Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest one in the Mediterranean Sea. Here, you can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations, explore glorious beaches, impressive mountainscapes, fertile valleys and steep gorges, and become part of the island’s rich gastronomic culture. Crete is, after all, a small universe teeming with beauties and treasures that you will probably need a lifetime to uncover!
Mythology has it that it was in a cave of Crete where the goddess Rhea hid the newborn Zeus. In that cave, Zeus was brought up by the nymphs while the demonical Kouretes would strike their shields loudly so that Cronus may not hear the crying of the baby Zeus and eat it. It was also to Crete that Zeus, disguised as a bull, took Europa so that they may enjoy their love together. Their union produced a son, Minos, who ruled Crete and turned it into a mighty island empire of the seas. In Minoan times, even Attica would pay a tribute tax to Crete, until Theseus, the Athenian prince, killed the Minotaur. The truth behind the myth is the existence of a mighty and wealthy kingdom and of a civilisation that is considered the most ancient one on the European continent.
Chania is a paradise for food and wine lovers. Here you can taste the famous Cretan cuisine with a glass of excellent Cretan wine. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit many wineries, where you will get to know the varieties of the Cretan terrain, the special local gastronomy and – let’s not forget – the outstanding Cretan hospitality!
Balos Chania Crete: Balos is among the best beaches in Greece and one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete that lies 60 km north west of Chania Town. It is seen as a lagoon from the hills above the beach.
Balos has white sand, soft seabed and crystal water. Opposite the beach, there is a rocky island called Gramvoussa and on top of this island, there is a steep Venetian castle with gorgeous view to the region and the sea.
Balos is reached trough a track raod from Kaliviani, a village close to Kissamos. This track road is about 10 km and can be crossed by a 4-wheel car. Otherwise, visitors can go by excursion boat from Kissamos.
Seitan Limania Beach
Relatively near Chania (and Chania Airport), the tiny little cover of Seitan Limania is a great spot to chill out and relax in that stunning Aegean Sea. Now, the beach is pretty small and it does get busy during peak season.
Other gorges in Sfakia are those of Klados, Domata, Elygias, Aradaina, Sfakiano, Imbros, Asfendou and Kallikratis. The most southern part of Crete, Greece and Europe, away from mass tourism. This holiday guide with maps of Crete is about the region of Sfakia and the village of Chora Sfakion in the southwest of the island of Crete, and Crete in general. Sfakia is part of Chania province, and for Crete is quite unique as an area that is still untouched by mass tourism. It mainly consists of the “White Mountains” up to 2453 metres high, fertile plains, and small villages along the coast and in the mountains in traditional Cretan style. Its small capital Chora Sfakion, also called Sfakia, has 400 inhabitants, and offers a small new harbour where the ferries to other villages, and to Samaria gorge, dock. Many villagers live as shepherd, or fisherman, or they grow olives. Sfakia offers several family run small hotels and studios and sea front tavernas, and shops.
Rethymno (Rethymno) region: Crete’s smallest prefecture located between White Mountains and Mt Psiloritis (also called “Idi”), is synonymous with gorgeous mountainscapes, marvellous beaches, Cretan lyre melodies, tsikoudia spirit served with “ofto”, legendary caves, historic monasteries and monuments, traditional mountain villages and luxurious holiday resorts. Feel the essence of Incredible Crete in this mountainous, remote and self-sufficient region of the island of Crete.
Is a great place to dive into a unique historical heritage. Memories of its Minoan, Hellenic, Roman, Byzanthine, Venetian, Ottoman and Greek past are woven deeply into its architectural structures. Just beneath a vivid texture of touristic infrastructure, of busy restaurants and buzzy tavernas, you will always discover windows which open into the past.
I strolled through quiet side alleys. I spent an evening at the fortress, watching the sunset in the Aegean Sea. In the fading daylight, it felt like travelling back in time … The world is a stage. Many came here. And yet they stayed for a short time, only to give way to others. Only to disappear without a trace. The dome of Sultan Ibrahim’s mosque. The remains of the Bishop’s Palace. As different as we are: In the mirror of eternity, we are brothers and sisters.
