Where to stay in Crete? 6 Best Areas + a Warning! ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท

I've been going to Crete since I was a kid, so I know the best areas and places to stay. In this guide, I'll share everything I know about the Greek island.

where to stay in crete

Crete is a grand holiday island, but it’s also a surprisingly large island (it’s Greece‘s largest) and choosing a place to stay can seem overwhelming.

In this guide, I tell you all about the best areas to stay in Crete as a tourist and come up with specific travel tips that you can use on your trip to Crete.

At the bottom, you will also get a warning about a holiday town you should only stay in if you are looking for something particular…

Where to stay in Crete? Let’s get into the guide.

1. Chania – an exciting city close to the airport โœˆ๏ธ

There are two main airports in Crete, one of which is located near the large town of Chania in the western part of Crete.

Chania is an exciting Greek city with both tourists and a local atmosphere.

chania city centre

I have already written quite a bit about Chania in my guide to the best things to do in Crete, so I easily and elegantly skip over mentioning much more about the city here.

See the best hotels in Chania and book online here.

restaurant in Chania
There are plenty of cosy restaurants all over Chania

If you want to stay close to a great beach, I wouldn’t immediately recommend staying in Chania, as you’ll miss out on the fantastic beaches Crete is famous for.

Instead, it would be best if you considered staying in one of the following two areas: a short drive (or a short trip with one of the affordable buses) west of Chania.

However, let me recommend some good hotels in Chania for those prioritising city life over beaches.

Places to stay in Chania

Let’s look at some of the best places to stay in Chania’s city centre.

Monastery Estate Venetian Harbor in Chania is a breathtaking resort that combines history and luxury in the heart of Crete’s old town.

Luxury place to stay in Chania

Located near the famous Venetian harbour, it’s an ideal choice for travellers who want to explore Chania’s charm and stay within walking distance of everything.

Chania old town hotel

Enjoy top-notch facilities, including a spa bath, a small outdoor rooftop swimming pool, a wellness area, and an atmospheric restaurant serving breakfast with local produce.

wellness hotel in Chania

With tastefully decorated rooms, complimentary Wi-Fi, concierge service, and parking, Monastery Estate guarantees an unforgettable stay in Crete full of relaxation and adventure.

See more photos and book online here.

Samaria Hotel in Chania is a stylish and modern hotel situated very close to the old town of Chania.

Samaria Hotel, good place to stay in Chania city centre

It’s a sophisticated resort perfect for travellers seeking comfort and convenience on their Crete holiday.

Samaria Hotel room

The hotel offers beautifully decorated rooms, a welcoming outdoor swimming pool, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, and an elegant restaurant.

See more photos and book online here.

2. Agia Marina – best place to stay for families ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ

Agia Marina is the perfect area when you travel to Crete with children. I was here a few times in my very young days when I was with the family on a classic charter trip, which was perfect.

On my most recent trip to Crete, I could wander around Agia Marina as an adult. Now, my adult brain can also approve of the area as a good place in Crete.

See the best deals on hotels in Agia Marina here.

It is perfect for families with children because there are many good hotels, beaches and entertainment.

This is a classic summer holiday area with many restaurants, souvenir shops and excursion opportunities.

For the slightly older clientele, there are quite a few walking-in-town options and, among other things, a beach club that looks quite nice.

Agia Marina, great place to stay for families

Staying in Agia Marina on a trip to Crete is a good choice.

Here you are close to the airport, can go on all the excursions you want or enjoy relaxation at your hotel with a few detours into Chania town.

Places to stay in Agia Marina

This is one of the most popular holiday areas in the western part of Crete, so naturally, Agia Marina has plenty of great hotels. Here are some of the best.

Elia Agia Marina Hotel is ideal for couples and families who want an unforgettable holiday experience in Crete.

Hotel by the beach in Agia Marina
Sea view room in Agia Marina.

This 4-star hotel offers an array of top-notch facilities, ensuring you make the most of your stay.

From the beautiful, modern design to the spacious, well-appointed rooms, you’ll feel pampered when you step in.

Fantastic place to stay in Agia Marina

The hotel’s heart is the spectacular infinity pool overlooking the azure Mediterranean Sea. You can relax and soak up the sun while the kids have fun in the separate children’s pool.

