Families planning a holiday in Greece cannot go wrong choosing Crete: the island is a haven in the Mediterranean Sea. Happy faces and that legendary Cretan hospitality – philoxenia, love of strangers – greet you everywhere you go.
Naturally, there’s plenty to do on the island, whether you like tranquility and relaxation or you are the more adventurous type.
There are beautiful beaches and coves for sun chasers, many with shallow waters, safe for kids to play in. Swimmers can adventure into the clear turquoise waves of the sea. Divers and snorkelers will appreciate discovering the marine life inhabiting the Cretan Sea. There are many scuba diving centers offering lessons and diving tours all around the island.
As far as watersports go, you get a fair choice of activities. SUP’s popularity is growing. Kite and windsurfers find plenty of good spots to practice their mastery. Boating is another favorite pastime for watersports aficionados. Many fishing tours and boat tours take you on a magical journey on the waves to nearby islands.
July and August are the hottest months to visit Crete, but if you want to escape the scorching temperatures by the sea, adventure in the Cretan mountains. There are more than four hundred gorges here, many of them full of greenery and rivers crossing them, cooling and purifying the air. Their nature is mesmerizing: observe rare birds of prey, endemic plants, and breathe in the fragrance of the Cretan herbs. Book a truffle hunting tour if you want something not many other tourists do on the island. The Cretan mountains are full of mysterious secrets revealed only to a fortunate few.
And dine on Crete: the food is beyond scrumptious. Cretans love cooking, and it shows. So everywhere you go, you will enjoy fresh seasonal salads, vegetables, legumes, and pulses. In the mountains, expect meats grilled or slow-cooked to perfection. By the sea, order the catch-of-the-day fish and seafood.
Family-friendly Must-dos in Crete
Crete is an island, yes, but it is Greece’s largest. So you’ll need an extensive holiday to explore and discover. Chania has the most beautiful beaches. Heraklion is for those who love history, archeological sites, museums, and plenty of entertainment options for all ages. Wherever on the island you choose to stay, here are a few suggestions you should not miss.
Minoan Palace of Knossos
Crete’s most popular tourist attraction, the Minoan Palace of Knossos is a must-see. You’ll find it in the Heraklion regional unit, just outside Heraklion city. It attracts hundreds of tourists daily, so expect long queues. Instead, arrive early in the morning – the gates open at 8:30 a.m. – not only to avoid the crowds but also because it’s cooler. You will enjoy your visit more than under the heat of the midday sun.
Minoan Palace of Phaistos
Like Knossos, the Minoan Palace of Phaistos is in the Heraklion regional unit too. It is less popular than its relative, so you can visit it without worrying about long queues. You can walk around the grounds and observe the ruins up-close as there are no ropes or barriers to spoil your experience. From here, you will also enjoy splendid views of the Messara Plain.
Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is in the center of Heraklion city. It is the best museum in the world documenting the Minoan civilization. A visit here is a must if you want to learn more about the fascinating history of Crete. The exhibits are both informative and awe-inspiring. The museum preserves most of the archeological finds from Knossos and other Minoan sites of Crete.
Watercity Waterpark at Anopolis
Archeological sites are captivating if history is your thing. Still, you deserve a day of fun, and the Watercity Waterpark at Anopolis is a great escape. There are slides for all ages, pools large and small, and a good choice of snacks and refreshments. Don’t worry if you forgot any of your beach essentials back at the hotel: there’s a shop on site.
Learn about the native marine life of the Cretan sea at CRETAquarium Thalassokosmos. You will find it near Gournes, some 15 kilometers east of Heraklion city.
Close to the aquarium, visit the Planet Crete planetarium, and the Dinosauria Park, featuring real-sized animatronic dinosaurs.
Labyrinth is a mythology-themed park inspired by the myth of the Minotaur. The maze is challenging, and you may find yourself spending hours trying to get out. So, buy a clew – Ariadne’s thread – from the shop by the entrance to retrace your way out. The park offers other entertaining activities: horseback riding, archery, pottery workshops, and mini-golf.
The Diktaean Cave (or Psychro Cave)in the Lasithi regional unit is the most important cave on the island. It is on the northern slopes of the Dikti mountain range, some 1,025 meters above sea level. According to the legend, this was the birthplace of the mighty Olympian god Zeus. In Minoan times, it was a place of worship. Its stalactites and stalagmites form an underground landscape that will fascinate the entire family.
Botanical Park of Crete
In Chania, visit the Botanical Park of Crete – the Eden in Skordalou. Layered on the slopes of Lefka Ori, it has winding paths descending from the mountain top down to an artificial lake. Enjoy the scents of the Mediterranean herbs garden. Admire the tropical plants, and discover the Mediterranean fruits and citrus. There’s also a section of vines overlooking the valley where you can rest admiring the view. After the visit, have a bite at their restaurant. They serve Cretan mountain fare. Don’t forget to buy some products made with fruit and herbs growing in the garden.
Maritime Museum of Crete
The Maritime Museum of Crete is in Chania town, in the Firka Fortress on the northwest side of the old harbor. It documents the maritime history of Crete and Greece, with a strong focus on the ancient and traditional shipbuilding on Crete. There are ship models, materials from lighthouses, stamps, pictures, and other artifacts on display. The museum is the second oldest in Greece after the one in Piraeus.
These are just some attractions to enjoy with your entire family on Crete island. Still, there are many other things to see and do. Chania’s beaches are the most beautiful, while Heraklion has the vastest concentration of cultural attractions. In the Lasithi prefecture, see the Vai Palm Forest – the largest natural palm forest in Europe, with some 5000 Cretan date palm trees. Take your children horseback riding, hiking, cycling, or in a glass boat adventure. And, of course, find a local tour guide to take you off the beaten path.