One week in Crete: What to do?
Do you want to go for a week in Crete ?
In order to help you organize your stay, I have prepared a one-week itinerary for you in Crete which will allow you to discover the must-see places of interest in the West of the island.
On this tour, you will visit Chania and its surroundings, Balos lagoon , Elafonissi pink beach , Rethymno , as well as Samaria Gorge for a great hike.
In this itinerary, in addition to things to do every day and travel times, I also give you my selection of the best accommodations and all my tips for visiting Crete in a week from Chania easily!
So what to do and see in Crete in a week?
Day 1: Chania
For this week-long trip to Crete, I suggest you arrive in Chania . It is quite simply the most practical for then visiting the West of Crete since the city has a well served airport.
You can compare flight prices at the end of this article, in the “Leaving to Crete” section.
For this stay, you have 2 options to get around:
- Rent a car.
- Opt for organized excursions with transport included. There are some available for almost all the tours I offer so if you don’t like driving this is a great solution. I will put the links to you as the article progresses.
It ‘s super practical since you can directly compare the prices of all the rental companies present in Chania and you also have access to the opinions of former customers.
They also offer (as an option) their own “full protection insurance” to be fully reimbursed in the event of damage or accident (cheaper than the one the rental company will try to sell you).
For this first day of your vacation in Crete, I simply suggest a short walk in the old town of Chania to discover the main places of interest.
Start by going to the covered market of Chania where you will have a first glimpse of local products : olive oil, wine, cheese, spices, raki (the local alcohol which will be offered to you as a digestive after each meal).
Then pass by the Greek Orthodox cathedral and continue your walk through the alleys of the old town where there are plenty of souvenir shops before reaching the Old Venetian Port . Lined with restaurants and houses with colorful facades , the place is really pretty.
At the very end of the port is the Firkas fortress, the courtyard of which you can enter for free. The bastions will offer you a beautiful view of the entire Old Port and its emblematic monument: the lighthouse of Chania.
The fortress also houses the maritime museum which exhibits model ships and navigational instruments. If you feel like it, the entrance is 3€.
Then cross the Old Port again to reach the other side. You will pass in front of the Kioutsouk Hasan mosque (recognizable by its pink dome), the large Venetian arsenal and the old boathouses.
You can continue to the lighthouse or branch off into the old town to see the Church of San Rocco, Agios Nikolaos Church and the minaret.
You will then have returned not far from the covered market.
For the rest of the day , I recommend that you go and relax on one of the beaches near Chania (access by bus if you don’t have a car). I particularly recommend Eastern Gulf Beach or Agii Apostoli/Iguana Beach located just next door.
These are 2 small sandy beaches bordered by the pine forest and which I find very nice to conclude this first day of your 1 week stay in Crete! Closer to the center, you also have the beach of Nea Chora but it is clearly less pretty.
Spend the night in Chania.
You can stay in the same hotel in Chania for the entire duration of your week-long stay in Crete.
Here is my selection of the best places to sleep depending on your budget:
- 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!
Day 2: The lagoon of Balos
For the second day of your one-week trip in Crete, I suggest you go see one of the most famous beaches on the island: the lagoon of Balos.
On the program: a relaxing day enjoying the turquoise water and fine sand in a heavenly setting!
Balos Beach is located about 1h30 drive from Chania but you have several options to get there:
1) A day boat trip
The boat departs from Kissamos , a small town located by the sea, 38 km from Chania . You can reach the port by car (free parking on site), by public bus (leaving from the bus station) or with an organized excursion from Chania.
To get to the Balos lagoon by boat, you will therefore have the choice between:
- The classic cruise which includes 2 stops: a first stop of 2 hours on the island of Gramvoussa to swim or climb to the fortress, and a second stop at the lagoon of Balos for the rest of the day.
This boat trip must be booked in advance by clicking on the link below:
- Lagoon cruise with round trip transport included from Chania : if you don’t have a car, it’s best since the bus will pick you up in front of your hotel and take you to Kissamos to take the boat to go to Balos.
Reservations are made by clicking on the link:
- Private cruise in Balos (click here!) of 4 hours in a semi-inflatable boat: the best way to have a good time with family or friends without being mixed with other tourists!
