Your travel guide on Crete

Category Archives: Beaches

Arvi is a relatively unknown and quiet beach which is situated in the south of Crete.

The distance to Heraklion is about 80 kilometers. The beach is accessible via the route Heraklion – Knossos – Spilia – Peza – Arkalohori – Anno Viannos – Amiras – Arvi. Also from the side of Keratokampos beach you drive to Arvi beach. The large beach of Arvi is just outside the village Arvi (in the village itself is a smaller village beach where in high season also parasols and sun bed can be hired). Here you will find amenities such as mini-markets, tavernas and accommodations. There is also a small fishing port in the village.
The village lies in a valley that is surrounded by mountains. On the route when you to go here you’ll pass a lot of ugly plastic greenhouses where bananas are grown. The beach itself is a nice sandy beach with coarse sand and a few pebbles, and you can quite easily get into the sea. We went into the water here without our bathing textiles. It is not a beach with a “wow factor” because it is so beautiful to see. A 5-minute walk from this beach brings you to another beach where it almost always is quiet. It’s called Vahoudianos Xerokambos beach or Meakis beach and it is a sandy beach located in a protected bay.

 

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As the largest island in Greece, Crete has quite a bit to offer travelers. Rugged mountains stretch across the island while olive trees fill the valleys.

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Visitors often indulge in the local cuisine, long celebrated for its healthy qualities, and embrace the country’s artistic culture by purchasing handmade pottery and jewelry. Additionally, the many ruins left behind by ancient civilizations like the Minoans can be explored throughout the island. All in all, Crete’s rich history and stunning locale is enough to make anyone want to hop on the next plane over, but what really draws the crowds are the numerous beaches lining the shore. Here are the top sandy stretches to hit next time you find yourself on the Mediterranean island.

Elafonísi Beach

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The turquoise water is beautifully contrasted by pink-tinted sand  making this beach on the southwestern tip of the island extremely You’ll find yourself wading through warm water with access to multiple white sandbars or the natural islet sheltering the beach from rough waters. Elafonísi draws large crowds throughout the year, particularly in the summer months. So, if you want seclusion, head there in the spring.

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Mátala Beach

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Mátala was known as a hippie hangout in the ’60s and ’70s. Today, romantics from all over the world enjoy sipping on a late night drink while the nearby caves are illuminated. During the day, visitors flock the beach for a dip. The consistent crowds have resulted in convenient amenities like a bathroom and lifeguard.

Sweetwater Beach

HORA SFAKION, CRETE, GREECE - 2014/05/21: View of secluded Sweetwater Beach between the villages of Hora Sfakion and Loutro on the southern coast of the Greek island of Crete. (Photo by Leisa Tyler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Those looking for seclusion will love this stretch of sand in Crete’s Sfakia region, as it’s isolated between mountains and is only accessible by foot or boat. The small springs underneath the beach’s pebbles provide fresh water–hence the name–allowing for trees to grow and provide welcome shade. You may want to pack your own lunch as there is only one small café serving the beach.

Vai Beach

Greece, Crete, Palm Beach, Vai, Aerial view of coastline

This beach at Crete’s northeastern tip is famous for its palm trees–there are so many you may fool yourself into thinking you’re in the Caribbean. The summer season brings large crowds, and the beach is often packed tight with sunbathers. Instead, beat the masses and arrive in the early morning or plan your trip for the early spring or late autumn.

Balos Beach

Greece, Crete, Gramvoussa Peninsula, Balos

Relax on the soft white sand lining this beach in northwestern Crete. From the lagoon, you can see the island of Gramvoussa. If you’re feeling adventurous, venture to the top of the island where the remains of a Venetian castle offer stunning views of the surrounding area.

Mýrtos Beach

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Mýrtos has been luring bohemian sun-seekers since the 1960s, and the laid-back vibe still exists today. You’ll find sunbathers lounging on the numerous free sunbeds scattered across the beach. Additionally, the surrounding area is known for multiple ancient Minoan sites. Make sure to check them once you’ve had enough sun.

Frangokástello Beach

Frangokastello beach CRETE

A Venetian castle, long used to guard the town against pirates, anchors this beach on the southern coast. The area’s history is rich and visitors can explore the castle as well as other ruins after a day on the beach. According to locals, you may even catch a ghost roaming the castle from time to time.

Source: Apokronasnews.com


From Rodopos there is a path leading to the extreme north where you can see the Diktynna Sanctuary.

