Visiting Crete by car: the 5 best road trip itineraries
You’re planning to do a road trip in Crete?
Visiting Crete by car is the best way to optimize your itinerary, discover the most beautiful beaches such as Elafonissi or to reach the starting point of the hike in the Gorge.
In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared this travel guide with the 5 best road trips itineraries in Crete depending on the duration of your stay (5, 7, 10 days and 15 days).
For each duration, I will give you a summary of the itinerary as well as the link to read the detailed itinerary article.
And at the end of this guide, I will also give you my list of the best accommodations in Crete depending on your budget as well as my best tips to enjoy the perfect road trip.
Let’s plan your road trip in Crete!
- Visiting Crete by car: the 5 best road trip itineraries
- What’s the best airport to start a road-trip in Crete?
- Which port to choose to make a road trip in Crete?
- Rent a car for your road trip in Crete
- Road trip in Crete: 4 or 5 days
- Road trip in Crete: a week in the West
- Road trip in Crete: 7 days in the East
- Road trip in Crete: 10 days
- Road trip in Crete: 2 weeks
- Where to stay in Crete during your road trip?
- When should you go on a road trip in Crete?
- Road trip in Crete with a travel agency
- Renting a boat in Crete
- You’re traveling to Crete? These articles will help you!
What’s the best airport to start a road-trip in Crete?
Crete has 2 international airports:
- Chania in the West
- Heraklion in the East.
These 2 cities are therefore the most practical ones to travel around Crete by car and to make a circuit, that is why I chose to start all my tours in Crete either in Chania or Heraklion.
Which port to choose to make a road trip in Crete?
It is also possible to go to Crete by ferry from Athens. The journey is quite long, but if you are interested, here is the information you need:
- Chania is connected by ferries from the port of Piraeus in Athens. However, it takes 9 hours for the crossing.
- Heraklion is connected by ferries from the port of Piraeus in Athens. The crossing takes between 8.5 and 9.5 hours.
Compare prices for ferries to Crete by clicking on the button below:
Rent a car for your road trip in Crete
There can’t be a road trip without a car! And since, unlike in Corsica, even when you arrive by ferry, you cannot come with your personal vehicle for this itinerary in Crete, you will have to rent a car.
In order to benefit from the best rates and to have the choice of the category, you must book your car as early as possible.
You must use Rentalcars.com which allows you to directly compare the prices offered by all the rental companies present at the airport of Chania or Heraklion.
It’s really convenient and fast to check the cheapest options, the best reputation and the conditions offered (unlimited mileage, 2nd driver, etc.).
Rentalcars also offers their comprehensive insurance coverage (covering the expenses incurred in the event of an accident or theft). If you do not have insurance included with your credit card, it is a good option to take it because it is much cheaper than the one offered by the rental company.
Finally, you should know that for some rentals, the free modification or cancellation are available until 24 hours before your departure.
To compare car rental prices in Crete now, click on the green button below:
Road trip in Crete: 4 or 5 days
If you only have a few vacation days and have chosen a short stay in Crete, you must stay in one place and discover the surroundings through small one-day car trips.
To visit West Crete during your road trip, you will have to arrive in Chania.
To visit East Crete by car, the best way is to start from Heraklion.
I have prepared all the details to organise your stay in Crete for 4 or 5 days depending on your city of arrival.
For each option, you will find my recommendations for daily activities so as not to miss out on the unmissable places of interest and my selection of the best hotels to stay during your holidays in Crete.
To read this guide, just click on the following link: Itineraries recommended for a short stay in Crete.
Road trip in Crete: a week in the West
Here’s an example of a road trip from Chania to visit West Crete by car for a week.
On the agenda for this 1 week road trip in Crete:
- Chania (1 day)
- The lagoon of Balos (1 day)
- Samaria Gorge (1 day)
- Elafonissi beach (1 day)
- Akrotiri (1 day)
- Rethymnon (1 day)
First day – Exploring Chania on foot
- The covered market
- The Greek Orthodox Cathedral
- The Old Venetian Port
- The Fikras fortress and the maritime museum
- The religious buildings
- Eastern Gulf beach or Agii Apostoli/Iguana Beach, which are located next to each other.
I have designed a 1 day tour of Chania for you in this article: Visit Chania.
Day 2 – Discovery of Lagoon of Balos, one of the most beautiful places on the island.
For more information, read my dedicated article: Visit the lagoon of Balos.
