Malia holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
Greek is the official language here, although the Cretan version of the language is slightly different. Malia is all about tourism, with young British revellers making up the majority of holidaymakers. English is widely spoken in the town as a result, as are several other European languages.
The euro is the official currency, and a choice of two banks, ATMs and currency exchange outlets are found in the town. Hotel front desks also provide currency exchange services, but often at poor rates. Major credit and debit cards are accepted in most places, although small shops, bars and eateries will require cash payment. A combination of cash and cards works best here.
Greece is a member country of the European Union (EU) therefore visitors from other EU countries, including the UK, are allowed visa-free entry for an unlimited period. Citizens of the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia can also enter visa-free for a period of not more than 90 days. Nationals of other countries should check with their nearest Greek embassy or online for visa requirements and costs.
Malia is set just 34kms from Crete’s main town, Heraklion, on the island’s northern coast, and shares a Mediterranean climate with the rest of the north of the island due to the influence of the central mountain range. In general, summers are sunny and hot, although cooler than in Crete’s southern regions with their North African climate. Winters are cool and wet. During the high summer season (June, July and August), daytime temperatures peak at around 32°C, with cooler evenings and occasional short bursts of rain or summer storms. Winter is cooler than along the southern coastline, with frequent rain and chilly swimming conditions.
Heraklion International Airport is the main air arrival hub for Malia, and is just a short bus, taxi or hire car ride away. The airport serves routes to a number of European, including UK, destinations with low-cost, charter and several full-service carriers, as well as flights to mainland Athens and Thessaloniki. If you’re planning a visit outside May to late September, the best way in from the UK is via a flight to Athens and then a domestic flight to Crete.
Most of the flight options to Heraklion International Airport are seasonal, as Malia and Crete’s other resort towns tend to shut down during the winter season. Summer travellers from the UK can take EasyJet flights from London-Gatwick or London-Luton, or Jet2 from East Midlands, Leeds-Bradford or Manchester. Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways seasonal flights run from Glasgow-International, Birmingham, Manchester and London-Gatwick, and Monarch Airlines offer flights from Birmingham and London-Gatwick. Flight times between the UK and Crete average around 4 hours.
For a split journey to avoid the UK’s expensive flight tax, the Eurostar from London to Paris and an Aegean Airlines flight to Heraklion is the way to go, perhaps including a day or two in the City of Lights. Booking a holiday during the early part of the spring shoulder season or in October is a good way to bag a bargain, as accommodation and flights are considerably cheaper at these times. Once on the ground, taxi travel is inexpensive and local buses are even cheaper.
For an adventurous start to your holiday and an overview of scenery in Europe, travelling to Malia from the UK by train or bus and ferry is fun, although generally more expensive than flying. Comfortable, long-distance buses to Athens leave from Victoria Coach Station in London, and onward travel to Crete is by air or ferry. By rail, the Eurostar connects London with Paris, from where the Bologna-bound Euronight sleeper departs. From Bologna, there are rail connections to Bari in the far south of Italy, where you can take a ferry to Patras, which has bus links with Athens. Once in the capital, you can choose between another ferry or a flight to Heraklion, with the entire trip taking around three days.
Getting around Malia is straightforward, either on foot in the centre or by taxi or local bus. It’s a small town, with just over 6,000 permanent residents, although population numbers swell by several thousand in the high summer season. Scooters, quad bikes, motorbikes, bicycles and cars can easily be hired and give the freedom to go where you please, when you please.
Malia has a useful local bus service, running regularly along all the popular routes and linking the quieter Old Town with the riotous resort area along the beach. Buses run to Heraklion, Aghios Nikolaos, Stalis village and the Minoan archaeological site just outside town, as well as along the beach road, the main street and the coast road. Bus stops have blue signs and timetables are shown. Additionally, the Happy Train (which is a sort of tram) runs around the beaches, the resort, the old village and to Krassi and Stalis.
Cars can be hired from a selection of internationally-known companies on arrival at Heraklion International Airport or in Heraklion town, or at local car hire offices in Malia. The coastal roads in the northern region of Crete are generally in good condition, although roads in the interior and in the mountains range from reasonable to challenging. Although self-drive isn’t really necessary for a beach and party holiday here, if sightseeing around the region is on the agenda, it’s the best way to get around, as public transport, although reliable, tends to be infrequent.
Heraklion is a short drive away from Malia on good roads and is a centre for shopping, café culture, heritage landmarks and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, world-famous for its stunning collection of finds from the 4,000-year old Minoan Palace of Knossos, located a few kilometres from the city and well worth a trip.
For a fun family day out, Star Beach Water Resort lies just 10 minutes’ drive from Malia. Here, you’ll find slides, pools, a beach offering scuba-diving, parasailing, waterskiing, a lazy river, music bars featuring foam parties and guest DJs, and a choice of eateries. There’s also an exclusive spa offering multiple treatments for those who feel they need half a day’s pampering.
Malia’s series of large and small beaches spread along a two-kilometre stretch, with the larger strands equipped with beach bars, umbrellas and sunbeds for hire, banana boats and outlets for jet-skiing, bungee-jumping and waterskiing. Backed by hotels with pools, the beaches are quiet before lunchtime, as most revellers are sleeping off the night before.
Malia Old Town is well worth a wander for its traditional vibes, pretty houses decked with flowering bougainvilleas and little tavernas serving traditional Cretan food accompanied by live Greek music. The narrow streets come alive at night, with tables on the cobbles and Greek dancing when the mood takes diners and drinkers. It’s a million miles from the revellery common in the New Town.
Agios Nicolaos is an attractive city set to the east of Malia in a hilly location which is accessed either by road or scenic boat trip. Its fine promenade runs along the beaches and its deep Lake Voulismeni was legendarily the place where the goddess Athena bathed. Tavernas surround its pretty port and the narrow streets of the old quarter are as charming as only Greek streets can be.
