Last updated on July 14, 2023 by Wandering our World
Visitors from around the world have been traveling to Mykonos and Crete for years, and both islands can boast of gorgeous beaches and unique activities. But, if you only have time to visit one, how do you choose between them?
Fortunately, the choice shouldn’t be too difficult. Mykonos and Crete have a few things in common, but they’re quite different places in general, with totally different sizes, vibes, and things to do.
For starters, Crete is significantly larger. In fact, it’s almost 100 times bigger than Mykonos, which means that there’s way more to see, do, and discover across this island.
But while Crete is quite a varied destination with a mixture of activities, Mykonos is quite heavily-oriented towards its world-famous nightlife scene, with lots of clubs and bars to enjoy so is perfect for solo travelers and young couples.
However that’s just the beginning when it comes to how these two islands differ!
But once you know more about both of these islands, picking one to visit should become significantly easier.
That’s why we use our first-hand knowledge below to take a look at Crete vs Mykonos in several key areas, like ease-of-access, which has the best beaches, things to do, hotels and lots more.
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Is Better For Beaches?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Has The Best Hotels?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Best For A Honeymoon?
- Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?
- Which Has The Best Food?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview Of Crete vs Mykonos
Crete: A Quick Overview
When it comes to Greek islands, Crete is the king. It’s the biggest island of them all, and the most populous too.
Covering around 3,260 square miles (8,450 square kilometers), this island boasts a whopping 650 miles of coastline and is home to approximately 650,000 people. It’s situated approximately 100 miles south of the Greek mainland, in the Mediterranean Sea.
Crete is so vast, it almost feels like a whole separate country, and the people there have their own culture and customs, of which they are very proud. It also makes it a very interesting place to visit.
You can witness traditional dances and events during your time on the island, as well as spotting locals in unique outfits and tasting Cretan dishes with locally-grown ingredients.
There are even animals and plants that are endemic to Crete, like the Cretan shrew and Cretan frog!
While the wildlife is quite varied here, so are the landscapes, with towering mountains, dramatic gorges, winding rivers, and beautiful lakes to explore, along with several pleasant cities and towns. All of which makes Crete arguably the best Greek island for hiking too.
Crete is also well-known for its history, which stretches back through the ages; historians have found evidence of human settlements from around 130,000 years ago, and Crete had a strong civilization as far back as the Bronze Age.
Fittingly, the island has many exciting and intriguing historic sites to explore, like Knossos, which is said to be Europe’s oldest city.
Mykonos: A Quick Overview
Mykonos is a much smaller Greek island than Crete. It has a total area of 33 square miles (around 85 square km) and a fraction of Crete’s population.
However, despite being a small place, this Cycladic island has a lot of life.
It’s best-known for its vibrant nightlife scene, with major clubs and entertainment venues that can rival the very best in Europe. Jet-setters and 18-30 travelers flock here in their hundreds of thousands each year. The island has also been celebrated for its friendly and welcoming nature for LGBT travelers, too.
Modern Mykonos is all about the clubs and bars, but this island has a history that stretches back many centuries.
It was part of the Roman Empire at one stage, later being part of the Byzantine Empire and even coming under the control of Venetian rule, too. Echoes of the island’s history can be seen in its beautiful architecture and charming neighborhoods, like Little Venice.
There aren’t too many cultural or historic sites on Mykonos, but it’s nicely-situated for day trips to nearby islands, like Delos – one of Greece’s most significant historical sites, with incredibly-preserved landmarks.
It’s also quite an upmarket island, with very fancy hotels and luxury boutiques, ideal for shopaholics and fashionistas.
Which Is Easier To Get To?
Mykonos and Crete aren’t too far apart – just over 150 miles separate these two islands – and they both have international airports. But which one is easier to access? Well, that will depend on where you’re flying from.
Mykonos has one international airport, and it’s quite well-served, with direct links to many major European cities.
You can fly into Mykonos from places like the UK, Spain, France, and Germany, and there are also good links to the east, with direct flights from places like Doha and Dubai for travelers flying over from Australia or Asia.
Crete, meanwhile, has two large international airports – one in Heraklion and one in Chania. Both of these airports have many direct links with cities across Europe, including Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and so on.
