Many believe that the best way to visit Crete is to move around… a lot! Whether you rent your own transportation or you rely on public bus services, there are a few places you cannot miss, especially if you love beaches. If you are staying in the center of Heraklion, you can still visit some of the best beaches of the prefecture, which are not immediately close to the center. Don’t worry, we give you the right information to get there! Check the favorite beaches in the prefecture of Heraklion!
The Coves of Chersonissos, known as Limanakia are little over 25 kilometers east of Heraklion. The area is populated by beautiful beaches and bays with calm waters.
Cape Sarandaris is in charge of protecting them from the northern winds. It is easy to access the coves and the area is well-served with restaurants and beach bars.
Exactly at the base of Cape Sarandaris, there is the nicest of all the bays of the area, Sarandaris Cape, this sandy beach has shallow waters and stunning blue shades and it’s usually not very crowded
- You reach Sarandaris taking the bust to Malia in Heraklion’s Central Bus Station, the trip lasts 45 minutes.
Matala is a natural harbor located on the Bay of Messara. Mixed sand and pebbles, this legendary place finds a spot in the Greek Mythology since it is here where Zeus abducted Europa, disguised as a white bull. It is a 250 meter-long beach with lots of fish tavernas and bars along the coastline.
In the area, it is also possible to visit the archaeological site of Phaistos, one of the most impressive sites in Greece.
Typical of Matala is the laid-back lifestyle of the ’60s, while the hippie spirit is pretty much still alive.
Half the beach is fringed by tamarisk trees. Its impressive formations of sandstone rock cliffs with their famous caves sliding into the sea at an odd angle give life to one of the most unusual beaches on Crete.
- The famous Matala can be accessed in about an hour taking the bus departing from Heraklion’s Central Bus Station.
Red Sand Beach
For those in the mood for a natural environment, the Red Sand Beach ranks third in the list of nudist beaches according to “The World’s Best Nude Beaches” on the Sky Travel TV channel.
Be sure to carry refreshments for the walk and supplies for the day. This secluded, tiny beach has dark, reddish sun and wonderful crystal clear waters, ideal for immersions.
- The only way to get to Red Beach is on foot, you will have to hike from Matala following the signs (Red sand Beach or Kokkini Ammos) for about 20 minutes passing through some beautiful caves, the pleasant walk offers stunning views from 80 meters above the sea.
Towards the western side of Matala, there is a traditional village known as Kamilari. This tiny town offers a nearby beach spot away from the more crowded Matala, and it is ideal for families and couples. The sunset views from this beach are spectacular.
On the coast, there are several beach bars and quaint restaurants. In the center of the village, ideal for an afternoon stroll, there are several artisans selling local crafts such as pottery and ceramic decorations.
- To reach Kamilari we recommend you to check the website of Crete’s public bus service, which counts with a bus to Kamilari. The road passes through the Messara valley, one of the most beautiful and fertile areas in Crete. There are more frequent services to Matala, from where you can easily take a taxi to Kamilari.
Kalamaki is 67 kilometres south of Heraklion, very close to Kamilari, Matala and Faistos.
The modern village is built along the amazing Messara Bay beach and it is probably the largest beach in the southern area of the island. The landscape has strong similarities to the African desert, giving the area a characteristic appeal.
Being so central, Kalamaki is ideal to visit the nearby villages and beaches, as well as to discover the traditional villages of the Messara Plain.
- The best way to reach Kalamaki is with the local bus to Matala and then a taxi. If you drive to Kalamaki, take the road from Heraklion to Tymbaki. Shortly before Tymbaki, turn left onto the road to Kamilari.
One of the most popular resorts in Crete is definitely Chersonissos. It is only 28 kilometers east of Heraklion and it caters for all tastes. There are very nice beaches as well as water parks for the family, but you can also find a plethora of restaurants, bars, and tavernas all over the area.
For a walk and a lunch, visit the traditional villages of Ano Hersonissos, Koutouloufari and Piskopiano. The area also offers endless choices for night entertainment, such as nightclubs and beach bars.
If you want to visit the most heavenly places in the area, take an excursion boat from the port of Chersonissos taking a trip to Dia island or the surrounding coast.
- To get to Chersonissos and the traditional village of Koutouloufari take the bus to the Central Station of Heraklion. The bus departs every 20 minutes in summer. It will leave you in the Central Station of Chersonissos.
Lentas is the perfect hideaway spot in the southern coast of the island and it remains one of the best ideas for a day trip from Heraklion. This seaside village is about 75 km southwest of the capital and the bay is very well protected against the summer winds.
Its most picturesque beach being Dytikos one can also find small coves equally perfect for swimming.
- To arrive at Lentas take the bus to Moires, the trip will last about 2 hours and 20 minutes)
Agios Nikolaos and Mirabello Bay
Agios Nikolaos is an area with a character of its own. This small seaside town has lots to offer. It is possible to walk in the center and have lunch with a view of Lake Voulismeni, or it is also a good idea to visit one of the many beaches in the area.
Among the best beaches in Agios Nikolaos, there is Ammos, the sandy public beach by the marina. In the center of town, it is possible to visit the sandy beach of Kitroplatia.
On the way to Elounda, you will also find Ammoudi, Havania, and Almiros, with organized facilities and nice bars in the area
- The best way to reach Agios Nikolaos is by bus, departing from the Central Bus Station of Heraklion.
Very close (about 16 km) from Agios Nikolaos, Plaka is located opposite the entrance of the lagoon of Elounda. May travelers consider Plaka one of the most beautiful places of Crete.
From the beach, it is possible to get a great view of Kalydon Island, home to the fortress of Spinalonga.
In the area, there are many traditional restaurants and a stroll in the village will reward you with images of unique old houses.
- This amazing beach in Elounda can be reached after a 3-hour bus ride, the bus departs from the Central Bus Station of Heraklion. If you have rented a car, it will only take you about an hour.
Komos is located 66km southwest of Heraklio, only 2 km north of Matala and it used to be the port of the ancient settlement of Phaistos, the ruins of the old port are still visible on the beach.
The northern part of Komos, known as Potamos, is another favourite destination for naturists. There are only a few tamarisk trees and no buildings, instead, towards the southern side, there an organized beach with umbrellas, sun-beds, showers, and a taverna.
The nearby islets of Paximadia are one of the nicest views of this beach right during sunset.
- The best way to reach Komos from Heraklion is with the bust to Matala. From Matala, it is very convenient to reach Komos with a local taxi.
One very long beach on the south coast of Crete is Ierapetra. It offers an endless choice of golden beaches with deep crystal blue waters.
Every year, all major beaches of Ierapetra from east to west are awarded the European Committee’s Blu Flag thanks to its good standards for water quality, safety, environmental education and information.
The best beaches of the area are Agios Andreas, Makrygialos and the spectacular Chrissi Island, which can be an excellent day-trip destination. This deserted island is home to a unique flora and some of the most alluring beaches in Crete.
- The trip to Ierapetra takes about 2 hours and a half from the Central Bus Station of Heraklion, with a daily bus service.
Where to stay in Heraklion
Choose the best accommodation option in the center of town, and venture to explore the most remotes beaches in the area of Heraklion. We advise you to check the accommodation offered in our central hotels.
- The foodie traveler, with an interest in the cultural aspect of the island, the best place to stay is Legacy Gastro Suites.
- The eco-minded traveler will find modern comfort, ecological features, and a cutting edge technology in Olive Green Hotel.
- Travelers looking for the best sea views in town will find themselves at home in Lato Boutique Hotel.