What should you consider when picking the best places to stay in Crete to suit your needs and itinerary? This travel guide shares insider tips on where to stay in Crete with kids, for a romantic couples getaway, to the best hotels for beautiful beaches and epic nightlife, with or without renting a car.
Planning a vacation in Greece and wondering where’s the best place to stay in Crete? You’re not alone! As fellow travel addicts who have enjoyed the most EPIC vacation in Crete, we asked ourselves the same question. And it’s a great question to ask, by the way.
You see, Crete is not only the largest island in Greece. But also the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. Crete is around a third of the size of Hawaii and more than double the size of Mallorca.
This is why it’s pretty important that you pick the best location to stay in Crete. After all, no one wants to spend their long-awaited vacation driving in a car instead of enjoying the beach, right?
But finding the best places or towns to stay in Crete isn’t one-size-fits-all. It depends on your personal needs and what you have planned for your Crete travel itinerary.
And that’s where we come in! This ridiculously detailed Crete travel guide will help you decide where to stay on the island to best suit YOU.
From the best hotels and resorts for families with kids and luxury adult-only hotels for couples, the best part of Crete to stay in for beautiful beaches and unforgettable nightlife, to the best towns to base yourself in Crete with or without a car.
Table of Contents
Should I Rent A Car in Crete?
Before we jump straight into the best locations and places to stay in Crete. Let us answer one of the most frequently asked questions travelers ask when visiting Crete for the first time. And that question is: ‘Should I rent a car in Crete?’
This is a really important question to ask yourself before planning your itinerary in Crete. It will determine what activities you can do on the island and help you narrow down where it’s best for you to stay in Crete.
We will be writing a detailed guide for driving in Crete in the future. But for now, we’ll give you a quick rundown so you can decide whether you need to rent a car in Crete.
Do You Need A Car in Crete: The Pros & Cons
Crete is one gorgeous island and one of our favorite travel destinations. But we won’t lie – driving in Crete is not for the faint-hearted.
Driving on the main highway on the north of Crete is pretty straightforward. It’s the other main roads and often, unpaved dirt paths that are the problem.
Not only will you have to prepare yourself to navigate around plenty of holes and hairpin turns. But also dodge cats, shrews, mountain goats, and other wildlife crossing the road at night with nothing but your headlights to guide you.
Driving in Crete is not easy. But the good news is that you do not need a car in Crete to visit the most famous beaches, attractions, and sightseeing spots.
There are pros to renting a car and driving in Crete though. It’s the only way you’ll be able to explore Crete off the beaten track and discover hidden gems and beaches away from the crowds. Plus, it will allow you to have a more flexible travel itinerary and let you go where your heart takes you.
So do you need a car in Crete? Ultimately, it’s up to you and what type of vacation you want in Crete. If you’re not sure yet, we’d recommend reading our 21 Best Beaches in Crete guide to help you decide.
We’ll also list both options for where to stay in Crete with or without a car to help you plan your own unforgettable Crete vacation.
Where To Stay in Crete Without a Car
So, where is the best part of Crete to stay without a car? We’d recommend staying in the north part of Crete.
Not only do these towns and villages have everything you’ll need from restaurants, cafes, shops, and a huge variety of hotels all within walking distance. But it’s also the best location to stay in if you want to take public transport in Crete.
Most bus transfers for guided and private tours also include free pickup and drop-off from the towns in north Crete. So it’s the best place to base yourself to visit the most popular Crete attractions without a car.
But where exactly should you stay in the north part of Crete? That will depend on what you want to see and do in Crete.
It takes at least 4 hours to drive from east to west Crete. We’d recommend picking a town on the east, west, or south part of Crete depending on what’s on your travel itinerary.
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Best Places To Stay in West Crete Without a Car
If you plan to explore west Crete without a car, we’d recommend staying in Chania, Kissamos, or any town or village in between.
It’s the best place to base yourself to see the most famous beaches in Crete. Like pink sand Elafonisi beach, dreamy Balos beach, and the former pirate island, Gramvousa.
