If you’re planning to spend 3 days in Crete then you may be wondering how to make the best use of your time. This guide is designed to help! We’ve put together a complete itinerary for you, with suggestions for what to do each morning, afternoon, and evening of your stay.
The birthplace of the Minoans – Europe’s oldest civilization – Crete has a fascinating history. It is the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean, dotted with ancient ruins and boasting some of the most picturesque beaches in the world.
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We’ve also recommended some of our favorite restaurants on the island and a few great places to stay.
Crete’s public bus system is efficient, but to maximize your time, we’d recommend renting a car for the duration of your visit. Choose a local company, as multinational car hire companies can be quite expensive.
On the first of your three days in Crete, you will be visiting the medieval city of Chania then heading off for an afternoon on the beach, stopping off for lunch in Kissamoss on the way.
Chania is the perfect place to start your Cretan adventure. It has a little of everything – interesting buildings, lovely beaches, and fabulous food.
Take a walk to the port and choose from one of the many cafes on the waterfront.
Stop to enjoy a typical Greek breakfast, featuring favorites like myzithra cheese, honey, sygklino, or fried eggs with staka. Then stroll around the harbor itself and marvel at its Italian architecture.
You can see the historic lighthouse, along with the St. Nicolas bastion and the iconic Firkas Fortress at the entrance.
Also worth a visit is the city’s mosque, the oldest Ottoman building on the island. It has been renovated and is now used as an exhibition space, which you can walk around for a small fee.
Other highlights you might want to check out include the Greek National Football Museum and the Maritime Museum of Crete. Alternatively, visit one of the local farmer’s markets and – in the summer – treat yourself to one of the delicious, locally-grown avocados.
As lunchtime approaches, take the 40-minute drive to the rural town of Kissamoss. Here you can enjoy the local delicacy of snails, all of which are gathered from the surrounding hills.
Coated in flour and then fried with olive oil, they are served with vinegar or wine and are quite delicious!
After lunch, a 55 km drive northwest will take you to the breathtaking Balos Beach and Lagoon.
When you see a postcard of Crete, it will invariably include a photograph of this beach. Two capes – Tigani and Gramvousa – enclose a pool of turquoise water that is shallow and safe for family swimming.
The sand is pinky-white in color and the surrounding landscape lush and verdant. It really does feel like heaven on earth.
You might choose to relax on the powdery sands for the rest of the afternoon. The amenities are good, with toilets, sunbeds available to hire, and a small cafe.
Alternatively, hit the Balos Beach Trail instead. This unforgettable hike to Cape Vouxa takes in many picturesque viewpoints, providing endless opportunities for memorable photos.
Depending on your pace it takes 1 to 2 hours and is well-marked, although it can be quite demanding in the summer heat!
You’ll find the start of the trail in the Balos parking area, in the same spot as the start of the trail down to the beach itself.
Head back to Chania for the evening and pay a visit to the To Antikristo restaurant in Perivola.
It is named after the style used to cook the lamb it serves. The antikristo style of cooking is traditional and very simple.
It involves rubbing a little salt into the meat and then roasting it very slowly over an open fire.
You’ll notice that lamb is a popular dish here. That’s because the mountainous landscape is perfect for raising sheep and goats!
For the second of your 3 days in Crete you will be visiting the city of Rethymno, then touring its fascinating museum. Finally, you’ll visit Knossos, the island’s Bronze Age archaeological site.
Like Chania, the lovely city of Rethymno has its own scenic Venetian harbor. The historic town is utterly charming, with narrow cobbled streets and stunning Italian architecture.
Crete once had Turkish rulers and the evidence is everywhere, with Ottoman domes and minarets appearing alongside the Renaissance mansions and impressive Catholic churches.
Features to look out for include the Neratze Mosque (now the city’s municipal odeon, used for musical performances), the 17th-century Loggia, and the 17th-century Rimondi Fountain with its eye-catching Corinthian columns.
You can also see a large fortress on the headland originally built to defend the city. And if you’re in the mood for sunbathing, you’ll find a pretty beach in the newer part of town.
Towards the end of the morning, take the 30-minute drive to the Arkadi Monastery.
It is believed to have been founded in the 5th century by the Byzantine emperor Arcadius but was renovated in the 16th century. It is exceptionally scenic, with a backdrop of olive trees and vineyards.
It has a rather sad history as a center of resistance against Turkish invaders. Hundreds of people lost their lives there in an 1866 siege, an event that is observed annually on November 8th.
Your first stop this afternoon is at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Here you can see one of the largest collections of Minoan artifacts in the world.
The exhibits date back to Neolithic times and include jewelry, vases, armor, and weapons, all of which give you a fascinating insight into life in that era.
There are some complete frescoes that have been transferred here from other archaeological sites on the island. Also on display is the Bull Leaper, an ivory figurine from your next destination – Knossos Palace.
Knossos – considered Europe’s oldest city – has been hit by one disaster after another over the years – including invasions, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.
