Coastal areas on Crete
Crete's northern coast
Typical steep coasts on the northern side of Crete
The northern coastline from Heraklion to Kissamos in the west is characterized by the varied countryside with large sandy beaches. Walking on the peninsula Agria Gramvousa is particularly charming! This stretch can also be covered with a cross-country vehicle.
Fallasama was an important port in the classical period but sank into the ocean during an earthquake. The ground sunk by 4 m, so that the port could no longer be used - an interesting destination! The beach is known as the Greek Barbados - the fine, white, sandy beach is a nature conservation area and nobody is allowed to build there.
The town of Chania, after which the candied sugar is named, is the economic and cultural centre of the region. The bay of Souda sadly rose to fame in the last world war. The town centre of Chania is wonderfully peaceful, allowing you to forget the hustle and bustle. The warehouses at the port with their barrel roofs are worth visiting, as well as the churches San Rocco and San Nicola with church towers and minaret from the Venetian times. The market of the city - based on the example of the halls of Marseille - are not only a wonderful place to go shopping but also give you a lovely insight into the Cretan way of life.
On the peninsula Akrotiri there are three monasteries worth seeing:
Katholiko: the monastery ruins are near a 135 m long stalactite cave. Every 6th and 7th of October there is a pilgrimage to the monastery.
Gouverneto: a monastery with corner turrets dating back to the 17th century.
Agia Triada: built in the 17th century in the Italian renaissance style. The tree in the courtyard is worth seeing as it produces both lemons and oranges.
West of Rethymon you will find slightly bizarre landscapes with rocky ledges and protected bays.
Rethymon is around 75 km west of Heraklion, around 1 hour by car. The small port with its very old Venetian houses that are scattered throughout the old city centre is worth visiting. The Venetian fortifications from the 16th century, known as the Fortezza towers over the old city centre. A lighthouse from the 13th century, unfortunately closed off by a fence, lies at the end of the port. Margarites: a picturesque old potters' town that used to employ 400 potters. Today only a few workshops are open that mainly produce objects for tourists.
Fodele: the small unassuming village is the birth place of the painter El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos). Stones
Archanes: a small winegrowing village middle in the most important wine-growing district of Crete. Here you will find countless small taverns that still have not been overrun by tourists unlike many other smaller villages.
Malia: one of the tourist centres with many hotels and holiday apartments and all that comes with them. The third-largest Minoan settlement with a palace complex on Crete after Knossos and Phaistos is worth visiting.
Lassithi plateau: a fertile plain surrounded by mountains and 820 m over the sea - in the spring the melted snow and ice is forced to flow through an underground outflow. In earlier days the ground water was pumped up in the summer with the help of windmills that you can still admire today - these days the work is done by modern pumps.
Milatos: a picturesque village that has a protected status due to its historic significance. Many old farmhouses were wonderfully restored over the past few decades.
The north-eastern coast of Crete reaches from Elounda and Aghios Nikolaos over Sitia to the only palm beach on Crete in von Vai.
Until a few years ago Agios Nikolaos was a sleepy village, but these days it has been transformed into a medium-sized town in the Mirabello bay. Besides a port and an inland lake you will find countless hotels, cafes, taverns and shops. The location in the Gulf of Elounda is beautiful and most of the beaches around Agios Nikolaus are sandy.
In the village Kritsa on the northern slope of the Katharo plateau you can purchase handicrafts or simply have a cup of coffee and watch life go by. You should visit the Panagia Kera church with its well-preserved frescos from the 15th century or the Agios Ioannis church with frescos from the 14th century. A trip to the archaeological site in Lapo will take you through beautiful Cretan countryside.
Thanks to the book "The Island" by Victoria Hislop, which whisks you away to life on Crete in the previous centuries, the small island Spinalonga is known to many visitors to Crete. If you want to visit this island you should definitely read the book first, as it helps you understand all the aspects of this historic place.
The small town Sitia on the eastern border of Crete's northern coast was founded during the island's Venetian period. The Venetian castle, the narrow lanes, the village square and the well looked-after promenade along the port with a row of taverns give this small Cretan town its charm.
The palm beach von Vai is often described as the "dream beach of Crete". 400 m of pure, fine, white sand surrounded by countless palm trees.
Episkopi, a small village with an episcopal church and the Venetian citadel Kasama lie on the pass between the northern coast and Ierapetra, at the southern end of Crete.
Cities and small towns
Crete's Southern Coast
Shallow sandy beaches, sometimes small pebbles
With its bizarre, barren mountain ranges as a backdrop and the blue ocean in front, the countryside of southern Crete is very charming. It is a paradise for individualists, hikers and explorers.
Ierapetra, with a population of 10,000 is the centre of the vegetable production area. The Venetian fortress on the ocean next to the fishing port, the narrow lanes framed by old houses, architecturally marked by the Ottoman rule, give this town its charm and atmosphere. The island Chrissi lies just off the coast and with its beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise-coloured waters is definitely worth a visit - unfortunately the departure times are rather early for visitors...
The greenest area in Crete, thanks to its evergreen olive trees is the Messara plain. It contains the largest olive producing area of Crete. It also boasts some of the most important excavation sites on the island.
Probably the first constitution including rules for dealing with wives can be found in Gortys/Gortina. Well-preserved remains of Roman baths and temples, a theatre as well as the ruin of an early Christian basilica can be seen here.
Phaistos was supposedly founded by King Minos and the town was ruled by his brother Radamanthis. This is where the famous Phaistos disc was found; the inscription in Linea A has not been deciphered until this day. Agia Triada, a perhaps even more beautiful village is only a few kilometres further on.
Matala is worth a visit because of the caves hewn into the rock and its beautiful beach. Many years ago the village was a Cretan hippie centre - every year an extravagant music festival reminds you of this past.
Agia Galini is a small touristy centre with many taverns and shops that grows up the coast like a flower bed.
In Preveli you must visit the small museum at the monastery in addition to the beach.
Damnoni, near Plakias, is a small agricultural village with a 300 m long and 30 m wide beach surrounded by a forest of tamarisks.
You don't necessarily have to visit Chora Sfakion.
Frangokastello owes its name to the Venetian fortress from the 14th century. The long, fine sandy beach with a lovely view of the Libyan sea is worth an excursion.
The Samaria gorge is around 18 km long and therefore the longest gorge in Europe. A 7 hour walk down hill will take you from the Omalos mountains to the coast. The gorge has 600 m high walls and is only 3 m wide at its narrowest part.
Paleochora was founded in Venetian times and now has a population of around 1000. The well-known sandy beach and the ruin of the Venetian citadel are nice. The region around Paleochora has a number of churches and chapels with numerous frescos that are all worth a visit.
Elafonissi, one of the best beaches on the island, lies at the most south-western tip of Crete. The water at this point is only half a meter deep. Here you will find a nature reserve, fine dunes, blooming beach hyacinths and lilies as well as an unbelievable turquoise-coloured ocean with a pink beach.