The beautiful Greek mainland and its amazing collection of islands have so much to offer, it’s no surprise they’ve long been the destination of choice for summer holidaymakers.
With the temperatures cooling it’s easier to spend more time outdoors, ideal for lazy cafe days, sightseeing and exploring the stunning walking and hiking trails which criss-cross much of Greece’s spectacular landscape.
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest one in the Mediterranean Sea
Crete truly has everything – whether you’re on a trip with friends, a family holiday, a romantic break for two or adventuring solo.
As summer draws to a close, there’s never been a better time to visit, so here are just 10 reasons to check out this idyllic island during the off-season.
1. Natural beauty
Samaria Gorge – one of the many stunning areas of natural beauty on Crete
Whilst its beaches are amongst the best in the world, the rest of Crete’s beautiful landscape, made up of breathtaking mountains, fertile valleys and steep gorges, is also worth exploring.
The high temperatures of summer aren’t ideal for trekking, but off-season you can set out on an adventure and discover the joys of Crete’s natural wonders.
A walking holiday in Crete is an unforgettable experience, allowing visitors the opportunity to marvel at the verdant scenery, explore the rare cedar forests and enjoy the blossoming flora and trees full of lemons, oranges, and pomegranates.
Make sure to include Mt. Psiloritis Natural Park in your itinerary. You can book a variety of guided tours giving you the chance to explore caves, sinkholes, rock shelters and underground rivers.
Take a packed lunch and eat it while you take in an incredible view or reward yourselves with a long lunch at a local taverna after a morning of walking and climbing.
You’ll have earned it.
2. Historic Heraklion
Heraklion is the largest city of Crete and one of Greece’s major urban centres
Fans of history and tradition can find more than enough to keep them busy in the fascinating city of Heraklion.
The largest city of Crete and one of Greece’s major urban centres, Heraklion is the meeting place of multicultural influences which have made their mark throughout the centuries. This means you can expect to see examples of the Byzantine, Ottoman and Venetian civilisations all across the city.
Start your visit at the old Venetian port before making your way into the heart of Heraklion where there’s an ancient monument to discover around every corner.
The Palace of Knossos in Heraklion – the seat of the legendary king Minoa
Churches and ornate fountains abound, while the Archaeological Museum is a must-see for history buffs, showcasing unique treasures from the Minoan civilisation unearthed from the Palace of Knossos. This Palace, which you can still visit today, was the seat of the legendary king Minoa, connected to the Greek myths of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur.
Once you’ve had your fill of history, Heraklion is also home to a fantastic food market where you’ll find traditional Cretan products like the famous Cretan olive oil, raki, local wine, honey and herbs. Make sure you stop by to pick up a souvenir, before heading for dinner in this vibrant city.
From Heraklion a beautiful drive south reveals the ancient Phestos and Matala areas or venture further to Lassithi plateau to visit the cave where legend has it Zeus (Jupiter) himself was born.
The whole island of Crete is brimming with historic sites, best discovered through excursions to its many ruins and temples. And in the off-season, with fewer tourists around, not only will queues be smaller, you’ll really be able to take your time.
3. Serene Spinalonga
Take a boat trip to the tiny isle of Spinalonga
For a gentle walk in the balmy temperatures of autumn, take a boat trip to Spinalonga.
In the peak of summer, between 1200 and 1500 visitors tour this tiny island every day, so by going in the off-season you’ll enjoy a less crowded visit.
It may be small but there’s much to see and you can take a gentle 1.5km walk around the island’s perimeter, taking in the remains of a 16th-century fortress, as well as the ruined houses and buildings of what was Greece’s official leper colony.
It’s a fascinating peek into both ancient and more recent history.
4. Cretan cuisine
Cretan food is famous for its unique ingredients and flavours
Greek food is renowned for its freshly caught seafood and homegrown produce and on Crete you’ll be able to experience the best of this delicious cuisine.
In fact, Cretan food is famous both within Greece and internationally for its unique ingredients and flavours, with a huge variety of local produce including mountain herbs, bulbs, cheeses, fresh fish, olive oil and raki all made on the island. And a visit to Crete later in the year is ideal for experiencing truly seasonal food, with only some fragrant herbs and vegetables available in the autumn.
