If you’ve been contemplating your next Greek island getaway and you’ve settled on Crete, you’re not the only one. Nowadays, Crete brings millions of tourists each year, and they all come for numerous reasons.
Some visit for the delicious Mediterranean cuisine; others arrive for the beaches and deep blue waters, together with the cozy towns and attractive landmarks.
Whatever your reason for visiting Crete is, there’s an optimal period for you. Whether that’s during the island’s busy tourist season, Crete’s shoulder period, or the months when prices take a nosedive, we have all the answers you need to make an informed decision.
Read on to see when the best time to visit Crete is; let us be your guide!
Why You Should Visit Crete in 2023
From ancient ruins, Mediterranean flare, and carefree beach vibes to local taverns, friendly-looking locals, and island sunsets, Crete is so much more than just another Greek island.
In fact, Crete is said to be the largest and the most populous island in the country and, as such, is full of surprises and totally worth exploring.
Here are some reasons why this beauty of an island should be part of your next Greek adventure:
- The pristine beaches. Crete has some of the best beaches in the entire country. Be it the pink-sanded Elafonisi beach or the palm trees at Vai and Preveli beaches, Crete is every beach-goer’s island heaven. Other tropical-vibe beaches worth being part of your agenda include Balos Beach, Falasarna Beach, Matala Beach, Rodakino Beach, Plakias Beach, Tymbaki Beach, Istro Beach, and Agios Pavlos Beach.
- The memorable history. History buffs can explore a myriad of archeological sites and popular landmarks. Some popular historic sites include the Knossos Palace, Venetian Fortezza Castle, Rocca a Marre Fortress, Venizelos Graves, the Arkadi Monastery, the Heraklion Archeological Museum, the Cave of Diktaion Andron, the Lighthouse of Chania, the Archeological Site of Gournia, and the Cave of Saint John the Hermit.
- The unusual traditions. You may think you know Greeks and their traditions if you’ve visited Greece before, but hear us when we say you know nothing until you’ve seen Cretan traditions. Be it the mesmerizing sounds of the Cretan lyre or the steps during a folk dance, one thing is certain — Cretan traditional celebrations are nothing short of memorable.
- Many versatile regions. From traditional small villages to bigger cities — some buzzing with like-minded travelers, and others filled with locals minding their business, there’s a place for everyone on Crete. Popular towns worth visiting include: Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Anogia, Loutro, Malia, Sitia, Matala, Kissamos, and Agios Nikolaos.
- The fine wine. A wine-producing region, Crete boasts splendid local wine and refined taste and aromas. Popular local white varieties are Vilana, Dafni, Malvasia di Candia, Vidiano, Muscat of Spina, Plyto, and Thrapsathiri. Top-notch red grapes include Romeiko, Tsardana, Kotsifali, and Liatiko. You can sample them at some of the local wineries such as Lyrarakis Winery, Manousakis Winery, Winery Stilianou, Douloufakis Winery, Winery Dourakis, Silva Daskalaki Winery, and Karavitakis Winery.
Finally, Crete is always a good idea, and you don’t need any specific reasons to just enjoy yourself and soak in the Mediterranean sun.
Overall Best Time to Visit Crete
The best time to visit Crete is during the island’s high season in summer, that is, anytime from June through August.
These months welcome visitors with a hot Mediterranean climate, clear skies, an abundance of sunshine, people-packed beaches, and an occasional breeze to help them endure the island heat. June, July, and August see temperatures between 83.5°F and 68°F.
The temperatures are ideal for swimming and other water-based activities. However, summer requires visitors to book their stay well in advance, as hotels fill up with the speed of light, and flights are frequently sold out.
Booking a place in your preferred local “taverna” during your stay is advisable too!
June is known for the remarkable Navy Week. Honoring boats, sailors, and the sea, Navy Week is all about celebrating the splendid marine heritage with sailing, dancing, music, and swimming.
July boasts hotter weather and even hotter island energy. It’s the absolute peak of the tourist season, with an influx of new visitors at all times. Key events this month include the Renaissance Festival, the Heraklion Summer Arts Festival, and the Yakintia Festival.
The first features a neat combination of high-quality events; the second boasts a long-standing cultural tradition; the third is devoted to love and hope. All three show the island’s artistic endeavors and potential.
While there’s a plethora of festivals and events in each corner of the island in August, Assumption Day beats them all with its popularity, marking Virgin Mary’s ascent to heaven.
