Top places for villas to rent in Crete for a beach getaway

Crete is more than just the largest island in Greece. Steeped in culture, history and mythology going back thousands of years, it's known as the birthplace of the chief Greek god Zeus and the cradle of the Bronze-Age Minoan civilization. Crete is also home to a treasure trove of natural wonders, including some of the most splendid beaches in the Mediterranean. Soft, powdery sand and crystal clear waters shimmering in breathtaking hues of green and blue are just a stone's throw away from Crete apartments on the beach.

Choose villas in Crete near the beach for a Mediterranean idyll

With a coastline stretching 650 miles, Crete is home to hundreds of beaches. You'll find bustling resorts whose balmy, shallow waters and soft sand draw families with young children, beaches filled with surfers and other water sports enthusiasts, and secluded coves where you can work on your tan clad in nothing more than sunscreen and sunglasses. And with the abundance of both reasonably priced and luxury villas in Crete, you can enjoy the beauty of the land of the gods no matter what your budget is.

Fly the blue flag in Hersonissos

The charming seaside community of Hersonissos in northern Crete, dating from the era of Classical Greece, draws sun worshippers from near and far. It's home to numerous clean and beautiful beaches – some with Blue Flag status, such as Potamos and Anissara. Hersonissos is a town that's also firmly entrenched in the present, with a golf course, a public aquarium, shops selling anything and everything under the sun, a bustling food and drinks scene, as well as a vibrant nightlife.

The best of nature and history in Rethymnon

Also on the northern coast is the city of Rethymnon, otherwise known as Rethymno. It's home to Crete's longest beach – roughly 7.5 miles – where you can indulge in a variety of water sports as well as leisurely swims in rocky coves. Visit in summer and you'll see loggerhead turtles laying their eggs on the beach. Holiday homes here are well placed for exploring the old town, a lovely blast from the past. You'll see Venetian architecture and Turkish mosques from eras long gone.

There's something for everyone in Stalis

Situated about 19 miles east of the capital city of Heraklion, the town of Stalis – also called Stalida – is another great place for a seaside holiday. The lengthy beach boasts soft golden sand and shallow waters, making it a popular destination for families. If you're on a romantic getaway, the beach is perfect for a sunset stroll. Afterwards, you can grab a bite and a drink in a waterfront bar before heading back to your holiday cottage to rest and prepare for another eventful day ahead.

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams in Elounda

Fancy staying in a luxury villa in Crete? Then head to Elounda, a small resort town in the Agios Nikolaos municipality acclaimed as a playground of VIPs from all over the world. Pretty little villages line the coast, where you'll find intimate beaches and a glittering azure sea. When the waters are at their calmest, you can just make out the remnants of the ancient sunken metropolis of Olous. On Spinalonga Island, a short boat ride away, you'll find an ancient Venetian fortress and the remains of a leper colony.

Get some me-time in tranquil Plaka

Just a short distance from Elounda is the fishing village of Plaka, the place to go to if you're looking for a quiet holiday. Set beside the scenic Bay of Mirabello, it's home to an uncrowded pebbled beach shaded by tamarisk trees. Budget and luxury villas can be found here, within easy reach of superb seafood restaurants, shops offering locally made handicrafts and traditional Cretan tavernas. The extensive olive groves of Ano Mirabello and the ruins of the ancient city of Lato are just a short drive from town.

Outdoor adventures in Almyrida

The fishing village of Almyrida on the northwest coast might be small, but it offers plenty in the way of things to see and do. Lying east of Souda Bay, it's home to holiday lettings boasting magnificent views of both the water and the Lefki Ori (White Mountains). The beach draws water sports enthusiasts with activities like kayaking, windsurfing and scuba diving. Just a 30-minute drive away is the Botanical Park of Crete, where you'll find winding nature trails amid spectacular flora and fauna.