And if you just want to book your cruise to Balos now, click on the green button below:
Day three of this one-week road trip in Crete – Samaria Gorge hike
For a complete description of the route and all the detailed practical information, you must read my dedicated article: Samaria Gorge: the definitive guide.
For day four, head for the other unmissable beach during your week-long road trip in Crete: the famous pink beach of Elafonissi!
The information you need to go to this beach is here: Guide to discover the beach of Elafonissi.
On day five , head to the Akrotiri peninsula where you can discover:
- Stavros beach
- Agia Triada monastery
- The Governto Monastery
- Seitan Limani beach
- Marathi beach.
Day 6 – Visit Rethymnon, where you can explore its beautiful historical centre on foot.
Then go to the Agia Triada monastery for a short visit before spending the rest of the day at Lake Kournas.
Day 7 – End of the holiday, go to the airport of Chania for the return trip.
Road trip in Crete: 7 days in the East
For those who prefer to go on a 7-day road trip to Crete to explore the East of the island instead, you can consider this itinerary: 7-day itinerary in Crete.
If you are arriving in Heraklion, here are the places that you must visit during 7-day road trip in Crete: Heraklion, Knossos, Elounda, Spinalonga, Sitia, Chrissi and Matala.
I have prepared a summary of this road trip so you can to organise your days for a 7-day trip to Crete:
- 1 day in Heraklion to visit the city and especially the 2 must-see sights of a tour in Crete: the archaeological museum and the palace of Knossos.
- 1 day to explore the Lassithi plateau, with visit to the Zeus cave
- 1 day in Elounda to go on a cruise to the island of Spinalonga and swim at the beach of Kolokitha
- 1 day to reach Sitia with visits to the Voulisma beach, the village of Mohlos and a hike in the Richtis Gorge
- 1 day to explore the most beautiful beaches of the East, an unmissable part of a 7-day road trip in Crete: the beaches of Itanos, Vai beach, the sublime beaches of Xerokampos. And if you want to add a little more athletic activities, you must go on the Zakros Gorge hike.
- 1 day to reach Matala with an optional boat trip to Chrissi Island.
Wondering where to stay during this 7-8 day Crete road trip?
The list of the best hotels for each leg can also be found in my detailed itinerary (click here)!
Road trip in Crete: 10 days
For this itinerary, I would suggest a road trip to visit Crete by car in 10 days.
This route starts in Chania (but you can also change it easily if you arrive in Heraklion) and allows you to complete a circuit to explore the West of the island and a part of the East.
This circuit is very complete and offers a good combination of cities, beaches and hikes.
On the agenda of this 10-day road trip in Crete:
- Akrotiri peninsula
I will summarise the main parts of this road trip below but all the details can be found here: 10-day itinerary in Crete.
1) Chania and its surroundings (5 days)
Let’s start this 10-day road trip in Crete with a visit to Chania. As it is quite small, one day is enough to discover the main tourist attractions.
Day one – Things to see in Chania:
- The market
- The old town
- The Old Port
- Fort Fikras
- The lighthouse of Chania
- The religious buildings
Spend the night in Chania.
To organise your trip to Chania in the best possible way, ready my article: The 15 things to do in Chania.
The second day , continue this 10-day road trip in Crete, going all the way West to the lagoon of Balos.
You will discover a superb stretch of turquoise waters and white sands where it is impossible not to swim!
As there are several little things to know when you go to Balos by car or boat, you really must read my complete guide to the lagoon, which you can find here: Visit Balos Beach.
Spend another night in Chania.
For day three, you must go hiking in the Samaria Gorge.
It is the best-known hike in Crete and is 16 km long. It takes between 5 and 7 hours to walk the entire path that first passes through the forest before reaching the bottom of the Gorge.
As this must-do during your road trip in Crete cannot be just done impromptu and requires some organisation, you can find my complete guide to prepare for everything here: How to visit the Samaria Gorge?
Spend another night in Chania.
Day four, go to Elafonissi beach, in the south-east of the island for a relaxing day on one of the most beautiful beaches of Crete. After yesterday’s walk, you deserve to relax by the turquoise waters.
Here are the details: Elafonissi: the definitive guide.
Stay another night in Chania.
On day five, you must explore the Akrotiri peninsula, which is just outside Chania. Here you will find several beaches including the famous Seitan Limani cove and 2 monasteries you must visit: the Agia Triada monastery and Governto monastery.
Spend one last night in Chania.
2) Preveli and Matala (1 day)
On day six of your road trip in Crete, it’s time to leave Chania to continue exploring the island for a while.
