Martsalo, a secluded beach located in the western Asterousia Range, is just a few kilometres from Cape Lithino, the “horn” of Messara Plain, and 80km southwest of Heraklion. To reach this isolated spot, follow the dirt road from Odigitria Monastery to Lithino Cape, bearing right after the monastery. After travelling some distance, a sign indicating Martsalo will appear. Following this rough track will lead you to the entrance of Martsalo Gorge.
Parking your car at the gorge’s entrance, continue on foot for roughly 2km to the south. The hike through the gorge is not particularly challenging. The gorge, along with others in the area (like Agiofarago), has served as a hermitage for the Odigitria monastery, giving it significant religious importance. Remnants of the cells where monks once lived can still be observed in the gorge.
At the start of your journey, you’ll discover the beautiful church of Panagia Martsaliani, dedicated to the Annunciation. This church, constructed within a cave, served as a catacomb during the Christian persecutions. Centuries later, it was rediscovered by a shepherd. An icon of the Annunciation uncovered at that time is now preserved in the Odigitria Monastery. On August 15, when the Church celebrates, numerous visitors travel from the Mesara Plain to Martsalo.
As you continue down the gorge, you’ll pass between the indigenous Phoenix Theophrasti palm trees. Martsalo is home to one of the largest colonies of this species in Crete, and the largest in the Heraklion prefecture. In the gorge’s center, a stone container collects water from a nearby spring, and around it, the hermits cultivate their necessities.
A 15-20 minute walk through the palm trees will lead you to the beach at the mouth of Martsalo. This isolated beach with its large pebbles and calm waters (Martsalo translates to Good Harbor in Latin) is an ideal spot for solitude. A simple pier serves boats coming from Kali Limenes or Matala, and surrounding tamarisk trees provide natural shade. As a religious site, it’s important to respect the hermits and refrain from activities such as nudism.
Traces of a harbour hamlet from 1800-1600BC suggest the beach has served as a port since the Minoan period. The Apostle Paul also reportedly stopped at Martsalo to preach Christianity during his journey to Rome.
Cape Lithino, the southernmost point of Crete and the “corner” of Messara plain, is home to the dry Kefali peak. From here, cliffs plunge 391m into the sea. The view is breathtaking. To reach Kefali, follow the 13km long rough dirt road starting from Odigitria Monastery and heading west. On Kefali, you’ll find the ruins of a German military establishment from World War 2 and a small stone church dedicated to the Holy Cross.
Locals may tell you there are no beaches between Martsalo and Vathi, but this isn’t true. Below Kefali is a small cape called Platys Poros or Trahili, home to two bays with deep blue water and coarse pebbles, known as “Maragou Limani” or “Carpenter’s Harbor”. These southernmost beaches of Crete are only accessible by boat, and the surrounding coast is riddled with caves worth exploring.
Just west of Martsalo beach and 600m east of Poros is the small beach of Kounenos, accessible via a footpath near Martsalo. The surrounding landscape, filled with caves, cliffs, and unique rock formations, makes this an ideal spot for nature lovers. The beach features small pebbles and deep waters.
Martsalo beach is a beautiful and secluded beach located on the southern coast of the island of Kythira in Greece.
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.
No, Martsalo beach is not usually crowded due to its remote location and difficult access.
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.
There are no hotels or resorts near Martsalo beach, but there are some guesthouses and apartments in the nearby villages of Avlemonas and Kalamos.
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.
The water colour of the Martsalo beach is deep blue.
The Martsalo beach has pebbles as its sand type.
The Martsalo beach has a normal water depth.
The sea surface at the Martsalo beach is usually calm.
The Martsalo beach is usually quiet with fewer crowds.
There are no facilities available at the Martsalo beach.
The Martsalo beach can be accessed by boat or walking.
The Martsalo beach is nudism friendly and has palm trees. It is also ideal for snorkeling/spearfishing and has tree shade.
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