Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, is steeped in history and mythology and home to Europe’s earliest civilisation. A truly fascinating place, the island is bursting with the remnants of its ancient past, as well as bustling cosmopolitan cities and a glorious 1,000-kilometre coastline.
Take a stroll along sandy beaches, admire the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea or explore important archaeological sites, like the Palace of Knossos. Wander through the maze of streets in the medieval city of Heraklion, or simply relax and enjoy the nightlife of the capital.
Crete is a diverse place with plenty of surprises for visitors to discover. It is a popular cruise destination, included as a port of call in most Mediterranean itineraries virtually all year round.
Heraklion, also known as Iraklion, is the capital of Crete and one of the main ports on the island. The port is located within a pleasant 15 minute walk of the town centre.
Chania, also written as Hania, is the other major port on Crete. It is situated on the northern coast of Crete, approximately 145 kilometres west of Heraklion. Ships dock at the Port of Souda, which is about 4 kilometres outside of the centre of Chania.
Both Heraklion and Chania, as busy cities and important tourist hubs, have plenty of facilities to ensure visitors enjoy their time on Crete. Both cities offer cheap shuttles from the port to the city centre, a 5 minute journey for Heraklion and 10 minutes for Chania.
In the cities there are plenty of places to eat, drink and shop and Wi-Fi is often available in the cafés. Heraklion’s tourist information office is located on the ground floor of the ‘Aktarika’ building in Lions Square. It is open 8:30am to 2:30pm, Monday to Friday. Chania’s tourist office is located at 29 Kydonias Street.
Heraklion port facilities include:
Chania port facilities include:
- Vending machines
- Public conveniences.
How to Get Around
Heraklion is a very walkable city; most attractions are within an easy distance. It is a good idea to get a map to help navigate the maze of streets and alleys.
Travel times from the Heraklion port:
- It is a 20 minute journey to the tourist information centre at Lions square.
- It is about a 15 minute journey to Knossos Palace.
Travel times from the Chania port:
Like Heraklion, Chania is best explored on foot, especially the historic Old Town. However, some of the region’s natural beauties, such as the White Mountains’ National Park, lie outside the town. There are buses from the centre of Chania to popular spots. It is also possible to rent a car, though the driving can be challenging.
There are plenty of taxis in the urban centres of Crete, and they are fairly inexpensive. However, it is best to agree on a fare beforehand, as some drivers add surcharges.
- It is a 10 minute journey to Chania
- It is a 90 minute journey to the White Mountains’ National Park.
- Currency - Crete uses the Euro and there are places to convert currency in the major cities. Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and €2 and €1 denominations. Notes come in €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 denominations.
- Time Zone - Crete utilises Eastern European Time (EET), which is 2 hours ahead of Universal Standard Time (UTC). The island switches to daylight savings at the end of March, turning the clocks forward 1 hour. Daylight savings ends in late October.
- Weather - Part of the attraction of Crete is its beautiful warm weather. The hottest month is July, when the average temperature is 26 degrees Celsius and its coldest month is January, with an average of 11 degrees Celsius. Due to the central mountains on the island, there can be regional variation in the weather; southern Crete is frequently hotter, drier and sunnier than Northern Crete.
- Knossos Palace - The ruins at Knossos Palace date back nearly 4,000 years and are shrouded in mythology and legend, from King Minos, son of Zeus, to the Minotaur that lived in the maze under the palace. Knossos is easily reached on a bus from the city centre of Heraklion. It is open to visitors from 8am-7pm April through September, and 8am-3pm October through March.
- Samaria Gorge - Samaria Gorge is one of the longest in Europe, stretching for 16 kilometres. It is located in the White Mountains’ National Park in the Chania region. Visitors can enjoy hiking inside the impressive gorge, though this does require a degree of fitness and practical footwear. There are guided excursions to Samaria Gorge from most cities on Crete, and frequent buses take visitors from Chania to the park.