Before You Dive In:
Why go? Gorgeous terrain and weather, relatively few tourists, archeological sites, locally sourced olive oil
Best ideas: Beaches, mountains, palaces — and a hidden pool
Good to know: You won’t hear a lot of English spoken in some parts.
If you want a honeymoon in the Greek Islands but you don’t want to only do touristy things, Crete is your destination. It’s bustling enough to host a lively harbor from a sidewalk café but big enough to offer secluded mountain retreats, private beaches and romantic solitude.
Crete has all the wine, olive oil, and sunsets you and your wife could ask for — as much as any other Greek Island — but with fewer tourists, more space, and much better value. Lounge on beaches and stroll through the old towns, but the real memories will be made when you two explore the remote roads, villages, and craggy cliffs. You could go days without having an English conversation with anyone other than yourselves.
Crete Essentials: What to Do
Crete may technically be part of Greece, but it feels like a country of its own. Cretan people have inhabited the island for thousands of years while neighboring empires took turns conquering it. Eventually, Crete gained independence, then chose to join Greece just a century ago.
For visitors, that means Crete has some of the oldest archeological sites you can find in Europe, peppered with Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman and Greek influences. The island’s size, more than a five-hour drive from west to east, passes through busy port towns and mountain villages along rocky coastlines and olive farms, giving you options to pack several getaways into one.
Weather & Best Time of Year to Visit
You’ll want to plan your honeymoon for beach season, but since Crete is further south than the rest of Europe, that window extends from May through October. You’re almost guaranteed dry sunny days during this time. Maybe avoid the peak summer months of July and August, when the streets of Heraklion and Chania are packed with sweaty tourists. Winter months see many hotels close down completely.
You’ll have to make a stop in Europe on your way to Crete, but you’ll have endless connection opportunities to land in either Chania or Heraklion (two major regions), from all of Europe’s low-fare carriers. If you are coming from Athens, you can also hop a ferry, but the voyage takes seven to nine hours by sea. You’ll also want to explore the island on your own so get a rental car.
Honeymooning in Crete: Pros and Cons
There are plenty of good reasons to choose Crete. The negatives can all be easily remedied.
- Cheaper than other Greek Islands and most of Europe
- Large island has more room to escape the crowds
- Ancient history with close proximity to modern luxury
- Crystal-clear water
- Locally sourced olive oil on everything
- Always a taverna to watch the sunset
- Difficult to fully experience without a rental car
- Gets very hot in July and August
- Many resorts cater to families
- Some areas of the big cities are far less than charming
- English is tougher to find outside the cities, and good luck with that alphabet
Crete is divided vertically into four administrative regions, or prefectures. For each, the northern coast is home to their capital cities, three of which have capitals that are the same name as the region itself, making it rather easy to remember.
Chania (or Hania)Chania, Greece
The westernmost region alone has enough to satisfy a complete honeymoon. Chania is home to magnificent Mediterranean beaches with specks of pink sand and rugged interior mountains sliced by deep gorges — all easily reachable from the port capital of the same name. With paved roads and plenty of English signage, this region also has the best infrastructure to easily experience it. (Photo by @mono_chania).
Just to the east, Rethymnon can get overlooked in favor of its neighbors. The Old Town of its capital Rethymnon is well worth a stroll through the narrow streets. Just east of Old Town, Rethymnon Beach extends for miles, lined with modern hotels and resorts. Inland holds a mountainous interior, including Crete’s highest peak, Mount Ida. (Photo by @absolutfabelhaft)
Heraklion (or Iraklio)Heraklion, Greece
Heraklion is Crete’s biggest city and hub, which you’ll likely pass through at some point. Ruins from Europe’s oldest advanced civilization are scattered throughout the region. And if you’re looking to supplement the romance with nightlife, Malia, a coastal town, is the spot. Try raki, the local liquor, often sweetened and/or flavored with anise/licorice.
Heraklion is also where most families vacation. Save those resorts for your trip back here in a decade when you show the kids where mommy and daddy honeymooned. (Photo by @heycrete)
Far fewer tourists make it to Crete’s easternmost region, making it the choice for a honeymoon in solitude. Here, you can drive to the end of a dirt road and follow a trail down a questionable path that may lead you to a small secluded beach with no other humans in site. Or to ancient ruins. Or you may get lost. That’s part of the adventure. (Photo by @topcretephoto)
Deep-blue Mediterranean waters surround a mountainous strip of rock that has been continuously inhabited for longer than nearly anywhere else in Europe. You won’t get bored.
