East vs West Crete | History | Activities | Scenery | Beaches

Crete is a popular tourist destination, renowned for its natural beauty, rich history, and stunning beaches. The island is divided into four regions, each with its unique charm and character. However the question remains: which is the best side of Crete, east or west?

The West is by far the best side of Crete. It offers wild beauty, with a rocky coastline, mountain ranges and stunning secluded beaches. The west also has a rich history with a wider range of historical sites from different periods. On the other hand the east is generally better suited for families with kids who will enjoy the many kid-friendly activities.

So with that said, here is further information on what you can expect to find both east and west.

Which Side of Crete is Nicer?

Chania in Crete
Chania in Crete. Photo by Andreas Pajuvirta on Unsplash

Verdict: West
Most beautiful town: Chania

Crete is a stunningly beautiful island with an abundance of natural beauty and picturesque scenery. However there is one side that is a definite winner for most.  

The West

The nicest side of Crete is the west side offering rugged and wild beauty, with its rocky coastline, secluded beaches, and stunning mountain ranges. The area around the town of Chania is particularly beautiful. It has well-preserved Venetian architecture, charming alleyways, and a picturesque harbour.

Chania is one of the busiest towns in Crete and it does get noisy in the restaurant and bar area. If you want a more tranquil stay within walking distance of the action, you can consider the Alexis Hotel. Which is in one of the best areas of Chania, well rated and offers really good value for money.  

Moreover, the west coast is home to the Samaria Gorge, which is considered one of the most beautiful gorges in Europe. There is a fantastic tour from Chania that will take you on a full day Gorge trek, reviewed positively by hundreds of people. The tour will allow you to see why the gorge is such a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers, who come to explore its natural beauty and breath-taking views.

The East

That said, the east of Crete offers its own unique beauty.

The east coast of Crete is known for its long, sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters and a range of stunning resorts. The area around Elounda is particularly beautiful, with its stunning coastline and turquoise waters.

There are only a small handful of stays at Elouda that will allow you to take advantage of the views. However the very best is offered by a luxury stay at Blue Palace Elouda with views of Spinalong island.

The island of Spinalonga, is a popular destination for its picturesque views and historical significance. Not surprisingly it is one of the best things to do in Crete and in fact it is in the top list of 6 things to do in Crete.

Moreover, the east coast is home to the stunning town of Agios Nikolaos, which is built around a picturesque lake and surrounded by picturesque hills. The town is famous for its vibrant nightlife, restaurants, and cafes, as well as its numerous beaches and water sports activities.

A great hotel to stay here is Candia Park Village which is in an excellent location. it offers a relaxing and family-friendly atmosphere with spacious accommodations, stunning views, and a range of amenities. Additionally, its kids club provides a fun and safe environment for children to play and make new friends while parents can enjoy some downtime.

Best Side of Crete for Beaches

Elafonissi Island Beach
Elafonisi Island Beach

Verdict: West

The West

There are many beautiful beaches in Crete. However, the west coast of Crete is characterized by its rugged, rocky coastline and secluded beaches. The most famous beaches in this area are Elafonisi, Falassarna, and Balos, located near Chania.

Elafonisi beach is a particular gem. With its pink sand and turquoise waters, it is one of the most Instagram-worthy spots on the island.

Though there are only a few stays in the immediate area, they are an excellent option for those looking to be close to this breath-taking beach. These accommodations provide easy access to Elafonisi’s stunning natural landscape.

Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, a stay near Elafonisi Beach is sure to offer an unforgettable experience.

The East

On the other hand, the east coast of Crete is known for its long, sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters. The most famous beaches in this area are Vai, Itanos, and Kouremenos, located near Sitia.

Vai beach, in particular, is a stunning sight, featuring a large palm grove that creates a tropical paradise atmosphere. The east coast also offers a range of activities, including windsurfing and kitesurfing, as the winds here are strong and consistent.

