A Packed 7-Day Itinerary for Crete

> March 06, 2023
A Packed 7-Day Itinerary for Crete


If you have one week to explore this fairytale-like island, you are golden! Maybe for some people, those that are capable of lying on the beach for days, it won't be enough. But we aren't those kinds of people, so 7 days were just enough. 

It's a promised land for hikers, with the best gorges for hiking. On the other hand, if you are more of an ancient architecture fan, the historical cities are a way to go for you.  

In summary, everybody can find something to keep them happy in Crete. And don't let me even start on the food... I think I fell in love with Crete!  

But back to the itinerary. The challenge is on, and I've put together a list of the best places we visited in Crete. Crete 7-day itinerary, coming in hot! Bon appetite.

You might also be interested in reading:

Crete itinerary summary and map

Map of Crete 7 day Itinerary

You can check my Google Maps list of places to see in one week in Crete

As you see, this 7 day Crete Itinerary will guide you all around the island. That also means this itinerary expects you to travel by car. Not that it's the most comfortable way, but probably even the only possible one to fit all those stops in one week in Crete. So, be ready to drive a lot. 

This is the itinerary route: 

Day 1: City of Heraklion (sleep in Chania)
Day 2: Imbros Gorge & Preveli Beach and Monastery (sleep in Chania)
Day 3: West coast beaches (sleep in Chania)
Day 4: Samaria Gorge hike (sleep in Chania)
Day 5: Arkadi Monastery, Lake Kournas, Mili Gorge, Minoan Palace of Phaistos, Knossos (sleep in Stalida)
Day 6: Toplou Monastery, Vai Beach, Zakros Gorge (sleep in Stalida)
Day 7: Diktaean Cave, Lyrarakis Winery (sleep in Stalida) 

Day 1 of Crete Itinerary: City of Heraklion

Crete Itinerary, day 1

See the route of today’s itinerary on Google Maps

Main sites visited on day 1: Archeological Museum, Koules, Agios Titos
Restaurant tips: Pagopoieon sole | 7 Thalasses, Kazoual | Ligo Krasi Ligo Thalassa
Hotel recommendations: Legacy Gastro Suites | Kipos Boutique Suites
Further reading: The best hikes in Crete | 13 best beaches in Crete | Food of Crete 

Day 1, stop 1: Heraklion Archeological Museum

Heraklion Archeological Museum, Crete

Heraklion Archeological Museum

Time spent here: 2–3 hours 

The Heraklion Archeological Museum is located right in the city center, so you can have a nice walk to it.  

The collection is rich, I liked the exhibitions, but what bothered me were the descriptions of the exhibits. It was only raw names of the things and that was it! For example, the bust was descripted as “a young man with round face and straight hair”. Wow, truly imaginative, Greeks!  

However, if I looked past this my OCD-triggering matter of lame copywriting skills I witnessed there, it was overall quite enjoyable visit. I mean, the museums I discovered in Brussels in Belgium lately set the bar high, so the competition is huge, you know. But in general, you shouldn't miss this. And if you don’t have the same disorder as I have, you'll maybe even enjoy it way more than I did.

Exhibited items at the Archeological Museum in Heraklion, Crete

Some of the exhibits of Heraklion Archeological Museum

I know what you're thinking right now. Is Heraklion Archeological Museum worth visiting? Of course it is. Especially if you are a geek about the history of ancient cultures or Minoan civilization in particular. The museum houses an extensive collection of exhibits—in chronological order, from Minoan times and Knossos.  

And how long should you spend in Heraklion Archeological Museum? 2–3 hours should be enough. 

Tip: If you plan to visit Knossos later, buy a special ticket package. You can buy it at the ticket office in the Museum. It's valid for 3 days, and you can enter the Knossos Palace site without queuing and it's cheaper. Real bargain! 

Day 1, stop 2: Koules, Rocca a Mare

Koules Fortress in Heraklion, Crete

Koules Fortress

Distance from the last stop: 1.1 km (0.7 miles) / 15 minutes 
Time spent here: 0.5–1 hour 

After a 10-minute walk from Heraklion Archeological Museum you get to Koules. Koules is a Venetian Fortress built by the Venetians in 13th century after they conquered Heraklion. It got its name from Turkish during the times of Ottoman rule, and it means (surprise, surprise) Fortress. 

As it was built by Venetians, its architectonic style gives truly Italian vibe. Later you can notice the influence of Venetian architectural style and how visible it is around the whole city. 

You can discover all the nooks and crannies of this old marine venetian fortress by yourselves without a guide. But sometimes it happens that it's closed, even though it's supposed to be open. The opening hours are probably not to be taken for granted! 

