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Crete itinerary in 7 days

Including Heraklion, Hora Sfakion and Chania

Loutros Crete
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When planning our trip to Greece it took me a while to decide which island to go to. My husband and I aren't "sit on the beach" type of people. We like to hike, learn history and see interesting towns. Crete sounded like it would fit the bill. It is a large island with two main towns and lots of small villages. There is great hiking and nature as well. It was the right choice for us.

Hotels

Heraklion:

Megaron Hotel

♥♥♥♥

This modern hotel is nicely situated just outside the Old Town of Heraklion. The rooms are beautiful. They have a nice rooftop bar with views of the port and they offer a welcome drink. Breakfast is plentiful. It's just a short walk to the Old Town.

Hora Sfakion:

Livikon By The Sea 

♥♥♥

This small hotel in Hora Sfakion is situated right on the boardwalk of this tiny village. It is a very simple hotel. The room was updated and had a lovely balcony with beautiful views of the water beyond. It is a good spot as a base for exploring the south side of the island. They served a nice breakfast to start your day and had a good restaurant for dinner.

Chania:

Malmo Historic Hotel

♥♥♥♥

This is a beautifully renovated and modern boutique hotel in Old Town. It is small, with only about 8 rooms but each room is stunning. There is a nice breakfast room and a small rooftop deck with views of Old Town. 

Day 1

Heraklion

Crete itinerary
Noteworthy Restaurants

Herkalion:

  • Peskesi Restaurant. Located in the Old Town of Heraklion this restaurant is known for its traditional Cretan cuisine and it's farm to table sustainable cooking. It is located in a renovated mansion and it has a beautiful backyard patio. The food is delicious and unique.
     

Hora Sfakion:

  • Dourakis Winery. We stopped at this small, family owned winery on our way from Heraklion to Hora Sfakia. We had a tour of the winery and then a light and delicious lunch with wine tastings.

  • Hora Sfakion Tavernas. On two of the nights in Hora Sfakion we had dinner at the the Tavernas on the sea-front boardwalk. The restaurants were all very similar, serving typical Cretan food of fresh fish, grilled meats as well as salads and dips. Reservations are not necessary.

  • Bakery Coffee Shop. Located in the street just above the boardwalk, there's a small bakery with delicious, homemade pastries and savoury, stuffed pies which were great to pack for a picnic lunch or as a snack. 

  • The Small Paradise Nikos Restaurant. This restaurant is one of the south coasts best kept secrets! Located a short boat ride or about an hour walk from Loutros, it is worth the effort to get there! The menu changes everyday, depending on what the owner is cooking. When we were there they had the BEST moussaka that we had in Greece. It is on a secluded beach and the owner will take you back to Loutros on his fishing boat. From Loutros you can catch a water taxi or ferry back to Hora Sfakion.

  • Three Brothers Restaurant. This restaurant in Hora Sfakion is located just outside the main beach promenade on a secluded beach. We had dinner there on our last night and the food was very good.

 

Chania:

  • Oasis Souvlaki. This stop was part of our food tour. The souvlaki was so delicious. I highly recommend stopping by for lunch. It's just outside of Old Town. There are line ups of locals so you know it's good!

  • Tamam Restaurant. This restaurant located in Old Town has been around since 1982. They serve delicious Greek food with Turkish, Egyptian and Venetian influences. The food is unique and the building is a renovated, old Venetian and Turkish bath house.

  • Kritamon Wine Restaurant. This wine bar and restaurant offered delicious food focusing on seafood and homemade pastas. They have a cute patio but it is also very nice inside.

  • Carte Postale. This coffee shop located near the Eleftherios Venizelos Memorial Park is a perfect stop for a coffee and sweet pastry. The views from the hill of the sea and Chania Old Town are like a post card!

  • Manousakis Winery. We booked this winery for a tour and lunch. It was beautiful and the lunch was one of our best meals on Crete. You will either need a car or book a taxi to get there as it is outside of Chania.

  • Tomari Daki. This fish restaurant located in Old Town is known in Chania for its fish soup. It was quite good although we were expecting something else so it was a little disappointing. I think for those who like fish, their grilled fish and various seafood dishes are supposed to be amazing.

Heraklion, Crete Knossos

Afternoon

We took a short flight from Athens into Heraklion and went straight to our hotel, The Megaron HotelThis modern hotel is nicely situated just outside the Old Town of Heraklion. The rooms are beautiful. They have a nice rooftop bar with views of the port and they offer a welcome drink (who doesn't love that?!). Breakfast is plentiful. It's just a short walk to the Old Town.

