Sweeping olive groves, historic towns, ancient ruins, and, of course, plenty of souvlaki and sunshine. A dream recipe, cooked up by Crete. Whether you’re jetting off to the Greece’s mightiest island for the first time or the fiftieth, we’ve rounded up the prettiest places to pencil in on your map.
Ditch the tourist traps and scratch more than the surface of Crete’s layered past, exploring lived-in villages draped in bougainvillea, clean sweeps of clam-strewn beaches and time-reversing stays oozing old Cretan charm.
Avli Lounge Apartments
Sink yourself into its Rethymnon’s most romantic corners: sip coffee in the harbour, wander through the gnarled trees of its whitewashed streets and marvel at its culture-clashing blend of Turkish and Venetian architecture.
If time moves slowly in Rethymnon, it practically stands still at Avli Lounge Apartments. With its blossom-covered courtyard, domes and arches, there’s a Venetian feel to this hotel and restaurant. Which makes sense; the 15th-century cluster of houses has been everything from a Venetian lord’s home, an olive press, soap factory and tannery. Savour village goat slathered in honey and thyme here before a potter round Old Town.
For beauty akin to Rethymnon, minus the masses, take a half-hour drive to the historic village of Arcadi, where medieval monuments, a sacred monastery and centuries of etched-in stories await. Kapsaliana Village is Crete’s true hidden gem, where you can stay in one of 12 original village houses that’ve been restored to exquisitely luxe standards.
While Knossos is not to be missed, there’s more hidden beneath Heraklion’s deep history than the tourist guides will tell. Just a few hours from the Minoan palace lies pure Cretan authenticity in the listed village of Archanes. The oldest piece of fabric was discovered here, and the village produced Greece’s first wines. Kalimera Archanes makes an ideal base for explorers of the unique destination: enjoy a stay in three houses and one studio blending a beautiful jumble of wood, stone and time-honoured materials from Cretan lands.
Your hotel hosts will happily arrange visits to the organic vineyards closeby, or trips into the city itself. Stroll down to the fishing harbour, which protected the Heraklion against invaders for centuries. Imagine life as a Cretan rebel in the huge dingy cells of the city’s fortress and ogle at the cathedral of St Titus; stacked with imagery of doe-eyed saints and seventh-century treasures.
Kissed by Florence, with sprinklings of Venice, Chania mixes a staggeringly gorgeous blend of culture into its Cretan charm. In-the-know travellers will relax by the old harbour, exploring its waterfront and the streets behind it. If you’re hankering some sand-in-toes therapy, you’ll find plenty at Chania’s beaches: the blissfully secluded Balos, crystal-clear waters of Elafonisi and family-friendly Falassarna are just a few favourites.
Cuisine in Chania ranges from creatively thrown-together salads to home-cooked breads – and there is always fish. Whether you’re staying for a night or a fortnight, take it easy with a spot of lunch and luxurious stay at Serenissima Boutique Hotel. There’s all the historic features you’ll come to expect of Chania, combined with dreamy modern amenities, including plush squishy mattresses and heavenly rain showers.
Serenissima Boutique Hotel