Make sure to book your Crete excursions online to skip the queue:
Where To Stay in Chania
Chania is one of the oldest towns in Crete. The city is most famous for its rich history, culture and distinct old town, new town atmosphere.
History and architecture lovers will enjoy spending hours wandering down the narrow streets of old town Chania. Admiring how the city’s facades capture all the different civilizations that have flourished here throughout the centuries.
And if history isn’t your forte (like us), Chania offers some of the best nightlife in Crete and is a haven for foodies.
So where should you stay in Chania? We’d recommend staying in the old town of Chania. This is the best part of Chania to stay without a car. You’ll be within walking distance of museums, and archaeological sites, as well as the best shopping, restaurants, and nightlife in Chania.
Hotels are cheaper in the new town of Chania. But it’s very busy and lacks the charismatic vibe that old town Chania is known for.
Best Places to Stay in Chania, Crete
Hostels and Budget-Friendly Hotels in Chania, Crete
If you’re backpacking in Crete, here are more budget-friendly hostel options in Chania.
Mid-Range Hotels in Chania
For more options, click on the map below to compare hotel prices in Chania.
Luxury Hotels in Chania
Looking for more options? Check out Chania hotel reviews on TripAdvisor before deciding.
Where To Stay in Kissamos
Kissamos is another great town to base yourself in if you want to explore west Crete without a car.
The port city of Kissamos does not have the old town charm that Chania has. But hotels, vacation apartments, dining out, and shopping in Kissamos are cheaper compared to Chania.
All the amenities like beaches, restaurants, cafes, and shops as well as car and boat rental shops are all within walking distance. Plus you’re close to the harbor to take the daily ferries to Balos beach, Gramvousa Island, and even Antikythera Island, off the northwest coast of Crete.
Best Places to Stay in Kissamos, Crete
There is plenty of hotel and vacation apartment options in Kissamos. But here are some recommendations to get you started:
Check out Kissamos hotel reviews on TripAdvisor or click on the map below to compare hotel prices in Kissamos.
Best Place To Base Yourself in Central and South Crete Without a Car
The best location to stay in if you’re planning to explore central and south Crete without a car is in Rethymno or Heraklion.
These are the two best towns to base yourself in Crete. Especially if you want to visit the most famous beaches in west Crete AND some of the best Crete attractions in central and south Crete without renting a car, like:
- Day Trip from Heraklion to Chrissi Island
- Day Trip From Crete To Santorini
- Hiking The World Famous Samaria Gorge
- The Imbros Gorge Hike
- Day Trip To Damnoni and Palm Tree Forest Preveli Beach
And, of course, bus transfers for guided and private tours include free pickup and drop-off to the most beautiful beaches on west Crete too:
- From Rethymno to Elafonissi beach
- Heraklion to Elafonissi beach
- From Heraklion: Day Trip to Balos and Gramvousa
- From Rethymno: Full-Day Tour to Balos and Gramvousa Island
Related Guide: Visiting Crete for the first time? Skip the guesswork and follow our Two Weeks in Crete Itinerary. Explore jaw-dropping waterfalls, hike magnificent gorges and discover the best beaches in Crete over 14 days. If you’re planning to visit Crete for 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 days, then read our Crete Itinerary travel guide.
Where To Stay in Rethymno
Rethymno is not only one of the most beautiful cities in Crete. But also one of the best preserved medieval cities in Greece.
Like Chania, Rethymno is famous for its old town charm and rich, cultural history. But Rethymno is different in that the old town felt smaller, cozier and less commercial compared to Chania.
We loved meandering through the picturesque alleyways in Rethymno. There are plenty of cute cafes and mouth-water restaurants to choose from and it’s especially romantic after sunset.
Rethymno is also known for great nightlife and has a much nicer beach compared to Chania.
Best Places to Stay in Rethymno, Crete
So where is the best place to stay in Rethymno? We recommend staying in old town Rethymno. Not only will you get the best atmosphere here. But it’s also the best place to stay in Crete without a car.
Old town Rethymno is within walking distance to the Old Venetian Harbour for catching ferries. And the central bus station is also nearby if you plan on taking public transport in Crete.