Hotel with beach access in Crete

Elia Agia Marina Hotel’s location is right by the beach, so if you’re seeking comfort, luxury, and genuine Greek hospitality, Elia Agia Marina Hotel is the obvious choice for you.

See more photos and book online here.

Eden Beach Hotel is ideal for families seeking an unforgettable holiday in Crete without breaking the bank.

It’s a hotel that receives excellent reviews from previous guests.

Eden Beach Hotel, budget-friendly place to stay for families in Agia Marina
Looking for a budget-friendly place to stay with children? This is the place.

This 3-star hotel is situated on the beach and offers a range of facilities that will delight children and adults.

The hotel’s large swimming pool with children’s pool, mini-club programme, and spacious, family-friendly rooms ensure a fun and relaxing holiday.

The buffet restaurant serves a varied selection of local and international dishes in a relaxed atmosphere.

Cheap hotel by the beach in Crete
The hotel is located right by the excellent beach in Agia Marina.

With a fantastic beachfront location, plenty of facilities, and a budget-friendly price, Eden Beach Hotel is the perfect choice for families who want great value for money.

See more photos and book online here.

3. Platanias – stay right by the beach ๐Ÿ–

I stayed in Platanias on my trip to Crete in the summer of 2021, and it was absolutely perfect.

Platanias has gradually merged entirely with Agia Marina, where the latter is a little closer to Chania town.

Platanias area in Crete

In Platanias, many families with children also seemed to have a great time during my trip. 

The beach in Platanias is very similar to the one in Agia Marina. Also, it has a view of the beautiful rocky island out in the sea.

See the best hotels and book online here.

Platanias, nice place to stay by the beach in Crete

On the main street, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops lie side by side, with countless opportunities to do something.

There is a very steep hill right by the ‘central square’ in Platanias, where you get up quickly and thus get a phenomenal view of the whole area.

Plenty of restaurants allow you to sit with a sea view and enjoy your dinner while the sun goes down.

I highly recommend staying in Platanias on your trip to Crete – it’s like Agia Marina, easy and convenient and many good hotels when I check the selection from home.

Places to stay in Platanias

Let’s take a closer look at some of the many great places to stay in Platanias.

We’ll start with a perfect choice for those travelling to Crete and wanting to save some money by having the option to cook at home a few times.

Indigo Mare Hotel Apartments in Platanias is the best place to stay for travellers seeking comfort and freedom on their Cretan holiday.

Indigo Mare, holiday apartments by the beach in Platanias

The hotel’s pool offers a sea view; you can walk down to the sea in just a few seconds.

These modern and spacious apartments come with fully equipped kitchens and cosy terraces or balconies, making creating your own holiday home in Crete easy.

And also save a bit of money by not having to eat at a restaurant for every meal.

Indigo Mare Platanias, best place to stay in Platanias for families

In addition to the well-appointed apartments, you can enjoy the hotel’s shared facilities, such as the inviting swimming pool, sun terrace, and children’s pool.

See more photos and book online here.

Porto Platanias Beach Resort & Spa is an excellent choice and the best place to stay for those seeking a luxurious and relaxing holiday in Platanias.

Porto Platanias, best place to stay for luxury in Platanias

This 5-star resort consistently receives excellent reviews from previous guests, who praise the elegant rooms, suites, and bungalows for their comfort and style.

Port Platanias Beach Resort

Travellers are particularly enthusiastic about the hotel’s impressive swimming pool, the fact that you can walk to the beach in just a few seconds, and the on-site spa, all ensuring a relaxing experience.

Spa and wellness hotel Platanias

Furthermore, the culinary experiences at the resort’s restaurants are highlighted, where local and international dishes are served in a sophisticated atmosphere.

See more photos and book online here.

4. Rethymno – beautiful city with plenty to do

Then we have to go a little further away from Chania and east to Rethymno, located about halfway between Chania and Heraklion (the central city on Crete and where we will get to in a bit).

Rethymno, like Chania, is a port city that is the ‘capital’ of its own province on Crete, so this is one of the island’s larger cities.

See the best hotels in Rethymno here.

I stayed in Rethymno on a trip to Crete maybe 10 years ago and was very happy about it; just like in the areas mentioned above, it is a classic summer holiday area with all that entails of restaurants, bars and amusements.

rethymno crete

However, Rethymno is slightly more laid back than Platanias and Agia Marina, where you are never far from the nearest Scandinavian tourist :D.

