South Crete

South Crete is the largest and most populous island in Greece. It is famous for its beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and busy cities. South Crete is a perfect destination to experience different kinds of adventure and enjoy the attractions and Crete Restaurants that Greece has. South Crete is situated 300 kilometres south of Athens and approximately 200 kilometres north of Africa. During the Palaeolithic age, humans have inhabited the island since at least 130,000 years ago. Crete was the cradle of Europe’s first civilisation. It is considered one of the largest Mediterranean islands. There are good reviews about the peaceful and historical island of South Crete. There are good reviews about the peaceful and breathtaking scenery of South Crete. The food also receives good reviews, mainly because of the fresh ingredients used. The breathtaking beaches make it a popular tourist destination. The tourists’ reviews of South Crete are relatively lovely due to its relaxed and quiet ambience. South Crete consists of several beaches, restaurants, hotels and nearby popular tourist destinations, which cater to all the needs of visitors.

Tourism is very prominent in South Crete. South Crete has numerous gorges that most tourists and hikers are fascinated about. There are many things to do and explore in South Crete. There are three available airports on the island. The bus system has regular service. There are various taxi and car rental companies in the area. Travelling and exploring the island is easy. South Crete not only exhibits how beautiful and bountiful Crete is in scenic and historical sites but also gives Crete its identity. Together with the rest of the museums, archaeological sites, and palaces, plus its beaches, these embody the identity of the island.

What is the history of South Crete?

The history of South Crete dates back to the 7th millennium BC, followed by the ancient Minoan civilisation. It was the first civilisation in Europe. In the Neolithic period, some early influences on the development of Cretan culture came from the Cyclades and Egypt. Tablets inscribed in Linear A have been found in several sites in Crete. The Minoan civilisations were advanced during those times. They were able to build roads, palaces, and other structures used for social gatherings and religious activities. The economy of South Crete during the Minoan civilisations focuses more on agriculture and maritime trading. Aside from fishing, Minoans raised sheep, goats, and cattle, primarily for wool and milk production. The Minoans also grew a variety of fruits, such as apples, pomegranates, and figs. Olives were a particularly important product because the Minoans used them to make olive oil, used in religious ceremonies. The Minoans were active in growing and using herbs for health purposes as well. Successful and extensive trade resulted in a Minoan society that was rich and based on archaeology; wealth during that time was widely shared throughout the community. Most of these products are also being exported. Minoans also are very much involved in the exchange of goods like olives, wine, and figs in exchange for minerals, and other resources like ivory and copper. Sir Arthur Evans, is an archaeologist who first discovered the palace complex of Knossos, the most famous Minoan site. Other palace sites in Crete such as Phaistos have revealed magnificent stone-built, multi-story palaces containing drainage systems. After the devastation of Minoan Civilisation by the Thera eruption, South Crete developed an Ancient Greece, then successively became part of several empires. These empires include the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Venetian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, an autonomous state, and the modern state of Greece.

Chora Sfakion or Sfakia

Who are the first people to live in South Crete?

The first people to live in South Crete were the Minoans. During the Bronze Age, South Crete produced the influential Minoan Civilisation with its unique architecture and art. Most of the Minoans, regardless of status or class, lived in large houses with several rooms. Aside from dining rooms, bedrooms, dining areas, and others, the houses actually had bathrooms with running water and toilets. Compared to contemporaneous civilisation’s homes, which were usually made from mud bricks. The Minoans’ houses were made from stone. In terms of food sourcing, aside from fishing, Minoans raised sheep, goats, and cattle, primarily for the production of wool and milk. The Minoans also grew a variety of fruits, such as apples, pomegranates, and figs. Olives were a particularly important product because the Minoans used them to make olive oil, used in religious ceremonies. The Minoans were active in growing and using herbs for health purposes as well. Successful and extensive trade resulted in a Minoan society that was rich and based on archaeology; wealth during that time was widely shared throughout the community. People had leisure time and devoted a good portion of it to sports, arts, and religion. The Minoans also intentionally transported arts and cultural ideas into regions where they held ports.

What is the geography of South Crete?

