Malia - the resort that has no time to sleep / Travel Guide

Beach, Party, and Adventure Destination

 Having become tourist resorts, the small Cretan towns radiate a special charm that you will not find in the bigger cities. An eloquent example is Malia, a small town with mythological roots, located on the northeast coast at the foot of Mount Dikti, 34 kilometers east of the capital Heraklion and only 8 kilometers from the cosmopolitan Hersonissos. The island's former vegetable garden where okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, and watermelons were grown a century ago is today among Crete's most popular holiday resorts, considered the ideal destination for beachgoers, clubbers, and adventure seekers. 

Here is the information you can find in this miniguide article:

  • Malia At-a-Glance
  • Beaches
  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • In and Around
  • How To Get To Malia
  • Other Useful Information
Welcome to Malia!

 Holidays Where You Have Fun All Day And Party All Night

Malia is one of the best places for 360° vacations, especially if you are a couple or partying with friends.

 The Beach of Malia, with its 600 m of soft white sand and numerous beach bars, is the perfect place to enjoy the sun and fun. The legendary Beach Road (Dimokratias Street), where the first hotel, Hotel Grammatikakis, was built in 1960, hosts the most exciting nightlife in Crete with numerous pubs, bars, clubs, and non-stop night parties. And if you're craving some adrenaline, you can liven up your holiday with 4x4 safari excursions, go-kart races, jet ski rides, or a speedy ride on the water slides in Crete's largest water park.

 Despite its reputation as a destination for young partygoers, Malia has many assets that will delight history and culture buffs and outdoor enthusiasts. The picturesque Old Village with its winding streets, located 2 km upstream from the new town, is recommended for day or evening walks. Many souvenir stores, traditional taverns, and cafes invite you to stroll around. If you want to explore the Minoan history, the Malia Palace Archaeological Site, just 3 kilometers from the town, is a must-see. And, if you want to venture out with your backpack, plenty of hiking trails will lead you through the wild and spectacular Crete's nature.

 Within easy driving distance from Malia, you will explore many extraordinary places, whether or not included on the official map of tourist attractions on the island's east side.

 The Beaches of Malia

 Malia is known for its beautiful beaches with fine white sand and crystal clear waters. The beaches have sunbeds and umbrellas for rent, showers and toilets, and lookout points with lifeguards. They offer many water sports activities such as parasailing, banana boats, rings, water skis, and jet skis. There are several diving centers for the fans of the underwater world.

 The main beach in Malia, also called Glozanie Beach, is located a kilometer from downtown. Many bars, cafes, and hotels are lined up along the 600-meter-long sandy beach. Opposite the beach, in the middle of the sea, you can admire a rocky isletAfentis Christos” (The Lord Christ) with the small chapel of  ”Metamorfosis tou Sotiros” (The Transfiguration of Christ), which is the iconic seascape of Malia.

 While much of the beach is crowded and dominated by the music from the bars, its eastern end is quieter, less crowded, and more peaceful.

 If you have kids, the recommended beach for you is Sun Beach, a quiet and organized beach with terraces bars, and a children's pool, only suitable for days with waves. Sun Beach is located east of Glozanie Beach, about 2.5 kilometers from the center of Malia. Half a kilometer further to the east you will find Tropical Beach, immediately followed by a small bay named after it and finally, you reach Potamos Beach (Paralia Potamos) located 3.3 kilometers from the center of Malia.

 Potamos (in translation, "river") is the largest and quietest beach, semi-wild and with a few coves with calm water, having only the eastern sector developed - about 200 meters, out of a total length of 700 meters. If you prefer to swim or sunbathe without the loud music from the bars, go straight to Potamos, but avoid the weekends as it is the locals' favorite beach. Nearby is the Minoan Malia Palace Archaeological Siteand consequently the area is protected, with no constructions that interfere with the beauty of the natural landscape. At the edge of the beach, you will discover an old sand dune almost cemented, covered with dwarf vegetation and rocks, from where you can admire the whole of Malia Bay or go on a short walk. We consider it among the most beautiful beaches in Crete.

 There are several other beaches west of Malia, along the coast road of approx. 1.5 km, which connects Malia with the Stalis/ Stalida resort. In 10-15 minutes, you can reach the nearest them on foot, following the signs that appear from place to place along the way.