Rethymno town is extremely cosy ala Chania and has this classic Greek atmosphere with narrow streets and cosy restaurants.

In the area around the city, there are several good sandy beaches, and it is a tourist area, so there are plenty of good hotels.

Places to stay in Rethymno

The Old Town in Rethymno is exciting, but the entire coastal area around the city has excellent places to stay. So let’s take a closer look at a couple of the best hotels in and around Rethymno.

We’ll start with the best place to stay for those who want to be right in Rethymno.

Rimondi Boutique Hotels is the perfect choice for those who want to stay in the centre of Rethymno’s old town and be close to everything.

Rimondi, best place to stay in Rethymno

This charming boutique hotel is located in the heart of the historic district, providing easy access to the many attractions, restaurants, and shops that make Rethymno so unique.

Rimondi Boutique Hotels, nice place to stay in Rethymno Old Town

The hotel’s elegant rooms and suites are decorated with a blend of traditional Cretan architecture and modern design, ensuring a comfortable and authentic stay.

Luxury pool hotel Rethymno

The hotel is highly luxurious and has an outdoor pool, so you can quickly cool off after strolling through the city streets.

See more photos and book online here.

Atlantis Beach Hotel is the perfect choice for those dreaming of a lovely hotel right by the beach while still having easy access to Rethymno’s charming city life.

Atlantis Beach Hotel, stay by the beach in Rethymno

This 4-star hotel is right by the city’s beautiful sandy beach, allowing you to enjoy the sun and the azure sea outside your door.

Beach hotel in Rethymno, stay close to the city centre

The hotel’s modern and comfortable rooms are designed to create a relaxing atmosphere, so you can feel at home throughout your stay.

Sea view suite in Rethymno
Sea view suite – you can also book rooms with a private pool at this hotel in Rethymno.

If you’re travelling to Crete with children, this place is also a good choice, as there is a playground and children’s pool.

  • However, it’s not a dedicated family hotel, but rather a large and lovely hotel with room for everyone.
Atlantis Beach hotel swimming pool

In addition to the fantastic beachfront location, you can relax by the hotel’s swimming pool and sun terrace and indulge in the first-class spa facilities.

Atlantis Beach Hotel is just a short walk from Rethymno’s old town, so you can easily explore the charming streets, historical sights, local restaurants, and shops.

See more photos and book online here.

5. Heraklion – stay in the largest city in Crete

Heraklion is the ‘capital’ and the largest city in Crete.

In other words, it is a European metropolis with all that it entails, and it is thus not immediately an area where you, as a tourist, would choose to stay on a summer holiday to Crete.

Like the rest of Crete, Heraklion has a tumultuous history with many takeovers by the Arabs, the Venetians and the Turks.

You can still feel the history in Heraklion, so it’s a place I recommend stopping by when you travel to Crete.

See the best hotels in Heraklion here.

But not immediately if you travel to Crete in the summer – because it gets boiling there, and it can be a bit of pressure to walk around the big city when it’s 35 degrees.

Heraklion, stay in the largest city in Crete

The city deserves a place on the list of where to stay in Crete, as it makes good sense to stay here if you travel to Crete outside the high season.

At the same time, you will be pretty close to Knossos, which for many, is the main reason for travelling to Crete outside the high season ๐Ÿ˜‰

Places to stay in Heraklion

Let’s look at a few good places to stay in Heraklion and hotels that may not be right in the centre but are close enough to Heraklion city to combine a beach holiday with a city break.

We’ll start with a hotel in the centre of Heraklion, featuring a rooftop pool with a view of the Venetian harbour in Heraklion.

Aquila Atlantis Hotel is the perfect choice for those dreaming of a luxurious stay in the heart of Heraklion.

Aquila Atlantis, best luxury place to stay in Heraklion

This 5-star hotel is centrally located in the city, allowing you to easily explore Heraklion’s historical sights, local restaurants, shopping opportunities, and nightlife.

There isn’t much else to say except that this luxury hotel has everything a traveller needs.

Luxury hotel room in Heraklion

If you want to stay close to everything in Heraklion and have a lovely rooftop pool, beautiful rooms, and a general feeling of luxury, this is the hotel to book.

See more photos and book online here.

And now, let’s move on to a hotel just outside Heraklion for those who want to stay by the beach in Crete but still be close to the island’s largest city.

