Greece’s largest island has quickly developed a reputation as a party island with crowds of revellers in the busier resorts looking for their next shot of ouzo, but you shouldn’t let that put you off visiting this sun-soaked island. Crete is filled with fine beaches, ancient treasures, dreamy villages, wonderful cuisine, and hospitable locals who hold their traditional culture in high regard. There are still many quieter, less commercialized resorts, villages, and secluded coves to explore and parts that are barely touched by tourism. Here is my choice for 25 of the most unspoiled places to visit in Crete which are perfect for travel snobs…
Sissi – a pretty and quiet small Greek resort
If you think of a sleepy Greek fishing village, you probably have images of small boats bobbing in quartz waters, piles of multicoloured nets, and fishermen unloading their catch before nipping off to the Taverna for a cheeky ouzo. Well, you don’t need to imagine, as you’ve just thought of Sissi in beautiful Crete!
As about as non-commercial as it gets, Sissi is everything you want from a pretty Mediterranean fishing village. The local fare in many of the harbour tavernas is about as close as you can come to freshness, maybe even caught meters from where you sit. You won’t find parties and bars here, oh no. But what you will find is a collection of properly local eateries, a few small and sandy beaches, and crystal clear water if you want to go for a dip. A wonderful place to visit and stay in Crete!
Beautiful Crete shot in 4k drone…
Elounda – a swish but relaxed resort which is one of the best places to visit in Crete
Offering plenty of five-star luxury, Elounda is stuffed with beautiful resorts and classy hotels. It’s not perhaps as quaint as some of the other places on this list but what it lacks in traditional it more than makes up for in swankiness and still manages to retain an air of what makes Crete so great. Several celebrities (including Brad and Angelina in happier days) have been spotted walking on its sandy shores, this combined with it being a hotspot for European dignitaries just adds to the appeal.
It’s a bit of a trek from Chania airport, so if you’re going, fly to Heraklion. There are numerous beaches to visit, and if they are a bit far or you want to go further afield, as a bigger resort you can find hire cars for the standard rate. Fortunately, the prices in Elounda don’t have a Hollywood price tag. Elounda is a good middle ground for those who don’t want utter isolation, but still want to keep their break fairly relaxed.
Kato Zakros – a gorgeous hideaway from the hustle and bustle
Located to the eastern side of the island of Crete, Kato Zakros is a bit out of the way, but well worth the visit. You are properly in the land of Greek mythology, I expected Jason and his argonauts to pop over the horizon at any moment whilst we sat on the beach. Mythology aside you can visit the ruins of the Minoan Zakros palace, which is a genuine archaeological site.
If commercial isn’t your thing then there are numerous guesthouses in the area, all offering their own unique brand of hospitality, many with floral and fragrant herb gardens. With that and the relative peace and quiet, it’s an ideal spot to just be on this wonderful island.
Agios Nikolaos – one of the best places to visit and stay in Crete
Agios Nikolaos, Or just ‘Agios’ if you prefer, is a bustling town and working port. Its located just to the east of Heraklion, meaning it is easy to get to if you don’t want to spend too much time with pesky transfers. The town isn’t strictly a ‘beach resort’, so there’s plenty to see and do besides basking.
There are churches tucked away in winding streets, and for those of you who want to enjoy a waterside view without the sand, the town is built around a beautiful lake (Lake Voulismeni), where you can take in the views, whilst also dining in style in one of a multitude of lakeside restaurants. Both a beautiful and quiet place to visit in Crete.
Plaka – a beautiful small village located on the coast
I just want to mention don’t confuse your Plaka’s, as there are two, one of which is inhabited and built purely for expats. The one we are talking about is ideal if you’ve decided to stay in or near Agios, as it’s just around the bay. Plaka has a lovely beach, especially lovely if you don’t like sand getting everywhere, as its made from pebbles.
Considering you are only down the road from one of Crete’s busiest towns, it’s pretty quiet and relaxing. You’ll find the standard Greek beachside fare if you want to have a half time break, and nestled in its backstreets are a multitude of boutique-style shops selling some handmade, and some not-so-handmade trinkets.
Plakias – great for those seeking a quiet and relaxing Crete holiday
If you are looking for a bit of space then Plakias offers one of the largest beaches in Crete. What really amazed when I was in Crete was how quiet it is. If you are staying one or more nights, you don’t need to worry about thumping music or all-night parties. It’s super sedate. If it tickles your fancy there is a ‘naturist’ beach off to the east. Beach balls aside there is more to Plakias than sand and sunshine.
