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The Best Places to Stay in Crete - from Boutique Townhouses to Family-Friendly Beach Resorts

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Crete's accommodation portfolio includes charming boutique hotels in historic Venetian mansions, spa hotels, all-inclusive resorts designed for family fun, and self-catering apartment complexes. A beach hotel with a big pool is a priority for most visitors. But if that's not at the top of your list, there are tranquil rural inns high in the hills, or friendly, family-run guesthouses in out-of-the-way harbor villages.   

Heraklion

 

Many visitors barely catch a glimpse of Crete's capital city. But there's no better place to get a feel for everyday island life. So find a café table on a square in the Old Town, sip an ouzo, order some meze, and enjoy the real Crete. If ancient Knossos is on your bucket list - and it should be - staying in town makes it easy to get there ahead of the crowds. And with accommodations in the historic center, you can make the most of Heraklion's museums and attractions at your own pace.   

 

There's not much space for a hotel to grow in downtown Heraklion's narrow streets. With few exceptions, hotels in the historic center are compact, functional and affordable. One or 2 offer welcome amenities such as rooftop pools, and on the waterfront west of the harbor you'll find some that have sea views.

 

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Rethymnon

 

Rethymnon offers you the best of several worlds. It's certainly not short of atmosphere and history. The old part of town is dotted with reminders of Venetian and Turkish rule. But it also has some outstanding places to eat and drink. You'll find 1 of the finest beaches in any of Crete's cities here; a long, sandy crescent lined with palm trees and cafés, where you can rent a lounger and umbrella, and laze through the heat of the afternoon.   

 

Rethymnon has a wide choice of boutique hotels in charming, historic buildings on Old Town streets. Accommodations may seem on the small side if you're accustomed to big resort hotels, but 1 or 2 even manage to squeeze small plunge pools into Venetian courtyards. If you need more space and a view of the sea, you'll find a string of larger hotels along the beach, east of the center.

 

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Chania Town

 

If your idea of a good time is shopping in old-fashioned market streets, relaxing in a harborside café and after-dinner bar-hopping - with swimming, sunbathing and a bit of sightseeing thrown into the mix - Chania is for you. Its handful of attractions are all within walking distance of each other, and there's a decent beach with watersports and café-bars just a 10-minute bus ride from the town center. The White Mountains loom on the southern horizon, tempting you to explore beyond the city.

 

Charm on a budget is Chania's big selling point when it comes to accommodation. The streets between the old harbor and the Venetian ramparts are full of small, pretty guesthouses in old stone buildings. There are more sophisticated boutique hotels, too. For beach hotels with pools, head for the beaches west of town, around Aghia Marina, or look east to Kalami and Kalives, on Souda Bay.

 

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Elounda

 

Private beaches, semi-tropical gardens that wouldn't look out of place in the Caribbean, to-die-for views over the Gulf of Mirabello, tennis courts, and a 9-hole golf course are reason enough to stay in Elounda. Add some of the most sophisticated hotel restaurants in Crete and you'll see why many guests don't stray from the resort. But for those with itchy feet, Elounda is also an excellent base for exploring eastern Crete - ideally, of course, in a chauffeured car or aboard a private yacht.    

 

Elounda is all about prestige and luxury. Hotels here offer suites with private pools or whirlpools, spas and wellness centers. Its restaurants celebrate the cuisines of the Mediterranean, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, and serve fine wines from Old World and New World vineyards. Fluffy bathrobes, branded toiletries, and room service come as standard.

 

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Agios Nikolaos Town

 

Aghios Nikolaos became Crete's first real vacation resort in the 1970s. Since then, other resorts that are closer to international airports on Crete have ousted it from the top spot. Time has passed it by, but Aghios Nikolaos is none the worse for that. Its sleepy charm is seductive and relaxing. Of all Crete's cities, it's possibly the best place to simply unwind.

 

There are plenty of mid-sized, affordable hotels around the Voulismeni lagoon and along Akti Koundourou, the waterfront boulevard north of the harbor. You'll also find some more expensive resort hotels with pools, gardens, and beach access on the northern outskirts of Aghios Nikolaos, but still within walking distance of the town center and its shops and restaurants.

 

Agios Nikolaos Town hotels