Crete, Greece’s largest island, is connected to the mainland and many other islands by boat. Around the waters of Crete, ships are constantly coming and going. The largest cargo and passenger ferries go in and out of the ports of Heraklion and Chania – the largest ports of Crete.
But many other coastal cities have active ports, also, with Rethymno, and Sitia connecting Crete with other destinations. Smaller ports on the island, such as Ierapetra on the south coast in the Libyan Sea, and Kissamos (west) and Agios Nikolaos (east) on the north coast, connect Crete with tiny islands and other locations on Crete more accessible by sea than by land.
The Ports of Crete are
- Heraklion Port
- Chania Port
- Rethymno Port
- Agios Nikolaos Port
- Sitia Port
- Makry Gialos Port
- Ierapetra Port
- Tymbaki Port
- Paleochora Port
- Sfakia Port
- Kissamos Port
Here is an introduction to the main ports of Crete, and some of the smaller sports that make excellent destinations and stops on a road trip around the island.
Heraklion Port connects Crete with Piraeus – the port of Athens – daily. The ships are filled with trucks from the mainland carrying supplies and goods, and leaving filled with Cretan products in much demand on the mainland – produce, olive oil, wines, and so forth. The arrival of a ship is festive and a little chaotic.
From Heraklion, you can also catch a boat to the Cyclades, with connections to Santorini, Mykonos, Anafi, Ios, Milos, Paros, Naxos, and others. The smaller Cycladic islands such as Kimolos or Folegandros can be reached from other Cycladic ports.
Heraklion Port also connects to some destinations in the Dodecanese – including nearby Kasos and Karpathos and Rhodes.
If you arrive at Heraklion, you’ll find plenty to do. Heraklion, Crete’s capital, is a bustling city in the middle of the north coast of the island. This beautiful Venetian port city has archaeological and cultural treasures and a charming seaside. Nearby are many of Crete’s most famous beaches, plus wineries, beautiful villages, and the famous Minoan palace of Knossos. A rental car can be waiting for you at Heraklion Port upon your arrival so you can begin your trips rightaway.
Chania Port – Souda Bay
Chania Port is second only to Heraklion in size and activity, Chania’s port is the other main port connecting Crete with Piraeus. Chania also connects to Milos, and from Milos you can easily reach other islands of the Cyclades.
Chania Port is located directly next to the city – not five minutes’ drive – in Souda Bay. Chania is one of the most popular cities in all Greece, and with good reason. This Venetian port with its old town is one of the most beautiful and romantic seafronts you’ll find anywhere.
Chania is a popular port for travelers who wish to see the western side of the island, with attractions like the Samaria Gorge and famous beaches like Elafonissi and Balos very close by. A car rental can be waiting for you when you disembark so you can start exploring right way.
Although Rethymnon – which is located between Heraklion and Chania – is one of the larger towns of Crete, its charming harbor is not one of the main ports. From here, in the high-season, there’s service once or twice a week to some Cycladic destinations, such as Mykonos, Naxos, and Santorini.
Agios Nikolaos Port
In the eastern part of the north coast of Crete is the fourth main city of the island, the enchanting Agios Nikolaos. Agios Nikolaos has both a harbor as well as its own small lake. Agios Nikolaos is a smaller port, where you can find boats to take you to the storied islet of Spinalonga – fortified magnificently in the Roman era and later a leper colony and the inspiration for the popular book by Victoria Hislop “The Island” – and also Kolokitha, in gorgeous Mirabello Bay.
Sitia is the easternmost town of the north coast of Crete. Sitia Port is busier than Agios Nikolaos, and connects Sitia with the islands Anafi, Santorini and Milos in the Cyclades, as well as the Dodecanese islands of Kassos, Karpathos, Diafani, Halki and Rhodes.
Sitia is a strategic spot for exploring the fantastic – and much less visited – eastern edge of Crete. Nearby, you’ll find the famous Toplou monastery, as well as the Minoan Palace of Zakros. The Sitia Geopark is a haven of biotopes and unspoiled landscapes for hikers and nature enthusiasts, with many trails, gorges, meadows and beaches to explore.
Makry Gialos Port
The easternmost port on the south coast of Crete is a little over half an hour’s drive from Sitia. This enchanting small village has a long beach – “Makry Gialos” in fact means “long beach” – as well as a small port for local fishing boats and some small pleasure craft.
From here, local tour companies can take you to Koufonisi, the largest island in a group of five islets, including Makroulo, Stroggilo, Trachila and Marmara. Koufonisi was the site of significant archaeological findings, and was inhabited in Minoan times. The shoreline, which has some gorgeous beaches, has a dramatic coastline, with great rocky white cliffs by the sea. Reefs surround the island, and it may be best to visit with a seasoned captain rather than take your own boat into unknown waters.
On the south coast of the eastern end of Crete is charming Ierapetra. In the heart of one of Greece’s most fertile and productive regions, this charming harbor town may feel like it is at the edge of the earth, but actually Napoleon spent the night here during his campaign in Egypt. (and a tip – the classic family restaurant that bears his name is excellent, and has some fine home cooking).
You’ll also find a mosque, dating from the years of Ottoman occupation in Crete. has a small port that is used by fishing boats and tour companies to take visitors to a fantastic destination, the lovely islet Chrissi. This uninhabited paradise of just under five square kilometers has silky golden sands (“Chrissi” means “gold”), and is covered with rare Lebanese cedar trees. The beaches are some of the finest anywhere in Greece, with crystal clear waters and beautiful hues of turquoise.
The quiet little town by the south coast of Crete, south of Heraklion, has a small port for fishing boats. But some years ago, a major container port was proposed. The project, partly because of local concerns about the impact on the environment, archaeology, culture, and tourism, has not gone through. This now makes a pleasant stop on a trip around the island.
Sfakia Port (Chora Sfakion)
One of the most beautiful drives in Crete leads from Chania through the mountains and gorges down to the south coast and the lovely little port town of Sfakia. From here, boats depart several times a day for coastal destinations not reachable by car.
The first is Loutro – a dream of a town arranged around its private cove. There are no cars – the ship brings supplies and wheelbarrows transport them along the waterfront. It is one of the most secluded and serene places in Greece – magical!
After Loutro, the boats continue to Agia Roumeli, which is at the base of the Samaria Gorge. Hikers through the gorge – which is all downhill as it descends to the Libyan Sea coast, must take the ferry back to Chora Sfakion and from there get buses back to Chania or other starting points.
Near the westernmost end of the coast of the Libyan Sea, the lovely town of Paleochora is arranged on a small peninsula.
The port serves local fishing boats and visiting small craft, as well as small ferries which go to the island of Gavdos – the southernmost island of Greece – as well as the neighboring beach of Sougia, just east on the south coast, and Agia Roumeli, Loutro, and Chora Sfakion.
The western edge of the north coast of Crete has two distinctive peninsulas. Between them, and closer to the westernmost one, is the tiny harbor of Kissamos. From here, day cruises leave for magnificent Balos, on the western coast of the tip of the Gramvousa peninsula.
This is one of the most famous beaches in the world (Princess Diana and Prince Charles are said to have stopped here on their honeymoon), with its dreamy lagoon and small island.