Thanks to this, it’s easier to get to Crete if you’re flying from almost anywhere in Europe.
However, it’s worth noting that, unlike Mykonos, Crete’s airports don’t have many direct connections to the east, which could make things a little harder for those coming from that direction.
If you prefer to travel by water, you can take a ferry to Mykonos directly from Athens, and it’s possible to complete the whole trip in under three hours. Ferries run from Athens to Crete, too, but take significantly longer, with the high-speed service offering average journey times of 6.5 hours.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
Once you arrive in either Crete or Mykonos, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to get around the island and see all the places you want to see. So, how do the public transport networks and roads compare across these two islands, and which is easier to traverse?
Well, due to the enormous size of Crete, you might want to hire a car. Several car rental companies serve this island, and having your own vehicle will give you the freedom to truly explore, visiting the various quaint villages and secluded coves scattered across Crete’s furthest corners.
Crete has a nice network of well-maintained, winding roads that can help you get around.
It can take several hours to get from one side of the island to the other, however, so many people prefer to just pick a part of the island and explore that area during their stay, rather than wasting too much time on the road.
If a rental car isn’t your thing, you can also count on the island’s public buses. There’s an excellent bus network in Crete, with modern, air-conditioned vehicles ready to take you to all of the main towns and attractions.
The fares are quite cheap, too, in contrast to the island’s taxis, which can be quite pricey.
As mentioned earlier on, Mykonos is way smaller than Crete, so you won’t need to worry about any half-day journeys just to get from one part of the island to another. You can make your way across the entire island from east to west in just half an hour.
A lot of travelers to this island will stay in the main hub of Mykonos, Chora. That’s where most of the island’s main attractions, bars, and clubs can be found, mostly within walking distance of one another.
However, if you want to leave the main town behind and do a little more exploration, you can use local buses to do so. Rental cars are an option, too, but driving in Mykonos isn’t always easy, due to the high levels of congestion and limited availability of parking.
Overall, both islands are pretty easy to traverse. Crete has a better public transport network that will take you almost anywhere, and easier driving conditions, but it’s a lot larger, so you’ll need to be prepared to spend more time getting from place to place.
Which Is Better For Beaches?
The beaches of the Greek islands are some of the best in Europe, and both Mykonos and Crete can lay claim to some fabulous stretches of sand where you can relax, soak up the sun, or take a splash in the sea, but which one is best?
Well, there are pros and cons on both sides. Crete has by far the biggest quantity of beaches, with literally hundreds of options (including pink beaches – see photo below!) spread out along its enormous coastline.
But Mykonos has some super sandy spots, too, many of which are situated conveniently close to one another.
Over on Crete, you can find quite a lot of diverse and different beaches, from Caribbean-like shores with crystal waters to secluded, hard-to-reach spots where you can almost have the whole beach to yourself.
Mykonos, meanwhile, has a lot of touristic, developed beaches, a stone’s throw from nearby resorts, bars, and restaurants. These places are often crowded and lively, with music playing and a party atmosphere all-day long.
Crete: The Beaches
The two main words to describe Crete’s beaches are diverse and numerous. There are lots of beaches here, and, with stretches of shore looking over three different seas – Mediterranean, Aegean, and Libyan – Crete has a veritable bounty of beach experiences for visitors to enjoy.
Balos Beach stands out as one of the most beautiful locations. Not only do you get to admire a nearby Venetian castle from this beach, but it also has some of the softest, most powdery sands in all of Crete, as well as shallow and colorful waters.
Elafonissi is another blissful beach. You’ll find a mixture of white and pretty pink sand here, complete with crystal clear waters that are just perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Then, there’s Vai beach, which backs onto Europe’s largest palm forest – there are more than 5,000 trees here, providing the perfect backdrop for some summer photos to share with loved ones.
Many of the beaches on Crete are vast, like Falassara, which stretches on and on and gives visitors lots of space for ball games and picnics.
But others are smaller and more secluded, like Krios, which can only be reached through a narrow road out of Paleochora village.
