The beaches of Crete rank as some of the best in Greece. Here’s a photo tour of a handful that I loved, unique places worth visiting again.
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This post has been updated in April 2020
Beaches of Crete: A Photo Tour with Tips
One of Greece’s most renowned beaches, the heavenly Balos Lagoon is one of the top must-see beaches of Crete. Located on the northwestern corner of Chania overlooking the islet of Gramvousa. There are two ways to reach the Balos Lagoon, either by a car which requires a hike to reach the beach or by boat which leaves daily from Kissamos.
Tips for Balos Lagoon, Crete:
- Balos is located approximately 15 kilometres from Kissamos.
- The road which leads towards the beach is a dirt road and most car rental companies don’t allow you to take your car there.
- We visited Balos Lagoon early May and had specifically asked for Jeeps to visit Balos. We started our journey from Chania at 07:30 in the morning. When we reached Balos there were not too many people, almost none but later as we were going to leave at around 10:30 people started coming and there were not too many parking spots left.
- You will find goats trying to find shade next to the cars parked in the parking lot.
- Bring water as this is an unorganised beach although there are sun beds and umbrellas available for rent.
- Balos Lagoon is an important natural habitat, the rare flora and fauna found here is protected as part of the Natura 200 network.
Recommended Tours to Balos Lagoon:
Out of all of the beaches of Crete mentioned to me over the years, Elafonissi stuck out the most. Many friends claimed how wonderful and perfect it was for them. It lived up to very high expectations.
The beach is full of white and pink sand, so many shades of turquoise sea and shallow warm bay waters. It was a lagoon like bay where spent some time just walking about with our feet in the water.
The unique pink color comes from tiny pink seashells.
Tips for Elafonissi beach, Crete:
- Elafonissi is 75 kilometers from Chania. It is about a 1.5 hour drive southwest.
- There were umbrellas for rent and a small beach canteen for snacks and drink.
- The drive to/from Elafonissi is on a long and curvy road.
- In Greek, Elafonissi translates to deer island, but you won’t see any deer. Maybe a few goats.
- I was there at the very beginning of June, so the beach was pleasantly empty. As one of the most famous beaches of Crete, or Greek beaches for that matter, Elafonissi can welcome up to 2,500 people a day in the peak summer months of July and August.
- You may park in a big lot for free.
- The nearest taverna was just above the parking area, a good 15- to 20- minute walk up from the actual beach lagoon. After our beach time we decided to eat there since I was famished. We were thinking it would be really touristy. However, the quality of the food was excellent.
Recommended Tours to Elafonissi:
Drive about an hour west of Chania to find another one of the best beaches of Crete called Falassarna. The sky was a very blue that day so the waters were particularly dramatic. The beach itself was a stretch of powdery golden sand.
Tips for Falassarna Beach, Crete:
- Falassarna, about 13 kilometers from the town of Kissamos which is on the western part of Cape Gramvousa.
- There are several beach tavernas. There is also a hotel nearby.
- There are showers and changing rooms. Parking is available in a paved lot and it was free.
- Falassarna looks west so it tends to be windy and the waters wavy, like when we were there. Windsurfers love it.
- When you drive out you’ll notice the plains are full of greenhouses. The area around Falassarna is a Natura protected region.
- The archaeological site of ancient Falassarna is also nearby.
Recommended Tours to Falassarna:
Imagine a tropical palm tree fringed lagoon split by a river that spills onto a rocky beach. It exists south of Rethymnon. The Kourtaliotis River spills into the Libyan Sea here.
Such a beautiful beach required a bit of work to get to! We parked and followed a stone stairway down to the bottom of the mountainside. It was about a 20-minute hike down. I would have preferred to wear rubber soled shoes or sneakers. I was wearing flip flops, which was fine, but probably not as comfortable.
Well, there was the hike back up to the parking lot. In the end, it was worth it!
Tips for Preveli Beach, Crete:
- There is a decent informal Greek taverna by the beach with grilled meat dishes and salads. There are no umbrellas or sunbeds for rent. There is a shower.
- There is an organized parking area where you would begin your descent down. We paid a parking fee of two euro.
- The hike down from the western side was fine for us and gave us great photo opportunities. However, if you have medical issues it might not be a good idea especially in the Mediterranean heat.
