01. Secluded Beaches and Bays
Yes, you can still find them! Even in the high season, there are beaches and bays in the south of Crete that are not overcrowded, sometimes even deserted.
When I want to spend a quiet day at the beach, I like to go to Afrathias beach, to Kokkinos Pyrgos – Kakoskalo beach (beside the harbour), or to a secluded spot on the wide and sandy Komos beach. Unfortunately, Red beach is no longer an insider tip, but still worth visiting as much as Vathi. On the beach of Marzalos, you can usually enjoy beautiful nature all to yourself.
If you don’t mind a 1-2 hour drive then take a trip to the south coast of the Asterousia Mountains. From Kaloi Limenes you can follow the coast road east and discover many small coves like Psili Ammos, Paralia Petraki, Trafoulas, Tripiti, and many others.
A tour west of the Messara is also worthwhile if you are looking for small bays and beaches! Agios Georgios attack many people, but following the coastal road, you will find small bays, such as Prassonissi.
02. Try an Outdoor Adventure
The vast landscape of Crete is not only about the fantastic beaches! There are also high mountains, deep gorges, plateaus, valleys, rivers, lakes, and even waterfalls.
Crete offers the perfect scenario to practice any kind of sport, either extreme or soft, Crete is a land of adventures!
Mount Psiloritis (Mount Ida) and the Asterousia Mountain Range offer you many amazing places for outdoor sports, ravines with varying lengths and difficulty. The Rouvas Gorge is one of my favoutite and is not inferior to the famous Samaria Gorge in terms of nature experience. Or book a guided tour for hiking, canyoning (spring and winter) and climbing,
Or how about a sunset ride along Komos Beach or day trips through the Messara? Here is a list of the different activities and where to book them.
03. Historical Places and Ancient Minoan Culture
As with the beaches, the archaeological excavations, churches, and monasteries are not nearly as crowded as in the north of the island. Walk in the footsteps of the Minoans with a visit to the Palace of Phaistos and enjoy the gentle breeze that usually blows here. Wander among Roman ruins at Gortyna, and have a look at the new museeum.
A trip to the monasteries of Vrondisi and Odigirtrias is worthwhile, even if you are not particularly interested in the church. You can also get very good honey in the monastery of Odigitrias. Please make sure you wear suitable clothing, shoulders and knees should be covered, otherwise, the monks may not let you enter.
04. Off-Road Tours by 4x4 or motorcycle
Although it is certainly not the best for nature, off-road tours are just a lot of fun!! You can visit the most remote places of South Crete, the wild nature, and experience the untouched side of this diverse island.
05. Cycling & MTB Tours
Mountain biking in the mountains of Crete is one of the best ways to explore more of this corner of Greece. On Komoot and other platforms you will find a large selection of tours that make it easier for you to discover the region.
Racing cyclists will also get their money’s worth! There are countless tours on low-traffic coastal roads and practically car-free, well-paved roads in the beautiful natural landscapes.
If you are looking for a guide or want to rent bikes, I can highly recommend Manos – joyride.bike!
06. Watersports & Boat Trips
Boat tours are one of the most beautiful things for me! The turquoise sea, a salty breeze, and the slight swaying of the boat heading towards the small hidden coves. This is Greece at its best! Jump off board into the crystal clear blue waters, swim to the secluded beaches, and unwind.
The truth is it is exactly that!!!
Book a day trip to the Paximadia Islands, a tour along the coast, and combine it with snorkeling or a diving course!
You can also book introductory diving courses here or get your diving license on holiday.
Kiting, surfing, and windsurfing are becoming more popular on the south coast, but unfortunately, there are still no water sports centers where you can rent equipment or book courses.
07. Traditional Cretan Cuisine
As you explore the local food in Crete, relish the Mediterranean flavors of one of the healthiest diets in the world. Despite lifestyle changes and today’s modern way of life, elements of the Cretan diet still exist.
Traditional Cretan food has always been prepared from local ingredients, raw or prepared as simply as possible – grilled or baked. Since ancient times, Cretan cuisine has been based on several basic elements: olive oil, herbs, fish and seafood, goat or lamb meat, vegetables and fruits grown on the island. Later, Venetian and Ottoman influences were added to them, which created this special cuisine.
If you’re expecting recommendations now, I’m sorry! You are spoiled for choice because the food in southern Crete is actually good everywhere. Of course, there are differences, but whether a fricassee in a kafenion is better than a sea bream in a fish tavern I can’t say. Try as much as you can and find your favorite Cretan plate and one of the many taverns, restaurants, and kafenia.
08. Explore the Small Hidden Villages
Spending a few days in an old village when visiting Crete will show you how and why Crete is more than a pretty collection of beaches. In old villages you can experience the real life in Crete, which is still happening alongside tourism and modern lifestyle.
In the area of Phaistos you will find many of these old traditional villages nearby such as Lagolio, Vori, Sivas, Kamilari, Agios Ioannis, Listaros and Pitsidia. Well, there is tourism here too, but it is integrated into the Cretan way of life.
If you drive further into the mountains you will reach villages like Magarikari, Zaros or Anogia where time seems to have stood still. The population is engaged in agriculture, animal husbandry and traditional crafts such as weaving and woodworking.
There are also countless small villages in Asterousia, which often only have a kafenion and a church, but this is exactly where the heart of the island beats.
09. Tours, Tasting & Courses
Don’t miss the opportunity to learn something new, try something new or simply treat yourself during your vacation. It can be a cooking class, take a wine tour, learn how to weave in a traditional way, pick grapes in September, attend a raki festival in October, or take part in the olive harvest in winter.
It is always great for children to visit the donkey farm or to get to know country life at Kamihi Farm. Touching and participating are not only allowed, but desired.
If you like it more relaxed, how about yoga classes on the beach, massages by your pool, sunrise meditations, chi gong classes… There are many ways to have an unforgettable holiday with great experiences here in South Crete.
10. Nightlife & Music Festivals
When it comes to nightlife there are certainly better places to dance the night away in Crete, but there are a few bars here too where you can party the night away.
Most of the nightlife here takes place in Matala. Whether rock, reggae, Greek pop, a fun mix of music and people of all kinds awaits you here at night, and some of them only come out of their caves at night.
There are also many bands playing at Matala either in / in front of the bars or on the square. Unfortunately, there is no program, but we will try to keep you up to date.
If you want to know how the Cretans celebrate, you have to go to Mires or Tympaki, there are a few bars where people dance to Greek pop music on the tables.
For club, bouzouki etc you have to go to Herakion, which is definitely worth it, because the Greeks know how to party!
An essential part of the summer are the many festivals. Most are for church fairs where live Cretan musicians give their best, but there are also jazz festivals and in Matala this year the Matala Beach Festival is back.