Cheapest Time to Visit Crete
The cheapest time to visit Crete is in March, April, or May. These months have temperatures ranging between an average low of 51.4°F and an average high of 74.3°F.
These months are when you stand a chance at scoring some attractive airfare deals, and also, most attractions and local businesses are open, so you can enjoy the island as you would during the high summer season.
Finding some last-minute deals at hotels is more than probable too. However, visiting in spring comes at the cost of more showers than other periods of the year.
To soak in the spring’s vigor, bask in the sun on a secluded beach or go for a walk and explore Crete on foot.
March celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation, 1821 Memorial Parade, and Independence Day, so make sure to mark your calendars. April is usually reserved for the Orthodox Easter celebration.
Indulge in local Greek meals such as roast lamb and join locals in their Easter festivity. If you keep an eye on the events taking place on Good Friday, you might even witness the blessing of boats in some of the smaller towns.
Be on the lookout for the Burning of Judas Celebration too. May is an awesome month to visit Crete — you get summer perks such as warm weather but with extra benefits like moderate crowds and affordable prices.
On May Day, the island becomes livelier than ever. Loved by both residents and visitors alike, May Day is a much-anticipated celebration that has its roots in ancient tradition.
Usually celebrated in the countryside, families and friends reunite under the Greek sun for a picnic and a bit of spring fun. May visitors should take note of the Battle of Crete Anniversary, marking the decisive WWII battle against the Nazis.
Least Busy Time to Visit Crete
The least busy time to visit Crete is in September or October. September and October have temperatures fluctuating between an average high of 79.5°F and an average low of 63.5°F.
Come September, school’s back in the game, summer crowds disperse, prices drop, and Crete is a paradise for those who wish to explore it in solitude.
Our top September festival recommendation is the Feast of Agios Stavros. Besides, you’ll also culturally enrich your Crete stay by joining the feast, as well as get the chance to try some traditional food, such as rifaki (goat) accompanied by potatoes and rice.
Another shoulder month, October has no tourist vibes about it whatsoever, yet it still offers pleasant weather and keeps most attractions open.
Visitors can hike without worrying about sunstroke or busy trails. If you happen to be in Crete in October, keep your eyes peeled for the Chestnut Festival (note that the festival sometimes takes place in November as well).
Aimed at showing off its chestnut produce, this authentic celebration occurs in Elos, a village in the western part of Crete. If you’re a history buff, make time for the following WWII occurrence in October — Ohi Day.
Celebrated with parades, the day commemorates the moment Musolini got informed his troops weren’t allowed through Greece. The month also marks the beginning of the Cretan Raki-making season (yet November is the best month to try it).
Worst Time to Visit Crete
The worst time to head to Crete is in winter, or during the November–February period. Bathing in the Mediteran Sea is out of the question, the island is sleepy, and local businesses aren’t in full swing as they are during the Crete’s peak season.
November and December have temperatures in the range of an average high of 68.2°F and an average low of 58.5°F.
Being the coldest month of the entire year, January sees temperatures between an average high of 59.4°F and an average low of 50°F. It’s also the month with the most rainfall.
February has very similar temperatures, while sea temperatures are at about 61.5°F on average; it’s said to be the month with the coldest seawater.
If you find yourself in Crete in November, you’re in for a history treat, as another popular event is celebrated — the Moni Arkadiou Anniversary, honoring the valiant defense by Cretan protectors against the Turkish occupiers.
December is all about Christmas, and the island radiates a festive vibe. You can come across the well-known Christmas trees and Santa Claus icons, however, a true feast for the eyes is encountering decorated fishing boats in the villages near the sea.
January is cold, and many people simply stay at home. You can plan indoor activities such as visiting churches and museums. February, on the other hand, is much more dynamic and fun, mostly due to the Carnival.
Traditionally hosted in the town of Rethymno, the Carnival features a plethora of treasure hunts, disguises, dances, parties, recreational events, music, and float parades.
While finding accommodation during the winter months is a walk in the park, if you plan to visit during the Carnival, consider booking in advance.
Things to Consider
While preparing for Crete is pretty much straightforward, as it’s a “normal” sea holiday and not an African safari, tips never cease to be useful. So, here’s what’s worth taking into account before your Cretan adventure:
- Carry cash with you at all times. While MasterCard and Visa credit cards are widely accepted, and ATMs are available, you may come across many cash-only shops and vendors, so bring cash to be on the safe side.
- Tap water is safe to drink.
- If you’re trying to go easy on your wallet, consider staying with a local. You’ll save money and receive the best insider tips from a local fellow. If you’re up for this, check out apps such as Couchsurfing.
