Passengers travelling by ferry to Crete will visit the largest island in Greece, with impressive beaches, mountains, villages and archaeological treasures!
Located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea with a population of about 600.000, Crete is divided into four perfections, Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno and Lasithi. Being the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the most visited destinations all over the year.
Crete is a place of timeless cultural interest from antiquity to modern times with particular importance in the periods of the Minoan and Mycenaean civilization. Around 2000 BC the Minoans had started to build palaces in Knossos, Phaistos and Malia but the center of civilization focused on Knossos.
From the end of the 19th century Minoan civilization attracted the interest of Western Europe as it was considered by researchers, such as the British Sir Arthur Evans, the cradle of the oldest European culture. During the excavations at the Bronze Age site at Knossos, Evans came to the conclusion that there was the Labyrinth, a building with a confusing structure. According to the legend, it was built by Daidalos for King Minos in order to hide the Minotaur, a mythical creature with a head and a tail of a bull and a body of a man. Also, the era of Venetian rule has to show great interest as well as the European Renaissance with the Cretan painter, sculptor and architect Dominikos Theotokopoulos, widely known as El Greco.
The island of Crete was under Venetian rule from 1204-1669 when it fell completely to the Ottoman Empire until 1898 when the Cretan state was created. In 1913, Crete was officially integrated into the Greek state.
In 1982, a very important Minoan building was unveiled in Zominthos, west of the village Anogia with signs of settlement there back to 1800 BC.
Cretans are famous for their hospitality, their love towards country and preservation of customs.
The amazing beaches , the world known historical sites, the mountainscapes from the west to the east, the famous gastronomy with the local products can attract even the most demanding visitor
Your Crete holidays can be unforgettable if you have everything planned in time. Organize your trip and book your tickets in advance in order to find availability and the ideal accommodation on board as the island is a very famous destination for summer vacation.
Ferry routes to Crete
A variety of Crete ferry routes are available connecting the port of Piraeus with Heraklion, Chania and Rethymno ports. Crete island has also direct sailings to some of the Aegean and Dodecanese islands like Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos, Ios, Rhodes and more. Depending on seasonality, conventional and high speed ferries serve several routes daily with a wide range of accommodation choices. Once a week, there is a connection between Crete and the Peloponnese with the Gythio to Kissamos ferry with two intermediary stops in Antikythera and Kythira islands. The sailing duration is less than 7 hours with a conventional ship.
Athens to Crete
Boarding on a ferry from Athens to Crete is a great experience and the best way to travel, while enjoying the sailing time, which depends on the type of ship and the port of arrival. Starting from the port of Piraeus, you can either book a cabin, especially for overnight sailing, or stay on deck feeling the sea breeze and sun discovering the ship facilities (for conventional ferries).
Below you will find some of the most popular ferry routes to Crete island:
- Athens to Heraklion ferry starting from Piraeus port with two overnight sailings daily from Piraeus to Heraklion with an average trip duration of about 9 hours. Upon seasonality the shipping companies may add more crossings available for morning sailings
- Athens to Chania ferry with two sailings per day from Piraeus port, usually departing in the evening with conventional passenger/car ferries
- Athens to Rethymno ferry with no direct sailings during winter months according to the latest timetables of the shipping companies. Passengers can travel from Piraeus port to Heraklion or Chania and from there take the local bus or drive to their destination. During the summer months the shipping companies add sailings to Rethymno either from the port of Rafina in Athens or from Aegean islands like Mykonos, Santorini or Naxos
Ferry ports of Crete
Τhere is a variety of Crete ferry ports that enable the passengers to reach their vacation resort. The main ferry ports in Crete are accessible by vessels which depart from Piraeus ferry terminals but also from the Aegean and Dodecanese Islands.
Heraklion port, divided into two parts, the old Venetian harbour and the new ferry port, is considered one of the busiest ports in Greece. Visited by two million of passengers every year is located next to the city center on the north coast of Crete. In a close distance from the port you can easily find hotels and apartments with sea view to the Venetian harbour and Koules Fortress close to the old town.
If you prefer to walk from the port to Heraklion you can follow the yellow line marked from the passenger station leading to the city center within 15 minutes.
Chania Ferry Port
Chania ferry port is situated in the port town of Souda, in a distance of about 7 km from the center of Chania city. Souda, also called “the port” by the locals, plays a very significant role in the development of the touristic and commercial sectors of the island. There are regular car and passenger ferry connections every day from Piraeus port in Athens to Chania, offering a very pleasant crossing, usually overnight, with a lot of facilities on board.
Rethymno Ferry Port
Located in the centre of the city, Rethymno ferry port is very close to the historic old town and the places of interest. Hotels and restaurants, shops and markets are all around with a great variety of local products and souvenirs. Τhe local buses cover the routes within the city but also towards the nearby small villages but also towns like Heraklion and Chania.
Kissamos Ferry Port
Kissamos ferry port is located close to the small town center in a distance of about 4 km. It is a small fishing port with a fish tavern by the sea. From Kissamos port you can take the small boat for a day trip to Balos Lagoon and the island of Gramvousa. If you stay in the center of Kissamos you can take the local bus or a taxi and easily reach the ferry terminal.
Holidays in Crete
With no doubt your Crete holidays will be unique, as the Greek island is one of the most visited places, a top destination for those who want to enjoy the sea and the sun, the sandy and rocky beaches, the peaceful villages and mountains but also are interested to discover the historical treasures and sites. The climate conditions make the summers longer, so the swimming period can often last from May till November. Local festivals, traditional dances and music, food specialities and drinks are not missing from any town or small village. Who has not heard of Matala and the hippies during the 60s, Spinalonga, Gavdos the southern place you can visit, or Knossos antiquities and many many more! Holidays in Crete can be exciting no matter how you decide to spend them or matter which places you choose to visit. Colorful old ports, mountain villages, narrow streets full of shops and restaurants, long beaches and rocky bays, authentic and hospitable people have created a magic place waiting to welcome you!
