Knossos, Crete

13 Things to Know Before Traveling to Crete

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If you’re plotting a getaway to the enchanting island of Crete, you’re in for a treat. This gem in the Mediterranean is a blend of breathtaking landscapes, ancient history, and a culinary scene that will have you coming back for seconds (and thirds!).

But, like any adventure, a bit of insider knowledge goes a long way to making your trip smooth and memorable.

Crete is where you can hike imposing gorges one day and wander through Venetian harbors the next.

And the food? Get ready for a feast that’s as fresh as it is delicious.

From my own escapades, having spent a couple of weeks exploring the nooks and crannies of this island paradise, I’ve gathered some golden nuggets of advice to share.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to the majority of the best places Crete has to offer, and I’m here to spill all those secrets to make your journey even better.

So, buckle up, and let’s dive into what you need to know before setting off to the heart of the Aegean!

Knossos, Crete
Palace of Minos in Knossos

13 Things to Know Before Traveling to Crete:

Crete, Greece

Crete is the largest island in Greece

Crete is the largest island in Greece, giving it a unique blend of experiences that you won’t find anywhere else in the country. From the endless coastlines dotted with both secluded coves and bustling beach resorts to the mysterious depths of ancient Minoan ruins, Crete is a place where every turn on winding mountain roads can lead to a new adventure.

What’s really cool about Crete is its diversity. The island is like a mini-continent, with snow-capped mountains, lush valleys, and arid plains.

Also, if you are staying on one side of the island, take into account the travel time to landmarks on the other side. It might take more than 4 hours one way! So before booking your stay, check the top attractions that you want to see. Book a hotel that’s near to the points in your itinerary.

Spring blooms in Samaria Gorge, Crete
Spring blooms in Samaria Gorge, Crete

The best time to visit Crete is during the shoulder seasons

Planning a trip to Crete? Well, timing is everything, and I’ve got the inside scoop for you. The shoulder seasons – that’s spring (April to early June) and fall (September to October) – are hands-down the best times to visit.

Here’s the deal: you get all the sunshine and warmth Crete is famous for, minus the peak summer crowds. It’s like having the best of both worlds.

Spring is when Crete is in full bloom. Imagine walking through olive groves and wildflowers, with the island’s beauty unfolding before you. And the weather? Absolutely perfect for exploring those ancient ruins without breaking a sweat.

Come fall, the sea is still warm enough for swimming, and the summer heat mellows out. It’s ideal for those long, lazy beach days or hiking adventures in Crete’s stunning gorges. Plus, the vibe is more laid-back, letting you soak in the local culture and enjoy those famous Cretan sunsets in peace.

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So, if you’re looking for that sweet spot of great weather, fewer tourists, and a more authentic experience, the shoulder seasons are your golden ticket to a fabulous Crete adventure.

Zeus Cave in Crete, Greece
Zeus Cave in Crete, Greece

Crete has a rich history dating back to the Minoan civilization

Crete is the cradle of the Minoan civilization, which is like the first chapter of European history. Think about walking through the ruins of Knossos Palace, where legend has it, the labyrinth of the Minotaur was tucked away.

What’s fascinating is how these ancient stories and artifacts are woven into the fabric of everyday life here. You’ll find echoes of the past not just in the archaeological sites but in the local festivals, the art, and even in the conversations at a local taverna.

Crete doesn’t just have history; it lives it.

So, when you’re exploring those ancient stone pathways or gazing at frescoes that have seen millennia, you’re not just sightseeing. You’re time-traveling.

a group of people sitting at a table eating food

The food in Crete is delicious and fresh

Let me tell you, the food in Crete is a whole vibe! It’s all about freshness and flavor here, with dishes that’ll make your taste buds dance. Crete takes its culinary game seriously, with a farm-to-table approach that’s been in play long before it became a trend elsewhere.

Picture this: olive oil so rich and pure, it’s like liquid gold, and vegetables that taste like they’ve been kissed by the sun.