On the way you will pass the Ellinospilos cave which was already inhabited in prehistoric times. The sanctuary in the north of the Rodopos peninsula was dedicated to the daughter of Zeus. The myth tells that she had to escape from King Minos and jumped into the sea at this spot. Fishermen supposedly picked her up in their nets and brought her to the island Aegina, where she was honoured as a goddess. The people of Crete called her Diktynna (which means “net”).
The first sanctuary dates from 700 BC and as good as nothing is left of it. Two centuries later the sanctuary was rebuilt. During the Roman period emperor Hadrianus had it enlarged. During the later centuries a lot of the buildings disappeared, mostly by people that wanted the stones to build their own houses. The Roman temple was surrounded by columns. Places where water was saved have also been found. Statues of the Roman emperor and of the goddess that have been found here can be seen in the Museum of Chania. The walk to the sanctuary over the coastal road is long and tiring and is better not made when it is too hot. The option is to go to the Diktynna sanctuary by boat from the nearby village of Kolimbari. As I understand it there are also boat trips from Platanias (and maybe from Chania?).
Diktynna was a Minoan mountain goddess who loved hunting and nature. According to the myth she was a beautiful woman that was born in western Crete, at the Samaria Gorge and the White Mountains, and she remained a virgin by choice. King Minos fell in love with her and pursued her for nine months all over the island until Diktynna jumped off the cliff where the sanctuary now stands. The fisherman who saved Diktynna and brought her to Aegina fell in love with her as well. Diktynna didn’t answer his advances and fled to the sanctuary of Artemis. The goddess Artemis rewarded Diktynna for keeping her virginity and made her immortal.
The goddess Diktynna was worshipped throughout the island of Crete, but mainly in the west, where most temples were built in her honour. The sanctuary of Diktynna was the largest and richest. People walked barefoot to the sanctuary with their offerings. Thus they were more in contact with the nature that Diktynna loved so much.
At the end of the peninsula above a bay with a beautiful beach are on a rocky plateau the remains of a temple and an altar that were built in 123 AD during the reign of Hadrian. There are also remains of an aqueduct and other buildings. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the temple was looted and abandoned. The area at Diktynna was never really well explored or excavated by archaeologists so there could be even more under the ground.

If you want you can also drive to Diktynna. A good four-wheel drive is recommended, but it is also possibly with a normal car if you drive a little careful. You have to go to the village of Rodopos. You come riding into Rodopos from the south and go out again on the north side of the village following the asphalt road (it’s really only one road, just continue straight ahead). Keep following the road. In the beginning it is a good asphalt road. You’ll pass a small church on the right hand side and a little later the asphalt road turns into an unpaved road. In the beginning (and over the greater part) this is still a relatively wide and easy road. You keep driving straight ahead. At some point you get a split in the road. There are rusted signs with names on them (2014). The exit on your left goes to a church and so you should ignore this exit. On one of signs it says “Menies” (but hard to read). So you keep right here.
Actually it’s a matter of constantly driving straight ahead and ignore the smaller paths you occasionally encounter. You always chose the widest and therefore the most logical route. At the end the road narrows, and because sometimes you do not always know what is around the corner, it might feel a little uncomfortable for some people, but the road remains good. Depending on your speed (20 to 30 kilometers per hour), the trip takes about an hour to an hour and a half. The last piece to the beach is quite steep, but also doable. You end up at the excavation, where there is a parking space.
Here below on either side of the parking lot are the remains ancient Diktynna, including on the left the remains of a half oval building (the only complete oval building of antiquity can be found in Hamezi in Crete). If you walk towards the beach, you see on the right a path that climbs up the mountain where the remains of the temple is that is dedicated to Diana (the goddess of the hunt). You can see the remains of the pillars and there are pieces of marble. The view of the beach of Menies is magnificent. You will also find an ancient staircase that leads to a large building consisting of three rooms that are stuck together.

Source: Fred van Doorn

 


Chrysi is one of the 81th uninhabited islands of Crete, approximately 8 miles south of Ierapetra. It is 5 km in length and 1 km in width.

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The highest point of the island named Kefala, it is 31 m of the ground. It’s a real paradise on earth with beaches of golden and white sand, which are changing to rose in many points thanks to shell fragments and to crystal clear waters. At Chrysi there is an enough big forest of cedar, an area of 350 acres, full of big, impressive, perennial cedars and 49 species of fossils had been found on the volcanic rock of the island. At the north beaches, namely Mpelegrina, Chatzivolaka and Kataprosopo beaches, there is a large number of small shells and those beaches are a little organized with sun beds and sun umbrellas. On the southeast side of the island, Vougiou Mati position, there is the cove for the little boats which transfer the visitors, a traditional restaurant and a very beautiful beach. The daily access at the island is guaranteed thanks to the small ship from Ierapetra and the trip lasts less than an hour. It’s good for the visitor to know that at the Gaidouronisi camp, changing the trail marking, the seashell and sand collection as well are –typically – forbidden. The place is suitable for relaxing and calm and gives the impression to visitor that he is in an exotic island.

