5 Days in Crete: Ultimate 4-5 Day Itinerary

Crete 4-5 days itinerary

Are you planning to spend 4 or 5 days in Crete on your next vacation?

That’s great!

To help you, I have prepared 2 itineraries for you to visit Crete in 4-5 days and discover all the must-see places of interest on this charming island located in Greece .

Departing from Chania or Heraklion, I give you the complete list of places to see day by day as well as the best hotels to sleep in Crete during your stay.

With my advice and tips, you can make the most of your trip to Crete.

So what to do and see in Crete in 4 or 5 days? Or sleep?

What to do and see in Crete in 4 or 5 days?

Crete being a large island, it has 2 international airports: Chania and Heraklion.

This is why I offer you a different circuit depending on your arrival airport:

  • To visit West Crete in 4 or 5 days, I advise you to land in Chania
  • To visit Eastern Crete in 4-5 days, it is best to land in Heraklion directly.

You can compare flight prices at the end of this article, in the “Leaving to Crete” section.

Arrival in Chania – West Crete

Day 1: Chania

For this first 4-5 day circuit in Crete, you will therefore arrive in Chania. 

To carry out the program that I have planned for you and visit West Crete in 4-5 days, you can choose to rent a car or opt for organized excursions with transport included.

It is really the most practical and it also offers the possibility of taking out full protection insurance to be reimbursed in the event of an accident or theft (cheaper than that which the rental company will offer you at the counter).

Crete itinerary 5 days
The old Venetian port of Chania

To visit Chania in 1 day, I advise you to start with the covered market which is in fact a mixture of souvenir shops and stalls selling local products: raki, cheeses, olive oil…

Leaving the market, you will be in the heart of the old town where you can stroll through the typical alleys lined with local craft shops, bars and restaurants. Then go up to the Greek Orthodox cathedral, the interior of which you can admire for free, and reach the Old Venetian Port.

The place is really super pretty with these little houses with colorful facades and its restaurants with terraces at the edge of the water.

On the left of the Old Port, there is a large brick-colored building: Fort Firkas. By passing under the arch of the entrance, you can enter its inner courtyard for free and access the ramparts in order to enjoy the view of the port and the lighthouse of Chania, emblem of the city.

The interior of the fort is home to the Maritime Museum of Crete, which notably exhibits navigational instruments and model ships. Entry fee of €3.

Then turn back to walk along the Old Port on the other side, passing in front of:

  • The Kioutsouk Hasan mosque (recognizable by its pink dome)
  • The great Venetian arsenal
  • The old boathouses. 

You can then leave the seaside and return to the historic center to see: the church of San Rocco, the church of Agios Nikolaos and the minaret.

You will thus have made a loop by returning near the covered market.

Spend the first night in Chania (you have my hotel recommendations a little further down in the article).

Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary:

To walk the typical streets and discover the history of Chania, I advise you to opt for a guided tour. There are 2 types offered (click on the links in orange for detailed information):

Crete itinerary 5 days
Visit Chania – 4-5 days in Crete

Day 2: Balos Lagoon

For the second day of this 4 or 5 day stay in Crete, you will discover one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.

Direction the lagoon of Balos where you can bask in translucent water and a heavenly setting.

To go to Balos from Chania, if you have rented a car, you have 2 options:

  • Drive all the way to the lagoon car park. 

But you should know that over the last 8 km (just after passing the caretaker’s hut where you have to pay 1€/pers for the right of access), the road turns into a track. You will have to be extra careful to avoid broken stones from other cars and large potholes.

Not to mention that it’s in your best interest not to puncture a tire or have an accident because no rental company agrees to insure vehicles on this stretch of road. If you have a problem, you will have to manage on your own.

Another important point: after 11 a.m., the Balos car park is quickly full and you will then have to park along the track. The line of cars can stretch for several hundred meters, which means you have to be prepared to walk to reach the beach.

Because, yes, from the car park, a last little effort is needed to go down to Balos: a 1.2 km path . What you will do without too much trouble in the morning when you arrive, but it’s a little harder when it comes to putting everything back together at the end of the day.

