Exploring Crete -Getting to the Island

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Crete is the largest and most populous of all of the Greek Islands. It is home to some of Greece’s best beaches as well as historical sites and artifacts dating back to the first advanced civilization in Europe, the Minoans. Whether you are a beach bum looking to soak up some sun and enjoy the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea, or you are a history buff looking for a look back at one of the first civilizations in the world, Crete has something for you.

Getting to Crete
The island of Crete is located about 100 miles south of mainland Greece. There are multiple options of getting to the island from the mainland by air and by boat. The island also has its own public transportation system, so getting around without a car is fairly easy.

By Air
Most travelers to Crete will fly into the city of Heraklion (Iraklion), to the Heraklion International “Nikos Kazantzakis” Airport. Heraklion International is Crete’s busiest airport with an average of 40,000 flights per year. Although there are no direct flights from North America to Crete, a lot of passengers will fly into Athens and then take a connecting flight into Heraklion – thanks to year-round air service between the two cities. Other carriers also provide flights to Heraklion throughout the year from other cities such as Rhodes, Kos, and Kithira. Seasonally during the summer months, carriers and charter airlines offer flights to Heraklion from many major European cities.

The second most visited airport on Crete is Chania International “Daskalogiannis” Airport. Chania is frequented by travelers who are heading to western Crete. Much like Heraklion, Chania has seasonal flights operating from cities across Europe as well as annual flight service from cities in Greece. It is about a 20 minute drive from the airport to the city of Chania, and bus service runs 7 times a day from the airport to the city.

Sitia has a small community airport, Sitia Airport which only serves domestic flights. Passengers can fly into the city from Athens as well as Rhodes, Karpathos and other Greek airports. Crete’s own airline, Sky Express is based in Sitia and offers low-cost flights to and from Crete as well as other cities in Greece.

By Boat
Year-round there is at least one ship per day making the trip from the port city of Piraeus to Heraklion, and during the summer seasons the trips increase to two or three voyages per day. In the high season, other ferries run between Crete and the other Greek Islands including Rhodes, Karpathos, Kassos, and Khaliki. Additionally, ships will occasionally travel to the Heraklion from Cyprus, Italy, and Israel.

Boat service is much less expensive than airfare. However, unlike air travel, boat service takes much longer with a trip from mainland Greece to Crete averaging about 10 hours. There is however, a high-speed service from Piraeus to Chania that makes the trip in around 5 hours. If you are looking to take in the beauty of Greece’s beaches and the Mediterranean Sea, visiting Crete by boat is definitely worth the extra investment of time.

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