Many believe that the best way to visit Crete is to move around… a lot! If you are staying in the center of Heraklion there are lots of places a traveler shouldn’t miss and lots of beaches to love, here are some of the best.
The Coves of Chersonissos, known as Limanakia are little over 25 kilometers east of Heraklion. The area has 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. This sandy beach has shallow waters and stunning blue shades.
- You reach Sarandaris by taking the bus to Malia. The trip lasts 45 minutes.
It is a natural harbor located on the Bay of Messara. This legendary place, in Greek Mythology, was the place where Zeus abducted Europa, disguised as a white bull. It is a 250 meter-long beach with mixed sand and pebbles, and lots of fish tavernas along the coastline. Typical of Matala is the laid-back lifestyle of the ’60s, and the hippie spirit is pretty much alive.
The impressive formations of Matala’s sandstone caves give beauty to this unusual landscape.
This famous beach can be accessed in about an hour taking the bus from Heraklion’s Central Bus Station.
Red Sand Beach
It 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 there is on foot. Hike from Matala for about 20 minutes. Passing through some beautiful caves, it offers stunning views from 80 meters above the sea.
It offers a beach spot ideal for families and couples and spectacular sunset views.
- To reach Kamilari we recommend you to check the website of Crete’s public bus service. The road passes through Messara valley, a beautiful and fertile area.
It is very close to Kamilari and Phaistos and is the largest beach in the south of the island. The landscape has strong similarities to the African desert, giving the area a characteristic appeal.
- If you have a car, drive from Heraklion direction to Tymbaki and turn left onto the road to Kamilari.
One of the most popular resorts in Crete is Chersonissos. It is only 28 kilometers east of Heraklion and it caters for all tastes. There are very nice beaches, water parks for the family, restaurants, bars, and tavernas.
For a walk and a lunch, visit the traditional villages of Ano Hersonissos, Koutouloufari, Piskopiano and take an excursion boat from the port of Chersonissos to sail off to Dia island. You will be amazed!
- To get to Chersonissos and Koutouloufari village, take the bus from 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. 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 find small coves perfect for swimming.
- To arrive at Lentas take the bus to Moires, for 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. Take a walk in the center, shop and have lunch with a view to Lake Voulismeni.
Among the best beaches in Agios Nikolaos, there is Ammos, a sandy public beach by the marina. In the center of town, swim at the sandy beach of Kitroplatia.
On the way to Elounda, find Ammoudi, Havania, and Almiros, with organized facilities and nice bars.
- The best way to reach Agios Nikolaos is by bus, departing from the Central Bus Station of Heraklion.
At about 16 km from Agios Nikolaos, Plaka is located opposite the entrance of Elounda’s lagoon. May travelers consider Plaka one of the most beautiful places of Crete.
From the beach, enjoy the 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.
It is located 66km southwest of Heraklio and used to be the port of the ancient settlement of Phaistos. The ruins of the old port are visible on the beach.
- The best way to reach Komos is with a bus from the Central Bus Station of Heraklion direction to Matala.
Its northern part is known as Potamos, is a favorite destination for naturists. On the southern side, there is an organized beach with a great view of Paximadia islets.
Ierapetra is an area on the south coast of Crete. It offers endless choices of golden beaches with deep crystal blue waters.
Every year, all major beaches of Ierapetra are awarded the European Committee’s Blu Flag. Water quality, safety, and environment are among the best.
Visit Agios Andreas, Makrygialos and the spectacular Chrissi Island. This deserted island is home to unique flora in Crete and an excellent day-trip destination.
- 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 accommodation in the center of Heraklion, and explore the most remote beaches.
- For the foodie traveler, with an interest in Crete’s culture, the best place to stay is Legacy Gastro Suites.
- For the eco-minded traveler seeking for modern comfort and cutting edge technology, Olive Green Hotel is the place to stay.
- Travelers looking for Venezian port views will find themselves at home in Lato Boutique Hotel.