Accommodation in Malia

 Like it or not, Malia is the favorite destination of young people, years ago considered a real "Cretan Ibiza". For this reason, prices of services including accommodationare reasonable. But, like all resorts in Crete, it tends to be overcrowded during the peak season from June to September, so it is recommended to make your reservation in advance, even at the beginning of the year.

 You can find any accommodation, from small and cheap studios and apartments, with 30-40 euros/night, which ensures more autonomy, to luxury boutique hotels and all-inclusive beach resorts. Most hotels and apartments in Malia are located along the beach. If you choose to stay in Malia but do not want white nights, ensure in advance that the property is not in the vicinity of discos and clubs, open until sunrise.

 The traditional houses of old Malia also offer rooms for rent to tourists. Outside the central area, to the east, on the road to Potamos Beach, scattered among agricultural plots, are many mini-hotels, some with swimming pools, sought after by groups of dynamic and noisy young people. If you want a quieter area, but close to the interesting sights of the area, the hotels in the stretch between Stalis and Malia are more suitable.

 For families with small children, the neighboring resort Stalis may be a better holiday alternative, as although it is lively during the day, it is much quieter at night.

 If you prefer to organize your holiday in Malia independently, find properties to suit your taste and budget on Booking and Airbnb.

Food in Malia

 Indeed, Malia might not reflect the most authentic image of Crete in terms of its restaurant menus. Many local restaurants serve pizza, pasta, burgers, and sandwiches on the menu, which can be prepared quickly and cheaply, such as McDonald's, Subway, Starbucks, and Domino's Pizza.

 For unpretentious, traditional dishes, you'd better find them in the old village. Classic taverns with tables and chairs on the street, run by warm-hearted, hospitable locals are waiting for you in the square of Agios Giorgos Church. In the center of New Malia are several good restaurants with Cretan fusion cuisine. Traditional food made from fresh vegetables from their own gardens is also available in a few taverns.

Around the clubs are takeaway kitchens serving souvlaki and pita gyros until the early morning for the hungry after-party goers.

Best Things To Do and Places To Visit

 Clubbing on Beach Road. Crete's busiest bar and club area erupts into a kaleidoscope of lights and music after sundown. On Dimokratias Street, best known as Beach Road, which connects the old village of Malia with the beach, you will find the epicenter of nightlife. Here party people from all over the world gather with world-renowned DJs to party with house, R&B, rock, or other trending genres of music. Of course, there is no shortage of drinks, electrifying lights, and fluffy foam. Tickets range from €5 to €50 depending on the event. Most clubs open around 9:00 am and close the next day at 7:00 am.

 Wander through the old village of Malia. Taking a stroll through the village's winding streets, you will find unexpected places with a rustic charm, historic churches, popular taverns, old houses crammed together, and courtyards filled with flowers, in front of which the elderly people sit and chat in the afternoon. Your walk should begin at Agios Nektarios Church, which has stunning murals depicting biblical scenes painted by Michael Vassilakis. Continuing up the narrow street to the left of Agios Nektarios, you will find yourself in front of the Venetian-era church of Agios Ioannis.

 Then you will discover the church of Agios Dimitrios, built at the end of the 19th century, in the middle of a large square with taverns and mini markets. Malia's oldest church, Panagia Galatiani, is an attraction in the area. Since its foundation in 1400 during the Venetian period, the church has undergone several expansions and has been completely restored in the 19th century. A collection of Byzantine icons and secular church artifacts can be found here. There is also the old church of Agios Georgios in a popular place in the old village, which comes to life with music and Cretan cuisine in the evenings.

 Visit the Archaeological Site of Malia Palace. Located 3 km east of the city center, Malia Palace is one of the most important archaeological sites in Crete and the third largest of the Minoan settlements, after Knossos and Phaistos. In addition to the 5,000-year-old ruins, the excavations also revealed a wealth of artifacts, the most notable being the famous golden bee pendant, which is now housed in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. There are leaflets at the entrance and information boards along the route, but it is best to explore the site with a tour guide. Entrance is €6 per person. You can get there on foot, or by a direct bus that runs every 15-30 minutes from the city's bus station. After visiting Malia Palace, you can enjoy a relaxing day at Potamos Beach. 

