Beach guide of the best Cretan beaches

The beaches of  Crete are strung like washing along the north and south coasts with a mighty mountain range between. The northern beaches are the more popular, served by a major highway that runs the length of Crete.

All-inclusive hotels and neon-lit tavernas tend to cluster around the city of Chania but elsewhere resorts are small and comfortable with a low key family holiday air.

The far west beaches are remote and spectacular while those over the mountains to the south are quiet and peaceful.

Crete is a place with a unique landscape, unsurpassed culture, special people, this is the island of Crete, which is famous for its beauties, but also for its uniquely beautiful beaches. The 60 beaches of Crete that make it a paradise on Earth, exotic, with an evocative scenery

Crete beach overview

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.

Most beautiful Beaches

Georgioupolis beach

georgioupolis beach

The beach of Georgioupolis is located about 37 kilometers east of the city of Chania, in the northwestern part of the island. It is a beautiful golden sand beach of striking beauty, characterized by a splendid 9 kilometer long coastline.

The sea that bathes the beach is very beautiful, blue and turquoise, often rough and a little cloudy due to the wind that affects this coastal stretch.
In general, the beach is well organized and equipped, it is full of beach bars, fish taverns and offers the possibility of practicing water sports.

In addition, the nearby picturesque fishing port of Georgioupolis attracts many tourists every summer. There are numerous types of accommodation nearby and the beach is well served by public transport. Close to the beach is also Lake Kournas which is great for a bike ride from the beach.

Panormos beach

panormos beachPanormos, is an extremely attractive village on the north coast of Crete about 21 kilometres east of Rethymno that manages to blend Cretan character with low-key tourism.

A trio of beaches are all firm sand – a small harbour beach; the popular ‘middle beach’ with a taverna; and the hotel beach to the west. All three are protected by stone breakwaters making swimming safe even when there’s a strong northerly wind.

The beaches are gently sloping and ideal for children. There’s a dive centre on the western beach and some low key watersports. If you prefer more seclusion head west past the Marine Grecotel for a sprinkling of pebble coves.

A dozen or so tavernas, a few pleasant bars, two decent mini-markets, a bakery, newsagents and a welcome absence of tacky souvenir shops, makes for an extremely pleasant small resort with lots of character.

There’s regular bus services to Rethymno and Iraklion and ‘little road train’ from Panormos offers a choice of two morning trips way way inland into the Cretan countryside.

Kalyves beach

Kalyves beachThe resort village of Kalyves, also spelt Kalives, has scruffy main street that runs parallel to the coast lined with crumbling, unkempt buildings flanked by more modern apartments.

The beach at Kalives however is very fine. It sweeps around the medium-sized bay with a small harbour at one end and the twee Kalives Beach Hotel, with its kitsch fake windmill, at the other.

The sands are deep and soft and backed by trees and benches that line the narrow road behind which are good tavernas and shops.

The sand at Kalives slopes steeply to the sea in places and currents can be strong so children must be watched. But this is still a very good family beach.

Almyrida beach

almyridaThe growing resort of Almyrida is just around the headland from the slightly more popular Kalives. A sandy beach curves around in a wide crescent from a small breakwater which serves as a simple harbour.

Almyrida is a pleasant family beach resort, within striking distance of Chania, with a bakery, mini-market, car rental and a string of tavernas along the shore.

The fine, golden sand shelves gently at both ends but it’s stony underfoot in the middle. A line of tamarisks behind the beach provides some natural shade.

A growing number of apartments, and more recently a small hotel, threaten the resort’s tranquillity but this is still an attractive spot.

Several coves can be found along the cliff path to Kalives and there are good walks in the area with views over the bay of Souda.

Inland from Almyrida lie the hill villages of Kokkino Horio and Plaka, notable both for their location filming in the movie Zorba the Greek and for the fine tavernas set in shady tree-lined squares.

Agia Marina beach

agia-marinaAgia Marina is the first big popular beach west of Chania, a long coastal ribbon of ugly low-rise resort development behind the long stretches of flat sand.

It sits on a very busy coast road where tavernas and bars tangle with gift shops and supermarkets to tout for the passing tourist trade

The beach is wide, flat and exposed, with all the usual facilities expected of a heavyweight beach resort with loads of sunbeds and watersports galore.

The busy centre is thick with restaurants and gift shops aimed at cheap souvenir hunters. At dusk an array of nightspots, bars and clubs open making this, along with Platanias, one of the longest beach bar strips on Crete.

