Aside from being a holiday destination, Crete is also the largest island in Greece, blessed with a rich history.
Approximately 3 million tourists visit the island every year and the majority of them are repeat visitors that have fallen in love with Crete and come back to once again enjoy the beauty of the island, the hospitality of its inhabitants, the great weather and the clean waters.
Crete measures 250 km in length and its width varies from 15 km to the narrowest point and up to 65 km to the widest. The size of Crete and the variety of its landscapes could easily mislead the visitor on just being on an island.
In Crete you will find modern tourist resorts which offer hospitality and entertainment to thousands of visitors, while just a few minutes away, dozens of villages follow a more traditional way of life by preserving the Cretian dialect and the local customs of the island
At the same time, more than 100 beaches surround the island of Crete. There is a great variety, ranging from long sandy ones, small coves, beaches with shallow waters suitable for young children and even secluded ones for nudism.
Crete is also a great destination for winter tourism, with snowcapped mountain peaks reaching 2.5 kilometers in height, and majestic plateaus. Crete offers thousands of paths for those who want to get in touch with nature through hiking, mountaineering and climbing.
Cretan Nature features an enormous variety of landscapes, including exotic palm trees right next to beautiful beaches, chestnut and oak forests, fruitful plains of scented orange and lemon trees and grapes, hills with tens of thousands of olive trees as well as bare hills which serve as a shelter for various kinds of small birds and animals.
The rich Cretan history captivates the educated visitor, by the sight of the famous Minoan palaces built thousands of years ago, the Roman paved streets, the Byzantine churches the Venetian fortresses and so many more monuments of exquisite taste and culture. It is not by accident that Crete is considered the island with the most ancient European civilization.
High mountains and deep gorges, archaeological sites alongside traditional villages where life goes by in a relaxing and hospitable manner, clear blue seas touched by golden sandy beaches…all this is Crete and so much more. Zeus, the king of Greek gods, was said to have been born inside a cave on Mount Idi, the highest mountain of the island. Zeus represented hospitality and his spirit continues to live on today in the hearts of all Cretan people.
Geographically speaking, Crete is the biggest island in Greece. It covers 8,336 sq m with 1.100 km of coastline and is considered one of the most prosperous areas in Greece. Its development has been largely attributed by its historically strategic geographical location, climate, diverse natural beauty as well as its unique cultural and historical treasures. Crete is renowned for its breathtaking mountain ranges and long sandy beaches running along the blue seas. This particular geography allows the existence of a large number of rare flora and fauna species, such as the sea lily along the coastal zones, sea turtles Caretta Caretta in Rethymno and Eleonora’s Falcon (falcon Eleonore) in Lasithi. In the valleys and semi-mountainous areas, one can find more than 100 different varieties of flowers and plants, while on the high mountains and deep Cretan gorges the visitor may encounter interesting flora and fauna including the wild goat Kri-Kri, which is found only in Crete.
Crete enjoys perhaps one of the best subtropical Mediterranean climates with over 300 days and more than 3,000 hours of sunshine each year. The rain season is minimal and is normally confined to the period between November and March. Mild temperatures prevail all year round.
The current population of Crete is approximately 600,000 people. The majority of inhabitants live in the four main towns of the island, Chania, Rethymno, Agios Nikolaos and the capital Herakleion. The remainder of the population is spread out in smaller towns and small fishing and mountain villages.
Rethymno, on the north coast of Crete, lies on the island’s longest sandy beach and is known by visitors as the “hidden jewel” of the island. Since 1400 BC the Minoans, Venetians, Turks and Cretans have built their ancient cities, minarets, citadels, the hilltop Fortezza, winding narrow streets, fishing harbor and lighthouse all here, which creates an old-world charm to the city. Situated midway between Heraklion and Chania, Rethymno is only a short distance from the spectacular countryside, making it an ideal base for visitors wishing to explore the island. Rethymno, the only well-preserved Renaissance town in Greece, is famous for its literature & arts and the whole region is abounding in archaeological sites. The prefecture of Rethymno is also unique in its natural beauty. It features the highest mountain range in Crete, Mount Idi (Psiloritis), home to many sanctuaries including the famous Ideon Andron, the cave where Zeus was born.
The Prefecture of Chania is the westernmost part of the island with a surface area of 2376 sq km and a population of 150,387 inhabitants (census Dec 2001). The enchanting mountain range of Lefka Ori or Madaron, with dozens of mountaintops and the highest of all Pahnes standing at 2454 meters, forms the backbone of the Prefecture. The capital of the prefecture is the city of Chania with a population of about 65,000 inhabitants, while the whole county counts around 110,000 inhabitants.
Rethymno is one of the four prefectures of Crete, built in the northern part and considered the heart of the island and one of the most beautiful places in Greece. It borders on the east by the prefecture of Herakleion and on the west by the prefecture of Chania. On the north side it is bounded by the Cretan Sea and on the south by the Libyan Sea.
The prefecture of Herakleion has a surface area of 120 sq. km. and is located between the prefectures of Rethymno and Lasithi. It borders eastwards with the prefecture of Lasithi and westwards with the prefecture of Rethymno, while on the north lies the Cretan Sea and south the Libyan Sea.
Lasithi is bordering by the Cretan Sea from the north, the Libyan Sea from the south and the Karpathion from the east, while from the west the Diktis mountain range is imposing, stretching its green-forested slopes down to the lowlands of Mirabello and Ierapetra, creating a scenic contrast.
The region of Chania offers dreamlike beaches (415 km of coastline), many of which are organized and suitable for swimmers in combination with excellent hotel units of the area. The beaches of Nea Chora, Chrysi Akti, Ag. Apostles, Ag. Marina, Platanias, Gerani, Kisamos, Balos, Falasarnon, Elafonisos, Paleochora, Sougia, Loutro, Frangokastelou, Sfakia, Marathi, Kalyves, Georgioupolis, Kavros, Almirida represent only a few of the favorite beaches of Chania..
