3 Airports in Crete: Heraklion, Chania and Sitia

by CreteLocals

  • Posted 1 year ago
  • Airport

There are currently three civil airports in Crete, in Heraklion, Chania and Sitia and two military ones.

In a significant development, the new Kastelli Airport is poised to replace Heraklion’s “Nikos Kazantzakis Airport,” presently Greece’s second-largest airport, bustling with six million passengers annually. Slated for completion by 2025, the Kastelli Airport is expected to elevate its capacity dramatically, accommodating up to 18 million passengers each year.

Access to the island of Crete is primarily through two modes: by sea or by air. The airports play a crucial role in welcoming the majority of tourists, who arrive from mainland Greece and various global destinations. Strategically positioned in different regions of Crete, these airports ensure convenient access to any resort on the island, particularly during the summer high season, making travel seamless and efficient for visitors.

Heraklion International Airport “Nikos Kazantzakis” 

Heraklion International Airport
Heraklion International Airport

Heraklion International Airport is the main airport of Crete is located about 5 kilometres from the capital and is named after Nikos Kazantzakis, a famous Greek writer.

In 1939, the first plane arrived at the capital airport of Heraklion. In the difficult political situation of that time, it accepted only military flights of Italians and Germans, but after 1946 it opened its doors to ordinary passengers.

The number of flights grew, and already in the 60s, it became clear that expansion was needed. In 1972, a new terminal building and a second landing line were put into operation, and in the late 90s, a complete reconstruction was carried out.

The peculiarity of the airport is the location of the runways. When landing, it seems as if the plane is sinking into the water – only at the very end, the land becomes visible. Landing lines are built on the very shore, 20 meters from sea level. This is what creates the impression that the landing is made on the water’s surface.

How to get from Heraklion airport to the Heraklion city centre

The cheapest option to get to the Heraklion city centre is by bus. The public transport company KTEL takes travellers to and from the city. Especially in the summer months, there is a bus leaving to the centre of Heraklion regularly, approximately every 5 to 10 minutes, from 6:00 06:00 am to 12:00 am. The bus service does not run during the night.

There are several bus lines that you can use, travel time is around 20 minutes. On Sundays and holidays, you have fewer options. The blue buses are city buses, the green coloured buses are regional bus services. In order to reach the centre of Heraklion, you have to take a blue bus. The price is from €1.10 to €2.00 for a single ticket. Make sure to have cash with you in EURO. Please consult the website KTEL for more information.

How to reach Chania, Rethymno and other Cretan Cities from Heraklion Airport

Bus Station A (Old town gate bus station)

The 1st one (Station A), the central bus station that serves the airport is located on port avenue and it is housed in the restored stone buildings of old factories. The station serves the lines towards Chania, Rethymno and different destinations in the prefecture of Lassithi including Agios Nikolaos, Ierapetra and Sitia, the coastline northeast of Heraklion, and the eastern part of the prefecture of Heraklion.

Bus Station B

The 2nd Bus Station (Station B) is located right outside the city walls on the west side, on the Chanioporta gate. The station serves the eastern part of the prefecture of Heraklion, including the southeastern coastline. From this travel station, travellers can go to the towns of Zaros, Agia Galini, Anogia, Matala, Mires, and Phaestos (and places in between).

If you are planning to rent a car to travel around Crete, Heraklion airport is the best place to do it. As a rule, car rental companies located here have the cheapest prices compared to their other offices in other cities of Crete.

Chania International Airport “Daskalogiannis”

Chania Airport

The second international airport is located on the Akrotiri peninsula, 14 km (25-30 minutes drive) from the city of Chania. After Heraklion Airport, it is the second largest airport on the island.

The western airport of Crete began its history in 1954, but then it was a very small local airfield. Only 20 years later, the first international plane landed here, and the modern name was given to it in 2000, in honour of Ioannis Daskalogiannis, the leader of the Cretan uprising of the 18th century.

The airport is constantly being improved, in 1996 and 2005, due to the increase in load, the terminal was rebuilt.

The Chania airport receives about a million passengers a year. The overweight here is much calmer than at the capital’s airport, and the protection of suitcases is cheaper.

The bus service from the airport to the city of Chania for 2.30 euros regularly serves passengers from early morning until late evening.

The taxi rank is located directly next to the terminal. A trip to the city centre will cost you about 30 euros.

Sitia Airport “Vitsentzos Kornaros”

Sitia Airport – the airport is only 1 km from the city centre

For domestic flights in Greece, it will be convenient to use the services of Sitia Airport. Built in 1984 in the eastern part of Lasithi, it now plays a significant role in the traffic flow of the island. In 1993, the airport terminal was modernized, and in 2003 a new runway was built here, 2100 meters long. Since April 2014, it has also received a small number of charter flights.

The airport is only 1 km from the city centre and there are bus and taxi services. The airport terminal is small, but everything you need is there: a cafe, a bar, an information desk, and an ATM. There is also a rest room.

Interesting fact, many tourists manage to fly from Heraklion or Chania to Sitia and make exciting excursions around the eastern part of the island.

Both in Sitia itself and in its surroundings there are many historical sights – the ancient Venetian fortress of Kazarma, the Toplou Monastery, and the Minoan palace in Zakros.

A two-hour drive from Sitia is Agios Nikolaos – one of the most comfortable resorts in Crete, famous for its excellent beaches, historical sights and natural beauties.

The famous Vai is located 30 kilometres from Sitia – a magnificent sandy beach, on the banks of which there is a palm grove.

Airports in Crete: The New Airport of Crete

© Heraklion Airport, Exact Layout Subject to Change

1. Overview and Historical Significance

Kasteli Airport, currently a military base located near Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete, is set to become the site of the new Kasteli International Airport. With its roots dating back to 1940, this site has been chosen to replace the existing Heraklion International Airport. The new airport, a significant project for Crete, is expected to open its doors by 2027, symbolizing a new era in the island’s connectivity and infrastructure.

The new airport’s development is not just a matter of expanding travel opportunities; it also represents a shift in regional dynamics. The existing military airbase, home to F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, will be transformed into a bustling civilian hub. This transition marks a pivotal change from a primarily military focus to a broader, more inclusive civilian use, enhancing Crete’s position as a key destination in the Greek islands.

2. Development and Connectivity

The development of Kasteli International Airport is a complex and ambitious project. The new airport will be situated on the southwestern side of the existing air force base, encompassing an area of 600 hectares. It promises a modern, spacious facility, complete with a runway capable of accommodating larger aircraft than the current Heraklion airport. This upgrade will significantly enhance Crete’s capacity to receive international visitors, further solidifying its status as a top Greek island destination.

Connectivity is a major focus of the new airport’s design. A planned 17 km road will link the airport with Motorway 90, easing access to northern Crete, including popular destinations like Chersonissos. However, concerns have been raised about the lack of direct road links to southern Crete, highlighting the need for comprehensive planning to ensure island-wide benefits.

3. Environmental Considerations and Future Prospects

While the development of Kasteli International Airport brings excitement, it also raises concerns about environmental impacts, particularly regarding the potential pollution of underground water sources that supply a significant portion of Heraklion. These concerns are being addressed as part of the planning process, underscoring the importance of sustainable development in modern infrastructure projects.

The construction of Kasteli International Airport is not just about building a new transport hub; it’s about reimagining Crete’s future. The Greek-Indian Ariadne Airport Group consortium, which won the international tender, is at the helm of this transformative project. With a budget exceeding €1.5 billion, the new airport is one of the most significant investments in Crete’s infrastructure, promising to enhance the island’s status as a top destination in Greece and the wider Mediterranean region.

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