Crete: Best beaches

    Island holidays offer the average tourist so many things to do, from wonderful coastal retreats to eventful sailing excursions – the options are almost endless. Holidaymakers visiting Crete can enjoy any number of different holiday experiences depending on their preference. But one thing that remains the same is that at one point or another, they’ll be spending a lot of time on some beautiful beaches. In this guide, we’ve outlined a few of the best beaches in Crete. That means you won’t have to spend time wondering what to do in Crete when you arrive. So instead you can focus on that tan! 

    The variety of different beaches on Crete is fantastic. If you’re after golden sands, a hidden cove, or shallow warm waters - there is a Cretan beach made for you. Impressively, there’s over 1000 kilometres of coastline to take in on the island, so you’re likely to be spoilt for choice. 


    Balos Lagoon

    The sensationally beautiful Balos Lagoon is perhaps a bit of a trek, but it’s certainly worthwhile. Few beaches come with their own small island, especially when that island is topped by a gorgeous Venetian castle, but then again, Balos Lagoon isn’t like many other beaches. 

    With warm clear waters, soft sand and a varied selection of wildlife, there’s truly something for everyone. Keep your eyes peeled and you might spot turtles and seals moving around, while there’s also a variety of seabirds to be seen in the skies. As we mentioned, it’s not the easiest place on the island to get to, but there are several options. Those who prefer the leisurely side of life will take the boat from Chania, while true adventurers will walk down from the road. Regardless of your mode of transport, there are plenty of local cafés and tavernas to reward your endeavour when you arrive.

    Best for: wildlife spotting
    How to get there by public transportTake bus from Heraklion to Chania (every hour from 5:30 am) then bus to Kissamos, then ferry to Balos.

    Elafonissi

    One of the best beaches in Crete, Elafonissi Beach is immediately recognisable by its pink sand made from crushed rosy shells. This scenic stretch of sand merges with the pale blue water, creating a truly memorable sight. 

    It might not surprise you to learn that sunbathing is one of the best things to do in Crete, and you won’t find many better places than on Elafonissi Beach. Hire a lounger and an umbrella, grab a cold drink at a nearby taverna, and get stuck into your book for one of the most relaxing afternoons you’ll ever experience. The beach also has plenty of showers and lifeguards for when you want to go swimming. You might even be lucky enough to spot some loggerhead sea turtles – but if you do, remember they are an endangered species and very shy, so always stay calm if you approach them.

    Best for: striking pink sands
    How to get there by public transport: Catch a bus from Chania. Road distance is 76.5 km - journey takes around 2 hours 20 minutes. 

    Vai

    And now for something completely different, Vai has a touch of the Caribbean about it. Not just because of the miles of soft sand, nor the brilliant turquoise sea, but because of the palm trees: There are over 5000 of them! The entire beach is actually surrounded by a forest of palms, and represent the largest palm forest in Europe. The word Vai means palm in Greek, which makes sense considering they’re absolutely everywhere around this beach.

    All the swaying leaves give the beach a sense of peace and calm, but it’s still lively enough with a choice of water sports, tavernas, showers, umbrellas and loungers available.

    Best for: pretending you’re in Hawaii
    How to get there by public transport: Seasonal buses run from Sitia via Paleokastro to Vai. Journey takes around 40 minutes. 

    Falassarna

    The best beach for those who want to spread their wings, Falassarna has room to breathe for all of its holidaymakers as they enjoy the crystal-clear waters. An ideal place for families, there are lots of activities for children and adults. Yes, there are your normal sun loungers and parasols to hire - but there’s also some good windsurfing. 

    If you’re looking for a little more activity, there are the remains of an ancient Hellenistic fort nearby which are worth exploring.

    Best for: those with little ones
    How to get there by public transport: Take the bus from Kissamos. Services run every four hours. Journey takes approximately 40 minutes.

    Best of the rest

    Closer to Chania there are more easily accessible Crete beaches. In fact, the town beach in Chania is a popular one although it can get a little crowded. But if you keep walking along the beach you will eventually come to Chryssi Akti, where the water is warm and shallow - ideal for children. Over on the east coast, there is a choice of some amazing beaches around Malia, Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos. Close to Heraklion you will find Tymbaki Beach, which is long enough to find a secluded spot amongst all the families and holiday groups. There are showers and tavernas as well as water sports facilities. 

    Close to Agios Nikolaos is Istro, one of five great beaches along that coast with mixed sections of pebbles and sand.

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