Crete FAQ

At Photos of Crete .com we are regularly being contacted by our followers & members to answer your questions about the largest of the Greek islands. So we thought we'd put together an FAQ that allows you to get your burning Cretan question or query answered in a straightforward and helpful manner. And if you want anymore questions answered in our FAQ then email us at: questions@photosofcrete.com and we'll add it to our frequently asked questions answered list below.

Is there a shopping mall on the island of Crete, Greece?


The short and simple answer in the context of a large shopping mall with a huge variety of shops is no. The Cretans are passionate about local, and as such many of the international retail companies that have tried to penetrate the island have ended up leaving having failed to make significant profits. When you think about shopping in Crete think about local independent often family owned and run retailers. In the bigger towns on the island you'll find the major Greek chain retailers such as Jumbo and some familiar names like H&M for clothes and even Marks & Spencer in Heraklion! Retail therapy on the island of Crete breathes local and walking the winding shopping avenues of Heraklion, Chania or Rethymno is an immersion in independent establishments. You wont want for anything and you'll find all you need and if you want something specific we always advise to ask a local where is best to find it. You'll save yourself the trawl (if shopping is not enjoyable for you!) and the local people will know where the best prices are and the best quality is sold




Is there a 18 hole golf course on the island of Crete?


YES! There is one full 18 hole gold course in Crete. The Crete Gold Club sits adjacent to the Aqua Plus water park up in the hills behind the large coastal resort of Hersonissos. Created with the Cretan landscape at it's heart the international standard course has a luxurious club house and all the refinements of Europe's top clubs such as on course food and drink services, golf buggies, an on course pro and of course stunning Cretan views. Green fees vary in relation to the time of year, your age and at what time of day you play. In high season booking is strongly advised and you can contact The Crete Golf Club HERE.




How big is the island of Crete?


Quite big! The island of Crete has an area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi) and a coastline of 1,046 km (650 mi). The island is 160 miles or 260 kms is length (east to west) and is 7.5 to 37 miles (12 to 60 km) in depth (north to south). If you began in your car at Kissamos in the far west and drove the main national highway along the northtern coast of Crete all the way to Zakros in the far east of the island it would take you approximately 5 and a half hours. Crete has the national highway or 'VOAK 90' that joins up the major towns and resorts along the norther coast but this is not a 'highway' in the American or nothern European sense and large part are single lane as it winds around the bays and mountains that border the sea. With all of the above in mind when deciding where you are going to stay on the island it's important to do you research of what type of holiday you'd like and what you want to do and see. Our guide HERE will help you to decide.




What is the food like in Crete?


Wonderful! Well Ok lets be a little bit more specific! The first thing to say is that wherever you eat on the island you'll find the local meat, vegetables, herbs and spices are simply incredible. Even a simple tomato tastes so much tastier in Crete than back home so whatever you choose from the menu or supermarket you're in for a treat. As far as cuisine is concerned it depends what you like and where you stay. If you like international cuisines such as American burgers along with Chinese & Indian food and this forms an important part of your holiday then opt for the larger towns and resorts like Rethymno or Hersonissos, Stalida or Malia that cater for these desires. However wherever you are we'd absolutely advocate exploring the local Cretan and Greek cuisine. Tavernas not only offer great value (if you get away from the tourist traps) they also offer some of the tastiest dishes you'll enjoy anywhere. From the famous Greek dishes such as Moussaka to bbq grilled chops with potatoes, rice and salad, or maybe if you're a little more adventurous local rabbit or Cretan snails (yes they eat snails in Crete!). Greek fast food is a cut above the American in our opinion and we'd advise you seek out you local Psitopoleio (grill) for some tasty gyros (kebab to others but much tastier ) or souvlaki (bbq cubes of pork or chicken) along with the best burgers you will ever eat in your life... bifteki! Pizzas are just about everywhere and in the larger resorts if you can't be bothered to go out the delivery is available on local fast food. Crete affords the opportunity to escape the brands and the generic chains and explore local fresh produce and food and please do (if only for one night) immerse in the local food culture, you wont regret it! Check out our guide to the cuisine of Crete HERE.




What is the best season to visit Crete?


