When it comes to choosing a Greek island for a vacation, Skiathos and Crete are two popular options. In a 7-day itinerary, you can either visit Skiathos or Crete, depending on which side of Greece you’re traveling to.
So, which one to choose Skiathos or Crete?
While Skiathos is for beach hopping, exquisite nightlife, and water sports, while Crete is more popular for its cultural experiences, hiking, and sightseeing. Skiathos can be more expensive due to their smaller size and focus on luxury accommodations and nightlife. Crete, on the other hand, is a more affordable destination overall.
That’s not all. Let’s take a look at an in-depth comparison.
Skiathos or Crete: A Quick Comparison
You may need to add one extra day to your itinerary if you’re visiting based on our itinerary of Greece. Here is a quick overview of the differences between Skiathos and Crete for a better travel destination.
|Size & Population||Small island (49 sq km), Around 6,000||Large island (8,336 sq km), Around 623,000|
|Location and Accessibility||Located in Eastern Greece in the Aegean sea|
By plane, bus, car, ferry
|Located in the Southern part of the Aegean Sea|
By the same modes
|Attractions||Beautiful beaches,charming harbor town and vibrant nightlife||Ancient ruins, landscapes and cuisine, traditional villages and cultures|
|Activities and Excursions||Beach-hopping, water sports, hiking, boat trips, exploring historic landmarks, museums, etc.||Hiking, sightseeing, cultural experiences, beach activities, food and wine tours|
|Accommodation||Hotels and resortsVillas and vacation homesApartments and studiosGuesthouses and pensionsHostels and lodges||Same options with Agro-tourism accommodations, such as traditional cottages and farmhouses|
|Transportation for Sightseeing||Car rentals and bikes, public transport, water taxis, or by walking||Same, except they have ferries instead of water taxis|
|Purpose of Visit||Beach lovers, party-goers, relaxation||History, and culture enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, foodies|
|Season and Temperature||Best time: June to September in summer||Best time: Mid-May to mid-October in warm weather|
|Nightlife spots||Beach resorts, bars, beach bars, clubs, restaurants, tavernas, live music venues, etc.||bars, clubs and discos, restaurants and tavernas, music venues, etc.|
|Cost||Expensive in terms of accommodations, transport, meals, activities, etc.||Comparatively affordable, but has luxury options as well.|
Skiathos or Crete: A Detailed Comparison
We will now discuss the differences between Skiathos and Crete in a broader aspect.
Size & Population
Skiathos is smaller compared to Crete and has a lesser population.
Skiathos is a small island located in the Aegean Sea, measuring just 49 sq. km. It has a population of approximately 6,000 people, with most living in the capital, Skiathos Town.
In contrast, Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, with an area of 8,336 sq. km and a population of over 600,000 people. The island is divided into four administrative regions and has many bustling towns and villages.
The population density of Skiathos is approximately 120 people/sq km whereas it’s 75 people/sq km in Crete. Both destinations experience an increase in population during the peak tourist season.
This can significantly increase the population density in Skiathos during peak tourist season compared to that of Crete. While the infrastructure in Skiathos, such as roads and public transportation, can become overwhelmed during these periods, the tourists in Crete can spread out over a wider area.
Location and Accessibility
While Skiathos is situated on the east side of Greece, Crete is located in the south and you can visit by land or cruise. Both islands are accessible by ferry and plane.
Skiathos is situated in the northwest Aegean Sea and is easily accessible by land, air, or waterways. Crete, on the other hand, is located in the southern Aegean Sea and has the same mode of accessibility. Skiathos has a small airport, Skiathos Island National Airport (JSI), and Crete has two international airports, one in Heraklion and another in Chania.
To visit by air from Athens or from various European cities, you can use Athens International Airport (ATH), or from Thessaloniki, they have Thessaloniki International Airport (SKG). Crete can be visited from other islands as well.
Both Skiathos and Crete can be accessed by car or bus. You need to reach Volos or Agios Konstantinos ports on the Greek mainland and then take a ferry to Skiathos. Ferry services run several times a day during the high season, from May to October. You can also drive to the nearby town of Mantoudi and take a car ferry to the island of Skiathos.
On the other hand, you can take KTEL bus companies for a 10-hour ride to Crete or drive from Athens to one of the ferry ports in the Peloponnese such as Gythio or Kalamata, or take a car ferry from the mainland to Crete. The main ferry ports in Crete are Heraklion, Chania, and Rethymnon. You can use them to visit Crete from Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, or Rhodes.