It is home to a substantial palm date forest, which is accessible by foot or by car. Walking through the forest is sublime, and the river that cuts through it is clean enough to swim in (we should hope so as it leads directly out onto Plakias beach).
Lentas – a very quiet Crete village great for lovely beaches and peaceful walks
Isolated, authentic, and very tranquil, Lentas isn’t for Crete thrill-seekers or partygoers. For all intents and purposes its a real treasure. There are a few tavernas and perhaps the occasional cafe bordering the shallow rocky beach. It is truly non commercialised, and we hope it stays that way.
If it gets a bit too quiet for you, Diskos is only around the corner, where tented villagers of camping earthy types take up half the beach, and you can buy handmade trinkets from pop-up hippy shops. Wonderful!
Milatos – a pretty and sleepy Crete coastal village
If finding tucked-away coves and exploring craggy rocks appeals to you then Milatos a small quaint Crete village may be the place for you. It lacks the sweeping white sand of some of our other suggestions, but it also lacks the footfall, making it ideal for a day trip.
If you are a true adventurer take your flashlight and head up to Milatos caves. It’s not particularly health and safety friendly, but if you are brave enough you’ll be rewarded with a view of a hidden church built within the caves. Cool or what?
Kalamaki – a lovely relaxed Crete resort town
Kalamaki is a relatively new town in Crete, it has more of a purpose-built feel to it. It’s a relaxed resort town (well compared to its busier neighbours) and if you want a no-nonsense turn-up and sit on the beach holiday then it’s more than adequate.
The beach is large and there are a range of tavernas and shops offering food at a very reasonable price. It’s known for its calm waters, and for being a nesting site for endangered loggerhead sea turtles.
Ligaria – a quaint seaside village which is home to a crescent-shaped beach
I loved Ligaria – a small and charming seaside village located on the north side of Crete – especially it’s a lovely beach which has the same name. With steep sandy-coloured rocks dropping directly into the sea in this horseshoe-shaped bay and crystal clear water it is postcard perfect.
The area is popular with locals, which should tell you something, and as a result the beachside cuisine in the local tavernas is to a pretty high standard. It is slightly commercialised, but that said if you like the occasional deep-fried or sugary treat delivered to your lounger whilst you catch the sun, it’s not too bad at all!
Tsoutsouros – a picturesque Crete village untouched by tourism
Another sleepy Crete village, Tsoutsouros is undeveloped and charming (just how we like it). There are numerous beaches dotted about, and if you are staying for more than a few days it can be good fun to try a different one each day.
Again due to its relative remoteness you’ll be able to leave your disco shoes at home as we’ll have none of that here, thanks very much. However, if you would like to sit outside one of its handful of tavernas with a carafe of the local red and a plate of vine leaves then this is the quiet place to visit in Crete for you!
Panormos – a small traditional Cretan fishing village which makes a great place to stay
Did somebody say wine? Panormos – a small and charming traditional Cretan fishing village located on the northern coast – has a few little extra bits that make it attractive, and a winery, it also has guided tours and tasting as well making it an attractive proposition indeed.
There are actually three beaches within walking distance from the cobbled stone street village, all of which are pretty shallow and nestled amongst some really lovely local topography, allowing for some rather nice snorkelling experiences. My favourite was Geropotamos Beach, there is a rather attractive stone arch to the west and, on the east, a freshwater river running directly into the sea.
Sougia – one of the most relaxed and undeveloped places to explore in Greece
Sougia is a small village located by the Libyan sea, it can be a bit of a drive, especially from some of the more developed areas, but that was half the fun! The scenery as you traverse the coast road with steep hills and lush greenery gives views that will take your breath away. Once you’ve driven (carefully) to the town you’ll find a laid back vibe and easy-going atmosphere that is synonymous with most of the lesser-known spots on the island.
If you want a bit of light culture there is a church (Agios Panteleimon) on the Western side of the village, it has a gorgeous mosaic floor and is not commercial in any way (if you want to see it you’ll have to go to the kiosk on Sougia beach and ask for the key yourself…seriously)!