Crete is the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean and the largest island in Greece. It is spanned by harsh mountains rising out of the sea. South Crete is famous for its sandy and pebble-strewn beaches. It has 6 tiny rivers and springs, seasonal watercourses, and ponds. One natural freshwater lake, the Kournas lake, and many artificial lakes. The Cretan scenery is characterised by Mediterranean scrub. There are plant species that thrive in a moderate climate. Palm trees are patchy along the coasts, and cedars can be found in the east. The Crete Mediterranean Forest is a terrestrial ecoregion that encompasses the island of Crete. The island’s range of topography and soils support diverse plant communities. Crete consists of very deep, moderately well-drained soils formed in loess. The soils that occur most commonly in Crete are various kinds of clay earth and dark rocky soils on hard limestone deposits. Overall, Crete’s climate varies between temperate and subtropical, with a yearly average precipitation of about 640 mm and hot dry summers. The winter temperatures in Crete are relatively mild.

How does the South Crete Map look?

Many tourists to Crete remember South Crete because of the dramatic scenery and nature. Accompanying secluded hidden beaches, remote villages and rocky landscapes with the majestic views of the gorges. It is located about 300 kilometres south of Athens and approximately 200 kilometres north of Africa, South Crete is considered one of the largest Mediterranean islands. The map of South Crete gives a glimpse of the route and one understands why it should be part of a bucket list when visiting the island of Crete.

Below is the image map of South Crete.

South Crete map

How was daily living in South Crete?

Most of the people living in South Create have a humble lifestyle. Cretan villages continuously serve dishes that have been for generations, such as dakos salad, a bare rusked salad topped with sun-ripened tomatoes, feta cheese, and olive oil. In terms of the weather in South Crete, summer lasts for 6 months while winter is only for 2 months. The remaining 4 months are divided between spring and fall. March and April are the early spring with unstable weather. May and early June are spring, usually, it is sunny weather with some short rain showers. Late June through mid-September is summer. Mid-September to late October is spring again. Crime rates in South Crete are typically low, just like in any other part of Greece.

What are the myths in South Crete?

Mythology says that South Crete was the birth land of Zeus, Minos and the Minotaur. During the period of the flourishing of the Minoan Civilisations, in the myths, there are traces of the begging of the Greek Pantheon. The oldest of these refers to the unusual birth of the Great Father Zeus.  In Greek Mythology, Crete may refer to several figures, all associated with the island of Crete. Crete, is the daughter of Hesperus and one of the Hesperides, another possible eponym of Crete. Crete was the daughter of one of the Cretan Curetes, who married Ammon, which was believed to have been called Idaea. Another possible eponym of Crete is that Crete is the mother of Pasiphaë by Helios. In another version, Crete was the daughter of Asterion, who married Minos. In this version, Crete was considered the mother of Ariadne, Androgenus, Acacallis, Paedra, Glaucus, Xenodice, Deucalion, and Catreus. Crete was also believed to be the daughter of Deucalion (son of Minos), sister of Idomeneus and half-sister of Molus. A fabulous mythical creature lived in Crete, with the body of a man and the head of a bull. It is called Minotaur in Greek Mythology. The patron God of Crete was Zeus. Another famous legend in Crete is King Idomeneus, who took part in Trojan War. Together with friends, King Idomeneus leads more than 80 ships with Cretan warriors from Gortys, Miletus, Lyktos, Lykastos, Rhytium, Phaestus, and Knossos. The mythical guardian of Crete, Talos, was also one famous legend. Talos was an anthromopobic giant automaton with a copper body. Talos, regarded as the first robot in ancient mythology, was Crete’s vigilant guardian.

How many Artefacts do exist in South Crete?

The island part of South Crete is a rich land, as the cradle of Europe’s first civilisation. During the Minoan civilisation, there were several palace complexes built on the island of Crete. One famous palace discovered by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans is the palace of Knossos. The palace was named after King Minos, who according to tradition ordered the construction of a labyrinth in Knossos, to hold the mythical creature Minotaur. Some famous artefacts found in South Crete are the Minoan Snake Goddess figurine, Bull’s Head Rhyton from Knossos, Statue Group of Persephone-Isis and Pluto Serapis with Cerberus, Phaistos Disk, Hagia Triada Sarcophagus, Minoan Frescoes, and many other historical artefacts.

The Phestos disk in Phestos

When is the best time to visit South Crete?

