Visit Crete in 7 or 8 days: recommended itinerary
Have you chosen to go 6, 7 or 8 days in Crete?
Very good idea!
In order to help you organize your stay, I have prepared a 6, 7 or 8 day itinerary which will allow you to discover the unmissable places of interest in eastern Crete.
Small note: If you want to visit West Crete instead ( Chania, Balos lagoon , Elafonissi beach , Samaria Gorge ), it’s in my other article: Visit Crete in a week ( Click here).
During this tour in Crete, you will have the opportunity to visit Heraklion, the island of Spinalonga, the beach of Vaï and the most beautiful beaches of the East, the Gorges of Zakros and Matala.
In this guide, I give you all my advice for visiting Crete in 7-8 days, with, for each stage, the visits of the day, travel times and my selection of the best hotels according to your budget.
So what to do and see in Crete in 7 days?
Day 1: Heraklion
To visit Crete in 7 days, I suggest you arrive in Heraklion.
Thanks to its international airport, it is the best served city in the east of the island. You can compare the prices of flights to Heraklion at the end of the article in the section “Leaving for Crete”.
For this 7 day Crete itinerary you will need to rent a car.
For this first day, I suggest you visit Heraklion.
If you are interested in history, nothing better than to start with a visit to the Historical Museum of Crete (5€). Thanks to an audio guide in French (very rare in Greece!), you can learn more about the entire Byzantine period until the 2nd World War.
Less than 5 minutes on foot from the museum along the seaside, then reach the fortress of Koules (4€). The various interior rooms house an exhibition on the history of the place. You can also climb the ramparts to admire the view.
Continue with a walk in the old town of Heraklion which is concentrated along the street “25 Avgoustou” and in the surrounding alleys. In addition to shops and restaurants, I advise you to 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.
It will then be time to discover one of the essentials of this 7-8 day tour in Crete: the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
Organized chronologically, the 27 rooms present a remarkable collection of objects ranging from the Neolithic to the Roman period.
Among the most famous objects, we note those dating from the Minoan civilization and discovered on the archaeological site of the palace of Knossos (next visit in the program).
The museum being the main place of interest to see in Heraklion, it is always very crowded. I therefore strongly recommend that you buy your entrance ticket in advance to avoid queuing.
You have the choice between 2 types of tickets:
This is the one I recommend because it will also allow you to avoid queuing in front of the palace. It also includes an audio guide to download for the 2 sites.
The visit to the museum being very complementary with Knossos, I suggest you continue by visiting the most famous archaeological site in Crete.
Being located 5 km from the city center of Heraklion, you will have to go there by car or take the public bus (line n°2 – departure from the bus station located 200 m from the museum).
At the height of the Minoan civilization, the palace of Knossos formed a vast ensemble consisting of the residences of the king and queen, those of officials and priests, baths, warehouses where food was stored and a theater.
Today, some parts have been reconstructed but it still takes a lot of imagination to imagine the place because there are almost only ruins left.
Among the elements to see, we find in particular the frescoes, the throne room and the queen’s bedroom (the Megaron).
As I told you, the entrance to Knossos is included in the combined ticket with the archaeological museum (click here) but if you want to know everything about the history of the place, you can also book (click on the links in orange):
- A digital tablet allowing you to view the rooms of the palace in 3D + Audio guide in French. The price of the ticket is to be added in addition to the rental of the tablet.
- Guided tour of the Palace of Knossos – Small group of 8 people maximum.
After this first day rich in discovery, return to Heraklion for the night.
Tips for you Crete itinerary:
If you don’t have time to visit Knossos Palace in the late afternoon, you can catch up the next morning before departing Heraklion. What’s great is that if you took the combined ticket, it will still be valid.
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.
Day 2-3: Elounda
The next day, for the continuation of your 7 day Crete itinerary, I suggest you explore the Lassithi plateau. From Heraklion, you will reach the plateau in just 45 minutes by car.
During this day, you can take the time to discover this rural area and its typical villages while enjoying beautiful views all along the road.
I recommend the following route:
- The Panagia Kera Kardiotissa monastery for a quick visit to its small chapel housing beautiful frescoes and admire the superb view of the mountains.
- Passage through the Homo Sapiens Museum. The parking lot offers a beautiful view of the whole plain but I do not recommend that you visit the museum itself.