- Private Day Sailing Trip in Balos with Lunch Included
2) Getting to Balos by car
It’s a little less easy than it seems at first sight because there are several things to know:
- The last part of the road leading to Balos is in fact an 8km track alternating between many potholes and large stones. You will have to drive quite slowly (especially since the rental companies in theory forbid you to take this track and the damage will therefore not be covered by the insurance).
- The Balos car park fills up quickly. You will then have to park as best you can along the track (and sometimes several hundred meters from the car park).
- From the car park, access to Balos is on foot. Allow 1.2 km and 150 meters of elevation to descend to the beach. When you have to go back up at the end of the day, it’s a little harder.
But the view that is offered to you along the trail is so beautiful that you can take advantage of it to take magnificent photos!
I can assure you, Balos Beach is THE place to see in a week in Crete!
If you have a car , in the afternoon, after Balos beach, I also recommend 2 other places to see before returning to Chania:
- Falassarna beach, which is a 40-minute drive from Balos. This long beach with transparent water is really very pretty with its pink sand at the edge. You will also find several beach clubs, very pleasant for a drink.
- The botanical garden of Crete to discover the plants and fruits of Greece. Allow about 1h30 to cover the 2.5 km trail on foot. (If you don’t have time to visit it, you can also do it on the fourth day.)
Reach Chania for the second night of your week-long trip to Crete.
By car, try to arrive in Balos before 11am to get a parking space. Also plan a little change to pay the entrance fee (1€ per person) or if you want to go to the toilet (50cts).
Day 3: Samaria Gorge
The next day, I suggest you continue your itinerary in Crete for 1 week with a more sporty day.
Direction the Gorges of Samaria where you can do the most famous hike on the island: 16 km of walking with a first part in the forest and the second being at the very bottom of the Gorges , at the foot of the impressive cliffs of more than 300 meters from above.
If there is one hike you can do in Crete in a week, this is it!
It is a superb route through the most beautiful natural landscapes of the island which awaits you but a little demanding because the path consists only of large stones and the drop (downhill) during the first 4 km puts a lot of strain on the knees . and the ankles.
I therefore strongly advise you to bring a pair of hiking shoes to be as comfortable as possible. It takes between 5 to 7 hours of walking in total.
From Chania , allow 1 hour drive to reach the start of the trail, at a place called Xyloskalo.
You can go there by car or opt for a return bus transfer. In this case, the bus will pick you up in front of your hotel and take you to Xyloskalo .
A guide is also present but he stays with the slower people, so you can do the hike at your own pace.
This solution is really very practical to avoid bothering with organizational issues.
To book this bus tour from Chania to Samaria Gorge , you just have to click on the link below:
The Samaria Gorge hike ends in Agia Roumeli , a village located by the sea and only accessible on foot or by boat.
As the trail does not make a loop and you will not have time to go all the way back in the opposite direction (unless you practice ultra trail regularly), you will first have to take a boat that will take you to Sougia .
Please note, there are only 2 boats per day , one at 5 p.m. and the other at 5:30 p.m. If you miss it, you will absolutely have to spend the night in Agia Roumeli*.
Boat tickets (about 11€ for a 45 minute trip) can be purchased in advance online (click here) , at the tavern located in the parking lot of Xyloskalo or in Agia Roumeli.
Sit on the right side of the boat if you want to enjoy the scenery during the return.
Arrived in Sougia , the journey does not stop there since you will then have to take a bus which will bring you back to the car park (1 hour drive). The buses always wait for the boat to arrive before leaving.
Remember to book your bus ticket on the official KTEL website (click here) , 1 or 2 days before to be sure of having a seat.
Collect your car and return to spend the night in Chania.
*In case you took longer than expected for the hike and the boat left without you, you can book a room in a small hotel. I advise you (click on the links below):
Allow 5€ for parking + 5€ per person for entry to Samaria National Park.
At km14 , at the exit of the Gorges, you can take the shuttle (2€/pers.) which goes to Agia Roumeli for the last 2 km (if you are tired or afraid of being late for the boat).
The Gorges are only open from May to Mid October and may be closed on certain days due to rain, thunderstorms or the risk of fire. Check the official Samaria website (click here) before you go.
Day 4: Elafonissi Beach
Impossible to visit Crete by car in a week without going to Elafonissi beach!
That’s what I offer you today, because after walking for hours yesterday, you deserve a relaxing day on one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete.
To reach Elafonissi from Chania , there is about 1h30 drive.
