Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and is often compared to its Mediterranean cousins for its natural beauty and incredible beaches. Crystal clear waters, rugged coastline and endless long summers make a seaside escape a must – but which to choose? We’ve rounded up the best from the wild and remote to Blue Flag family-friendly.
Elafonissi (Elafonisi) – Best beach for rustic coastline
West coast Crete has an abundance of stunning beach bays, with Elafonissi one of the most picture-perfect. Think turquoise waters, soft white and pink sand – due to the thousands of broken seashells mixed into the soft grains – and a rustic coastline littered with cedar trees. Part of the beach has sunbeds and umbrellas, and the shallow waters are perfect for a refreshing frolic. Its cliffs and mountainous surrounding makes this Crete beach the go-to for many travellers.
Falassarna (Falasarna) – Best beach for windsurfing
Also on the west coast, Falassarna is a large sandy beach that, in the summer, has a pop-up windsurfing station to hire boards to take the choppy waters. As it is close to Kissamos town, which is famed for its Archaeological Museum, it also suits history buffs who hike from the beach to the nearby site of Ancient Falassarna with its history dating back to the 7th century BC.
Vai – Best beach for tropical vibes
Surrounded by the largest date palm tree forest in Europe, Vai’s natural beauty and its underdeveloped coastline are spectacular, making it a haven for beach dwellers for decades. The palm-lined beach is hugged by crystal clear waters and fine white sands, offering a seaside escape to transport you to the tropics. All whilst being firmly planted in northeastern Crete.
Balos – Best beach for wild and remote
Accessible via a dirt road best suited to 4WDs, Balos is perched on the Gramvousa Peninsula and is undoubtedly worth the drive. With no sun lounges or restaurants, it’s ideal for beach lovers who like to be left alone – and best to pack a lunch (and lots of water), plus an umbrella to shelter from the Crete summer heat. Lay your towel on the white sands and dive into the lagoon-style waters that are a sanctuary for monk seals and loggerhead sea turtles. If you prefer not to drive, take a ferry from Kissamos that also stops at Gramvousa Island.
Matala – Best beach for Blue Flag status
A quaint seaside village popular on the south coast of Crete, Matala’s long and wide sandy beach on Messara Bay and deep crystal waters have earnt it Blue Flag beach status. Plenty of dining options, many with sea views, line the village, filled with quaint laneways that are fun to wander and window shop post-meal. While man-made caves carved into sandstone cliffs are worth exploring after a water frolic.
Karavostasi – Best beach for families
Bali, former seaside fishing village, is now a popular beach destination on the island’s central north with Karavostasi a small bay nestled on the northern fringes lined with umbrellas and sun lounges. The beach bay is protected by Crete’s often strong winds making it great for families and a haven for water sports with the little ones.
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