And the cheese? Oh, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried Cretan cheese. Whether it’s the creamy, tangy feta or the rich, savory mizithra, cheese here is a way of life. Not to mention the seafood – caught in the morning and on your plate by lunch, it’s that fresh.

Every meal in Crete feels like a celebration, shared with laughter and good company. So, dive into the local tavernas, and let your curiosity guide you.

Elafonissi beach in Crete, Greece

The pace of life in Crete is slow and relaxed

It’s like the island is in its own time zone where everything moves at a slow and relaxed rhythm. This isn’t just a place to see; it’s a place to be.

Imagine sipping a coffee in a quaint village square, with no rush to move on. Here, meetings are often guided by the phrase “siga, siga” (slowly, slowly). It’s a reminder that sometimes, the sweetest moments come when we pause and soak in the surroundings.

This laid-back vibe is perfect for travelers looking to unwind and connect. Whether it’s a leisurely chat with locals, a slow wander through ancient ruins, or just watching the sunset paint the sky from a seaside taverna, Crete invites you to take a breath and savor life’s simple pleasures.

The coast of Crete, Greece

Siestas are a way of life in Crete

Ah, the siesta – it’s not just a nap; in Crete, it’s a cherished ritual! When the sun is high and the air hums with the heat of the day, the island takes a collective pause.

From around 2 to 5 PM, you’ll notice the streets quiet down, shops close their doors, and there’s a peaceful lull that sweeps over the towns and villages. It’s the perfect time for you to slow down too. Whether you’re lounging at your accommodation or finding a shady spot under an olive tree, joining in this restful tradition is a wonderful way to recharge.

So, when in Crete, do as the Cretans do – embrace the siesta. It’s a beautiful reminder that sometimes, the best thing you can do on your travels is to simply rest and soak in the tranquility. Trust me, it’s a habit you might just want to take home with you!

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Chania at night, Crete, Greece

The official language of Crete is Greek, but many people also speak English

When you land in Crete, you’ll step into a world where the lyrical sounds of the Greek language fill the air. It’s a beautiful, expressive language with roots that dive deep into history.

But don’t stress if your Greek is a little rusty or non-existent. The good news is that many people in Crete speak English, especially in tourist areas, making it super easy to communicate.

From restaurant menus to street signs and information at historical sites, you’ll often find translations available. And Cretans? They’re known for their hospitality and warmth. Even if you stumble through a “Kalimera” (good morning) or “Efharisto” (thank you), your efforts will be met with smiles and encouragement.

So, while it’s great to learn a few Greek phrases to enrich your experience (and impress the locals), you can rest easy knowing that language barriers are hardly a hurdle in Crete. It’s all part of the island’s charm, making your travel smoother and more enjoyable.

Chania Harbor, Crete, Greece

The Euro is the currency used in Crete

In Crete, like the rest of Greece, the Euro is the currency that keeps the island ticking. It’s super handy for everything from a refreshing frappé at a beachside café to those must-have souvenirs in the bustling markets.

What’s great is that ATMs are pretty easy to find in cities and even in most touristy villages, so you can withdraw cash as you need. And for an even smoother experience, most places accept credit and debit cards, especially in those tourist hotspots.

Just a little tip: while cards are widely accepted, carrying some cash is always a good idea, especially if you’re venturing into more remote areas or fancy a bite at a quaint, family-run taverna.

Crete, Greece

Tipping is not expected in Crete, but it is appreciated

In Crete, the art of tipping comes with a laid-back twist. Here’s the scoop: tipping isn’t expected, but dropping a few extra euros can be a sweet way to say “thank you” for great service.

Whether it’s the person who served you a feast for the senses at a local taverna or the one who made your hotel stay extra special, a little tip is always met with a warm smile and genuine appreciation.

Think of it as a cherry on top rather than a must-do. There’s no strict rulebook on percentages, so you can go by feel. If you’ve had a meal that’s made your day or a taxi ride filled with friendly chatter, leaving a tip is like leaving a little piece of your gratitude behind.