After dropping off our bags we walked over to the Old Town and walked around looking for a restaurant to have some lunch. We found a small spot and which had salads and sandwiches.

We then walked back to our hotel and took a taxi to the Knossos Palace where we were meeting our guide, Manos Koukakis through Tours by Locals. Manos toured us through the ancient site of Knossos. Once we finished at Knossos we returned with Manos to Heraklion and he took us on a tour of the Archeological Museum in Heraklion. This museum is one of the oldest in Greece, has a big collection of Cretan antiquities and has a large Minoan collection. The tour in the museum helped us understand better what we had seen in Knossos.

After our tour we went back to our hotel and went to the rooftop bar for our welcome drink and a snack. The views were beautiful.

Evening

We headed to Peskesi Restaurant for dinner in Old Town which is known for its traditional Cretan cuisine and it's farm to table sustainable cooking. It is located in a renovated mansion and it has a beautiful backyard patio. The food is delicious and unique.

Day 2

Transfer to Hora Sfakion

Lake Kournas Crete

Day Trip 

This morning our guide and driver, Edmond Hoxhara, picked us up after breakfast to drive us to Hora Sfakion on the south side of the island. We arranged for him to make the trip interesting by making some stops along the way. Edmond was one of the funnest, funniest and enthusiastic guides we've ever had. He has a clean and comfortable van and he entertained us with personal stories about growing up on Crete, the history of the island and some of the political events that have occurred there. We had a great day with him. Highly recommended.

 

Along the way we stopped at various sites:

  • Rethymno - The third largest town on Crete lies just between Heraklion and Chania. Edmond took us on a short tour of the Old Town and its Venetian Harbour. It was lovely.

  • El Greco's childhood home - We drove to the small village of Fodele to see the home where the famous artist, El Greco, was born. There is a small museum in the house which just takes a few minutes to wander through. The surrounding village is very quaint and we picked some wild pomegranates right off the trees. We also went for a small hike on a trail by a river.

  • Lake Kournas - This is the only freshwater lake on Crete. It is surrounded by mountains and lush greenery. We stopped there to see the lake, have a coffee and admire the emerald green water of the lake. There are all sorts of water activities there and there is a walking trail which follows the circumference of the lake. 

  • Dourakis Winery - We stopped at this small, family run winery for a tour, tasting and lunch. It was the perfect spot and offered a delicious light lunch of salads, savoury pies and dips. 

After our late lunch at Dourakis, Edmond drove us to Hora Sfakion. We stopped at a couple of lookout spots to snap some photos of the views. 

Edmond dropped us off at our hotel, Livikon By The Sea. This small hotel in Hora Sfakion is situated right on the boardwalk of this tiny village. It is a very simple hotel. The room was updated and had a lovely balcony with beautiful views of the water beyond. It is a good spot as a base for exploring the south side of the island. They served a nice breakfast to start your day.

Evening

This evening we ate at our hotels restaurant. Most of the restaurants along the boardwalk are very similar with fresh fish, grilled meats, seafood and salads.

Day 3

Hora Sfakion - Samaria Gorge Day Trip

Samara Gorge Crete

Day Trip

This morning we picked up some snacks and packed a lunch from The Bakery Coffee Shop on the street behind our hotel. We headed to the ferry dock to sail to Agia Roumeli, the entrance into Samaria Gorge.

There are several gorges which run through the White Mountains on Crete but Samaria is the longest and most dramatic. The gorge runs 13 km long, from the top of the mountain down to the seaside town of Agia Roumeli (which is only accessible by boat or foot). Most visitors start at the top and walk down, taking a ferry to Hora Sfakion at the end and then a bus back to their car or to Chania with a tour company. Since we were staying in Hora Sfakion, we decided to take a ferry to Agio Roumelli and walk the bottom half of the gorge which is supposed to be the most beautiful.

The ferry ride from Hora Sfakion to Agio Roumelli was easy. the views were beautiful from the ferry and it stopped in Loutros, the next town over, to pick up some passengers.

 

Since most hikers start the long hike at the other end of the trail, when we first arrived it was not busy at the Agio Roumeli entrance. As we progressed through the trail it started to get busier by mid day with many people walking in the opposite direction. It was all fine, just a little crowded. The hike at the bottom half is relatively flat, with some inclines, but beware that there are some river crossings over stones which can be tricky and require some balance.

The views are stunning and hard to believe the force of nature at work to create this gorge. 

