Top 10 Beaches to Visit in Crete

 For many tourists in Crete, the beach is the whole point of the summer holiday - a place to sunbathe, swim, play, read, walk barefoot, breathe healthily, meditate, and enjoy memorable sunsets. Enlivening the senses, the beach relaxes the mind, connects the body to the source of health and vitality, and reminds the soul of the eternal pure beauty of Mother Nature. 

 From the most organized exquisite beaches to wildest secluded paradises, this is our selection of the top 10 favorite beaches in Crete.

Balos Beach

 Located approximately 14 km northwest of Kissamos, and 56 km of Chania, between cape Gramvousa and cape Tigani, the bay of Balos and its lagoon is an exotic iconic landmark on the northwest coast and one of the most photographed beaches of Crete. Its main attractions are the fine pinkish sand, the crystalline turquoise waters, and the nice surrounding dominated by the Peninsula of Tigani which you can reach in a short walk through the shallow water. It's a dream beach for families with kids and for snorkeling lovers. Although Balos is a protected area, its increasing popularity attracts groups of tourists that could spoil the harmony and tranquility of the environment, in the peak season. Getting to the beach takes about 20-30 minutes on an easy walking path from the car park, and once there, you will find a cafĂ©, sun umbrellas, and beds to rent.

Preveli Beach 

 Found 35 km south of Rethymno and 10 km east of Plakias, at the exit of the impressive Kourtaliotiko Gorge where the river Megalos Potamos meets the sea. Even if is an undeveloped, remote, and protected area,  it is certainly the most breathtaking beach in south Crete, being visited by thousands of tourists every summer.  A large forest of the rare endemic Cretan date palm (Phoenix theophrasti) gives the area a unique, tropical look and a beautiful heart-shaped sea rock makes the scenery even more romantic. The beach with pebbles and sand is formed at the mouth of the river, where the water is sweeter and a little bit colder but perfect for a rinsing bath as there are no showers. Above the beach, there is parking - the best place for a panoramic picture, from where you can carefully descend on a rocky steep path for about 15-20 minutes.

Vai Beach 

 Thinking of an exotic getaway, you see yourself relaxing on an Edenic beach, at the edge of palm forest, contemplating the sea with a cocktail in your hand, under a rustic straw umbrella. That place could be Vai Beach (vai = palm), located 24km east of Sitia, the most famous beach in east Crete, and one of the most impressive beaches in Greece. Its tropical aspect is given by the magic long beach with soft golden sand framed by the azure sea and a wide valley with wild date palm trees. The 2000 years old forest of 250 square km, which is unique in Greece and the largest of this kind known in Europe, was proclaimed a protected area, especially after the invasion of hippies and backpackers in the70s and 80s. With its parking at a two-minute walk, Vai Beach attracts thousands of visitors during the high season, offering only basic facilities for day trips.

Elafonisi Beach 

 Elafonisi is a little islet formed at the southwestern corner of Crete, about 75 kilometers west of Chania. The whole area, spanning over 1.5 km, looks like a huge blue quartz crystal with versatile reflections: white beaches fringed with pink coral sand, crystal clear waters of the sea, the lagoon with warm shallow water and sandy bottom ideal for kids, secluded coves and interesting rocky silhouettes showing off at sunset, the islet full of sand dunes with protected sea daffodils and juniper trees. Elafonisi has recently gained immense popularity after being nominated among the 25 most beautiful beaches in the world on TripAdvisor. Even though the parking and the main beach fill up in July and August, Elafonisi is indubitable a corner of a paradise where you can get a taste of wilderness and feel the breath of nature...

Falassarna Beach

 Hosted in a bay on the west coast of Crete, 17 km west of Kissamos at the distal base of peninsula Gramvousa in a magnificent nature reserve, Falasarna actually consists of five consecutive beaches, of which the central two are the most organized and easily accessible by car. The main attractions are the superb fine sand, the crystal clear sea, and the ruins of the fortified ancient harbor at the northern end of the beach. Due to the western orientation of the bay, the water is usually wavy, challenging the windsurfing fans, and the horizon that meets the sea offers the romantics the most breathtaking sunset views in Crete. Falassarna has been appreciated by visitors as the best beach in Crete and one of the 10 best beaches in Europe several times so far.

