The sun is blazing above your head, a bead of sweat trickles down your back, the air is salty and your skin burns from the summer heat. There is only one thing on your ‘to do’ list for Crete, and it is to cool yourself down in a wonderful beach, letting the refreshing waves take the edge of the hot spell -along with your everyday stress- away.
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Since Crete is massive, the beach choices are vast and plenty, catering to every taste or need across the board, but at the same time making it overwhelming for visitors to choose between them. To ease this burden off of you, here, we present the top 10 beaches in Crete!
Falasarna beach - credits: lucianbolca/Depositphotos.com
Starting out strong, we kick off the list with our absolute favorite beach in Crete. As Greeks, we’ve experienced our fair share of beaches, but Falasarna is like nothing you have ever seen before. Apart for its shimmering waters that lure you in, Falassarna’s uniqueness lies in the consistency of its sandy beach, which resembles the texture of velvet, inviting you to roll in it. Falasarna in antiquity was a Greek harbor town on the northwest coast of ancient Crete. It is located 59 km west of Chania and 12 km west of Kissamos and today, it is one of the most famous beach destinations in Crete, having been awarded in the past as the most beautiful beach of the island. Falasarna beach is fully organized, while also having several free spots for those who prefer to put their own umbrella and towel on the sand. There are beach bars, where you can buy snacks and drinks, while in the evenings, there are often beach parties held on the beach. Therefore, don’t rush to leave, as the fun increases the longer you stay. We especially suggest you stay and enjoy the spectacular sunset of Falassarna, one of the most impressive in Crete. Water sports and a beach volley court are also available on the beach for the sports-crazed visitors.
Elafonisi beach - credits: Zakhar Ma/Shutterstock.com
Elafonisi is a small islet 200 meters from the coast and surrounded by a shallow lagoon, located in western Crete, 75 km south-west of Chania. If you come to Crete, Elafonisi is a definite must-visit, as it is well-known for its magnificent beauty across the world. The sand in Elafonisi’s shore is light-colored, almost white, but in many places, it has a pink hue from the thousands of broken shells one can find scattered across the beach. The waters are glassy, while their blue-green color is reminiscent of exotic places; a true paradise on earth. Elafonisi attracts thousands of visitors every summer, climbing up to approximately 2500 per day in the months of July and August. Therefore, and if you want to enjoy it in its full potential, we highly suggest you visit it at the beginning or the end of the summer. Alternatively, you should avoid it on rush hours -from 11 to 4-, especially on the weekends. Its exotic beauty and clean waters have earned it the vote of the most beautiful beach in not only Europe but the world, numerous times.
Balos beach during sunset - credits: natalyphotography/Shutterstock.com
Balos beach is located at the northwest of Crete, at Cape Gramvousa, near the town of Kissamos in the prefecture of Chania. The surreal beauty of this beach enchants anyone who visits it. The combination of bright white and pink sand and the incredibly vibrant turquoise waters of Balos have brought recognition to it as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is located 55 km from the city of Chania and 17 km from Kissamos. It is covered by soft sand, while its shallow sea is mild in temperature, offering a perfect swimming spot. The easiest way to access Balos is by boat, which you can take from Kissamos and other parts of Chania that offer daily excursions. If you plan on going by car, you have to know that a large part of the way consists of a dirt road, with the last kilometer being only accessible on foot, which may be tiring, but it will give you the opportunity to appreciate the stunning landscape of the area. Finally, the most difficult -but at the same time, more impressive- way to approach Balos beach is by following a three-hour hiking trail from Kaliviani. Regardless of the way you'll get yourself there, Balos beach is going to reward you for your effort with its astonishing beauty!
Beach of Matala - credits: Iornet/Shutterstock.com
The iconic beach of Matala, with its signature caves decorating the imposing rocks surrounding the area, became famous in the 1960s when it became home to the hippies. A large stream of travelers arrived in southern Crete following the steps of a special ‘hippie -trail’. They lived in Matala's caves for weeks, months, or even years, following a natural way of life, and occupying themselves with music, meditation, painting, poetry, philosophy, and fishing, while enjoying the deep blue sea, the warm nights and the sandy beach. Today, the legendary beach has lost none of its charm, attracting thousands of visitors each year, who want to discover the allure that drove the hippies there. The beach of Matala is fully organized with sunbeds and umbrellas, showers and municipal toilets. Additionally, there are cafes and canteens to quench your thirst and introduce you to the Cretan cuisine. At the back of the beach, there are Tamarisk trees scattered around the sand, offering their shade to those who want to experience Matala in a more organic and natural way.
Agia Pelagia Beach - credits: creti.co
18 km west of Heraklion, lies the beach of Agia Pelagia, sheltered from the winds and perfect for some much-needed relaxation. The beach is a narrow strip of sand, which due to its calm water is perfect for swimming regardless of the weather. It is -yet again- a fully organized beach, providing visitors with umbrellas and sunbeds, while you can also rent water bikes and embark in water sports adventures! The waters are deep with great clarity, so don’t forget to bring your mask with you on the occasion you find yourself there. Along the narrow beach, you can find a selection of local taverns, as well as other various shops. The beach of Agia Pelagia, with its proximity to the town of Heraklion, its calm waters and excellent food choices by the beach, offers a great destination for a family getaway.