So, whether you’re looking for somewhere secret, small, and romantic, a big, sandy expanse, or something in between, you can find it all on Crete. The options are simply endless!
The only problem with all of this is that, due to the size of Crete and the dozens of amazing beaches it has, it’s simply not possible to see them all in one trip. Some of the most picturesque spots are also quite far apart – Elafonisi, for example, is at the opposite end of the island to Vai.
Mykonos: The Beaches
Mykonos can’t compete with Crete in terms of the quantity of its beaches, but it still has some very nice coastal hotspots where travelers of all ages can feel right at home. It’s also home to some of the very best party beaches on the planet.
Paradise Beach is one of the best-known beaches on this island, and it’s a great example of what Mykonos is all about.
Well-developed and filled with young people all through the summer, this beach hosts plenty of parties and fun events during the tourist season.
Right next door to Paradise, you’ll find Super Paradise. Another popular spot with plenty of music and buzz, this is a great place to be if you want to truly immerse yourself in Mykonos’ party culture.
Or, for something more relaxing and luxurious, head to Psarou Beach – with its fancy sun loungers and great views, this beach often attracts celebrities and VIPs.
To the south of Chora, you can find Paraga Beach, which is a terrific location to swim, and you can head a little further to find Elia, the longest beach on the island.
Kalo Livadi and Platis Gialos are other great beaches with great organization, clean sands, and handy amenities.
Thanks to the small size of Mykonos, it’s pretty easy to access almost any beach without having to worry about a long or difficult trip to get there.
On the downside, many of the island’s beaches get really crowded, particularly in summer, although there are a few calmer coves to seek out, like Agios Sostis and Divounia.
Which Is Best For Activities?
Beaches can take up plenty of your time on any trip to Crete or Mykonos, but they’re not the only thing that these islands can provide.
There are plenty of other ways to fill up your days, and below we show you how Crete and Mykonos compare in terms of activities and attractions so you can see which island will suit you best.
Crete: The Activities
There’s so much to do on Crete, we couldn’t possibly list it all. From ancient historical sites and landmarks to sailing tours, watersports, gorge hikes, mountain climbs, and village exploration, there truly is something for any preference.
History buffs won’t want to miss out on a tour of Knossos, the island’s biggest Bronze Age site – you can visit this place and wander around on your own, or join up with a guided tour to learn even more about the various artifacts and archaeological discoveries from the area.
Several other ancient sites are scattered across the island, like Phaistos, and there are some fascinating museums in the big cities, like the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
There are also plenty of magnificent Venetian castles and Ottoman landmarks in and around the cities of Chania and Rethimno.
These cities also have plenty of great places to shop, but if you prefer to leave the hustle and bustle behind, you can head out and hike through Crete’s famous gorges, like Samaria (photo below), or climb some of its many mountains – Gingilos is one of the most scenic and accessible climbs, with a five hour walk taking you to the peak.
Nature and wildlife lovers can have the time of their lives in Crete’s wilder spaces, with various endemic animals to spot along the way. Plus, there are lots of smaller towns and quiet villages where you can really get a feel for Crete’s unique culture and traditions.
Mykonos: The Activities
Over on Mykonos, there’s not quite as much to do, and this island can’t offer the same kinds of hikes, wilderness experiences, or historical attractions as Crete. However, there are still several fun ways to spend your days here.
One of the main activities on Mykonos is partying. There are lots of beach bars and nightclubs to choose from, and the party atmosphere can be found all through the day and into the night in areas like Paradise and Super Paradise.
Shopping is great on Mykonos, too, and the main hub of Chora has lots of luxury boutiques and souvenir shops lining its whitewashed streets.
For something a little more romantic, you can take a tour of Little Venice. Here, the sea actually laps against the base of beautiful white buildings, with several great bars and restaurants, and fabulous sunset views each evening.
There are some interesting cultural landmarks dotted across Mykonos, too, like the old church of Panagia Paraportiani and the picturesque Kato Mili windmills of Chora.
Or, if ancient history is more your thing, you can hop on a boat to the neighboring islet of Delos – this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a hotbed of history, with the remains of an ancient theater, temples, market squares, and more.
