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Crete, Greece: Experience Beautiful Beaches, Charming Cities, and Incredible Resorts

Crete, Greece: Experience Beautiful Beaches, Charming Cities, and Incredible Resorts

Just three hours from London sits Greece’s best kept secret – Crete. Crete has perfect turquoise beaches and ancient cities rich with culture and history; you just have to see it to believe it! In this guide, I’ll highlight several dazzling beaches (some with pink sand!), explain my top tips for seeing the island, and I’ve created a Google Maps Layer to help you discover the best Cretan food spots.

Special thanks to Almyrida Residence for inviting me to Crete to experience this amazing island.

About Crete

Crete is the scenic, natural pearl of Greece. There are incredible gorges, snow-capped peaks, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Crete’s natural beauty is only equalled by its incredible history and culinary scene. There is nothing you can’t find on Greece’s largest island. There are Venetian fortresses, Turkish mosques, and churches from the Byzantine empire scattered around the island – all adding to the unique Cretan traditions found nowhere else on this planet. The rugged terrain of Crete varies between mountains, plateaus, and several deep gorges so there’s always something for everyone.

Accommodation – Almyrida Residence

When exploring Crete, it’s important to have a well-placed launch spot so you can easily access the different parts. We stayed with the incredible Almyrida Residence, which was centrally located and easily accessed from the major E75 highway.  Each day, we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet with endless options in the morning before heading out on a 2 – 3 hour drive to explore a completely different part of the island. Then we came back in the evenings to enjoy romantic dinners with live music and drinks on the rooftop terrace, which also sports an instagrammable infinity pool. It was quite the treat!

Highlights

Pricing: We enjoyed half-board whilst we were at the Almyrida Residence, which means our deal included both breakfast and dinner in the pricing. Staying at the Almyrida Residence is typically a very affordable experience as travelers can easily estimate their budget during their time in Crete knowing that two meals are already paid for. For that reason, we saw multiple large groups of friends and families passing through and everyone was able to find something that they enjoyed due to the variety of options.

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Location: The Almyrida Residence is situated in the middle of the island along the E75, which is the lifeline of the island. This made it easy to tour Crete without committing to hours in the car. There’s also free parking for those who need it.

Facilities: The Almyrida Residence has everything you could possibly want during your stay. It’s beachside so it’s quite easy to go back and forth throughout the day. It has multiple pools and a swanky rooftop bar for all to enjoy. There was even a bowling ally for families to use when the weather was less than ideal! It’s very accommodating for large groups and families.

Service: The management at the Almyrida Residence was incredibly friendly and international. Everyone we spoke to was from different parts of the world and they all spoke 2 – 3 languages. Further more, there were lovely personal touches throughout our stay, such as: daily swans constructed out of towels (s’cute), a complimentary bottle of wine for us to celebrate privately, and every morning, the staff already had our ‘hot water with lemon’ waiting for us at 8am as we were both a bit ill and regularly ordered it.

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Top Recommendations

1. Rent a Car

You should 100% rent a car for Crete. The freedom to go anywhere, anytime is super valuable and there’s not much public transportation if I’m honest. We used Expedia to rent with Alamo. With Expedia, we were able to rent a car for 7 days for about 90 Euros (insurance included). However, it should be noted that Americans cannot drive in Greece without an international license. Don’t make the same mistake as I did.

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2. Travel to Crete from end of April – October

The weather won’t be beach-worthy until at least the end of April and it’ll be too cold by October. April is also when the majority of the resorts and hotels finally open as the tourism industry in Greece is deeply seasonal.

3. Read a Lonely Planet

I purchased the ‘Greece’ Lonely Planet and I found it to be SUPER informative. All of the major recommendations are up-to-date and you’ll have information on all sorts of details that are not necessarily online. Because Crete is more of a ‘word of mouth’ type of environment, I found it a bit difficult to search on Google for details about local eateries as most of the Google Maps reviews are dominated by typical tourists with meh taste in food (lol).

Best Beaches

All of these locations are captured in my Google Maps layer below. Just click the square bit ‘[ ]’ to download onto your Google Maps app. The best beaches that I would recommend are the following:

1. Balos Beach: A bit off the beaten path, be prepared to drive on a dirt road along a cliffside for at least 30 minutes. Then you’ll take a small hike down for 2km. Seems excessive, but the lagoon is like nothing I’ve ever seen before! Go early and beat the crowds for the most epic Instagram photos!

2. Elafonisi Beach: Do you like pink sand and stunningly clear turquoise water? Of course you do! Drive through the gorge to Elafonisi for the afternoon and enjoy incredible views. Small warning – this is definitely a tourist hot spot so it’s in your best interest to go early and rent a beach umbrella/chair for a small fee.

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3. Almyrida Beach: If you stay at the Almyrida Residence, just outside of your front door is Almyrida Beach! If you’re into water sport (like wind-surfing or jet-skiing), the wind perfectly hits the beach for some serious surfing. There are also small lagoons that are protected with rocks and barriers for children to splash around in. There are loads of restaurants to choose from along the beach and you can easily hop back-and-forth from your room. Almyrida Beach is ideal for families with children.

Best Food

I’ve dropped loads of pins in my Google Layer for you to find the best restaurants in Crete, but here are a special few:

  • Thalassino Ageri – Go for dinner when the sun is setting (around 7:30). The ambiance and food was one of the most incredible eating experiences of my life!
  • Bougatsa Iordanis – This is the infamous, flakey Cretan breakfast pastry that has chaniot myzithra cheese in the center. A Greek coffee & pastry will run you about 5 Euros. What a steal!
  • Ntounias Traditional Cretan Food – Also known as ‘ΝΤΟΥΝΙΑΣ-ΠΑΡΑΔΟΣΙΑΚΟ’ on Google Maps (you’re going to want to copy & paste that lol), this electric family-owned restaurant is in the middle of the mountains and DAMN is it worth the trek. There’s no menu, all the plates are shared, but you will have the dinner experience of a lifetime! Bring cash. A family of 4 adults will likely pay 40 – 50 Euros for drinks and all dishes. You will leave absolutely stuffed and starstruck.