However, we at least walked around the fortress for a while. It was breathtaking. 

  • Google Maps link 
  • Open Monday and Wednesday to Saturday 8 am–8 pm, Tuesday closed. Check the website for detailed opening times that can vary throughout the year. 
  • Tickets EUR 4 per person

Day 1, stop 3: Agios Titos

Agios Titos church in Crete

Agios Titos

Distance from the last stop: 700 meters (2297 feet) / 10 minutes 

Time spent: 10–15 minutes 

The next stop is Agios Titos, the church that has seen the whole religious history of Crete. It was built in the 10th century in Byzantine times, first converted to catholic Church, then to mosque and now it's an orthodox church. What a ride for a building, huh? You can learn more about its history during your visit, which won't cost you anything—free entrance, yay.  

The architecture of Agios Titos is what brought us there. I love to visit old and beautiful churches on our travels. The windows of stained glass shed colorful strings of light on the marble floor and white walls. The whole place had this airy feel thanks to the high ceilings. You don’t need to be a believer to enjoy this place. Amazing church with an amazing history. 

Oh, I can't forget. The skull relic of Saint Titus, who's the church dedicated to, is being stored there. 

  • Open every day from 8 am till sunset  
  • Entrance for free

Hotel in Chania

Mossa Well Being Hotel near Chania Crete

Mossa Well Being Hotel

And the first night of this 7 day Crete itinerary is here. We've spent it in Chania, that is a 2 hour drive from Heraklion, and it was our base for the next few days too.  

We stayed in Mossa Well Being Hotel. We had a great time there. It surely lives up to its name! 

The staff was friendly and gave us many useful tips about the city. The check-in was super fast and we even got welcome meze and a drink!  

Our room was very spacious and clean but oh my god the beds—I had the sleep of my life! Maybe it was also thanks to the high ceiling of the room, ergo it was full of fresh air. 

The breakfast was continental and à la carte style with many delicious options so I think even picky eaters can find something nice to start their day with there. Personally, I really enjoyed the breakfast options that Mossa offers.  

Day 2 of Crete Itinerary: Imbros Gorge & Preveli Beach and Monastery

Crete Itinerary, day 2

See the route of today’s itinerary on Google Maps  

Main sites visited on day 2: Imbros Gorge, Preveli Beach, Preveli Monastery, Chania
Restaurant tips: Theodosi | The Five
Hotel recommendations: Mossa Well Being Hotel | Hyperion City Hotel & Spa
Further reading: The best hikes in Crete | 13 best beaches in Crete | Best Gorges for hiking 

Day 2, stop 1: Imbros Gorge

Imbros Gorge— Day 2 of 7-Day itinerary in Crete

Imbros Gorge

Hike length: 8 km (4.1 miles)  
Elevation gain: 318 m (1043 feet) 
Difficulty level: Easy  
Hiking time: 2 hours   
Parking and trailhead:Google Maps link  
Distance from hotel: 60 km (37.2 miles) / 1 hour 

Start of the hike is in Imbros village right next to the parking lot. There is a big sign guiding you to the trail so you can't miss it, the entrance fee is €2.50. And as I almost always say, get there as soon as you can otherwise there will be many tourists even in October. 

Imbros Gorge is moderate difficulty but it's still one of the easiest hikes you can take in Crete. Perfect way to start your day and set those muscles in motion! And the sooner you start, the less grilled you would become from the sun. We were in Crete in October and the temperature had no problem rising to 35 °C in a shadow. Hello, do you know it's fall already? What kind of calendar does Cretan weather have?

Imbros Gorge in Crete

Imbros Gorge is full of rocky cliffs but it's still a very chill hike

The hike is rather easy, but you shouldn't cross it off your list. On the contrary! Even if you are more into challenging hikes, try this one. I'm glad we hiked it, because I really liked the rocky cliffs and especially the scenery.  

The hike is about 8 km (4.1 miles)—not 6 km (3.1 miles) as AllTrails states—long of the out and back type and it probably won't take you more than 2 hours. But be careful, the road is covered with small rocks and can be very slippery

The end of the hike is in Komidates village where you can take a bus or a taxi back to Imbros.  

Overall, I rank the hike positively, some parts are worth seeing, especially the narrowest point not even 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide. So, if you are wider than the gorge, maybe it won't be the right fit for you—pun intended. 

Day 2, stop 2: Preveli Beach

View of the Preveli Beach, Crete

Preveli Beach

Distance from the last stop: 60 kilometers (37 miles) / 1.5 hour 
Time spent: 1–2 hours 

After the hike, a nice and refreshing swim in the sea would come in handy, right? Don’t worry, I got you covered—as always. 