Avoid taking the giant unicorn buoy, the cooler, the parasol with you (you can rent deckchairs/parasol for 10€ for 2) and don’t go down in flip-flops.

Crete itinerary 5 days
Balos beach Crete
  • Go to Kissamos (38 km from Chania) and take the boat to Balos.

If you are afraid for your car or do n’t feel like walking to reach the lagoon, I have good news: you can choose a great boat trip.

As I told you, the boats leave from the small port of Kissamos. You will sail first to the island of Gramvousa which is just before Balos for a 2 hour stop where you can swim or climb to the top where there is a ruined fortress.

The boat then leaves for about ten minutes and stops in Balos for the rest of the day. You will be dropped off directly in front of the lagoon and you will also enjoy a beautiful sea trip!

At the end of the afternoon, the boat will take you back to Kissamos and you can take your car back to Chania.

This cruise must be booked in advance by clicking here.

Crete itinerary 5 days
Balos Lagoon – Must-see in Crete!

If you did n’t want to hire a car for this 4-5 day Crete itinerary, don’t worry, you can also drive to Balos.

For that, just click on the link below to book your return bus and boat transfer to Balos. The bus will pick you up in front of your hotel (or nearby) and take you to Kissamos.

From there, you will board the same boat that does the cruise I just told you about.

When you return to Kissamos at the end of the day, the bus will be waiting for you to take you back to your accommodation. Everything is really super well organized to spend a stress-free day.

Reservations are made here.

No matter which option you choose to go to Balos Beach, spend a second night in Chania.

Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary:

If you fancy a romantic day or you have decided to go 4-5 days in Crete with family/friends, I even recommend you to choose from one of the following private cruises:

Crete itinerary 5 days
Balos Beach lagoon tour in Crete 4-5 days

Day 3: Samaria Gorge Hike

On the third day of this 4-5 day trip to Crete, you will have to put on your hiking boots to discover one of the longest Gorges in Europe: the Samaria Gorges .

A clarification: Samaria National Park is only open from May 1st to October 15th.

The start of the trail is 1 hour by car (or bus) from Chania, at the place called Xyloskalo. There is paid parking at the entrance to the national park at €5 a day, but you can also park for free on the side of the road.

Entrance to the Gorges is also €5 per person.

You will start at 1230 meters above sea level and descend to sea level on this hike of 16 km in total. Depending on your stamina and the photo breaks + stop for lunch, count an average of 5 to 7 hours of walking. 

I therefore recommend that you start the hike around 10 a.m. at the most. You don’t need to burden yourself too much because you will find several drinking water points on the way, in addition to rest areas and toilets.

Crete itinerary 5 days
Samaria Crete

Here are some indications of what to expect:

  • 4 km steep slope from the beginning – Be careful not to slip because this is the part where there are the most accidents. The pebbles roll under the feet and the steps of the stairs are made slippery by the passages.
  • From km 7, after the main rest area where you can take a light picnic, you enter the bottom of the Gorges.
  • At km 11, pass through the narrowest part of the Gorges, called “Les Portes de Fer”.
  • Exit the Gorges at km 13 and possibility of taking a shuttle bus for 2€/pers at km 14 to travel the last 2 km
  • Km 16: end of the hike in the village of Agia Roumeli.

To return to the car park, you will then have to proceed in several steps:

  • Take one of the 2 boats which leaves at 5 or 5.30 p.m. from Agia Roumeli and takes between 45 min to 1 hour to reach the village of Sougia. Tickets can be purchased in advance by clicking here, at the tavern located next to the car park and at the ticket office in Agia Roumeli.
  • From Sougia, one hour bus ride to the car park. Tickets can be reserved in advance by clicking here, at the tavern in the car park, or directly at the ticket office in Sougia.

Spend a third night in Chania.

Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary:

If you have not rented a car for this 4-5 day Crete tour, you can still reach the start of the hike by bus.

Simply book your return transfer from Chania by clicking here.

