It doesn’t matter if it is a hot summer or a cold winter, people will seek out for beaches for one or another reason. As a general rule, I don’t visit Jordan to see the greenery, nor I visit Scotland to enjoy the sun, the reason to visit Crete is its beaches and it is what I’m going to focus in this article. The top 10 best beaches in Crete Island, Greece. While the order of the list doesn’t really matter, I finish the article with my personal choices and my reasoning behind it.
1. Stefanou Beach (Seitan Limania) – The best secret beach
Starting strong with a place I definitely want to visit if I ever go back to Crete - Stefanou Beach. Located on the end of Akrotiri peninsula, to the northeast from Chania, Stafanou beach is relatively close to either of the major cities in Crete compared to the other beaches on this list. Nevertheless, this doesn’t make this beach less spectacular. The beautiful cliffs, surrounding the deep emerald waters, not only amazes but keeps its visitors safe from the dangerous waves as the shape of the water flow entering Sefanou beach is somewhat reminding marks left by a passing giant snake.
2. Vai Beach – The most beautiful beach in the eastern part of Crete
While the eastern part might be not as popular as its western counterpart, Vai beach makes a strong case for being otherwise. The key feature of the beach is not questionable, right next to the sea stands the biggest palm forest in Europe and if that is not enough, the ever-glittering azure water will no only warm your body, but your soul as well. Getting to the far east of Crete will reward with much more as it is not that hard to forget that you are Europe, instead of some exotic island in an ocean.
Malia, Crete Island. Photo Taxiarchos228 [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons
3. Malia Beach – The best beach for the nightlife
Might not be the most beautiful beach in Crete or even the region surrounding the Capital of the island, Heraklion, the reason why it is on the list is its nightlife. While most of us are coming to Crete for the beautiful natural beaches or Minoan and mythological origins, some of us can’t separate beach experience from beach parties. Malia is the best place on Crete for nightlife and beach parties, many young people are seeking this place and if there is a need for a bit of history, there is an ancient Malia Minoan Palace not that far for the town.
4. Preveli Beach – The best beach near Rethymno
While Rethymno is a great place for those who are wishing to escape all the noise of the island, it doesn’t mean there is not much to see. There are quite a few beautiful beaches surrounding the town and even though on the other side of the island, Preveli is one of them. The reason why it is on the list is quite simple – Kourtaliotis River flows into the sea right at the beach. Surrounded by palm trees, Preveli beach is quite a view to see. Too bad, despite Rethymno being quite a quiet town. This beach can get quite busy during the season, nevertheless, worth a visit.
5. Falassarna – The best beach for surfers
Located on the west side of Crete, Falassarna beach is directly open to the Mediterranean Sea and its impact. It is not hard to notice since the waters here are crystal clear, in fact, Falassarna beach is one of the cleanest beaches in whole Greece. Combined with golden sand the beach proves Crete to be quite up there when it comes to idyllic beaches. Even though Falassarna is not that far from Chania, it could be quite difficult to reach. Nevertheless, to those who come here for surfing, that shouldn’t be a problem. During the winter the waves can reach up to 3 meters and in hot windless summer days, Falassarna beach is still probably the best place to go.
6. Balos Beach – The runner-up to the most beautiful beach in Crete
The beach could be easily on the top of the list but getting there could be a bit more complicated than it looks. Unless you don’t care about accidents on the road, it is impossible to reach the beach with a rented car. The road leading to it is unpaved and insurances will not cover any damage done to the car on such road.
If you can’t reach Balos beach with a car, there are other ways to reach the beach:
- Daily boat trips from Kissamos, Chania, Rethymno or even Heraklion (from nearest to furthest);
- Hiking from Kaliviani, 10km each direction without a shelter from the sun.
7. Matala Beach - The Best beach in Crete for Everybody
Just a few decades ago, Matala beach was a popular nature refuge for hippies. The main feature of the beach – high cliffs surrounding the beach, filled with natural caves – haven’t left untouched by this period of the beach. In fact, those cave system once were home to hippies of Matala beach.
These days Matala beach is nowhere close to being a refuge from civilization. The whole area is filled by restaurants, cafes, hotels and souvenir shops. The caves itself are no longer available to the public for free. Despite everything, due to its accessibility, natural beauty and facilities, Matala beach is a great destination for anybody.
8. The Red Beach – The Best beach in Crete for Nudists and Mojitos
It might be not the best beach for sunbathing naked, but it is definitely the most beautiful one. The reason for it is its popularity. Separated from Matala Beach by a relatively easy hike it became rather a popular tourist destination rather than a hippy corner. Nowadays this makes the Red Beach rather a mix, not a nudist beach. So, if you are shy or want to have a bit more remote experience, I would suggest trying another beach to unleash your natural beauty into the wild.
Nevertheless, there are still plenty of nudists on the edges of the Red Beach therefore if you are here just to observe the incredible beauty of the beach, respect their interests as well. Anyway, if you are afraid to come to this beach because of the nudists, it shouldn’t be a problem as well. The middle of it is fairly nudist-free and there is a bar which serves the self-proclaimed best mojitos in the world.
9. Kommos Beach – The best beach to Relax
Located not that far from Matala and red beaches, Kommos beach might be a better choice if you prefer actual privacy and space. It is not as popular because Kommos beach lacks big beautiful features like cliffs, but the beach is nowhere close to being a regular one. The key feature here that from sandy Kommos the island and the sea open itself around you. On one side you can observe the same cliffs of Matala beach, on the other side - beautiful mountains overshadowing the surrounding landscape.
Another interesting feature of this beach is Kommos Minoan antiquities – ruins of harbor built to support the second-largest bronze age settlement in Crete, Phaistos. It is nowhere as spectacular as Knossos, but if you are around these ancient Minoan ruins are worth a visit. Just a small reminder of the historical significance of this island. It is humbling to understand that this beautiful island was inhabited by a flourishing civilization as far as 4,500 years ago.
Visiting Matala, Kommos and Red beaches could make a great 1-day itinerary, you can read more about my own experience here.
10. Elafonisi Beach – The most beautiful beach in Crete
If Elafonisi Beach is not the crown jewel of all the beaches in Crete, Greece, I could definitely say that it was during my visit to this wonderful island. The internet is full of photographs of people in this pink beach enjoying their day which leaves you with an impression that it is shouting at you “Come and join us!” and you don’t even notice that you are already on your half-way there.
But the scenic Elafonisi beach is actually a bit different than the impression it leaves once you see those pictures. The beaches are not that pink anymore and for obvious reasons. Everyone wants that souvenir, right?
Neither getting there is as easy as everyone would like to. Located at the edge of Crete makes all the roads leading to Elafonisi Beach a bit too extreme for many drivers. Single lane road with unprotected slopes, plenty of goats and a rare net to protect the car from falling rocks, might prove to be too nerve-wracking for many drivers. Despite all the difficulties, it is possible to reach Elafonisi Beach on a paved road, thus this makes the beach a rational destination with a rented car. You can read about my experience of getting there here.
Nevertheless, the drive will reward with spectacular views, the only problem is the lack of places to make a stop and to enjoy the scenery. The most important reward for all struggle will be, of course, the beach itself. If it is not the most beautiful beach in Crete, at least, it is the most beautiful one which could be reached by car.
Beautiful Beaches of Crete
It doesn’t really matter which beach you are going to choose, most of them are beautiful and worth your attention. If your favorite one is not on the list, don’t worry. The purpose of this article is simply to show the variety of beaches to give a general impression that visiting any beach could be the experience of your whole trip. Which beach in Crete did you like the most?
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