topleft header beacheader
 

 

 

RESORTS & BEACHES

chaniaharbour

 

CHANIA

The city beach of CHANIA is a 10minute walk west of the harbour, and has a sheltered beach with clean sand. It is well served with cafes and tavernas, and unsurprisingly gets very crowded. Walking about 15 minutes further west will bring you to a longer sandy beach at KRISSI AKTI, less crowded and with less development, the beach slopes gently into the sea, making it ideal for children.
There is a sandy beach to the east of the harbour,  but this suffers from pollution, and is a  much less attractive proposition than the west side.

WEST OF CHANIA

Carrying on west away from CHANIA brings you to AGIOI APOSTOLI which doesn't get very crowded and has a good long sandy beach, spoilt only by fairly large breakers. The development is a little more low key, but there are cafes and tavernas. Further west still is KALAMAKI  with a gently sloping sandy beach and without the waves of AGIOI APOSTOLI. It is well served with cafes and tavernas and has a wind surfing facility.
The beach comes to an end at KALAMAKI and reappears after a small headland at STALOS, and then is continuous all the way up until MALEME.
From STALOS, west along the coast to MALEME a string of once independent villages have become expanded into one long tourist development. It is however a much more attractive proposition than this description may make it sound. The development is fairly low key, with planning restrictions preventing high rise building. A favourite with young families and middle aged couples, this is a very long way from resorts such as Benidorm and its ilk. There are jet skis, wind surfing, discos and tavernas, all the other facilities associated with a major resort, but it remains relatively quiet and peaceful.
The villages from STALOS westward are AGIA MARINA, PLATANIAS, GERANI, MALEME.
PLATANIAS is the most developed and things taper out slowly from either side of it. There is a charming old quarter here, high up on a steep cliff overlooking the sea, with a number of restaurants clinging to the cliff face, offering views of the sun setting over the RHODOPOU peninsula.
At the western end of MALEME the beach peters out a little as it rounds a small headland. It is blocked by barbed wire at this point as this is the boundary of a restricted military zone. This area is in fact the airfield that the Germans captured, and was so instrumental to their success in the Battle of Crete. Just before the airfield on the opposite side of the road is the German war cemetery, sighted on what was designated at the time of the battle, Hill 107.
After the headland the beach becomes accessible again at TAVRONITIS. The tavronitisbeach here is shingle and pebble, which doubtless accounts for an otherwise very pleasant spot never getting particularly busy. TAVRONITIS itself is still a working agricultural centre, and whilst it does have tourist facilities it is much less developed than the resorts to the east of it.
The next town along is KOLIMBARI, quite a pretty little place with an old harbour and a recent large new EU financed marina that has yet to become popular. Again the beach here is shingle and pebble, and rarely gets crowded. KOLIMBARI lies at the base of the RHODOPOU PENINSULA and during the tourist season daily boat trips leave here for DIKTYNNA on the top of the peninsula on the east side.
From KOLIMBARI you can drive up the peninsula as far as AFRATA. The road is narrow and twisty but offers some pleasant scenery. Driving beyond here requires a four wheel drive vehicle. AFRATA itself, though having a hotel and restaurant, is a tiny sheltered sandy cove in the undeveloped and unspoilt  peninsula.
To the west of the peninsula is KASTELLI KISSAMOS a large town with a ferry service to the Pelloponese. Whilst having a sandy beach, and plenty of accommodation and restaurants and tavernas, this is very much a working town that seems fairly oblivious to tourism.



EAST OF CHANIA

almeridabeach


Travelling east from CHANIA the first place you come to is SOUDA, a port and naval base. It is a busy working town with little in the way of beaches. You will doubtless notice the signs on military establishments forbidding photography. Be warned that this is taken very seriously, as elsewhere in Greece.
The first resort and significant beach to the east of CHANIA is KALIVES. Still a working agricultural market town, KALIVES has a lot of low rise, low key development largely given over to the package holiday industry. It has a long sandy beach and all the usual tourist amenities, and even boasts an internet cafe.
Next stop east is ALMERIDA, a pretty fishing village now largely given over to tourism, but still retaining an intimate charm, thanks to very low key development. The sheltered bay has a gently sloping, sandy beach which is ideal for small children.
All the usual facilities are on hand at the side of the beach, and a windsurfing facility takes advantage of the offshore breeze. On the hill overlooking ALMERIDA is the village of PLAKA. A beautiful little hamlet with a sleepy village square hosting a couple of restaurants and tavernas, that seems frozen in its own time.
 PLAKA along with neighbouring KOKKINO CHORIO was featured in the film Zorba the Greek, starring Anthony Quinn. There has been substantial development of second homes in PLAKA and surrounding areas in recent years, though this seems to have been done with some sympathy, and PLAKA remains a working village with its soul largely intact. Many people visiting ALMERIDA choose to stay in PLAKA  as it offers a peaceful away from it all feel, with a taste of village life, and has stunning views over SOUDA BAY, particularly at sunset.
After ALMERIDA the beach disappears as the coast rounds the Cape of Drapanos, with the exception of a few small coves. The next beach is at GEORGIOUPOLIS a beautiful old town with a working fishing harbour, situated by the estuary of the river Almiros. Now a well established resort with water sports, boat trips, and the usual tourist amenities, it still manages to retain a certain charm and has a fine long sandy beach. The beach to the west of the river offering better protection from the wind. There are dangerous currents offshore, so you are advised not venture too far out and heed any warning signs posted. The area is a nesting ground for loggerhead turtles.




