In the last 15 years of my life, there hasn’t been one summer I haven’t (at least partially) spent in Greece.

I’ve gotten to see everything from the bougainvillea-lined streets of Zakynthos to the royal-blue waters of Lefkada but the only place that’s gotten me to come back time and time again (11 visits, to be exact) is Crete.

Throughout this time, I’ve gotten to see some of the island’s most famous places, including the stone houses of Heraklion and the pink-sanded beaches of Elafonisi, which, while well worth the hype, are still overshadowed by some hidden gems that have somehow managed to fly under the radar all this time.

Now, please keep in mind that there are “lesser known places” and there are “completely off-the-beaten-path corners where you can barely find a restaurant to eat.”

To cover all my bases, I’ll start with a somewhat well-known city that, in my opinion, is still criminally underrated, move to more obscure places as the list goes on, and, in the end, throw in my favorite untouched beach on the whole island.

I guarantee you—it’ll be worth the wait.

hersonissos from above

I’ll also sprinkle some practical advice throughout the article; things like how to get around Crete, the prices you can expect at different spots, as well as how to generally make the most out of your vacation.


beach in hersonissos, crete

While not exactly obscure, Hersonissos is one of Greece’s most underrated towns and, at the risk of sounding biased, my favorite place to visit in Crete.

No, it’s not nearly as big as energetic as Heraklion, and it doesn’t have the picturesque buildings of Chania; however, it has the one thing that’s lacking in these bigger hubs – a great beach.

Generally speaking, when you go to Crete, you usually have to choose between a bigger city with lots to see and do but where you can’t find a decent beach within a 30-mile (19 km) radius or a small village with paradisical beaches but with nowhere to go after 6 P.M.

With Hersonissos, you don’t have to compromise.

hersonissos town, crete

The local beach is pretty, clean, and well-organized, and while you’ll certainly want to explore once in a while, you can’t beat the convenience of being able to walk 5 minutes to a great beach.

Sunbeds are also reasonably priced, at least compared to other Greek hubs – less than $15 a day for two wooden, padded sunbeds – that’s a pretty good deal.

The town itself is lively without getting chaotic, which, I don’t know about you, but it’s exactly what I’m looking for when I imagine the ultimate Greek vacation.

hersonissos beach

The food is sublime, and remarkably cheap, too.

Some of the best gyros I’ve ever had in my life (that’s saying a lot) were the ones I had in The Grill, where a quick yet satiating lunch for two rarely exceeded the $10 mark.

And since I’m not too big on nightclubs – though places like New York Beach Club, Palm Beach Club, and Club Sensation are all excellent for those who want to dance the night away – I usually spent the evenings taking advantage of the BOGO deals that seaside cocktail places ran all summer long since it meant getting two drinks for just under $9.


So, no matter which of the places on today’s list you end up visiting, I’d argue that a stop along the way in Hersonissos is a must.

Agia Galini

Picturesque traditional fishing village Agia Galini in Crete island

Agia Galini is a darling fishing village on Crete’s southern coast that overlooks the Libyan Sea. So, for those of you dreaming of swimming in those calm, warm waters, this is your chance!

With quaint, whitewashed houses, winding alleys, and a harbor that seems to have jumped out right out of a postcard, the village gives you the perfect opportunity to live out your Greek summer fantasies.

However, visitors staying here will more than likely want to branch out and explore every once in a while, and there’s one problem – Crete’s public transportation system is a mess, and taxis can get expensive.

That’s why most people coming to the island opt for a rental car instead.

tourist with camera in rental car

Now, there are plenty of great companies with reasonable rates, but the only one I can vouch for is Gia Panta Kalokairi, a recently opened place from which I got an Opel Adam for less than $40 a day.

And once you have your car, getting to all these other destinations will feel like a breeze!


view of the island of spinalonga, crete

Though it’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1976, Spinalonga still gets constantly overlooked by travelers – after all, most of the people coming here are only after the pretty beaches.

