Home Europe Greece Mykonos vs Crete: Which Greek Island Should You Visit?

Mykonos vs Crete: Which Greek Island Should You Visit?

Mykonos Vs Crete
Photo credit: JRF/The Surf Atlas

We’re not gonna’ lie – Mykonos vs Crete is no easy decision. These are two of Greece’s most enticing islands. They both have sands and fun-filled resorts, along with come-sunbathe-in-me climates and a loyal following of returnee travelers.

But there are also differences. Crete comes crowned by the mighty mountains of the Lefka Ori, dashed with chestnut and olive groves, and brimming with ancient history. Mykonos, on the other hand, has forged a rep as one of the hippest, chicest isles in the whole Aegean; a land to party the night away in the company of cocktail drinkers, A listers, and yachters.

So, which one should you hit this year? Cue this guide. It will run through the ins and outs of visiting Mykonos and Crete, comparing the key features we know you’ll be looking for when you come to make that choice…

Mykonos vs Crete: The vibe

Mykonos Vs Crete vibe
Photo by YvM/Pixabay

Vibe wise, there’s nowhere that says ‘chilled summer getaway’ quite like Mykonos. Similar to destinations like Ibiza and Sardinia, there’s an edge of the jet-setter class about it that draws in plenty of high-rollers and yachters. That’s balanced out by a loyal following of revelers that come for relaxed Lo-Fi days in the beanbag-filled clubs of Paradise Beach and heavy EDM nights in the town.

Crete is a whole world away from that. It’s the Jack of all trades for Greek destinations. There’s hedonism up in Malia but there’s stacks of culture in Knossos. You’ll find tanned bodies baking on the beaches of Chania, but also hikers navigating the Samaria Gorge. If we had to try and pin it down, we’d say Crete isn’t really like the rest of the country at all. It feels more like a standalone national with its own quirks and nuances.

Winner: Draw – this is all personal preference

Mykonos vs Crete: Nature

Rugged inland Crete
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Mykonos is the quintessential Cyclades island. Formed from huge granite rocks that bulge from the central Aegean Sea, most of its natural treasures lie along the coast. Of course, we’re talking about the beaches – places like Platis Gialos Beach and Paradise Beach steal the show – but also dusty headlands with views across to neighboring islands. Inland Mykonos is fairly arid and unremarkable, but there are some charming, whitewashed villages and secret beaches on the eastern shoreline.

Then you get Crete. Wowza! It’s an island that really takes the breath away – sometimes literally, thanks to its soaring backbone of 2,000-meter-high mountains spread between a trio of ranges. They hold secrets like the UNESCO Samaria Gorge (a hiker’s fav) and the observatory-topped summit of Mount Ida. But mountains aren’t it on Crete. This isle also beckons with butterfly-filled forests, unexpected avocado plantations, and even freshwater lakes. There’s so much adventure to be had!

Winner: Crete.

Mykonos vs Crete: Hotels

Mykonos hotel view
Photo by Alexandra Kirr/Unsplash

Be under no illusions that both of these islands have ample hotel choices. Booking.com lists over 500 properties on Mykonos. That means all bases are covered, from family villas to beachside B&Bs on the quieter eastern half of the island. What Mykonos does better than arguably any island in the region, though, is chic, boutique hotels with plenty of pizzazz. Check out the likes of Hotel Alkyon or the 5-star Bill & Coo Suites to see what we mean.

Crete boasts some 8,000+ properties on Booking.com. That’s largely down to the abundance of resorts that can fit onto the sprawling island, many of which occupy the hotspots west of Chania and east of Heraklion. To find the real jewels of Crete, we’d recommend venturing further afield. Head up to the mountain villages or go to the south coast. Those are where establishments like the Traditional Apartments Elafos and Taverna Akrogiali beckon with some seriously authentic charms.

Winner: Mykonos – it’s not all about quantity when it comes to scoring awesome stays in Greece.