THE AKROTIRI PENINSULA

stavros


Driving out to the AKROTIRI PENINSULA east from CHANIA the first place of note is the Venizelos' Graves. As the name suggests this is the site of the graves of Eleftherios Venizelos, the great Cretan Statesman who orchestrated union with Greece, and his son Sophocles. The graves are set in a small park which offers magnificent panoramic views of the city of CHANIA, and the coast beyond.
Travelling clockwise round the coast brings you to the sandy beach of KALATHAS, a small but pleasant spot with bar and restaurant facilities. Popular with officers from the nearby NATO base.
Next along the coast is TERSANAS a small sandy cove with a couple of tavernas. The beach has child friendly shallow waters.
Further north is STAVROS. The village is strangely scattered about a wide area, but the beach area is very pretty and well appointed. The water is shallow and sheltered and is set against a back drop of a sharply rising, pointed mountain that featured fairly significantly in the film Zorba the Greek.
As the coast rounds the Cape of Tripiti the beach disappears, not reappearing again until MARATHI on the south east corner, and neighbouring LOUTRAKI. Both these sandy coves were favourites with the locals, and to some degree still are, but they are slowly turning into resorts. Which is regrettably to their detriment.
The last place of note round the peninsula is the Allied War Cemetery. Quite a pretty place with good views of Souda Bay. There is a beach here, though it may not be the most appropriate place to swim.  

britwarcemetery

THE WEST COAST


FALASSARNA at the north end of the west coast has a beautiful long sandy beach that is becoming increasingly popular, though it never really gets crowded. If there is a westerly wind blowing it can get a bit unpleasant, and the recent innovation of agricultural plastic greenhouses do little for  the scenery. The town is well served with the usual tourist infrastructure.
Ancient Falassarna lies some 300 mts. inland of the beach, and was built before volcanic activity tilted the whole island of Crete, leaving the old harbour 6mts. above sea level. The old high watermark is still visible on the coastal cliffs
Further south is SFINARI, a quiet place with a pebble beach, somewhat exposed to winds. It does have a hotel , restaurant, and sunbeds.
Further south still is ELAFONISOS, a truly beautiful place, or at least it was before it became officially "discovered" by mass tourism. People are now shipped in by tour buses, which has obvious detractions, but can't deny its natural beauty. There is an ambience of tropical lagoon with a small palm forest and gently sloping pink tinged sand. The name ELAFONISOS actually refers to the small offshore island that you can wade out to across a shallow sandbar. On the far side of the island is another beach. There is the usual tourist infrastructure here, though for the moment it seems to be fairly low key.
The tourist buses usually depart around 4:00 pm, which restores a more peaceful ambience, and if you have the time and inclination to stay longer, sunsets here are quite spectacular.

 