On the western and eastern parts of the island, some activity from the Minoan era is visible. On the northwestern side there is a little church dedicated to St Nicholas, which was probably built in the 13th century. To the northeast of the church is an old saltern and the only house on the island, which is built over ancient ruins. To the northern and northwestern side of St Nicholas, there are wells and curved tombs. The largest one is from the Roman period. The prevailing plants are cedar, juniper, mastic tree, either in the form of shrubs or a trees, as well as anemophilous vegetation. The roots of the cedar are at least double in size of their hight. Apart from the long roots, they also have a lot of very thin ones which form a dense net holding the sand. Chrysi has a fantastic cedar forest which is unique in Europe. It is 350 hectares in size and has approximately 14 trees per hectare. The average age of the trees is 200-300 years and the forest covers about a quarter of the island. These trees are a rare variety of Lebanese cedar. They grow up to 10 metres high and the diameter of their trunk is up to 1 metre. Compared to its size, Chrysi has a very large number of plant species which correspond to one twentieth of the Cretan flora. There are more than 100 recorded species. 13 are endemic to Greece, five of them are endemic to Crete and one is endemic to Chrysi, which means that it cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It is a type of colchicum called Colchicum Costurieri.

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Gavdos is one of the ten most beautiful – hidden islands in the world and is the southernmost Greek and European edge with a population of 152 inhabitants according to the census of 2011, although less than 50 people actually live on the island. It is just 29 square kilometers in size and it is located 26 nautical miles south of Chora Sfakion.


Karaves is the port of the island, and there are still five villages: Castri, where there is an agricultural clinic and a school, Sarakiniko, with the most tourist attractions of the island, rooms and taverns, Agios Yiannis, Ambelos and Vatsiana. Gavdos has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium B.C., it is considered that Apostle Paul shipwrecked on its shores, went through a significant development during the byzantine times, was looted by Saracens and pirates and it served as a place of exile for communists during the 1930s. According to Homer, Gavdos is the island where Calypso kept Odysseus as a prisoner for seven years. It is no coincidence, moreover, that the fans of the island return again and again every summer, “imprisoned” by its simplicity and beauty. The tourist services on the island may be limited, but in the summer more than 3,500 people visit it, most of whom are campers. In addition, Gavdos has been synonymous with free camping for several years, since there are very few studios and rooms, while nudism is allowed on the island, something which attracts campers and naturalists from all over the world. You can reach Gavdos by boat from Chora Sfakion or Paleochora, but there is a risk of being isolated on the island if wind overcomes 4-5 Beaufort, due to the small size of the boats. Along with neighboring Gavdopoula, it serves as a station for migratory birds and a haven for the endangered species of monk seal and loggerhead turtle. What characterizes the island is the ultimate quiet during the day, swimming in stunning blue waters, relaxing under the Cedars and the stunning sunsets. In each case, Gavdos, being full of cedar trees, paths and crystal-clear waters, is one of the finest paradisaic places in the Libyan Sea and the experience of staying in this is indeed unique.


 It is one of the most famous Cretan beaches visited by thousands of tourists every year.

Preveli

Also known as Preveli Lake or Finikas,  located at the exit point of the Kourtaliotis Canyon, it is just 40 km south of Rethimno. It is a unique, sandy beach adorned by a small palm-tree forest which makes it absolutely exotic. Kourtaliotis river mouth flows into the beach, providing the spot with enough water to form a small lagoon even during the summer period. The river flows into the crystal-clear blue water of the Libyan Sea. The lucky visitor of this spot will have the chance to experience swimming either in the salty water of the sea or the brakish water of the river or the lagoon. The visitor can also walk up along the river as the palm trees offer their shade for a smooth trekking on the sandy terrain. This paradise on Earth can be made by three ways. First and relatively more demanding way has to do with leaving your car at the parking lot of Preveli Monastery and then, walk down a steep path with tricky steps until you reach the beach after twenty minutes. Alternatively, you can avoid the path and use the unpaved country road which leads to the nearby Drimiskiano Ammoudi and then, take a short path which will take you to the beach in 5 minutes. Last, but not least, you can take one of the small, light boats which leave from Agia Glaini and Plakias.