It Depends! Sorry... I'll be a little more specific. Crete is a seasonal island and has a climate that changes along with the time of year. Because of its geographical position its never what northern Europeans would ever class as being cold. The 'high' summer season months are July and August. During these months rain is extremely rare and whilst you might get the odd day where there is a little cloud cover in the morning it almost always floats away and the 30-40 degree heat is daily in the full glow of the Cretan sunshine. June & September either side can often be equally warm and sunny with the caveat that on the odd day it might rain a little or you might have some cloud. So if you like the heat but don't want it full blast everyday then June and September are a better option. In addition the kids are largely at school so it will almost certainly cost you less and be quieter than those all guns blazing main high season months. Around the 4 main summer months the spring and Autumn can be wonderful times to be in Crete and for some Easter and the spring is their favourite time of all with the green lush landscapes, pretty flowers and cooler temperatures. Don't be fooled both spring and summer can get up to 30 but this is not everyday and mid 20's Celsius is most common with a shorter day than at the height of the season. The end of September in Autumn also brings a warm Cretan sea and the waters have been heated up by the summer sunshine all season. It can be like a warm bath! As for the winter months of November to end February don't write them off either. Unless you live in Greece travel to Crete in the winter is only via a connecting flight through the major Greek hubs of Athens or Thessaloniki so be aware travel is more complicated and time consuming. However once you arrive on the island whilst yes it can be rainy with some heavy downpours you'll also enjoy days of 25-24 degrees and sun. You'll see the locals swimming in the Cretan seas all through winter and even at night it's rare for the temperature to fall much below 5 degrees Celsius. Crete temperate winter climate affords a much warmer and sunnier place to be that northern Europe during winter but the island has never embraced a winter summer season like is not too far neighbour Cyprus. It remains to be seen once the ongoing pandemic is over if the need for a longer season for recoup lost finances will prompt the opening of hotels and direct flights year round. Check out our guide on where to stay on the island of Crete HERE.




Is it safe for single women to travel alone in Crete?


I think so. This is a tricky one as nowhere is 100% safe and nowhere is absolutely devoid of people with negative motive. So let me alter this question a little. Are the people of Crete mostly friendly, respectful and kind? Absolutely YES! Is criminal activity on the island of Crete relatively low? Yes. Whilst like anywhere the media will splash the odd horror story all over the front page there are odd and exceptions to the wider rule. As a woman travelling alone in Crete you would feel safe almost all of the time, and that goes for a single guy or a group of people etc. There is not a culture in Crete of pestering women and whilst the older generation in Crete and Greece still hold quite traditional and deep rooted values for their children, marriage etc the people of Crete are not only some of the most friendly and welcoming anywhere in the world rather than feeling threatened during your time on the island you are far more likely to fall in love with the people and want to spend much more time with them and experience their culture. No one can ever give you a cast iron guarantee but if its the general culture of Crete then there is absolutely nothing to worry about there. You'll make friends not feel threatened or in danger.




What are the most famous places to visit on the island of Crete?


I guess it depends what you like! But at the same time this is Greece and Crete is the birthplace of Europe's first human civilization: The Minoans; so with this in mind if we are talking famous then it's partly about ancient historical sites. Knossos just south of Crete's capital (and site of the island's largest airport) Heraklion is the most famous of all. Discovered by Sir Arthur Evans the site is home to the Greek legend of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth. It's partial reconstruction by Evans and his team makes it 'come alive' a little more than other ancient ruins however some are not fans as they dispute the accuracy of his efforts. Other major Minoan sites are found at Phaistos & Malia. Moving away from ruins to beaches then there are a some absolutely stunning almost tropical paradises on Crete. Balos Lagoon to the western end of the island is a both famous and breathtaking sight & environment. Elafonissi in the southwest of Crete has stunning pink sands and it utterly gorgeous too. At the other end to the far east is Vai beach with has a forest of palm trees behind the sands and is the only 'palm beach' in Europe! The Samaria Gorge is classed of one of the most stunningly beautiful natural habitats in both Greece & Europe but if you are going to walk it wear the right clothing and some sturdy walking boots or shoes! Many turn up in flip flops and soon realize they are in for an uncomfortable 8km ramble! The Venetians certainly left their mark on the island of Crete also and the major towns on Crete that are evenly spread along the norther coastline all have stunning Venetian harbors and architecture. My personal favourite is Rethymno Town with it's stunning Venetian port and the Fortezza than hangs over the old Venetian narrow streets below. The above barely scratches the surface of what the island has to offer (we've not even mentioned Zues birthplace!) and there's enough to keep you fascinated in Crete for months if not years.