- Visit the Mont Dicté cave which you will also find under the name of the Cave of Zeus or the Cave of Psychro. It is the main tourist site of Lasithi because the legend says that it is here that Zeus was born. To access the cave, you will have to walk about 10 minutes on a path that climbs quite steeply and then descend a long staircase because the cave is very deep. Price: 6€.
- Next to the car park of the cave, you can visit the Greek Mythological Park which reconstructs scenes from Greek mythology and which you can discover thanks to an audio guide in French. Frankly, I was a little afraid that it wouldn’t be worth it, but I was pleasantly surprised: the sets are well done and the explanations clear.
- The Lasinthos Eco Park whose entrance is free. There are several weaving, pottery and candle-making workshops where you can attend demonstrations. If you are on a 7-day trip to Crete with children, there is also a small farm with goats and ponies in particular.
- The ancient city of Lato: a renowned archaeological site which also offers a beautiful view of the entire bay below – The ruins of this ancient fortified city date from the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. Entrance at 3€.
- The Church of Panagia Kera, which is in the village of Kritsa, is known for its extremely well-preserved Byzantine frescoes .
From Kritsa, then reach the seaside and the small town of Agios Nikolaos, a 20-minute drive away.
By parking your car in the municipal car park (paying – 3€/day), you can walk along the sea and go to see the lake of Voulismeni located in the center of the city. Shops and restaurants can be found all around.
Then get back in the car to win the last stage of the day, 10 km north of Agios Nikolaos: Elounda.
Spend a first night in Elounda.
Today I suggest you stay in Elounda and discover one of the must-see places of a 7-day Crete itinerary : the island of Spinalonga.
Spinalonga owes its fame to the novel by Victoria Hislop, entitled “The Island of the Forgotten”, the story of which takes place on the island. The novel is known all over the world and has even been adapted into a series and a film.
To reach it, you will have to take the boat in the port of Elounda. The round trip costs €12 and there are departures every 1/2 hour in high season. You will reach Spinalonga in 15 minutes.
Once landed, entry to the site costs €8.
Spinalonga is an old fortress built in the 16th century which then served as a leper colony in the 1900s. Today, one can walk through the old buildings of the village, the leper hospital, the church and the fort.
You can also climb up the hill to enjoy the view of the peninsula and the coast of Elounda.
Count a good hour, or even a little more to walk around quietly.
Then take the boat back in reverse whenever you want. It will then certainly be time for lunch in one of the taverns in Elounda.
For the afternoon, drive to the peninsula of Spinalonga, which is at the end of the village of Elounda.
Take the small track for 1 km and park at the end of the path. Going down to the sea in 10 minutes on foot, you will arrive at Kolokitha beach.
With its shallow turquoise water, white sand and beautiful surroundings, this little cove is just stunning. It fully deserves its place in the top of the most beautiful beaches to go to in Crete in 7 days!
It is usually a bit crowded as some tour boats stop there on the way back after being in Spinalonga but if you go a little to the right you also have 2 other quieter coves.
Between 2 swims, you can also stroll on both sides of the beach, along the peninsula which is really wild.
Spend a second night in Elounda.
Tips for you Crete itinerary:
If you don’t feel like spending the whole afternoon at the beach, you can also drive up north of Elounda to Plaka. Continuing on the road, it begins to climb and offers beautiful views of the island of Spinalonga and the peninsula.
It is possible to do the whole loop around the cape, passing through villages and olive groves.
Accommodation in Elounda
- Adrakos Apartments (Adults Only): Located on the road between Agios Nikolaos and Elounda. Cozy and comfortable studios and apartments, with kitchenette, from €50 per night, breakfast at €11. Most: the breathtaking view of the entire bay, the swimming pool, the comfort of the beds.
- Elounda George Studios: Located at the entrance of Elounda when arriving from Agios Nikolaos. Studios for 2 people with kitchenette and balcony from €55 per night. Most: cleanliness, equipment, warm welcome.
- Kalypso Suites Hotel: Located right in the center of Elounda. Modern double room with neat decoration from 80€ per night. Most: the location, the comfort of the rooms, the very friendly owner. It is our favorite for its price/performance ratio in Elounda!
- Elounda Akti Olous (Adults Only): Located at the end of Elounda, towards the peninsula. Modern double room with balcony overlooking the sea or garden from €90, breakfast included. The pluses: the rooftop with its swimming pool and its bar, the private car park, the good breakfast, the private beach.
- Elounda Heights (Adults Only): Located on the heights of Elounda. Studio and apartment with sea view from €95, breakfast at €8. Most: the superb view, the excellent breakfast, the swimming pool, the beautiful garden.