Crete itinerary 5 days
Samaria Gorges – 4 or 5 day itinerary in Crete

Day 4: The pink sand beach of Elafonisi

For the fourth day of this 4-5 day Crete itinerary, I suggest you reach Elafonissi beach for a quiet day. After the efforts made yesterday, you deserved to relax.

Access is much easier than for Balos since you will just have to park in the large free car park and walk 5 minutes to get to the water’s edge.

This beach, located about 1h30 by car from Chania, is famous for the pinkish color of its sand from the shells of certain crustaceans.

It can only be observed at the water’s edge and not on the whole beach, but the contrast with the turquoise color is really very beautiful.

Elafonissi is divided into 2 parts:

  • The main beach located next to the car park and where you can rent deckchairs and parasols. It is the busiest place.
  • The island of Elafonisi which is in front of the beach and which is accessed by crossing the lagoon. You will find beautiful little coves and still the famous pink sand but with much less people.

In the afternoon, you also have the possibility of joining another pretty beach that is still quite wild, that of Kedrodasos. To do this, get back in the car for 5 minutes and walk down for ten minutes.

Return to Chania at the end of the day.

Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary:

All the practical information about Elafonissi can be found in my article: Visiting Elafonissi Beach. 

Just like for Balos and Samaria, you can book your return bus transfer from Chania to Elafonissi.

Crete itinerary 5 days

Day 5: The surroundings of Chania

For the last day of this 4-5 day Crete road trip, you have several options.

1) Discover the Akrotiri peninsula, about ten km from the center of Chania.

Among the places of interest to see on the day, I advise you to go through:

  • Stavros beach
  • The monastery of Agia Triada, one of the best known to see in 4 or 5 days in Crete
  • The Monastery of Gouverneto 
  • The ruins of the Katholiko monastery
  • Seitan Limani Beach, also considered one of the most famous on the island
  • Marathi beach.

2) Visit Rethymno, a very pretty little town 1 hour from Chania.

In particular, you can stroll through the historic center and visit the Koules fortress. 

On the outward or return journey, on the road, I also advise you to stop at Lake Kournas. You can swim or rent a pedal boat to go and observe the water turtles.

Crete itinerary 5 days
Monastery of Agia Triada – Crete

3) Choose one of the nautical or sports activities from my selection (click on the links in orange for details and to book):

Last night in Chania.

Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary:

If you only have 4 days in Crete, just remove any day from this itinerary.

Accommodation in Chania

  • Cocoon City Hostel: Hostel located in the heart of Chania. Bed in dormitory from 18€, breakfast at 5€. Most: cleanliness, atmosphere, hospitality.
  • Kedrissos Hotel:  Located 2 km from the old town of Chania. Comfortable and cozy double room with balcony from €70, breakfast included. Most: the swimming pool, the cleanliness, the friendliness of the staff, the good breakfast.
  • Irida Hotel:  Located 20 minutes walk from the historic center. Double room with balcony and for some sea view from 80€, breakfast included. Most: the friendliness of the staff, proximity to the beach, the location for visiting Chania on foot.
  • Royal Sun :  Located between Chania and the Akrotiri peninsula. Modern and comfortable double room with balcony/terrace and sea/pool or garden view from €90, breakfast included. The pluses: the calm, the magnificent swimming pool area with a view of all of Chania, the private car park, the very varied breakfast, the shuttle to get to the city center. It is our favorite for its exceptional setting and its price/performance ratio! 
  • Kydon The Heart City Hotel:  Located not far from the covered market. Spacious room with balcony and comfortable bedding from €130, breakfast at €15. Most: the location, the excellent breakfast, the attentive welcome, the parking lot. This is our recommendation for an upscale stay in Chania!
  • Chania Flair Deluxe Boutique Hotel:  Located 10 minutes from the Old Venetian port, this 5* hotel offers sumptuous rooms with very elegant decoration from €250 per night, breakfast included. The pluses: the Spa and wellness area, the excellent location, the exceptional breakfast, valet parking, private beach. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay in Chania!
Crete itinerary 5 days
Hotel Royal Sun – Where to sleep in Chania

Arrival in Heraklion – East Crete

Day 1: Heraklion

Here is my second proposal for a stay in Crete of 4-5 days but this time to visit the East of the island with an arrival in Heraklion.