For those who have rented a car , you have a huge free parking lot which is right next to the beach. Unlike the Balos lagoon, access to Elafonissi is direct.
If you do n’t have a vehicle, the only other way you have to reach this must-see place on a week-long tour of West Crete is to take the bus.
I advise you to opt directly for an organized excursion as the bus will pick you up in front of your hotel (and bring you back there at the end of the day).
To book this bus tour from Chania to Elafonissi , you just have to click on the link below:
Just like the Balos lagoon, the beach is known for its translucent and shallow water but above all for the pink color of its sand. This very particular coloring comes from the decomposition of the shells of certain molluscs which are pink and mix with the sand.
Elafonisi beach is divided into 2 parts.
On one side you have the main beach located directly next to the car park and where you can rent deckchairs/umbrellas for only €7 for 2. There are 2 snack bars and pay toilets.
On the other, the island of Elafonisi located just opposite and which you can reach on foot by crossing the sandbar or in the water. Here the landscape has remained wilder because the island is a protected natural area.
There are far fewer people and you will find plenty of coves with turquoise water bordered by pink sand . The perfect place to enjoy the day and swim quietly.
You can also take a short walk to the end of the island where there is a small chapel.
On the road before arriving at Elafonisi, I advise you to stop and visit the cave of Agia Sofia . It will only take you about ten minutes but admission is free. You can admire some concretions and enjoy the view of the Topolia Gorge.
On the other hand, I do not recommend visiting the monastery of Chrysoskalitissas (located just after) which is however in all the travel guides on Crete. Even if the entry costs only 2€, there is simply nothing to see.
After Elafonissi, you can also go to the very pretty Kedrodasos beach (5 min by car + 10 min walk). Lined with junipers and completely wild, you won’t be able to resist swimming in the turquoise water.
Day 5: Akrotiri Peninsula
Today, for the next stage of your 1-week road trip in Crete, I suggest you stay near Chania and go all around the Akrotiri peninsula.
It is located just outside the city and includes some of the must-see places during your week in West Crete.
In order not to miss anything, I recommend that you go through (in order when arriving from Chania):
1) Stavros beach: a sandy beach located in a small bay sheltered from the wind. It is very well known in Crete since it served as a filming location for the film “Zorba the Greek”, released in 1964 and starring actor Anthony Quinn.
2) The monastery of Agia Triada, 15 minutes by car from Stavros.
It is one of the most visited monasteries on the island. Dating from the 17th century , I found the site really well maintained.
You can discover its church, the wine cellar, the flowery and well-appointed gardens, a small museum as well as a shop where the wine, raki and olive oil produced by the monks are sold. Tastings are also organised.
Entrance to the monastery costs 2.50€ / Free parking / Ladies, legs and shoulders must be covered. You can borrow a sarong/shawl at the entrance.
3) Gouverneto Monastery , 10 minutes from Agia Triada.
Less known than its neighbour, it has a pretty interior courtyard and a small church. Please note that photos are prohibited.
Note that the monastery is closed on Wednesdays and Fridays. The other days of the week, it opens from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Leaving the monastery , on your right at the end of the alley, you will find a small gate which leads to a path going down to the seaside . The path allows you to pass through a cave , to discover the ruins of the monastery of Katholiko and leads to a pretty little cove with turquoise water.
Count about 1h30 for the round trip but the difference in height is quite significant and there is no shade. Bring enough water and good shoes.
4) Seitan Limani beach which is one of the top beaches to go to in Crete in a week.
The beach is located below a small canyon where the water has managed to carve out a path over time. Very photogenic, you can swim in turquoise water (often rough because it is quite windy) surrounded by high rock walls.
The path down to the beach in 15 minutes is a bit dangerous because it is quite steep and very narrow.
Better to have a pair of sneakers and not be prone to dizziness but if you don’t feel like going down, you can always admire the view from the parking lot.
5) The Marathi beach which is actually made up of 2 sandy coves.
The majority of the beach is private with rental of deckchairs/umbrellas available and the car parks around are all paying. Very easy to access and with its shallow water , it is popular with families.
If you are doing this recommended one week Crete itinerary with your children, this is a good place to swim.
6) Loutraki beach which forms a small cove of sand and turquoise water. Really pretty but bordered by a tourist complex so very busy.
Spend another night in Chania.