Hostels and Budget-Friendly Hotels in Rethymno, Crete
Mid-Range Hotels in Rethymno
Click on the map below to compare hotel prices in Rethymno or check out Rethymno hotel reviews on TripAdvisor to find more options.
Luxury Hotels in Rethymno
- The Downtown Pent (with roof garden)
- Smaragdi Boutique Hotel
- Veneto Boutique Hotel
- Rimondi Boutique Hotel
Where To Stay in Heraklion
If you’re wondering where you should stay in Crete for sightseeing, then Heraklion is the answer.
It’s the best part of Crete to stay in if seeing famous archaeological sites like the Palace of Knossos, Phaistos Palace, and visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum is on your Crete travel itinerary.
And that’s not all! Heraklion is the best town to base yourself in if you plan to explore northeast Crete without a car.
Like visiting the gorgeous coastal town of Agios Nikolaos and exploring Spinalonga Island, sailing to Dia Island, taking a day trip from Crete to Santorini, attending a traditional Cretan cooking class, or going on an olive oil farm and wine tasting tour.
Heraklion is also one of the best locations to stay in Crete for families with kids. There are a few waterparks and aquariums in Heraklion that the kids will love. And it’s easy to get around by foot and public transport too.
Best Places to Stay in Heraklion
Heraklion is the capital and the largest city in Crete. So it can be a bit busy if you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing vacation. But for those who love to do and see as much as possible on vacation, you’ll never run out of things to do in Heraklion.
So where exactly should you stay in Heraklion to maximize sightseeing? We’d recommend staying in the old city center of Heraklion, west of the harbor and the main highway entering the city. Most of the top attractions in Heraklion on located here. So you can easily visit them without a car.
Hostels and Budget Hotels in Heraklion, Crete
Mid-Range Hotels in Heraklion
Check out Heraklion hotel reviews on TripAdvisor or click on the map below to compare hotel prices in Heraklion.
Luxury Hotels in Heraklion
- Irma Villa
- 3 Pines Design Living
- Legacy Gastro Suites
- DOM Boutique Hotel
- Pagopoieion by Enorme (Adults Only Hotel)
Best Places To Stay in East Crete Without a Car
If you plan to explore east Crete, we’d recommend staying in Agios Nikolaos or Sitia. It’s the best location to stay in eastern Crete to go off the beaten track without renting a car.
East Crete is relatively less explored and hence less crowded vs the west. Hotels, restaurants, and shopping in east Crete tend to be cheaper too. And let’s not forget about the stunning beaches.
Oh yes – there are plenty of gorgeous yet quiet beaches in east Crete. The two most famous beaches in east Crete are Voulisma and Vai beach. But there are plenty of hidden gem beaches to discover on the east coast of Crete with an adventurous spirit.
Public transport is available in both these towns but they’re less frequent vs western Crete. So it may require a bit more planning to explore east Crete without a car.
Bonus Travel Tip
With the ongoing COVID-pandemic, airport chaos, and who knows what else, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Travel insurance will protect you against cancellations, illness, injury and even theft. Get a travel insurance quote for a stress-free vacation and enjoy the adventure without worries. Here are some recommendations:
Where To Stay in Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos is a magnificent coastal town famous for its beauty and lively atmosphere. There are plenty of restaurant and cafe options in and around the town center and it’s a great shopping destination too.
And for those who want to explore beyond Agios Nikolaos. You can easily go on a semi-submarine cruise, visit Zeus’s Cave, take a day trip to Chrissi Island, visit the famous Vai Palm Beach, explore the mountainous region of Lassithi by safari car and see the charming fishing village of Elounda on a guided tour.
If you plan to explore northeast Crete without a car, we’d recommend staying around the town center of Agios Nikolaos near the harbor. Everything you’ll need will be within walking distance and this part of town has the best atmosphere too.
Best Hotels and Places to Stay in Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos has hotels and vacation apartments to suit everyone’s budget. Here are some recommendations to get you started:
Where To Stay in Sitia
The beautiful seaside town of Sitia is probably one of the least touristy towns in Crete. It’s one of the best places to base yourself if you prefer to mingle with locals and avoid the tourist crowds.
