Crete is the jewel of the Aegean, where history intertwines with golden beaches, azure waters, and mountainous landscapes that whisper tales of ancient legends. Whether you’re setting out on an epic odyssey to unearth Minoan ruins, indulge in mouthwatering Mediterranean cuisine, or simply to bask in the sun-soaked serenity, choosing the perfect base is paramount

With a history and culture so rich (and quite different) from traditional Greece, this large island could kinda be its own country.

Crete is a massive island and you simply can’t explore its entirety on one trip. So where to stay in Crete?

Should you stay in the convenient port town near the most popular historical sites? How about in the center of Crete’s best nightlife?

Do you want to base yourself next to the best beaches on Crete? No matter what you prefer, this break down on the best areas in Crete will help you figure out where to stay on this beautiful island.

Crete Neighborhood Guide – Places to Stay in Crete

FIRST TIME IN CRETE
Chania, Crete
FIRST TIME IN CRETE

Chania

The largest city and capital of the Chania Prefecture, Chania is the perfect base for first-timers in Crete. This is where you’ll find one of the most intact Old Towns on the island.

FOR FAMILES
Rethymno, Crete
FOR FAMILES

Rethymno

Rethymno is one of Crete’s most delightful cities. The third biggest town in Crete Rethymno seamlessly combines old world charm and historic landmarks with trendy restaurants and great beaches.

NIGHTLIFE
Malia, Crete
NIGHTLIFE

Malia

If you want to hit the dance floor while in Crete, look no further than Malia. This village, located on the island’s northern coast, is the party capital of the island and our pick for the best nightlife on the island.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
Roadtrip Crete Greece
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

Matala

Matala is a small and pleasant beach town located in the southern part of Crete. A former hippy mecca, this town boats some ancient sea caves.

ON A BUDGET
Agios Nikolaos
ON A BUDGET

Agios Nikaloas

Budget travellers to Crete won’t find a more ideal location than Agias Nikalas. Located on Crete’s North eastern coast, the city offers a lovely old marina, great sea food and some excellent beaches.

Where To Stay in Crete – An Overview

The largest and perhaps most popular of the Greek islands, Crete is 8,450 km² and home to approximately 650,000 people. The island is bigger than many imagine and as such, choosing where exactly to stay in Crete is kind of important. Crete is both standalone travel destination and a classic stop on a Greek backpacking trip.

Roadtrip Crete Greece
Crete does have some lovely lighthouses.

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Personally, I think Crete is a great destination to move around in. If you have a week you can easily sample 2 – 3 different places spending a few nights in each (we rented a car in Crete and fitted in 7 places in 8 days!). At the very least, I would suggest spending a few days in one of the old cities and then a few days in a beach resort or maybe a fishing village.

Some villages are better suited than others for specific interests. Do you want to take in the historic and cultural sights? Maybe you want to drink, dance and party the night away? Or perhaps you want to relax on a beach and enjoy amazing views of paradise. All of these things are possible if you base yourself in the right area.

Chania Town (or Xania) is the largest city and capital of the Chania Prefecture. Located on the northwestern side of the island, here you’ll find quite the myriad of historical and cultural attractions. With its charming old town, Chania is an ideal destination for first-time visitors to Crete as well as anybody short on time such as weekenders. Chania airport is also a major transport hub and handles several budget airline flights daily from all over Europe.

Roadtrip Crete Greece

Travelling east, you’ll pass through the towns of Rethymno and then Malia. These popular cities are where you’ll find a lot of resorts and some of the island’s top nightlife destinations.

Continuing east, you’ll hit Crete’s capital city of Heraklion. Heraklion is actually Greece’s 4th largest city and its metropolitan areas sprawls. Despite having a charming old town and being a very happening place, we prefer Chania so don’t really recommend spending too long in Heraklion and suggest you head to Agios Nikolaos.

As you continue east along the northern edge of the island you’ll encounter the stylish and trendy village of Elounda. A former fishing village, this picturesque town regularly welcomes the world’s rich, famous and fabulous. A must see while travelling in Crete.

Alternatively, you could head south-east from Rethymno, cut right across the island and head to the hippy beach of Matala to chill and visit the ancient, UNESCO listed cave’s. You could also swing by the former village Agia Galini on your way to or from Matala.

Still not sure where to stay in Crete? I’ll cover everything you need to know below!

The Best Cities, Towns & Villages to Stay in Crete

1. Chania Town – Where to Stay in Crete for your first time

Chania, Crete

The largest city and capital of the Chania Prefecture, Chania Town (also known as Hania/Xania) is the perfect base for first-timers in Crete. The airport handles a LOT of flights and is only a 30 minute, €3 bus ride from the centre making it easy to get to and from. Chania offers a perfect ‘taste of Crete’ including awesome sea food, winding alleys plus a Venetian harbour. In Chania you’ll also find one of the most intact Old Towns on the island.