Preveli Beach is also being referred to as Palm Beach thanks to its—you guessed right—many palm trees! The tree line grows all the way from the beach into the gorge. The weather at this second most famous beach in Crete is pleasant as the river flows into the sea there. Therefore, the temperature of the sea is regulated by the cold river, so it has this semi hot and semi cold feel. 

You can get there from a parking lot close by in about 10 to 15 minutes. The way down is steep with descending about 150 meters (492 feet) so be careful and don’t roll all the way down straight to the sea.

Palm Forest in Preveli Monastery

The palm forest

If you are not sunbathing type of a guy like me, take a walk from the beach around the river through the palm forest. I didn’t expect much from this place but once we got to Preveli Gorge I was truly amazed. We can call it a short very easy hike, that takes you a few minutes, but will surprise you, how nice it's. One of the most beautiful places on Crete! 

Day 2, stop 3: Preveli Monastery

Preveli Monastery view, Crete

A photo perfect for Instagram. This view doesn't even need a filter!

Distance from the last stop: 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) / 6 minutes 
Time spent: 1 hour 

Only about 6 minutes away by car from the beach you get to a nearby monastery. Small and peaceful heaven on Earth. That's how I would describe Preveli monastery. The place truly feels divine as you discover more of it. There is an interesting little museum on the premises full of historical religious items and the entrance fee is €3.  

Another nice thing I have to mention about this place is the view you get from there. As it is on the hill, you get an Instagram post worth scenery—if it is some quality level indication for you, guys.  

But there's also one quite curious thing, at least for me. There is a zoo on the premises. I don’t know about you guys, but have you seen a zoo next to the monastery? Yep, me neither. Also first-timer here. There are deer, peacocks, birds, and other kinds of animals, but it's not that big at all. Anyways, I still find it pretty funny. 

  • Google Maps link to a parking lot at the place 
  • Opening hours: June–October 9 am–1:30 pm and 3:30 pm–7 pm (other months 9 am–6 pm) 
  • Entrance for €2.50 

After this long exhausting day, I recommend driving back to Chania. It's 1.5-hour drive (90 km / 56 miles). 

Day 3 of Crete Itinerary: West coast beaches

Crete Itinerary, day 3

See the route of today’s itinerary on Google Maps  

Main sites visited on day 3: Elafonisi Beach, Falasarna Beach, Balos Beach and Lagoon
Restaurant tips: Theodosi | The Five
Hotel recommendations: Mossa Well Being Hotel | Hyperion City Hotel & Spa
Further reading: 13 best beaches in Crete| Food of Crete | Best day tours from Chania 

Day 3, stop 1: Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi Beach, Crete

Elafonisi Beaj with just slightly pink sand

Distance from hotel: 70 km (43 miles) / 1.5 hour 
Time spent: 2.5 hours 

One of the best beaches in Crete, that's what people consider Elafonisi is. Well, I'm here to disagree once again. 

Clear see-through turquoise water, exotic pink sand beach. That's what you expect from a visit of Elafonisi Beach. And it's almost right, only with one tiny little thing. It was not as pink as I thought, just a bit of some red dust and that's it. But otherwise, it's a really nice beach! 

The sea has a nice light blue color and is not that deep, so your children can play in it and won't drown (probably). But keep an eye on them, just to be sure.

Elafonisi Beach, Greece

Elafonisi Beach

And not only to lie down but also see something exciting, I have some activity for you, and you already know what I'm about to say. Hike! It's this short and easy hike, that won't take you more than an hour. Lying in the sun for a long time is unhealthy anyways! 

Day 3, stop 2: Falasarna Beach

Falasarna Beach in Crete, Greece

Falasarna Beach

Distance from the last stop: 51 km (31.7 miles) / 1.5 hour 
Time spent: 2 hours 

This beach, Falasarna, I really enjoyed visiting—one of the best beaches near Chania for sure! After a long time, we were at the beach that was not packed with people. It is spacious and people tend to visit Balos Beach nearby more. Don't worry, you're not going to miss it either, it's our next stop! But about that later. 

If you don’t want to lie on your towel for hours, you can do some exciting activities there. It gets windy, so windsurfing is a popular choice of water sport at Falasarna Beach.  

In the past, Falasarna used to be a harbor city with a developed trading market. Some debris of historical city lies few meters from the beach so get up and go to see something exciting. Too much sunbathing is bad for your skin anyway and you know it. 

