The beaches of Crete are wonderful places to spend a long day under the sun. Discover our best beaches of Crete: Balos, Elafonissi, and Falassarna in Chania, Preveli in Rethymno, Vai in Lassithi, and more.
The beach season on the island is one of the longest in Europe. You can swim comfortably in Crete from May to October. Crete is the largest of the Greek islands. Its length from west to east is 250 km and from 14 to 37 kilometres from north to south. In total, Crete has over 400 beaches stunning in their variety: pebbly, with white and pink sand, wild, nudist and with a developed infrastructure, kilometre wide and micro-beaches in bays, hidden in rocks or palm groves – in short, the choice is rich. Crete has over 100 Blue Flag beaches and a diverse range of seaside scenery.
While the Island of Crete has beautiful beaches from coast to coast, North Crete is famous for its long sandy beaches, while the South Coast is famous for its pebble beaches. The Chania prefecture has some of Crete’s nicest beaches. These western Crete beaches are sandy with crystal clear turquoise waters, so pretty as if artificial.
This dreamy pink beach in Crete is easily one of the most stunning beaches in the entire world. Elafonissi beach is located on a small island 80 km southwest of Chania (about an hour’s drive). Its raw beauty is undeniable, with glassy aquamarine waters and swirls of pastel-pink sands kissing the shore – a natural phenomenon caused by thousands of shells washing up over the years and tingeing the white sands. Sunbeds and umbrellas for hire are scattered across the main beach and lagoon; the shallow waters are perfect for families. If you need a bit more privacy, do as the naturists do and head to the island’s coves and dunes beyond for a more peaceful patch of sand. If you are a kiteboarder or windsurfer, this is the place to go. Steady winds make for ideal conditions to rip across the shallow water. Also, the best sunsets are at Elafonissi beach.
Balos Beach is located in the northwestern part of the island of Crete. A cosy bay is formed between Cape Tigani and the rocky island of Gramvousa. Here, the water impresses with its fantastic shades from light blue to deep azure, turning in places into turquoise. The Greeks are very fond of beautiful stories, so they call the bay of Balos “The Kiss of the three seas” – the Ionian, Libyan and Aegean seas, at the confluence of which the water plays with such bright colours. Balos Bay is a true paradise, and it is included under state protection. You can access Balos by land or sea. If you reach it by land, be ready to walk downhill (and then up again) a whole lot of stairs. The benefit is that you will get to see the entire lagoon from above, which is breathtaking! If you want to avoid trouble, choose the ferry that leaves from Kissamos. And just for the sake of this place alone, it is worth visiting Crete!
Falasarna beach is a sandy beach with a wide coastline located on the west coast of the island of Crete, just 50 km from Chania. The beach annually receives the Blue Flag award for the cleanliness of the coastline and the quality of services provided here. Staying on Falasarna, it is convenient to travel along the western coast of Crete. Here, the island’s most famous beaches are located, such as Balos and Elafonissi beaches, described above. On the coast of Falasarna, in addition to beaches, there are stones and sand dunes, behind which olive tree plantations, small hotels, cafes and taverns begin. Archaeologists have discovered that Falasarna was a major trading city in ancient times. Coins were minted here, and jewellery was created. However, constant earthquakes and piracy’s heyday destroyed these places, and the city ceased to exist. Today there is only a small village here with fine white sand which is surrounded by mountains.
The Seitan Limania beach is one of the wildest beaches in Crete. It is a lovely little beach hiding between two rocks. It is surrounded by a rocky landscape of wild beauty that matches the tranquillity of crystal clear waters. The beach is located in a bay that protects vacationers from wind and waves, but the entrance to the sea is quite sharp here. To get to the beach, you need to walk along a steep mountain path with several dangerous sections. Seitan Limania is a wild, unequipped beach, so it is better to bring a beach umbrella and refreshments for a comfortable stay.
Preveli Beach is an unusual and picturesque sandy and pebble beach on the island of Crete. It is famous in Greece and even beyond its borders due to the unique palm forest growing along the banks of the Megalopotamos River, which flows into the Libyan sea. In honour of this forest, the beach has another unofficial name – Palm Beach. The beach received its primary name, “Preveli”, from the Orthodox monastery of the same name, located nearby. This is one of the most popular beaches in Southern Crete. Every season, it is visited by thousands of people, who are attracted here not only by the palm grove but also by stunning views and clear transparent seawater. Preveli beach is included in the European program for the protection of natural beauty and ecology Natura 2000, so the only tourist infrastructure here is a cafe, catamaran and boat rental.
The beach is named so because of the three stones that divide it into three mini beaches. It is translated from Greek as three stones. And as on many neighbouring beaches, Triopetra has stunning sunsets that you will not see in the northern part of the island. The beach can boast of the crystal clear water of the Libyan sea even during a storm. Even at the height of the season, you will not see crowds of tourists here since the beach is located far from major cities. Triopetra should be visited by those tired of the beaches crowded with tourists and who want to admire the sunsets that do not happen in the north of the island.
Matala is a seaside village in southern Crete that became famous when hippies from all over the world came here in 1960 to settle in the famous Matala Cave, next to the beach. A large group of artists, including Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan, spent days and nights in the open Cretan sky in the beautiful fishing village of Matala. The annual biggest multicultural summer party in Crete take place here every year in June. When visiting the Matala Music Festival, you can enjoy very famous singers and bands, participate in many art events, dance, try some Greek spirits, and just feel some good old hippie vibes.
Chrissi or Chrysi Island is another paradise of Crete. You can get there only by ship from Ierapetra, which travels every morning and takes vacationers back in the evening. It is strictly forbidden to pitch tents, burn bonfires and stay overnight on Chrissi Island. The island is considered a unique protected area. The coast is made out of thousands of tiny shells, which make the spectacular pink and white sand that Chrissi island is famous for and gives the seawater a magical glow. 350,000-70,000 years ago, the island was underwater; this is why it is full of corals and all kinds of shells. Scientists have counted 49 species of marine fossils here. The beach is organized with umbrellas and a snack bar selling refreshments.
If you want to relax away from the noisy and crowded beaches, Almyros beach will be a dream come true for you. The beach is shaped around the mouth of the Almyros river, which empties on the beach’s south end. The protected wetland of Almyros, located next to the beach, is home to various rare birds, tall eucalyptus trees, reeds, and a few palm trees. The beach is extremely lengthy and well-maintained. It is sandy, and the water is shallow and usually smooth, making it perfect for families with young children. There is a canteen in the region, and there are numerous water sports alternatives. You can read more details about Almyros beach here.
Vai Palm Beach or Finikodasosis considered one of Crete’s most beautiful and picturesque beaches. A striking feature of this place is the largest palm forest in Europe, which grows naturally along the magnificent sandy beach. Vai Beach is located on a remote and sparsely populated peninsula in the northeast of Crete. Vai Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete and the Mediterranean. It earned its fame decades ago when it opened and became a favourite destination for the hippie community. However, it soon became overcrowded and littered, so the area was declared a protected natural area. It was shortly cleaned up and organized as a magnificent beach surrounded by the largest palm forest in Europe. It was also awarded the Blue Flag for its fantastic location and perfect sand. Toplou Monastery is located not far from the beach. The monastery is housed in a majestic stone building reminiscent of a fortress and surrounded by 10-meter stone walls in case of a siege.