The Episkopi beach, nestled 45km east of Chania and 14km west of Rethymnon, is a charming locale situated in a fertile valley with sprawling lowlands. It borrowed its name from the nearby village, Episkopi, which lies 2km south. Although the place is not widely known among Greeks, the Vardinoyannis family, one of Greece’s wealthiest business families, traces their origins to here.
The beach stretches for 3.5km and is flanked by the Mouselas river on the west and the river flowing through the Petres gorge and beaches on the west. Characteristic of most North Crete beaches, Episkopi is sandy, shallow, and typically wavy. It is well-equipped with numerous hotels, eateries, taverns, bars, and all necessary amenities. The western section of the beach offers lifeguard services, showers, changing rooms, umbrellas, snack bars, water sports, and more. However, due to its considerable length, one can also find quieter spots, especially towards the eastern end near the Petres bridge.
Rethymno and Chania are connected by a main road running parallel to the beach, making access easy either by car or bus. Regular bus services operate from Chania and Rethymno cities. Accommodation options are available in either the local region or in the village of Episkopi. Nearby attractions include the village of Argiroupolis, known for its springs and lush greenery, and Lake Kournas. Episkopi, translating to Diocese in Greek, was indeed the area’s Diocese during the Byzantine Period. However, the ancient Episcopal church of St. Nicholas is now in ruins.
Situated at the eastern edge of the expansive Episkopi beachfront, Petres beach, or Stones beach, is a 46km journey east from Chania and 13km west from Rethymnon. The beach owes its name to the majestic Petres Gorge that concludes at this point. The area is dotted with facilities such as accommodations, eateries, and even a diving school. The Vythos cove, positioned north of the other areas, offers umbrellas and a less sandy terrain. The rocky underwater landscape makes it a hotspot for fishing and snorkelling. However, the frequent northern winds can cause the sea to become wavy.
Lake Kournas is the largest natural lake in Crete and is located in an enchanting landscape, between the western slopes of the White Mountains and the fertile plane of Georgioupolis. It is located near the village Kournas, 2.5km south of the beach of Georgioupolis, 43km east of Chania and 20km west of Rethymnon. Lake Kournas and its surroundings constitute a very important ecosystem for Greece, as the wider area of Apokoronas are one of the very few areas of Crete where plenty of fresh water is stored throughout the year.
The name Kournas is believed to come from the Arabic word kurna for “lake” or “bath”. In ancient manuscripts, it is mentioned as Korissia, while it is believed that the area hosted a sanctuary dedicated to Korissia Athena.
The lake is created by the accumulation of groundwater coming from the White Mountains. The water gushes from a spring called Amati or Mati (meaning “eye”), which is over the lake surface in the summer months, while it’s hidden below the surface during winter. There is a second spring, which is always underneath the surface. Essentially, Kournas Lake is a large pit that is fed from its southeastern side by water due to the porous grounds, while from the opposite side it is waterproofed due to the nature of the rocks.
The lake is small and circular and covers an area of 57.9 hectares, has a maximum depth of 22.5 m, a maximum length of 1080m and maximum width of 880m. The volume of water in summer is approximately 7.5 million cubic meters. The water is transported to the beach of Kavros via the river Delfinas. In some parts of the lake, overflow and drainage works can be seen, that are used for diverting water to the farmland.
The ecological value of the area has included the lake in the Natura 2000 protection network of protected areas. However, the surroundings have been degraded by human intervention, such as the construction of restaurants and other lakeside stores. The lake is set amidst an environment with rare aquatic plants and trees. The dark colour of the lake is due to the algae at its bottom.
Many species of aquatic birds such as moorhens, ducks, herons and cormorants are found here. Also, Lake Kournas has always been well known for its eels, which still exist in significant populations. The wetland also hosts water snakes and terrapins. Unfortunately, introduced populations of goldfish have raised in recent years and their growing population has significantly disrupted this closed ecosystem.
Lake Kournas is a favourite destination for visitors of Crete and locals. It is an ideal place for relaxation and a walk. In summer, a stroll around the turquoise lake lasts less than an hour (3.5 km). On one side of the lake, there are cafes and restaurants overlooking the lake, however, they have spoilt the scenery. Adjacent to the cafes, small sandy beaches are formed during the summer, as the water surface reached lower levels.
Moreover, visitors could either pedal or kayak in the lake. This is an ideal choice for the afternoon when the colour of the water is beautiful and the lake is very calm. During winter and spring, the water level is higher and walking around the lake is difficult because the vegetation is dense on the bank. The beaches are disappearing and water overwhelms even the stairs located next to the restaurants.
The lake has dark water and inspires awe in everyone who visits it. Thus, in the past, locals believed that the lake is bottomless. However, measurements have proven that its maximum depth of it has been estimated at 22.5m.
A second myth states that there was a village in the position of the lake, where a beautiful girl lived with her father. One day, while they were walking to the fields, they stopped to rest for a while. The young daughter began to comb her hair and her father admired her. However, this admiration turned to erotic love and her father tried to seduce his own daughter. The desperate girl started shouting “Lake come and I will be the ghost of the lake”. The area immediately sank and flooded with water, creating the lake. The locals say that many visitors have seen a fairy combing her hair in the moonlight, sitting on a rock in the middle of the lake. They say that the fairy protects the animals and the ducks of the lake.
Another version of the myth tells that God got angry about the sinful behaviour of locals and caused flooding to punish them. The residents were all drowned, except the daughter of the priest, which is the fairy that has been seen by locals.
Finally, some believe that paranormal phenomena are caused by electromagnetic fields of the lake that either cause inconvenience or a positive mood.
Located between Georgioupoli and Pyrgos, Kavros refers to the expansive beach situated just 4 km east of Georgioupoli, near the hotel bearing the same name. Though the area has experienced substantial tourist development, it’s somewhat less commercialized compared to the adjacent Georgioupolis. Kavros beach is a sandy stretch with transparent, shallow waters; however, its openness to the wind often results in notable wave activity. The beach provides several facilities for visitors, including an array of restaurants, cafes, and bars, making it a perfect spot for an all-day excursion. For those seeking tranquillity, parts of the beach remain unorganized, offering a more serene experience.
The place at its greatest part is developed and only a very small part of it has been left untouched. Between the remaining virgin parts of the beach, there is an extensive and very important ecosystem of dunes. The dunes of Kavros, like all dunes, host a significant and very fragile ecosystem that is home to its own plants. The most important role of the dunes in Crete is that they protect the inner lands from erosion. In the area, in winter we meet small ponds and the landscape is quite different from the summer.
Kamari Beach is situated roughly 7km west of Rethymnon, close to Gerani village, at the entrance of Vederi Gorge. The coastal highway linking Chania and Rethymnon runs adjacent to the beach and over the Gerani bridge.
The beach is relatively compact, featuring pebbles and rocks in certain areas, making it a favourite among snorkelers. Despite being exposed to frequent northerly winds, it offers some amenities such as a few umbrellas, taverns, and rooms. Additionally, a quaint harbour and the charming Panagia Kamariani church can be found nearby.
A short distance south of the beach, one can find the sealed entrance to the Gerani cave, a significant archaeological site in central Crete, discovered unexpectedly during the construction of the main road. Moreover, visitors can explore the scenic narrow streets of Gerani village and visit the St George church along with several smaller churches.