Some of the most luxurious hotels in the Med nestle in the exclusive enclaves of Crete's north coast, incongruously close to resorts notorious for sun, sand, sex and cheap booze. But there are other, more affordable aspects of Greece's largest and most fascinating island. Head west for stylish and affordable boutique hotels in the historic Venetian centres of Rethymnon and Chania; go bush in the mountain forests of the far west; or make for the south coast, where a certain post-hippy, New Age vibe still permeates and where you can stay in traditional hamlets retro-fitted with en-suite facilities and constant hot water, courtesy of the sun. The White Mountains - tipped with snow until May - beckon walkers; the blue Libyan Sea seduces swimmers and those seeking an all-over tan; and the ghosts of Minoans, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Venetians and Turks haunt medieval fortresses, ancient sites and mountain passes.
The order by which the hotels are listed bears no reflection on our preference. They all close from November to Greek Easter.
Huge luxury resort, totally insulated from the outside world in semi-tropical gardens. Lovely beaches, ideal for a romantic break or honeymoon.
Agios Nikolaos, Crete
Low-rise garden resort with immaculate seaside grounds, one of the first on Crete. Slightly retro and dated feel, but elegant, with lovely grounds, large rooms and fine views.
Ultra-luxurious haven combining the best of villa and hotel facilities, with over half the villas having private infinity pools. Elegant, with private beach, fine dining restaurants and an award-winning spa.
Peaceful, pretty sanctuary with plenty of activities on the doorstep, with pretty whitewashed cottages. Close to the nightlife of Aghios Nikolaos. Ideal for a family holiday.
Antique Venetian farmhouse style meets designer chic - three large apartments on a rural estate 5kms from the beach, near Chania, with their own pools and lawns. Boutique self catering option, suits family groups or tranquil romantic breaks.
Opulent new designer resort, with flashy facilities, villas with private pools, themed decor, a top spa and five restaurants. Convenient location close to the airport, so works for a short break.
Gracious living, Chania style, in a 17th century mansion, but without a pool. Venetian style grandeur, with contemporary opulence, the 22 suites are all different. Intimate and luxurious.
Large, modern, full-service beach resort in North Western Crete. Mellow decor, separated from the road, with a great beach. Good value family resort.
Ultimate, intimate luxury, combining self-catering villa living with hotel services. A welcome alternative to the larger resorts, luxury here is discreet, with a genuine personal touch. A charming and pampering hideaway, with stunning views.
Peaceful, sunny, friendly haven in the heart of Rethymnon, with tiny pool. Small kitchens, lovely breakfasts, close to the action.
Vast contemporary beach resort with all the trimmings, with lush grounds, four pools and countless private villa pools. Good spa and lots of activities - tennis, watersports and nearby nightlife.
Townhouse boutique style with a fabulous harbour view from the pretty roof terrace. Generous rooms, 2 and 4 bed suites, light and breezy. Mini kitchens for self catering.
Simple rustic charm with a pool. 13 former shepherds cottages in a hamlet, basic self catering, stunning local walks and a beach with tavernas 15 mins walk away. Authentic and secluded.
Remote mountain eyrie in restored, traditional houses, with communal dining, a tranquil escape. Organic food, lovely walks, utterly relaxing for those who want to get away from the modern world.
The ultimate in deep rural tranquillity, with beach, bars and tavernas a walk away. Small collection of traditional stone cottages near lively beach. Very basic, Greece as it used to be.
Colourful, simple self-catering apartments in the hub of Chania. Good value studio rooms with views of the harbour.
A great getaway on an idyllic blue bay in a car-free village, right on the beach. Off the beaten track, this tranquil hotel is ideal for a simple seaside holiday for families.
Opulent resort of five hotels in one on a private peninsular. Highly discreet, with striking designs, each hotel different. Plenty of suites and private villas with pools. Seven restaurants. The resort is popular with wealthy Russians and others.
Indulgent celebrity hideaway with fabulous location, service and facilities: private beaches, screening rooms, worldwide cuisine. A benchmark for luxury on Crete.