Falassarna beach – often voted as being one of the best beaches in Greece
Despite the small size of Falassarna, it’s a popular spot and has a reputation for being one of the best beaches in Crete. The beaches in this area are all sandy, clean and stretch as far as the eye can see! But there is also an ecological interest – Falassarna is part of the Natura 2000 network due to the extensive array of flora and fauna the area has to offer.
It’s vulnerable to high winds – but on the other hand, this makes it ideal for surfers. Falassarna Beach has won prizes for being the most beautiful beach in Crete and is always one of the top ten beaches in Europe, with its wonderful, fine white sand and warm, crystal-clear water.
Paleochora – a small and quiet town which is located on a small peninsula
A small town located on a small peninsula in southwest Crete, Paleochora is ideal if you want a bit of both. By that, I mean you want to indulge in some serious chilling, but also maybe want to have a good time in the evening too. There are some bars, but they are more likely to be full of civilised locals than your standard 18-30 gangs.
After a day at the (pebble) beach, you can step out in your Sunday best and pace up and down the walkway paralleling the seafront whilst wondering if you have time to look at the menu before you are accosted by the occupants (I’m joking, they are lovely and generally friendly more than pushy).
Elafonisi Lagoon – a popular beauty spot to visit in Crete
This is a natural beauty spot which is an absolute pearl, but you’ve got to time it right. Up until fairly recently, Elafonisi was one of Crete’s best-kept secrets, sadly social media selfyites got a firm grasp of it, so it can get seriously busy in the high seasons. However, don’t let that put you off. Go in the shoulder months and you’ll be rewarded with a day trip to remember.
The lagoon itself is actually an island that can be reached by paddling out to it. Don’t expect anything in the way of amenities when you get there (its actually a nature reserve and is treated accordingly). If you’ve braved the paddle (or walked over the sandbar leading to the island) you’ll be rewarded with water that is the temperature of bathwater, soft pink sand (particular to this area only), and pictures that you’ll treasure… Prizes awarded for spotting a sea turtle…and deducted for duckface Instagram posts…enjoy!
Triopetra beach – a beautiful and undeveloped wide sandy beach
Triopetra is surrounded by Siderotas mountain, olives groves, and of course, seafront, the area is named after the three majestic rocks that rise out of the ocean at the edge of the peninsula. The smaller of the two beaches, Small Triopetra (or Koumado), is more an enclosed, sandy, and rocky bay. Here, you can available of the offerings from the nearby tavernas and umbrellas are available.
Bored of sunning yourself? You can always visit the amazing chapel of Prophet Elias. Meanwhile, the main beach of the area, West Triopetra or Chatzi, is characterised by beautiful coarse sand which casts unusual colours across the beach and water. It is famous for its never-ending stretch of sand, fabulous sunsets and peaceful atmosphere.
Loutro village – a tiny and remote seaside village to stay in Crete
Definitely one of the most unspoiled places to visit in Crete, the pretty peaceful village of Loutro evokes some strong emotion when you land here – it is truly like stepping back in time! A small village consisting simply of a few hotels and tavernas, shops and restaurants, and a church, but what Loutro lacks in modernity it makes up for in nostalgia and panorama.
It is flanked by steep, mountainsides, home to a sizable herd of goats (judging from the clinking of bells) as well as a tepid sea, sheltered by a lush bay. No roads lead here and there are no nightclubs or nightlife. Visitors here can simply detox from life and tackle long-awaited books, take walks along the stunning scenery or simply eat, drink and be merry.
Lefka Ori – a mountain range which is one of the best places to explore in Crete
The wonderful White Mountains are located in Western Crete, and their gleaming shine is the dominant feature of the region. Visitors to the area might be shocked to find that it retains its snowcaps until the middle of spring and offers innumerable hiking opportunities from the Samaria Gorge to the Askifou plateau to Mount Ida herself.
Mount Ida is the tallest peak of the range, named after the daughter of the King of Crete according to Greek mythology. What delights visitors the most about the White Mountains is the central and southern part of the Lefka Ori which, due to the high altitude, resembles a lunar landscape and offers visiting hikers a surreal experience of walking on the moon which, is wholly unique to the northern hemisphere.
Samariá Gorge – a major but beautifully preserved tourist Crete tourist attraction
The beautiful unspoilt Samariá Gorge is a major tourist attraction of the island and was created by a small river running through the White Mountains. The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Gates where the sides of the gorge close into a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of almost 300 meters. The gorge became a national park in 1962, particularly as a refuge for the rare kri-kri (Cretan goat), which is elusive on the rest of the island.