On the agenda:
- Stop at the Kourtaliotiko Gorge
- Visit the Preveli monastery
- Swimming at Preveli beach, ranked among the most beautiful beaches on the island
- Visit to Matala and its caves.
Overnight stay in Matala.
3) Heraklion and its surroundings (2 days)
On day seven, you must visit one of the best known cities of the island: Heraklion.
During your walk in the historical centre, you must visit the historical museum of Crete, the fortress of Koules, the rue 25 Avgostou and especially the archaeological museum of Heraklion. Crete’s most famous museum is home to many objects covering a vast period and is really excellent.
You’ll end the day with another iconic visit: the archaeological site of the palace of Knossos, which in the Minoan era, had vast royal apartments, residences of priests, thermal baths…
You will find information about Knossos and Heraklion in my 2 articles:
Spend the night in Heraklion.
Day eight, hit the road to go to Elounda where you will embark on a boat trip to the island of Spinalonga. Here you will discover its fortress and the old buildings that were used to house lepers during the epidemic that struck around the 1900s.
In the afternoon, still in Elounda, you must go swimming at Kolokitha beach. This is one of my favourite beaches of this 10-day road trip in Crete!
To return to Heraklion in the late afternoon, take the road that passes through the Lassithi plateau. You will be able to stop at the cave of Zeus, where the famous Greek god is said to be born.
Spend one last night in Heraklion.
4) Rethymnon (1 day)
On day nine, the penultimate day of your 10-day Crete road trip, leave Heraklion for Rethymnon.
On the way, you can stop at 3 places:
- The Melidoni cave is really worth the visit for its beautiful stalactites and stalagmites
- The village of Margarites, famous for its many pottery workshops
- Arkadi monastery and its 16th century church.
Once you arrive in Rethymnon, you will have plenty of time to peacefully explore the old town. It is not very big but it is really nice to walk around the alleys lined with shops and taverns.
For all the details about Rethymnon, please read my dedicated article: Visit Rethymnon.
Spend the night in Rethymnon or Chania if your flight takes off early in the morning.
Day ten marks the end of this road trip in Crete!
Road trip in Crete: 2 weeks
If you have 15 days for a road trip in Crete, this is really the best option because you’ll be able to explore the entire island!
This 2-week road trip in Crete that I propose leaves from Chania, in the West but you can start from Heraklion and complete the same circuit.
All the details for organising this drive around Crete can be found in my article: 2-week itinerary in Crete.
I’ll give you a short summary of the journey legs below:
1) West Crete (6 days)
For this two-week road trip in Crete, you must start at the West of the island for 6 days.
Day one – Discover the city of Chania on foot: the market, the cathedral, the old town, the Old Port, Fort Firkas and the lighthouse.
You will certainly have time to see a majority of the things I discuss in my Best Places to See Chania.
Day Two – Lagoon of Balos
Cruise from Kissamos to Balos can be booked here:
This is a must-see sight on this 2 week road trip in Crete!
More about Balos in my article: Visit the lagoon of Balos.
Day three – Samaria Gorge
The information to prepare for your hike can be found here: Visit the Samaria Gorge.
On day four of your 15-day road trip to Crete will be devoted to relaxing on the famous pink sand beach of Elafonissi.
More information can be found here: Visit Elafonissi.
Day 5 – Drive to the Akrotiri peninsula with stops to visit monasteries and swim at the Seitan Limani beach.
Day 6 – Visit the Kournas lake before reaching the city of Rethymnon for a pleasant walk in the city. In the afternoon, visit the Arkadi monastery, the potters’ village of Margarites and the Melidoni cave.
I have explained everything in this article: What are the things to do in Rethymnon?
2) East Crete (5 days)
For the rest of your 15-day road trip in Crete, you will now explore the Eastern part of the island.
Day seven – Visit to the city of Heraklion: the historical museum of Crete, the fortress of Koules, the archaeological museum and the palace of Knossos.
More about Heraklion in my post: The guide to visit Heraklion.
Day eight – Travel from Heraklion to Elounda via the Lassithi plateau.
On day nine, you must take the boat from the port of Elounda and visit Spinalonga island. In the afternoon, you can swim at Kolokitha beach.
Day 10 – Today, you’ll continue this 15-day road trip in Crete by going further East, towards Sitia. On the road, you will discover the splendid Voulisma beach before stopping for lunch in the seafront hamlet of Mohlos and continue with a small hike to the Richtis waterfall.