Just offshore is the islet of Agi Theodori, now a nature reserve for the rare kri-kri Cretan mountain goat. Legend has it that the island was once a whale that tried to swallow Crete but was turned to stone.

Platanias beach

platanias beachPlatanias beach 10 km west of the city of Chania The beautiful sandy beach of Platanias and its turquoise waters make it one of the busiest resorts in the west of the city of Chania.

The beach stretches for kilometers around the homonymous village.

The visitor has the good fortune to see a charming setting with the island of Agios Theodoros in the east and the Rodopi peninsula in the west.

In some parts of the beach they are very organized and sunbeds and umbrellas are available, but for the most part the beach of Platanias is unexploited.

Gerani beach

gerani beachThe beach resort at Gerani or Kato Gerani is much less developed than its busy neighbour, Platanias, although there are a number of big hotels on this stretch.

Gerani extends from the Platanias bridge to the village of Pirgos Psilonerou and it’s not only a lot quieter than its neighbour it also lacks any atmosphere .

But then all the night-life offerings of Platanias are just a short walk away and there are regular buses to Chania.

Gerani has a long pebble and sand beach with plenty of facilities – sunbeds , showers, watersports and so on.

The nearby inland hamlets at Pano Gerani, Modi, Loutraki and Manoliopoulo are good examples of traditional Cretan villages.

Maleme beach

malemeThe main road runs on from Platanias to Maleme in a virtually unbroken chain of hotels, apartments, tavernas and snack bars that makes it difficult to judge when one resort starts and another ends.

Maleme is basically the rough end of Platanias beach with banks of stone and shingle running down to an unkempt shoreline with a flat plain behind.

Near the shore is an indifferent shelf of shingle and sand, quite exposed and with little shade. Swathes of scrub cover barren strip between beach and hills that rise up behind and where a German war cemetery overlooks the long, straight shoreline.

Holidays here are mostly hotel pool and bar-based with lots of sports facilities and all-inclusive hotel entertainment. There are several tavernas in the village and a couple of bars at the western end.


Kolymbari beachThis small fishing port of Kolymbari lies at the base of the Rodopou peninsula and is relatively free of mass tourism, although a number of tour operators now promote the resort.

A long pebble beach has been artificially improved with lorry loads of sand, and a pleasant seafront promenade is lined with tavernas, shops and waterfront cafes.

It has a small and pretty harbour, recently extended and there are a growing number of hotels in the village as well as new apartment units built closer to the beach.

The fortified 13th century monastery of Monastery of Panaghia Odigitria, better known as Moni Gonias, is often visited. The present buildings date from 1618-1634 and are in still . It has a good collection of Byzantine icons and other religious relics.

There are boat trips to see ruins of the ancient town Dyktinna, the island of Gramvousa and the beach at Balos.

A mountain road leads up the Rodopos peninsula where the village of Afrata is the gateway to the wild mountainous area. Hikers often head out from here. Tracks north are for four-wheel drives.

Gramvousa Balos beach

balos beach

The famous and magnificent Balos lagoon, one of the must-see places in Crete, is located 45 kilometers west of the city of Hania and 17 kilometers northwest of the village of Kissamos, in the westernmost part of the island.

Balos is a splendid white sand beach, pristine and quiet, bathed by a beautiful turquoise and crystalline sea.  Close to the beach there is a small tavern, although it is advisable to bring water and food with you, especially if you reach it by car since the last stretch, about one hour, to be done on foot. Near the beach of Balos there is a suggestive ancient church that you can go and visit.

Located between Cape Gramvousa and the small Cape Tigani, Balos offers a Caribbean sea, wild nature and beaches of fine white sand giving life to a fascinating and scenographic spectacle. The picturesque landscape with an exotic flavor captivates thousands of people every year who reach the lagoon above all thanks to the ferries that leave from the port of Kissamos.

Balos has fine white sand and in some places the sand takes on a pinkish color. The sea is warm and calm and the seabed is very shallow – it does not exceed one meter for a long time – ideal for children. A few tens of meters from the coast, beyond the rocks, the water becomes deeper and colder and the seabed is suitable for snorkelers.

The Balos lagoon is also a protected area where sea hawks and cormorants nest and where you can meet, albeit very rarely, the monk seal and the Caretta caretta sea turtle. Balos is also accessible by car via a dirt road that runs for 10 kilometers along Cape Gramvousa.