Day 3, stop 3: Balos Beach and Lagoon

Balos Lagoon in Crete

Balos Lagoon

Distance from the last stop: 20 km (12.4 miles) / 55 minutes 
Time spent: 1.5 hour 

Our next stop as promised is Balos Beach and the lagoon with its turquoise water and white sand. This beach looks literally like an advertisement for beaches by travel agencies. 

I know, three beaches in one day, but we needed to relax a bit, and you should too. But don’t get too lazy! With the combination of the delicious Greek cuisine, you may need another plane seat back. And we surely don’t want that, do we? 

A mild hike leads there and it's more a way to the beach from the parking area than a hike per se. It's not even 2 km (1.4 miles) long with only about 100 meters (328 feet) descent to the sea. But judging from the red faces of some people coming up like they're reaching one of the eight-thousanders it can be quite an achievement.

Walk through the Balos Lagoon, Crete

Balos Lagoon is a must visit in Crete!

Anyways, the lagoon is even prettier from the view up the hill. So, don’t forget to take some pictures on your way down. Can't forget to feed that Instagram, huh? 

On one side of the beach the lagoon is very shallow, so it's perfect for kids to play in. The other side is exactly the opposite—rocky, wavy and deep. The connection of tiny Cape Tigani to mainland Crete creates an isthmus that gives the whole scenery a real tropical vibe

I 100% recommend visiting Balos Beach. The only minor inconvenience is the hell of a road leading from there. The drive to Chania takes you about more than an hour and this unpaved road is about half of it. It sure sounds a bit annoying, but it was one of the prettiest beaches I've ever encountered. 

I recommend spending the evening of the third day again in Chania. It's a 1.5-hour drive from the last stop. 

Day 4 of Crete Itinerary: Samaria Gorge hike

Samaria Gorge hike

Samaria Gorge hike and Agia Roumeli Beach map from AllTrails

Main sites visited on day 4: Samaria Gorge hike, Agia Roumeli Beach
Restaurant tips: Theodosi | The Five
Hotel recommendations: Mossa Well Being Hotel | Hyperion City Hotel & Spa | The Authentic Village Boutique Hotel
Further reading: The best hikes in Crete | Best Gorges for hiking | Guide to Samaria Gorge 

Samaria George hike

Samaria George

Hike length: 17.5 km (10.2 miles)  
Elevation gain: 2,636 m (8648 feet) 
Difficulty level: Moderate     
Hiking time: 7 hours (+ 1 hour at the beach) 
Parking and trailhead: Google Maps link  
Distance from hotel: 42 km (26 miles) / 1 hour 

Well, this day will have only one stop. Because this trip, Samaria Gorge hike included, will take you the whole day, just because of the logistics of getting there and back.  

The hike is long but totally worth it. I rank it high, it's probably one of the 10 best hikes I have ever trekked, and certainly THE top place to visit on Crete. The views were absolutely stunning—it's 11/10. The scenery, nature, everything works perfectly together and makes it undeniably the greatest experience I had on this trip. 

If you are in Crete sometime between May and October, which is the time when this hike is opened, you simply have to visit this breathtaking place in Samaria National Park. (I have an entire article on Samaria Gorge, so check that out for details!). 

How to get to Samaria Gorge? 

If you are not on this blog for the first time, you probably already know what would be my most preferable option. The comfort of having the possibility of planning your trips on your own terms is just irreplaceable.

Visiting Samaria Gorge, Greece

Me, enjoying the Samaria Gorge hike

For me the most convenient way to travel is to rent a car—which is basically the easiest thing in Crete. You can do so straight at the airport or in every bigger city you will find a car rental with cars to rent for at least one day. 

If you decide to drive there by car, leave it in Xyloskalo. There is a parking lot for €5 per day which is fair, but it can get too crowded during the main season. You will get back to your car by bus or you can take a taxi as we did.  

Samaria Gorge hike 

If you want to avoid the crowds, get there in the morning, the hike is very popular and it shows! We got there around 10 am and it was already full of hyped tourists waiting to hit the road with their trekking poles. Before you enter you pay €5 entrance fee which is basically nothing compared to what you will experience.

Samaria Gorge, Crete

Samaria Gorge

The first kilometer of the hike you get some spectacular views and I guarantee you'll just walk with your mouth wide open. Then you enter a forest for another 5 kilometers with no views. But don’t worry there you can enjoy more than 450 types of flora with 70 endemic species—that means they only occur there, and you won't see them anywhere else in the wild the whole world! But unless you are botanist or plant enthusiast, it's pretty boring. 

Then you enter a forest for another 5 kilometers with no views. But don’t worry there you can enjoy more than 450 types of flora with 70 endemic species—that means they only occur there and you won't see them anywhere else in the wild the whole world! But unless you are botanist or plant enthusiast, it’s pretty boring. 