For this day in Heraklion, I recommend that you follow the following sightseeing route  (don’t worry if you don’t have time to do everything, you can catch up on the following days).

Nothing better to start this 4-5 day trip to Crete than to discover the history of the island. To do this, head to the Historical Museum of Crete, which traces the main events that took place from the Byzantine period to the 20th century.

Entrance to the museum costs 5€ and you will also have an audio guide in French at your disposal.

At the exit of the museum, head towards the fortress of Koules, accessible in 5 minutes on foot by the seaside. Here too, the exhibition inside is devoted to history but is more centered on the city and the fort.

You can also stroll on the ramparts to enjoy the view of the port and Heraklion.

Entry to the fortress is set at €4.

Crete itinerary 5 days
Heraklion – To visit in Crete in 4 -5 days

To continue your visit to Heraklion, I then suggest you discover the old town during a walk.

From the fortress, I advise you to take the main shopping street “25 Avgoustou” and also to walk in the typical alleys of the surroundings.

In particular, you will go through:

  • Place Agiou Titou where the church is located
  • City Hall
  • Saint Mark’s Basilica
  • The fountain of the Morosini lions
  • The 1866 street.

You will then find yourself on the side of the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. Even if you’re not much of a museum person, it’s worth going there because it ‘s the most visited museum on the island.

It houses an impressive collection of objects from the Neolithic period to the Roman period. You can also admire all the vestiges discovered on the site of the palace of Knossos (next visit of the day) and dated from the Minoan civilization.

The museum is modern and the objects well highlighted, with explanatory panels in English.

To conclude this first day, I recommend that you end up with the archaeological site of Knossos, the best known in all of Crete.

You can stroll among the ruins of this Minoan city which at the time housed royal apartmentsresidences of officials and priests, warehouses, thermal baths…

On the other hand, there really isn’t much left and most of the frescoes to see are copies. The originals are on display at the Archaeological Museum.

Knossos is about 5 km from the center of Heraklion, I advise you to go there by car (large car park on site) or by bus (bus n°2 has a stop 200 meters from the museum).

Spend a first night in Heraklion  (you will find my selection of the best hotels in the city a little further down).

Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary:

If you want to visit the museum and the palace of Knossos, remember to buy your combined ticket (+audio guide) in advance to avoid queuing.

It is available by clicking here.

If you want to visit only one or the other, you also have these tickets available:

Crete itinerary 5 days
Palace of Knossos – Heraklion – Visit Eastern Crete in 4-5 days

Day 2: Rethymnon and its surroundings

For the second day of this 4 or 5 day itinerary in Crete, I suggest you visit the very charming little town of Rethymno, 1h10 drive from Heraklion.

If you haven’t rented a car, you can take the bus from Heraklion bus station. There is 1 every hour. You can check the timetable here: KTEL Bus Heraklion – Rethymno.

Arrived in Rethymno, you can start by discovering its Venetian fortress, the access to which costs 4€.

Then pass by the tiny Venetian port lined with restaurants and reach the heart of the old town of Rethymno. As you walk through these alleys, you will notably pass by:

  • The Rimondi Fountain
  • The Neratze Mosque
  • The old Venetian houses with their wooden loggia
  • The workshop of the last artisan filo pastry maker on the island
  • The Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon
  • The big door
  • The Church of the 4 Martyrs
  • The Véli Pasha mosque  and the  Kara Mussa mosque.
Crete itinerary 5 days
The fortress of Rethymno

After the lunch break in one of the traditional Cretan taverns of Rethymno, get back in the car and reach the monastery of Arkadi.

Located 30 minutes from the city, the monastery has great historical significance for the inhabitants of the island. Besieged by 2,000 soldiers under the Ottoman occupation, the monks and Cretans who had taken refuge there preferred to set it on fire rather than surrender.

