Crete

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Getting to Crete

Crete map

Crete is the most southerly tourist island in Greece and a major holiday destination so, as might be expected, travel links are wide and varies.

Most visitors arrive by charter flight at one of the two major airports of Heraklion, in the east, and Chania to the west.

Holiday charters from the UK and Europe arrive from April to November but there are scheduled services and domestic flights throughout the year.

Regular ferry services run from from Piraeus (Athens) to ports at Heraklion, Chania and Rethymnon but it is a long trip; ferries usually leave in the evening and arrive the following morning. The main ferry firms serving Crete are ANEK Lines, Minoan Lines and Rethymnon Lines.

Roads are good but Crete is a very large island. A major expressway runs the length of the island east/west while roads going north/south are mostly single carriageway and snake over impressive mountains and through dramatic gorges.

Updated for 2016

Crete flights: travel by air

Find a Crete flight

Chania Airport (CHQ) lies 13 kilometres from the holiday resort city on the Aktori peninsula.

As well as the usual European charter flights there are daily dometic flights to Athens and to Rhodes, three flights weekly to Thessaloniki and twice-a-week flights to Mykonos.

The airport is large and roomy with plenty of seats, shops and spacious toilets. It has a cash point and exchange bureau, lost and found office and a police station.

A small selection of coffee and snacks are available and there are several small shops in the airport including a mini-market and handicraft shop.

Buses run from the airport into Chania but there is no dedicated shuttle to Chania. The KTEL service to Chania runs from 5am to 11:15pm at roughly two hour intervals. The journey takes about 30 minutes and buses will wait for passengers if a plane is late. Click here for details of the Chania airport bus times.

From Chania are inter-city bus services to Rethymnon and Heraklionion and to many inland villages. Details of services and times, in English, are on the KTEL site.

Taxis are plentifull and the taxi rank is right outside the airport. The taxi journey into Chania takes about 20 minutes.

Short-term and long-term parking in front of the airport is expensive. Cheaper long-term parks are just outside the airport gates. Car rental outfits have offices here and a petrol station is nearby.

A smaller airport at Rethymnon, to the east, has domestic flights to Athens, Rhodes and Santorini.

Crete ferries: travel by sea

Ferries to west Crete usually sail to the port of Souda, near Chania. Souda Bay is about 15 minutes from Chania centre by bus and services are frequent.

The Crete based ANEK Lines has daily ferry links from Piraeus to Chania and Heraklion operated jointly with Blue Star Ferries.

Ferries leave Piraeus for Chania and Heraklion every evening around 9pm and arrive early morning about 6am.

Ferry services from the port resort of Rethynon include the ANEK Lines service to Piraeus as above while Sea Jets runs a fast ferry link to Santorini

The ferry Vitsentzos Kornaros operated by Lane Lines maintains a daily ferry connection between Piraeus, Kythera, Antikythera, Kissamos in west Crete and to mainland Gythion, near Kalamata. It leaves Piareus at 5pm and arrives in Kissamos about 1am.

Minoan Lines runs overight ferry services from Piraues to Heraklion daily, leaving Piraeus at 9pm and arriving at 6am.

Superfast Ferries also aoperates the Piraeus to Heraklion route daily in conjuctions with ANEK Lines and Blue Star Ferries.

Another ferry services from Heraklion is a route served by Hellenic Seaways to the Cycladic islands of Santorini, Ios, Paros and Mykonos.

Small boat operaters run any number of boat trips from Crete resorts to neighbouring islands and there are several ferries a day linking the south coast resorts of Paleochora, Sougia, Agia Roumelli, Loutro and Chora Sfakion. Boats also leave from Chora Sfakion for the southern island of Gavdos.

 

Crete map: getting around

Crete is Greece's largest island at 250 kilometres long and from 14 to 38 kilometres wide; the fifth largest in the Mediterranean.

Mountains make up two thirds of Crete with three ranges along the backbone of the island, 57 peaks over 2000 metres punctuated by ravines that include the Samaria gorge, the longest in Europe.

The mountains are mainly limestone which has helped the formation of more than 2,000 caves, many of archaeological or historical interest.

The population of 600,000 lives mainly on the north coast plains. Staple crops olives (Crete has an estimated 13 million olive trees), grapes, potatoes, cereals, tomatoes and citrus fruits.

Crete boasts more than 1,500 varieties of wild flowers and 20 unique species of wild orchid. Crete is also a staging post for migratory birds that swell the extensive local birdlife.

Crete has the earliest and the longest summers in Greece. By July the days are extremely hot with tempratures in the high 30s°C and a strong north-westerly meltemi wind on the north coast.

Rainfall is virtually non existent between mid-May and the end of August but the autumn storms can be heavy and prolonged..

The island's mountain range brings marked regional variations with the south coast much hotter than the north and the west wetter than the east. The central mountains are cooler and can besnow covered well into the spring.

Crete transport: travel on land

Car rental

Crete is a very big island and driving the full length along the island expressway can take the best part of a day. It is not dual carriageway but it is wide, well maintained and well signposted.

Off the main road the going is usually pretty good although roads can be narrow and potholed. Roads over the mountains are generally excellent but winding roads means journey times can be longer than expected from a map.

Traffic signs are generally in Greek and English. Many petrol station close at 7pm but Chania and Rethymno have at least one open all night.

Crete buses

KTEL runs regular buses between Rethymnon and Chania and there are services to many inland villages. KTEL is West Crete has its own website at bus-service-crete-ktel.com/ with timetable details.

Crete taxis

Taxis are common and relatively cheap. Fares are regulated and metered. You can hail a taxi in the street or book one by phone but this costs extra. It is normal for the driver to pick up more fares on the way.

Crete walks

There is one long hiking route on Crete that is part of the E4 European Long Distance Path. The E4 trail covers the White Mountains (Lefki Ori), Mount Psiloritis and Mount Dikti. The E4 Path is 320 kilometres long. It starts at Kastelli Kissamos in the north-west and crosses to Kato Zakros in the east.

There are many fine walks in Western Crete and, if the mountains are a little daunting, there are walks to be found all around the long and beautiful coastline.

Crete rooms: places to stay on Crete

Rooms

Crete has a huge variety of holiday accommodation for all tastes and budgets, everything from campsites and cheap rooms to luxury hotels that squeeze even the biggest wallets.

Despite the numbers, it is still risky to turn up without at the big tourist resorts, especially in high summer . Out of season there are lots of bargains.

Chania and Rethymnon in particular have thousands of rooms, many in restored Venetian mansions, so visitors can usually find a place even without a reservation.

West of Chania is the main tourist strip but head further west for cheap rooms in places like Kissamos. It's a similar story east of Chania in the Aporokonas area. Inland villages also offer cheap rooms away from the crowds.

On the south coast most visitors will find studio accommodation in resorts such as Paleohora, Plakia and Agi Galini, although the latter is heavily booked by package tour firms.

There are several well-equipped official campsites in west Crete. Camping Elizabeth has a site near Rethmynon but those who prefer a more remote location could try Camping Nopigia, near Kissamos on the north-west tip of Crete.

The camping bungalows at Mythimna Camping, near Chania, are relatively cheap while the south coast has Grammeno Camping at Paleochora and Camping Apollonia, near Plakias, which doesn't yet have a working website but can be contacted on 0030 28320 31318.