clock in your daily exercise amidst an epic bike tour around Crete and the surrounding areas, or for those that are keen on biking but aren’t the biggest cyclists, there are E-bike tour options too.
Covering nine kilometers, spend 2.5 hours cruising around the streets of Chania on a classic bicycle with a local guide, stopping for photo opportunities and a break in between.
E-biking excursions travel to the countryside or opt for designated trails through either Rethymno or Heraklion.
24 – Embark on a quad bike (ATV) safari
Adventurers, if you’re hunting for fun things to do in Crete that will satisfy the urge for adrenaline, then a quad bike safari ought to do the trick. Escape the city, ditch the tourists, and head out to the fresh air of the rolling hills, with departures available from most of the popular visitor cities.
Best of all, a delicious, locally-made lunch is almost always included!
Whizzing through local villages and over mountains, you have the option of driving the quad bike yourself, or hopping on the back and letting one of the professional drivers lead the way. An alternative option to an ATV are buggy tours — often deemed safer than quads.
Buggies are favored by families as you’re sitting inside a vehicle with an open cage, but you still get to experience all of the thrills as you venture across similar terrains.
25 – Snorkel with local marine life
Get up close and personal with colorful sea creatures, witness an underwater shipwreck with your very own eyes, and let the soft momentum of the waves glide you along the surface — all possible thanks to Crete’s crystal-clear waters. For an awesome multi-activity experience, choose a tour that includes jet skiing, stand-up paddleboarding, or a boat cruise!
26 – Don the chef’s hat in a Cretan cooking class
Besides its paradise beaches, if there’s anything that the island of Crete is known for, it’s its array of tantalizing local delicacies. Despite hundreds of noteworthy restaurants available, the most authentic gastronomy experience is learning to cook the traditional meals yourself.
In a Cretan cooking class you’ll be eating dakos and loukoumades all night long — and yes, wine is included, of course…
27 – Hike through the White Mountains
Occupying the majority of central and western Crete, the White Mountains are ever-popular for outdoor adventure, with over 50 rocky peaks to ascend, many soaring over 2000 meters above sea level. Plenty of single- and multi-day trails and tours are available, with something for every level of difficulty.
In winter, when covered in snow, their beauty only intensifies.
28 – Spend a day at Matala Beach
With golden sand, calm waters, and excellent views of the Paximadia islands, a day soaking in the sun at Matala Beach is hands-down one of the best things to do in Crete. Adjacent to the pristine waters of the fishing village are the area’s imposing cliffs, and at their base, uniquely-curved prehistoric caves.
29 – Discover Crete from above with helicopter tours
Feel like a bird soaring high in the sky during a helicopter tour over Crete’s magnificent coastline. Honeymooners and budding travel photographers, this special ride is sure to tickle your fancy.
Spanning one hour, fly over Hersonissos or Elounda — two coastal towns located in the northern part of Crete, and most helicopters can seat up to four passengers.
Private transfers from Crete to other Greek islands are available. Arrive in style in Santorini, Athens or Mykonos, for example.
30 – Witness glowing jellyfishes swim at CRETAquarium
Found in Thalassókosmos, not too far from Heraklion, the Mediterranean-themed CRETAquarium hosts over 2,500 creatures, featuring intimidating hunter sharks, adorable seahorses, glowing jellyfish, and everything in between. It’s an immersive indoor activity suitable for the whole family.
After checking out the vibrant sea life, why not make a beeline to the nearby Hani Kokkini beach?
31 – Watch a movie like never before at Minoan’s World 9D Cinema
After strolling through the on-site 3D museum (a worthy attraction in its own right, particularly the “I Love Crete” installation), the ultra-immersive 9D cinema awaits, ready to wow each and every Chania visitor. The theater uses high-tech special effects, moving chairs, wind, and more to stimulate your senses for 25 minutes of amazement.
32 – Go canyoning in Portela Gorge
Considered one of the trickiest gorges to attempt in this part of Greece, a canyoning adventure at Portela Gorge is sure to get the heart pumping.
From the top of the canyon (beginning at Hondros village and ending in Keratokambos village), there are two ravines to undertake depending on your skill level.
Before you begin your descent receive safety instructions and a demonstration on how to abseil your way down the rockeries. You’re strapped in the entire time and connected to a secure rope as you bounce, jump and climb.
33 – Pop the question during a hot air balloon ride
What could be more romantic than a hot air balloon ride over Crete’s mountainous landscapes (more specifically, the Lassithi Plateau)?
Enjoy the next 40 minutes with the love of your life in a hot air balloon with the sun setting over the hills, and the basket is equipped with sweet extras like flowers and ambient music.
Float over famed sites like the Cave of Diktaion Andron (nicknamed Zeus Cave) and the Lasithi Plateau Windmills, and snap up pictures — and memories — to last a lifetime.
34 – Wander around Chania Old Town & Old Venetian Harbour
As one of the essential things to do in Crete, a stroll through Chania’s Old Town, whether by day or by night, is absolutely magical. Check out the restored lighthouse, grab a few souvenirs at the shops, take a break at any of the locally-adored eateries, and plenty more — all housed on streets dating back to the 14th century.
35 – Swim between the cliffs at Seitan Limania Beach
Otherwise known as Stefanou Beach, this glorious cove is as picturesque as they come. The sandy beach feels remarkable remote, however, in reality, it’s just a stone’s throw from Chania International Airport, making it an easy addition to any Crete itinerary.
To swim in a cove surrounded by towering rock formations, simply put: there’s just nothing else like it.
