Crete Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing

(Crete, Greece)

Photo of horse and carriage rideThese days, the economy of Crete revolves around tourism and the island's many tourist attractions are quite varied, therefore appealing to a broad spectrum of holiday makers and being further enhanced by the distinct lack of rain. Tourists looking to cool down after a morning's sunbathing on one of Crete's many gorgeous beaches will find snorkelling or even scuba diving worthy of consideration.

The air has never felt fresher is you take a stroll along one of the island's innumerable walking trails though the mountains, particularly those around the breathtaking Samaria Gorge. For families, the tourist attractions on Crete are plentiful and include the Creteaquarium, the Limnoupolis Water Park and a small, but popular zoo.

Harbour photograph

Snorkelling and Scuba Diving

The warm and rather inviting waters surrounding the island of Crete offer endless opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving, and the clarity is usually exceptional. Particularly popular are the underwater attractions to be found around Elounda's famous 'sunken city' of Olous. There are also some very good dive sites to be found around the southern shores are official scuba diving centres are located within Agios Nikolaos, Bali, Hania and also Rethymno.
Open hours: daily, seasonal variations
Admission: charge for diving trips and equipment hire

View of Chania harbour

Water Sports, Cruises and Yachting

Water sports on the island come in all shapes and forms, and provide a very enjoyable way to cool down on the hottest of summer days. Most of the Crete beaches offer a good choice of water sports attractions, which generally include pedal boats, glass-bottom cruises, canoes and kayaks, wind surfing, jet skiing, water skiing and even parasailing. On the island's northerly coast you will find the most of the biggest hotels tend to feature their very own water sports centre. Yachting is also extremely popular around Crete and the islands has become nothing short of a Mecca for 'yachties', who tend to gather around the Agios Nikolaos marina.
Open hours: daily
Admission: charge for equipment hire

Picture of hiking trail taken at the Agia Irini Gorge

Hiking, Mountain Climbing, Trekking and Mountain Biking

Crete is nothing short of a true paradise for lovers of the great outdoors and the many hills and mountains around the island offers an array of recreational activities and attractions, ranging from leisurely walking trails to steep hikes. However, mountain trekking is most enjoyable during either the spring or the autumn, since the endless summer sunshine and subsequent high temperatures can make a hike rather hard work. If you are lucky to trek around the island, then you will be treated to sights around remote villages, plains and gorges, such as the truly awesome Samaria Gorge. Many of these scenic trails are highly suitable for mounting bikes, and these can usually be hired close by for a nominal charge.
Open hours: daily
Admission: charge for equipment hire

Limnoupolis Water Park image

Children's Activities / Zoo / Limnoupolis Water Park

Those holidaying on Crete with children will find many family-friendly attractions, highly suitable for even the youngest of holiday makers. Away from the Minoan remains and Venetian architecture, young children will be sure to appreciate the public gardens situated in Hania, between Dimokratias and Tzanakaki. Here you will discover a great playground, along with a children's 'resource centre' and even a small zoo, which of course contains some of the island's very own inquisitive Kri-Kri (Cretan goats). A relatively short distance to the south is the hugely popular Limnoupolis Water Park, where there are lots of run water slides and rides to keep children occupied for hours.
Open hours: daily, seasonal variations
Admission: charge for some activities

Skiing / Mountaineering and Skiing Club of Iraklio

Address: Dikeosynis 53, Iraklio, Crete, Greece, GR
Tel: +30 28102 27609
Founded as far back as the early 1940s, the Mountaineering and Skiing Club of Iraklio regularly arranges excursions into the mountain, with the main recreational activities not only including mountain climbing and cross-country walking, but also skiing - expect some steep climbs if you join in on one of their unusual and highly memorable expeditions.
Open hours: daily, seasonal variations
Admission: charge for equipment hire

Creteaquarium (Crete Aquarium) image

Creteaquarium (Crete Aquarium)

Address: Gournes, Crete, Greece, GR
Tel: +30 28103 27788
The Creteaquarium very much targets tourists of all ages and is to be found around 15 km / 9 miles to the east of Iraklio, in the village of Gournes. This is actually the biggest aquarium attraction of its kind in the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean area and contains a number of huge tanks, filled with marine landscapes and colourful sea creatures. The Creteaquarium opened its door to the general public as recently as 2005 and ever since, its sharks and underwater cameras have been particular visitor favourites.
Open hours: daily, May to mid-October, 09:00 to 21:00; mid-October to April - 10:00 to 17:30
Admission: charge, discounts for children, children four years old and under are free

View of the Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge

Address: Omalos Plateau, Crete, Greece, GR
Tel: +30 28210 67179
The Samaria Gorge has long been one of the leading natural attractions on Crete and despite its huge popularity and subsequent crowds, a leisurely trek through this beautiful gorge will likely be a true holiday highlight. Measuring approximately 16 km / 10 miles in length, the Samaria Gorge is reputed to be Europe's longest and probably the most attractive to boot. The start of the gorge is next to the Omalos Plateau. Look out for the huge quantity of wild flowers as you trek, along with the resident mountain goats, who are a protected species. Samaria Gorge has been a national park since the early sixties and visitors are strongly advised to arrive early, ideally before 08:00, so that crowds can be avoided. A regular bus connects the attraction with Hania and this is quite inexpensive. And don't forget to bring a picnic!
Open hours: May to mid-October, daily - 06:00 to 15:00
Admission: charge

Arhanes Village image

Arhanes Village

Address: Arhanes, Crete, Greece, GR
Situated some 14 km / 9 miles to the south of Iraklio, the village of Arhanes was once the location a spectacular Minoan palace, which most have been amongst the most impressive that the island had to offer back then. Sadly, today, only a few remains of this Minoan structure remain and provide just a suggestion of its former grandeur and glory. Arhanes itself a particularly appealing village and contains a series of interconnecting plazas and Greek tavernas.
Open hours: daily - 24 hours
Admission: free

Picture of the unusual Matala Caves

Matala Caves

Address: Matala, Crete, Greece, GR
Matala enjoys an especially scenic coastal location, approximately 11 km / 7 miles to the south of Phaestos. The actual beachfront boasts a breathtaking backdrop of literally dozens of man-made caves, which were carved into the sandstone cliffs almost 2,000 years ago. The caves were originally created to be rather unusual Roman tombs and make the whole area appear rather like a weird prehistoric city. Below the caves themselves, the sandy beach is superb and the resort of Matala is conveniently near to Agia Triada and Phaestos.
Open hours: daily - 24 hours
Admission: free

Margarites Village

Address: Margarites, Crete, Greece, GR
Known throughout Greece for its pottery, the village of Margarites is a regular haunt for tourist buses and sits approximately 26 km / 16 miles from Rethymno. Ceramic studios are plentiful in Margarites and these attractions number more than 20 in total. The studios themselves vary greatly in quality, although amongst them you will find some true gems. Many of the most traditional potters actually use clay collected from the very base of Mount Psiloritis.
Open hours: daily - 24 hours
Admission: free