Summer is the best season to visit South Crete. Mediterranean summers are hot and dry, and winters are pleasant in South Crete. It is ideal for visiting South Crete between June and September if tourists want a sunny day. However, the entire year is a great time to visit South Crete. Before and after the well-established touristy summer season, travellers are drawn to it by its moderate climate and distinctive mountainous features. The natural beauty of South Crete inspires visitors to feel compelled to explore its mountains, gorges, and pathways.

What are the historical landmarks in South Crete?

Museums are establishments; house art, artefacts, and sculptures that are open to the public.  Crete is one of the places in the world that is home to many archaeological museums. Crete is considered to be the largest island in Greece and is home to ancient ruins and archaeological sites. There are 2 archaeological sites in South Crete, which are the Palace of Phaistos and Agia Triada or Kommos. Phaistos is the important Minoan site of Ayia Triadha. To the south of Phaistos are the Asterousia mountains, beyond which lies the Libyan Sea. The Komos Archaeological Site is situated on the shore of the Libyan Sea. The site is known to be the place where King Menelaus, King of Sparta, was shipwrecked after the war. The first known excavation was in 1924 by Arthur Evans. Agia Triada or Kommos are included in the 13 Most Popular Archaeological Museums in Crete.

Minoan Ruins of Kommos Archaeological site

What are the best beaches in South Crete?

South Crete offers plenty of tourist attractions, including its beautiful beaches that are accessible to their tourists. Relaxing waters and heavenly sunset views can be experienced on its beaches, making anyone fall in love with its beauty. There are 7 beautiful beaches in South Crete, such as Elafonisi, Paleochora, Sougia, Plakias, Matala, Chrissi Island and Xerocampos. Which is known as the most beautiful and popular on the southern coast. Furthermore, Elafonisi is included in the best 10 Crete beaches from Rethymno to Chania. Elafonisi Beach can be found on the southeast side of Crete, 75 kilometres away from Chania. Travellers won’t have a hard time entering the area of Elafonisi, as it has a paved road with good parking lots. Also, the beach has parasols, sun beds, beach bars, and toilets around the area. Elafonisi has a crystal clear sandy beach and is soft.

Matala Beach

What are the best restaurants in South Crete?

South Crete is known for its delicious food, location, and services in Greece. Cretan foods, European, Mediterranean, and Greek cuisines are made from fresh ingredients. The view, ambience, and service are the factors that tourists and visitors look for. There are 3 best restaurants in South Crete, such as Pelagos Seaside Restaurant, Ilios, and Patrelantonis. Pelagos Seaside Restaurant is a modern place that offers coffee, brunch, cocktails, and special meals anytime. Pelagos Seaside Restaurant ranked 2nd out of 10 restaurants in Koutsounari. Pelagos Seaside Restaurant is included in the 10 best restaurants in Crete and what they’re known for. They have Greek, Mediterranean, and Seafood cuisines. Ilios offers fish delicacies. Wine is served by the jug, but local labels are on offer too. All this can be enjoyed by the blue waters of the Libyan Sea. While the Patrelantonis is incredibly served, sea urchins and cuttlefish with fennel.

What are the best hotels in South Crete?

South Crete is the best destination for the holiday season, with its glistening coastline, hidden sandy bays and small coastal communities. South Crete offers everything that the tourist needs and everything the beach enthusiasts would want. South Crete offers a selection of well-kept hotels, flats, holiday homes, traditional cottages and villas. A hotel is the best choice to stay in South Crete because of the security and comfort. South Crete Beachfront Plakias Holiday Homes have breathtaking rugged coasts and endless sea views. South Crete Beachfront Plakias Holiday Homes costs  €1.404,00 per day for an apartment-type unit. Boutique-Hotel Panorama Chora Sfakion is a small boutique hotel with 11 rooms and a wonderful panoramic view of the small harbour. Located in the southwest of Crete. Its location offers a unique combination of mountain and coastal landscapes. Boutique-Hotel Panorama Chora Sfakion costs €1.080,00 per day for a double sea view unit. Coriva Beach Hotel and Bungalows is located right on a fine pebble beach, only 9 km east of the coastal City Ierapetra on the South Coast of Crete and 102 km from the Capital Heraklion. Hotel Coriva Beach offers the wide skies and bracing air of a seaside hotel, which costs €1.344,00 for a junior suite sea view. These hotels are one of the Best Hotels in South Crete that is affordable and has the highest rates from the tourists.

What are the attractions in South Crete?