Signature soft cheeses made from sheep and goats milk can be found in every village and are best enjoyed in salads or tempting Cretan pies, where they’re encased in pastry and drizzled in Cretan honey.
And whether you’re looking for a relaxed beachside snack or a more formal dining experience, you’re guaranteed a true gastronomic treat.
5. Authentic experiences
Stroll along the narrow alleys and streets of Rethymno
The off-season period allows visitors an opportunity to get to know the real Crete.
The old towns of Chania and Rethymno – with their fascinating combination of Venetian and Ottoman architecture – are best enjoyed during quieter periods.
Away from the crowds, their atmospheric charm comes to the fore. Stroll along their narrow alleys and streets, enjoy a coffee or snack in one of the many cafes and tavernas and soak up the fascinating history, abundant everywhere you look.
Crete’s traditional mountain villages also make for a great adventure in the cooler, less frenetic months.
Here, old customs and traditions remain unchanged and provide an authentic insight into true Cretan culture. Head to Archanes, Zaros and Asites in Heraklion region, Vamos and Chora Sfakion in the Chania region and Anogeia, Axos and Margarites in the Rethymno region.
This is where you’ll find the real heartland of traditional Crete.
Loutro, a tiny little fishing village on the south coast is only accessible by boat or a trek across the mountains
And for the intrepid traveller, make a pilgrimage to Loutro, a tiny fishing village on the south coast.
Only accessible by boat or a trek across the mountains, it’s truly a hidden gem. Make sure to wander along the waterfront enjoying the views, stopping for a traditional meal at one of the nearby tavernas.
6. Agios Nikolaos
You’ll find plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants overlooking Voulismeni Lake – perfect for people-watching
Agios Nikolaos is a lively spot in the summer with tourists making a beeline for its shopping streets, but for a more relaxed experience visit in the autumn.
The town is still vibrant with lots going on and you can take your time getting to know every corner, feeling like a local in just a couple of days.
Set around Voulismeni Lake, Agios Nikolaos manages to be both leisurely and bustling. The subject of many legends, Voulismeni is surrounded by red rock formations and lush vegetation and was once believed to be bottomless, as well as the waters where the goddesses Athena and Artemis bathed.
You’ll find plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants overlooking the lake, ideal for a few hours of people-watching as the sun goes down.
Stroll through town to indulge in some retail therapy at shops selling fabrics, china, clothes, homewares and locally produced food and delicacies, before reaching the marina where opulent yachts find a home.
7. Beautiful beaches
The pink sands and crystal waters of Elafonissi beach in the Chania region
With average temperatures in September and October in the low and mid-20s (C), spending a day relaxing on one of Crete’s many beaches is still an option in the autumn months.
And from family-friendly spots to hidden coves, there’s a huge choice of coastline to choose from, with the most incredible stretches of sand to be found in the Chania region.
Balos and Elafonissi beaches have crystal waters and the latter is famous for its pink sands, while locals love the secluded cove of Marathi beach.
Enjoy a refreshing dip after soaking up some of the last warming rays of the year.
8. A thrillseekers heaven
Waves in resorts like in Falassarna are a real attraction for amateur and seasoned surfers alike
Fans of watersports will also find much to delight them in off-season Crete.
Surfers can find plenty of fantastic spots in winter and the waves in resorts like Falassarna are a real attraction for amateurs and seasoned pros alike. No wetsuits required.
Away from the sea, Crete’s rivers and gorges fill up in the autumn and winter and the thousands of waterfalls on the island spring back to life, creating the perfect environment for canyoning and kayaking.
10. A warm welcome
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Cretan feast, you can experience a vibrant and energetic evening the way the local people do
The people of Crete are kind and hospitable.
And it’s much easier to meet and get to know the locals in the off-season.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Cretan feast, you’ll experience a vibrant and energetic evening the way the local people do.
Delicious food, folk dancing and the evening air filled with mantinades songs – whose words are improvised and sung on the spot – creating a truly authentic and magical night.
And it’s much easier to stumble across in the milder months when summer has passed.
So why not book your off-season break to Crete now? Find out more at You’ll want to stay forever…