Matala Heraklion: Matala is one of the most famous beaches of Greece located 67 km south west of Heraklion town.The beach extends over 300 metres, with light golden sand and bamboo umbrellas and sun beds available for rent. On the right side of the beach are the famous imposing cliffs with the curved caves that hippies used as a shelter in the 1960s. Equally important is the fact that the beach was actually inhabited during Antiquity where the locals dug these caves into the rocks.Today, the prehistoric caves are fenced. Matala used to be a fishing village while today locals are mostly engaged in tourism. It offers numerous accommodations and modern facilities. There is a camping site and many fish taverns. Matala is ideal for those who want to spend their holidays near lovely beaches, large archaeological sites and many villages which retain their traditional atmosphere.
Matala itself has lost most of its traditional colour, but traditional villages such as Sivas and Kamilari are nearby, with many more waiting to be discovered within a 20-kilometre radius.
Matala is not the place for wild nightlife and fun, but there are several bars where you can have a drink and listen to music by the sea. For those who are interested in Cretan history, Phaistos (Minoan Palace), Agia Triada (Minoan Villa) and the ancient city of Gortys are very close to Matala. Matala has a wonderful beach, while nearby are the beaches of Kokkini Ammos and Kommos.
Hersonissos – Koutouloufari – Piskopiano – Malia – Stalida – Avdou – Mohos in Crete.
Along the seafront is a broad pedestrian promenade. There are lots of beaches around Hersonissos, and those in the town itself get extraordinarily crowded in summer. You’ll fid the usual assortment of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and souvenir shops along the seafront. There’s a small, romantic port which houses yachts and fishing boats. 100-200m inland, the busy national road runs parallel to the sea, providing easy access to Iraklio and Agios Nikolaos. You’ll find a lot of cafés and ships here, too.
If you like nightlife but also need some moments of relaxation then the nearby (1 km) villages of Koutouloufari, Piskopiano and Ano Hersonissos are excellent choices. These are traditional villages with the advantage of being close to Iraclion, Knossos and Hersonissos. For us living in Iraclion, Hersonissos is too noisy and over-crowded but Koutouloufari is an excellent choice for spending an evening. If you spend some time in Malia take a walk in the narrow streets of the old village; turn right at the church at the main road and walk around. There are some nice tavernas there. This part of the town is completely different from the road leading to the beach, where most bars are. Between Hersonissos and Malia there is another place called Stalida. There is a scenic route from Stalida to Mohos village. The road is full of curves but the views are panoramic, especially at sunset. From Mohos the road continues to Lassithi Plateau and Diktaion Antro, which according to the mythology was the birthplace of Zeus. If you like horse-riding then visit the village of Avdou .Between Hersonissos and Malia there is another place called Stalida. There is a scenic route from Stalida to Mohos village.If you like nightlife but also need some moments of relaxation then the nearby (1 km) villages of Koutouloufari, Piskopiano and Ano Hersonissos are excellent choices. These are traditional villages with the advantage of being close to Iraclion, Knossos and Hersonissos.
Welcome to the easternmost and least mountainous region of Crete, where the population resides in four semi-urban centers: Agios Nikolaos, Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mythical palm tree forest of Vaï, the Gulf of Mirabello, the windmills on the Plateau of Lassithi (the largest in Crete), beaches lapped by crystalline water, beautiful cities and luxurious hotel resorts all make up a rather fascinating world. Due to its geographical position between Africa, Europe, and Asia Minor and due to its mild climate, Crete became a center of culture as early as Neolithic times. The first prehistoric settlements appeared in Crete around 6000 BC while in 2600 BC settlers who knew how to craft bronze arrived in Crete. It was then that the illustrious course of the Minoan Civilization began, reaching its peak around 1950 BC with the erection of the imposing palaces in Knossos, Faistos, and Malia.
Along the seafront is a broad pedestrian promenade. There are lots of beaches around Hersonissos, and those in the town itself get extraordinarily crowded in summer. You’ll fid the usual assortment of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and souvenir shops along the seafront. There’s a small, romantic port which houses yachts and fishing boats. 100-200m inland, the busy national road runs parallel to the sea, providing easy access to Iraklio
Elounda Village, once a picturesque fishing village in lovely Mirabello Bay and nowadays is an ideal destination for people who want a seaside holiday in a place which is neither too busy nor too isolated, having a spectacular coastline, shaded beaches, crystal clear seas, archeological interest. In Elounda you … will find small, pretty beaches, visit the island of Spinalonga, walk along and swim at the peninsula of Kolokitha (the word means “pumpkin”), and explore the many little villages (Mavrikiano, Plaka, Skisma, Epano Elounda) far from the sea, offering a window into times gone by. Elounda is not for those looking for a hectic, vibrant nightlife, nor for tElounda’s harbour, known as the Gulf of Korfos, is a natural, beautiful lagoon which is bordered by rugged peninsulas, and with the island of Spinalonga a good guard at the harbour entrance, it’s like a shelter within a shelter with crystal, turquoise waters that is enclosed within the wider blue waters of the Gulf of Mirabello.