Places to visit in Crete
Please find the most important places to visit in Crete:
- One of the most beautiful and picturesque ports of Greece is the old Venetian harbour of Chania built in the 14th century. Nowadays, it is a very popular and charming place, visited any time of the day, filled with bars, taverns and art shops. Moreover, in the bay of Souda there is a Naval Base of the Hellenic Navy and NATO.
- The old Venetian harbour, with the lighthouse at the edge of it, and the Fortezza (fortress) prove the history of Rethymno during the Venetian occupation of the island. A walk along the promenade in the evening is a very romantic experience.
- Knossos Palace, close to Heraklion city is considered as the most important archeological site of Crete. The residence of the legendary King Minos attracts the interest of all visitors.
- A visit to Heraklion Archaeological Museum, one of the most important in Europe, with representative artifacts and frescoes from Knossos and the Minoan civilization of Crete. The ceramic disc of Phaistos, the figurines of Snake goddess and the Agia Triada sarcophagus are some of the most important archaeological findings .
- In south central Crete 62 km from Heraklion is Festos or Phaistos with the old and new Palaces of Phaistos. It is the second largest city of Minoan Crete, today a very important archaeological site. According to the legend, the name came from the coins of the classical city, depicting Europe, the mother of King Minos sitting on a bull, a lion’s head or Zeus sitting on a tree and the Greek words "ΦΑΙΣ" or "ΦΑΙΣΤΙ".
- The third largest palace of Minoan Crete is in Malia, a town in the Heraklion regional unit. Situated near the sea, according to mythology considered to be the residence of the brother of King Minos, Sarpedon.
- In the area of Zakros village , in the prefecture of Lasithi southeast of Sitia, are the ruins of the ancient city of Zakros, another Minoan archaeological site. Although Zakros palace is smaller than the palaces of Knossos, Phaistos and Malia it is considered equally important. The findings are on display in the museums of Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos and Sitia and prove the communication with the ports of the East.
- Zominthos situated in the foothills of the mountain Psiloritis, near the village of Anogia, is a very important archaeological site, discovered in 1982. Excavations are still in progress and it is believed that they will offer more knowledge about the Minoan civilization.
- Spinalonga, a small rocky island next to the village of Plaka in Lasithi, was used at the beginning of 20th century until 1957 as a leper colony where people kept isolated not only from Crete but from all over Greece. In 1579 Venetians started to build a fortress to get protected and defend Elounda harbour. Today, almost every tourist in the area visits Spinalonga for a day trip by boat from Elounda, Agios Nikolaos or Plaka. The true story of Spinalonga has inspired the author Victoria Hislop to write the award winning best seller novel “The Island”. After the visit to the site, it is a good opportunity to swim in the crystal blue waters of the area and have lunch at a local fish tavern.
- In a distance of 23 km Southeast of Rethymno is the historic Monastery of Arcadi where during the Turkish occupation more than 900 Cretan revolutionaries, mostly women and children, found shelter. After a hard fight when they realized that they would be taken as prisoners by the Turks, they decided to put on fire barrels with gunpowder and die rather than lose their freedom. The holocaust of Arkadi became the reason why the monastery recognised as a European Freedom Monument by Unesco.
- Another fascinating experience if you like hiking and you have a walking experience is the cross the gorge of Samaria. Situated in the National Park of Samaria in White Mountains it starts from the plateau Omalos in Xyloskalo with an altitude of 1230m.and ends in the seaside village of Agia Roumeli.
- If you are in Ierapetra or Makrigialos a pleasant experience is to visit Chrissi island, an inhabited place but easily approached on a daily basis by small boats. The largest part of the island is covered with cedar trees
- A wonderful place for a morning visit is the fishing village of Loutro. You can take the boat from the port of the Sfakia village and within 20 minutes you will be in the lovely village of Loutro. A peaceful place with no traffic, no big hotels and resorts with some family hotels and rooms with a great view to the bay. All the taverns, like in every place on the island, offer the Cretan specialities like homemade pies, lamb and goat dishes, local cheese and wine, the famous strong drink called Raki and fresh greek salads, all cooked with the fist quality olive oil.
Please find below the most visited beaches according to tourists preferences:
- Agia Pelagia
- Elafonisi beach
- Fodele beach
- Sissi beach
- Bali beach
- Agios Nikolaos beach
- Vai beach
- Agia Roumeli
- Stella Island
- Louis Creta Princess
- Blue Palace Crete
- Cretan Malia Park
- Hersonissos Palace
- Stella Palace
- Sunshine Crete Beach
- Hersonissos Village
- Balos beach
- Hersonissos Maris
- Radisson Blu Crete
Excursions to the Mountain Villages in Crete
A good opportunity to forget for awhile the beaches, the big cities and the crowded resorts is to explore some mountain villages in Crete:
- Krasi, where the famous Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis used to stay during summer
- Vryses, the authentic village in the province of Apokoronas, close to Chania, known for the rivers Boutakas and Vrysianos. In the main square under the plane trees there is a perfect tavern with local food and drinks.
- Close to Vryses you can find Fres, also beautiful and worth visiting
- The historic village of Therissos is the place where started the revolution on the occasion of the union of Crete with Greece. Leader was the famous Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos
- Anogia, in the area of mount Psiloritis, is one of the most picturesque villages and maintains the authenticity of the Cretan traditions and customs. The men wear the local clothing total black, with the characteristic shirt, boots and the scarf on the head called “sariki”. Some of them still speak the old Cretan dialect.