36 – Walk in the footsteps of a god at Zeus Cave
The infamous location where the most famous of all Greek gods was born, Zeus Cave (AKA Psychro Cave or Diktaion Andron) is a stunning portrayal of stalagmites and stalactites, kept cool even on those scorching summer days.
Don’t forget the walking shoes — in addition to the entranceway sitting on top of a mountain, there are a few hundred stairs descending into the cavern’s depths.
37 – Test out stand up paddleboard in Chania
An excellent alternative to surfing, SUPing is an awesome outdoor activity to try out and stand-up paddleboarding in Chania is popular thanks to the magnificent color of the waters in this part of the island.
Using a SUP board and paddle, glide over the calm ocean and discover hidden sea caves, tiny coves, secret beaches and some of the most spectacular marine life. Jump off your board and straight into the water for snorkel time too!
38 – Go horse riding near Heraklion
Trot through the scenic landscapes of the Finikia Mountains on horseback, or, if you prefer, sitting in comfort on a horse-drawn carriage — either way, it’s a wonderful experience for visitors of all ages.
A freshly-prepared Creten picnic (with wine!) is included too. After a couple of hours of exploring the outdoors, they’ll go down a treat.
39 – Feast at the best restaurants
Dubbed a haven for foodies, there are some mouth-watering restaurants in Crete to satisfy your palettes.
Mixing traditional and contemporary design, enjoy the freshest seafood right on the marina at Salis. Focusing on Cretan flavors and ingredients, for an authentic taste of the island book a table at the ever-ambient Peskesi.
Feel right at home at Pelagos set inside a traditional taverna and with a great courtyard, or choose views overlooking the ocean at Herb’s Garden.
40 – Dedicate an afternoon to kayaking!
No matter where you’re staying — Rethymnon, Chania, Elounda, or anywhere in between — since Crete is an island, you’re never too far from incredible kayaking opportunities. Float under caves, through grassy rivers, around offshore islands, or out in the open ocean; whatever floats your boat. All equipment is provided, just bring yourself!
41 – Spend the day at Ammoudara Beach
Be greeted by a laid-back setting and a clear ocean down at Ammoudara Beach (a 20-minute drive from Heraklion). This beach isn’t as overcrowded as some of the others in town, and the restaurants and rentals are more affordable.
It can get quite windy down at Ammoudara, however, this creates ideal conditions for watersports like jet skiing and kite surfing.
These aren’t the only two popular oceanic activities to try, and parasailing from this beach is popular.
42 – Get lost in Labyrinth Park
Inspired by Crete’s Minoan heritage, the Labyrinth theme park promises fun for visitors of all ages. While the three-dimensional, 1300-square-meter Labyrinth is the undisputed focal point, the enormous park also boasts a high-tech ‘laser maze’, horse riding, archery, mini-golf, a pottery workshop, eco-garden, and — most impressively — a towering Trojan horse.
43 – Have a once-in-a-lifetime experience paragliding in Chania
Outdoor junkies, the bountiful thrill-seeking activities and things to do in Crete seem endless; so add paragliding in Chania to your bucket list. Sweeping over oceans, mountains and local villages, enjoy unparalleled views of the island during a 20-minute (tandem) flight.
Starting off on land, undergo a short lesson, suit up with all the necessary gear and safety equipment, and then attached in front of your pilot, prepare for lift-off in a glider. Now, it’s time to fly!
44 – Take a dip in Lake Kournas
With a host of snorkeling, paddle-boating, kayaking, and swimming opportunities, the calm waters of Lake Kournas are quickly gaining popularity. In recent years, the area between Rethymno and Chania has gentrified, now hosting souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars — and while that can sometimes mean more tourists, it also means plenty more to do and see!
45 – Visit the Rocca a Mare Fortress (Heraklion)
If you’re searching for things to do in Crete that combine history with beauty and aren’t too far from the main attractions, look no further than the famed 16th-century Rocca a Mare Fortress (otherwise known as the Koules Fort).
Sitting at the mouth of the old port of Heraklion atop a natural rocky outcrop, this imposing medieval structure is a regular tourist favorite and should not be overlooked.
46 – Sit back and relax at Vai Beach
Straddling Crete’s eastern shoreline and surrounded by palm trees and rocky cliffs, Vai Beach is as stunning as it is serene, with busy crowds typically few and far between. For those days where you want nothing more than to perfect the tan, cocktail in hand, and relax, there’s no better spot than the sands of Vai.
47 – Enjoy a traditional Cretan dance show with dinner
Not only is a Cretan dance show with dinner included a fun night out, but it’s also a fabulous way to get to learn and know more about local traditions and folklore stories surrounding the island.
Prepare for an evening filled with song, dance, live music, food and flowing wine, and there are a few options when it comes to location; pick between a small-town taverna or an outdoor setting in a local village to witness the show.
48 – Party non-stop in Malia and Stalis
In Malia and Stalis, two adjacent villages on the island’s northeast, the energy is electric and the party never stops. Along Beach Road, bars and clubs (most of which are free) run rampant, with paint parties and 24-hour bars always welcoming tourists from near and far.
If you want to let your hair down and unleash your wild side, this is the place.
How to get to Crete?
Flights from around the world land at one of Crete’s two airports: Heraklion International Airport and Chania International Airport.
Prior to arriving on Greece’s biggest island, pre-book airport transfers for the moment you touch down, eliminating the hassle, time and confusion of having to source taxis or tour operators to transport you to your accommodation around the island.
As you arrive, your private driver awaits and will take you directly to the stay.