Crete is quintessential Greece. The largest Greek island stuns with its beauty, surprises with its diversity and seduces with its authenticity. From the western tip to the eastern edge, this Mediterranean gem unfolds before your eyes as you drive from one enchanting landscape to the next. The size of the island requires at least two weeks of vacation time (and booking a couple of the best tours in Crete) to fully immerse in all its splendor.
There is no need to go island-hopping when all of the Greek islands’ most epic attractions can be found in one place. Just take the ferry over, hire a car and spend your days slowly exploring the island on a great road trip. Head to Balos or Seitan Limania for unforgettable days at the beach, take photos at the charming St. Nicholas Church, get lost in the ancient streets of Heraklion and watch a glorious sunset at the Rethymno marina.
These are just a few of the extraordinary experiences on offer. And while the main destinations are popular for a reason, you will want to create enough flexibility in your itinerary to venture off the beaten path and see how locals live in remote areas. Tiny villages tucked away in mountains, where cobblestone and flowers abound, showcase the real Cretan culture.
Strike up a conversation with residents and you will realize just how wonderful the people are. Crete is a famously welcoming island. Visitors who spend a good few weeks here leave with a sense that they were part of one big family. Locals are always generous with their time, traditions and cuisine. Encounters with regular folk is what makes Crete so special.
Traveling independently on a road trip is a great way to meet the people and uncover hidden gems. Additionally, you can also access the local knowledge of private tour guides along the way such as Crete Private Guide. These destination experts offer a range of incredible day excursions which take you beyond the tourist-traps to discover the true soul of Crete. Booking a few of these tours will take your trip to the next level.
The team at Crete Private Guide can create a customized itinerary that suits your preferences. Or their six ready-to-go day tours can be booked directly on their website with no consultation process at all. Each tour focuses on a different element of Crete such as villages and mountains, wine and beer tastings, the secluded beaches of the south, WW2 history or a 4×4 adventure. Below we provide an overview of these six best tours in Crete.
Best Tours in Crete
1. The Four Winds Tour – Chania City
A four hour tour that immerses you in the rich history and multiculturalism of Chania. Four distinct cultures – Egyptian, Jewish, Ottoman and Venetian – all left their mark on the city throughout different periods. Wander down the narrow streets where the ocean breeze accompanies you from one fascinating neighborhood to the next. Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of the city and see local residents going about their daily lives.
Highlights of this tour include various visits to churches, temples and sites where you can soak in the history and learn intriguing facts to take away with you. Questions will be answered by a professional guide at Crete Private Guide who will be more than happy to share details about this historic city. Food and drink tastings will also be offered. What better way to see Chania for the first time than on the Four Winds Tour!
2. Spirit of Crete Tour – Nature, Mountains & Villages
Once you have sunbathed, swam in the sea and soaked up all the salt possible at the crystal-clear beaches it will be time to venture into the interiors of the island to discover the real Crete! Beginning in Chania, this eight hour day tour transports you to the mountains, valleys, gorges and villages that characterize the charming rural communities of Crete.
Food and people are two of the themes of this tour as you try delicious homemade meals and converse with the friendly locals of the destinations you visit. During the latter half of the trip, you will travel to the White Mountains of Crete (otherwise known as Lefka Ori) and experience the rugged natural beauty that surrounds you. Make sure to bring your camera!
3. Drops of Crete Tour – Wine, Beer and Olive Oil Tasting
Wine, beer and olive oil are traditional Cretan products. Foodies will fall in love with this excursion as you eat and drink your way through a winery, olive oil farm and micro-brewery. Set in the Chania region, the Drops of Crete Tour gives you a behind the scenes look as to what makes for world-class wine. Learn about the cellars and try plenty of wine along the way.
Arrival at the olive oil farm takes place after driving through lovely scenery and picturesque villages. Cretans have developed unique techniques for producing olive oil and you will learn all about their methods. We wager a bet that you have never tried extra virgin olive oil as good as this! The day tour ends with a visit to a family owned and operated micro-brewery where you will learn about the beer making process and try five bio beers.
4. Deep Blue Tour – South Coast, Secluded Beaches
The south of Crete is teeming with secluded beaches that not many travelers get the chance to experience. This private boat tour takes you cruising along the southwest coastline for a full day of fun in the sun. Some of the beaches here are paradisaical, especially when there are no tourists around. Enjoy several stops where you can swim in perfectly turquoise waters that resemble something out of the Maldives or French Polynesia.
Lunch at a beautiful little beachside restaurant is included. A traditional Cretan meal will be served alongside some fresh wine and “raki”. Raki is the national drink of Crete and no trip to the island is complete without trying a shot or two! Since this is a private tour, you can request to stop at any beach or cove that tickles your fancy. If you see a swimming spot that you like, just call out to the guide and they will happily take you there.
5. WW2 Tour – The Battle of Crete
History-buffs might find this World War II tour to be the highlight of their entire Crete holiday. Stop by several places of interest from the Battle of Crete and learn why it was such a significant event in world history. The battles that took place on the island were fierce – and this can be seen at the various memorials, cemeteries and monuments which you will visit.
The tour guide represented by Crete Private Guide will give you insight into what actually happened and provide you with secret local knowledge that not many historians know about, as well as stopping by hidden gems that are connected to this event. Like the tour mentioned above, lunch is included in the price and consists of a traditional Cretan meal and raki.
6. Pathway to Tranquility Tour – 4×4 Off Road Exploration
Last but not least on our list of the best tours in Crete is one of the coolest experiences in all of Greece: the Pathway to Tranquility. Exploring the rugged Cretan wilderness in a 4×4 is something that every adventurous traveler should have on their bucket list! This island is home to a range of stunning mountains that pair perfectly with untouched beaches.
On this tour you can see mountains and beaches on the same day. Go off-roading across rocky terrain, traverse narrow tracks that will leave dust in your hair and embrace nature all around. Good thing you will be heading for a beach because you will need to dust off and refresh in the turquoise waters after such a dusty (but fun) ride. Here you can relax for a while and soak in the secluded beach atmosphere with nothing else nearby.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Crete
A summer vacation in Crete is an experience that you will never forget. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy here from pristine beaches, to ancient ruins, to great hikes. The food is wonderful and the people are just amazing – some of the nicest on earth. One travel tip we would like to leave you with is to study some of the history of the island before you go.
There are so many historical sites in Crete that it would be a shame if you didn’t at least have a basic understanding of what it all means. Read up on the ancient Minoan civilization all the way to modern Greek history. This will set you up for a much more immersive experience. You don’t have to read 1,000 page history books but just brush up on the basics. Much of this information can be found online by browsing various websites and blogs.
Most travelers heading to Crete will stay in the northwest regions of the island. If you want to escape the crowds and discover the real Crete make sure you head into the interiors, down to the southern coast and all the way to the eastern areas for a more complete look. By planning for a few weeks of travel, rather than just a few days, you will give yourself a better chance to discover hidden gems and secrets that only locals know about.
Summer is the best time to visit Crete but it comes with a catch: tourists. Don’t let that put you off though because the island is so big that there are always places you can travel to without many signs of human activity. Just keep in mind that the prices are higher during the summer. Other nice months to visit are April and October (the shoulder season) when the tourists have all left and the temperatures are still hovering above 20°C.
Traveling to Crete on a budget is doable, so don’t fret if you think your savings are too low. Backpackers could see the island on 70 Euros per day which would cover a hostel, cooking for the majority of the trip and getting around via public transport. If your budget is 150 – 250 Euros (or more) per day you will be able to hire your own car, eat out at restaurants and book a couple of the tours mentioned above. Crete is suited for everyone.