It was finally excavated in the early part of the 20th century, revealing the most amazing frescoes and architecture. All of these have now been restored.
A visit to the Palace is truly fascinating and you can tour the four levels of the Royal Apartments, the Throne Room, and the reception courtyard where guests would have been entertained.
Be sure to look out for the trio of circular pits used for grain storage and take a walk along the Processional Walkway to the South Propylaion. Here you can see the famous Cup Bearer fresco.
When seeing Crete in 3 days a visit to the beautiful Lake Voulismeni is a must!
Located in Agios Nikolaos, it is especially stunning in the evenings and we recommend booking a table at one of the restaurants surrounding it for dinner. It is quite lovely to see the lights twinkling on the water after the sun has gone down.
Every year a fireworks display is held at the Lake on the water’s edge, on the Saturday night before Orthodox Easter.
On the last of your three days in Crete you’ll visit the mysterious little island of Spinalonga, learn all about olive oil production on a working farm, and meet some amazing sea creatures at Crete’s cool aquarium.
Subject of the 2007 bestselling novel ‘The Island’, the curious little island of Spinalonga is somewhere you simply have to visit when seeing Crete in 3 days. Located at the natural harbor of Elounda, it is the second most visited archaeological site on Crete behind Knossos.
The island has a unique and rather dark history. From 1903 to 1957 it served as a leper colony, one of the very last in Europe.
As many as 400 people lived there when the disease was prevalent. At first, conditions were very harsh but towards the end of the 1930s, a member of the leper community began to campaign for better standards, and the island gradually developed into a more regular community.
After the 1950s, the number of residents dropped as medications to treat leprosy were developed. In 1962 the last resident left Spinalonga and it has been abandoned ever since.
The story of the lepers’ struggle to live normal lives was eventually made into a popular Greek TV show, attracting people to visit the island where the events took place.
You can reach Spinalonga by boat from Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, or Plaka. The latter is the quickest, with the journey taking just 10 minutes.
Once you’re back on mainland Crete we recommend a trip to the Cretan Olive Oil Farm in Agios Nikolaos. Here you are welcome to try lots of interactive experiences in order to learn all about how olive oil is produced.
There are many other things to try your hand at, too, from cooking dolmas and milking a goat to making cheese and pottery.
You’ll get to taste some delicious local specialties along with traditional Greek beverages. There’s also a little shop where you can buy some authentic food and drink to take home.
Your final stop of the day is at the Aquaworld Aquarium and Reptile Rescue Centre, just a 40-minute drive away in Thalassókosmos.
This aquarium is home to more than 2,500 creatures and you are encouraged to interact with them as much as possible. The diversity is incredible and you’ll find every sea creature imaginable here, including sharks, jellyfish, and seahorses.
Rather than just admiring them behind glass, you can actually touch the lizards and even pose for a photo with a snake!
If you have any time left at the end of the day, the long, sandy Hani Kokkini beach is just 15 minutes away by car and the ideal place to rest your legs!
The perfect end to your 3 days in Crete is an evening enjoying the fun and lively bars in Malia and Stalis. These two villages sit side by side on the northeast of the island and both are famous for their nightlife!
Stalis is the quieter of the two, with a vibe more suited to families and couples. Malia is more lively and aimed at the younger crowd, with lots of clubs where you can dance into the small hours.
Are 3 Days In Crete Enough?
Crete is a large island so you could spend a week here and still not quite experience everything. But it’s possible to see some of the best attractions in Crete in 3 days and get a real insight into local life.
Remember that this itinerary is based on 3 full days in Crete. You might want to consider adding an extra night to your stay if you arrive late on day one, or have an early departure time on your last day.
Read our guide to find out how many days in Crete you’ll need.
Where To Stay In Crete
There is plenty of excellent accommodation in Crete, with options suitable for every budget.
Here are some of our favorite places to stay.
Best Budget Accommodation
The Royal Sun Hotel is located almost two miles from the center of Chania and has its own shuttle bus to take you to town.
The facilities include a pool with a sun terrace, an on-site restaurant, and a lounge bar serving cocktails throughout the day. The elegant rooms are comfortably furnished and feature floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can make the most of the stunning Cretan views.
Best Mid-Range Accommodation
Located right in the heart of Chania, the Samaria Hotel is furnished in a contemporary style and features an outdoor swimming pool with a sun terrace.
Each air-conditioned room has its own balcony, hardwood floors, and marble bathrooms, and there is an on-site restaurant serving Mediterranean and Cretan cuisine. The hotel also has a fitness suite, internet cafe, and private parking.
Best Luxury Accommodation
The Scala de Faro is a boutique hotel in Chania’s old town. Offering magnificent views and first-class service, it is beautifully decorated in classic style.
Each room has a private bathroom with bathrobes, slippers, and free toiletries all provided.
Final Thoughts On This Itinerary For Three Days In Crete
We hope this guide has been useful in planning what to do in Crete in 3 days and that you enjoy visiting this uniquely beautiful Greek island.
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