Mount Ida, Crete, Greece

Crete is a relatively safe place to travel

Good news for anyone heading to Crete – it’s known for being a pretty safe place to travel! Whether you’re wandering through the charming streets of Chania or exploring the rugged beauty of the island’s remote beaches, you’ll generally find Crete to be welcoming and secure.

Of course, like anywhere in the world, it’s wise to keep your wits about you and follow those common-sense safety tips – keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded spots, and stay aware of your surroundings. But the vibe here is laid-back and friendly, with the locals known for their hospitality and warmth.

Solo travelers, families, and adventurers alike can feel at ease in Crete. The island’s relaxed atmosphere extends to its approach to safety, making it a great spot for anyone looking to soak up some Mediterranean sun without worry.

Rental car in Crete

Getting around Crete can be a bit challenging

Navigating Crete can be an adventure in itself, as getting around the island has its quirks. The public transport system exists, but it’s a bit sporadic and might not always align with your plans, especially if you’re itching to explore those hidden gems off the beaten path.

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Here’s a pro tip: consider renting a car. It gives you the freedom to roam the island on your own schedule, from the sun-drenched beaches to the mysterious ancient ruins.

When it comes to car rentals, Discovercars.com is a handy option, offering a variety of choices to suit your style and budget. Having your own set of wheels can transform your Crete adventure, allowing you to discover the island’s many faces at your own pace.

Just remember, driving in Crete can be a bit different from what you’re used to – narrow roads and relaxed local driving habits mean you’ll need to drive cautiously. But don’t let that deter you; with a car, Crete is yours to explore, from its majestic mountains to its serene coastlines.

Knossos, Crete

Be sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat

Don’t forget to pack your sun defense team: sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat! This trio is non-negotiable for enjoying those glorious Cretan days under the Mediterranean sun. The sunshine in Crete can be quite intense, especially if you’re visiting in the summer months when the sun plays no games.

Slather on a high-SPF sunscreen to protect your skin from those sneaky UV rays. It’s your best buddy for beach days, archaeological explorations, or even leisurely strolls through charming villages. And let’s not forget a chic pair of sunglasses and a breezy hat – they’re not just fashion statements but essential gear to shield your eyes and face, keeping those sun-induced headaches at bay.

So, while you’re packing, make sure these sun protection essentials are at the top of your list. They’ll keep you comfy, safe, and ready to soak up all the beauty and adventure Crete has to offer, without the burn!

Samaria Gorge, Crete

Don’t forget to pack an adapter if you’re coming from a country with a different electrical outlet

If you’re jetting off to Crete from a place with different plug sockets, here’s a crucial tip: pack an adapter. It’s one of those easy-to-forget items that can become a real headache. Crete, like the rest of Greece, uses Type C and F electrical outlets, and the standard voltage is 230V. So, if your devices don’t match, an adapter will be your best travel buddy.

Imagine you’re all set to capture the stunning Cretan sunset or the ancient ruins, and bam, your camera or phone dies. Not ideal, right? That’s where this little lifesaver comes in, ensuring all your gadgets stay charged and ready to go.


Travel tips and tricks:

  • Save big on flights with Skyscanner.com – This incredible tool lets you find the most affordable airfare to your dream destination. You’ll love their “Whole Month” feature, which displays the best prices for the entire month. If you’re flexible with travel dates, this is a game-changer for scoring the cheapest tickets.
  • Stay in the heart of the action – I always find the perfect accommodation on Booking.com. Their map view lets me filter hotels by my budget and select ones that are right in the center of it all. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this easy way to book your ideal stay!
  • Go beyond the resort – I’m all about making the most of my trips, and GetYourGuide.com has been a lifesaver for booking unforgettable tours and day trips. It’s the most hassle-free way to dive into the local culture and explore the hidden gems in every new place.
  • Hit the road with DiscoverCars.com – There’s no better way to explore your destination than by car! Renting a vehicle has never been easier, and with their competitive prices, you’ll have the freedom to create your own adventures.

I highly recommend trying these tools for yourself – not only will you save money, but you’ll also create memories that last a lifetime. Happy travels!


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