Falasarna beach

falasarnaTo the west of Kastelli lies some of the finest, coastline in Crete. Tracks down from the main road to Falasarna certainly provide wonderful views of wrinkled rocks, clear blue sea, white sand.

Views can be spoilt however by row upon row of green plastic greenhouses, this being tomato and cucumber growing country.

There are several wide sandy coves here the main Falasarna beach is at northern end of the bay, a long stretch of clean sand with rocks and rock pools to add interest.

On cliffs above are some basic tavernas and a smattering of apartments. Wooden steps lead down to the beach where the shallow sea and large rock pools are ideal for children.

The northern end of the beach is quieter, away from the tavernas with scrub covered dunes and sheltering cliffs behind.

There are some archaeological ruins nearby but they are widely scattered and difficult to find.

Elafonisi beach

elafonisiThe tiny uninhabited islet of Elafonisis looks like a desert island paradise but the beauty generates a relentless influx of daily coaches and visiting boats.

Visitors can wade out to the islet along a shallow reef through a sun-warmed waters that rarely reach more than a metre in depth. It’s a magical place – if you can avoid the crowds.

The beach is flat white sand and the shallow waters take on a pink hue from the protected coral reefs that grow here. The coast is littered with coves, bays and rock pools.

A couple of small beach cantinas open in the summer and a walk north will reveal secluded coves of naturist sunbathers.

The area is rich in rare plants and animals, including frogs, lizards and snakes. The beach is also a breeding ground for sea turtles and the last European stop for birds migrating to Africa.

Those visiting by road will pass through the impressive Topolia Gorge and the neighbouring mountain villages of Topolia, Elos, Kefali and Vathi – all worth an extended stop.


paleochora beachThe resort at Paleochora lies on the south coast of Crete about 73km from Chania with a harbour on one side, a long, sandy beach on the other and ancient Venetian ramparts towering above.

Busy rather than crowded, with taverna tables spilling out into the streets, Paleochora has a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere.

The Venetian fortress that sits on the tip of the small peninsula was destroyed by pirates in 1539 but subsequently restored and is now open to the public.

West of the fort is a big sandy beach with plenty of sunbeds and stands of tamarisk at the back for natural shade. Further west it gets quieter with sheltered coves further along the coast.

To the east of the port is a small beach of pebble and stone with a clutch of tavernas and cafes around the small port. Boats leave here for Gavdos island, the most southern part of Europe.

Paleochora is one of the few Greek resorts that remain open to tourists all through the winter.


sougia beachThe beach at Sougia appears to the scoured out of sheer cliffs with a long stretch of steeply banked pebble that dips sharply into the sea.

Sougia beach is backed by cliffs and a clutch of ugly cement buildings, relieved somewhat by a delightful church that has Byzantine mosaics dating from the 6th century.

Sougia derives from the Greek word for ‘pig’, so named for the pigs that were once reared in the woods behind and not a crude reference to the naturists who favour this remote spot.

Arrivals by road will pass through the attractive mountain villages of Agriles and Moni and numbers on the beach are supplemented by daily caiques sailing from from Paleochora.

A small tavernas supplies the basics but those who prefer it even quieter can head for Lassos along the cliff path to the west, a renowned healing centre in ancient times but now just the relics of bathhouses built over mineral springs.

Agia Roumeli

agia-roumeli-beachAgia Roumeli is the gateway port for walkers heading in and out of the hugely popular Samaria Gorge which runs north into Lefka Ori and up to the Omalos Plain.

It’s not much more than a staging post for tired walkers as they trickle out of the gorge or the disembarkation point for those heading into the gorge for the heavily advertised shorter walking trips.

cafes and tavernas have sprung up to service the passing traffic and there are plenty of rooms available .

Agia Roumeli has along, thin strip of pebble and shingle that drops very steeply into the sea. Sunbed umbrellas offer the only shade at this very exposed spot.

Krios beach

krios-beachKrios Beach is located east of Cape Krios near Paleochora. One kilometer long, it is divided into 3 small gulfs of fine gravel and coarse sand.

Krios beach is located along the southern coast of the province of Hania near the village of Paleochora, from which it is only 10 kilometers away, and 90 kilometers from the main city of the prefecture.

This beautiful secluded beach is located east of Cape Krios and is one kilometer long despite being divided into 3 small gulfs, all of fine gravel and coarse sand.