This day is much less convenient if you don’t have a car:
- In summer, using public buses from Chania, you can get to Stavros, Seitan Limani, Marathi and Loutraki. But these are different bus lines which do not loop around the peninsula and therefore you will have to return to Chania each time.
- For the monastery of Agia Triada you will have to take a bus to the airport and finish the last 3 km on foot or by taxi.
If you want to replace the visit to Akrotiri with another activity, you will find ideas on the 7th day of this itinerary.
Day 6: Rethymno
As it would be a shame to go to Crete for a week without going for a walk in Rethymno, this is what I propose to you for this penultimate day.
Rethymnon is 1 hour drive east of Chania and there is also a bus line that connects the 2 towns.
To not miss any of the essentials , here is the route that I suggest you follow to visit the old town and its pretty historic center.
Start by visiting the Venetian fortress which was built in the 16th century. For 4€, you can take a walk at the top of the ramparts to contemplate the view of the city.
If you are an art lover, then you can visit the contemporary art museum. Entrance at 3€.
Continue the walk through the Old Venetian Port and enter the heart of the old town to see:
- The Rimondi Fountain
- The Nerantzes Mosque
- The workshop of the last artisan filo pastry maker in Crete located in Vernardoy Street
- The Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon
- The big door
- Other religious buildings: the Church of the 4 Martyrs , the Véli Pacha mosque and the Kara Mussa mosque.
For those who do this one-week itinerary in West Crete by car, after Rethymnon , you can visit the monastery of Arkadi, 20 km away.
Along with the monastery of Agia Triada, it is one of the best known on the island.
For the record: under the Ottoman occupation of the island, hundreds of inhabitants took refuge in the monastery but it was besieged by more than 2000 soldiers . The inhabitants then preferred to set fire to the barrels of powder stored in the wine cellar rather than surrender.
They were all killed, civilians as well as their enemies. This act of resistance marked the beginning of the struggle of the Cretans against the invaders.
During the visit, you can discover the famous wine cellar, the museum containing the relics and the 16th century Venetian church .
Then get back in the car to take the road to Chania . Halfway, about 30 minutes from Rethymnon , I advise you to stop at Lake Kournas.
If you fancy a swim in fresh water, this is the perfect place as it is the only natural lake in Crete.
I also recommend that you rent a kayak or a pedal boat for 1 hour and go around the lake: you can see the many water turtles there.
Go back to sleep in Chania.
If you feel like going on a boat trip during your 1 week Crete vacation, there is one that departs from the port of Rethymno at 11.30am.
The cruise lasts 5 hours and allows you to admire beautiful views of the city and the surrounding coast. It also includes a swimming stop (mask and snorkels provided) + lunch.
Book your boat trip in Rethymno by clicking on the green button below:
Day 7: Activities to do around Chania
You have arrived at the last day of your one-week stay in Crete.
If you fly at the end of the day or the next day, I advise you to make the most of it by choosing one (or more!) activity from the list below.
You just have to click on the link in orange to have all the details and to make the reservation:
- A boat trip with 2 stops for snorkeling and another stop for paddleboarding – Mask/snorkels/fins included.
- A first dive Pick-up service included from Chania
- A 2-hour paddle excursion in Loutraki Bay with a snorkeling stop
- Paragliding over the coast around Chania
- Day at a water park
Hiking enthusiasts can also go to the Gorges d’Imbros for a walk of about 3 hours at the bottom of the Gorges.
If you don’t have a car or just don’t feel like driving, there are also several organized bus tours that offer visits to traditional mountain villages and include tastings of local produce and lunch . in a tavern.
I put you the different circuits proposed here:
- Visit to vineyards with wine tasting + Visit to a family-run olive oil factory
- Land Rover Day in the White Mountains
- Safari in 4*4 off the beaten track – Discovery of riverbank huts in the mountains with demonstration of cheese making + Visit of a typical village with tasting of local products (honey, olive oil, olives) and wines.
- Visit of the 7 villages of Apokoronas + Visit of a Raki distillery (traditional Cretan alcohol), a cheese factory and a bakery with tasting
- From Chania, Heraklion, Archaeological Museum and Knossos Palace Tour with a Guide
- Cooking class in the White Mountains to discover all the secrets of local gastronomy.
For a 6-day trip to Crete , you can remove the day from the program that interests you the least , depending on your interests.
For an 8-day itinerary in Crete , you can add organized activities or excursions. You also have the hike of the Gorges of Agia Irini which is very well known around Chania.