Elounda is a fairly well-known seaside resort and most of Crete’s splendid luxury hotels are also found here .
Here is my selection of the most beautiful 5* hotels near Elounda:
- Royal Marmin Bay Boutique & Art Hotel: This luxury hotel offers spacious rooms with sea views and a large terrace from €185 per night, breakfast included. Most: the private beach, the large swimming pool with a magnificent view, the friendliness of the staff.
- Domes of Elounda, Autograph Collection: Magnificent suites with very elegant decoration, some with jacuzzi or private pool from €250 per night, breakfast included. Most: the splendid Spa, the beach and its view, the superb location.
- Blue Palace Elounda, a Luxury Resort: Luxury bungalow with sea view and lounge area from 300€, breakfast included. The pluses: the 2000m² spa and its facilities (hammams, saunas, jacuzzis, indoor swimming pools), the private beach, the excellent restaurants.
- Cayo Exclusive Resort & Spa: Superior room with private pool from €330, breakfast included. Most: the heated swimming pool, the calm, the excellent breakfast, the caring staff.
Day 4-5: Sitia and the beaches of eastern Crete
Today, for the continuation of this 7-day itinerary in Crete, I suggest you take the road again towards the East.
The next step will be the town of Sitia but I recommend several stops during the day.
Start by stopping at the stunning Voulisma Beach, located a 25-minute drive from Elounda. Classified among the most beautiful beaches in Crete, you will immediately understand why when you see its turquoise color and its shallow water.
I can assure you that you won’t be able to resist swimming! You can also try water activities such as tubing or jet skiing.
After freshening up, take the road back to the village of Mohlos, 30 minutes away. On the way, you can also admire beautiful viewpoints.
Located by the sea, this quiet and picturesque little village is really very pretty with its island opposite and which you can reach by swimming easily from the beach. The water is super clear and it’s very pleasant to swim in.
If you haven’t had lunch yet, you will find several family taverns where you can have a good local meal and quietly enjoy the surroundings.
The rest of the day promises to be a little more sporty since I suggest a hike in the Gorges de Richtis.
To do this, drive up to the village of Exo Mouliana (35 minutes from Voulisma) where parking for the Gorges is well indicated, along the main road. If the one on the left is full, you have another on the other side of the road.
From the car park, count about twenty minutes on foot (downhill) to reach the start of the hike which is at the level of the Lachana bridge. There you will find a gatehouse where you will have to pay the 3€ for entry.
From there you will have to walk about 1 hour in the forest. It’s quite easy because the path is flat but there are some slightly acrobatic passages in the rocks so plan at least a pair of sneakers and avoid flip flops.
You will then arrive at the very pretty Richtis waterfall, 20 meters high, where you can take beautiful photos and bathe in its basin.
Arrived there, you can redo the path in the opposite direction or continue to the seaside by walking 30 minutes. You will come to a small pebble beach but the water is very deep and the place quite windy so not ideal for swimming.
From the beach, if you are tired and don’t want to walk back, you can take a taxi that will take you back to the car park. The taxi number is displayed on the trees on the beach. He takes 25€ for 2.
Then reach the town of Sitia (15 minutes drive) for the night.
We continue this 7-8 day circuit in Crete with the discovery of the easternmost part of the island.
The program for the day will be relatively similar to yesterday with a passage through very beautiful beaches and a short hike in the middle.
From Sitia, the first stop of the day is at Moni Toplou Monastery, a 20-minute drive away. The monastery (entrance at €4) includes several spaces converted into small museums and exhibiting mainly engravings. The church is also famous for its beautiful icons.
Then continue for 9 km and you will arrive in front of the beaches of Itanos. These are 2 small, really pretty and very quiet sandy beaches. They are little frequented because outside the classic tourist circuits.
Then take the road for less than 5 minutes and you can discover the beach of Vaï, much better known than its neighbours. It is considered one of the most beautiful beaches to see during this 7 day stay in East Crete.
And its reputation is really not usurped because it is indeed a beautiful sandy beach with crystal clear water and bordered by a forest of palm trees which awaits you. You can rent deckchairs/umbrellas for 10 to 15€ (depending on their location).
On the beach, you will also find taverns / cafes and you can do water activities : jet-ski, pedal boat, buoy.
I also advise you to take the stairs that go up to the right of the beach to access the viewpoint.
If you don’t feel like spending the whole day on the beach, then I recommend a short walk through the Zakros Gorge. They are located about 40 minutes drive south of Vai beach.