 Shopping in Stalis and Hersonissos. Stalis or Stalida, within walking distance of Malia, is the classic resort where you can find almost everything you want in one day. On the beach road, bustling with life in the evening hours, you will discover a mosaic of restaurants and bars, cafes, and souvenir shops, inviting you to cross their thresholdThe shops are full of clothing, jewelry, leather goods, decorations, souvenirs, and traditional local products, such as olive oil, honey, raki, wines, and hand-made cosmetics with 100% natural ingredients.

 Hersonissos is one of the most popular resorts in Crete and is particularly famous for its nightlife, with a vibrant waterfront at night with a variety of local bars/pubs, restaurants, and tavernas. But a walk along the main street in the center of the city, with its hundreds of picturesque displays of handicrafts, is impossible without a serious shopping session.

 Off-road safari. If you're feeling adventurous, with a jeep safari in Malia you can explore authentic Crete off-road like you never imagined you would. The 4x4 off-road vehicles are driven by chauffeurs - guides with a lot of experience in piloting the dusty and bumpy roads of the island. Discover the wildness of Cretan nature and its breathtaking landscapes on unknown routes, cross olive groves, vineyards, rivers, and forests, admire from the height of eagles' nests the bays with superb beaches and crystal clear waters and explore traditional villages where you will taste local wines and food, leaving - embrace the Cretan warmth and hospitality!

 Explore tourist villages. You may want to visit Milatos, a small patriarchal fishing village with very popular fisherman taverns, right by the sea. You can reach it in about 20 minutes by following the road to Elounda. From here you can take a short trip to the Milatos Cave, which hides a historical drama from the Ottoman occupation.

 Sissi or Sisi, 
located only 7 km east of Malia, is famous for its taverns with fresh fish and seafood brought to the kitchens directly from the sea. Many Greeks come to Sissi on weekends, especially to enjoy the fish dishes. A dinner in the picturesque port of Sissi will become a wonderful memory of your vacation in Crete.

 Take a day trip to the southern mountain villages of Krasi (10 km) and Mochos (12 km). Both are surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, and fruit trees and are known for their high-quality olive oil and cheerful Cretan evenings with traditional songs and dances. There is a tavern in Krasi with a huge centuries-old plane tree under whose shade many great Cretan writers and artists have rested, including Nikos Kazantzakis. If you are in Malia in mid-August, do not miss the opportunity to join the festivities of the village of Mohos, when the church celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. You can explore both villages on a mini-tour with the Happy Train that departs from Malia every morning.

 Happy Train. With a departure station somewhere between Malia and Stalis, the Happy Train offers you a leisurely ride through Stalis, Malia, and Hersonissos. In a 90-minute tour, the train travels along the beach road between the resorts, stopping at various points so that you can admire the most beautiful places. Each tour includes a knowledgeable guide who can tell you more about Crete's history and culture. In addition to the coastal tour, Happy Train also runs half-day tours to the mountain villages of Mohos and Krasi, giving you a small foray into the traditional Cretan lifestyle and the delights of authentic rural cuisine. You can find more details about the routes at this link.

Venture out on hiking trails. Countless hiking trails cross the area or run in a circuit around Malia. You can go through them by yourself, or with local guides. Malia -Mohos is a stone path connecting the two areas, used by the villagers for trade, before the massive development of road and tourist infrastructure at the beginning of the 20th century. The trail is kept in very good condition and attracts many hikers. In combination with the path traditionally called Voulgariko (Bulgarian Road) that reaches Stalis, the route becomes almost circular. It can offer you a great day of incursion into Cretan nature and landscapes. 

 Another option is the Roza Gorge, a relatively unknown hiking trail in Crete, but with views that rival those of the famous Samaria Gorge. The 6.8 km trail connects the mountain villages of Kera and Gonies, winding through the spectacular rose-colored rock formations that gave it its name. You can start and end your trek in any of the villages or venture out on a round trip. Most hikers start the trail from Kera village, a 25-minute drive (13 km) south of Old Malia.