- Also, head to museums during their free admission days. Alternatively, look for discounted tickets or buy-two-get-one-free kind of deals. Do check with each museum separately, as conditions vary from one to another.
- Don’t be one of those tourists who enter churches or landmarks barefoot, spreading sand all over the place. Cover your shoulders, put on loose long-sleeve blouses, and wear skirts/shorts that reach below your knees. This brings us to the next point.
- Just because you should cover in churches or other venues doesn’t mean you can wear whatever you want while on the beach. Very few Cretans go totally topless or naked to the beach. While there are no set rules, and you’re technically allowed to wear what you please while on the beach, showing some discretion is more than encouraged. When in doubt, look around you and take note of other beach-goers’ outfits.
- Evening meals are not just about the act of eating — they’re treated as “special events” and can last much longer than anticipated, especially after everyone’s had a busy day packed with recreational activities and basking in the Cretan sun. That said, lunches are brief and an excuse for travelers to have a rest from the intense heat while finding shade in a taverna near the sea.
- If you wish to eat cheap yet get a taste of authentic Greek cuisine, opt for gyros and other street food dishes that not only taste good but are quite affordable too!
- While open-air markets allow for bargaining, going to regular stores means paying the required price.
- Make sure to tip — 5% is solid; 10% is considered quite generous. Rounding the bill is a fairly common practice too (for example, if the tab is 47, leave 50 euros).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the island of Crete expensive?
While in Crete, you can expect to spend as much or as little as you wish, thanks to the island’s plethora of accommodation and restaurant options.
However, to give you an idea of the prices and expenses there, note that on the whole, “the living expenses are often about 50% of what you’d expect to spend in the US.”
Here are more specific budget estimates to help you plan your Crete holiday better:
- You should expect to spend approximately €102 ($112) per day in Crete
- You’ll need €34 ($38) for meals and €23 ($26) for local transportation.
- Average hotel prices there for a couple cost €97 ($107).
- A vacation in Crete for one week for one person costs €712, and €1,424 for two people. Keep in mind that if you’re traveling as a family, you’re entitled to some discounts as usually kids’ tickers are cheaper, and hotel rooms are shared.
- Depending on your travel style, set aside:
- €40 ($44) per day per person if you’re trying to stick to a budget;
- €102 ($111) per day per person if you identify with being a mid-range spender;
- €262 ($289) per day per person if you have no budget restrictions whatsoever.
Last but not least, do note that these figures are only approximations, so make sure to check for the latest budget updates before you go.
What is the best way to get around Crete?
The best way navigate Crete is by car. You can rent at the Chania International Airport (CHQ), the Heraklion International Airport (HER), or in any of the bigger cities.
Exploring Crete with a car is very convenient, as it allows you to follow your own schedule, make as many stops as you wish, and begin/end your daily itinerary whenever you feel like it. Note that driving in Crete can be somewhat challenging, though.
While bigger cities have road signs both in English and Greek, smaller areas lack any signs and have poorly paved roads. Following locals’ advice and driving carefully is highly recommended.
Also, if you’re a US traveler, note that while US driving licenses have been accepted in the past, getting an International Driving Permit before arriving in Crete is advisable to avoid any unpleasant situations.
Keep in mind that drivers are also required to be at least 21 to be eligible for vehicle rent in Crete.
If you don’t fulfill any of these criteria or feel like driving isn’t the way you wish to get around Crete, you can always check out the public bus schedule — for example, the KTEL bus service provides passengers with transportation between Heraklion, Chania, Agios Nikolaos, and Rethymnon.
Also, exploring certain regions on foot would suffice too. If you need to get somewhere fairly quickly, you can always opt for a taxi instead.
Keep in mind that taxi drivers often forget to turn their meters on, so make sure to agree on the taxi fare before hopping into the car. Another tip that may come in handy is to write down the address of the place you’re heading to, as many places in Crete have the same name.
How safe is Crete for tourists?
In general, Crete is a very safe location to explore. The biggest “safety issue” for visitors (and locals) is probably stray dogs and jellyfish, so no worries. Crime is extremely rare, and when it does, happen it’s petty and not violent, such as pickpocketing.
Regardless, keep your valuables and travel documents in a safe location at all times. Also, pay attention to where you keep your items when you’re on the beach. Crete is also safe for solo female travelers.
Of course, common sense should prevail as with any other location — don’t wander the streets late at night, especially if you’re under the influence of alcohol, don’t leave your drink unattended in clubs/bars, and so on.