It’s easy to get to Sitia from the airport. You can either fly directly into Sitia Airport. Or fly into Heraklion Airport and take the ferry to Sitia.
Once you’ve arrived in Sitia, it’s easy to get around town without a car. But if you want to explore the quiet beaches beyond Sitia, you’ll need to rent a car.
We’d recommend staying close to the town center of Sitia so that you’re within walking distance of everything you’ll need.
There are beautiful beachfront hotels in Sitia. But many of them are located a few kilometers from the town center. So you’ll need to walk a bit if you plan to head into Sitia town for restaurants or shopping.
Best Places to Stay in Sitia
Sitia may be less touristy than other towns in Crete. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t fabulous hotels and resorts here.
Click on the map to check the full list and compare accommodation and hotel prices in Sitia. Here are some hotel recommendations to get you started:
Best Place To Base Yourself in Crete
We’ve already covered where to stay in Crete without a car. But what if you’re planning to rent a car in Crete? What is the best place or town to base yourself in to explore the best of Crete?
We rented a car and drove over 2,000 km in Crete. Exploring as much as humanly possible on both east and west Crete. So we can share a few tips on which town to best stay in Crete depending on who you’re traveling with and what’s on your travel itinerary.
Yes – we said that this Crete travel guide would be ridiculously detailed. So here’s a summary of the best towns to stay in Crete for families with kids, couples, the best beaches, and the most epic nightlife.
Related Guide: How much does a trip to Greece cost? Get a detailed cost breakdown for flights, hotels, car rental, eating out, and more, in our How Expensive Is Crete guide.
Where To Stay in Crete For Families with Kids
There are a number of family-friendly towns to stay in Crete with kids. Not only are these towns close to the beach. But these beaches are especially great for families because they have access to amenities like outdoor showers, change rooms, sunbeds and umbrella rentals, and most importantly, lifeguards on duty.
They’re also within walking distance to restaurants, cafes, shops, and hotels or vacation apartments. So you can easily plan a family vacation in Crete with or without a car.
Here’s a summary of where to stay in north, east, west, and south Crete for families with kids.
Best Towns To Stay in Crete For Families With Kids
Istro, North East Crete
Istro is one of the best towns to stay in Crete if the kids love the beach. It’s within walking distance of Voulisma beach (one of the most popular beaches in northeast Crete) and Agiou Panteleimonos beach.
With a car, you can easily take a short drive (15 to 20 minutes) to explore the charming coastal towns of Agios Nikolaos and Elounda.
We’d recommend staying in the town of Istro so you can easily access both beaches on foot. Here are some options:
Stalis, North East Crete
Another great place to base yourself in Crete is Stalis. It’s a great all-around town to stay in east Crete for couples or a group of friends. But it’s particularly popular for families with kids.
This is actually where we based ourselves when we explored east and south Crete. We loved that there were many beachfront hotel options and that there are plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops within walking distance.
In our opinion, Stalis is one of the best towns to stay in Crete with or without a car. You could easily rent a scooter, buggy or take public transport if you want to explore the neighboring towns like Malia and Hersonissos without renting a car.
Here are some family-friendly places to stay in Stalis:
Related Guide: Thinking of spending your Crete vacation in Stalida? Read our Stalis Crete guide to find out what things to do and see in and around Stalida and where’s the best part of town to stay.
Platanias, North West Crete
Platanias is another great town in Crete for families with kids. Similar to Stalis, you can get to everything you need within walking distance. But Platanias is a much bigger and more developed town compared to Stalis.
So we’d recommend staying in the middle of Platanias (towards Platanias beach and SeaKing Adventures). It’s the best location to stay to explore either side of Platanias town without a car.
The beach at Platanias is family-friendly too. But it’s a pebble beach rather than the traditional sandy beach you’ll find at Stalis. So no building sandcastles here. But the kids will love finding all the beautiful pebbles along the shore.
There are plenty of hotels and vacation rentals in Platanias. Here are some options to get you started:
Matala Town, South Crete
Matala is another great place to base yourself in Crete with kids. Matala town is known for its charismatic and hipster vibe. Not only is its gorgeous beach within walking distance. But it’s also situated right next to one of the top archaeological attractions in south Crete – the Matala Caves.
