Which Cretan Beach is Right for You?
For anyone looking to head to the Greek islands for a vacation, Crete is a must. There are so many beaches in Crete, which is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, that it can get to be overwhelming making your actual vacation itinerary. Do you want to relax? Be catered to? Be surrounded by nature? Lie on a beach chair with a cocktail? Scale a cliff to get to a secret location? Be able to cross the street from your villa for your own beach picnic? Or perhaps you prefer a little bit of everything? No matter your travel style, we rounded up the best Cretan beaches, along with descriptions of how you get there and what it’s like once you’ve arrived, so you can determine which are right for you and truly enjoy the time you have in Crete.
Elafonisi beach, more popularly referred to as “The Pink Beach” is definitely my favorite beach in all of Crete. We spent about a week exploring the island and Elafonisi was by far the highlight. At first, the sand doesn’t really look that pink, but the closer you get to the water, which is crystal clear by the way, the pinker the sand appeared. I flew my drone over the beach to get a birds-eye view, and that’s when i really saw how pink the sand really was. While popular, it’s a massive beach and is always quite empty, so don’t worry about competing with crowds of tourists. It’s about an hour drive from Chania and the only way to get here is to rent a car and drive – unless you do an organized day tour. There’s a cute bar and restaurant on the drive down to the beach which is a great spot to grab lunch and enjoy the panoramic view from the outdoor deck. You can see more of my recommendations for Crete activities on my blog.
Contributed by Janet from Journalist on the Run
Marithi Beach and Loutraki Cove
Matala is a tiny beach town on the south coast of the Greek island of Crete. It takes around 3 hours from the more popular resort side of the island (the North near Heraklion and Hersonissos) to drive there. The drive itself is beautiful and takes you through mountains, past wine country and the lesser visited Minoan Historical site of Phaistos. Once you reach Matala you can park your car and leave it for the rest of your visit, as the town is essentially pedestrian only! You can walk to Matala main beach after a delicious fresh seafood lunch and view and explore Matala’s main attraction: the Roman Burial Caves. These are cut into the impressive sandstone cliff which makes this beach more like a calm, sheltered bay.
If you stay in Matala you can enjoy market style shopping and then the many alfresco bars and restaurants with sea views that night and the next day walk over the cliff 1km to the Red Beach, which is clothing optional and of course, boasts beautiful red sand. We can vouch that Matala is unmissable after ending up buying toothbrushes and staying 3 nights when we had only intended to visit for an afternoon! You can read even more about this paradise on Earth at our blog.
Contributed by Erin and Ryan from downbubble
Plakias in the south of Crete is a little out of the way, but definitely worth the effort. Plakias is surrounded by mountains (full of delicious mountain tavernas) and off of the major tourist roads, making it a quiet escape from the crowded Greek resort towns in high season. Though it is still somewhat of a hidden gem, Plakias has seen rapid growth in recent years, which is no surprise when you see it’s rugged mountainous coastline and golden sand beaches. According to a 1961 census, Plakias was home to just 6 fishermen, and it’s now a charming beach town full of cafes, waterfront tavernas, and even a nude beach. While the mountain road to Plakias may be treacherous for inexperienced drivers, it is easily accessible by bus from either of Crete’s major airports, Chania or Heraklion, with a quick stop over in Rethymnon. Great food and sparsely populated clothing optional beaches aren’t Plakias’ only claim to fame. Travelers on a budget will be excited to know that this town is also home to the Southernmost hostel in Europe, Youth Hostel Plakias, a charming hostel tucked away in an olive grove just a short walk to the beach and the main street.
Contributed by Maggie from Mags on the Move
Seitan Limania Beach (Stefanou Beach)
Seitan Limania (Stefanou Beach) is a beautiful Cretan Beach located in the Chania region of the island. It’s close the airport and easily accessible if you have a rental car. If you do decide to drive to Stefanou Beach just be forewarned that the drive down is very narrow, steep, and all zigzags. However, once you are there you will be rewarded with an amazing day at the beach.
Located in Northeastern Crete near the towns of Sitia, Palekastro, and the Dionysades Islands, Vai Beach is one of the most popular attractions of Crete. Getting to the beach requires taking a bus from a nearby major city such as Heraklion to Sitia and then another bus from Sitia to Vai. You could also rent a car or motorbike to make it to the beach. No matter what, you should plan two days to visit the area as it is remote and there is much to explore such as an ancient monastery, winery, and ancient ruins. The beach is home to Europe’s largest palm forest and is a protected area. There is a restaurant and a café on the beach should hunger strike. If relaxing on the beach au naturale is more your style, a nude beach is a short hike away. If you go during high season (June to August), be prepared for massive crowds. Nevertheless, the beach is stunning, the palm forest is beautifully unique, the sea is a gorgeous turquoise and excellent for summer photos. Vai Beach will make a great addition to your Crete vacation!
Contributed by Jose from My Normal Gay Life
Whichever Beach is Closest!
One of the great things about Crete is that no matter where you are, you’re never too far from a beach! When we were staying outside of Chania, we walked about a block to hang out on the local neighborhood beach. While we loved days when we adventured out to some of the more famous and spectacular beaches, we also loved being able to relax within a ten-minute walk from our villa. This is a great way to maximize relaxation time while also setting out to see some of the island’s more famous shores.
Planning a Cretan Beach Vacation? Have You Been to any of the Best Beaches in Crete? Share your questions and tips below!
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