Paralos Lifestyle Beach is the perfect choice for those dreaming of a relaxing beach holiday while still having easy access to Heraklion’s exciting city life.

Stay by the beach in Heraklion

This charming hotel is right by a beautiful sandy beach called Ammoudara Beach, allowing you to enjoy the sun and crystal-clear sea in peace.

Paralos Lifestyle Beach is just a short drive from Heraklion, so you can easily explore the city’s historical sights, local restaurants, and shopping opportunities.

Paralos Lifestyle Beach, nice hotel close to Heraklion
  • It takes about 15-20 minutes by car from the hotel to the centre of Heraklion, but there’s also a bus just 50 metres from the hotel that takes you directly to the city centre in just 22 minutes.

Choose Paralos Lifestyle Beach for your Crete holiday, and experience the best of both worlds: beach and city life in a harmonious combination.

See more photos and book online here.

6. Eastern Crete – many hidden gems

Crete is indeed a large island, and the eastern part of the island is also packed with beautiful sandy beaches and stunning nature.

I’ve been looking into areas such as Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, and Sitia.

Agios Nikolaos โ€“ charming beach town on the east coast

Agios Nikolaos is a charming and picturesque beach town in the eastern part of Crete, offering a unique combination of traditional Greek charm and modern conveniences.

Agios Nikolaos, stay in e beach town in Eastern Crete

The town is known for its beautiful harbour and Voulismeni Lake, creating an idyllic atmosphere for locals and visitors.

Agios Nikolaos is surrounded by crystal-clear waters and beautiful beaches, making it ideal for a relaxing beach holiday.

Here you will find a wealth of local restaurants serving authentic Cretan dishes and cosy cafes and shops along the winding streets.

Agios Nikolaos is the perfect destination for those who want to experience Crete’s charm and beauty up close.

See the best hotels in Agios Nikolaos here.

Elounda โ€“ beautiful surroundings and luxury hotels

Now let’s move a bit north of Agios Nikolaos to Elounda.

Elounda, one of the most beautiful areas to stay in Crete

Elounda is an exclusive and luxurious oasis on Crete’s northeast coast, offering scenic landscapes and top-notch facilities.

Elounda is especially known for its excellent hotels, gourmet restaurants, and the crystal-clear waters of Mirabello Bay.

See the best hotels in Elounda here.

  • Fantastic location: Elounda is surrounded by magnificent mountains and beautiful beaches, making it ideal for relaxation and adventure. 
  • Luxurious hotels: Experience a selection of first-class hotels and resorts offering exceptional comfort and service. 
  • Beauty and history: Visit the nearby island of Spinalonga with its fascinating history and breathtaking views of Mirabello Bay. 
  • Relaxation and activities: Explore the beautiful landscape and enjoy various water sports activities.

Elounda is the perfect destination for those who want to experience a luxurious holiday in Crete and enjoy an unforgettable combination of beauty, comfort, and adventure.

Elounda Bay Palace, best hotel in Elounda

If you want to stay at one of the best hotels in Elounda, you should stay at Elounda Bay Palace, which is considered one of the best hotels โ€“ perhaps even in all of Crete.

Infinity pool hotel in Crete

See more photos and book the hotel here.

Sitia โ€“ quiet area where the Greeks themselves vacation

Sitia is a peaceful and authentic gem on Crete’s east coast, offering a calm and relaxing atmosphere far away from the more touristy areas.

Sitia, best place to stay in Crete for a quiet holiday

This charming town is surrounded by magnificent mountains and beautiful beaches, making it ideal for those who want to explore Crete’s nature and enjoy a stress-free beach holiday.

Sitia’s friendly locals and slow pace create a warm and welcoming atmosphere where you can relax and enjoy real Cretan life.

The town has a good selection of local taverns and cafes where you can taste authentic Greek dishes and enjoy the view of the harbour.

Choose Sitia as your base in Crete and experience the island’s authentic and peaceful side.

  • There is a small airport in Sitia, but you can only fly to 3 domestic destinations in Greece (including Athens), so Sitia is generally not an area that many tourists visit. 

See the best hotels in Sitia here.

Warning: Malia is a party destination! ๐Ÿป

And then just a warning for those who want to go to Crete and relax. You shouldn’t to travel to Malia – it’s Crete’s answer to Sunny Beach or Agia Napa in Cyprus, where the music throbs and the drinks flow ๐Ÿ˜€

Here, the famous main street is packed with bars and discotheques, filled with young Brits who like to party all night long.

