Located 72km southeast of Heraklion, the small seaside resort of Keratokambos, along with the nearby coastal settlement of Kastri, has evolved into a sought-after family destination over recent years. The village of Keratokambos is fronted by a lengthy sandy beach, extending for several kilometers in both directions.
The village’s main beach is situated to the east of the local harbour, extending eastwards up to the Keratokambitis river. The beach is quite organized where it adjoins the village, and in some areas, it is strewn with large pebbles, making it a suitable spot for snorkelling. The beach becomes more peaceful and secluded as you move eastwards. Following this is Monobouka beach, located near the Kapsali settlement, and equipped with a few tourist facilities. Monobouka beach, with its sandy terrain and shallow waters, is perfect for children. The beach is dotted with many tamarisk trees, providing ample shade.
A brief overview of the Keratokambos area reveals that Keratokambos (and Kastri) function as the harbour for the inhabitants of the mountainous village of Ano Viannos, situated further north. In the 1950s, the area housed only warehouses for storage of products like carob, citrus, oil, etc. The local harbour was employed for transporting these products to urban centres via cargo ships, as there was no road network at that time. Today, Kastri and Keratokambos form a unified village, which has witnessed significant growth in tourism in recent years. The village boasts of a school, a clinic and a notable gallery.
The name Keratokambos translates to Carob Fields in Greek, a name derived from the locust trees grown in the region for producing carobs. Another interpretation suggests that the name comes from the Greek word ‘Kerato’, meaning horn, referring to the towering steep rock, called Kerato, located north of the village in the Vigla area. The top of Vigla houses the ruins of a Venetian fortress, while its base is home to a large cave with rich stalagmite decorations and numerous bats.
The villages of Keratokambos and Kastri are built in a valley formed by several wild gorges, with the Keratokambitis river cutting through the rugged Portela gorge. In the Richtra region, a beautiful 10m high waterfall can be found, which is worth a visit (especially in spring).
The Kavousi and Piskopi Pidima (Bishop’s Jump) gorges are other impressive natural formations of the area. The latter gets its name from a local legend of a bishop and his horse miraculously leaping across the gorge to escape from the Turks. As a tribute to this miracle, the bishop built the church of St. George near the gorge.
The beach of Armenopetra is nestled between the Skoutaris river to the east and the small village of Monobouka to the west, located 5km east of Keratokambos. This stunning beach is one of the most picturesque in the Keratokambos area. The name Armenopetra, translating to ‘Sailing Rock’ in Greek, is inspired by the large, distinct rock that sits in the middle of the beach. It boasts a mixture of petite pebbles and sand, and its waters are a captivating shade of blue. The area is relatively untouched, with only a few greenhouses cultivating bananas and vegetables. This allows for tranquil, secluded spots on the beach, potentially for those who prefer to sunbathe in the nude.
Just west of Armenopetra, you’ll discover the low sandhills known as Pahia Ammos or ‘thick sand’. Regrettably, these sandhills have experienced significant reduction due to prolonged exposure to irrigation pipes. This has resulted in hardened mud formations. These sand dunes are a unique and scarce ecosystem in Crete, inhabited by rare flora and fauna. If you’re fortunate, you might spot the rare white sand lilies, a sign that summer is drawing to a close.
As you transition from Keratokambos towards the Arvi area, the final stretch of beach you’ll encounter is Cape Peristerionas, situated below the Vahoudianos Xerokambos greenhouses. This beach is entirely uncommercialised and is almost always deserted. However, there’s no natural shade available, so bringing an umbrella is advisable. The beach consists of fine sand and a few small rocks on the eastern side.
Arvi, a sizable coastal community, lies 79km southeast of Heraklion and 35km west of Ierapetra, nestled in a small valley before the towering Arvi Gorge. The village is constructed on the site of the ancient city, Arvi. The valley and surrounding areas are home to numerous greenhouses, with the local population primarily engaged in agriculture. The region’s warm climate supports the cultivation of bananas, fresh vegetables, and olive oil. The Arvi bananas are distinctive for their aroma and unique taste, gaining nationwide fame in Greece after a banana import ban in 1981.
In recent years, Arvi has seen the development of its tourism sector, largely owing to its proximity to stunning beaches. The village is peaceful and family-friendly. The main beach, situated west of the small harbour, boasts coarse sand and occasional pebbles. It is well-equipped with amenities such as umbrellas and water sports, and there are plenty of options for accommodation and dining nearby. A short walk westward leads to a lengthy pebble-strewn beach, a more secluded spot near the main road to Amira’s village and adjacent to the pebble beach of Kolimbi settlement.
A five-minute walk west of Kolimbi takes you to the secluded sandy beach called Makis, also known as Vahoudianos Xerokambos. Nestled in a remote bay, this beach, with its fine sand and clear water, is a sanctuary for those seeking solitude.
Arvi’s history extends back at least to 2600 BC, as evidenced by Neolithic artefacts found in the area, likely attracted by the region’s favourable climate. During the Roman period, Arvi was a significant Mediterranean port. A Roman bath discovered near the Saint Panteleimon church and numerous tombs, unfortunately looted, bear testament to this era. The most notable discovery is a marble sarcophagus adorned with Dionysiac scenes, unearthed by locals near the sea in the 19th century. Regrettably, the sarcophagus was broken by locals in search of gold and is now displayed and restored at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. A similar fate befell a second sarcophagus belonging to the region’s Roman ruler, which was broken to build the church’s altar, although its lid was saved and is also displayed in the same museum.
The village of Arvi derives its name from the temple of Arvios Zeus, worshipped on nearby Arvion Mount. It is believed that the sanctuary was constructed at the mouth of the wild Arvi Gorge, where the Monastery of Saint Anthony now stands. The monastery’s unique location on the steep slopes of the gorge is truly remarkable. Some scholars suggest that Arvi was the landing point for the Saracens when they took over Crete in 828 AC.
Situated 72km southeast of Heraklion, within the sheltered Keratokambos bay, you’ll find Kastri – the larger of the two conjoined settlements in the region, the other being Keratokambos. Over recent years, tourism in Kastri has seen significant growth, driven largely by the appeal of its surrounding beaches. The serene and welcoming atmosphere attracts many families, some of whom visit multiple times a year. Kastri is accessible by car, with the drive from Ano Viannos to Heraklion taking between 45 to 55 minutes.
Kastri’s distinctive port serves the local fishing community and welcomes other boats. Adjacent to the port, towards the west, there’s a small but stunning sandy beach, adorned with tamarisk trees. Given its proximity to the village amenities, such as rooms, taverns, and shops, it’s one of the most popular beaches in the area. Further west of this beach, you’ll find the longest beach in Skouros.
While in Kastri, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Church of St. Demetrius Galatoktistos, which used to be a monastery, and the chapel of St. George Vagionitis, set amidst a verdant garden.
Kastri, a serene location nestled 72km southeast of Heraklion in the protected bay of Keratokambos, offers the longest beach of Skouros just to the west of its central beach, located next to the Saint Myronas church. The beach is a picturesque blend of sand and pebbles and remains largely unpopulated. A grove of tamarisk trees along the beach offers a haven of shade. The shoreline is dotted with unique rock formations, both on land and extending into the sea, adding to the beauty of the landscape. The beach derives its name from a large, dark rock known as Skouros, located in the western part. The beach is an ideal spot for free camping and offers a secluded retreat.
Further west of the Skouros rock, you can explore the most isolated beaches in the region, starting from Xerokambi and extending to the eastern edge of the Listis rock. Access to these beaches is via dirt roads leading to nearby greenhouses.