THE SOUTH COAST


The mountains of Crete's interior drop sharply down to the sea on the south coast, not leaving much in the way of flat land at their base. As a result it is much less populated than the north. Most of the villages along the coast are geared to tourism, but in a quieter more laid back way than in the north. PALEOCHORA is the closest thing to a resort on the south west coast, and this is little more than a large village with tourist facilities. To many people though this relative isolation is a major attraction.
 If you drive down from the north you will find the roads zig zag from hairpin bend to hairpin bend up and down the mountains and can be a little daunting. You will also find journey times will be much longer than the distance on the map suggests. The scenery along the way should be ample compensation though, and there are plenty of villages en route to stop for refreshment. loutro1The best road to the south goes from TAVRONITIS to PALEOCHORA. It may be worth starting with this to see if you have an appetite for the more demanding routes. Unlike the north coast, the towns and villages on the south coast are not so well inter-connected by road. Most road maps look like they are only showing the major routes and ignoring minor roads, but generally they usually show them all. The villages of LOUTRO and AGIA ROUMELI for example are only accessible by boat or on foot.
PALEOCHORA, a village on the way to becoming a town is built on a promontory extending out into the Libyan sea. There is a pebble beach to the east, and a long sandy beach to the west. The yacht harbour on the southern tip is overlooked by a the ruins of a Venetian castle, destroyed by the pirate Barbarossa on 1539.
Travelling east brings you to SOUGIA, smaller than PALEOCHORA, but also endeavouring to become a resort. Taxi boats leave from the harbour to neighbouring beaches, whilst the village itself has a long pebble beach. The east chorasfakionend of the bay known locally as the Bay of Pigs is a popular naturist spot. It's unclear as to whether these two facts are connected. SOUGIA is the last place accessible by road from here eastward until you get to HORA SFAKION. The only way to reach them is by boat or on foot. If it is your intention to walk then please research the implications of this and go prepared. Walking in Crete is generally hard going and without shade.
AYIA ROUMELI lies in a small bay with a pebble beach at the lower end of the Samaria Gorge. The village consists largely of tavernas, restaurants and lodging houses, there to serve the large volume of walkers who pass through the gorge. It is possible to walk the gorge both ways, but as this is the end of the downhill route it is unsurprisingly the most popular exit. Though a very welcome sight at the end of the walk there is little else to commend it, as any charm it might have had is lost due to the amount of people passing through. Though having said that they don't start arriving until around noon.
Further east still is MARMARA, again at the end of a gorge, this time the Aradhena Gorge. Much less popular than the "must do" Samaria Gorge, but the small sandy cove, surrounded by rocks and caves can sometimes get a little overcrowded. It has of course the ubiquitous taverna that also provides sun beds and umbrellas.
Round the next headland in the Bay of Finikas are respectively LIKKOS and then FINIX, both having rocky beaches, and of course tavernas.
LOUTRO is the next easterly place. Regarded by many as one of the prettiest spots in Crete  and embodying all that a Cretan holiday is about. It could equally be described as one of the most boring spots on the island. Suffice to say you're a long way from the nearest disco and internet cafe, and whether you think this a good thing or a bad thing is purely subjective.
The waterfront has half a dozen tavernas, and whilst the sheltered bay offers good swimming the pebble beach here is very small.
LOUTRO lies 8km. west of HORA SFAKION, and roughly in the middle is SWEETWATER BEACH. Taking its name from fresh water springs that gush from the mountainside. Or the alternative version is that if you dig a hole on the beach, fresh water will rise up. If neither of these water sources appeal there is as ever a small taverna.
With its sandy beach, it is an undeniably beautiful spot, and a long time favourite haunt of naturists. The cliffs here are a bit unstable, so beware of falling rocks immediately underneath and don't attempt to climb them unless you are feeling especially suicidal.
HORA SFAKION marks a return to car accessibility. A row of restaurants line the promenade of the sleepy harbour where the taxi boats are tied up. The ferry docks on the opposite side (eastern side) to the taxi boats and uses a concrete slipway to load and unload. This causes some confusion amongst passengers, though evidently not enough to warrant the ferry company erecting a sign to this effect. With its ferry dock and coach park a large part of the raison d'etre of HORA SFAKION these days is as a staging post to and from the Samaria Gorge. There are a couple of small beaches here, and just to the west is the Vritomartis hotel and naturist club, the only official naturist beach in Crete.
Fourteen kilometres east of HORA SFAKION is FRANGOKASTELLO with a fine large sandy beach sloping gently into the sea.frangocastello The castle, from which the name is derived, dominates the view from some distance around. Now little more than a shell, it was built in 1371 to deter pirates, but was also used throughout the Venetian and Turkish occupations.
In 1828 the Greek patriot Hadzimihali Daliani made a stand at the castle in an ill fated attempt to start a war of independence, and he and his forces were promptly massacred by the Turks. It is said that on the 17th. May, the day of the massacre, the ghosts of Daliani and his rebels can be seen in the dawn mists. I regret I am unable to corroborate this as dawn is not a feature of my alarm clock.
Midway between FRANGOKASTELLO and PLAKIAS is the village of RODOKINO just off the coast road. There are two pebble beaches here, one of which caters to naturists.
Moving further west into the prefecture of Rethymnon brings you to PLAKIAS, an established lively resort, albeit on a small scale, with a good long sandy beach and further beaches around the bay.
Next along is PREVELI famous for its monastery, that over the years has played a significant role in the Cretan resistance, and sheltered and assisted the evacuation of allied troops after the battle of Crete. Close to the monastery is PALM BEACH, accessible by either walking down some steep steps from the monastery car park, or by boat from PLAKIAS or AGIA GALINA. If you opt for the steps bear in mind that the uphill return will take about 30 minutes. PALM BEACH is a stunningly beautiful place with a shallow sandy beach surrounded as you would expect by palm trees, and pretty much all you could wish for in a beach were it not sadly, far too overcrowded and over commercialised.