Frangokastello Beach

 One of the most famous beaches in the southwest of Crete, located 13km east of Hora Sfakion in a small valley south of Lefka Ori  (The White Mountains). Away from airports and mass tourism, Frangokastello ("castle of the Franks”) is famous for its 14th-century Venetian fortress, preserved in very good condition, and three stunning beaches with shallow clear waters, that win the visitors' hearts. The sandy central beach of 250 m length is located below the fortress, being well organized and busier in the peak months. Vatalo, stretching around 600 m to the west, is wild stony and preferred by snorkelers. Orthi Ammos, the third beach, at 300 m east from the main beach, is famous for its magnificent sandhill and is generally quieter, as it is the largest one.

Kedrodasos Beach

 Well hidden in a cedar grove covering 11 hectares (kedros = cedar, dasos = forest), Kedrodasos Beach lies one km south of the famous Elafonisi Beach on the southwest coast. It is one of the favorite beaches for nature lovers and campers, due to its secluded location at the end of a dusty rough road, and pristine wilderness, with lots of bizarre vegetation, and smooth rocks scattered among sand dunes. The white fine sand, turquoise crystalline waters, and superb nearby bays protected of winds make this unique beach one of the last virgin European paradises. No wonder that is crossed by the Elafonisi-Paleochora E4 trekking trail, which offers some of the best seascapes in Crete. Visitors are advised to bring their own beach accessories, to respect the environment, and not to leave trash, as there are no facilities around.

Matala Beach

  Matala, the most famous beach of south Crete, is the legendary place where Zeus brought Princess Europa after he had seduced her, under the guise of a white bull. It is located 68 km southwest of Heraklion city, in a gorgeous landscape where the Asterousia Mountains embrace the bay of Messara. Partially covered by the shade of tamarisk trees, the beach extends over 300 meters, between the old fishing village and the imposing cliffs with ancient catacombs which used to attract the hippies of the ‘70s. It has golden sand and fine gravel, and it is very well organized. The crystal clear deep waters of the bay are often wavy, and the seabed, quite rocky in some places, is ideal for diving and snorkeling. Since 2011, a music festival is organized every summer, for the nostalgic elders and younger fans of the hippie movement and not only. With its exotic and mysterious character, Matala is the favorite destination of backpackers and nature lovers, and the perfect escape for bohemian honeymooners. 

Kommos Beach

 An impressive and beautiful beach on the south coast, about 64 km southwest of Heraklion. It is one of the largest in Crete, stretching from Kalamaki to just 2 km before Matala, in Messara Bay. Its northern part, Potamos, has remained a favorite destination for naturists, since the glorious times of the hippie movement. On the south, there is a slightly organized beach next to the main attraction: the runs of Minoan port and town of Kommos, a major archaeological site in Crete, due to which Kommos is a protected conservation zone. The beach is sandy with only a few tamarisk trees around. The water is crystal-clear, but caution is needed in windy days because the sea becomes very rough and the seabed in some places rocky. Kommos beach is one of the places where the caretta-caretta turtle lays its eggs. Certain points are marked for visitors, so as not to step on and destroy the eggs. Late in the afternoon, the sun sets behind the islets of Paxmatia, offering you one of the loveliest sunsets in Crete.

Potamos Beach

 Located in Malia, 37 km east of Heraklion on the north coast, at the foot of Lasithi Mountains, in a protected natural and archaeological area. It is named after a river that flows there (potamos = river), forming a wetland of great ecological importance, inside which the ruins of Malia Palace are visible at a walk distance. The beach is about 700 m long, with fine sand, scattered tamarisks, few coves with blue crystalline waters bounded by rocks, and an old dune with dwarf aromatic vegetation and a ”gallery” of stacked stones at east. The shallow water deepens smoothly, making it ideal for children, but it is often wavy, with nordic currents sweeping the rocky seabed. Potamos is also suitable for snorkeling, long walks, or romantic pictures at sunset. The main beach of 300 m is well organized and has a little but very good traditional taverna named Kalyva, close aboard. In general, the place is quiet, chosen by those who want to avoid the busiest ones and seek the tranquility of nature. 


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