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Crete – a small jewel in the Mediterranean Sea. Crisscrossed by rugged mountains and lined with beautiful beaches, the island offers great things to do for everyone. Do you like cycling, challenging tours, or hiking through wild gorges? Then West Crete is the place for you! And if you enjoy swimming in crystal clear waters and relaxing on white sandy beaches, the island has plenty to offer.

Things to Do & Insider Tips for West Crete

Traveling to Crete is quite easy – many budget airlines fly from Germany to Chania or Heraklion. During summer months there are direct flights, in the low season you can fly via Athens. I recommend renting a car in Crete – although the public bus network is very well developed, having your own car gives you more flexibility.

As for travel times, Crete is still sunny and warm well into October – possibly mixed with a few windy days, so it’s worth considering a few more sunny days on Greek soil before winter.

Find out what not to miss in the western corner of Crete!

West Crete: Tours and tickets

1. Balos and Gramvousa

Balos, along with Elafonissi, is one of the most beautiful and famous beaches in Crete. Dazzling white sand, crystal clear water – it’s no wonder that the beach is often overcrowded during high season. We booked a tour from Chania that took us by bus and boat to Balos (along with about 300 other beach bums). Of course, this is not an individual trip. The beach was packed.

View of Balos beach in West Crete
Balos Beach

It’s also possible to rent a car and drive to Balos. If you leave very early (it’s good to be there before 10:00 a.m.), you may be able to have the beach a bit more to yourself. After that, the tour boats arrive and it gets more crowded. The problem with driving yourself is that the road is incredibly bad. For the last seven kilometers to the beach, many drivers need more than an hour! Also, some car rental companies have a “No Balos” rule in their contract because too many cars have broken down there. So think twice and remember to get full insurance!

Gramvousa Beach on a Crete Tour
Gramvousa Beach

However, if you do the boat tour, a visit to the former fortress island of Gramvousa is included – here you can also enjoy a nice swim and visit a neat Venetian fort from where you have a great view of the sea and West Crete.

2. Elafonissi

For many, Elafonissi is the most beautiful beach in Crete, if not Greece. A headland of pink sand stretches far into the sea, there are dunes like on the North Sea, the water is shallow, turquoise, and sparkles like a diamond.

Crete's popular Elafonissi beach
Elafonissi Beach

Of course, Elafonissi is no longer an insider tip. Our tip: If you are comfortable driving on unpaved mountain roads with endless serpentines, drive by yourself to Elafonissi instead of joining one of the organized bus tours.

Like Balos, Elafonissi is crowded from about 10:00 a.m. during the high season (June to mid-September). Many tourists take the pink sand with them as a souvenir. That’s why there are now signs forbidding you to take sand with you. So here we should act according to the motto “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”. Apart from that, Elafonissi is really a beautiful beach and no trip to Crete is complete without it.

Road to Elafonissi Beach in West Crete
Road to Elafonissi Beach

A little tip: On the way back to Chania, it’s worth stopping at the small Taverna Stomio (about 7 km after Elafonissi). In the shade of the old trees, you can have an excellent meal at a reasonable price.

3. The old town of Chania

Chania is the center of West Crete and one of the top things to do. If you don’t want to stay at a beach hotel, it’s a good idea to stay in Chania instead. To find accommodation, you should check out Airbnb: there are many cute little houses for rent in the old town that are not too expensive, even in the high season. If you don’t have a car, you can even go swimming in Chania: the city beach of Nea Chora can’t compete with the beauties of Balos and Elafonissi, but it’s nice enough for a short, refreshing dip.

Restaurant at Nea Chora Beach in the evening, Crete

Chania has thousands of winding little streets that you can easily explore on foot and stock up on Greek olive oil, oregano, and other souvenirs. The Venetian harbor in the old town has many restaurants where you can dine with a view of the water. But watch out for the prices: often the restaurants in the alleys are a bit better and also cheaper than those at the port, which are exclusively frequented by tourists.

The beautiful old town of Chania, Crete
The old town of Chania

4. Taverna Dounias in Drakona

A journey through time: You can drive by car through gorges, over steep mountain roads, and narrow passes, and arrive at a village that seems to have fallen out of time. In Drakona, the clocks tick differently – if there are any at all. The owner of the small taverna cooks exclusively over an open fire – with ingredients that come directly from the surrounding area. Real slow food, as shown by the numerous documentaries that have been made about Taverna Dounias.

The hidden Taverna Dounias on Crete

If you’re there, you should try the roasted potatoes and salad – incredibly delicious! Be sure to watch the food sizzle in the old clay pots over the open fire. It’s a great experience! If you want to see it for yourself: The tavern is about half an hour’s drive from Chania.

Clay pots for food preparation at Taverna Dounias

5. Seitan Limania

This gem is only for the hardiest of travelers: Seitan Limania is not easy to get to. There is no bus service – and it’s better that way. The road to the small beach is the steepest and narrowest we’ve seen in West Crete, if not in all of Greece. You need nerves of steel for that! Once you have mastered the hairpin bends to the parking lot and your knees have stopped shaking, you are faced with a decision: walk down the small path to the narrow beach or just take pictures from above?

View of Seitan Limania beach in West Crete
View of Seitan Limania Beach

It all depends on when you arrive there. From 11:00 a.m. on, this beach is full of tourists and locals who don’t want to miss the crystal clear, almost fluorescent blue water. We recommend that you leave Chania no later than 7:30 in the morning: Then you’ll be at the beach by 08:15 a.m. and have it almost all to yourself.

The road to Seitan Limania on Crete

About the author

Guest author

If she’s not doing yoga or racing around Indonesia on a motorcycle, Lisa will be found close to a turquoise beach, preferably a glass of red wine in her hand and sand between her toes. Having lived in Southeast Asia for more than 4 years, she’s fallen deeply for this part of the world – if only there was more ‘real’ Pizza around! You can follow her travels and hunt for Pizza on Instagram: @lisa_asia

Have you visited West Crete before? Do you have any other tips for West Crete things to do? We are looking forward to your feedback.