An absolutely prime location where many occupiers – the Minoan, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman empires – have all left their mark on Elounda’s heritage. Elounda hosts two of the most important archeological sites of Cretan history, the relics of the ancient sunken city of Olous and the Venetian fortress on the island of Spinalonga.hose who prefer the isolated beaches of unspoilt southern Crete.
Spinalonga is a small island near Elounda in East Crete. Spinalonga is also known as the Leper Island, as that is where lepers from Crete and the rest of Greece were quarantined until 1957. Today thousands of tourists visit Spinalonga each summer by boat from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka, for a tour of its ruined buildings, which the Archaeological
The tiny island of Spinalonga is Perched in the north-east of Crete (within the Gulf of Elounda), it’s one little spot to explore some of the Venetian histories of the island. It’s a tiny little place that has had a pretty turbulent past, with the historic Arab raids, Venetian conquering, Ottoman occupation, all before being turned it into a leper colony. Thankfully, the island is much more peaceful today. Pop on one of the small boats that leave Elounda every 30 minutes, or so. It really is one of the best things to do in Crete. In the early 1980s, the only way to get to Spinalonga was by asking a fisherman to take you. Once you landed, you could expect to have the island pretty much to yourself. That’s all very different now. Tourist craft sail half-hourly from Elounda and the island receives up to 2,000 visitors a day in high season – which means that your chances of an atmospheric, contemplative ramble are much reduced. Tour groups shuffle through at a snail’s pace.
Having the distinction of being the southernmost town facing the African coast, Ierapetra enjoys the smoothest, almost rainless weather in Europe, with a temperature that rarely drops below 12 C all year long! No doubt, Ierapetra “the bridge of the Libyan sea” is the sunniest holiday resort in Europe.
The character and charm of the old warm neighborhood has been retained, whilst it has been given new life as a shopping and eating experience for the visitor. A tempting variety of shops, open-air cafes, bars, restaurants and traditional taverns, makes Ierapetra the ideal place to relax, enjoying shopping, eating, drinking or simply wondering around!
Ierapetra combines a brilliant past with a present of economic growth and extension. It has the largest population in the prefecture of Lassithi (East Crete) and the fourth largest in all Crete. In 1981 census 8,570 inhabitants were registered within the town, and the population of the greater Ierapetra community including the villages of Kendri, Gra Lygia, Vainia and Stavros was 10,732.
The visitor can take a leisurely walk in the vivid center of the town, along the coast, in the small municipal park near the Town Hall, or in the quiet picturesque narrow streets of “Kato Mera” – the old part of the town. Pick up a handmade gift from a colorful market stall and enjoy the exciting sounds of busy Cretan life!
Sitia is the main town of East Crete with about 10.000 inhabitants. The name Sitia is derived from the ancient city of Itia, birthplace of one of the seven wise-men of the antiquity, Mison. The small and pleasant sea side town is built in a semicircle on the western side of the Bay of Sitia, a typical, peaceful Mediterranean port in East Crete.
It is the capital of the Sitia Municipality and one of the most pleasant and attractive towns in Lassithi, sited 69 km east of Agios Nikolaos. The village of Sitia itself has a wonderful feel and climate, is spic, span and spotless and lovely to visit, it’s one of those few places on earth where nature and myth have been so beautifully mingled. Walking around the large harbour and promenade, along to the marina and further to the beach you will stroll along a wide promenade with lovely lanterns, lush palms, park benches and mosaics. The small and large gorges, the 300 strange stone shaped caves which evidence of human habitation before Minoans as well as the sandy beaches complete a perfect puzzle of beauty and culture.Sitia is also the birth place of the great poet Vintsenzos Kornaros, who wrote the Medieval poetry, “Erotokritos”.