And then, breathtaking views of mountains covered in cypresses and pine trees. Oh my God just imagine the air scented by the trees. It simply drives away all your worries.  

Of course, only until the point you stumble across slow walkers on your way. Yeah, we get it, you're enjoying the views. But would it kill you to let faster people pass in front of you? It surely can kill us when we try to pass around you. Please be responsible guys!

Samaria Gorge, Crete

The mountain on the beginning of the Samaria Gorge hike

The National Park ends 2 kilometers (1.4 miles) from the Agia Roumeli, where you can walk to like we did or take the bus. 

In Agia Roumeli there is a stunning black beach where you can dip your feet after this long hike. And that’s exactly what we did. You can't imagine how rewarding it is to relax at a nice clean beach after a bit more challenging hike! 

Have you ever heard about black beaches? It seems to be black thanks to the small dark grey puddles covering the ground. The beach stretches for 3 kilometers (1.1 mile) and is very spacious so you won't be drowning in an ocean of towels with sweaty, hairy tourists on them.  

If you don’t want to just lie around and have time until you have to head back, you can walk around a bit and enjoy nice views of the cliffs. Agia Roumeli is quite a small town but there are few local taverns and bars that you can explore.

Agia Roumeli beach, Crete

Agia Roumeli beach

From Agia Roumeli we took a ferry to Sougia which leaves around 6 pm and you shouldn't forget to book your tickets in advance, it can be filled with people.  

Or if you want to risk it, you can buy them in the boat ticket office in the port. But if the ferry is full, hate to say I told you so—not really, you should already know my advice is worth following. From Sougia there’s a bus back to Xyloskalo, or you can take a taxi. 

For this night, going back to Chania would be the most convenient option for you. 

Day 5 of Crete Itinerary: Lake Kournas, Mili Gorge, Arkadi Monastery, Minoan Palace of Phaistos, Knossos, Agios Nikolaos

Crete Itinerary, day 5

See the route of today’s itinerary on Google Maps

Main sites visited on day 5: Arkadi Monastery, Lake Kournas, Mili Gorge, Minoan Palace of Phaistos, Knossos
Restaurant tips: Pagopoieon sole | 7 Thalasses | Kazoual | Ligo Krasi Ligo Thalassa
Hotel recommendations: Legacy Gastro Suites | Kipos Boutique Suites
Further reading: Food of Crete |Best day tours from Chania | Best places to visit in Crete 

Day 5, stop 1: Lake Kournas

Lake Kournas, Crete

The spectacular Lake Kournas

Distance from hotel: 45 km (28 miles) / 50 minutes 
Time spent: 2 hours 

Lake Kournas is the biggest freshwater lake on the island of Crete—well to be fair, it is the only one. I wouldn’t say it's not worth visiting but as we are passing, we stop by. We've spent about two hours there, and it was just enough for us. 

The lake is rather small with tiny stony beaches but offers some water sports activities. You can rent paddleboats there! But that's pretty much it. 

We expected Cretan Zell am See but that’s not what we got at all. I don’t want to be unfair, the views of the scenery around are beautiful, but nothing mind blowing. Still a nice stop on the way to stretch your legs a bit. 

Day 5, stop 2: Mili Gorge

Mili Gorge, Crete

Mili Gorge

Distance from the last stop: 31 km (19 miles) / 40 minutes
Hike length: 5.1 km (3.1 miles)   
Elevation gain: 200 m (656 feet)  
Difficulty level: Moderate      
Hiking time: 1.5 hours    
Parking and trailhead: Google Maps link  (no parking lot, but the side of a road has got your back) 

Mili gorge is an easy trail near the city of Mili. No, I'm not an illiterate dummy, it can also be Myli you can find both versions and both are right. 

There is a tourist bus stop close to it but as always, I recommend going by car. If you do so, put in your GPS “Mili Gorge Trailhead than only “Mili Gorge”, otherwise it will lead you somewhere else. Unfortunately, there is no dedicated parking lot or anything even remotely close. Therefore, we left our car along the road. I felt like a true Greek, they park literally everywhere. 

The hike itself is quite short but full of scenic views. It's only 5km (3.1 miles) with an elevation of 200 meters (656 feet) and if you start at the south entrance, you mostly walk down.

Tourist at the Mili Gorge view, Crete

See how I'm enjoying the view?

The path is very green and so fairytale-like! Pretty unusual for Cretan hikes but that is probably why we liked it so much—it was just something else! We even saw some rare species of flora. You walk past breathtaking flowers or tree arches. And look out for ruins on your way. I saw one that reminded me of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I know, didn’t expect that either! In one word—beautiful! 