Why are so many houses unfinished in Crete?


TAX! So the lifestyle on the island of Crete can seem a little laid back! But that is not why so many houses have reinforced concrete columns sticking out of their roofs or half finished aspects to their build. There USED to be a law in Greece that if your house was not finished then you did not have to pay the tax on your new property until it was. I guess you can now fill the gaps as to why people intentionally built their houses with an aspect that was never to be completed! However it was the 'national sport' of all Greeks to avoid paying their taxes and as we all know that along with political corruption lead to Greece's bankruptcy and since that awful situation many of the country's tax loop holes have been closed including this one regarding houses. So if someone still has a half finished house it is not just because they either can't afford to finish it or have better things to do!!




Is property & are houses cheap in Crete?


Yes if you know what you are doing. I suppose it's like anything... when you live somewhere you know what's a good and bad price and your more aware to those who'd try to take advantage of you. Ultimately if you are immersed into Cretan society you will find property and houses cheap, sometimes very cheap. However if you are reading this you almost certainly to not currently reside in Crete and don't have this connection. The peril then becomes that you commence searching through English or German etc written property sites and these are almost all advertising homes and property at hugely inflated prices where the agent is taking a lot of the asking price. These agents scour the villages of Crete looking for families who have houses to sell and pay them the local going rate but then put as much as 50-60% on that value because they know that you will pay it because of the relative value to what you'd pay where you come from. This is why we set up our Crete Property Consultancy because we'll get you to the village price with no agent and no bulls**t. Check out our property page HERE. Yes property is wonderful value in Crete with some basic honest assistance.




Do people in Crete speak English?


Well I'll put it another way: Do I need to speak Greek in be understood in Crete? The answer is almost always no. English is taught as a mandatory lesson in schools in Greece and almost all middle class parents and above send their kids to additional private English lessons. Then there's the hugely helpful fact (for us English speakers) that the nightly movies on TV are left in English and Greek subtitles are placed at the bottom of the screen. All of the above has meant that a lot of my close Cretan friends both write and speak English more accurately than I do. Even when you get out into the wilds of the island whilst you'll find many that don't speak English if your conversation is either essential or becoming more in depth the locals will soon bring an English speaking villager to translate! This is both the friendly nature and wonderful spirit of the Cretans. They will always help and find a way! In resorts and towns you'll find English speakers absolutely everywhere. German and French too.




Is driving in Crete dangerous?


Only if you allow it to be. The National Road in Crete or VOAK 90 runs almost the entire width of the island from east to west and has a reputation shall we say. The national road is something we will all have to drive upon if coming to the island by air or boat as the main towns along the northern coast with their ports and airports are all linked up with road 90. I bring up the VOAK 90 first in this answer as it is infamous with the Cretans for it's poor state of repair. Greece has had financial problems and pot holes etc have fallen lower down the list of priorities and as such it can be bumpy and you need to watch the road surface as you drive. It is also local etiquette to use the hard shoulder to drive if you are going slowly, but one person's interpretation of slow is different to another so you'll almost certainly end up being flashed by the guy behind you to move over whilst he passes. My advice on driving the national road is that I have done it for over 30 years and never had a issue. I've been beeped and flashed and requested to move over and I've seen some lunatics hurtling down it at great speed but I see idiots back in my native country so it's nothing unique to Crete. Take you time on the national road but in my opinion don't drive too slow or else you are just going to get beeped over and over and that could be stressful in itself. Stick to the speed limit and watch the road and you'll almost certainly be fine, and get into the hard shoulder where it is safe to do so and let others pass. The rest of the island is mostly tarmac roads that are of a decent standard. For example a drive from Hersonissos down to Matala in the south is all paved roads with some windy bits over the mountains but offers breathtaking views, places to stop and picnic and decent paved roads. Be aware of the twists and turns keep you eye on the road and the traffic around you. When driving over mountains such as on this journey you'll almost always come across a truck or tractor going a lot slower that you and others will at times make some wild and dangerous maneuvers to overtake these slow moving vehicles. Don't be pressured into doing anything you don't want to and don't get involved in other people impatience. Make judgement based on sound and safe decisions and you'll be fine, even if that does mean a few extra KMs behind a slow moving farmer! You can read more in our guide to driving in Crete: HERE.