Flying to Skiathos or Crete is the fastest and most convenient way to get there. However, it can also be the most expensive, especially during the peak travel season. While buses are the most budget-friendly, they are very time-consuming.
Ferries are also budget-friendly and also offer the opportunity to enjoy some beautiful sea views. A car ferry combines the convenience of driving with the scenic views of a ferry; however, car ferries are quite expensive and take longer than regular passenger ferries.
While Skiathos is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque landscapes, Crete is famous for its beautiful beaches, historic landmarks, cultural attractions, and delicious food.
|Beaches||Over 60 beaches, including Koukounaries, Lalaria, and Banana Beach||Numerous beaches, including Elafonisi Beach, Falassarna, and Balos Beach|
|Historic Landmarks||Bourtzi Fortress, Old Medieval Kastro town, Evangelistria Monastery, and Old Port||Palace of Knossos, the ancient city of Phaistos, Spinalonga Fortress, Arkadi Monastery|
|Architecture||Charming harbor, whitewashed buildings, and narrow streets in Skiathos Town||Venetian architecture in small towns and villages, such as Chania, Rethymnon, and Agios Nikolaos|
|Cultural Attractions||Nearby islands such as Skopelos and Alonissos||The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, The Lasithi Plateau, and The Agios Nikolaos Lake|
|Food||Local seafood dishes, gyros, and meze platters||Greek salad, moussaka, tzatziki, souvlaki, and dolmades|
As you can see from the table above, Skiathos Town is also a popular attraction, with its charming harbor, whitewashed buildings, and narrow streets filled with shops and restaurants.
Crete, on the other hand, has many attractions to offer with numerous beaches, beautiful architecture, and stunning views. You can almost enjoy partying at the beach like Ocean beach in San Diago.
Activities and Excursions
Both Skiathos and Crete have many water-based and hiking activities, and historic landmarks or places to visit.
Skiathos is a great destination for those who love water sports, such as jet skiing, water skiing, windsurfing, scuba diving, and parasailing. On the other hand, Crete offers similar activities, plus kiteboarding, sailing, and canyoning.
For beach-hopping, Skiathos has over 60 beaches to explore while Crete has over 100 beaches. Skiathos has crystal-clear water while some of the beaches in Crete are secluded or have resorts.
In addition, there are numerous boat excursions available for both islands, allowing visitors to explore many secluded beaches and coves.
Both islands also have many hiking trails that lead to breathtaking views of the sea and the surrounding hills. Skiathos has several trails and routes for hiking, including Koukounaries Forest while Crete is famous for the Samaria Gorge along with other hiking options.
You can also take regular boat tours to nearby islands and beaches in Skiathos while boat trips in Crete explore the coastline and also offers a day trip to the stunning island of Santorini.
You can try various seafood, traditional Greek dishes, and Mediterranean cuisine in Skiathos while Crete offers various local specialties including dakos, kalitsounia, and snails.
There are also local museums, galleries, and art exhibitions or exquisite nightlife that you can explore on both islands. You can also shop in local markets and boutiques.
Crete is a larger island with more variety in terms of accommodation options, while Skiathos has a more limited selection due to its smaller size. Both islands have a good range of options for different budgets and preferences. Visitors can also choose to stay in popular tourist areas or more secluded locations, depending on their interests.
Skiathos offers a range of accommodation options, from luxurious hotels to small guesthouses and apartments. Most of the island’s hotels are located in Skiathos Town or near the popular beaches. Some of the popular and affordable hotels in Skiathos are-
- Pension Eliza – This cozy and affordable hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms with air conditioning and private balconies. It’s just a short walk away from the harbor and other local attractions.
- Hotel Stellina – This family-run hotel is situated in a quiet area of Skiathos Town, just a 10-minute walk from the center. The rooms are basic but clean and comfortable, and the hotel has a lovely outdoor pool and a bar.
- Hotel Kostis – This charming hotel is located in the heart of Skiathos Town, just a short walk away from the harbor, restaurants, and shops. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and the hotel has a lovely garden where guests can relax and unwind.
- Villa Kim – This family-run hotel is located in a quiet area of Skiathos Town, just a 5-minute walk from the harbor and the main shopping street. The rooms are basic but clean and comfortable, and the hotel has a lovely outdoor pool and a bar.
Crete also has a wide range of accommodation options, from five-star resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses. The island’s hotels are spread throughout the island, with many located in the popular tourist towns of Chania, Heraklion, and Rethymnon.
In peak season, it’s recommended to book accommodations in advance, especially during the high season, to ensure availability. If you are looking for cheaper accommodation options, consider visiting outside of the high season.
