Crete is the largest island in Greece and offers 300 days of sunshine very year, making it the ideal place to spend your vacation, any time of the year! Along its vast coastline, you will find many beautiful beaches that fit every traveler’s taste and style, from long sandy stretches and deserted beaches to rocky coves and action packed bays offering boat trips, water sports and beach bars.
Here, our local guide Stefanos has selected his favourite beaches in Crete that will simply blow your mind! Grab your swimming suit and your sunscreen and get ready to explore that Aegean soaked paradise we call Crete…
Being a nature reserve, Elafonisi has won many worldwide awards, proclaiming it one of the world’s best beaches, offering a unique Caribbean-esque beach experience in Europe. Located on the southwestern most corner of Crete, Elafonisi is actually a different islet that is separated by a 1-meter depth lagoon. It’s connection with the Cretan mainland depends on the winter currents.
During high-season the beach can be overcrowded, which is to be expected at such a popular spot, but it won’t stop you from admiring it’s beauty once you arrive. Choose the main beach or one of the numerous small beaches and enjoy your day bathing in shallow turquoise waters, taking walks along the pink tinged and admiring rare species such as ’junipers’ and ‘sea daffodil’ hidden in the sand dunes.
The best way to get there is driving yourself.
Balos Lagoon, can be found in the northwestern corner of Crete on the Gramvousa peninsula. It’s one of the island’s most photographed locations and it’s not hard to see why. The turquoise colours of the lagoon, nestled against the backdrop of the wild Cretan mountains is breathtaking. In this paradise, you’ll experience memorable moments while relaxing on the fine white sand and swimming in crystal clear exotic waters.
There are two ways to reach the beach; you can catch the morning tourist ferry from Kissamos port, the boat stops at the islet of Imeri Gramvousa along the way, where you can enjoy a swim next to the islet’s fortress. Or you can drive the dirt road in your own wheels for 30 minutes and then follow the steps down to the beach for another 20 minute. The second way, while tiring, will offer you once-in-life-time panoramic views of the lagoon and the Gramvousa Peninsula.
Just round the corner from from Balos Lagoon, you’ll find Falassarna Beach, one of the most popular beaches in all of Greece. Actually, this area is separated into several smaller beaches and coves, of which the longest one stretches for more than 1 km. On windy days, its a magnet for windsurfers. On hot and sunny days (that’s pretty much everyday!), you can seek shelter at one of the beach bars and enjoy a refreshing beer or soft drink; otherwise, it’s easy to escape the crowds as the beach is so big. If you are not in a rush, stick around for my favourite peach-coloured sunset in Crete!
Preveli Beach used to be one of the most popular destinations in Crete for hippy tourists during the 1970s and is just 35km south of Rethymnon. While the beach is great, the real gem here is Preveli Lake, which is formed from the Grand River at the exit of the grandiose Kourtaliotiko Gorge and flows into the sea next to the beach. This tropical corner of Crete is famous for its large colony of theophrastus trees, the endemic Cretan palm trees that can be found in Crete and a few other places in Greece and Turkey.
Explore the area by riding a pedal boat on the lake or by walking through this unique palm grove to the riverbank in the gorge where you can swim in lots of different fresh cold-water ponds.
Matala village is located in the south Heraklion region and boats a beautiful beach and a long history that began in the Neolithic Age. This is the place where Zeus emerged from the sea camouflaged as a bull according to mythology. In the 1960s and 1970s, this sleepy fishing village transformed into Greek Mecca for the hippy movement. Hippies found shelter in the carved limestone caves that cover the cliff at the edge of the beach, creating their own paradise. It is believed that all the caves were carved thousand years ago as graves during the Roman and the Christian era.
Nowadays, Matala is an organized sandy beach with deep waters and a selection of snack bars and umbrellas plus a camping site, and many bars and eateries. If you want to feel the hippy atmosphere, you should visit the archaeological site of the caves where you’ll be rewarded with unique and stunning views over Matala Bay.
Located 8 miles south of Ierapetra in the Lasithi region, the island of Chrissi (or Gaidouronisi) is heaven on earth! This once-forgotten paradise attracts hundreds of tourists every year who flock to admire the unparalleled beauty of the island. There are many different picture-perfect beaches here but the real star is Golden Beach on the northern side of Chrissi.
After a 50 minute ride by ferry from Ierapetra, the boat is moored on a small dock of the southern side of the island, from where you have to walk through a protected juniper wood forest to the Golden Beach with its pure fine white sand and the light blue-green water. On the beach, there is a small bar and limited umbrellas.