 Monastery of St. George Selinari. Founded over a millennia ago, the Monastery of St. George (Agios Giorgos) Selinari is an important place of prayer and a landmark for Orthodox pilgrims. It is located 8 km east of Malia on the National Road going towards Agios Nikolaos. Locals who travel this route say it is bad luck to cross the canyon without visiting the monastery. The complex contains a central church, the Chapel of St. George, and a mysterious little cave where you can light candles. In the old icon of Saint George, you will notice 3 bullet holes, which the monks are happy to tell you about. You can freely explore the monastery garden, the chapel, and the cave, but it is necessary to be decently dressed according to the customs of the Orthodox Church

 Escape to the neighboring towns - Agios Nikolaos and Heraklion. Malia is almost equidistant between two of the most important cities of Crete: Heraklion (35 km west) and Agios Nikolaos (33 km southeast). A half-day or full-day getaway in either of these two historic island settlements is an excellent opportunity to explore the main sights, restaurants, cafes, and shops and to enjoy alternative cultural activities such as food festivals, folklore, or artistic. You can easily get there by bus or car.

 Lassithi Plateau and Zeus Cave. Driving about an hour south on a winding mountain road, you reach the picturesque Lassithi Plateau, an area highly fertile for agriculture, dotted with the classic white windmills that once served for irrigation. South of the plateau, located at 1,025 m above sea level and only a 10-minute climb from the village of Psychro, is the Diktaean Cave (Cave of Psychro or Dikteon Andron), a spectacular and beautifully landscaped cave for visitors, believed to be the birthplace of Zeus.

 Activities for children. If you want to take a break from the beach, and especially if you have kids eager to try a new adventure, treat yourself to a refreshing day at a water park. In Malia and its vicinity, there are water parks with a variety of pools and slides, a cheerful atmosphere, and fun programs adapted to their age. You'll also find a go-kart circuit where they can compete in their driving skills with other kids. 

 If they are passionate about natural sciences, a visit to Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Center in Hersonissos is a great occasion to meet and observe a lot of exotic reptiles, most of them found injured and rescued. And if you go another 12 km to the west, halfway between Hersonissos and Heraklion, in the village of Gournia you will find CretAquarium, the largest aquarium in Crete, and Dinosauria Park, located only one kilometer away.

 The private zoo Amazonas Park located 20 km east of Malia is a great place to stop if you are traveling to Agios Nikolaos by car. It mainly focuses on South American animals such as parrots and monkeys, but it also exhibits some domestic animals like goats and donkeys. The park was opened in 2011 and is dedicated to the breeding and reproduction of rare species, particularly parrots, to prevent their extinction. The highlight here is the scheduled animal feeding sessions. You can even feed the zoo's beloved lemurs with a bowl of fruit! And of course, snap a photo with your new lemur friends for the perfect souvenir!

Carnival in Malia. Every spring, Cretans celebrate Apokries, a three-week festival of fun that precedes Lent and culminates in the Carnival Parade. Rightly considered the most famous event of the year in Crete, the Carnival attracts locals and tourists, filling the city streets with good cheer, music, and color. As one of Crete's most famous tourist destinations, Malia joins the Apokries fun with its event, the Maliotiko Karnavali, organized by the municipality of Hersonissos. If you are tempted by a vacation in Crete before the opening of the summer season, we invite you to the streets of Malia, to enjoy the Carnival with us!

How To Get To Malia

 You can take a direct bus from Heraklion Airport to Malia if you do not have a hotel transfer or have not rented a car. Make sure you get on a bus bound for Malia, not another one. A ticket to Malia will cost you around €4 and is paid on the bus. Buses to Malia leave every hour until 11 pm. But the fastest way to get from Heraklion to M├ília is by taxi, which costs €35 - €50 and takes approximately 30 min. There was also the option of private minibusses, which pick up tourists from the airport and follow the same route as the national company's busses. 

Other Useful Information

 As in any city, in Malia, you will find restaurants and shops of all kinds, cinemas, banks, medical centers, pharmacies, car, and motorcycle rental companies, the Police Office, etc. The landmark in the city center is the Central Church, Agios Nektarios. Not far from it are the bus stations toward Agios Nikolaos or Heraklion, on the opposite side. 

 If you want to explore the island with an organized group and visit the famous tourist attractions such as Knossos PalaceRethymno City, the beaches of Balos and Elafonissi, Spinalonga Island, Lassithi Plateau, Zeus Cave or Vai Beach - the palm beach in eastern Crete, you can use the services of numerous local travel agencies, which have information & sales points both in Malia and Stalis.

 KTEL's official website provides information on bus routes and traffic schedules at different times of the year.


 We hope this information was helpful and inspired you to choose the resort of Malia as your favorite destination for your holiday in Crete! 

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