The gorge was created by a small river running between the White Mountains (Lefká Óri) and Mt. Volakias. The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Gates ("Iron Gates"), where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of almost 300 meters (980 feet). The gorge became a national park in 1962.

After about 1.5 hours of hiking we turned back and made our way back to Agio Roumelli where we had a snack and drink while waiting for the return ferry to Hora Sfakion. The ferry on the way back was quite crowded. Make sure to check the ferry hours so you don't miss your ride back to Hora Sfakion!

Evening

This evening we had a glass of wine on our balcony watching the sea and then went down to the boardwalk for dinner at one of the restaurants. 

Day 4

Hora Sfakion - Day hike to Lykos

Sweetwater Beach Crete Hora Sfakion
Guides and Tours
  • Knossos and Heraklion Tour. We booked a half day walking tour with Manos Koukakis through Tours by Locals. We first toured the ancient site of Knossos and following that he toured us through the Archeological Museum in Heraklion. This museum is one of the oldest in Greece and has a big collection of Cretan antiquities and has a large Minoan collection.

  • Transfer and Tour with Edmond. We spent a day with local guide and driver Edmond Hoxhara. He was one of the funnest, funniest and enthusiastic guides we've ever had. He picked us up in Heraklion and drove us in his clean and comfortable van to Hora Sfakion. Along the way we stopped at various sites. We had a great day with him. Highly recommend.

  • Chania's Old Town and Street Food Tour. We booked this tour with Alma De Creta. Our guide was very nice and pleasant. We walked through the new part of the city close to Old Town and stopped for delicious tastings and then we headed to Old Town where we learnt the history of Chania. 

Favourite Museums

There were a. couple of interesting museums that we visited on the island.

  • The Archeological Museum of Heraklion. If you're in Heraklion and visiting Knossos this museum definitely worth visiting as it gives you a deeper understanding of the Minoan civilization. It is one of the oldest and most valuable museums in Greece. 

  • Knossos Palace. This is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. It houses the remnants of Knossos Palace, home of Minos and the legendary Minotaur.

  • The Municipal Art Gallery of Chania. This small gallery is worth a visit especially on a rainy day (which we had). Its collection includes Greek art from 18th-century paintings to present-day sculpture.

  • Botanical Park of Crete. While not officially a museum, this park is beautiful and definitely worth a visit. You will either need to take a bus from Chania or rent a car. 

Itinerary Add-ons

This itinerary can be combined with:

Day Hike to Lykos

Today was another hiking day. We woke up and headed to the E4 trail. Our destination was the beach of Lykos which would take approximate 2.5 - 3 hours one way. This trail is not for the faint of heart or for anyone who suffers from vertigo or fear of heights (luckily we don't suffer from either).

It turned out to be one of our favourite days on Crete. The weather was beautiful, the sun shining and the temperature was perfect.

To get to the trail you need to walk on the paved road, on the west side of town, which heads out of Hora Sfakion. This road is not busy but you do have to be aware of cars driving by as there isn't a sidewalk in the first little bit. After about 15 minutes of walking you find the entrance to the trail. The narrow trail has stunning sea views, but be warned that the mountain is very steep along the side of the trail. 

The first beach you descend into is called Sweetwater Beach. This cute beach is only accessible by foot or water taxi. There is nothing there but beach chairs, umbrellas and a small taverna serving cold drinks and lunch right on the beach. Another fun fact is that this is a nudist beach! We stopped there to fill up with water and have a bit of a rest before continuing on.

 

Once we climbed back up onto the trail we were headed toward Loutros. This is a small waterfront village with restaurants and some docks for ferries and private boats. On the way to Loutros we passed a small chapel as well as mountain goats wandering right by us. 

 

We walked along the Loutros boardwalk ,filled with beachside cafès, restaurants and souvenir shops.  The boardwalk took us back to the trail and toward Lykos. On the way we passed through the tiny seaside harbour of Finikas, which had some restaurants and a beach. Finikas is named after the ancient town of Phoenix, whose ruins are still found near Loutro. 

We got a bit lost once we passed Finikas but we were determined to reach our destination: The Small Paradise Nikos Restaurant. This restaurant is one of the south coasts best kept secrets! It is near the village of Lykos. The menu changes everyday, depending on what the owner is cooking. When we were there they had the BEST moussaka that we had in Greece. It is on a secluded beach and the owner took us back to Loutros on his fishing boat. From Loutros we caught a water taxi back to Hora Sfakion.

