The expansive beach in Rapaniana, situated 20km west of Chania and 4km east of Kolimbari, is a part of the larger stretch of beach that extends from Peninsula Rodopos to Chania, incorporating the beaches near the villages of Skoutelonas, Minothiana, and Rapaniana. The beach, featuring a mix of sandy and pebbly areas, is a perfect choice for visitors, especially during calm weather, as the northern coastline frequently experiences waves. It is impeccably clean and equipped with essential tourist amenities like umbrellas, showers, and a lifeguard tower.
Rapaniana and its neighboring beaches serve as nesting grounds for the protected loggerhead sea turtle. The village of Rapaniana offers a variety of services including mini markets, restaurants, accommodation facilities, a health centre, pharmacy, dentist, post office, bank, telephone, and car rental services.
Kolimbari, a quaint seaside town housing over 5000 residents, is situated 24km west of Chania, on the eastern edge of the Rodopos Peninsula. This picturesque town is quite developed, primarily due to its stunning, lengthy beach that extends from the village to Tavronitis in the east. The sandy beach at Kolimbari is occasionally dotted with small pebbles, and while the waters are shallow, they tend to be wavy, a typical characteristic of northern Crete’s open beaches. The area adjacent to the beach offers ample choices for accommodation, dining, and entertainment.
For those seeking a more serene beach experience, the tiny coves near the Gonia Monastery, just 1km northwest of Kolimbari, are worth visiting. Boats frequently depart from the Kolimbari port to the Rodopos Cape, renowned for its majestic cliffs and tranquil beaches, with Menzies being the most popular.
The historic Gonia Monastery, reminiscent of a fortress, is located 1km northwest of the town. It’s dedicated to the Virgin Mary Odigitria, also known as the Guide, and houses a notable collection of Byzantine icons. The Orthodox Academy of Crete, a venue for nationwide and global conferences on theological and general topics, is also located near Gonia.
Tavronitis beach, found 20km west of Chania, is situated on the western side of the historic Maleme airport, one kilometer north of the village of Tavronitis and is named after the Tavronitis river that flows nearby. This long, pebbly beach is just a segment of the expansive coastline that stretches from Kolimbari to Stalos, making it an ideal swimming spot, especially during calm weather as the northern coast of Crete often experiences waves. There are ample amenities nearby, including hotels, tavernas, restaurants, and a variety of tourist facilities.
The beach holds historical significance as it is near Maleme airport, the site of a significant resistance against the German forces in 1941, known as the Battle of Crete. This marked the first time in World War II where the local population fiercely resisted the German army, causing them heavy losses. Despite this, the Germans managed to gain control of a small area east of the Tavronitis river and the airport. Today, visitors can pay their respects at the German cemetery and other monuments dedicated to this historic event.
Situated 18km west of Chania, Maleme forms part of the expansive beach that stretches from Kolimbari to the vicinity of Chania. This lengthy bay is adorned with stunning sandy and pebbly beaches, although they are exposed to frequent northerly winds. The beach at Maleme is sandy and the surrounding area is well developed, with all necessary amenities conveniently located near the beach. For those seeking a more secluded spot for a swim, the west end of the beach, adjacent to the old military airport, offers a quieter location.
The name Maleme is believed to derive from the word “Malama”, translating to gold, hinting at the possibility of a gold mine existing in ancient times, although this hasn’t been confirmed. In addition, a domed tomb from the late Minoan period has been discovered near Maleme. Despite having been looted, two cylindrical seals depicting running wild animals were found by archaeologists.
During World War II, Maleme held significant historical importance. It was home to the Allies’ military airport until it was seized by German forces. The Battle of Crete in 1941 saw German paratroopers descend upon Maleme to gain control of the airport. They were met with fierce resistance from local Cretans and Allied forces, leading to substantial casualties on the German side. With only rudimentary weapons at their disposal, the local Cretans dealt a significant blow to the German paratroopers, which drew praise for Cretan patriotism from Hitler himself. This marked the first time in the Second World War where German forces faced strong resistance from a local population. It was also the first large-scale airborne invasion in history, and the last of its kind. The German Cemetery, located on a hill near Maleme, is the final resting place for the 4500 German paratroopers who lost their lives. A monument dedicated to fallen RAF airmen can also be found near Maleme, close to the River Tavronitis bridge.
Afrata is a quaint village nestled 3.5km north of Kolymbari and 28km west of Chania, situated at Cape Rodopos. Just 1km east of the village, within a serene bay, you’ll find the charming beach of Afrata.
The beach, with its pebbly terrain and appealing water hues, is a popular spot among locals, as it remains untouched by the area’s winds. The raw beauty of Rodopos Cape, coupled with the tranquil sea and the picturesque village, makes Afrata an ideal destination for a peaceful getaway. The beach features a small canteen for food and water purchases, and shade is provided by umbrellas and tamarisk trees.
The road to Afrata from Kolimbari is paved with asphalt, but caution is advised due to its narrowness. After passing through the village, the road leads to the beach via a stunning gorge. Along the way, just below Odigitria Gonia monastery, you’ll encounter the quiet, rocky coves of Odigitria.
The route from Kolymvari to Afrata also takes you past the historic Panagia Odigitria Gonia Monastery and the Orthodox Academy. The Monastery is a significant part of the island’s history. The Turkish occupation of Crete began here in 1645, and in 1897, it was the landing point of the Greek army, triggering the Greek-Turkish war. Located near Kolymbari port, the Monastery comprises the main temple, an inner courtyard, monks’ cells, and walls that served to protect against pirates, Turks, and other invaders. On the northeast side, within the walls, you can still see the damage caused by the Turkish gunfire against the Monastery.
Additionally, north of Afrata is the Ellinospilios cave, an archaeological treasure trove. However, the path to the cave, due to the region’s rocky landscape, is rather challenging and recommended for experienced walkers only. Specialized knowledge and equipment are necessary for cave entry. The cave’s entrance is positioned just above sea level and the path continues northeast.