The area in and around Sitia is also world famous for the miraculous olive oil cultivated in this area, honoured with several gold medals and international awards every year. For wine lovers, they have to try the local red and white, the wines produced by the local monastery of Toplou and the essential Cretan drink tsikoudia, with the label Varvaki.
East corner of the island you will find Makrigialos. The official spelling is Makry-Gialos, the anglicised spelling, however, often varies. Prior to this, Makrigialos was used, and this spelling remains popular.
This little known gem of a place is one of the quieter, less developed destinations in East Crete, with some of the best beaches on the island. The local economy is based much on agriculture as it is on tourism, and when the summer season ends, local business owners look to the olive harvest, which generates some of the finest and best olive oil in the world.In Greek it is spelled Μακρύ-Γιαλός, which translates literally as Long Shore.
The former “Dimos” (Municipality) of Makrigialos stretched from the south coast resort of Agia Fotia in the west to the monastery of Moni Kapsa in the east, and from the southern Mediterean Sea to the 1200 metre high (4,000 ft) mountains of Orno Oros in the north. The people of Makrigialos pride themselves not only on their Greek nationality, but more especially on their Cretan heritage.
Makrigialos village boasts an excellent selection of bars, restaurants, and tavernas, many fronting onto the beach. There is also a small fishing harbour – a pleasant place to stroll around, with its own patch of sandy beach and a cluster of waterfront bars, tavernas and restaurants.
Agia Galini is 61 km southeast of Rethymno and 68 km southwest of Heraklion, about midway along the south coast of Crete. Agia Galini, with its strange but apt name (meaning “Saint Serenity”, or “Holy Peace”), is a small, labyrinthine village built in the shape of an amphitheatre and surrounded by three mountains: Asideroto, Kedros and Psiloritis. It opens out into a pretty, picturesque harbour which is particularly busy in summer. The small old houses of the village seem squashed by the larger apartments springing up in the area and the hotels in Agia Galini, built in an effort to accommodate rising numbers of visitors. Agia Galini is a famous resort with a good beach, one of the first tourist resorts in Crete. The small harbour of Agia Galini, right in front of the village, provides a safe haven for the pleasure yachts and sailing boats that cluster here every summer. For lovers of the sea, Agia Galini, partly due to its name, is a favourite destination or a peaceful stop for some fish and supplies.
What makes Agia Galini unique is the amphitheatrical layout of its houses on the hill, offering a wonderful view of the harbour and the Bay of Messara. The view of the village from the harbour is equally lovely, especially at dusk and at night.The first impression one has on entering Agia Galini is that this is a very hospitable village, or tourist resort if you prefer. If you wander a little further along the narrow streets of Agia Galini you will see the old village houses, and if you chat awhile with one of the older inhabitants they will tell you a bit about the closed fishing community, the small village of about 500 people that existed here 40 years ago, when tourism was not yet part of local life and when Greek or foreign visitors to the island came here to see an untouched, authentic place on their way to Heraklion or Rethymno.
Plakias is located in southern Crete, about 30 minutes’ drive or 35 km south of Rethymnon. The houses of Plakias hug a large crescent-shaped bay, with most buildings near the small harbour. Plakias began to expand after 1970; before that, there were no more than 10 houses. Today there are many small hotels in Plakias, apartments and tavernas to meet the needs of the multitude of summer visitors. The beach of Plakias extends east from the village. It is one of the biggest beaches in Crete, offering a sense of space and comfort to suit every taste – the east end is mainly used by naturists. There are showers all along the beach and many parking spaces.
If it’s windy during your stay in Plakias and the northern wind whips you with flying sand, head west to Souda beach. It is more sheltered, with small hotels and a few tavernas. There are other lovely beaches near Plakias at Damnoni, Amoudi and Mikro Amoudi, which is also a naturists’ beach. A little further away are Lefkogia and Schinaria, the preferred beach of scuba divers. The beach of Preveli is also excellent. Preveli Palm Forest near Plakias. If you’re staying in Plakias, you’ll soon get to hear about the date palm forest and the lake at Preveli. This is one of the most famous sights in Crete and an area of outstanding natural beauty.
