If you only have one week to spend in Crete, don’t worry! There is enough to do on the island to keep everyone busy. Here is an itinerary that will allow you to enjoy what Crete has to offer: swimming, culture, hiking, incredible memories…
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Day 1: Arrival in Heraklion and exploration of the city
Arrival in Heraklion and exploration of the city Heraklion is the capital of Crete and the largest city on the island. It is also the ideal starting point to explore Crete. The city is lively and offers many activities and attractions. Begin your exploration of the city by visiting the archaeological museum, which displays a rich collection of artifacts dating from prehistoric to Byzantine times.
Then, go to the palace of Knossos (photo above), the largest Minoan site in Crete. The site is impressive and really worth a visit. For a cultural break, visit the Heraklion City History Museum, which traces the history of the city since antiquity. Finally, end your day by taking a walk around the old port and admiring the beautiful Venetian style buildings.
Day 2: The valley of the imposing Samaria Gorge
After a first day spent discovering the capital of Crete, Heraklion, and its surroundings, the second day will be dedicated to the discovery of the valley of the imposing Samaria gorge. This gorge, which extends over 18 kilometers, is one of the longest in Europe. It is accessible by bus from Heraklion. The journey takes about two hours.
The Samaria Gorge is a natural site protected by UNESCO. It is composed of steep rocks and sheer cliffs. The valley is also dotted with numerous streams and waterfalls. The hiking trail that crosses it is one of the most popular in Crete. It is possible to cover it in one day, but it is recommended to do it in two days to fully enjoy the landscape.
The hiking trail starts at the Xyloskalo gate, north of the gorge. It then descends to the bottom of the valley, where the village of Samaria is located. This village was once inhabited by shepherds and farmers. Today, it is mainly visited by tourists. There are a few cafes and restaurants, as well as a youth hostel. The hike can be difficult, especially in summer, as it is very hot in the gorge. It is therefore important to stay well hydrated and to protect yourself from the sun.
It is also recommended to wear comfortable hiking shoes. The Samaria gorge is a beautiful and wild place. It offers a breathtaking view of the valley and the surrounding mountains. It is an ideal place to recharge and reconnect with nature.
Day 3: Lake Kournas, an oasis of nature
Day 3 of our itinerary in Crete starts with a short excursion to the lake of Kournas. Hidden in the mountains, this mountain lake is the only natural lake on the island. It is surrounded by lush vegetation and offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains. Swimming is possible in the clear waters of the lake, but beware of the motorized boats that ply its waters.
After enjoying the tranquility of the lake, we suggest a short hike in the surrounding mountains. The hiking trails are well maintained and allow you to discover the local vegetation and wildlife. If you are lucky, you may see chamois or mouflons. The hike lasts about 3 hours and will give you a chance to exercise before heading back to the road.
Day 4: Falassarna beach and its turquoise waters
The beach of Falassarna is one of the most beautiful beaches of Crete. Its turquoise waters are clear and the white sand is fine and soft. There is a multitude of water activities and restaurants. The beach is lined with palm trees and umbrellas, making it an ideal place to rest and relax.
Day 5: The mountain of Lefka Ori and its picturesque villages
The fifth day of our itinerary in Crete is dedicated to the mountain of Lefka Ori, located in the northwest of the island.
This mountain range is composed of 20 peaks, the highest of which is Madara, reaching 2,456 meters. The mountain of Lefka Ori is an ideal place for hiking, with many marked trails and beautiful landscapes to discover. In winter, it is also very popular with ski enthusiasts, with its well-groomed slopes.
The village of Lakis is an excellent starting point to explore the mountain of Lefka Ori. This picturesque village is surrounded by greenery and offers a magnificent view of the mountains. Many activities are offered to tourists, such as horseback riding, abseiling and yoga classes. It is also possible to visit the museum of Lakis, which presents many old objects and photographs.
The village of Kallikratis is also located at the foot of the mountain of Lefka Ori. It is famous for its many natural hot springs, ideal for relaxing after a day of hiking. Kallikratis is also famous for its delicious culinary specialties, which can be enjoyed in one of the many restaurants in the village.
Day 6: The Spinalonga peninsula and its vestiges of Venice
On the sixth day of our itinerary in Crete, we take you to discover the Spinalonga peninsula and its Venetian remains. The peninsula of Spinalonga is an ancient fortified island located a few kilometers off the east coast of Crete. It was occupied by the Venetians in the 16th century and then by the Ottomans in the 18th century. The peninsula was abandoned in 1957 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The island of Spinalonga is accessible by boat from the port of Plaka. There are several departures per day and the journey takes about 30 minutes. Once on the island, you can admire the remains of the Venetian fortress, the old Ottoman stables and the houses abandoned by the last inhabitants of the island. You can also visit the island’s cemetery, where the last lepers of Crete are buried.
The island of Spinalonga is a beautiful and quiet place to walk around. Take time to relax and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Aegean Sea.
Day 7: Return to Heraklion and departure from the island
On the last day of your stay in Crete, you have time to walk around the capital of the island, Heraklion, before taking your flight home. Heraklion is a lively city with many historical buildings and monuments to visit. You can start your day with a visit to the Archaeological Museum, which houses a rich collection of artifacts from the Minoan period. Then head to the Palace of Knossos, an ancient Minoan citadel located about 5 kilometers southeast of Heraklion. If you have time, take a day trip to the island of Santorini, a volcanic island located about 80 kilometers southeast of Heraklion. In the afternoon, take time to stroll around Heraklion’s downtown and try some of the delicious Cretan dishes. Finally, take your flight back to your home country.
Crete is a beautiful island to visit, with many things to see and do. A seven-day itinerary is a great way to enjoy all that the island has to offer, starting with the capital, Heraklion. The city offers many activities, as well as many places to eat and drink. The white sandy beaches of Crete are also a must, so don’t forget to relax and enjoy the sun during your stay.