The location of your stay is one of the most vital decisions when planning a holiday to Crete. The island has unique regions and many resort towns, each with its own character, and drive times between places can sometimes be long.
Broadly speaking, if you’re after sandy beaches and crowded resorts, look on the northern coast. For a quiet rural retreat head for the hills or the remote villages and beaches along the southern shoreline. The Iraklio region is home to the island’s most developed resorts – Malia and Hersonisos – with a 24-hour party culture. Rethymno has some quieter getaways, plus Crete’s longest sandy beach; it’s a good base if you want to immerse yourself in the island’s culture. Hania, in the west, is a ravishing town and has beach resorts to the west; it is ideal if you’re looking for a wide range of outdoor pursuits, from diving to mountain climbing. Lasithi in the east is the island’s quietest area and the exclusive resorts of Elounda and Agios Nikolaos are the strongholds of Crete’s high-end tourism.
The following price ranges refer to a double room in high season (June to August). Unless otherwise stated, all rooms have private bathroom facilities.
€ less than €50
€€€ more than €100
Reserving your accommodation out of season is important, as in some locations many hotels close for months on end. In high season it’s equally essential as hotels can be fully booked well in advance.
- Hotels Classed from A through E, with A being five-star resort-style hotels and E having shared baths and questionable hot water.
- Domatia & studios The Cretan equivalent of the British B&B, minus the breakfast. Nowadays, many are purpose-built with fully equipped kitchens.
- Campgrounds Several around the island, often include hot showers, minimarkets, restaurants and swimming pools.
Crete has some of the best resort hotels in Greece, including elite spa-hotels, but standards vary dramatically. Some midrange hotels are little better than domatia (rooms, usually in a private home). There’s a smattering of boutique-style hotels, especially in Hania and Rethymno, in superbly restored Venetian mansions or historic buildings.
Hotels in Greece are divided into six categories: deluxe, A, B, C, D and E. Hotels are categorised according to the size of the rooms, whether or not they have a bar, and the ratio of bathrooms to beds, rather than standards of cleanliness, comfort of beds and friendliness of staff – all elements that may be of greater relevance to guests.
Pensions are a basic form of hotel, usually with fewer services, but sometimes more cosy.
Almost 80% of visitors to Crete arrive on the island on a package holiday, often only available through tour operators. All-inclusive resorts are especially prevalent along the northern coast, east of Iraklio and west of Hania.
Studios & Apartments
To slow down and get to know Crete better, renting a studio or apartment for a week or more can be ideal, especially for budget-minded travellers, self-caterers, families and small groups. Facilities include a kitchenette or full kitchen, cable or satellite TV, air-conditioning and heating units and, occasionally, washing machine. High-season rates typically range from €35 to €60 for a studio and €50 to €90 for an apartment for four people.
Domatia (literally ‘rooms’) are the Greek equivalent of the British B&B, minus the breakfast. Most are only open April to October.
In former times, domatia comprised little more than spare rooms in the family home. Nowadays most are purpose-built appendages to the family home, and may be studios or small apartments. Domatia remain a popular option for budget travellers and are often more appealing (and sometimes better equipped) than generic midrange hotels. Expect to pay from €20 to €60 for a double, depending on whether bathrooms are shared or private, the season and the length of your stay.
Agrotourism is booming in Crete. Traditional guesthouses, villas and apartments in tranquil villages away from the coastal hubbub are sometimes attached to organic farms, allowing you to participate in seasonal activities, such as sheep shearing, raki distilling, olive harvesting, grape crushing or cheesemaking. Some owners also give cooking courses. Budget between €70 and €100 for a traditional cottage.
Crete’s dozen or so campgrounds are privately run and range from sun-baked dirt patches to tree-shaded, resort-style grounds with pools, shops, tavernas and wi-fi. Some also rent caravans, tents and bungalows. The core season runs from May to October, although a few remain open year-round. The Panhellenic Camping Association (www.panhellenic-camping-union.gr) publishes information about its member sites, their facilities and opening months on its website.
If you’re camping in the height of summer, bring a silver fly sheet to reflect the heat off your tent (the dark tents that are all the rage in colder countries become sweat lodges). Between May and mid-September the weather is warm enough to sleep out under the stars with a light cover. It’s a good idea to have a foam pad to lie on and a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag.
- Camping fees are highest from mid-June through to the end of August.
- Campgrounds charge €5 to €7 per adult and €3 to €4 for children aged four to 12. There’s no charge for children under four.
- Tent sites cost from €4 per night for small tents, and from €5 per night for large tents.
- You can often rent tents for around €5 to €10.
- Caravan sites start at around €6; car costs are typically €4 to €5.
- Free (wild) camping is illegal and the police are increasingly cracking down on scofflaws.
Crete does not have any Hostelling International–affiliated hostels, but there are independent contenders in Rethymno and Plakias, which are well-run and sociable places, with dorm beds, basic facilities and inexpensive food. Dorm beds cost around €10; discounts are usually available for longer stays.
Crete has seven mountain shelters run by the regional mountaineering clubs: four in the Lefka Ori (White Mountains), two around Mt Psiloritis and one on Mt Dikti. Nonmembers pay around €15 per bunk bed. Facilities vary and may include basic cooking facilities, wood-burning stoves and water from a spring or a rainwater tank. Get in touch with the regional club before hitting the trail. For an overview of shelters, check www.crete.tournet.gr/en/crete-activities/936-mountain-shelters.