It is our first time in Crete, having previously visited Milos (loved it!), Santorini, Naxos and Rhodes. We are aware Crete is a very large island, and with this limited time, we would like to utilize it as much as possible but also not squueze too much in short time that we dont have time to relax. We are planning on renting a car for most (maybe all) of the stay.
We want to focus on central and western crete during this trip (with maybe some daytrips to south). We have done some research and read some reviews, but still have not made up our minds on exact itinerary of when, where.
I would like to share what we would like to visit below, and open to any suggestions.
We are looking mainly for good beaches, nature, relaxing, enjoy the cultural sites wondering in towns.
1st day: arrive in Heraklion at 11.40, rent car, settle at hotel. Check out Archeological museum & The Palace of Knossos, wander Heraklion at night
2nd day: Wander Heraklion in the morning, afternoon, then take off west towards Rethymnon. (passing through Anogia, would you recommend, or any other places?) Stay the night in Rethymnon and use it as a base.
3rd Day: Wander around Rethymnon and also in the city itself, stay the night in Rethymnon. (Any recommendations for places to see around this city, beaches to check out?)
4th Day: Either stay another night in Rethymnon to visit beaches and near areas(Margarites?), or take off to west towards Chania?
5th Day: Chania, visit Elafonissi via boat in morning (since not sure of the road with car) and wander around and explore Chania towards evening
6th Day: Stay in Chania, Falassarna trip
7th Day: Stay in Chania, Marathi beach, Kathaliko, Agia Triada monastery
8th Day:Stay in Chania, Chryssi Akti beach, Agii Apostoli
9th Day: Stay in Chania daytrip towards Paleochora? Wonder around the southern coast (any recommendations?)
11th day: Head towards Matala and stay in Matala? (since we heard quite a lot about the hippy vibes and would like to check it out, but not sure if its logical fit, since the road is long)
12th day: head towards Heraklion, drop of car, flight in night
1) Any feedback, recommendations on the above itinerary? Does it seem too packed? Since we dont want this also.
2) How should we fit Elafonisi and Balos to the trip? Is it better while taking it as a base from Chania with boat (since I heard the road is a little rough), or is it better to visit from Palaiochora via car or boat? Or maybe staying a night in Kissamos?
3) Since it will be very hot, hiking in the gorges is not a very likely option but would you recommend going through with car and stopping at some places?
4) Should we just skip matala since its already quite a lot of places, and add the day to chania or Paleochora (prob at least 2 nights here to be worth the trip)
5) since returning back to Heraklion from Paleochora is quite a way, should we just skip this area, or would you recommend incorporating it in the plan somehow, like daytrips from Chania?
6) Any part of the roads that you would caution, since we will rent a basic car, and dont want to be too adventurous.
I know thats quite a lot of questions and text, but appreciate anyone who reads through. Open to any suggestions. The trip is not set yet so open to any feedback and changes. Thank you so much!