Matala beach is absolutely breathtaking and very family-friendly too. There are lifeguards on duty, outdoor change rooms and showers, and of course, sunbeds, umbrellas and cocktails on demand.
Matala is a pretty small town. So you won’t need to rent a car unless you want to explore other beautiful south Crete beaches. You will however need to book a transfer from Heraklion Airport to get to Matala town if you don’t rent a car in Crete.
Is your heart set on Matala? Here are some vacation apartment options in Matala:
Check out Matala hotel reviews on TripAdvisor or click on the map below to compare prices and find more hotel options in Matala, Crete.
Falasarna, West Crete
If you’re taking your family to Crete to see its famous pink sand beaches, then the best town to base yourself is in Falasarna in west Crete.
Not only is it a shorter drive to pink sand Elafonissi beach. But you’ll find pink sand at Falasarna beach too! Only without the tourist crowds!
Falassarna is another family-friendly beach with lifeguards on duty and one of the best beaches for watching sunsets. What more could you ask for?
There are some stunning hotels and vacation rentals in Falasarna. Here are some options to get you started:
Palekastro, East Crete
Palekastro is another great place to base yourself in east Crete. Especially if you’re planning to take the kids to the famous Vai beach.
Vai beach is renowned for not only having the largest palm tree forest in Crete but entire Europe! It doesn’t hurt that the beach itself is incredibly stunning too.
This beautiful beach on east Crete comes with all the amenities. Parking is close by, there are restaurants, toilets, outdoor showers, sunbeds, and umbrella rentals. So it’s very family-friendly and you could easily spend the entire day here with the family.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any hotels or vacation apartments within walking distance of Vai beach. Palekastro is the nearest town so you will need to rent a car if you plan on staying here.
Here are some recommendations to get you started:
Related Guide: Planning to rent a car in Crete? Make sure to read our Driving in Crete guide! Find out what driving license you’ll need, whether car insurance is necessary, and how much it costs to rent a car, to important road rules to follow to have a safe road trip in Crete.
Where To Stay in Crete For Couples
Crete is a great all-around destination for families with kids, a group of friends, or couples. But what we love about Crete is that there are adults-only hotels and resorts that are especially couple friendly.
So if you’re planning a couples romantic getaway in Crete to celebrate a honeymoon, birthday, wedding anniversary, or simply just spoiling your other half for no reason, here are some suggestions for where to stay in Crete for couples.
Best Crete Hotels for Couples in North East Crete
- Mitsis Laguna Resort & Spa in Hersonissos
- Creta Maris Beach Resort in Hersonissos
- GDM Megaron Historical Monument Hotel in Heraklion
- Nana Princess Suites Villas & Spa in Hersonissos
- Abaton Island Resort & Spa in Hersonissos
- Stella Island Luxury Resort & Spa in Hersonissos (adults-only resort)
Best Crete Hotels for Couples in North West Crete
- Euphoria Resort in Kolymvari
- Giannoulis Grand Bay Beach Resort in Kolymvari
- Solimar White Pearl in Kolymvari (adults-only resort)
- Avra Imperial Hotel in Kolymvari
- Domus Renier Boutique Hotel in Chania
- Domes Zeen Chania – Luxury Collection Resort (adults-only resort)
- Creta Palace Grecotel Luxury Resort in Rethymno
- The Royal Senses Resort & Spa in Crete – Curio Collection by Hilton in Geropotamus
Best Crete Hotels for Couples in East Crete
Best Places To Stay in Crete for All Inclusive Resorts
Don’t be fooled by Crete’s rustic and wild natural beauty. There are some insanely incredible (and luxury) all-inclusive resorts in Crete.
These all-inclusive resorts are the best places to stay in Crete if your vacation goal is to relax and have all your meals and drinks taken care of for you.
There are lots of all-inclusive resorts in Crete. So much so, that we’ll divide them into where to stay for all inclusive resorts for couples (adults-only) and the best options for families with kids.
