The Greek island of Crete is among the world’s most beloved holiday destinations. The chances are you’ll know it for its sun-splashed resorts and world-class nightlife. But there’s far more to Crete than Preveli Beach and Heraklion’s strips – it’s also a hotspot for culture and history, home to awe-inspiring Aegean ruins and gripping museums.
Best of all? It’s a fantastic destination for a budget holiday. You can keep Crete holidays cheap by booking a self-catering holiday home, and enjoying activities like these…
Hit the beaches
Crete isn’t short of pearlescent beaches. In the summer months, the sea is reliably balmy and therefore perfect for a spot of swimming, particularly in the bays surrounding Istron. For a cheap beach day, load up on snacks in your holiday villa, pack a few towels, a beach umbrella, a snorkel and lots of sun lotion, then head to your nearest stretch of sand.
Popular beaches include Balos, near Chania, and Bali, which is close to Rethymnon. You can typically rent sunbeds and umbrellas for a few euros – a small price to pay if you’d rather relax in the shade from time to time.
Serve up a traditional Greek feast
Greece is known for its cuisine, and a holiday to Crete wouldn’t be complete without sampling some local delicacies. To save some of your hard-earned pennies, make the most of your self-catered accommodation by preparing a Greek banquet at home.
Start with traditional dips like tzatziki and taramasalata. For an easy main, make some pork or chicken souvlaki – chunks of meat on skewers which are grilled or barbequed, then served with warm pitta. If you can get your hands on ready-made filo pastry, another easy main is spanakopita (spinach and feta pie).
For dessert, put together a platter of local Cretan cheeses, fruit, and fresh baklava from a local bakery.
Visit attractions for free
Most of the major attractions on Crete have an entry fee, but depending on when you travel it’s possible to save money. Throughout March, many historic and archaeological sites around the island offer reduced ticket prices – the fascinating Heraklion Archaeological Museum can be visited for as little as five euros.
During the peak season, on International Monument Day and International Museum Day, certain attractions are completely free.
Pack a picnic and go wandering
If you’re the adventurous type, then spend a day exploring the Cretan wilderness. Keep an eye out for Cretan shrews, badgers, and martens. One of the best places for nature is the park surrounding the White Mountains, which are known locally as Lefka Ori. It’s situated on the west of the island, in the Chania region. Here you’ll find the beautiful Samaria Gorge, one of Europe’s longest gorges, and of course the White Mountains themselves.
Stay safe and make sure you wear good walking shoes and sun lotion, then pack a nutritious picnic (fruit, nuts, cheese and water are a must) to keep you going along the way.
Inspired? Browse Villa Plus rentals in Crete and take the first step towards your big Greek adventure.
By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.