Evening

On our last evening in Hora Sfakion, we ate dinner at Three Brothers Restaurant. This restaurant is located just outside the main beach promenade of Hora Sfakion, on a secluded cove. The food was very good.

Day 5

Chania

Chania Old Venetian Port

Morning

After breakfast this morning we checked out of our hotel and headed to the town of Chania on the north coast of Crete. We hired a taxi from Sfakia Taxi Services for the two hour drive. It was a rainy day and there are lots of switch backs but our driver was very good and got us there safe and sound.

Afternoon

We checked into the Malmo Historic HotelThis is a beautifully renovated and modern boutique hotel in Old Town. It is small, with only about 8 rooms but each room is stunning. There is a nice breakfast room and a small rooftop deck with views of Old Town. 

Once we dropped our bags at the hotel we met our guide from Alma de Creta for Chania's Old Town and Street Food Tour. Our guide was very nice and pleasant. We walked through the new part of the city close to Old Town and stopped for delicious tastings and then we headed to Old Town where we learnt the history of Chania. 

One of our favourite spots on the food tour was at Oasis Souvlaki. The souvlaki was so delicious. I highly recommend stopping by for lunch. It's just outside of Old Town. There are line ups of locals so you know it's good!

Unfortunately most of the time we were in Chania it was either raining or overcast. But that didn't stop us. We dressed for the weather and toured around.

Evening

This evening we had dinner reservations at Tamam RestaurantThis restaurant located in Old Town has been around since 1982. They serve delicious Greek food with Turkish, Egyptian and Venetian influences. The food is unique and the building is a renovated, old Venetian and Turkish bath house.

Day 6

Chania leather market Old Town

Morning

Although it was another rainy and overcast day, we decided to explore Chania with umbrellas in hand. 

We walked around Old Town with it's winding streets and visiting the old Jewish Quarter and synagogue. We went down to the port and walked westbound along the old walls and boardwalk toward Nea Chora Beach. This is outside the hustle and bustle of Old Town and there are beautiful views of the sea and of the ancient port. On a nice day, this would be a perfect place to lay on a beach chair and relax by the water. 

We walked back to Old Town and did some shopping along what is known as the "leather street" which is filled with stores selling leather goods as well as other souvenirs.

Afternoon

We stopped for a bite to eat on a restaurant patio in one of the main squares in Old Town.

After lunch we headed to The Municipal Art Gallery of Chania which is located outside of Old Town.  This small gallery is worth a visit especially on a rainy day (which we had). Their collection includes Greek art from 18th-century paintings to present-day sculpture. When we were there they had a temporary exhibit by a British artist which was quite interesting.

We headed back to our hotel for a rest but on the way we stopped at Kronos Cafè to pick up some delicious baklava for a treat

Evening

We had dinner at Kritamon Wine Restaurant. This wine bar and restaurant offers delicious food focusing on seafood and homemade pastas. They have a cute patio but it is also very nice inside.

Day 7

Chania-Botanical-Park.JPG

Morning

This morning we decided to rent a car for the day. We don't usually do that but we wanted to do a couple of things outside of Chania and since drivers and guides become pricey we thought we would see how we feel driving. It turned out to be a great idea! We rented the car from a small rental company, Kriti Plus,  located in Old Town right by our hotel. They were very accommodating and easy to deal with.

We drove to Botanical Gardens of Crete, about a half hour drive outside of Chania. This lovely garden is beautifully landscaped with a trail that you can follow which takes you around the whole park. As it's located on a mountain, there are some inclines but it is nicely paved with gravel and stairs. It is a haven of tranquility filled with lush vegetation, trees and flowers from around the world. 

Afternoon

After our park visit we drove to Manousakis Winery for an informative tour of their winery, the cellars, some tastings and lunch. It was beautiful and the lunch was one of our best meals on Crete.

After the winery we drove out to Venizelos Graves and Memorial Park. This was very interesting as we learnt about Eleftherios Venizelos, one of the most beloved leaders of Greece. He is buried at the park. This memorial park is located east of Chania on a hillside along the sea. There are beautiful views of Chania from here. 

We stopped for a coffee and sweet at Carte Postale. This coffee shop located near the memorial park has a patio with beautiful views. Just like a post card!

Evening

We had dinner this evening at Tomari Daki. This fish restaurant located in Old Town is known in Chania for its fish soup. It was quite good although we were expecting something else so it was a little disappointing. I think for those who like fish, their grilled fish and various seafood dishes are supposed to be amazing.

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