Greek Guide

Crete Beaches Greece Hersonissos Malia Suggested Itineraries Crete

Crete Beaches Greece Hersonissos, Malia, Matala, Plakias
Suggested Itineraries

Crete's coastline is awash with wonderful beaches and you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding which one to head for. There are beaches enough here to satisfy the package holiday hordes, Robinson Crusoe types, young backpackers and even spawning sea turtles. The busiest beaches offer all kinds of watersports and tourist facilities but you'll need to take your own water, snacks and sunshade to the more inaccessible coves.

The most developed beach resorts are on the north coast to the east of Iraklio and west of Hania. The twin resorts of Hersonissos and Malia are bursting at the seams with hotels, amusement arcades, watersports and leisure activities. Top attractions include two big water parks Aqua Splash and Star Beach which together provide endless hours of family entertainment. There are enough chutes, tubes, white knuckle slides and river rides to keep the kids happy for days on end.

Beachfront entertainment along this stretch of coastline includes everything from bungee jumping to bumper cars. The Aqua World aquarium in Hersonissos is another favourite visitor attraction.

The Kolokytha Peninsula, east of Malia, offers rather different attractions in the form of a sunken city and the island of Spinalonga which was used to isolate lepers until the 1950s. If you snorkel near the causeway which joins the southern end of the peninsula to the mainland you'll be able to see the outlines of buildings and columns from the ancient city of Olous. And if you take a boat ride out to Spinalonga you'll pass the islet of Ayioi Pantes home to about 200 curly horned wild Cretan goats which are a protected species living only here and in the Samaria Gorge.

The Caribbean style beach at Vai, in the eastern corner of the island, is on every tour operator's list of "must do" day excursions. The beach boasts Europe's only indigenous palm forest and is a wonderful spot for a day's swimming and sun soaking despite hordes of day trippers in July and August. You'll find quieter beaches over the headlands to the north and south.

Matala is the best known beach on the south coast famous for its sandstone cliffs peppered with caves which were a notorious hippy haunt in the 1960s attracting the likes of Joni Mitchell and a motley selection of "psychedelic baby" types. The caves were originally cut as Roman tombs in the 1 st century AD and were later occupied by Cretan shepherds and used by the Germans in WW2 to store supplies. Avoid the crowds on the main beach by heading to the superb Red Beach (so called because of its clay coloured sand) about 20 minutes walk across a rocky promontory.

Further west along the south coast you'll come to the lovely sandy beach of Plakias, with fine sand, big waves and a stunning mountain backdrop. This once tranquil fishing village is still relatively underdeveloped and is a popular haven for backpackers due to the presence of some cheap and cheerful rooms to rent and absence of package industry tourism.

Nearby Preveli Beach is one of the most picturesque of all the islands beaches fringed by oleander bushes and date palms irrigated by the river which traverses the beach en route to the Libyan Sea.

But one of the loveliest beaches of all is to be found in the far south west corner of Crete at Elafonisi where eager day trippers wade out to a tiny islet which beckons irresistibly from across a glorious turquoise lagoon.