Best All Inclusive Crete Resorts For Couples (Adults Only)
- Elysium Boutique Hotel
- Stella Island Luxury Resort & Spa
- Giannoulis Grand Bay Beach Resort
- Solimar White Pearl
- Solimar Turquoise
- Tui Blue Elounda Village by AQUILA
- Sea Side Resort & Spa
Best All Inclusive Crete Resorts For Family Vacations With Kids
- Stella Village Hotel & Bungalows
- Grecotel Meli Palace
- Kiani Beach Resort
- Mitsis Rinela Beach Resort & Spa
- Fodele Beach & Water Park Holiday Resort
- Royal & Imperial Belvedere Hotels
- Miramare Resort & Spa
- Stella Palace Resort & Spa
- Mitsis Laguna Resort & Spa
- Lyttos Beach Hotel
- Aelius Hotel & Spa
- Grand Hotel Holiday Resort
- Pilot Beach Resort
Where To Stay in Crete for Best Beaches
One of the most common questions people ask when planning a vacation in Crete is, ‘Where to stay for the best beaches?’. As fellow beach lovers and wanna-be mermaid (and merman), we asked ourselves the same question.
And the answer depends on how long you’re staying in Crete and what kind of beaches you want to see.
You see, Crete is a massive island. You’ll need at least 1 week to explore the best beaches in each quadrant of Crete.
We’d recommend staying in west Crete if you want to see the most iconic and famous beaches in Crete like Seitan Limania beach, Balos and Elafonissi beach. You can find the best places to stay in Crete for these beaches in our West Crete Beaches guide.
If you prefer going off the beaten track, we’d recommend staying in east Crete. It’s relatively less explored and hence less crowded compared to west Crete. But the beaches there are just as incredible, if not more.
Where’s the best place to stay in east Crete for beaches? Find the best places to stay in our Best Beaches in East Crete travel guide.
And finally, if you’re looking for the most unique beaches to visit in Crete, we’d recommend staying in south Crete.
Here you’ll find the ‘Caribbean Island of Europe’, a red sand beach that feels like it belongs to the planet Mars, and a palm forest beach that will transport you to an African oasis.
Read our South Crete Beaches guide to find out the best places to stay to explore these unique attractions.
Best Beach Hotels in Crete
And if you simply can’t get enough of beaches (we feel you), here are some of the best beachfront hotels you can find in Crete.
Best Place To Stay in Crete for Nightlife
And finally, where are the best places to stay in Crete for nightlife?
You’ll find some sort of nightlife in most towns in Crete (like Platanias and Stalis). But if you’re looking for nightclubs and not just bars and pubs, then these towns in Crete are the best to stay for nightlife.
Malia is so famous for its nightlife, that it has an entire strip dedicated to it – the Malia party strip. It’s basically a mini Las Vegas for trendy bars and epic nightclubs.
If you’re traveling to Crete for the nightlife, we’d recommend staying close to the city center where it’s within walking distance of the nightlife. Here are some recommendations:
Another best place to stay in Crete for nightlife is Hersonissos – just a short 15-minute drive from Malia. Here you can dance the night away and party till the sun comes up, right next to the beach!
The most popular nightclubs in Hersonissos are the New York Beach Club, King Scorpio Beach Club, Drunk Havana, and Palm Beach Club.
There are many hotels and vacation apartments in Hersonissos. Here are some recommendations to get you started:
- Budget: Kassavetis Center – Hotel Studios & Apartments
- Mid-Range: New Aether Near The Sea
- Luxury: Petra Beach Hotel
The capital city of Crete, Heraklion, offers some pretty legendary nightlife too. Some of the most famous bars and clubs are Swing Thing, The Bitters Bar, and Jailhouse Rock Bar.
If you’re planning to party in Heraklion, make sure to stay in the old city center of Heraklion, west of the harbor to be within walking distance of the best nightlife.
Chania is not only famous for its old town charm but its epic nightlife too. Party it up with locals at Senso, Barraki, and DNA Night Club.
We’d recommend staying in old town Chania to be within walking distance of all the best bars and nightclubs.
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