You and Your Family Should Book Your Next Vacation in Crete – Here’s Why

My husband is not only extremely good-looking, he also has a sexy accent because he is from Greece. Our last name is hard to pronounce, and even harder to spell, so we often have to explain where he is from. He grew up on the island of Crete, and his entire family still lives in Greece – which means that family visits for us are also gorgeous vacations. 

I have now been to Crete a number of times since we were married in Heraklion in 2015.  Each year, I feel less and less like a tourist – and I am here to tell you that it is actually the perfect place for a family friendly European vacation.

First things first: Crete is the southernmost island of Greece. It has a warmer climate than other parts of Greece, and is known for its extraordinary beaches and historical (and beautiful) sites. It was home to the ancient Minoan civilization, so by extension it is also home to the legend of the Minotaur. Crete has literally everything you could want from a European getaway: history, beaches, hiking, and lots of family friendly activities!

What To Do

Main Cities from East to West:

Agios Nikolaos is quite touristic, so some areas like Elounda can be on the more expensive side.
  • Historical Sites:
    • Spinalonga – an old leper colony on a secluded island
  • Beaches:
    • Sissi – small, private, and clear water
    • Vai –  larger, tropical, clear water
    • Voulisma – large, touristic, with lots of shopping and restaurants
Heraklion is the largest city on the Island of Crete. There are many things to do, and it’s also where the airport and one major ferry port is located. There are also suburbs for tourists, and many beaches to enjoy.
  • Historical Sites:
    • Knossos – Ancient Ruins of the Temple of the Minoan Civilization. See King Minoas’ throne, ancient art, and lots of interesting sites here
    • Cave of Zeus – Traditional cave with short tour to see stalactites and stalagmites 
    • Samaria Gorge – for more advanced hikers or people willing to walk for many hours, there are gorgeous views
    • Preveli Beach – less difficult and not so long a walk, beautiful views with a tropical river flowing into the sea on a gorgeous beach
  • Beaches:
    • Ammoudara – Many hotels, shopping and tavernas; various beaches with bars and restaurants, this is an ideal tourist location
    • Agia Pelagia – beautiful beach with two smaller beaches to the left. There are tavernas and shopping and surrounding hotels, but it can be very busy during tourist season
    • Lygaria – Larger beach with shopping and tavernas; clear water, nice views
  • Shopping:
    • Heraklion “Kendro” or City Center is the go-to place for shopping and restaurants.  If you have young toddlers, you will want a stroller for them. There is walking involved with shopping at the center, and little ones might get tired. It is important to note that shops are closed Sundays (all day) and on Wednesday afternoons. 

*Many restaurants and tavernas in Heraklion also have play areas inside them. This is great for families with young kids because the adults can actually enjoy a meal while the kids play!

Rethymno is a smaller city with some historical sites and smaller beaches, but it is also less spread out.
  • Beaches:
    • Preveli – Secluded beach, beautiful views, and nearby hiking
    • Rodakino – Smaller beach, clear waters, closer to the city
  • Shopping:
    • The center of the city will have some shopping, but fewer options when compared to both Heraklion and Chania.  However, Rethymno is not far from Chania, so a day-trip there would be easy.
Chania (Xania) is the second largest city, and is the most picturesque of Crete’s “big cities.” Many famous beaches are closeby, with a large bus station to help with transportation if you don’t want to rent a car. 
  • Historical Sites:
    • Old Venetian Harbor
    • Cave of Agios Ioannis the Hermit (be ready for LOTS of steps!)
    • Gramvousa Castle
  • Beaches:
    • Balos – known as the Carribbean of Crete, it has green clear waters, large beaches, and beautiful views
    • Gramvousa – near Balos, a short climb to Gramvousa Castle on top of a hill with amazing views
    • Elafonisi – the beach with pink sand! You cannot find a more beautiful beach anywhere in the world. You can spend a whole day here with tavernas nearby soaking in the views, sea, or partake in some fishing
    • Sougia – a bit of a drive, but worth it. This is a rock beach, and also often used by nudists – so be warned! The water is crystal clear and colder, as it comes from the springs flowing from the mountains
    • Loutraki – a small, picturesque beach surrounded by tavernas 
  • Shopping:
    • In Chania, the Old Venetian Port is where the majority of the shops and restaurants are located.  You will also find horse carriages and historical sites at the port. Again, you will want a stroller for little ones – especially as the port does not have anything blocking the sidewalk from the water, and curious toddlers could easily fall in.

Now that I have fully tempted you to consider Crete for your next vacation, I do want to give a clear warning that getting around in Greece will be very different than in the US.  Most of the cars, even the rentals, are manual (stick-shift). Make sure that you specify if you need an automatic car and plan on driving yourselves around the island.  Additionally, the roads are not like they are in the US… plan to be driving up and down mountains with narrow winding roads.  Night time travel is not ideal, but the public transportation system is very user friendly should you prefer to let the locals do the driving!

All in all, Crete is an amazing place and I promise that you will not be disappointed if you make it your next must-visit location!


A grateful San Antonio transplant that fled the midwestern winters at the first opportunity. Driven by her core values, faith, family, and knowledge, Stephanie and her husband are passionately raising their three daughters - Nikoletta (2017), Eleni (2019) and Emmelia (2022). With a husband from Greece, travel is a big part of their family life along with their Greek Orthodox identity. Stephanie has a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology and is a licensed teacher, school principal, and dyslexia therapist. She is also the CEO and Founder of The LD Expert, a nationwide company that brings the best academic tutoring and dyslexia intervention to schools and families through virtual instruction. Favorite Restaurant: Jets Pizza Favorite Landmark: Marriage Island Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Cascarones