Entrance to Mili Gorge is free and with its easy access I don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t visit it. You can also walk through the small Mili city. Wondering how it got its name? You guessed right, thanks to its many mills. Greeks are so imaginative!  

Tip: For a gazzilion more fairytale-like hikes, you need to head over to Scotland. Some of the places there are truly out of this world. Except for Fairy Glen... Read about them in the best and worst hikes in Scotland article. 

Day 5, stop 3: Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery, Crete

Arkadi Monastery, Crete

Distance from the last stop: 24 km (15 miles) / 0.5 hour 
Time spent: 0.5 hour 

Arkadi Monastery is hands down probably the most beautiful and historic monastery in the whole of Crete. 

The monastery also has a sad history. The message of massive sacrifice of Cretan man and women here became a symbol of Greek's fight for independence. The museum inside the monastery tells the breathtaking story of the rebel's act of resistance

Arkadi Monastery is a picturesque place to visit, and you should put it on your to-see list of the mandatory places to visit on Crete, especially the basilica on its premises. You can easily find a parking space right on the spot and leave it there for the time of your visit.  

  • Tickets are €3 

Day 5, stop 4: Minoan Palace of Phaistos

Minoan Palace of Phaistos

Phaistos used to be a very wealthy city

Distance from the last stop: 76 km (47.2 miles) 1.5 hour 
Time spent: 1 hour 

The Palace of Phaistos may not be as famous as our next stop, Knossos, but it doesn’t mean it's any less important. Phaistos used to be one of the centers of Minoan civilization, it was a very wealthy city, that had resources to build this magnificent second biggest palace in Crete

The Palace of Phaistos was also discovered pretty recently—considering what recently in history means. The excavations begun in 1900 by an Italian archeologist, and they found debris about 5,000 years old! 

But once again, Greeks suck at making interesting museum labels. You see a column, and guess what's on the label. Column. Wow, you don’t say! And I swear, I'm not making this example up. Terrible, when I remember for example Stirling Castle in Scotland, the labels were full novels compared to that! 

  • Google Maps link to a parking lot at the place 
  • Opening hours: every day 8 am–8 pm Check the website for detailed opening times that can vary throughout the year. 
  • Entrance for €8 

Day 5, stop 5: Knossos Palace

Knossos Palace, Crete

Knossos Palace

Distance from the last stop: 56 km (35 miles) / 57 minutes 
Time spent: 1–2 hours 

Even if you've lived under a rock and never attended elementary school history class, you've probably heard at least once about the famous Knossos Palace, the heart of Minoan civilization. And if not here's everything you need to know about it before your visit. 

Knossos is the number one historical place in Crete and the most important archeological site on the island. The place is connected to many myths and legends including the most famous ones, about Minotaur or Ikarus.  

Fun fact: The first excavations and discoveries of the wonders this place hid for centuries began in 1878 by a businessman called Minos. Just imagine making such a huge discovery the whole civilization and an important part of history is being named after you. Pretty cool, huh?

Knossos Minoan Palace, Crete


During the main tourist season the place can be crowded with people and with never-ending lines for buying the tickets. We recommend doing so online in advance at their official website.  

Day 5, stop 6: Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos in Crete, Greece

Agios Nikolaos

Distance from the last stop: 65 km (40 miles) / 1 hour 
Time spent: 1 hour 

Agios Nikolaos is a harbor city with a long coastline in Mirabello Bay and offers many great restaurants and bars. 

What makes Agios Nikolaos extraordinary is its lake. Well, there are lots of lakes in Crete, so what is that special about this one? Have you ever seen a lake in the center of the city? Me neither until I visited Agios Nikolaos! Voulismeni is technically not a lake anymore because it was connected to the sea by a canal at the end of the 19th century, but it's still exceptional, I guess. 

It was probably the visit of this city that made me fall in love with Cretan architecture. If you are about to visit this city and stay until evening, walking along the waterfront promenade is going to do the same for you.  

Agios Nikolaos has plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars, many with stunning views. So, make a stop at least for a cup of coffee. It's worth it, I swear. 

Hotel in Stalida 

It was only a 0.5-hour drive from Knossos to our stay for the night, Stalida. Another hotel we stayed in during our vacation in Crete was Rivira Boutique Hotel.  

The hotel and rooms were nice and clean with a very modern interior. Overall, the place was very cozy, food was fresh—the breakfast options were wide continental and American style, but not something extraordinary.  

But I will be a bit strict now—we spent more than 20 minutes just checking in. I mean, in Mossa it took a few minutes, so we were pretty bummed by that. This kind of took a few points from our ratings, but I would still recommend staying there.