Day 11 – Enjoy the beaches of the East, some of which are ranked among the best of Crete’s most beautiful beaches. My recommendations: Itanos, Vai and Xerokampos. The more motivated among you can also go hiking in the Zakros Gorge.
3) South Crete (3 days)
On day twelve, continue this two-week road trip in Crete by heading south. From Ierapetra you can take a boat that will take you to spend the day on Chrissi island.
At the end of the day, take the road to Matala, famous for its caves carved into the cliff at the water’s edge. Matala also has 2 beaches.
On day thirteen, here are the places you must visit:
- Triopetra beach
- The Kourtaliotiko Gorge
- The Preveli beach, another unmissable and beautiful beach during a road trip in Crete!
- Preveli monastery.
At the end of the day, you will arrive in Plakias for the night.
Day 14 – Today you can choose between one last hike in a Gorge (Imbros for example), a boat trip from Hora Sfakion, a day at the beach or water park or a a super quad bike trip (book here!).
On day fifteen, the last day of this 2-week road trip in Crete: head to Chania airport to end the holiday!
Where to stay in Crete during your road trip?
There you go! You now know where to go and what to see during your road trip in Crete. Now all that’s left is accommodation for each leg.
So I’ve selected the best accommodations in Crete for each step.
They are categorised by city and budget and are already included in the articles I just mentioned, which list the various available routes depending on the length of your stay.
You can also click here (alphabetical order):
- Elounda: all the best places to stay
- Heraklion: the best hotels
- Chania: list of the best accommodations
- Matala: where to stay?
- Plakias: my accommodation suggestions
- Rethymnon: the best places to stay
- Sitia: the best hotels
When should you go on a road trip in Crete?
For a road trip in Crete, you must go during months of May – June – July – August – September and early October.
This is when you can make the most of your stay thanks to the many attractions of the island: beaches, hiking, natural landscapes, walks in historical centres and boat trips.
And of course, it won’t surprise you that July and August experience the highest volume of tourists. If you have decided to make your road trip to Crete in summer, you must book your accommodation and activities in advance.
To visit Crete by car, the best time is the month of September. The summer holidays are over, so there are fewer people but it is still as beautiful and warm! September indeed is the best month for a road trip in Crete.
Note that between October and the end of April:
- Boat trips like the one from the lagoon of Balos are not operational
- The Samaria Gorge is closed
- The water is too cold to swim
- Many hotels and restaurants are closed.
Going on a road trip in Crete in winter is not a great idea!
Road trip in Crete with a travel agency
On Voyagetips.com, I give you all my best tips and itineraries to plan your trip to Crete by yourself. (All my Crete guides are here)
However, if you prefer to book a Crete tour with a travel agency, I recommend you to check the 10 best Crete tours by clicking the button below:
Renting a boat in Crete
If you want to rent a boat for a nice day at sea during your stay in Crete, you should book it with Samboat.
Motorboats, sailboats, yachts, small boats without a license, with or without a skipper: they simply have the most complete offer for boat rental!
So, what are you waiting for to book your boat trip in Crete? 😊
So what have you planned to see on your road trip in Crete?
🚗 Rent a car
🗽 Book entrance tickets and guided visits
🏄 Book your sports activities
🚤 Book your rental boat
🌍 Take a travel insurance
🙎 Book a tour
⛴️ Book your ferry tickets in Greece
🚅 Book your train tickets
✈️ Book your flight
You’re traveling to Crete? These articles will help you!
Discover all my articles about Crete: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Crete are listed there.
- 27 Best things to do in Crete: All the best places to visit and activities
- Itinerary: 4-5 days in Crete – Itinerary to prepare a short stay in East or West Crete
- Itinerary: One week in Crete – The perfect itinerary to visit Western Crete
- Itinerary: 7 days in Crete – The best itinerary to visit East Crete in 1 week
- Itinerary: 10 days in Crete – How to visit Crete in 10 days
- Itinerary: 2 weeks in Crete – The perfect itinerary for 14-15 days in Crete
- Road trip to Crete: The best itineraries for 5, 7, 10 and 15 days
- Chania: The 15 best places to discover
- Heraklion: TOP 13 places to visit
- Rethymnon: The 13 best things to do
- Balos Beach: All my best tips to visit Balos Lagoon!
- Elafonissi Beach: The definitive guide to discover Crete’s famous pink sand beach
- Palace of Knossos: The definitive guide to visit the most famous archaeological site of Crete
- Samaria Gorge: How to plan the best hike in Crete
- Where to stay in Crete? The guide to the best hotels, ordered by city and budget