In high season it’s essential to reserve, as hotels can be fully booked well in advance. Many hotels on the islands are closed during winter.
- Hotels Run the gamut from simple family-run places with just a few rooms to full-service resorts with pools, water sports and restaurants.
- Domatia The Greek equivalent of the British B&B, minus the breakfast. Often have a fridge and kettle.
- Campgrounds Found in the majority of regions and islands, and often include hot showers, communal kitchens, restaurants and swimming pools.
- Apartment and villa rental Ideal for space-cravers, families and self-caterers. Usually equipped with full kitchens and furnished terraces.
Crete offers the gamut of places to unpack your suitcase. Rooms in the larger resorts, especially on the north coast, are usually snapped up by package tour operators. As an individual traveller, you're more likely to find yourself in smaller hotels that are often run by families. Self-caterers will be comfortable in studios or apartments or, if you have the budget, villas. Wallet watchers, meanwhile, should look for signs saying 'Room for Rent' or 'Domatia', sometimes found above or behind tavernas. Standards of style and comfort vary widely for all types of lodging, but practically all are clean and have private bathrooms.
- By law, a notice must be displayed in every room, stating the category of the room and the price charged in each season.
- Outside the cities – and especially along the coasts – most properties close down from November to March or April. Booking ahead is usually necessary only for summer months.
- Prices include community tax and VAT (value-added tax).
- In high season, there may be a two- or three-night minimum stay or an additional charge for shorter stays.
- A mandatory charge of 20% is levied for an additional bed (often waived if it's for a child). During July and August, accommodation owners charge maximum price.
- In spring (April to June) and autumn (September and October) prices can drop by 20%. Prices drop even further in winter (November to March).
- Rip-offs are rare; if you suspect that you have been exploited, make a report to the tourist police or the regular police, and they will act swiftly.
- Greece ranks all accommodation from one to five stars. This accommodation – whether luxury hotels or campgrounds – must provide 'minimum standards' (this includes allowances for guests in wheelchairs). As such, the stars may reflect the services offered, rather than quality.
Almost 80% of visitors to Crete arrive on the island on a package holiday, usually available through tour operators. All-inclusive resorts are especially prevalent along the northern coast, east of Iraklio and west of Hania.
Rural tourism 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. The website of the Hellenic Agrotourism Federation (http://agroxenia.net) lists many options throughout Crete.
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, a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag and plenty of bug repellent.
- Camping fees are highest from mid-June through to the end of August.
- Campgrounds charge €4 to €8.50 per adult and €3 to €5 for children aged four to 12. There’s no charge for children under four.
- Tent sites cost from €5 to €7 per night for small tents.
- You can sometimes rent tents for around €5 to €10.
- Caravan sites start at around €7; car costs are typically €4 to €5.
- Free (wild) camping is illegal and the police are increasingly cracking down on lawbreakers.
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 with fully equipped kitchens. Standards of cleanliness are generally high.
Domatia remain a popular option for wallet-watching travellers and are often more appealing than generic midrange hotels. Expect to pay from €30 to €60 for a double, depending on whether bathrooms are shared or private, the season and the length of your stay.
Crete does not have any Hostelling International–affiliated hostels, but there are independent contenders in Rethymno, Plakias, Iraklio, Hania and Kissamos. All are well-run and sociable places, with dorm beds and shared bathrooms. Depending on the place, dorm beds start at €10 to €21. Some hostels also have private rooms.
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.
In 2017, a new classification system went into effect in Greece under which hotels are ranked on a scale of one to five stars. All properties must equip at least 5% of rooms for guests with a disability or reduced mobility.
Crete has seven mountain shelters run by the Greek Mountaineering Clubs of Hania, Iraklio and Rethymno: four in the Lefka Ori (White Mountains), two around Mt Psiloritis and one on Mt Dikti. 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.
To slow down and get to know Crete better, renting a self-catering studio, apartment or even a villa for a few days or longer can be ideal, especially for budget-minded travellers, families and small groups. Cooking facilities vary widely and may be just a microwave, fridge and kettle or a full kitchen with stove top and oven. High-season rates typically range from €35 to €60 for a studio and €50 to €90 for an apartment for four people. Many apartments are listed on www.airbnb.com. For villas, try www.crete-escapes.com. Some owners may insist on a minimum stay of a week.