A day out in Heraklion has to include a visit to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, home to a plethora of artefacts excavated from Crete’s Minoan sites.
The powerful civilisation was incredibly wealthy until it was destroyed by the effects of the massive eruption on Santorini, and the museum’s displays include magnificent gold jewellery, statues and 4,000-year old frescos.
The Fortress of Koules was built in the 16th century to guard Venetian Heraklion and is a famous landmark for its massively thick walls and Venetian Lion plaques above its gates. The fortress sits on a jutting promontory, is in excellent condition and is now used for art exhibitions and musical events. Check out the Old Town’s Venetian walls as well.
Just outside Malia are the ruins of the third-largest Minoan palace on Crete, easily accessible via a pleasant walk along the beach from the town. Unlike Knossos, the Malia palace was rebuilt after the Santorini earthquake, and today’s visitors can explore various areas of the site. The great central courtyard has steps leading to a maze of small rooms, and huge ceramic jars for storing olive oil, grain and water are still in place.
Malia’s Old Town has several Greek Orthodox churches with spectacular interiors, with the central Agios Nektarios one of the loveliest with its ornate gilded carvings and giant chandelier. Every inch of the walls is covered with colourful frescos depicting religious scenes. Agios Dimitrios nestles in a charming square and tiny, quaint Panagia Galatiani is Malia’s oldest church, built in the traditional manner with mud bricks.
Malia is divided into two areas, the new town nightlife hub backing the beaches and the more Cretan and quieter Old Town with its Cretan bars and tavernas. The riotous resort area is now rivalling Ibiza for its dance clubs and all-night watering holes selling high-octane alcoholic mixes, and is seen by young adults as the ultimate party hub.
The all-night action takes place along a 1,500m stretch of road linking the national road with the beach. It is crammed with nightclubs, amusement arcades, bars and fast food joints. The frenzied nightlife here kicks off at around 23:00 and goes on until late or even sunrise, depending on demand. Over 30 bars and pubs along with more than 30 nightclubs pump out DJ and live music at an incredible decibel level.
The Candy Club is one of the hottest venues and funky WKD Bar encourages ravers to arrive in costume. If you’re a karaoke fan, the Premier Bar has more than 1,000 songs to choose from and Apollo Nightclub closes later than the rest. Safari Club Malia is famous for its extra-strong drinks and Help Bar is infamous for its huge ’fish bowl’ cocktail containing a powerful mix of spices and strong spirits.
In contrast, the Old City area of Malia offers traditional tavernas and smaller, less frenetic bars for those who’re looking for a different style of evening entertainment.
Traditional Cretan food is served in the majority of eateries and the music tends more towards live Greek than electronic. The area has pretty squares which are perfect for people watching in the cool evening air.
Malia has a choice of many different cuisines, with international options varying from fast foods through Italian, Spanish, British pub grub, Chinese, Thai and Mexican. For foodies in love with Greek food, however, it’s best to stay away from the nightlife district and instead head for the Old Town’s tavernas. Several dozen tavernas can be found here, with most featuring outside seating, good food and music, and plate-smashing and Greek dances most nights. Full English breakfast and other similar culinary extravaganzas are found in the resort area.
Cretan cuisine is highly regarded for its health-giving use of the island’s flavourful olive oil, fresh salads topped with local myzithra cheese and delicious seafood and lamb main courses. The meze starters, tiny plates with a variety of dips, olives, pickles and more, are the traditional entrees, and typical Cretan dishes include rabbit with a yoghurt sauce (kouneli me yiaourti) and snails prepared in various ways. A favourite is grilled, fresh fish drizzled with a simple dressing of lemon juice and olive oil. The sweet, high-calorie Cretan pastries owe everything to melt-in-the-mouth filo pastry, chopped nuts and lashings of honey.
The tavernas around Malia’s Church Port and New Port are good places to dine with a view of the two ports and the sunset, although they tend to be crowded in the high season. Malia Port Fish Taverna gets good reviews and the San Giorgio Restaurant is family-friendly, serves traditional local cuisine and holds a fun Greek Night every Friday. Another good spot is the Socrates Restaurant, typically Cretan and well recommended.
Malia’s main beach area is packed solid during the high season and comes with attractions such as table tennis, pool tables, loud music and resident DJs in the dozens of bars backing the sands. Indeed this area forms a buzzing, sandy extension of the nightlife area, complete with a wide choice of water sports. For a peaceful day in the sun with a good book and a tube of sunscreen, this is not the place, although the most remote beach, Potamos, is clean, quiet, very beautiful and mostly used by local Cretans.
Malia’s Old City provides as romantic a location as you will get on this stretch of the Cretan coastline, with its buzzing package holiday resorts mainly aimed at the young and wild. One way to get away from it all is to take a private day or two-day cruise around the Cretan coastline, stopping off at tiny bays for lunch and a swim, visiting deserted offshore islands or enjoying a barbecue and sunset views on a beach.
The best bets for family holidays in Malia are the smaller, more family-friendly hotels in and around the Old City and on the outskirts of town, away from the nightlife areas. All Greeks love all children and do their best to make them happy, with the majority of small accommodation having at least a pool suitable for kids. Most lodgings are within easy reach of local taverns and within walking distance of the beach for a day on the sands.
Adventure activities in Mali concentrate mainly on water sports, with a wide selection from motor boating and jet-skiing to windsurfing and waterskiing, to paragliding and sport fishing. Those looking for more extreme adventures should head for nearby Heraklion, where a number of companies offer daytrips to the mountains for rock-climbing, mountain biking, canyoning, canoeing, kayaking and white water rafting in season.