Mykonos vs Crete: Nightlife

Mykonos Town
Photo by prontopac/Pixabay

Looking to party the night away by the side of the Aegean Sea? Mykonos won’t disappoint. It’s hailed as one of the Med’s most hedonistic destinations, with enough bars to rival Ios and the like. Most folk start early on down on Paradise Beach, sipping lunchtime cocktails with chillout tunes. Then the action moves back to Mykonos Town, where the epic Skandinavian Bar and other clubs go on until the early hours.

Crete isn’t shy of a little partying, either. Drop into Malia between May and August and you’ll see that. It’s got a pumping 18-30s strip that’s body shots and 4am dancing from beginning to end. For us, it’s just that the Cretan nightlife is a tad…naff. The best of it is actually in the main towns of Chania and Heraklion, where you might stumble upon some locals to share the evening with.

Winner: Mykonos.

Mykonos vs Crete: Price

Little Venice in Mykonos
Photo by EvanRoss/Pixabay

Mykonos isn’t considered one of Greece’s priciest destinations for nothing. The costs of everything from accommodation to drinks in this corner of the Cyclades can be eye-wateringly high compared to even neighboring isles like Paros or Milos. You’re looking at up to $8.50 for a beer, over $12 for a cocktail, and around $30-40 for a meal in a restaurant in Little Venice (Mykonos Town’s most happening dining quarter).

Crete won’t ever cost you that much unless you’re determined to spend and do everything in luxury. Even the cost of cold beers in the tavernas drops to around the $5 mark, while hotels are usually around half of what they are in Mykonos during the high season – that’s one hefty saving! It’s also worth bearing in mind that the cost of travel to Crete tends to be lower, mainly because the island has two major airports and far more connecting flights going all over Europe (more on that below).

Winner: Crete.

Mykonos vs Crete: Getting there

A hidden beach in Crete
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Travel to, from, and around both these islands shouldn’t be a chore. They are up there with the most-visited parts of Greece and southern Europe as a whole. Mykonos has both a major port and a big airport. The latter has regular flight links with low-cost carriers going to cities like London, Paris, Rome, Milan, and Venice. There are also ferry links across Greece, with a connection to Athens and shorter links to the nearby Cyclades islands of Santorini and Milos.

Crete isn’t as accessible from the sea because it’s almost 200 miles from Piraeus port in the Greek capital and just shy of 100 miles from Milos – AKA: Isolated. You can still catch a boat, but it’s probably cheaper and faster to look to the flights. They are what make Crete far more accessible overall because there are two international arrival points, one in Chania and one in Heraklion.

Winner: Crete.

Mykonos vs Crete: History

An historic site in Crete
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Crete is unquestionably the most historical of these two islands. The onetime epicenter of the Minoan Civilization that flourished all over the southern Mediterranean from around 2000 BC to 1000 BC, it’s a top spot to unravel that ancient past. You’ll certainly want to drop by Heraklion, which has a fantastic archaeology museum, and access to the legendary palatial dig site at Knossos. On top of that, Chania sports eye-catching Venetian-era relics, and there’s a second ancient acropolis site, Phaistos, on the south coast.

Mykonos doesn’t really cater to history buffs. However, there is one trump card up the sleeve of this otherwise party-mad island: Delos. That tiny islet off the coast of western Mykonos is famed for its sprawling treasury and sanctuary buildings, which date back to the beginnings of the Athenian Empire some 2,700 years ago. You can do day tours of the site from Mykonos town.

Winner: Crete.

Mykonos vs Crete: Island hopping

Sailing to Santorini
Photo by Matthew Waring/Unsplash

If you’re planning on seeing more than one island during your Greek travels, then we’d probably recommend starting on Mykonos, not Crete. The reason? It’s right there, smack dab in the middle of the Cyclades chain. That’s a doozy if you want to hop from one place to the next, because they are all pretty close and well linked by ferries. Common hops from Mykonos include going south to Santorini or Naxos, or north to Tinos. You can also get to lesser-known islands like Ermoupoli without a hitch.

