Top 10 Beaches to Visit in Crete

 To most tourists in Crete, the beach is the center 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 reminds the soul of the eternal beauty of Mother Nature. 

 From the most organized exquisite beaches to the wildest secluded paradises, our top 10 favorite beaches selection comprises the following:

Balos Beach

 Laying between Cape Gramvousa and cape Tigani, 14 km northwest of Kissamos and 56 km of Chania, 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 surroundings 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 

Preveli Beach is located 35 km south of Rethymno and 10 km east of Plakias, where the river Megalos Potamos meets the sea at the exit of the impressive Kourtaliotiko Gorge. Even though is a remote and eco-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 a 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-year-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 edge 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 a 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 paradise where you can get a taste of wilderness and feel the breath of nature...

Falassarna Beach

 Falassarna is a stunning nature reserve located in a bay on the west coast of Crete, 17 km west of Kissamos at the base of peninsula Gramvousa. The reserve comprises five consecutive beaches, with the central two being the most organized and easily accessible by car. The sand is very fine and the sea is crystal clear with turquoise reflections. At the northern end of the beach, you can see the ruins of the oldest fortified port city in Crete, dating back to the Hellenistic period. Due to its western orientation, the bay always has waves, making it a challenge for surfers. The sky that meets the sea along the entire horizon offers the most breathtaking sunset views in Crete, perfect for romantics. Falassarna has been recognized as the best beach in Crete and as one of the top 10 beaches in Europe several times.

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 in 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 of 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 from 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, respect the environment, and not 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 that were the attraction of 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 has been 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. There is a slightly organized beach next to the main attraction, at the south: the ruins of Minoan port and the 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 on 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

Potamos Beach is located in Malia, which is 37 km east of Heraklion on the north coast. The beach is at the foot of the 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. You can find the ruins of Malia Palace at a walkable distance from the beach. The beach is around 700m long, with fine sand, scattered tamarisks, a few coves with blue crystalline waters bounded by rocks, and an old dune with dwarf aromatic vegetation. The water is shallow and deepens smoothly, making it ideal for children. Also, it's a good place for snorkeling and sunset walks, but it is often wavy, with Meltemi currents sweeping the rocky seabed. The main beach of 300m is well organized and has a tiny but very good traditional taverna named Kalyva, close by. Potamos Beach is quiet, being chosen by those who seek a less crowded environment amidst nature.

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