South Crete consists of several beaches, plains, and gorges. Tourism is very prominent on the island of South Crete. South Crete has numerous gorges that most tourists and hikers are fascinated about. There are many things to do and explore on the beautiful island of South Crete. The most popular gorges are the Samaria Gorge, the Aradena Gorge, the Imbros Gorge, and the Agia Irini Gorge. The most famous plains, such as the Askifou-Plateau (south western Crete), Messara Plateau (south-eastern Crete) and Lassithi Plateau. The must-see beach attractions in Crete include  Elafonisi, Paleochora, Sougia. South Crete is rich in tourist attractions and a good one to stay for tourists.

Sougia Beach

How did the COVID19 impact tourists in South Crete?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the global tourism industry has been greatly affected. Travelling is prohibited during the peak of Covid-19. The tourism industry in South Crete has declined, and there are no tourists coming to the island. Now that the world has opened its way, especially in travelling, the tourism industry is expected to be back in South Crete. A total of 4.55 million international tourists visited Greece between January and July 2021. This only shows that people are now back to travelling and spending their holidays in beautiful places. The travel restrictions are also improving, but still observing Covid-19 health protocols.

How many hours should a person spend in South Crete?

South Crete is a beautiful holiday destination in Greece. It has a lot to offer its visitors. There are several ways to explore the island. One can spend a whole month on the island and still find new things to do. When one wants to explore the entire island, it is suggested to spend a minimum of 7 days. With its remarkable hospitality and exceptional cuisine, South Crete is really a top destination for most tourists. If a visitor has a full week to enjoy the island, it is advisable to rent a car, to cover some longer distances and reach secluded locations. Seven days are enough to explore the different beaches, restaurants, and amazing tourist attractions. There are also several interesting beaches to explore and enjoy.

How is Transportation to South Crete?

Due to the popularity of South Crete as a tourist destination, there is regular transportation on the island from one place to another. There are buses available both in the urban and rural areas of South Crete. Taxis in South Crete found anywhere, particularly in larger towns. Motorbikes and car rental companies are prominent in South Crete. Most of them are located in airports, bus stations, and almost all towns. The road network in South Crete connects all major towns and tourist spots on the island. In some other mountain regions, the roads are winding and can be narrow. The transportation in South Crete is very convenient for tourists. There are many choices of modes of transportation to choose from. Although some roads are quite challenging in the mountain regions. Some road signs are visible but lacking in rural areas. Renting a car is always advisable when exploring South Crete. It provides more flexibility and faster travelling time.

Bus station in Rethymno

What is the best vehicle for visiting South Crete?

There is available local bus transportation in Crete, but renting a private car is the best vehicle for visiting South Crete. Tourists can go to many beautiful spots on their own using a rented car. Just make sure to always check the requirements for renting a car. The best vehicle for visiting Crete is a large SUV like the KIA S-Tonic. It is a very popular vehicle for Crete car rental companies. It has custom interior features, power, and control, suitable for long drives and mountainous roads. When one travels, comfort and convenience are a must, especially when driving. The KIA S-Tonic SUV has advanced safety features, comfortable seating, and, best of all, great fuel efficiency. It is suited for groups of travellers because it has a spacious cargo area where all their luggage can fit inside. There are several car rental companies in Heraklion that offer the best prices. Car Rental Crete costs vary depending on the number of passengers, itinerary, car type, location, and duration. The average cost of renting a vehicle in Crete is around €30 to €40 per day. A car rented for a whole week will cost an average of €250. Renting a vehicle for the weekend will cost around €78. Car rental rates in Crete vary depending on the car type. There are a lot of options for tourists who wish to travel using a rented car. One can rent a car for just a day tour, or spend the whole holiday driving a rented car for a month. There are also public buses that connect visitors to the major cities of Heraklion, Rethymnon, Chania, and Agios Nikolaos. KTEl bus fares range anywhere from €2 to €11, depending on the length of the trip. Several taxi cabs are also available on the island, especially in major towns.

What are the factors to consider before renting a car in Crete?

Listed below are the factors to consider before renting a car in Crete.

