Exploring Crete by Car: 5 + 1 Places to Visit

Exploring Crete by Car: 5 + 1 Places to Visit

1. Samaria Gorge: A Natural Wonder

The Samaria Gorge is an amazing natural wonder that offers a unique hiking experience. Starting from Agia Roumeli, the gorge crosses a lush canyon with towering cliffs and enormous waterfalls. Hiking through the Samaria Gorge is an experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories.

The Samaria Gorge is one of the natural wonders of Crete and an experience not to be missed as you explore this unique island. With a length of about 16 kilometers, the Samaria Gorge is the longest in Europe and offers an exciting hike through unique landscapes and natural beauty.

The Samaria Gorge is located on the southern side of the island, in the White Mountains, and the hike takes about 6-8 hours, depending on the pace you move and the stops you make. Visitors from all over the world come to hike this unique trail that offers a natural experience.

One of the most impressive features of the Samaria Gorge is the narrow stone walls that embrace the trail and the tall rocks that emerge on the right and left. Along the route, you will also encounter the Samaria River, which creates natural pools and waterfalls, adding to the magic of the experience.

To fully enjoy the experience of the Samaria Gorge, plan your visit early in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowds of visitors. This year, due to protective measures, there are restrictions on the number of visitors allowed to enter the gorge, so it is good to be informed in advance and make a reservation if required.

Enjoy the natural beauty, the absolute tranquility, and the unique hiking experience in the Samaria Gorge, a destination that will surely leave you with unforgettable impressions.

2. Elafonissi: Paradise on Earth

Elafonissi is one of the most stunning and well-known destinations in Crete. Located on the southeastern coast of the island, it is famous for its breathtaking beauty and the azure waters of the Libyan Sea. Here are some more details:

Elafonissi boasts a series of amazing beaches with white sand and crystal-clear waters that offer a unique swimming and relaxation experience. It is also known for its natural beauty and the strong preservation of its natural environment. It is ideal for walks and hiking in nature, as well as for exploring the coastline by boats or canoes. In the surrounding area, there are traditional villages where you can enjoy authentic Cretan hospitality and taste local flavors in taverns and restaurants. There are also historical and cultural attractions in the area, such as archaeological sites and museums, which you can visit to learn more about the area's past and culture. Overall, Elafonissi is a paradise for those seeking tranquility, natural beauty, and a variety of activities in an exceptionally picturesque and unique destination.

What to See

Discover the Beauty of Pink Sand One of the attractions of Elafonissi Beach is its characteristic pink sand, the result of the mixture of crushed shells with white sand. As you walk along the shore, the pink hues create a surreal and ethereal atmosphere. Take off your shoes and feel the soft, powdery sand under your feet as you enjoy the warm rays of the sun. The picturesque contrast between the vibrant turquoise waters and the delicate pink sand offers an unparalleled visual spectacle, making Elafonissi Beach a true paradise for beach and nature lovers.

3. Chania: A Vibrant Historic Culture

Chania is one of the most picturesque and culturally rich cities in Crete. Wander through the narrow cobblestone alleys of the old town and discover its monuments and attractions. Don't miss visiting the Venetian harbor and the famous lighthouse.

  • Old Town The old town of Chania is full of narrow alleys, stone houses, and mansions. Visitors can walk through the cobblestone streets and discover hidden corners filled with traditional taverns and cafes.

  • Venetian Harbor The Venetian harbor of Chania is one of the most beautiful destinations in the city. Positioned between two gorges, it offers stunning views of the Aegean Sea and the famous lighthouse.

  • Chania Lighthouse The lighthouse of Chania is another important landmark to visit. Climb to the top to enjoy a breathtaking view of the harbor and the old town.

  • Archaeological Museum For those who love history, the Archaeological Museum of Chania is a must-visit. There you will find exhibits from the prehistoric to the Roman period.

  • Beaches Chania also has wonderful beaches, such as Balos, Elafonissi, and Falassarna, where you can relax and enjoy the sun and the sea.

  • Chania is a destination that combines rich history, natural beauty, and summer enjoyment on the beaches, making it ideal for all travelers.


4. Knossos: Dive into Mythology and History

Located in the region of Heraklion is the historic Palace of Knossos, an archaeological site that showcases the rich history of Crete. Discover the ancient grounds and the recovered artifacts that reveal the ancient Cretan cultural heritage.

Travel back in time on your next visit to Greece! Soar to a place where history comes alive - the Minoan palace of Knossos. This archaeological wonder, located near Heraklion in Crete, offers a fascinating glimpse into the ancient Minoan civilization that flourished four millennia ago. In this article, we will delve into the wonders of Knossos, from its rich history to its architectural grandeur. To make your visit as enjoyable as possible, make sure to rent your car from the airport or port of Heraklion, Chania Airport, or directly from your hotel! Immerse yourself in the captivating charm of Crete and enjoy your journey through the island's unique history.