Secret Bays, Pools and Beaches
This is what you want your honeymoon to be about: magical hidden places you’ll have all to yourself. Ask the owner of your guesthouse, a café patron or your Airbnb host (if they speak English) for their favorite local secrets. Every Cretan has them.
Secret Pools Near Kamini Beach in IerapetraKamini beach, Ierapetra, Greece
This “secret pool” is mine. About a mile west of Kamini Beach in Ierapetra, you won’t even spot this pool while walking along the coast until you nearly fall into it. And if this perfectly secluded tidal pool isn’t magical enough, there’s an even more secluded cave to the left of it. None of this is named or marked. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. You’ll likely discover your own perfect spot where you won’t worry about running into someone else who read this. (Photo by @biruvia)
Palace of KnossosMinoan Palace of Knossos, Φειδίου, Knossos, Greece
Archaeological sites may not make the most romantic outings, but this one is interesting enough to warrant a visit on any vacation. Knossos was capital of the Minoan civilization, dating back to the third millennium B.C., making it the oldest civilization in Europe. It has been partially restored, giving you a sense of how the 1% lived at a time when woolly mammoths still roamed the planet.
If you or your wife are history geeks, get the combo ticket including the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Avoid the midday heat and big bus tours by arriving at the place either right when it opens or a couple hours before close. Enjoy the AC of the museum in the middle of the day. (Photo by @discover.greece)
Balos BeachBalos Beach, Greece
A somewhat harrowing cliffside drive around the northwest tip of the island brings you to the spectacular Balos Beach. The beginning of the hike down to the beach rewards you with a panoramic view of Crete’s most impressive beach. Turquoise waters on either side nearly engulf a narrow strip of sand that connects to a massive rocky sponge cake peninsula. Take a picture of your lady on a rock wall with that backdrop and let Instagram go crazy.
Do your best Jesus-walking-on-water impression in the shallow bay to the left, which goes for hundreds of feet before getting more than ankle deep. The bay to the right is deeper, cleaner, cooler and better for swimming. Set up camp on the middle strand and take turns between the two sides.
Unfortunately, the difficulty in getting here doesn’t dissuade many tourists and ferries shuttle hundreds of passengers in daily. An early-morning or late-afternoon visit should help you avoid the bulk of the crowds. (Photo by @domagojruzicka)
Mount IdaMount Ida, Kouloukonas, Greece
If nothing more than a pretty background for photos, look for it when traveling through Rethymnon, especially early in the year when it’s still snowcapped. This highest mountain in Crete also contains the cave that is the legendary birthplace of Zeus. If you want a bigger adventure, a long, full day hike to the summit (8,000 feet) will help you work off some of that Cretan cheese. (Photo by @kints13)
Chania Harbour (Old Venetian Harbour)Chania, Chania 731 32, Greece
Even the droves of tourists don’t drown out the charm of the Chania’s Venetian Harbour. Take the long walk along the harbour wall out to the lighthouse or simply grab a glass of wine at sunset while watching the sky turn colors as the lighthouse lights up. (Photo by @myhome_andlife)
Samaria GorgeSamaria Gorge, Crete, Greece, Agia Roumeli, Greece
The longest gorge in Europe can be traversed via a six-hour, well-kept path. If you don’t mind sharing the route with others—it’s the second-most-visited site after Knossos—this is a great option to get some steps in. Most people start early, so if you begin the hike midday and spend the night at the ending point in Ayia Rouméli, you’ll have much less company. (Photo by @healthyskinnybitchdk)
Elafonissi BeachElafonissi Beach, Kissamos, Greece
This is the famous “pink sand” beach you may have heard of. But to set your expectations correctly, it’s actually a white-sand beach with many tiny specks of ground- up pink and red seashells. However, that alone is impressive enough. With pictures of the pink sand and blue lagoon, you’ll have both colors covered when it comes time to decorate a nursery.
Like Balos, which also has specks of pink sand, hordes of tourists flock here to bask alongside a tropical lagoon. However, very few of them cross the lagoon to the island. Enjoy the calmer beach on the island side or hike the interior trails to find pockets of seclusion. (Photo by @valentinilucia)
Rethymnon Old TownSeafront Old Town, Arkadiou, Rethymnon, Greece
Quieter and more quaint than Chania’s Old Town, this may be what Chania felt like decades ago. Shopping and dining is cheaper, and the feel is more relaxed. You two can do your souvenir shopping here. (Photo by @greece_countryside)
Crete: Hotels, Resorts and Airbnbs
In Crete, you can stay in all-inclusive beach resorts, tiny-mountain-town guesthouses, and everything in between. Most places include a hearty breakfast with milk, yogurt, olives, paximadia (hardened bread), cheese, coffee and usually some combination of granola, deli meats, fruits, veggies and eggs.