Everyone was killed but this act of resistance marked the beginning of the fight against the Ottomans.

During your visit, you can discover its 16th century Venetian church , the old wine cellars and the museum housing relics.

Entry to the monastery costs €3. Ladies, you must have your shoulders and legs covered (this applies to all monasteries).

Crete itinerary 5 days
Arkadi Monastery

After the monastery, continue your journey for 25 minutes and you will arrive at the village of Margarites. This village is renowned for its many workshops and pottery shops.

Here, everything is handmade and each piece is unique. If you want to bring back a typical souvenir from your 4 or 5 day road trip in Crete, this is the ideal place. And with bowls on sale at €3, you won’t go broke.

To end the day before returning to Heraklion, I suggest you visit the cave of Melidoni, 20 minutes from Margarites. For only €4, you can descend into the cave to admire the concretions.

In addition to being pretty, the cave (just like the monastery) served as a refuge for the inhabitants of the island during the Ottoman occupation. Unfortunately, the soldiers found them and decided to set fire to the cave to asphyxiate them. All Cretans are dead.

From Melidoni, allow 1 hour to reach Heraklion, where you will spend a second night. 

Crete itinerary 5 days
The cave of Melidoni

Day 3: Spinalonga Island and the Lassithi Plateau

On this third day of your 4-5 day vacation in Crete, I advise you first to reach the small seaside resort of Elounda, 1h10 from Heraklion.

I recommend that you be in Elounda by 10am.

At the small marina, you will find the boats that make the trip to the island of Spinalonga. There are departures every half hour in season and the crossing takes only 1/4 hour. Count 12€ for the round trip + 8€ for the entrance ticket to the island.

In the past, Spinalonga first served as a fortress before becoming a leper colony, which is why it is often nicknamed “the island of lepers”. 

During the leprosy epidemic, all the inhabitants of the island affected by the disease were sent to Spinalonga where they were abandoned to their sad fate.

To survive, they themselves recreated a kind of village with a church, a hospital, houses, by appropriating the old buildings of the fort.

Spinalonga has also become famous thanks to the novel “The Island of the Forgotten” by Victoria Hislop which tells the quest of a young woman to discover the story of her grandmother deported to the island.

Today, count about 1 hour of walk to discover the island and its buildings. In addition to the historical scope, Spinalonga is really very pleasant to walk around and enjoy beautiful views of the coast.

Crete itinerary 5 days
Spinalonga Island – Visit Eastern Crete in 4-5 days

After a lunch break in a seaside taverna in Elounda, if you feel like enjoying one of the most beautiful beaches to go to in Crete in 4-5 days, I recommend Kolokitha beach.

It is located on the peninsula of Elounda, accessible by a track of about 1km. There is no real parking, you will have to park as much as you can and reach the beach in 10 minutes on foot.

You will then discover a magnificent little cove with turquoise water, shallow and fine white sand. Impossible not to want to swim!

Spend as much time as you want relaxing before heading back to Heraklion. To vary a little, I advise you not to take the same route as on the outward journey but to go through the Lassithi plateau.

This rural area of ​​the island is home to several traditional stone villages and above all some interesting places to discover such as (in order):

  • The Church of Panagia Kera in Kritsa. Worth seeing for its extremely well-preserved frescoes.
  • The Lasinthos Eco Park where you can attend demonstrations of traditional crafts: pottery, weaving, candle making.
  • The cave of Zeus or “cave of Mont Dicté” where the most famous of the Greek gods was born. Access is via a fairly steep climb for 10 minutes + the descent of a long staircase to access the bottom of the cave. Admission costs €6.

From the cave, it takes around 1h10 to drive back to Heraklion, where you will spend another night.

Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary:

For those who have not rented a car, it is possible to visit Spinalonga and Kolokitha with an organized excursion from Heraklion.

You will find all the information on this outing by clicking on the following orange link: Cruise to the famous island of Spinalonga + swimming stop on the splendid beach of Kolokitha + discovery of the seaside resorts of Elounda and Agios Nikolaos.