Mykonos is also a top spot for island hopping. In fact, it’s a lot better for this than Crete, as there are several great islands just a short ferry ride away. As well as the aforementioned Delos, you can also travel to Santorini, Naxos, Tinos, and other places.
Which Has The Best Hotels?
It’s also important to think about where you’re going to stay during your visit to either one of these islands. And while they both have some super hotels, the range of accommodation options varies quite significantly between Crete and Mykonos.
On Mykonos, you’ll find a lot of luxurious, boutique hotels that are primarily designed for couples and stand out for their distinctive beauty and high prices.
Many hotels on this island generally have an exclusive, deluxe feel, and many travelers choose to spend a lot of time in and around the hotel to appreciate its amenities.
You’ll also need to book in advance if you plan a trip to Mykonos, as many of the top hotels can sell out far in advance.
Over on Crete, there’s much more diversity to the accommodation. Yes, you can find 5-star, luxury hotels here, but you can also find much cheaper options, as well as family-friendly resorts and even all-inclusive hotels serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner – this sort of thing is almost impossible to find on Santorini.
Hotels are typically cheaper on Crete and there are far more of them, so you won’t have to worry too much about places being sold out, even if you’re planning a last-minute getaway.
There are even some very budget-friendly hotels in Crete, ideal for backpackers hopping around Europe.
But ultimately choosing a place to stay will depend heavily on your personal preferences. That’s why we have a few recommendations below to try and help out:
Crete: Our Recommendations
In Crete, Anemos Luxury Grand Resort (see photos and rates) is a great family friendly option right by the beach with a beautiful pool and world-class service.
They also have a certified childcare service and a kid’s club and play area, which means parents can easily get a well deserved break!
Another worth looking into is Agapi Beach Resort (see photos and rates) which is an all-inclusive resort set that has almost everything you can think of – spa sessions, a private beach, several pools, tennis, and even cooking classes are all included.
If you’re looking for complete relaxation and everything to be taken care off, this is a great option!
Mykonos: Our Recommendations
Finding a gorgeous hotel complete with pool and seaviews on a budget is hard in Mykonos, but that’s exactly what Hotel Tagoo is. Not only that, it’s situated in a great location too. See photos and rates!
With a huge infinity pool overlooking the sea, rooms with hot tubs and private pools, and world-class service, the five-star Anax Resort & Spa is the perfect resort for someone looking to holiday in style. See photos and rates!
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
Crete may have more activities to fill up your days, but once the sun sets, it’s Mykonos that becomes the much livelier and more exciting place to be.
And if you love nightlife and parties, you won’t want to miss out on a trip to this amazing island.
In recent decades, Mykonos has really started to emerge as a party paradise, with some of its clubs and beach bars even rivaling the likes of Ibiza – Mykonos has even earned the nickname, “Ibiza of Greece” among young European travelers.
In the Mykonos Chora and Paradise Beach areas, you’ll find a long list of clubs with thumping music and non-stop party vibes from the afternoon right through to the early hours of the next morning.
The Tropicana Club is a great place to get things started with its crazy cocktails and dancing platforms, while the iconic Cavo Paradiso tends to be the top spot for big-name DJs and remarkable clifftop views.
Void, At54, and Paradise Beach Club are just a few other examples of places you can go for great drinks, fun music, and a fun atmosphere.
Crete can’t really compete with Mykonos in terms of headliner acts or vibrant, world-class nightclubs, but it does still have a nightlife scene of its own. The Malia Strip is a top spot for pubs and clubs, while Chania has a selection of nice bars and places to go in the evenings, too.
Which Is Best For A Honeymoon?
Thinking about Crete or Mykonos for a romantic getaway with someone special? Or even a honeymoon to celebrate your marriage? Well, the right choice for you will primarily depend on your personal preferences and passions.
If you and your partner love to party and are looking for a small, romantic-feeling island to call home for a few nights of gourmet dining, boutique shopping, beach fun, and evening entertainment, Mykonos is the place to be.
It may not have too much in the way of cultural activities, but it certainly fits the bill for young couples looking for luxury accommodation and exciting nightlife.
However, if you and your loved one prefer a little more variety, Crete might be the better option.