- There is also another path from the eastern side. Drive a dirt road to Drimiskiano Ammoudi. From there you’ll see a short walking path that leads down to Preveli in five minutes. You won’t have the stunning view from the cliffs however.
- If you prefer not to hike it, there were also tourist boats that commute from Agia Galini and Plakias. You can check out Plakias Boat Tours for more info.
- On the way in or out stop by the Preveli Monastery.
Preveli Beach Recommended Tours:
Another unusual yet stunning beach landscape in Crete can be found at Matala. This pretty beach was set on a little resort area in Messara. Mother nature carved interesting cave formations into into the sandstone rock cliffs that border the beach.
Back in the 50s and 70s the caves were part of a Euro hippie lifestyle. Hippies camped out and lived the good life on the pretty sand and pebble beach.
Tips for Matala Beach, Crete:
- There are an array of restaurants and beach taverns set aback from the beach, sunbed rentals and farther back from the parking lot, more shops and even a supermarket. It is a decently developed tourist area.
- The parking area right by the beach is quite small compared to the kind of traffic Matala gets. If you can manage to find a space, the lot is organized with a charge of two euro.
- If you want to explore the caves up close, there is an entrance fee of four euro.
Recommended Matala Beach Tours:
During our first leg of our visit to Crete, we were staying in Achlada, a village just outside of Heraklion. We decided one afternoon to spend some time at a nearby beach, so based on local advice we headed to Aliki.
Aliki certainly isn’t one of the famous beaches of Crete, like the ones you just read about. However, I really liked the beach scene. It was a quiet small cove flanked by the ruins. We were told those buildings were once customs houses way back when. The seafloor was pretty rocky. However, the overall view was very relaxing. It was pretty much empty when we were there, too.
Tips for Aliki Beach, Crete:
- There is a beach tavern on the beach. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available.
- Several other small beaches line the route of Agia Pelagia, Fodele, Sisses and Bali.
- When you drive to the beaches of Crete in this region you will notice many old women and men sell bags of oranges off the side of the road in makeshift stands. They also sell homemade preserves and even squeeze fresh orange juice for you.
Recommended Beach Tours from Heraklion:
Chrissi island is known for its spectacular silky sand and a rare variety of Lebanon cedar trees, unique of its kind in Europe.
This paradise is located approximately 20 minutes (8 nautical miles) from Ierapetra, Lassithi region if you are to take the boat that leaves from the fishing port next to the castle.
Tips for Chrissi Island, Crete:
- Chrissi island is uninhabited and is included in the Natura 2000 network.
- You can only get to Chrissi island by a boat which runs from Ierapetra on a daily basis between May and October.
- There are a few canteens serving cold drinks, operating only during the summer season when tourist boats commute to this part of the island.
- There are sun beds and umbrellas available for rent and cost 10 Euro per set.
- The boat terminal is located next to the police station in Ierapetra. Boats depart from Ierapetra at 10:30, 11:00, 11:30 and 12:00 at noon. The duration of the trip is approximately 50 minutes.
- When visiting Chrissi island please be mindful of the natural environment and don’t leave any litter.
Recommended tours to Chrissi Island:
Beaches of Crete: Take Me Back
The beaches of Crete that we were able to visit during my stay turned out to be wonderful places to relax. I think we came at the perfect time in early June. The summer tourist season was still gearing up so the beaches weren’t crowded at all.
Also note that the beaches of Crete mentioned in my post do not have entrance fees.
How to Get to Crete
Two airports, Heraklion and Chania, service regular flights to and from Athens and Thessaloniki. The airport of Heraklion also services flights to Rhodes, Kos and other Greek islands in summer.
International travelers arrive by air, usually with a change in Athens.
Ferries connect between Heraklion port in Crete to Piraeus port in Athens. Travel time by ferry is about 9 to 10 hours, and the journey is typically an overnight trip. For my review of this journey,check out: Overnight Ferry to Crete with Minoan Lines.
Getting Around Crete
The easiest way to get from point A to point B on the island is by driving. An international car rental company I can highly recommend is Auto Europe.
A local company I can also recommend is Rental Center Crete.
Where to Stay in Crete
Check out my post: Where to Stay in Crete for my tried and tested suggestions.
What to Do in Crete
For a rundown of what I experienced the first time around during my visit to Crete, check out my post: 10 Things I Learned in Crete in 7 Days
Have you ever visited any of the beaches of Crete? Feel free to comment below.