Updated October, 2013
- HotelsCombined.com/Crete – The best website for hotel discounts.
- GreekA.com/Crete – The best guide to visiting Crete.
- Crete Travel Forum – Tripadvisor Q&A for visiting Crete.
Q. Why is Crete great for families?
The biggest and most diverse of the Greek Islands, Crete has something for everybody. Great beaches, enchanting historical sites, activities galore, heaps of charm, and even that rarity on any Greek island: a legitimate city. Crete has the warmest weather of any Greek island making a visit in October and May still very attractive. But if swimming and hitting the beach are your highest priority June through September offers the best weather.
Q. What are the best attractions in Crete for families?
The Old Town of Chania (also spelled Hania)
This city of 60,000 on Crete’s northwest coast is a spellbinding mix of great restaurants (if a little touristy), charming hotels, and winding lanes and alleys that kids will love to explore. Chania’s harbor has enough boats, cafes and local bustle to keep everyone happy for a few hours (or days).
Perhaps the most accessible and attractive historical site for families on the Greek islands. Lose yourself – but not the kids – in this ancient world of cobblestones and crumbling walls. A tour guide is highly recommended – especially if you have older kids who’ll probably be enthralled by the well polished tails of the talented guides.
Imbros and Samaria Gorges
These aren’t easy walks, but if you have older and very active kids they are certainly doable. The Imbros is shorter, easier and less visited than the Samaria, making it a good compromise for the family seeking some adventure and exercise. (Good information page on Samaria Gorge here with map of toilet and water breaks along the route.)
AquaWorld Aquarium, Hersonnisos
Snakes, alligators, eels, stingrays, turtles, tortoise, fish and lizards. This small but well run aquarium is a must if your family spends any time in eastern Crete. Highly recommended if the mid-day heat of July and August prove too much for your children.
Water Parks Around Crete
Q. What are the best beaches for families in Crete?
- See Also: The Best Beaches in Crete
Elafonisi beach, southwestern Crete
An absolute jewel of a beach, with a small sand island you can wade out to with ease. The water is clear and blue and the swimming great. It definitely takes some effort to get to – about a 2 hour bus ride from Chania (leaves Chania about 9am and leaves Elafonisi at 4pm), or a 2 hour boat ride from Paleohora, but this is what keeps it so wonderful. That’s not to say it’s undiscovered. Day trippers arrive by the bus load but they never seem to overwhelm the area. A couple small hotels and a few beach restaurants are here so you need not pack your food if you want to keep it simple.
Matala village, southern Crete
A popular tourist destination for families that still retains some of its original charm. In large part due to the wonderful beach and the caves that line the cliff above the beach.
Marathi Beach, Akrotiri peninsula
The Perfect spot for families with children to swim and relax. Calm and beautiful with a shallow entrance to the water make Marathi a great option. A small collection of restaurants, cafes and tavernas spot the town. If you’re here during a particularly windy August this protected beach might give a reprieve from the Meltemi.
Q. What are the best hotels for families in Crete?
These hotels fill months in advance so book early.
- Ammos Hotel (Chania Town)
Great budget hotel near one of Crete’s most popular and expensive towns. A family friendly hotel set right on the beach and just 10 minutes from the Old Town in Chania. The friendly staff get raves, as does the kid friendly swimming pool. Kids are a common site at the Ammos and the warm staff go out of their way to make families feel welcome.
- King Minos Palace Hotel (Hersonissos)
A fantastic pool, good food, and central location for touring the island keep guests happy. A small beach is only 5 minutes away – though the sea here can be rough. A super market is just a short distance as well.
- Candia Park Village (Agios Nikolaos)
Great breakfasts, free kids club, fantastic beach and big rooms with kitchenettes are the draw at the Candia Park. The taxi ride into Agios Nikolaos isn’t particularly cheap but this is made up for by crystal clear sea (great for snorkeling) and the pool side bar with ice cream and milkshakes.
- Axos Hotel (near Rethymnon)
Friendly and inviting owners make a good hotel great. Fantastic breakfasts, delicious pizza, and a nearby strip of shops and eateries make for an inviting stay. The hotel is self catering and features a lovely pool with plenty of sun beds. Great online deals can be found outside of the high season of July and August.
What is the best way to get to Crete?
Ferry To Crete
Crete is a good distance from Pireaus, making a cheap flight from Athens — at least one way — an attractive option. If you do take the ferry be sure to arrive and depart from different ports thus avoiding the need to retrace your steps to catch your return ferry. The ferries that depart from Heraklion make a call in Santorini which allows you to see the islands stunning cliffs, even if you don’t have the time to spend a few days on the island. Reserving a sleeper cabin for the long trip from Athens is also highly recommended.
Flights To Crete
Crete has 3 main airports at Heraklion, Chania, and Sitia. There are flights from Athens and Thessaloniki to Crete with Olympic Air, Athens Airways and Aegean Airlines. The following budget airlines have cheap flights to Crete from many large and medium sized airports in Europe:
[Photos by: Wolfgang Staudt]