Rivira Boutique Hotel in Crete

Interior of Rivira Boutique Hotel is nice and modern!

Day 6 of Crete Itinerary: Toplou Monastery, Vai Beach, Zakros Gorge

Crete Itinerary, day 6

See the route of today’s itinerary on Google Maps

Main sites visited on day 6: Toplou Monastery, Vai Beach, Zakros Gorge
Restaurant tips: Pagopoieon sole | 7 Thalasses | Kazoual | Ligo Krasi Ligo Thalassa
Hotel recommendations: Terra Minioka Boutique Resort
Further reading: The best hikes in Crete | 13 best beaches in Crete |Best Gorges for hiking 

Day 6, stop 1: Toplou Monastery

Toplou Monastery, Crete

Toplou Monastery

Distance from hotel: 115 km (71.5 miles) / 2 hours 
Time spent: 1 hour 

Toplou Monastery, also known as Monastery of Panagia Akrotiriani, is one of the oldest and most historic monasteries in eastern Crete. Its origins reach to the 14th century in Byzantine times.  

The dominant of Toplou Monastery is certainly 33 meters high bell tower reaching to the skies. According to the stories, it is supposed to have exactly 100 doors, but only 99 have been found till this day. Maybe if you are thorough enough, you'll find the last one! 

Inside the monastery, you will find some well-preserved frescoes on the walls dating back to the times when the monastery was built. Generally, it's in almost perfect state, maybe also thanks to the 10 meters high wall around the monastery. From afar it almost looks like a little fortress. 

There is a museum on the premises full of interesting religious exhibits. You want to see hundreds of years old bible or crosses? Or maybe some historical facts about the fights for freedom with Turks? Then don’t forget to check out the museum!  

  • Google Maps link to a parking lot at the place 
  • Opening hours: every day 9 am–1 pm and 2 pm–6 pm 
  • Entrance for €4 

Day 6, stop 2: Vai Beach

Vai Beach in Crete

Vai Beach

Distance from the last stop: 8.6 km (5.3 miles) / 12 minutes 
Time spent: 1–2 hours 

If you are looking for the best beaches in the east of Crete, don’t forget to visit Vai beach, which I consider one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete. And you know that there's competition!  

The line of palm trees along the sandy beach with clear sea are probably the reason that it is packed with tourists in the main season! And it is probably also why I liked it so much there! So, if you try to avoid crowds of almost naked people sandbathing and children screaming, maybe you should visit this place in the shoulder season.  

But one thing for sure, you can't miss this place because it’s just too beautiful not to visit! Next to the beach there is Palm Beach Vai Restaurant with local food that I really enjoyed. It was fresh and a total bargain. 

  • Parking lot close to the beach 

Day 6, stop 3: Zakros Gorge

Zakros Gorge, Crete

Zakros Gorge

Distance from the last stop: 30.4 km (18.9 miles) / 45 minutes 
Hike length: 11 km (6.1 miles)  
Elevation gain: 350 m (1148 feet) 
Difficulty level: Moderate     
Hiking time: 3.5 hours   
Parking and trailhead:Google Maps link  

On the other side of the island is something people call a hidden gem. Well, I'm not a fan of these cliches but to be honest Zakros Gorge truly felt like we found one. However, I must admit its name doesn’t sound tempting at all. 

But you have nothing to worry about, guys. They don’t call it Gorge of the Dead, because the hike would be super dangerous or you had to fight for your life on the way. Actually, it got its name because of its use in ancient times. The Minoans used the caves on the steep walls of the gorge to bury their dead.  

The gorge has dramatically steep walls which are truly breathtaking. So, maybe that’s deadly about it either. 

The hike we took is out and back type and is around 11 km (6.1 miles) with elevation gain almost 350 meters (1148 feet). On your way, you meet a nice viewpoint on an unpaved road, many herbs and unique geological structures. And of course—goats wherever you look! I mean, in every restaurant they have plenty of meals with lamb, Greeks eat them like crazy. You can pet them on your hike, and then have their little one for dinner... I said it, but you were thinking that! 

Do you know the E4 European walking path? It starts in Tarifa Spain and ends right here at Kato Zakros! In Crete it's a 320 km (198 miles) long path leading though Zakros Gorge with some picturesque views and wonderful nature.  

After the hike, we drove back to Stalida and stayed at Rivira Boutique Hotel again. 