The way we think of paradise is different for everyone. A few years ago, when I visited Loutro for the first time, I felt that I had found my image of paradise. It’s not just the beauty or the serenity of this place. I think that everything in it fits in such a way, that the result is perfection.
The sea is always calm. There are no streets to it, out of it or in it. There is only one car, used to carry provisions from the dock to a hotel 20 meters away . There is a huge cliff right behind the village and the horizon is open only to the blue sea. There is a tiny beach (a couple of great beaches are near by) and every building is by the sea. Every moment you feel that you may stretch your hand and touch it. There is only one bar with its tables arranged by the sea. Past midnight, when all taverns are closed, sitting in this bar and enjoying the great music is a unique delight, especially if it’s full moon and the sea is painted in silver by the moonlight.
This is my image of paradise but I am well aware that there are many people who don’t like this place; they say that it makes them feel claustrophobia. It’s up to you to visit it and decide if you like it or not. Just remember that if it is the right place for you, then it will be very difficult for you to return home and adjust to the routine of everyday life. At least, this is what happens to me every time I go there.
Maleme is located in West Crete, 16 kilometres from Chania. Maleme is just 2 kilometres from the large seaside resort of Platanias and essentially forms part of the great tourist area extending from Chania in the east to Kolymbari in the west. Maleme offers visitors a lovely beach and ever-developing tourist infrastructure. People who want to be near the sea, with a wide variety of choices for excursions and fun, will get the most out of holidays in Maleme. Maleme is next to Platanias with its exciting nightlife, so you can take part in it any time you want. You can also avoid it altogether if it’s not what you’re looking for on your Cretan holiday. Maleme Beach is worth mentioning. It is wide, sandy and quite long. You can walk along the beach as far as the spot where entrance is prohibited due to the military installations. Most of the beach is not organised, and the only umbrellas and loungers are in front of the cafeterias and hotels. The westernmost end of Maleme Beach is almost empty, with just a few trees for those who feel the need for some shade.
Platanias is ideal for people who want a seaside holiday. One of the largest beaches in Crete, 7 kilometres long, stretches east and west of Platanias.Platanias is located in west Crete, just 11 kilometres west of Chania. Platanias is one of the most popular tourists resorts in Crete and is so close to Agia Marina that they have essentially merged into a single large resort. Of course, we are talking about the Platanias in Chania, not the Platanias in Rethymno. The two places are many kilometres distant but you might be confused by the same name. On leaving the National Road you find yourself at a large crossroads. Directly opposite is a sign pointing to Platanias and Agia Marina, and another pointing to Maleme and Kolymbari. Take the correct route and about 1 kilometre further on you will see the sign welcoming you to Platanias. Even if you miss the sign, the area is so built-up you will definitely know you’ve arrived.
Often cited as one of the world’s best beaches, Elafonisi Beach has to be seen to be believed. The beach is a nature reserve on the channel between the mainland and Elafonisi, a rectangular island famed for the pink sand on its beaches and dunes. The water between the mainland and the island is clear, shallow and lagoon-like, and often you can pass from one to the other on sand bars without getting your feet wet. There’s an enormous natural pool where you can paddle or lie back and float in shimmering water no more than ankle or knee deep. Add to this the white sand, turquoise water, azure sky and views to Crete’s mountainous southwest coast and you’ve got a small patch of paradise.If you come to Crete on holiday, Elafonissi is a name you are sure to hear.
Elafonissi is a tiny island with white sand, separated from the shore by a lagoon no more than a metre deep. Elafonissi means “deer island”, but you won’t see any deer on the island or in the surrounding area. The island is 75 kilometres from Hania and it will take you about an hour and a half to get here. On the way you will see Chrissoskalitissa (or Chrysoskalitissa) Monastery, visible from afar as it is a dazzling white and built on a great rock. Climb up to pay your respects at this historic monastery and look for the golden step which, according to legend, only the truly devout can see. Elafonissi is 5 kilometres from Chrissoskalitissa. On arriving you will see a large bare expanse used as a car park, a few dusty juniper trees and the wonderful colours of the lagoon. The island is less than 200 metres from the beach and you can easily walk there through the warm, shallow water of the lagoon. On reaching the island you will discover lots of tiny beaches on its south coast. The sand of Elafonissi is white, but in many places it is pinkish due to the thousands of broken seashells it contains. The limpid, blue-green waters will remind you of an exotic paradise.
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