The Debrief — Sun, sea, sand, mythology, cheap and excellent drinks, and 300 days of sunshine a year. There are worse places to holiday than the most southern Greek island of Crete. Here, ruins are so old myths were written about them, the sea is so warm and clear it could be Jamaica, and there’s more raki and goats cheese than you can shake a stick at.
As for keeping your budget in check, going to Greece is basically like going to visit our European bros. Good for the soul, and great for the wallet.
Malia in the north has hit the news plenty of times for being a bit ‘staggy’ – but there are plenty of other places to go in Crete to get chilled cocktails, kick-back on the beach, and peruse ancient sites, all on a shoestring budget.
It’s easy to do Crete on a budget. If you can, try flying mid-week which means you’re likely to bag an even better value fare. Also, select a hand-luggage only fare which should help lower the overall cost.
British Airways fly into Heraklion and Chania. From Chania, the airport bus takes 30 minutes and costs €2.30 into the town centre. From Heraklion, it’s a lot closer (10 minutes) and costs just €1.
Where to stay
There are plenty of apartments and B&Bs to be found under £25. That said, if you want to stay in the centre of it all, nab a dorm at the Rethmyno Youth Hostel for as little as £8. Get free wifi, breakfast, and a great location (close to the beach too). If you’re keeping to a budget, it’s best to stay near the beach so you can cool down – Crete gets hot and places with pools can be pricy. But if you want some privacy and are going with friends, renting out a many-roomed villa could be cost-effective. We love Illios Villas, which come with a private pool and terrace, where a three night stay for six people can cost £430, which equals just £23 a night each. Azure Beach Villas are another great choice, where for just £32 a night (for six people) you get a beachfront villa just off the beach, private pool, and barbecue.
What to do
If you’re heading to Crete, you probably need a holiday with as much sun, sea, and sand that the world can throw at you. Elafonessi Beach is probably one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, with pine forests, warm, wide shallow lagoons, and the water so turquoise it looks like its been photoshopped from a holiday brochure. Balos Lagoon is just as stunning and easy to reach from Chania. With white sand so blinding you need permanent Anna Wintour-style sunnies even to see, it’s just 17km away so you can take a public bus for just a couple of euros.
Doing nothing on a beach is pretty much what Crete was made for, but it’s home to some unmissable sites including the actual home of Theseus and the Minotaur. The one where Theseus, our hero, trails string from the entrance to the centre of the maze so he can slay the Minotaur and make his way safely out, rescuing a damsel in distress at the same time. What a guy. For just €6 you can visit one of the greatest sites of southern Europe – the ancient palace of Knossos. Even better, the largest Bronze Age site in Greece (and Europe’s oldest city) is free to visit on Sundays between November and March.
Where to eat and drink in Crete
Whether you’ve come to party or just chill out with a cold brew, Crete’s not short of great places to hang out.
Chania Town has some mellow beach bars with free entry – try Mylos Beach bar for a sandy spot directly by the Med. Wine is cheap, Paralio Bar in Rethmyno is perfect for cocktails and traditional plates of Creten food like lamb kebabs and olive salads for just €5. For some of the best freshly cooked fish you’ll ever try, Agistri, near Palekastro, is a must-visit. Father and daughter team catches the fish and then prepares it straight from the boat. Expect to pay around €15 for a fish platter for two, plus you might get a shot of raki and some fresh fruit thrown in at the end for free. Always a winner. For the cheapest of cheap eating, just head to local shops wherever you’re staying. Guaranteed you will find the fruitiest tomatoes, the sourest olives, and the crustiest bread you’ve ever eaten all for a euro or two.