However, I guarantee you that a half-a-day stop in Spinalonga will make the overall experience infinitely better; you’ll get to see the ruins of the Venetian fortress, wander through the narrow streets of the abandoned village, and learn more than you’d imagine about the region’s history, especially if you take a guided tour like this one I took with Altino Travel for just under $50.


The small traditional village of Chora Sfakion, Sfakia, Chania, Crete, Greece.

If you’re looking to take in that famous Cretian beauty in its most rugged, authentic form, you can’t go wrong with Sfakia.

The town stands at the foot of the White Mountains in southwestern Crete, so you’re guaranteed some of the most picture-worthy views you’ll ever get, not only in Greece but beyond.

The best way to take that all in is to hike through Samaria Gorge and all the way to Anopolis and Loutro – I know that’s not the laid-back beachy experience you’ve probably imagined when thinking about Crete, but you’ll have the time of your life nonetheless.


Crete - Greece - Beach of Kalamaki

If you’re looking for a place that’s both untouched and beachy, Kalamaki is your best bet.

This is a quiet resort town known for its vast, gold-sanded beaches, where you can just take your own umbrella and a towel and soak in that warm Cretian sun – which, by the way, is what most people in Greece do.

Sure, you’ll find some sunbeds even in some of these lesser-known places; however, it’s not very common for people here to use them, so make sure to buy (or rent) your own umbrella, which shouldn’t cost more than $25, and save some money along the way.


lotutro, Crete Greece

You know we’re getting remote when the next place on the list is only accessible by boat or foot!

Still, I can guarantee that the extra effort to get to Loutro is well worth it.

As a car-free village, this is where you come to simply take in the views of the turquoise waters and rugged cliffs in complete peace, leaving all the stresses and noise of day-to-day life behind.

The best way to get to Loutro is to take a ferry ride from Sfakia (remember the place where you could hike a lot?).

The trip costs less than $10 and takes roughly 20 minutes.


Traditional creten village Margarites famous for handmade ceramics, Crete, Greece

This one is, luckily, reachable by car, but still one of the most constantly overlooked places in all of Crete.

Margarites is where you go to explore the island’s culture since it’s an extremely traditional (and charming) village famous for its thriving community of artisans who still make handcrafted pottery using ancient techniques.

There’s no better place for you to learn a bit about the craft, too, than Ea Ceramic Studio, where Aria and Ema will take you through everything you need to know.


Mazida Ammos beach, Xerokambos, Sitia municipality, Lassithi.

The best way I can describe Xerokampos to someone who’s never been there before is that it’s “a hidden paradise.”

Again, the only way to get here is to actually walk through the winding mountain roads, so make sure to wear some comfy shoes.

However, once you get to see the pristine, untouched views that await you at the end, all of your efforts will seem worth it – and I’m not even going to get into how calm, warm, and gorgeously blue the sea is here; otherwise, I’ll be tempted to get on the very next flight to Crete.


Church in village of Elos, Kissamos, Crete

The last village I want to mention (before revealing that favorite beach of mine I mentioned at the beginning of the article) is Elos.

Unlike most of the other places on today’s list, you won’t be coming to Elos for the beaches since the biggest draw of the region is the historic church of Agios Georgios and the surrounding countryside trails.

This also means that the perfect time to visit the village stretches well beyond summer – and if you happen to pass by Elos sometime in late October, make sure to attend the chestnut festival – you won’t be disappointed.

Agiofarago Beach

Agiofarago Beach, crete

Coming to you as promised; my absolute favorite Cretian beach is none other than Agiofarago.

Spacious yet secluded, calm yet exciting – I could go on all day explaining what makes this particular Cretian gem so special.

It’s comparable to some of Greece’s most iconic beaches, including Navagio and Porto Katsiki, but far more quiet and peaceful – it doesn’t get any better than this!

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