Crete is the biggest island in Greece and one of the largest in the Mediterranean. Besides its extension, Crete is important for being one of the places in Europe with more history. It was home to the Minoan civilization, which lived between 2700 B.C.E. and 1420 A.D.; it is one of the oldest that lived in the European territory. For this and for all the cultures that have lived there for millenniums (Byzantine Empire, Venice, Ottoman Empire, …) there are wonderful and diverse historical remains in this island from ruins of ancient Greece cities to modern period fortresses. We suggest this 7-day sailing itinerary for Crete in the northeastern coast of the island for you to discover historical cities and also beautiful beaches.
The boating season in Crete, as elsewhere in the Mediterranean, coincides with summer. The best sailing conditions to enjoy the sea on this island happen between May and October. The coast of Crete has more than 1,000 kilometers long, so visit it all in a week is impossible. Depending on the length of your vacation, you might consider sailing less or more nautical miles. In general and because of this extension it is easier to find mooring in the Cretan ports than in other Mediterranean spots. Heraklion is the only port on this route that may be more crowded, specially with the boats of the Cretans, and you must be careful when entering the port.
Wind and weather
The winds in Crete help sailing. Between June and September it is very comfortable to sail from west to east, so the first days of this sailing itinerary for Crete, if you do it in the summer, will be really comfortable. Locally there may be strong winds from the north, as the Meltemi, especially in the central part of the route, near Spinalonga and Sitia. Both in winter and in summer, Crete is one of the sunniest and driest parts of the Mediterranean. Average temperatures are around 10 degrees Celsius in the coldest winter days, and approach 30 degrees in summer. Between June and September rainfall is minimal and the sea temperature is around 25 °.
Itinerary: Northeastern Crete (7 days / 157NM)
Day 1. Heraklion – Malia (30NM)
We begin this sailing itinerary for Crete in Heraklion, the capital of the island. This city is the gateway to the ancient site of Knossos, built 4,000 years ago. The most emblematic building is the palace where the king Minos lived. In Knossos you will live closely the famous Greek myth of The Labyrinth and the one of Daedalus and Icarus. After the visit, we will sail to Malia. There you can choose between visiting another Minoan palace or enjoy the beach.
Day 2. Malia – Spinalonga (26NM)
We will continue the route through the Cretan history and we will skip millenniums to land in Spinalonga. There you can sail the spectacular bay or visit the remains of the Venetian fortress on the islet. South in the bay, near Elounda, scuba divers can enjoy the remains of the submerged city of Olous.
Day 3. Spinalonga – Sitia (21NM)
The third day of our sailing itinerary for Crete we will keep sailing and reach Sitia, a small seaside town. Near the town there are small very quiet coves where you can relax and enjoy the Mediterranean landscape.
Day 4. Sitia – Vai (18NM)
In Vai we will reach the most easterly point of sailing itinerary for Crete. Vai has one of the best beaches in this island. It has the largest date palms wood in Europe. It it believed that the forest proceed form the seeds that Phoenician traders obtained in their travels. The golden sand and clear water make it look like a Caribbean place in the middle of Crete.
Day 5. Vai – Dionysades (14NM)
We will sail back to Heraklion but first we will stop in the Dionysades islands. The largest are Dragonara and Gianissada, but all of them are uninhabited. There is only a small church standing in them, but it is still a beautiful natural spot with several species of birds and a great underwater wealth.
Day 6. Dionysades – Sissi (36NM)
We will continue sailing west and we will end the day near the town of Sissi or in Milatos Beach. These are tourist towns in the north of the island of Crete. But in the route near the cliffs we can find small quiet coves that can only be reached by boat and where we can enjoy the sea.
Day 7. Sissi – Heraklion (22NM)
The last day of this sailing itinerary for Crete we will go back to Heraklion. We can admire the Venetian harbor while we arrive to the city and enjoy the beaches or the historic sights of this wonderful Greek city.
-Header image by Nicole Kasper (license)