It may not be the most romantic of all the Greek islands, but Crete has a very broad range of things to do, from hikes through nature to museums, galleries, and charming towns. Perfect for active couples.
Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?
How about if you’re planning a family trip? Well, in this category, Crete has to take the win. It’s much of a family-friendly place, with fun family attractions, like the Watercity Water Park and Amazonas Wildlife Park.
No matter how old your kids are or what they happen to be interested in, you should be able to find several ways to keep them entertained during your stay on Crete.
There’s a great aquarium just outside Heraklion, for example, as well as some super family-friendly beaches and lots of amazing wildlife to see.
Crete also has more family-oriented resorts, which are simply harder to find on Mykonos.
You can still visit Mykonos with kids and have a good time at some of the beaches and towns, but younger children, in particular, might get bored with the lack of attractions.
Plus, the club-oriented atmosphere on Mykonos doesn’t make it the most child-friendly location.
Which Has The Best Food?
When it comes to food, you can’t really go wrong in the Greek islands. From freshly-caught seafood to traditional Greek salads, pastries, and dishes, there are lots of tasty things to eat on islands like Mykonos and Crete.
Mykonos arguably has the better restaurants overall, as it has some excellent fine dining eateries with gourmet menus, especially in the Chora area.
The only downside is that you’ll need to book in advance, as tables at the best restaurants are often reserved ahead of time.
Over on Crete, there’s more variety. You can find everything from fancy restaurants to cozy, family-friendly eateries serving traditional Greek meals, as well as street food vendors handing out scrumptious souvlaki.
Crete also has its own unique culinary traditions and dishes that you can’t find anywhere else. There are some amazing Cretan cheeses to try during your stay, like myzithra, as well as delicious recipes, like gamopilafo – a flavorful risotto-style dish that is traditionally served at weddings.
Overall, if you’re prepared to pay the high prices for fine dining and enjoy haute cuisine, Mykonos is the place for you. But if you prefer a little more variety and want to try some true, traditional Greek cooking, head to Crete instead – which we think is ultimately the better island for foodies.
Which Is Cheaper?
Another big factor that you have to think about when planning a trip is cost; it’s important to weigh up the prices of the flights, accommodation, activities, food, and so on, in order to find a trip that can meet your needs and match your budget.
So, which of these two islands is cheapest? Well, in terms of day-to-day average costs, Crete is quite a lot cheaper than Mykonos, and the average traveler should spend less on things like food and hotels on Crete.
Mykonos is one of the most expensive and luxurious of the Greek islands, with hotels and boutiques designed with the jet-set crowd in mind. It’s no surprise that many celebrities and wealthy, influential people choose this island for their Greek getaways.
Some of the clubs and parties in Mykonos can have quite pricey entrance fees, and even something as simple as a drink in a bar can cost significantly more there than it would on other islands, including Crete.
Crete has cheaper accommodation and food, and it’s since it’s such a big island, there’s much more competition to help drive the prices down. Even the likes of food tours and boat rides are cheaper on Crete than equivalent activities on Mykonos.
Thanks to all of this, you can have a much cheaper trip to Crete, although you will need to take into account the added expense of possibly hiring a car or paying many bus fares to get around, which isn’t so much of an issue on Mykonos.
Crete vs Mykonos: Which Is The Better Choice?
So, which should you choose between Crete and Mykonos? Well, that will all depend on what kind of vacation you’re looking for and what sorts of activities and vibes you tend to enjoy the most.
Naturally, party-lovers will be drawn to Mykonos. It has the best and most active nightlife scene of any Greek island.
Plus, its small size and luxurious, up-market feel will suit those who enjoy the finer things in life.
For everyone else, there’s Crete. This massive, diverse island has such a lot to offer, from its gorgeous beaches to its fascinating historic sites, stunning scenery, and unique cultural elements. It’s got incredible food, too, and it’s usually cheaper to visit than Mykonos.
For all of these reasons, Crete takes the win in our Crete vs Mykonos comparison. It’s the better choice for families and most other travelers, offering much more to fill up your travel itinerary and help you create magical vacation memories you’ll never forget.