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Grand Tour of Crete Road Trip

This is the long tour of Crete. Hire a car and drive off to the Simpybook Crete road trip,  from west to east and from north to south. Towns, villages, beaches, views, history, all in one long promising itinerary with an astonishing diversity of scenery. The north road axis connecting the main cities of Crete makes it easier to drive along the north coast, while it requires a bit more of an adventurous spirit to explore the south.

The first two days of the Crete road trip are dedicated to the area of Chania. The White Mountains reaching all the way to the south coast does not allow for road access in some of the villages so you will have to drive back north to Chania and south again before you continue to the east.

The trip continues along the north coast before going down the narrow east coast and continuing back west along the Libyan coast.

You can rent a car in Chania and start your road trip there, but this circular road trip can also start from  Rethymno, Heraklion or Agios Nikolaos.

Enjoy!

 

Itinerary: Chania-Elafonissi-Chania-Vamos-Rethymno-Anogia-Heraklio-Knossos-Agios Nikolaos-Sitia-Vai-Kato Zakros-Ierapetra-Lentas-Fragokastelo-Hora Sfakion-Anopoli-Chania

Duration:8-9 days or more if you want to take more time to explore

Distance: Around 926 km

Crete Road Trip Day 1. Chania

Start your day by walking around the old town of Chania built around the Venetian harbour. It’s better to get an early start to enjoy the town while it’s quiet and to avoid the heat, especially if you are visiting during the summer. Once it gets too hot, it’ s time to head to the sea. Drive to the nearby beaches of Agioi Apostoloi or Agia Marina to the west of Chania  where the locals go for a refreshing swim. The area of Nea Chora,  with a variety of tavernas by the fishing harbor, is ideal  for your fist meal by the sea.

Crete Road Trip Day 2.Elos, Elafonissi and the west coast

Explore the west coast of Crete  on a beautiful ride to the impressive beach of Elafonissi. The sand dune ecosystem with the cedar trees and the aromatic beach lilies placed Elafonissi  in the Nature 2000 network of protected areas. On your way back to Chania take the road through Elos to see the inland villages surrounded by chestnut and plane trees or chose the coastal road through Sfinari for amazing sunset views.

Chania-Elafonissi through Elos:72 km, Elafonissi-Chania through Sfinari: 86 km

 

Elafonissi beach, 82 km south west of Chania

Do you want to discover more of Chania? Explore the Best 5 Chania beaches

Crete Road Trip Day  3. Chania – Rethymno- Heraklio

From Chania drive east towards the area of Apokoronas. This is probably the lushest area of Chania with many small villages hidden inside the green slopes. The main villages are Vamos, with restored traditional buildings and Gavalochori  where you can visit the folklore museum.  Stop for a lunch and swim  in Kalyves or Almyrida before visiting the old town and the Venetian harbor of Rethymno, smaller than the one of Chania, but carrying its own beauty.  Next stop is busy Heraklio.

 

Read more about the natural beauty and beaches of Rethymno

 

Option 2 If you want to visit Anogia on your way to Heraklio, you can skip Vamos and drive straight from Chania  to Rethymno. After visiting the Venetian harbor of Rethymno drive east on the national road and in the area of Panormos take the exit towards Perama and Zoniana to reach Anogia, at an altitude of 750 meters on Mount Psiloritis. Park your car and walk around the old village before resting at the central square where the locals meet. Anogia is also known for the weaving and embroidery workshops. From here you can reach Heraklio driving east through Kamaraki and Tylissos.

Spend the night in Heraklio, the capital of Crete.

Chania – Kalyves:24 km, Kalyves-Vamos: 8 km, Vamos-Rethymno:33 km, Rethymno-Heraklio:80 km  OR Chania-Rethymno: 61 km, Rethymno-Anogia: 67 km, Anogia-Heraklio: 37 km

 

The old harbour of Heraklio

Crete Road Trip Day 4. Knossos and archaeological museum and driving to the east

As parking in Heraklio is not easy, it is advisable to walk to the archaeological museum in the centre of the city and then drive to the archaeological site of Knossos.

From Knossos head towards the national road to continue your trip to the east through Agios Nikolaos in Mirabello Bay, Lassithi. You can stop here to walk around the town and rest in the area around Voulismeni lake. From here continue your drive to the east to reach Sitia where you can spend the night.

Read more about the 5 Destinations In Heraklio You Should Not Miss

Crete Road Trip Day 5. East coast of Crete to Ierapetra

Our Crete road trip continues down the east coast. However, before heading south you should visit the palm forest and beach of Vai northeast of Sitia. From Vai head south towards Zakros and Kato Zakros to the ruins of the Minoan palace and the beach at the exit of the Gorge of the Dead. Drive back towards Zakros and turn left towards Xirokampos, the village of Ziros with the famous spring water, to Makris Gialos (Greek for “long beach”) and Ierapetra, the southernmost town of Greece. Here you can have dinner in the old town with the  Venetian fortress and spend the night as you continue your journey along the Libyan Sea.

Sitia-Vai: 24 km, Vai-Kato Zakros: 35 km,  Kato Zakros-Ierapetra: 84 km

 

The sandy palm beach of Vai, 94 km northeast of Agios Nikolaos, Crete

Crete Road Trip Day 6. Along the Libyan Sea

This day is dedicated to the Libyan coast of Crete.

From Ierapetra drive east towards Lentas. There are beautiful beaches on your way such as Keratokampos and the nearby Kastri,  Larinaki and Listis near the area of Tsoutsouras and Pachia Ammos (=Greek for “thick sand”) next to the area of Treis  Ekklisies. Allow enough time to relax in the coastal settlement of Lentas. It is very probable that you will want to make the most of the calmness and hospitality of Lentas, so we suggest that you spend one extra day there.

Ierapetra-Lentas:112 km

Crete Road Trip Day 7 (or 8).  Lentas to Fragokastelo

More beaches today: the wild landscape of  Triopetra, the small and beautiful  Agia Fotini with the old taverna, protected from the  Western winds, famous Preveli with the river and palm trees and the more organized settlement of Plakias. These are only some of your options and the choice is yours.  If you prefer to settle in your room first and then go to the beach, there is a long sandy beach just below the fortress of Fragokastelo and the smaller Orthi Ammos beach to the east.

Lentas-Fragokastelo: 124 km

 

The seaside village of Lentas, 73 km southwest of Heraklio, Crete

Crete Road Trip Day 8 (or 9). Return through Sfakia

Enjoy your morning swim before heading towards the harbour of Sfakia  (Chora Sfakion). A 12 km steep, winding road takes you to the mountainous small village of Anopoli, and up to the bridge  Aradaina overlooking the impressive gorge.

Time to head back to Chania.  Return to Chora Sfakion and drive north to Askifou plateau, Alikampos and Vrysses to reach the National Road where you will turn west towards  Chania.

This is the end of your Crete road trip. Beware! After the calmness of the South,  the return to busy Chania might seem a bit sudden.  If the old town seems too crowded for you, there are plenty of accommodation options in other areas within short driving distance from the city center.

Fragokastelo-Hora Sfakion: 14 km, Hora Sfakion-Anopoli:12 km, Hora Sfakion-Chania:72 km

 

The harbour of Chania in the Old Town

 

Find here the highlights of Dave’s road trip in Crete.