With its snaking alleyways and narrow lanes, this is the ideal place to get lost in history and spend an afternoon exploring. There are also several amazing beaches within striking distance of Chania which you can reach by way of renting a car, waiting for a bus or chucking €10 – €15 on a taxi (note that there is no Uber in Crete though).

Most Crete trips start and finish at Chania. It is a great place to start your Cretan adventure and a great place to stay for those short on time. Also note that if you don’t mind staying further away from the old town, there are some excellent Airbnb’s in the suburbs of Chania at great prices and you can still easily either walk or get a bus to the old town.

Should You Stay In Chania?

  • Very near to airport
  • Lovely old town
  • Loads of bars and restaurants
  • Not the best beaches
Find Chania Hotels

Best Places To Stay in Chania

Cozy flatlet in Old Town
Cozy flatlet in Old Town | Best Airbnb in Chania

The cozy flatlet is located in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods of the old harbour. With one bedroom, one bathroom and a well-stocked kitchen, you’ll feel right at home in this historic apartment.

Cocoon City Hostel
Cocoon City Hostel | Best Hostel in Chania

Stylish and modern, this hostel is the perfect budget base for your stay in Chania. Located less than a half kilometre from the city, this hostel is close to public transit, great restaurants and the city’s top sites.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel Chania
Alcanea Boutique Hotel Chania | Best Hotel in Chania

Combining modern comfort with old-world charm, the Alcanea Boutique Hotel is the best hotel in Chania. Each room is well equipped with a refrigerator and minibar and offers guests comfortable robes and slippers.

Is This the Best Backpack EVER???
audy on top of a mountain in japan with the osprey aether

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

Want more deetz on why these packs are so damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

View on Osprey View on REI

2. Rethymno – Where to Stay in Crete For Families

Rethymno, Crete

Rethymno is one of Crete’s most delightful cities. The third largest town on the island, Rethymno seamlessly combines old world charm and historic landmarks with trendy restaurants and incredible beaches.

The old harbour is lovely at sundown, the old city’s labrthytine streets are fantastic for exploration and there are some amazing natural sites within day-tripping distance too such as the Arkadi Monastery and the Samaria Gorge.

Rethymno is a worthy stop on any Cretan itinerary but is especially good for families and budget travellers as there quite a few ‘resorts’ in and around Rethymno too. Personally I am not into resorts and as such, I found the Rethymno new town with its beach clubs and tacky tourist trap bars to be pretty awful.

Crete

Should You Stay In Rethymno?

  • Lots of resorts
  • Between 2 major cities
  • Old town is nice
  • A bit ‘mainstream’
Find Rethymno Hotels

Best Places To Stay in Rethymno

Clasic Venetian Studio
Clasic Venetian Studio | Best Airbnb in Rethymno

The building was constructed out of stone and wood and it combines the Venetian and Ottoman cultures. With wooden floors and a colorful interior, the studio also has one bed and bath.

Rethymno Youth Hostel
Rethymno Youth Hostel | Best Hostel in Rethymno

This youth hostel is the perfect base from which to explore the island and the village of Rethymno. A short walk from an authentic Greek market, this hostel is also well situated near beautiful beaches, delicious restaurants, and some of the island’s most interesting nightlife.

Faros Beach Hotel
Faros Beach Hotel | Best Hotel in Rethymno

Located just one kilometre from the city centre, you won’t find a better value in Rethymno. Comfortable and modern, this three-star hotel provides guests with spacious rooms, free wifi and a rooftop terrace.

3. Malia – Where to Stay in Crete for Nightlife

Socrates Hotel Malia Beach - Crete best hostels in Greece
Photo: Shadowgate (Flickr)

Crete has plenty of charming taverna’s selling cold beer all day long but is not really a ‘nightlife’ destination. But if you want to hit the dance floor while in Crete, look no further than Malia. This village, located on the island’s northern coast, is the party capital of the island and my pick for the best nightlife on the island.

Home to more than 61 night-time industry establishments, there should be a bar or club for everyone in Malia. From low-key and chill to wild and rowdy, this town has the perfect balance of bustling bars, charming pubs, trendy nightclubs, and all of Crete’s premier nightlife spots.

Spend your days on the beach and your nights in the club in this vibrant and vivacious town.

Socrates Hotel Malia Beach - Crete best hostels in Greece

Should You Stay In Malia?

  • Crete’s nightlife hub
  • Great beaches
  • Nice resorts
  • Loud and lairy…
Find Malia Hotels

Best Places To Stay in Malia

Deluxe Suite with Sea View
Deluxe Suite with Sea View | Best Airbnb in Malia

Luxurious room in a modern boutique hotel with seaside views from the private balcony. The room has one bed and bath and it’s got a super convenient location.

Milos Studios
Milos Studios | Best Hostel in Malia

Milos Studios Hostel is the best budget accommodations in Malia. Located less than 600 meters from the city centre, this hostel is perfectly situated for a night out on the town. Walking distance to Dimokratias Street and the city’s hottest bars, you won’t have to go far to find the best nightlife in Crete.