Day 7 of Crete Itinerary: Diktaean Cave, Lyrarakis Winery

Crete Itinerary, day 7

See the route of today’s itinerary on Google Maps

Main sites visited on day 7: Diktaean Cave, Lyrarakis Winery
Restaurant tips: Pagopoieon sole | 7 Thalasses | Kazoual | Ligo Krasi Ligo Thalassa
Hotel recommendations: Legacy Gastro Suites | Kipos Boutique Suites | Terra Minioka Boutique Resort
Further reading: The best hikes in Crete | Food of Crete | Best places to visit in Crete 

Day 7, stop 1: Diktaean Cave

Cave of Dicti, Crete

Me and the Diktean Cave

Distance from hotel: 160 km (99 miles) / 3 hours 
Time spent: 0.5 hour 

The most famous cave in Crete, that's Diktaean Cave. It's in northern part of Mount Dikti—wonderful hike by the way but truly challenging one. I haven't put it in this itinerary, because it would take you a bigger part of the day. However, if you have an extra day, you should definitely try to conquer this one! 

But now back to the cave. How come it is that famous? According to the ancient myths and legends, the Greek god of skies and the highest one in Greek mythology Zeus was supposedly born there. After his birth, his mother hid him in this cave, to save him from his father Kronos. Families, am I right? 

Apart from this “fact”, the cave is nothing extra, it won't take you more than a few minutes to walk through. Maybe I'm biased, but I've seen my share of breathtaking caves in my life. This one is still in the upper part of the list. 

There is a parking lot nearby for €2.50. You have to walk from it for like 10 minutes, but it's the closest one you can get. 

Day 7, stop 2: Lyrarakis Winery

Lyrarakis Winery in Crete

The Lyrarakis Winery scenery

Distance from the last stop: 80 km (49.7 miles) / 1 hour 20 minutes 
Time spent: 4 hours 

And we have the final stop of our itinerary ahead of us, and that means a one and only thing. Let's talk wine! Wine has a long history in Crete—you can date the wine production all way back up to when Minoan civilization inhabited the island.  

We visited the family wine estate Lyrarakis Winery located south of Heraklion, and I have to tell you more about it. It was founded in 1966 by brothers Sotiris and Manolis and these days it produces 400,000 bottles a year. That's what I call a family business.

Lyrarakis winery, Crete

You’re looking at a really big wine stock right now

If you imagine a small vineyard with a kind of a traditional feel when I say it's family-owned, you couldn’t be more wrong. The whole estate has a luxury vibe, and you can see plenty of investments coming in as they are very passionate about the wine culture. No wonder, imagine Ancient Greece without wine! Its rich history in this area is one of the oldest in the world. 

You can take a free tour through the vineyard with paid degustation. We obviously did both. The tour itself was not only about the wine but also its extremely pretty panoramas on the way. As the knowledgeable guide explained to us, the production of the wine is fully organic. Not because of some crazy hippie shit but because the wines are simply that. That's some higher efficiency skill I can respect!

Lyrarakis winery—wine tasting

Wine, cheese and views—that's what I call a vacation

We ended up spending the whole afternoon there tasting wines and loading our mouths with cheese. The unusual thing is that you actually go through the vineyard outside. That's different than other tours we took around the world where they took us inside and explained the winemaking process to us. This was something else and we enjoyed it way more.  

Tip: Learning about local alcohol production around the world has somehow become my thing. There was that incredible whisky distillery in Scotland, my two favorite places in Belgium’s Bruges were beer tours, and in Peru, I learned what else you can make from grapes in the Ica vineyards

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission if you make bookings through my links, at no additional cost to you. This helps keep this blog free, thank you! 


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About me

About me

Hi! I’m Jan. I live in Prague, Czech Republic. I try to experience the best the world has to offer, and I don’t cease to be impressed. But if I’m not, I’m sure going to tell you! You can count on my full honesty and real opinions here. No bullcrap. I own and run several companies, which gives me great (but not unlimited) freedom to roam the world.  

I was first inspired to start this blog by my own experience of researching for upcoming trips—I often struggle with a lack of good information, accuracy, and authenticity of resources. You wouldn’t believe how many “travel bloggers” don’t even visit the destinations they write about! 

My goal with this blog is to provide you with complex and practical information so that you can plan your own vacation, complete with insights you’d only get if you visited the place. I also put together itineraries that are fully planned out trip guides.

Another aspect that drives this platform is my curiosity about the history, geography, politics, and economy of each country I visit, so I try to include this information in my articles, too. It’s always great to get the bigger picture, right? 

And just to be clear, I am not trying to compete with backpacking blogs or provide hacks for an economical and affordable experience. My vacations follow the standard pattern of traveling by plane, staying in good hotels, and renting a car on the spot to get around. I’m also always up for a fantastic meal, though I don’t shy away from local delicacies and street food, either.  

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