So if you want to go on a party trip to Crete, then Malia is, on the other hand, the right area to stay in ๐Ÿ˜‰

I hope you can use this guide to where to stay in Crete and that you are ready to book your trip to one of the island’s best areas.

If you have any questions for Crete, please comment below, and I’ll do my best to help.

FAQ:

What side of Crete is best to stay?

It depends on what type of experience you’re looking for. The east side of Crete offers more rugged and less crowded beaches, while the west is known for its cosmopolitan cities and picturesque villages. If you want to relax and enjoy peace and quiet, then the East is your best bet.

However, if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere with plenty of activities for all ages, the West might be more up your alley. In this guide on where to stay in Crete, I’ve written about some areas that should suit most travellers.

Is Chania or Heraklion better?

While it is challenging to definitively declare one as better than the other, each city has its own unique charm and attractions that cater to different types of travellers. Let me try and explain the difference between Chania and Heraklion:

Chaniaย is a picturesque harbour town with a Venetian influence known for its quaint, narrow streets, colourful buildings, and lively waterfront. The city has a more relaxed atmosphere, making it a popular choice for those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture and history. The charming old town, historical sites like the Maritime Museum, and stunning day trips to beaches like Elafonisi and Balos Lagoon are all worth visiting.

Heraklion, on the other hand, is Crete’s bustling capital and largest city. It is an excellent base for exploring the island, as it boasts a range of accommodation options and convenient transportation links. The city is home to several important archaeological sites, including the famous Palace of Knossos, a must-see for history enthusiasts. Heraklion also offers vibrant nightlife, shopping centres, and diverse dining options.

In summary, Chania and Heraklion have unique allure and characteristics catering to different tastes and preferences. It ultimately depends on your desired experience โ€“ whether you prefer a more relaxed, historic atmosphere or the lively energy of a bustling capital city.ย 

Where to stay in Crete for families?

There are plenty of great places to stay in Crete for families. Here are a few of the top choices in my opinion (I’ve been to Crete a few times as a kid so I should know):

Agia Marina: Agia Marina is located on the north coast of Crete and features beautiful beaches, traditional Greek restaurants, and close proximity to some of Crete’s best attractions.

Chania: Located on the north coast of Crete a few kilometre East of Agia Marina, Chania features gorgeous beaches, charming old town districts and an abundance of Greek culture and history. Please note that the city itself doesn’t have any beaches though, so in high-season I’d recommend Agia Marina or Platanias.

Platanias: Platanias is a popular tourist destination with a picturesque harbour and sandy beaches. The area has plenty to offer in terms of restaurants, bars, shops and activities for kids.

Rethymno: The city of Rethymno boasts beautiful Venetian harbour, historic sites, friendly locals and plenty of activities for kids.

Where should I not stay in Crete?

While Crete is a beautiful and charming destination with plenty of incredible places to stay, there are certain areas that you should avoid. Unless you’re looking for a party atmosphere, staying away from Malia and perhaps Hersonissos is advisable, as they are quite busy and noisy. If you’ve seen the British cult film The Inbetweeners, you know what I mean…

What is the most beautiful part of Crete?

While it’s difficult to pinpoint a single location as the most beautiful part of Crete, one area that consistently stands out is the region of Chania. In my opinion, it’s the best place to stay in Crete.

Nestled in the northwestern part of the island, Chania is a delightful fusion of history, culture, and natural beauty. The old town, with its maze of narrow cobblestone streets, Venetian architecture, and vibrant waterfront, exudes an undeniable charm that enchants visitors at every turn.

Beyond the old town, Chania’s natural beauty is truly unparalleled. The region is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches, such as Elafonisi, with its soft pink-tinged sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters, and the pristine Balos Lagoon, where visitors can enjoy a taste of paradise.

The Samaria Gorge, another gem in Chania’s crown, is the longest gorge in Europe and a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts. The dramatic landscapes, diverse flora, and fauna make the trek through the gorge an unforgettable experience.

Lastly, the charming villages dotting the Chania region, such as Falassarna and Paleochora, offer visitors an authentic glimpse into Cretan life, where time seems to stand still and warm hospitality abounds.