Romantic Crete

Kindling Romance in Greece

Matala beach seen from a Roman cave
Gareth Mccormack/Getty Images

Does the idea of escaping with your partner to a romantic island getaway sound like just what you need? Look no further than the island of ​​Crete. This ​Greek Island offers everything you'd want including amazing food, natural beauty, breathtaking architecture, and truly unique sites. 

Chania 

At the top of the long island of Crete in the west, this picture perfect town is a labyrinth of tiny alleyways, charming old stone architecture, and increasingly trendy little eateries and bars just right for two.

Nearby, beautiful beaches entice couples onto the sand. For a more remote excursion, a day trip to the ancient site of the Dictynnaion on the side of one of the "horns" of Crete can let lovers feel like castaways with nothing to do but frolic in the crystal clear waters - until the local caique returns before dusk for a timely rescue. A walk along the old harbor in Chania is filled with sparkling lights, the lighthouse, and strains of the wilder traditional music of Crete compete with more modern music. Then, relax in a luxurious hotel room filled with textiles inspired by the indulgent Venetian period on the island. Chania is also easy to get to and can be reached directly by many international flights from the rest of Europe via Chania International Airport.

Matala 

For funky romantics, there's no better place on earth than the seaside town of ​Matala far down on the south coast of Crete, especially during its annual festival honoring its vivid hippie-era past.

That takes place around Summer Solstice weekend each year, when the temporary population swells to 40,000 or more and the long crescent beach is filled with visitors. Peace signs abound, rainbow painted VW buses and bugs pose for pictures, and the music never stops all night. It won't be a place for a restful couples' getaway, but for those who want something memorable, it can't be beaten.

The rest of the year it's a bit touristy but still charming destination, renowned for its mysterious caves which provided lodging for famous musicians including Joni Mitchell back in the day.  Matala also has one of the foremost nude beaches in Greece, Red Beach, just over the hillside via a rocky but manageable half-hour hike which can be a great pair bonding experience in itself. Just don't forget the sunscreen - and bring some Euros for the sunbeds on this increasingly civilized stretch of clothing-optional sand. In the tourist season, the beach can also be reached by small boats from Matala. One romantic dining option nearby - the open-air wood-fired Pizza Ariadne restaurant lit by candles located in Kamilari, worth the drive even if you get mildly lost on the way. But the long string of perky small nightclubs with live music along the east side of Matala Bay also means you won't have to go far to have a fun night in Matala.

Rethymno 

One of the most beautiful evening walks in Greece is along the fortress causeway in the town of Rethymno. Extend the hippie experience begun in Matala by taking rooms at Olga's, another holdover or holdout from the 1970s hippie years along the winding old Shoemaker's Street.

Nearby, traditional and nouveau Greek restaurants offer every kind of dining option. Less well known than Heraklion or Chania, rooms in Rethymno tend to be an exceptionally good value. Its central location at the juncture of two of the major roads of Crete make it an ideal hub for exploring the rest of the island, possibly by renting a motorcycle - the challenging roads of Greece will definitely bring most couples much, much closer together, at least for the length of the ride.

Bali

Crete has its own little seaside town called Bali, just off the beaten track but still easy to get to. The beaches are beautiful and there is a sense of pleasant isolation in this spot.