Similarly to the Elafonisi area, the east coast is more remote and less developed than other parts of Crete. Hence travellers looking for a bustling nightlife or a wide range of tourist amenities may prefer to stay in other area. You can easily book a tour to Vai Beach from Heraklion which is a popular area where to stay.

However Sitia might be a good option to be closer to the beach. It is a picturesque town with a historic fortress and museums. Enastron Apartments are particularly nice, but is a little further away from the old town. Alternatively Sitia Beach City Resort and Spa is closer to the central town area with many more amenities.

Best Side of Crete for History

Verdict: West

Greece in general is steeped in rich history and culture, with a legacy that spans over 5,000 years. For history buffs, Crete offers an opportunity to explore ancient ruins, archaeological sites, and museums.

Both sides of Crete offer a unique and fascinating window into the island’s rich history and culture. It is a hard call, but the west marginally wins over the east in this case.

The West

The west coast of Crete wins in this case because it offers a wider range of historical sites. That includes those of the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian periods.

It is home to the ancient city of Aptera, which is not far off from Chania. Aptera was one of the most important cities in Crete during the Hellenistic period. It was a powerful commercial centre that played a significant role in the history of Crete. The city was a major player in the island’s politics and trade.

Aptera is also home to a Venetian fortress, which was built in the 16th century and offers a glimpse into Crete’s more recent history.

Moreover, the west coast is also home to the city of Chania, which was the capital of Crete during the Venetian period. Chania boasts a rich history and culture, with well-preserved Venetian and Ottoman architecture, ancient churches, and museums.

The Archaeological Museum of Chania houses a vast collection. There are Minoan artifacts, as well as relics from the Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian periods.

There aren’t a lot of stays in Aptera, but there are many more in Chania. Chania is a popular town amongst tourists and the better place to stay between the two towns. Not only does Chania offer a full range of tours, it has an international airport and is also a brilliant place to stay. As mentioned earlier, the Alexis Hotel is a fantastic place to stay.

The East

Palace of Knossos
Palace of Knossos

On the other hand, the east coast of Crete is home to some of the island’s most significant archaeological sites. The Minoan Palace of Knossos is at the very top of the list. It is by far the largest and best-preserved Minoan palace in Crete.

The Palace of Knossos was the centre of the Minoan civilisation. It is said to have been home to King Minos, the legendary king who ordered the construction of the Labyrinth to contain the Minotaur.

The east coast is also home to the ruins of the Minoan town of Gournia, which was a thriving commercial centre during the Bronze Age.

Heraklion is a bustling city with its own airport, so it’s a popular spot where to stay. The Ibis Styles Heraklion Central is a good hotel because it offers modern and comfortable accommodations at an affordable price.

It’s conveniently located in the heart of Heraklion city. It is within walking distance of the city’s main attractions, making it an ideal choice for travellers looking to explore the area.

Best Side for Kids Activities

Verdict: East

The East

Erika has detailed several things to do with kids in Crete. The article also features the map locations of activities in Crete below, showing the east is clearly the winner.

Things to do with kids in Crete

The east coast has several activities to look forward to to keep you going for days. It is also home to a number of water parks. Acqua Plus Water Park in Hersonissos is among the best water parks in Crete. All water parks offer a range of water slides and pools, as well as play areas for younger children.

The east coast is also home to a number of aquariums. The CRETAquarium in Gournes, in particular houses over 2,000 species of marine life.

Furthermore, the east coast of Crete is known for its long, sandy beaches with shallow waters. This makes it an ideal location for families with young children.

The beaches in this area offer a wide range of activities for kids, including snorkelling, paddle boarding, and banana boat rides. The winds in this area also make it a great spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing for older children.

The West

On the other hand, as mentioned earlier the west coast of Crete is known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities. The beaches in this area tend to be more secluded, offering a more peaceful and serene environment for families.

There is Samaria Gorge, the longest gorge in Europe for active families. Additionally there are a couple of standard things to do with kids. The Katerina Amusement Park which is open in the evenings and the Minoan’s World 9D experience other than the water park and beaches available.

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