Drossia Palms Hotel and Nisos Beach Suites
Drossia Palms Hotel and Nisos Beach Suites | Best Hotel in Malia

This three-star hotel is located close to the island’s hottest bars and nightclubs and has an in-house restaurant and bar that offers a unique dining experience. There are epic room options that all offer stunning views of the sea and beach. If your wallet allows it, you can even opt for a suite with a private jaccuzi on your terrace.

The Future of the SIM Card is HERE!
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A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!

An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected the minute you land. It’s that easy.

Is your phone eSIM ready? Read about how e-Sims work or click below to see one of the top eSIM providers on the market and ditch the plastic.

Grab an eSIM!

4. Matala – Trendiest Place to Stay in Crete

Roadtrip Crete Greece
View from the caves of Matala.

Once a sleepy fishing village, Matala rose to fame in the 1960s and ’70s as a haven for hippies and free spirits drawn to its iconic caves carved into sandstone cliffs. These ancient Roman-era tombs were transformed into makeshift residences by these wanderers, with Joni Mitchell even penning lyrics inspired by the allure of Matala’s shores.

Today, this charming bay offers a unique blend of history and natural beauty. Golden sands embrace the turquoise waters of the Libyan Sea, and tavernas line the beach, offering fresh seafood and traditional Cretan dishes. Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, or someone seeking a touch of bohemian nostalgia, Matala welcomes you with open arms.

However note that there isn’t that much going on here and accommodation options are also less than in other parts of Crete so one or two nights here will probably be enough for all of you.

Roadtrip Crete Greece

Should You Stay In Matala?

  • Hippy vibes
  • UNESCO cave tombs
  • Pretty quiet
  • Can get boring
Find Malia Hotels

Best Places To Stay in Matala

The SEA suite 2 | Best Airbnb in Matala

Suitable for couples or a small group of friends, this flat with a stunning ocean view offers panoramic landscape, cerulean sky in the morning and colourful sunset in the evening. A modern suite built in 2023 that offers you all the amenities you will need for a fantastic experience.

Nautilus | Best Hotel in Matala

For a romantic vacation in paradise, you won’t find a better hotel in Matala. Located a stone throe from the beach and caves, this hotel is surrounded by bars, beaches, restaurants and attractions.

Each apartment features a private terrace and refrigerator, and all guests have access to the outdoor swimming pool and fitness centre.

5. Agios Nikolaos – Where to Stay in Crete on a Budget

Agios Nikolaos
Photo: Myhersonissos (WikiCommons)

Perched on Crete’s northeastern coast, Agios Nikolaos is a captivating blend of cosmopolitan charm and authentic Cretan culture. Characterized by its vibrant marina, the town is most renowned for Lake Voulismeni, a deep blue freshwater lake linked to the sea and wrapped with legends of being bottomless. Lined with quaint cafes and bustling eateries, its shores make for an idyllic spot to enjoy a coffee or meal, with views that won’t be easily forgotten.

The town offers picturesque beaches, a few archaeological sites, and a labyrinth of narrow streets dotted with shops and traditional houses. Whether you’re on a romantic escape, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, Agios Nikolaos has you covered. The town is great for budget travellers as there are plenty of bargain accommodation options – think Airbnbs and Hometays from $30 per night.

Roadtrip Crete Greece

Should You Stay In Agios Niclaos?

  • Proper Greek city
  • Charming sea front
  • Cheap digs
  • Far from Airports
Find Agios Hotels

Best Places To Stay in Agios Nikolaos

Urban Zen | Best Airbnb in Agios Nikolaos

This stunning flat in Agios Nikalos is a truly gem at a bargain price. The accomodation is brand new with modern architecture and all mod cons. Guests can enjoy the sea view sitting on the terrace in front of the garden of the house.

Basic kitchen in homestay
The Holiday Studio | Best Hotel in Agios Nikolaos

Located one block from the marina, this lovely studio is a self contained, quiet, cool and around excellent base offered at a great price. There is a small kitchen, a washing machine, work desk and little balcony. Everything you need is in walking distance.

Travel with peace of mind. Travel WITH a security belt.
Active Roots Security Belt

Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

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Hide Yo’ Money!

FAQ about Finding a Place to Stay in Crete

Here’s what people usually ask us about the areas of Crete and where to stay.

What To Pack For Crete

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Product
Description
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Make Some New Buddies…
Make Some New Buddies…

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

Check out my definitive Hotel Packing list for even more top packing tips!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for Crete

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Crete

Roadtrip Crete Greece

You could easily spend weeks exploring Greece’s largest island, Crete. With so much to do and see on Crete, like sunbathing on beautiful beaches, sailing the turquoise waters, exploring ancient ruins, indulging in the local food, and going wine and olive tasting, you’ll never want to leave this island paradise.

But Crete is a massive island, and each town offers plenty to explore. That’s why I created this guide on the best areas in Crete by interest.

Still not sure where to stay in Crete?

Looking for more info on travelling to Crete and Greece?

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