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Martsalo beach

About Martsalo beach

Martsalo is a secluded beach in the west Asterousia Range, one of the most inaccessible areas of Heraklion. It is located just a few kilometres from the “horn” of Messara Plain, the Cape Lithino, and 80km southwest of Heraklion. To get here you should follow the dirt road that starts from Odigitria Monastery and heads to Lithino Cape (follow the dirt road that turns right after the monastery, while the left heads for Agiofarago). After several kilometres, you will see a sign to Martsalo. If you follow the poor dirt track, you will find yourself at the beginning of Martsalo Gorge.

You should leave your car near the entrance to the gorge and continue walking southwards for about 2km. The route through the gorge is not particularly difficult. The gorge, like the rest gorges of the region (e.g. Agiofarago) was and still is a hermitage of the Odigitria monastery. For this reason, it is considered a site of great religious importance. In the gorge, you will see many remnants of the cells, where the monks lived.

At the beginning of the route, you will find the lovely church of Panagia Martsaliani, dedicated to the Annunciation. The church, built in a cave, was used as a catacomb at the time of Christian persecutions. Just a few centuries earlier, it came back to light by chance, when a shepherd found it and realized that it was covered by rocks. An icon of the Annunciation was then found, which is now kept in the monastery of Odigitria. When the Church celebrates on August 15, many visitors come from the Mesara Plain to Martsalo.

If you continue descending the gorge, with the vertical and steep cavernous cliffs aside, you will soon find yourself walking between the indigenous palm trees of Theophrastus (Phoenix Theophrasti). Indeed, Martsalo has one of the largest colonies of this species in Crete and the largest in the prefecture of Heraklion. Moreover, in the middle of the gorge, there is a stone container for the collection of water from a small spring nearby. Around this tank, the hermits are used to cultivate the essentials for their living.

After walking for 15-20’ along the clusters of palm trees, you will reach the beach formed at the exit of Martsalo. The beach has large pebbles and is completely isolated. The water is almost always very calm, which justifies its name (Martsalo means Good Harbor in Latin). In the middle of the beach, there is a primitive pier for the boats that come here from Kali Limenes or Matala. The beach is surrounded by some tamarisk trees which provide natural shade. Martsalo is ideal for isolation and is completely secluded. However, it is considered a religious site and activities such as nudism are offensive to the hermits of the gorge.

The humble beach has been used as a port since the Minoan period. Traces of a harbour hamlet of 1800-1600BC have been excavated here. Later, the Apostle Paul stopped at Martsalo to teach Christianity, during his trip to Rome.

Cape Lithino is located at the “corner” of Messara plain and is the southernmost point of Crete. The highest summit of Lithino is the dry Kefali peak, from where vertical cliffs fall into the sea for 391m and continue their vertical route below the sea surface. The view from Kefali is vertiginous and causes awe to everyone. To get to Kefali you have to follow the rough dirt road, 13km long, which starts from Odigitria Monastery and heads west. There are some primitive signs showing the way. On Kefali you will see the ruins of a German military establishment of World War 2, used for controlling the south coastline of Crete. There is also a small stone church dedicated to the Holy Cross.

If you ask a local if there are beaches between Martsalo and Vathi, he will definitely say no. It is good to bet that there are beaches and you will win! Indeed, just below Kefali, there is a second small cape, called Platys Poros or Trahili, on the west side of which, there are two bays with deep blue water and coarse pebbles. They are called “Maragou Limani” by locals, which means “Carpenter’s Harbor”. According to a story, the children of a carpenter used to throw rocks from Kefali peak to these beaches. They are the southernmost beaches of Crete and are only accessible by boat from the nearest ports. However, the sea in the area is quite wild and westerly winds often cause waves. Thus, you should make sure that the weather is windless. The coast near the beaches is full of caves, that worth being explored.

Just a few meters west of Martsalo beach and 600m east of Poros there is the small beach Kounenos, which is accessible through a footpath running close to Martsalo. The surrounding landscape with the caves, the cliffs of Kefali Summit and the fantastic rock formations make the place ideal for nature lovers. The beach has small pebbles and deep waters.




What is Martsalo beach?

Martsalo beach is a beautiful and secluded beach located on the southern coast of the island of Kythira in Greece.

How do I get to Martsalo beach?

To get to Martsalo beach, you can take a boat from the nearby village of Avlemonas or hike down a steep and rocky path from the village of Kalamos.

Is Martsalo beach crowded?

No, Martsalo beach is not usually crowded due to its remote location and difficult access.

What activities can I do at Martsalo beach?

At Martsalo beach, you can swim in the crystal-clear waters, sunbathe on the sandy beach, explore the nearby caves, and hike in the surrounding hills.

Is there any accommodation near Martsalo beach?

There are no hotels or resorts near Martsalo beach, but there are some guesthouses and apartments in the nearby villages of Avlemonas and Kalamos.

What is the best time to visit Martsalo beach?

The best time to visit Martsalo beach is during the summer months, from June to September, when the weather is warm and sunny and the sea is calm and clear.

What is the water colour of the beach?

The water colour of the beach is deep blue.

What type of sand is found on the beach?

The beach has pebbles as its sand type.

What is the water depth of the beach?

The beach has a normal water depth.

What is the surface of the sea like at the beach?

The sea surface at the beach is usually calm.

What is the crowd like at the beach?

The beach is usually quiet with fewer crowds.

What facilities are available at the beach?

There are no facilities available at the beach.

What are the modes of access to the beach?

The beach can be accessed by boat or walking.

What other features does the beach have?

The beach is nudism friendly and has palm trees. It is also ideal for snorkeling/spearfishing and has tree shade.

Beach facilities


  • Quiet

Water depths

  • Normal

Beach sand type

  • Pebbles

Sea surface

  • Usually calm

Water colour

  • Deep blue


  • Boat

Other information

  • Nudism friendly
  • Palm trees
  • Ideal for snorkeling / spearfishing
  • Tree Shade

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