Beaches of Crete: Travel Guide

Beaches of Crete: Travel Guide

The largest island of Greece is washed by three seas: the Libyan Sea to the south, the Sea of Crete to the north, and the Ionian Sea to the west. Beaches on Crete are very varied — sand and pebble, with facilities and wild ones, for adults and for children. We have put together a selection of beaches to recommend to your clients. 

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Beaches of western Crete, around the city of Chania

Marathi: for holidays with children

There are two sandy beaches 17 km from Chania. Fine sand, a calm sea without waves and a gentle incline into the sea — this coast is ideal for a holiday with kids. The beaches have changing facilities, toilets, and showers. In the vicinity, you will find restaurants, cafes, and tavernas with traditional cuisine. On the west side of the beach, you can go diving with a mask — usually, there are fewer people there.


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  • Sites nearby: archeological digs of an ancient palace from Minoan times (bronze age) right behind the beach, while 2.5 km away you will find the Church of St. Nicholas.
  • Nearest settlement: Marathi (Akrotiri peninsula).
  • How to get there from Chania: by car, bus, or with a tour.
  • Price: free entry, hire of two sunbeds, and an umbrella — €8 per day.
  • Hotels nearby: Kalyves Beach HotelAlmyrida Beach.

Island of Elafonisi: take your photo with pink sand

This beach features unusual pink sand, which is created due to the red sea shells and coral. The area is protected: here you will find rare caretta sea turtles and almost extinct species of birds, while lilies and cedars grow here. You’re not allowed to take sand or plants from the beach.

The beach is 76 km from Chania and is remote from the tourist spots, although there are still lots of people here. To relax in relative quiet, head 50-100 meters along the seafront in the direction of Elafonisi.


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  • Sites nearby: the lighthouse and chapel at Agia Eirini at the edge of the island, Chrysoskalitissa monastery 5 km to the north — this is the main place of pilgrimage in western Crete.
  • Nearest settlement: Elafonisi.
  • How to get there from Chania: by car or with a tour (an individual one costs €200 per person).
  • Price: free entry, rental of two sunbeds and an umbrella will cost €10 per day, and a visit to the toilet will cost €1.

Lissos: visit a wild beach

Lissos — territory of the ancient town. On the way to the beach, you will come across ruins of buildings with mosaic floors, colonnades, and bits of an ancient theater. But you should come here for the wonderful coast: clean, untouched, far from populated areas. The beach has no sunbeds or umbrellas — just a lonely bench to rest on and a few trees. Nearby you will find a mineral spring from which you may drink.


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  • Sites nearby: the ruins of ancient Lissos and the Church of St. Kirikos.
  • Nearest settlement: Sougia.
  • How to get there from Chania: to Sougia by car or bus, and from there on the boat (€5) or walk (a two-hour walk along a picturesque route).
  • Price: free entry.

Balos beach: pretend to be a pirate

In the past, this was a pirates’ haven, washed by three seas. Now, it’s one of the best beaches of Crete. The bay is sheltered from the winds, and the sea here is always warm — you can swim in it right up to November. It has a sandy, shallow seabed, and there are no waves. Occasionally you will find seaweed lying on the beach. There are several umbrellas and a couple of small cafes. You can find giant turtles in the sea and wild mountain goats on the shore.


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  • Sites nearby: a panoramic platform with a view over a lagoon from the western side of the Korikos peninsula, the island of Gramvousa with rare birds and other animals, Gramvousa fortress, sunk boats in the bay.
  • Nearest settlement: Kaliviani.
  • How to get there from Chania: by car, on a boat tour from the port of Trachilos near Kissamos (a ticket costs €20), or by foot from Kaliviani (8 km).
  • Price: free entry.
  • Hotels nearby: Nautilus Bay Hotel, Mediterranean Studios Apartments.

The region of Rethymno

Kournas: a beach and swimming, but not on the sea

In terms of beauty, the beach at Lake Kournas is as appealing as the seaside — here you find crystal clear blue water, forest filled mountains all around, and fine white sand on the lakeshore. The beach has no sunbeds or umbrellas — they are forbidden by the law. However, there are tavernas, shops, and parking facilities. You can shelter from the sun by staying in the shade of the tree leaves.


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  • Sites nearby: St. George’s Church in Kournas, Kournas caves in the settlement of Keratida, and the beach on the seashore of Kavros.
  • Nearest settlement: village of Kournas, Georgioupoli.
  • How to get there from Rethymno or Chania: by taxi, independently by car, by bus or the tourist ferry from Georgioupoli.
  • Price: free, and you can hire a catamaran for €15 per hour.
  • Hotels nearby: Vardis Olive Garden, Villa Thea.

Preveli: at one with nature

Preveli is an amazingly beautiful place with palm groves, cliffs, and waterfalls. Nearby you will find Swallows Gorge (Kourtaliotis), where the river falls into the sea. Therefore, here there is always fresh air and the water is fairly cold. The sea bed is stony, and the beach is a pebble one. There are no umbrellas or sunbeds here — it’s a protected place, so nothing gets built here. There is only one cafe where you can buy drinks and something to eat.