The Minoan Palace of Knossos, believed to be the mythical Labyrinth of King Minos, bears witness to the advanced civilization that flourished in Crete during the Bronze Age. Its labyrinthine layout, multi-story construction, and intricate frescoes reflect the architectural and artistic skill of the Minoans. As you wander through the ancient corridors, you will witness the remnants of an advanced society that values art, culture, and technology. Rent your car with Blue Car Rental and explore the exciting adventures of Crete.

Architectural Marvels

The design of the palace is stunning. Intricately connected courtyards, grand staircases, and a network of over a thousand rooms create an extensive complex that once served as the political, administrative, and cultural center of Minoan civilization. The Throne Room, adorned with a reconstructed alabaster throne, is evidence of the significance of this space.

The Myth of the Labyrinth

Legend has it that the palace housed the legendary Minotaur, a creature with the body of a man and the head of a bull. It is said that King Minos commissioned the labyrinth to contain the Minotaur. While the existence of the Minotaur is purely mythical, the labyrinthine arrangement of Knossos has perpetuated this enchanting story over the centuries.

5. Rethymno: The Heart of Cretan Tradition

Rethymno, one of the most picturesque cities in Crete, is the heart of Cretan tradition and culture. This destination combines stunning natural beauty with the rich history and culture of the region. Here are some reasons to explore Rethymno:

Fortezza Fortress

Fortezza Fortress is one of the most impressive archaeological constructions in Crete. Built at the entrance of the port of Rethymno, the fortress offers stunning views of the sea and the city. Visit it to discover its history and enjoy the panoramic view.

Old Town of Rethymno

The old town of Rethymno is full of traditional stone houses, narrow alleys, and picturesque squares. Take a stroll through its streets and explore the taverns and cafes that offer delicious food and drinks.


Rethymno boasts a variety of beautiful beaches to relax and enjoy the sun and the sea. From the beach of Rethymno to the beaches of Bali and Panormo, you will find the perfect spot for an unforgettable day at the beach.

Archaeological Sites

Rethymno is full of archaeological sites and treasures that testify to the rich history of the area. Visit the archaeological museum of Rethymno and the archaeological sites of the area to learn more about its past.

Traditional Gastronomy

Cretan cuisine is excellent, and in Rethymno, you will find many traditional taverns offering local dishes and delicacies. Try classic Cretan dishes, such as pork pie or fresh seafood.

These are just a few of the many things you can do and enjoy in Rethymno. Explore the wealth of the area and discover its unique secrets and beauties.

6. Vai: The Exotic Beach of Crete

Vai Beach is known for its unique palm forest and its azure waters. Enjoy the sun and the sea in this paradise, while you can also explore the surrounding mountains and the natural beauty of the area.

Vai Beach is a true piece of paradise on the eastern coast of Crete, known for its beautiful palm forest and azure waters. Located 150 kilometers from Heraklion, and two and a half hours away with picturesque views and clear skies, the preferred method of transportation tends to be by car. Besides the view, the road is easy, with palm trees near the road warning you that you are close to the beach. One thing to keep in mind is that public transportation does not extend to this destination. The only alternative would involve taking a bus to Sitia and then arranging for a taxi or exploring other transportation options. However, this can be particularly more challenging compared to the convenience of having your rental car available throughout your trip. Rent your car of choice from Blue Car Rental in Heraklion or Chania Airport. Alternatively, find the rental car that best suits your needs by arranging for pick-up from the port of Heraklion or your chosen hotel in Heraklion. Follow this detailed guide to Vai Beach and get the latest tips on how to make the most of your trip to Vai.

Explore the Palm Forest

Vai Beach is famous for its palm forest, which is the largest natural palm forest in Europe. Take a stroll among the palm trees and enjoy the shade and tranquility they offer.

Hiking in the Nearby Hills

Behind Vai Beach, there are hills with picturesque viewpoints that offer panoramic views of the beach and the surrounding coastline. Hiking to these viewpoints provides the opportunity to take breathtaking photos.

Swim in the Crystal Clear Waters

Vai Beach boasts crystal-clear waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The shallow waters near the shore are ideal for families and children. If you're traveling with your rental car, make sure to find parking right outside the beach, but again try to arrive as early as possible, as the beach is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. For those seeking more adventure, Vai Beach offers water sports activities such as paddleboarding, kayaking, and windsurfing. Rent equipment from local vendors and have fun in the water.

Boat Trips

Consider taking a boat trip along the coast to explore other hidden beaches and coves in the area. Boat trips often depart from nearby towns and offer a unique perspective of the coastline.

Drive to the Monastery

Near Vai Beach, you'll find the Toplou Monastery, a historic and religious site worth visiting. The monastery houses an interesting museum with religious artifacts and exhibits. The monastery, steeped in centuries-old tradition, offers a deep insight into the religious and architectural heritage of Eastern Crete, providing a stark contrast to the natural beauty of Vai Beach.

Crete, with its rich natural beauty and variety of destinations, offers a unique exploration experience both at sea and in the mountains. With a car, you can explore these enchanting landscapes and discover hidden treasures that Crete holds. Whether you're enjoying the beaches or exploring the mountains, Crete offers an endless variety of experiences that will make your trip unique and unforgettable.