Does Crete have natural disasters?
While Greece is prone to earthquakes in general, the most problematic areas are the coasts of Western Greece — from Corfu all the way to Western Crete. It’s believed that these areas are susceptible to noticeable and damaging seismic activity.
That said, Crete’s last major earthquake was in 1994, with a magnitude of 6.3, so although the island experiences earthquakes each year, not all of them are fatal or destructive.
Also, natural disasters are highly unpredictable anyway, so you can’t plan your trip (or any other trip) based on the assumption that such a disaster will (not) happen.
Of course, monitoring local news and following professional advice and information, such as those outlined by The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC), is always recommended.
Which is better: Santorini or Crete?
This is very subjective, as it largely depends on what you wish to get out of your island experience. For instance, Santorini has more luxurious resorts and makes a great honeymoon or romantic getaway location.
Crete, on the other hand, is known for its interesting traditional villages, and it offers a different kind of vibe. Either way, nightlife on both islands is great if you hit the hubs — in Santorini, there’s Fira, and in Crete, you have Heraklion.
Are Cretans friendly?
Yes, Cretans are described as very polite and hospitable people. In fact, they’re said to be some of the friendliest folks in the entire country.
This is why many tourists turn into frequent visitors, and some even end up befriending locals. Cretans know how to make visitors feel at home, even if they come from faraway lands.
How many days in Crete is enough?
You need at least five days to see most of the island. Of course, considering people go on such holidays just to relax, most stay at least for an entire week. Ten days is great, but if you manage to stay for 14 days, then you’ll see (almost) all there is to see there and return well-rested too!
Which part of Crete is best?
Crete has many nice areas — it’s all determined by your budget, needs, and overall preferences. That said, there are some areas better than others, so take your pick from the ones below depending on what works for you.
- Chania is for visitors looking for a more historical Cretan experience in the old town area.
- Hersonissos is suitable for families looking for a relaxing holiday.
- Rethymnon is ideal for couples and those looking for nearby sandy beaches.
- Sitia is for visitors who wish to engage in outdoor recreational activities.
- Loutro is for those wanting a more secluded stay.
- Elounda is the best destination for a honeymoon or a romantic trip.
- Heraklion is for visitors looking for urban vibes and buzzing nightlife.
What is the traditional food of Crete?
Cretan cuisine includes fresh local ingredients, an intense Mediterranean taste, seafood, olive oil, and herbs, to name a few. Popular Cretan dishes you should definitely try during your stay include:
- Saganáki, or fried chees
- feta psití, that is, feta cheese baked with garlic and interesting spices
- Apáki, or pork cooked on low heat
- horiátiki saláta, which literally means village salad
- Sýnglinos, streaky pork meal
- Fakés soup, lentils
- Meze, or mezede, the Greek version of Spanish tapas
- Dakos, a starter meal
- Dolmathakia, or stuffed vine leaves
- Spanakopita, that is, Cretan pastry to die for
- Moussaka, not only a Cretan classic, but a Greek one too
- Kaltsounia, or cheese pie
- Kohlioi, a must-try snails
- Gamopilafo, a traditional rice dish
- Apaki, or smoked and salted meat
- Chaniotiko boureki, a vegetable pie, best enjoyed with Greek yogurt
Cretan cuisine will turn you into a foodie even if you’ve never wished to become one.
So, When Should You Visit Crete?
The overall prime time to visit Crete is during the island’s high season in summer, which is anytime from June through August.
The weather’s at its best, the island at its busiest, the beaches full of excited tourists, and the summer festivals are in full swing. The cheapest time to head to Crete is in March, April, or May.
Spring months have some of the weather perks of summer (with a little less intense heat and more rain, though), accompanied by low accommodation rates and lower visitation — those trying to visit the island on a budget, and find attractive airfare deals and affordable hotel rates, stick to these three months.
The least busy time to visit Crete is in September or October. If you wish to wander the island without dealing with large crowds, these two months should do the trick.
The worst time to visit is in winter, or during the November–February period. The winter months lack summer’s magic, but just because you can’t swim in the sea doesn’t mean that Crete’s events and historic sights won’t compensate and make your trip worthwhile.
All in all, Crete’s bound to charm you with its crystal sea waters, fun festivals, warm hospitality, and stunning sights.
Just make sure you pick the best time to visit based on your preferences, and leave the rest to the island — trust us when we say that it won’t fail you. So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip today!