Tymbaki beach - credits: https://just-go-greece.com
This large, diverse beach, sporting both sand and pebbles across its shore, is also known as Kokkinos Pyrgos. Because of the beach being organized and surrounded by various traditional taverns serving local dishes, you can easily spend your whole day there, relaxing, sunbathing, swimming and eating! Kokkinos Pyrgos is located 67 km southwest of Heraklion, in the periphery of the town of Tympaki. The beautiful sandy beach has contributed to the tourist development, while the climate in the area is particularly warm, as a result of the many greenhouse cultures found in its grounds. Kokkinos Pyrgos beach is a very long sandy beach, which starts west of the settlement and extends for many kilometers to the east, reaching the region of Komos. In this huge sandy beach, Caretta-Caretta sea turtles are born during the summer months, making the beach a host for environmental organizations. If the beach is good enough for Caretta-Caretta, who are we to deny its majesty?
Vai beach - credits: https://guidora.com
An exotic sandy beach, with thousands of palm trees in the background, reminiscent of the Caribbean, dominates the eastern side of Crete, in the prefecture of Lasithi. Vai is one of the most popular sights in Crete and one of the most beautiful and unique locations in the entire Mediterranean. Unknown until the early 1970s, an advertisement of the famous ‘Bounty’ coconut chocolate, which was filmed in the region, made Vai famous internationally. Following its newly-acquired fame, Vai became -along with the aforementioned Matala- loved by the hippies, who discovered it in the early '70s. However, the vast amount of campers, with their careless ways, destroyed the area, turning it into a dumping ground. In the 1980s Vai was declared a protected area and was thoroughly cleaned. Today, it is still considered one of the most beautiful areas in Crete, the palm grove is fenced and protected, and staying on the beach is strictly forbidden. The area, beyond its special and exotic beauty, is also interesting in terms of biodiversity, as many migratory birds stop in the area on their journey to and from Africa.
Istro beach - credits: http://www.2811.gr
Istro beach is located about 12 km southeast of Agios Nikolaos on the way to Ierapetra, with deep, crystal-clear waters, soft golden sand, and verdant slopes being its signature characteristics. Like most of Crete’s beaches, it is organized, offering sun loungers and umbrellas to its visitors, as well as a canteen for coffee or food. The beach of Istro is a bit quieter in comparison to the other beaches of the island -which doesn’t mean that it is quiet altogether, especially during summertime-, away from the vibrant cosmopolitan vibe of beaches like Elafonisi, and it is ideal for leisure. Although quiet, however, the area doesn’t lack in local tavern and accommodation offerings. The beach itself is fantastic, with the color of the sea resembling a postcard and the fine sand of the beach along with the calm and safe waters being ideal for all family members. On top of its striking waters, the landscape of Istro beach is just as stunning, with rich greenery covering its slopes, an aesthetically pleasing contradiction to the blue shades of the sea.
Preveli Beach - credits: www.caravel.gr
In the south of the region of Rethymnon, enclosed in a vastly vegetated area at the end of Kourtaliotikos gorge, lies the beach of Preveli. Nearby Preveli Monastery, one can walk to the beach surrounded by palm trees easily within minutes. The sandy beach of Prevelis stretches out with the splendid waterfalls flowing into the sea. By wandering around the beach on foot or with a water bike, you will get to experience the beauties of Preveli beach, which is one of the most striking sights of Crete. Although the beach itself is not necessarily unique, however, it stands out because of the surrounding landscape. In the eastern part of the beach stands a beautiful, imposing rock in the sea that resembles a heart -ideal for the hopeless romantics. Its out-of-this-world aesthetic and ethereal vibe, make for one of the sweetest experiences you’ll carry back home!
Beach of Souda - credits: holidayify.com
On the southern side of Crete and 41 km from Rethymno, lies the settlement of Souda. There, the coastal road ends from the bay of Plakias and the beach of Souda stretches with its thick sand, blue waters, and surrounding rocks. On the beach, visitors can find umbrellas, deck chairs, showers, and a couple of taverns, where they can try a number of traditional dishes from the local cuisine. If you’d like to explore the bottom of the sea with a mask, on the right of the beach there are towering rocks, and on the left, there are small cliffs with rocks and shimmering waters that make swimming more interesting, while also being ideal for fishing and snorkeling. The waters of Souda beach are cold and rejuvenating, due to the river of Finikas that runs all year round, crossing the green valley with the palm trees behind the beach. Perhaps one of the best beaches in Rethymno, and certainly the coldest sea in the area, Souda beach has it all!
If after exploring the beaches of Crete you’ve worked up an appetite, you can join us on a Chania Old Town food and wine tour to also uncover the secrets Cretan gastronomy, or book a tailor-made tour, design to suit your needs and preferences.
The exquisiteness of Crete is unmatched, and although uncovering all of its beauties in one visit is nearly impossible, by visiting the beaches we have listed above, you’re one step closer to understanding what Crete, its landscape and its culture are all about.