  • Insurance: Car rental insurance protects a passenger against the cost of damage when renting a car. Crete car rental includes insurance for collision damage waiver and a driver’s credit card is required as a guarantee.
  • Driver’s age: The legal age requirement to drive in Crete is 18 years old. One must have a valid driving licence.
  • Driver’s gender: Both women and men can drive in Crete. As long as the driver is of the legal age of 18, driving is allowed in Crete, regardless of gender.
  • Car type: One must learn how to choose the right car to rent in Crete. Travelling with groups or family members requires a much bigger car. Car rental companies in Crete offer a variety of cars to choose from. Choosing a smaller car is best when driving in Crete. The reason for that is that some Greek roads are narrow. The car type is one big factor in how to choose the right car to rent in Crete.
  • Documents needed for renting a car: One important document needed for renting a car is a valid driving licence. However, a credit or debit card may also be presented, including a passport or an ID card.

How much does a car rental in Crete cost?

South Crete is a charming part of Crete island with several tourist spots that can be travelled using a rented vehicle. Crete car rental costs vary depending on the number of persons, itinerary, car type, destination, and duration. The average cost of renting a car in Crete is around €30 to €40 per day. A car rented for a whole week will cost an average of €250. Renting a vehicle for the weekend will cost around €78. Crete car rental rates differ depending on the car type. Car rental companies offer a variety of cars depending on customers’ liking. Most car rental companies in Crete offer an online booking system, whenever customers want to book a car. Simply follow the process and instantly book a vehicle on their website. Before renting a car in Crete, make sure to check all the requirements needed.

Hired car in Crete Local Village

Is South Crete safe?

Yes, South Crete is safe. Crime rates in South Crete are typically low, just like in any other part of Greece. Since there are many police officers on the island, assistance is never far away should an accident occur. And like other Mediterranean islands that may have been visited by tourists, South Crete is thought to be a secure tourist destination.

Is it better to stay in an old town or a city center in South Crete?

Yes, it is better to stay in a city centre in South Crete. In a city centre, there are more possibilities to find a wide range of accommodation, since it has been more developed than in the old towns of South Crete.

Is it better to visit South Crete or West Crete?

You should visit both South and West Crete. Both West and South Crete are perfect destinations for travelers looking to explore the diverse landscapes, rich history, and warm hospitality of Crete. West Crete is known for its lush landscapes, rugged coastlines, and picturesque peninsulas like Gramvousa, Rodhoupou, and Akrotiri. The region boasts lively historical towns such as Chania and Rethymnon, as well as stunning nature sights like Balos Lagoon, Elafonissi, and Falassarna. West Crete is ideal for outdoor activities and offers unique experiences throughout the year. Comparatively, South Crete offers an adventurous experience with its rugged coastline, hidden coves, and pristine beaches. Both regions have charming coastal towns, but West Crete is more famous for its cultural sights like the Arkadi Monastery and the ancient city of Aptera. In contrast, West Crete is characterized by cosmopolitan vibes, archaeological treasures, and serene beaches. West Crete has a strong connection with South Crete in terms of landscapes, cultural heritage, and gastronomy.

Is it better to visit South Crete or East Crete?

You should visit both South and East Crete. In terms of rich cultural heritage, East Crete is home to the archaeological site of Knossos and the island’s capital, Heraklion, both steeped in history and culture. In contrast, South Crete boasts iconic sites such as Phaistos and Gortyna, offering a complementary experience to history enthusiasts. The diverse landscapes of these regions further differentiate them. Eastern Crete is characterized by its picturesque coastal towns, serene beaches, and mountain villages, while southern Crete offers a rugged coastline, hidden coves, and pristine beaches for a more adventurous experience. Both regions are known for their unique gastronomy, allowing visitors to savor traditional Cretan dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients. Be sure to sample delicacies from both areas to appreciate the full flavors of Crete. Charming coastal towns can be found in both regions as well. Agios Nikolaos in the east and Chania in the south are both vibrant towns that showcase the best of Cretan hospitality, offering a blend of history, entertainment, and natural beauty. Additionally, East Crete offers an array of rental car tours and boat trips to nearby islands, such as Chrissi Island and Koufonisi Island. South Crete is known for its hiking trails, including the famous Samaria Gorge, and water sports opportunities along its pristine beaches.

Harry Anapliotis
Travel Writer and Developer
Harry Anapliotis is a travel writer and developer at Rental Center Crete - Car hire.
Rental Center Crete - Car Hire
Car rental Company
Rental Center Crete - Car Hire is a car rental Company offering services in Crete Island, since 1975.