For the record, the Gorges are nicknamed “The Valley of Death” because during the Minoan period, the dead were buried in the many caves dug into the cliff surrounding the Gorges.
There are 2 entrances to access the Gorges:
- The car park and entrance A which is first on the road, on the left. It is indicated by a sign. Passing by there, the path descends to the bottom of the Gorges. It takes about 1h30 on foot to reach the village of Kato Zakros, where the Gorges end.
- The parking lot and entrance B which is 1.4 km further down on the main road. Also indicated by a sign. This trail overlooks the Gorges and offers beautiful views. Count 1 hour walk to the village.
This hike is considered one of the must-do things to do in Crete in 7 days.
You can then turn around or take a taxi that will take you back to the car park (approximately €12 per trip).
If you don’t feel like doing the hike, you can also drive down to the village. From the road, you will have a beautiful view of the end of the Gorges.
To end the day in style, I then suggest you join one of my favorite places in Crete: Xerokampos and its sublime beaches! This dream location is only a 10 minute drive from Zakros.
It’s simple, you will find a series of coves and beaches, each one more beautiful than the other.
And guess what, they remain very uncrowded! There are plenty of places to rest quietly without anyone and swim in the incredible turquoise water.
I particularly enjoyed 2 beaches:
- Katsounaki beach (this name on Maps.me), also called “ Paralia Anola” (on Google Maps): a pretty cove of fine sand accessible by car via a dirt road.
- Ambelou beach (on Maps.me) or “Paralia Mazida Ammos” (if you search on Google Maps) which is just magnificent! You can park all along the road and access the beach directly.
Return to Sitia for a second night. From Xerokampos it is a little over an hour’s drive.
Accommodation in Sitia
- Nora Hotel: Located in the port of Sitia. Very simple and basic room from 35€. Most: cleanliness, friendliness of the owner, sea view.
- Hotel Petras Beach : Located right in front of the beach. Pleasant and spacious room from 45€. Most: the beautiful garden and its flowery terrace, the friendly staff, close to the sea.
- Hotel El Greco: Located in the center of Sitia. Comfortable and warm double room with balcony from 50€. Most: the warm welcome, the calm, the view.
- Sitia Beach: Located in the bay of Sitia. 5* hotel with very spacious and bright double room, with balcony, from €120 per night, breakfast included. Most: the swimming pool, the spa with sauna, hammam, jacuzzi, the private beach, the location.
- Oceanides Luxury Apartments: Located 3 km from the center. Very well equipped and spacious 2 bedroom apartments from 250€. Most: the superbly maintained garden, the magnificent swimming pool area, the perfect welcome from the owner, the calm, the comfort.
Day 6: Chrissi Island and Matala
For the penultimate day of your 7-day road trip in Crete, I suggest you first go to Ierapetra, 1 hour by car from Sitia.
The town is the departure point for boat trips to the island of Chrissi. The boats leave every day between 10:30 a.m. and 12 p.m., the trip takes about 1 hour and it takes between 20€ to 25€ per person for the round trip.
You don’t necessarily need to book in advance as these are large tourist boats that can carry hundreds of passengers (which also means that you shouldn’t expect to be alone on the island…).
Once you arrive, it will take you only a few minutes on foot to reach the main beach and its turquoise water: Golden Beach.
There are also other beaches within walking distance all around the island that are much less crowded.
The boats leave from Chrissi from 4.30 p.m.
A few things to know about Chrissi Island:
- It is a nature reserve, so the island is totally wild: there are no restaurants, toilets or infrastructure.
- There is no shade on the beach. You can rent parasols on the boat for 4€ or settle down a little further under the trees (but places are quickly taken).
- Bring water, a picnic and sunscreen.
- There are a lot of sharp rocks, you will definitely need shoes to go in the water.
- Avoid going to Chrissi if it’s too windy, it really won’t be pleasant on the beach (nor during the boat trip!).
If you don’t necessarily like spending 4 to 5 hours in a row on the beach without being able to leave before or if you don’t like beaches that are too touristy, you don’t have to go to Chrissi.
You can resume the program from now on.
From Ierapetra, it will then take you 2h20 to go to Matala.
This small seaside resort is famous for its caves dug into the Neolithic cliff. Later used as a Roman necropolis , they were squatted in the 1960s by a community of hippies.
And we understand better why they chose this place, when we realize that the caves overlook a pretty cove with translucent water, perfect for swimming (and at the time to have a good guitar evening by the fireside !).