Rimondi Boutique HotelRimondi Boutique Hotel, Xanthoudidou, Rethimno, Greece
Rimondi Boutique Hotel
In the heart of Rethymnon’s Old Town, this gem feels like luxury, but oozes charm instead of pretentiousness. A variety of rooms and suites surround magnificent courtyards in neighboring buildings. Don’t let the word “luxury” scare you—low season rooms start at under $100 per night and high season from just over $100. (Photo courtesy of Rimondi Boutique Hotels)
Domes of EloundaDomes of Elounda, Autograph Collection, Tsifliki, Elounda, Greece
Part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, this chic hotel is perched on a hillside with residences and pool featuring geometric architecture. The hotel maintains a private beach on the bay below. Spring and fall prices can dip to less than $200 per night, but midsummer rates top $500. (Photo courtesy of the Domes of Elounda).
Aspros PotamosAspros Potamos, Greece
If you thought romance in a cave ended after the Stone Age, Aspors Potamos will convince you otherwise. The unique, tiered stone quarters range from studios to one- and two-bedroom apartments to split-level apartments overlooking Pefki Gorge. Each offers an outside patio, a working open fireplace, kitchen, and bathroom. The cheapest rooms start at $50 per night, and the nicest rooms cost $100, even in high season. (Photo courtesy of Aspros Potamos)
Abaton Island Resort and SpaAbaton Island Resort & Spa, Hersonissos, Greece
This crisp, new resort spreads out along the coast and feels private even when full. Their huge buffet breakfast will start your day off right. Low-season rooms start from $100 and high season $150. (Photo courtesy of Abaton Island Resort and Spa)
Summer Bed Under the StarsPalaiokastro, Greece
If the idea of rustic sleep under the stars sounds romantic, this Airbnb listing is completely outdoors. It’s not glamorous—more of what you would expect an actual Greek grandmother’s garden to look like. But it’s authentic small town Crete and costs less than $30 per night. (Photo courtesy of Airbnb)
Crete: Restaurants and Cafés
Cretan food is similar to Greek food and menus will include grilled lamb and beef, Greek salad, eggplant, dolmades and tzatziki sauce. You’ll also find Cretan staples such as dakos (similar to bruschetta) and Cretan cheese. Interestingly, seafood isn’t common for locals, as overfishing has driven up the prices. Seemingly everything will be soaked in local olive oil. Even the upscale places are relatively cheap, making the extra carafe of local wine and dessert an easy decision for you and the missus.
Gramboussa RestaurantGramboussa Restaurant, Emmanouil Diktaki, Kaliviani, Greece
This large taverna, admittedly catered to tourists, still could not feel any more Cretan. End your day at Balos Beach here. Get a table close to the music, and nod to one of the musicians to pull your wife up to dance. They probably will anyway. (Photo courtesy of Gramboussa Restaurant)
Panorama CaféΠλάτανος Καβουσίου, 722 00, Greece
Right on the main highway outside Mochlos, the views, as the name suggests, are stunning. If somehow your guesthouse doesn’t serve breakfast, come here for the waffles. Or stop for a bite of cheap traditional cuisine when you happen to pass by. The sunsets are killer. (Photo by Brian Biros)
Metohi VaiMetohi, Eparchiaki Odos Monis Toplous - Vai, Toplou, Greece
In the far eastern resort town of Vai, this taverna is owned by the local monastery and used to house their shepherds. Stop here after visiting Vai’s famous palm forest. Local dishes such Cretan salad, grilled lamb, grilled veggies and dolmades are all available and delicious. (Photo courtesy of Metohi Vai)
Samurai Sushi BarSamurai Sushi Bar Restaurant, Agios Nikolaos Municipality, Greece
Both the sushi and the view could individually warrant a visit to this upscale spot in the Royal Marmin Bay Hotel. Dine here in the middle of your trip when you need a break from lamb, feta and olive oil. (Photo courtesy of Samurai Sushi Bar)
PulsePulse (Vegan-Vegetarian), Theotokopoulou, Chania, Greece
While vegans and vegetarians can usually find something to eat on a Cretan menu, this place is fully vegan and has outstanding options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Even non-vegans will love it. The Manchurian balls, a form of dumplings, are a crowd favorite. It’s a block off the harbor in Chania, which is where you’ll universally find better food and value than on the harbor. (Photo by @carl.par)
When choosing Crete for a honeymoon, you may underestimate the size of the island and the variety of options to spend your time. Just remember, if the sun is setting and you’re sipping Cretan wine while snacking on local olives, you’re doing it right.