You also have an excursion to visit Lasithi with an English speaking guide, available here: One-day Land Rover safari through the Lassithi plateau.

The 2 excursions during 1 full day, it will however be necessary to choose only one. You can do the other the next day.

Crete itinerary 5 days
Kolokitha beach

Day 4: Balos Lagoon Excursion

For the fourth day, head to the essential place to do in 4-5 days in Crete: the lagoon of Balos.

I would still point out that Balos is 190 km from Heraklion and that you must therefore be prepared to travel a bit. If you think it’s too far and you prefer to stay closer, you can definitely select one of the activities I offer on day 5.

To shorten the road a bit and make it less tiring while being more pleasant, I advise you to join Balos by boat. Cruises depart from the port of Kissamos, which is a 2.5 hour drive from Heraklion.

You must book this outing to Balos in advance by clicking here.

The boat first passes by the island of Gramvousa where a 2-hour stop is planned before disembarking at the Balos lagoon. All you have to do then is enjoy this heavenly setting.

On the program: swimming in crystal clear water and a walk to admire the view of the lagoon.

To better prepare your day in Balos, I recommend that you read my dedicated article: Visiting the lagoon of Balos.

The boat leaves for Kissamos at the end of the day. All you have to do then is return to Heraklion for the night. 

Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary:

To be sure not to miss the departure of the boat (or simply if you don’t have a car), you can book this excursion with round-trip transport included.

The bus will pick you up in front of or near your hotel and take you to Kissamos.

Crete itinerary 5 days
Balos beach Crete

Day 5: Activities of your choice

For this last day, I leave you the choice between lots of super cool activities to finish visiting Eastern Crete in 4-5 days in style!

But, for me, there are still 2 activities that stand out:

  • A quad excursion with a great itinerary to discover Crete off the beaten track. And in addition your guide speaks French!
  • A boat trip to the island of Dia where you can snorkel.

Other highlights of this cruise: it is done in small groups (maximum of 10 people) and you will enjoy a good meal on board as well as unlimited drinks.

To book by clicking here.

There is also another boat trip offered from Heraklion. You will drive along the coast and stop to swim in small bays before enjoying a barbecue lunch.

For booking information on this sea trip, click here!

Crete itinerary 5 days
Quad Excursion – Best activity in Crete

If you are not tempted by these 2 options, I also suggest (click on the links in orange):

Last night in Heraklion.

Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary:

If you only have 4 days in Crete, just remove any day from this itinerary.

Accommodation in Heraklion

  • Intra Muros Hostel:  Youth hostel located 5 min walk from the center of the old town. Bed in dormitory from 21€. Most: comfort, hospitality, cleanliness, roof terrace. The best choice for cheap accommodation in Heraklion!
  • Kronos Hotel:  Located right next to the fortress of Heraklion. Impeccably clean double room with balcony (some with sea view) from €65, breakfast included. The pluses: the perfect geographical location for visiting Heraklion, the generous breakfast, the friendliness of the staff.
  • Atrion Hotel:  Located in the historic center. Comfortable and cozy double room with balcony from €85, breakfast included. Most: the ideal location, the welcome in French, the good breakfast. It is our favorite for its price/performance ratio in Heraklion!
  • DOM Boutique Hotel:  Located in the heart of the old town. Modern, spacious and elegantly decorated double room from €110, breakfast included. Most: the excellent breakfast, the very available staff, the setting, the very good bedding. This is our recommendation for an upscale stay!
  • GDM Megaron:  This 5* hotel is also located in the center of Heraklion, not far from the Venetian port. The establishment offers very nice rooms with balcony from €190, breakfast included. Most: the swimming pool on the roof, the wellness area, the exceptional breakfast, the caring staff. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay in Heraklion.

Are you going to Crete? Also read

Discover all our articles about Crete : all Tips for you 5 days Crete itinerary: articles about Crete are listed here.

Camille L.

Passionate about foreign languages, cooking and writing. I wish to share with you the places, the meetings and the gastronomic discoveries which gave relief to my travels.

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