It is an absolute must for visitors to Crete is to complete the walk down the gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea, at which point tourists sail to the nearby village of Sougia or Hora Sfakion, where they could spend a night or they could catch a coach back to Chania. Although be warned, the walk takes five to seven hours and can be strenuous, especially at the peak of summer.
Glyka Nera – one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete
Glyka Nera is one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete and definitely one of the most unspoiled places to visit on the island, with deep blue water and fine white sands. There are two routes to the beach – by boat or for the most extreme, there is a path from Chora Sfakion and another from Loutro.
These hikes can be strenuous and at some moments, hair raising but they are well maintained. On the beach itself, there is a tavern that sells local nibbles and drinks as well as sunbeds. Due to the presence of cold spring water streams, the seawater can be cold, even in summer but the beach itself is stunning. If you chose to arrive by boat, the route and views are particularly beautiful.
Tripiti to Sougia coastline – for unspoilt scenic coastal views
The walk between these two areas is truly stunning, the path along the way is marked with cairns to guide your route – thankfully – as it is easy to get distracted by the views! Although elements of the walk can be tiring, it’s most definitely worth it.
Although the panorama can make you trigger happy with the camera, don’t ignore the beauty right beside you on the path – a Venetian fort, ancient churches, ancient cisterns, and the breath-taking remains of the ruined ancient town of Pikilassos, not to mention the beautiful flora and fauna that you encounter along the way, including lots of olive trees – resist the urge to pillage!
The walk can take upwards of two hours depending on ability and speed, but also inclination, make sure you take your time to soak up the beautiful views and atmosphere.
Domata – a lovely beach located in a secluded cove
Perhaps, Domatas unspoiled beauty has been preserved this long because the region has no roads or infrastructures. Access to this haven can be achieved through E4 trail but the climb can be treacherous in places as it climbs to an altitude of 700m, so it’s not for the fainthearted but on arrival, you will no doubt agree that this is one of the finest beaches in all the Greek islands.
Most likely, it will only be you, the sound of the lapping water, the bristling sun and the rustle of the pine trees. For those who don’t fancy a steep, heady climb on their holidays, it is possible to hire a fishing boat in Agia Roumeli to take you to Domata.
Aside from the peacefulness of the region, it is hard not to be astounded by the artwork the elements left behind- a series of terraces in the rock face which, will undoubtedly leave you awestruck.
Margarites village – a pretty village to visit that’s known for its production of ceramics
Margarites is located in the very centre of the island of Crete, it’s an unspoiled village surrounded by the vibrant green hills of the Rethymnon region and is as well known for its picturesque panorama as it is for its extensive pottery trade. Even the briefest of strolls through the village will showcase many of the wonderful pottery studios.
The architecture of the village looks like it just sprang from a WWII novel, winding streets, brightly painted buildings, plenty of brick and crumbling plaster. There is Venetian architrave, Byzantine churches, frescos from the 14th century, and oodles of lush green countryside as a backdrop.
And oh the food! Courgette balls, broad beans, moussaka and mezedakia. The beauty of Margarites does not need to be explained or even described, the minute it comes into view- it will take your breath away.
Myrtos village – a small, relaxed and simple village and beach
Located in the south-eastern corner of the island is this tranquil, pristine, white-washed village full of traditional charm. The village itself is loaded with a rich history, including a museum which houses finds of Minoan archaeological importance found nearby and you can hear tales about the towns colourful past and folklore in the many local tavernas.
The beach of Myrtos is a hidden treasure which, rarely gets crowded and provides a real opportunity to take a load off and truly relax. For those who love to explore there are ruins all over the area dating from the Neolithic and Roman periods which, with a bit of tenacity can be uncovered and discovered. Essentially, Myrtos has something to offer everyone – from a secluded, sandy seafront to a large dose of historical culture.
With all these unique and unforgettable experiences lying across the island of Crete, it is hard not to feel guilty for so easily dismissing it into the realm of partying, disco balls, and all-nighters. Clearly, the island has so much more to offer – aside from the famous mythology and legends, there are also sites of architectural, historical, and natural importance, that will leave any visitor completely enthralled!