Krios beach is located along the European path E4 which connects Paleochora to the Elafonisi lagoon and is protected by rocks. The area is ideal for snorkeling. However, the bay is not well organized and has a bar. The westernmost beach of Krios is the most isolated.

Loutro beach

loutroLittle more than a stopping place for passing boats the port at Loutro has no road access and all visitors arrive on daily boats.

Perched in a horseshoe bay and overshadowed by looming cliffs. Loutro suffers from the lack of a decent beach – it is just a small and exposed strip of pebble and shingle west of the harbour.

Touted as the ideal out-of-the-way resort Loutro can get rather crowded . A bank of tavernas line the shore near the harbour ready to net any passing trade.

Glyka Nera

glyka-nera-beachAbout 3-4km west of Chora Sfakia is the remote and beautiful beach of Glyka Nera, also known as Sweetwater or Freshwater. It is a beach of white pebbles with very clear and fresh water that bubbles out of the ground from nearby springs.

A small beach cantina opens in the summer with basic food and drink and there are sunbeds and umbrellas for protection but nothing in the way of natural shade.

The beach is popular with naturists and most arrive on boats that advertise the daily trip to ‘Sweetwater’. There is a coastal footpath from Chora Sfakia that takes 30-40 minutes to walk and a much more difficult path from Loutro, in the west, that takes about 60 minutes. Boats leave Chora Sfakia at about 10am and return for pick-ups at about 4.30pm.

Frangokastello beach

fragokastelo-beachA wide flat plain lies beneath the mountains from Chora Sfakia to Plakias. Behind a long flat beach stands the castle of Frangokastello, a severe rectangle of brown and orange stone.

Imposing from the outside, the castle is little more than a shell inside and a full tour takes no more than a few minutes.

The beach lies in front of and beneath the castle, a fine stretch of gently shelving white sand with a few rocky outcrops at one end and a sheltered boat bay at the other. The sea here stays very shallow for a good 100 metres out.

A few sunbeds are scattered about around a beach taverna beneath the castle and there is plenty of natural shade from stands of tamarisks than run the length of Frangokastello beach.

Frangokastello makes for a tranquil spot, with the added bonus of a towering backdrop of blue grey mountains.


plakias beachThe former fishing village at Plakias, 92km from Chania and 36km from Rethymnon, has undergone a bit of a tourist boom with apartments scattered over the wide coastal plain.

Despite the influx, the resort remains low key with some restaurants and bars, a few shops and, more recently, a couple of discos.

Plakias is set in a large bay with a 1km beach of sand and pebble backed by shoreline tavernas. The beach is mainly pebble near the resort but gets much sandier as it stretches east and there are showers and sunbeds.

To the east are beaches at Paligremos and at Damnoni, the latter now a popular tourist resort in its own right. About 2km to the west is another small sandy beach called Souda, noted for its palm trees and a small cove at Gavdoliman.

Preveli beach

preveliIt’s picture postcard stuff at the beach of Preveli where a spectacular lagoon lies between the sea and a steep gorge and a long spit of shingle provides room for sun loungers.

Access to Preveli beach is difficult and not suitable for those with mobility problems. Steep steps drop from the car park on the cliff directly above and it’s a long trek down the narrow gorge to the seashore. Many arrive at Preveli beach by boat.

The beach sand here is sharp but it shelves gently into the sea. A small cantina offers the basics although the popularity of the beach and the captive audience do push up the prices.

Unfortunately, a fire in 2010 destroyed many of the rare Cretan palm trees that once populated the gorge but the fire-ravaged palms are now making a good recovery.

Dirt tracks trace back around the lagoon – ideal for swimming and boating – and lead up the steep gorge to Preveli Monastery.

Agia Galini

agia-galini-beachA picturesque setting and tight village layout make Agia Gallini, 114km from Chania and 54km from Rethymnon, the pick of the popular package holiday companies.

The taverna-lined harbour provides focus while the narrow streets that climb up the hill are thick with cafes and souvenir shops. Although obviously tourist-centred, Agia Galini has not sacrificed all of its charm. However the predominance of English signs in a Greek resort can be depressing.

It is a long walk to the beaches which lie around the headland to the east. The first beach is small and, although very pleasant, is often crammed to capacity. There is a longer stretch of coarse sand beyond it to the east.

Further east still is a coastal plain hidden beneath acres of polythene greenhouses and a concrete sprawl of agricultural buildings given over to the semi-industrial growing of tomatoes and cucumbers.