How can I get to Crete?


Plane or ferry. There are two international airports on the island of Crete: Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport in Heraklion and Ioannis Daskalogiannis International Airport in Chania. You can also fly to Sitia Town Airport with internal flights from elsewhere in Greece. Can I get to Crete by boat? Yes you can. Ferries run daily for Piraeus the port of Greece's capital Athens daily and take between 6 and 9 hours. There are other ferries that take port at Rethymno, Agios Nikolaos & Sitia but they are not daily and it's advisable to check timetables. Check out our guide on getting to Crete HERE.




What is the population of Crete?


The last know population count in 2011 tallied a little over 623,000 people. Around half of those reside in the island's capital Heraklion. Crete is the largest and most populated Greek island of them all. Crete's second largest populated region the town of Chania has approximately 150,000 people living within it's metropolitan area.




What is the currency of Crete, Greece?


The Euro. Crete and Greece are part of the European union and the common currency used my many EU member states. Crete and Greece used to have their own currency The Drachma but this was replaced in 2002 by the euro. Some Cretans long for the return of the drachma but despite Greek politican party Syriza calling a referendums on the country's relationship with the EU ultimately the Greek government remained in the eurozone and voted in favour of numerous EU bailouts of Greece during a long period of national bankruptcy. This is a highly immotive and political subject so I'll stop there! You'll use the euro in Crete and wider Greece.




Is there a football team or club in Crete?


Yes! There are several professional football or soccer teams on the island of Crete. The largest and most famous is OFI Crete who's home stadium is named 'The Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium' and is in a western suburb of the island's capital Heraklion. The club where black and white shirts and are in the Greek Superleague (the highest level of professional football in Greece). With the likes of the Athens giants Olympiakos, Panathinaikos and AEK Athens coming to town OFI's fans are famous for their passionate and hostile welcome for visiting sides. PAOK another major Greek team from Thessaloniki have a bond with OFI Crete which goes beyond just their sharing of teams colours and both their players and fans are welcomed when visiting. Platanis are another professional football team based not far from Chania in the west of the island and Heraklion once boasted 2 Greek Superleague sides when Ergotelis also played in the Greek top flight. Ergotelis were sparcely supported due to OFI being the major team in the city and have since fallen back down the divisions and into semi amateur status once more. OFI Crete's stadium boasts 2 club shops and shirts, scarves and souvenirs can be purchased. If you want to catch a game then you should find no problem buying a ticket even on matchday itself. Check for fixtures right up to the day of the game as times and dates often change for TV coverage, You can purchase match tickets online from the official OFI Crete web site.




What is the best airline to get to Crete, Greece?


Well that depends on where you are coming from and what you want / need from an airline. If you are in europe then during the summer season (May-September) you'll find direct flghts to the island of Crete regularly both with budget and scheduled airlines. In addition the package holiday companies run flights for their organised holidays that you can book on a flight only basis. Budget airlines fly to both Heraklion & Chania and offer a cheaper but more basic travel experience and if you just want to get there (and don't mind them trying to sell you snacks & gifts) they afford more cramped transport to the island. If you are travelling from farther afield then you might have to fly into Greece's central international hub at Athens International Airport and then take a connecting internal flight to Crete. Athens to Crete is approximately 35 minutes and Athens airport is large and air conditioned with a good selection of restaurants and shops. Greece's national airline is Aegean Airways and they have scheduled and affordable flights from Athens to Chania and Heraklion on a regular basis with flights departing Heraklion (the island's capital) on an almost hourly basis from early until late. For more information about the best airport to land at and more on how to get to the island of Crete you can check out our guide HERE.




Where is Crete in Greece?


Crete is the largest of all the Greek island and is in fact the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean sea. In the southern Aegean sea to the north Crete's southern shores mark the north of the Libyan sea. Aproximately 160kms or 100 miles south of the Greek mainland and approximately 480kms or 350 miles away from the northern shores of Libya & Egypt to the south. Crete lies almost level on the horizonal longitude with Cyprus to the East and the island of Malta & Tunisia in North Africa to the west.