Prices tend to be lower from October to May but keep in mind that some hotels and tourist facilities may be closed or have limited services during this time.
Another way to potentially find cheaper accommodations is to book well in advance or to look for last-minute deals. Some hotels and resorts offer discounted rates for early bookings or to fill vacancies closer to the travel dates.
Here are some affordable and popular accommodations in Crete-
- Lato Boutique Hotel -This affordable boutique hotel is located in the heart of Heraklion, just a short walk away from the city’s main attractions, including the Archaeological Museum. The rooms are comfortable and stylishly decorated, and the hotel has a rooftop bar with stunning views.
- Hotel Kastro – This affordable hotel is located in the charming old town of Chania, just a few minutes walk away from the Venetian harbor and the city’s main attractions. The rooms are simple but clean and comfortable, and the hotel has a lovely rooftop terrace with views over the city.
- Hotel Nostos – This affordable hotel is located in the lively seaside town of Rethymno, just a short walk away from the beach and the town’s main attractions. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and the hotel has a lovely outdoor pool and a bar.
- Hotel Porto Loutro on the Beach – This affordable hotel is located in the beautiful and secluded Loutro village, accessible only by boat or hiking trail. The rooms are simple but clean and comfortable, and the hotel has a lovely beachfront location with stunning views over the sea.
To book accommodations, you will require to contact various online travel agencies, travel agents, or hotel or resort websites. While online travel agencies allow you competitive rates, user reviews, and flexible booking options; travel agents may charge a fee for their services.
Hotels or resorts offer various special promotions, or loyalty programs, however, you can also rent a villa, vacation home, or apartment in Skiathos or Crete through websites like Airbnb, HomeAway, and Vrbo.
Transportation for Sightseeing
Both Skiathos and Crete offer various options for transportation, including car rentals, taxis, and public transportation.
Getting around Skiathos is relatively easy, as the island is small and has a well-organized bus system, however, Crete can be more challenging, as the island is large and public transportation is not as frequent or reliable. Renting a car or scooter is recommended for those who want to explore Crete at their own pace.
For exploring Skiathos, you can rent a car, motorbike, or bicycle from one of the many rental agencies on the island. This gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace and visit remote locations, but keep in mind that some of the roads may be narrow and winding, and parking can be difficult during the high season.
If you want to travel around within budget, there are regular bus services on Skiathos, connecting most of the main towns and beaches. Crete also has an extensive bus network with services connecting most of the major towns and villages on the island. Some of the bus stations are a walking distance from hotels while some are on the highway so you might need to get a taxi.
However, in peak season, buses can be overcrowded. Taxis are more expensive than buses but more convenient for short journeys and to avoid crowds. There are water taxis in Skiathos to explore the town to many of the nearby beaches, which can be a fun and scenic way to explore the island.
They may be more expensive than land-based transportation, but offer a unique experience and a chance to see the island from a different perspective. For Crete, ferry services to other Greek islands, such as Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Kos can be a great option if you want to explore multiple islands during your trip.
Purpose of Visit
Despite being popular for its beaches, Skiathos is more popular for its crystal-clear water and nightlife, while Crete is best for its history and landscapes.
Skiathos is best for those who want a relaxing beach vacation in a picturesque setting. The island’s small size and laid-back atmosphere make it a great destination for couples, families, and solo travelers who want to unwind and soak up the sun.
Crete, on the other hand, is a great destination for those who want to explore the rich history and culture of Greece, as well as its stunning natural beauty. The island’s size and diverse landscape make it a great destination for those who enjoy hiking, exploring ancient ruins, and experiencing local cuisine.
Both islands are good for relaxation, however, the hiking options are limited compared to Crete and have lesser authenticity and history. Skiathos is best for its seafood and boutiques while Crete offers Mediterranean cuisine and luxury accommodation.
Season and Temperature
Both Skiathos and Crete have a Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers and mild winters. The best time to visit Skiathos is from June to September when the weather is warm and sunny. In contrast, Crete is best for visiting from Mid-May to Mid-October, with July and August being the hottest months.
July and August are also the peak tourist season when both Skiathos and Crete have larger crowds and higher prices, but also the most lively nightlife and events. If you prefer fewer crowds, lower prices and slightly cooler temperatures, June and September are great months to visit Skiathos.
For Crete, May, June, September, and October are better for visiting with lesser crowd. It’s also a better time to visit if you’re interested in outdoor activities such as hiking or cycling.
In winter, many tourists visit Crete to experience a different side of the island, such as its traditional villages and food culture. However, many businesses and tourist facilities may be closed during the winter months.