The caves can be visited for 4€.
Matala is also home to a second beach, which is accessed by a path that climbs from behind the village. Take the stairs and follow the “Red Beach” signs. You will take 30 minutes on foot to get there.
It’s a small golden sand beach with a bar and restrooms but the water is quite deep.
Even if you don’t want to walk to Red Beach, I advise you to climb at least the first stairs and turn right to see the viewpoint over the caves and Matala.
Spend the night in Matala.
Tips for you Crete itinerary:
For dinner in Matala, for a change from the local cuisine, I recommend the Bistronomy restaurant.
Everything is homemade (even the pasta) and it’s excellent. We took the sushi as a starter, the risotto and the burger, and we enjoyed it. And like everywhere in Crete, we were treated to dessert (cakes and fruit) offered with the digestive.
Accommodation in Matala
- Hotel Orama Matala: Located 10 minutes walk from the center. Fairly simple but comfortable double room from €55, breakfast included. Most: the excellent welcome, the calm, the swimming pool.
- Matala Bay Hotel & Apartments: Located 500 meters from the beach. Spacious double room with comfortable bedding from €70, breakfast included. Most: the location, the swimming pool, the very good breakfast.
- Nikos Hotel: Located 100 meters from the beach. Double room with balcony from 70€. Most: the warm welcome, private parking, proximity to the beach.
- Valley Village: Located 15 minutes walk from the center of Matala. Double room from €60 or bungalow suite at €80, breakfast included (which I recommend). The suites are super spacious, with 2 terraces and a jacuzzi bath. Most: the swimming pool, the calm, the private car park, the full breakfast. It is our favorite for its price/performance ratio in Matala!
Day 7: Return to Heraklion
Here you are on the seventh and final day of this 7-day Crete self-drive tour, which means you will have to return to Heraklion.
Allow about 1h10 from Matala to reach the city.
But if you take the plane at the end of the day or the next day, I recommend that you take the opportunity to finish visiting the island or choose a very nice activity from my selection.
Here is what I propose (your choice):
- A boat trip from Matala to the islands of Paximadia.
You will take a traditional wooden boat which leaves around 10.30 a.m. and takes 1.5 hours to reach Paximadia beach. Guests can snorkel (masks and snorkels provided) and enjoy a barbecue lunch included.
Return to Matala around 5 p.m.
The company that organizes the excursion is called Mare Sud Tours and has a kiosk in Matala (no website).
- A small-group cruise to Dia Island that departs from Heraklion
- Another boat trip (click here) also departing from Heraklion
- A day at a water park. There are 2 near Heraklion: the Watercity Waterpark and the Acqua Plus Water Park (ticket available here!).
- Explore the wine region of Crete which lies south of Heraklion. Many estates offer vineyard tours and wine tastings. On the road between Matala and Heraklion, you can for example stop at the Diamantakis estate.
Tips for you Crete itinerary:
For a 6-day Crete itinerary (East), I advise you to delete the day at the Lassithi plateau. From Heraklion, go directly to Elounda and resume the program from the visit to the island of Spinalonga. You will therefore only spend one night in Elounda.
On the eighth day, from Matala, you can also go to the famous beach of Preveli which is bordered by a palm grove and crossed by a river in its center.
7 days in Crete staying in 1 place
Do you prefer to spend 6, 7 or 8 days in Crete staying only in Heraklion?
If you don’t want to rent a car, thanks to the organized excursions you can also go to some of the places I talk about in this itinerary like:
- Full-day Land Rover Safari through the Lasithi Plateau, with a guide in French
- Cruise to the famous island of Spinalonga
- Excursion to the small island of Chrissi
- Jeep Safari to Preveli Beach
Tips for you Crete itinerary:
From Heraklion, it is also possible to visit West Crete and its essentials since you will find transfers for:
Note however that these places are quite far from Heraklion and that if you really want to see them all, I advise you to choose Chania as your starting point.
I explain everything in my other article. To read by clicking on the following link: Itinerary of a week in Crete (West).
Do not hesitate to give us your opinion and suggestions on our 7-day itinerary in Crete!
And if you have any questions about visiting Crete in 7 days, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments.
Are you going to Crete? Read also
Discover all our articles about Crete : all Tips for you Crete itinerary: articles about Crete are listed here.
- Visit Crete: Ultimate 4-5 Day Itinerary
- Itinerary: A week in Crete – The perfect itinerary to visit West Crete