Crete, being so far south, is generally less well connected to other islands in Greece. However, it does have two big ports – one at Heraklion and another at Chania. They have multiple ferry links to the Cyclades islands (including even Mykonos itself) and to Athens during the peak travel season in the summer. It’s also possible to get to Rhodes in the Dodecanese.

Winner: Mykonos.

Mykonos vs Crete: Beaches

Beach in Crete
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Neither Mykonos or Crete are like Santorini in that neither are volcanic, and both are blessed with long, low-lying coastlines threaded by beach after beach after beach. There are an estimated 20 or so individual strands on Mykonos. In the west, just south of the main town, they’re mostly sandy bays with turquoise water. In the east, they are more rugged affairs stalked by rocky headlands. All are pretty awesome, and you’ll never be without somewhere to lay the towel, even if we’re not huge fans of the mega crowds and the pay-per-sunbed policies.

Crete is a beach hunter’s dream. Yes, you can hop from Rethymno to Chania’s main strip on the north coast to find family-friendly beaches with hotels right behind. It would be a shame to stick to only those, though. The south coast holds treats like the Elafonisi island, while Chania Province boasts the stunning Balos Lagoon. Then comes postcard-worthy Preveli Beach in the south, and the palm-packed cove of Vai in the east. Ah, it’s lush!

Winner: Crete.

Mykonos vs Crete: Families

Sunbeds on a Cretan beach
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Crete wins for family holidays. It’s better than Mykonos on this front because of many reasons. First, it’s larger, which means there are more resorts to pick from and accommodation options on the table. Second, it’s cheaper, so you won’t break the bank looking for the right villa. More than that, Crete doesn’t have a rep for sleek, jet-setter holidaying, so there’s lots for the little ones to enjoy, from the whizzing slides of the Watercity Waterpark to the shark-filled tanks of the CRETAquarium. We think the resort strip east of Heraklion is the top place for families, but the north coast around Chania is good for quieter family trips.

Mykonos is a party island at heart. It’s built for the LGBTQ+ partiers and the hedonistic yachters who come from May to August each year. That’s not to say families will have a bad time, just that there’s not the same family vibes here as on Crete. Your best bet would probably be to look for accommodation on the far eastern side of the island or along the north coast, which are both altogether quieter and have more villa options.

Winner: Crete

Mykonos vs Crete: Towns and villages

Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Mykonos has just one real town: Mykonos Town, sometimes known as Chora. It’s famously gorgeous, rising above an inky-blue Aegean bay with its whitewashed windmills and colorful tavernas. The most-photographed area is unquestionably the coastal strip known as Little Venice, where crooked fishermen homes come tavernas lean over the sloshing waves and fishing skiffs, offering plenty of excellent places to watch the sunset. A few streets back from that you get a wiggling maze of alleys that link art galleries, coffee houses, and chic bistros.

Crete, on the other hand, has the benefit of being the largest island in the whole country. So, it doesn’t just have towns. It has cities. Chief among them is Heraklion, a gritty, lived-in port city with a throbbing center that’s laden with cocktail bars and open-air eateries. You should go there to feel the pulse of island life and wander the incredible Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Next up is Chania, the romantic town. That’s an old Venetian port with a bustling promenade and a come-get-lost-in-me core. On top of that, you get Matala, a hippy enclave on the south shore, and Rethymno, a fort-topped harbor in the north.

Winner: Crete. It has WAY more towns and even cities up its sleeve! It’s certainly the island for urban mice.

Mykonos vs Crete: The conclusion

Overall, we simply have to plump for Crete. It’s a tight one here though, as both these islands have something truly special that helps them stand out from the crowd.

In the end, it comes down to the rawness and authenticity of the Cretan people, the unique culture and ancient history of Greece’s largest island, and the vastness of the mountains and the wild south coast.

That’s not to say Crete wins at everything. It doesn’t. Mykonos has more chic and stylish hotels. It’s also way better for partying, because Mykonos Town and Little Venice are considerably better nights out than the raucous 18-30s resort of Malia, at least in our minds.