Both Skiathos and Crete have vibrant nightlife with many bars and clubs within the islands.
Skiathos Town has more bars and clubs, along the popular beaches; while they are available in the popular tourist towns in Crete like Chania, Heraklion, and Rethymnon. They have many bars, nightclubs, tavernas, and live music venues.
Skiathos also offers beach resorts like Banana Beach, Koukounaries, and Troulos with bars, tavernas, and clubs.
Both Skiathos and Crete can be affordable destinations, especially for budget-conscious travelers. However, costs can add up quickly depending on the type of accommodation and activities chosen.
Both Skiathos and Crete can be accessed by plane or ferry, and prices can vary depending on the time of year and the departure location.
|Domestic Flights (round trip)||50-150 euros||50-150 euros|
|Ferry Prices||20-50 euros||20-50 euros|
|Car Rental (week)||150-250 euros||150-250 euros|
|Gas Prices||1.5-2 euros per liter||1.5-2 euros per liter|
|Hostels/Budget Hotels||10-70 euros per night||10-70 euros per night|
|Mid-Range Hotels||50-200 euros per night||50-200 euros per night|
|Luxury Hotels/Resorts||150 euros per night or more||150 euros per night or more|
|Food and Drink Costs||Skiathos||Crete|
|Inexpensive Restaurant Meals||8-15 euros||8-15 euros|
|Mid-Range Restaurant Meals||15-30 euros||15-30 euros|
|Coffee and Beer||2-5 euros||2-5 euros|
|Water sports/Guided tours||20-100 euros or more||20-100 euros or more|
|Estimated Daily Budget||Skiathos||Crete|
|Budget||50-80 euros||40-60 euros|
|Mid-Range||100-150 euros||80-120 euros|
|Luxury||200 euros or more||200 euros or more|
Based on these estimates, a budget traveler could expect to spend around 50-80 euros per day on accommodations, food, and activities, not including transportation to and from Skiathos. A mid-range tip will be around 100-150 euros per day, while 200 euros or more per day for a luxury trip.
In comparison, Crete will be around 40-60 euros per day on accommodations, food, and activities, without transportation to and from Crete. A mid-range trip will be around 80-120 euros per day, while a luxury one will be 200 euros or more.
Which One to Choose: Skiathos Or Crete?
For a family tour or solo, both Skiathos and Crete can be a good option; however, it depends on your personal travel preferences and priorities. Both Skiathos and Crete offer unique experiences and stunning natural beauty.
Skiathos is a small island known for its beautiful beaches, laid-back atmosphere, and lively nightlife. It is best for those who want a relaxing beach vacation in a picturesque setting.
Crete, on the other hand, is the largest of the Greek islands, with a rich history and diverse landscape. It is best for those who want to explore the ancient ruins, hike the mountains and gorges, and experience the local cuisine.
The choice between Skiathos and Crete will depend on your preferences, budget, and travel style. Crete may have more budget-friendly options for accommodation, food, and transportation, while Skiathos may require more careful budgeting, especially when it comes to dining and activities.
Skiathos has limited accommodation options while Crete offers a wide range of accommodations on a budget. Dining in Skiathos can also be expensive while Crete has many traditional tavernas and food markets for affordable options.
Moreover, beach activities, water sports, or nightlife spots in Skiathos are more expensive than in Crete, with lesser affordable options. Crete offers more budget-friendly water sports, and boat trips as well as a variety of affordable bars and clubs.
Is Skiathos good for couples?
Yes, Skiathos is good for couples to enjoy beautiful beaches, water sports, and lively nightlife. The island has many romantic spots, including secluded beaches and charming villages with traditional architecture, and various activities and attractions for couples. Whether a romantic getaway or an adventure-packed vacation, Skiathos is a great destination for couples.
Is Skiathos or Crete worth visiting?
Yes, both Skiathos and Crete are worth visiting as they offer unique experiences, stunning landscapes, rich culture, and outdoor activities. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach holiday or an adventure-packed trip, both of these Greek islands offer a unique and unforgettable experience.
Are there direct flights from Crete to Santorini?
Yes, there are direct flights available from Crete to Santorini. Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air both operate regular direct flights between Heraklion, Crete, and Santorini, with a flight time of around 45 minutes. It’s best to check with the airlines for up-to-date schedules and availability.
We have now reached the end of the Skiathos or Crete debate. Both Skiathos and Crete can be affordable destinations, especially for budget-conscious travelers.
Each island offers a variety of attractions, from stunning beaches to historic landmarks, water sports, nightlife, and more. So ultimately, the choice between Skiathos and Crete depends on personal preferences and interests.