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  • Sites nearby: right on the beach — palm groves, cliffs in the shape of a heart, Preveli monastery. Nearby there is another beach — Drimiskianos, as well as Swallows Gorge.
  • Nearest settlement: Preveli, Kato Moni.
  • How to get there from Rethymno: by car, bus, with a tour, by boat (from Plakias, Agia Galini).
  • Price: free entry.
  • Hotels nearby: Villa 5 Anemoi, Chrysa Villa, Preveli Rooms.

St. Paul’s Beach: admire the dunes

The dune beach Agios Pavlos is famous for its high hills that you need to cross to get to the sea. During the year the water never drops below 15 degrees, although it can get windy. You can’t holiday with kids here: it’s a steep slope into the water, and the sea is deep here. Nudists and divers hang out here. St. Paul’s Beach is 55 km to the south of Rethymno — it’s a wild beach lacking in infrastructure. Although there are a few sunbeds for hire.


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  • Sites nearby: Mount Thronos, from where you can see stunning sunsets, the picturesque cliffs of Apoplystra Folds, and another beach — Triopetra.
  • Nearest settlement: Agios Pavlos, Agia Galini.
  • How to get there from Rethymno: independently by car or a regular bus.
  • Price: free entry.
  • Hotels nearby: Agios Pavlos Studios, Pavlos’ Place, Hotel Livikon.

Central Crete, Heraklion district

Malia: this is where to party

If you want a fun holiday and don’t want to waste time trying to find secret beaches, then head to the center of Malia — a town 35 km from Heraklion. In the most touristy district of Crete you will find a large, noisy and clean beach. It’s located near the diggings of the ancient city so that you can combine your partying with a tour.

On the beach, you can hire water bikes and catamarans, and when the waves are high, you can go in for windsurfing. Night clubs open in the evening and bars work non-stop.

  • Sites nearby: opposite the beach, there is an island with the Church of the Transfiguration, and nearby you will find mineral springs and archeological digs of the Minoan state.
  • Nearest settlement: Malia, Hersonissos.
  • How to get there from Heraklion: with a tour, independently by car, by taxi or bus (around €4 per person).
  • Price: free entry.
  • Hotels nearby: Villa Mare Monte, Malia Star Apartments, Alexandra Rooms.

Agia Pelagia: relax and enjoy the landscape

There are several beaches here: noisy with entertainment, modest with appealing landscapes, sandy for children, and stony for diving. Agia Pelagia’s seabed is sandy, but with pebbles in places. The bay is sheltered from the winds, so the sea is calm. The slope into the water is gentle. The beach itself is narrow, equipped with sunbeds, umbrellas, changing facilities and toilets. Along the coast, you will find tavernas, shops, and bars. 

  • Sites nearby: the ancient church of Agia Pelagia.
  • Nearest settlement: Agia Pelagia.
  • How to get there from Heraklion: with a tour, independently by car, by taxi (around €23-28), or by bus (around €3).
  • Price: free entry, sunbeds cost around €15.
  • Hotels nearby: Irida Hotel Apartments, Pela Mare Hotel, Nymphes Luxury Apartments.

The secret beach of Aspes: go diving with a mask far from civilization

This secret place is located 58 km to the south of Heraklion, in the mountains of Asterousia. Aspes is a beach with black pebbles, but nearby you will find Aspris beach with white pebbles. The beach doesn’t have facilities, and the coastline is quite narrow. On one side you have mountains, and on the other side, you have the sea. It’s an ideal place for diving, snorkeling, and fishing.

  • Sites nearby: picturesque cliffs, underwater caves, and grottos.
  • Nearest settlement: Tris Ekklissies, Tsoutsouros.
  • How to get there from Heraklion: by boat from the port of Tris Ekklissies, or on the sightseeing boat from Tsoutsouros.
  • Price: free entry.

Eastern Crete, Lasithi district

Chrysi: enjoy a Greek “Caribbean” beach

There are a number of beaches on Chrysi. They are all sandy with a soft seabed, without facilities. Only in one place will you find a few sunbeds and a sole taverna. The beach is protected by the environmental authorities and spending the night here, or camping are forbidden.

  • Sites nearby: the little church of St. Nicholas, the lighthouse serving the island.
  • Nearest settlement: Ierapetra.
  • How to get there from Lasithi: head to Ierapetra, and then take a tour (around €25) or independently by boat.
  • Price: when you get on the boat you pay resort tax — €1 per person aged above 4.
  • Hotels nearby: Tylissos Beach Hotel, Studios Crete, Sunshine Crete Beach – All Inclusive.

Vai: holiday like in the ads

A thick palm forest, golden sand, and sky-blue water — that’s what brings the tourists in. Here you will find sunbeds, umbrellas, changing facilities and toilets. Nearby there are a number of tavernas. Due to the location’s popularity, the prices for food, sunbeds, and parking are overall higher than anywhere else on the island. 


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  • Sites nearby: Toplou Monastery.
  • Nearest settlement: Sitia, Palekastro.
  • How to get there from Lasithi: by taxi or car, or with a tour (€40 per person).
  • Price: free entry, sunbeds cost around €12.
  • Hotels nearby: Petras Beach, Villa Amalia.

On Crete, there is a corner for everybody: for those who like solitude and the waves, for those who prefer comfort and silky beaches, and for parents with children who spend days on end at the seafront. 

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