Agioi Apostoli-Agia Marina-Platanias: These beaches are situated on the way to Kissamos and one can visit them either by bus or car.
Balos-Gramvousa: On the western, outer side of the peninsula, we find the amazing beach of Balos. This beach is wide, with very fine white and red sand, and at some point it forms a small lagoon. Across Balos there are two visible islands, the calm and wild Gramvousa.
Falassarna: Falasarna is a stunning beach on the western edge of Crete – 17 km away from Kissamos (Kasteli).
Georgioupoli: Georgioupoli: Georgioupoli is a very long beach, located a few kilometers before Rethymno. This sandy beach stretches over 10 km.
Lake Kournas: Lake Kournas is located about 3 km south of Georgioupolis.
Swimming is allowed in the clear waters of the lake, and eating is also recommended in one of the taverns at the accessible shore of the lake.
Kalathas – Stavros – Marathi: North of the city of Chania, in Akrotiri, we discover three very beautiful and clean beaches, Kalathas, Stavros and Marathi.
Elafonissi: Elafonissi is located in western Crete, 75 km south-west of Chania. Elafonissi is a small islet 200 meters from the coast, surrounded by a shallow lagoon.
Organized, endless beaches stretch along 12 kilometers in Rethymnon, Crete.
Rethymno Beach: Organized sandy beach stretches over 20 km, from the city of Rethymno to the east at the areas of Perivolia, Platanes, Adelianos Kampos, Skaleta.
Episkopi Beach: Located west of the Rethymno city, this long sandy beach is partly organized.
Bali: At the bay of Bali, where the seaside settlement 34 km east of Rethymno is also located, the visitor has the opportunity to swim at one of the small harbors and enjoy the facilities of the organized beach. In the area there are many taverns, hotels and rooms to let.
Plakias: At the bay of Bali, where the seaside settlement 34 km east of Rethymno is also located, the visitor has the opportunity to swim at one of the small harbors and enjoy the facilities of the organized beach. In the area there are many taverns, hotels and rooms to let.
Souda Plakias: On the west side of Plakias village is situated an organized sandy beach. Close to the beach you can find rooms to let and a few taverns.
Damnoni: In the south side of Rethymno, just west of Plakias village, we locate this organized sandy beach. It offers rooms to let and a few taverns.
Ammoudi: Located near Damnoni, this small sandy beach is not organized and is almost deserted.
Lake Preveli: Located 38 kilometers south of Rethymno and just before the historic Preveli Monastery, following a dirt road up to a certain point and afterwards walking on foot for about 15 minutes, one can find an enchanting sandy beach with palm trees right at the mouth of the river Kourtaliotis.
Triopetra: TThe beach of Triopetra, named after the three stones that give it its character it, is located about 50 km south of Rethymno. One can visit this beach if one follows the road to Agia Galini and at the 40th km make a turn to Akoumia village. It is a huge albeit not organized sandy beach and almost deserted.
Agios Pavlos: Agios Pavlos: Located 58km south of Rethymno, is the stunning sandy beach of Agios Pavlos. To get there, you need to follow the road to Agia Galini and in the 46th km at Kria Vrisi village turn right and continue towards the sea. Swimming to one of the isolated narrow bays formed by the rocks and dunes is quite a unique experience. At Agios Pavlos village there are rooms to let and taverns.
Agia Galini: Agia Galini: The resort of Agia Galini is 58 km south of Rethymno. Apart from the numerous tourist facilities, it features crystal clear beaches which sneak into the picturesque harbors of the area.
Korakas: t is located south of Rethymno, just south of the village of Rodakino and 42 km from Rethymno. Korakas is a sandy and organized beach, while the area features hotels, plenty of rooms to let and taverns.
At the famous beaches of Ammoudara, Karteros, Tobruk, Mallia and Hersonissos gather each year thousands of sea and sun lovers. Most of them feature water sports facilities such as beach volleyball, as well as plenty of taverns, cafes and entertainment places, offering many choices for an exciting nightlife by the sea.
Ammoudara Beach: Ammoudara is a long and sandy beach that stretches in front of the homonym settlement and is considered an important tourist resort area in the open gulf of Heraklion. It is located 5 km west of Heraklion city.
Agia Pelagia: The beach is located in front of the bustling tourist resort of Agia Pelagia, 16 kilometers northwest of Herakleion and 1km from the Rethymno-Herakleion national road. The sandy beach is not affected by the northwestern winds of the area.
Palaiokastro: he small-pebbled beach is located 10 kilometers west of Herakleion, a few meters from Herakleion-Rethymno National Road.
Linoperamata: Linoperamata is the beach in front of the same name settlement and tourist resort in the open gulf of Herakleion. It is located 8 kilometers west of Herakleion city.
Keratokambos: Keratokambos is located 71 kilometers southeast of Heraklion and is a long pebble beach with a few sandy spots.
Fodele: The beach is located 3 km north of the scenic village of Fodele and 23 km from Herakleion (New National Road of Herakleion-Rethymno), about 1.000 meters from the National Road.
Ligaria: Located 2 km east of the tourist resort of Agia Pelagia, this sandy beach is set 16 km northwest of Herakleion and about 2 km from Herakleion-Rethymno National Road.
Mononaftis: The beach is located 1 km north of the tourist resort of Agia Pelagia and 17 km northwest of Herakleion (New National Road of Herakleion-Rethymno), about 3-4 km from National Road.
Gournes: Gournes is a sandy beach near the same name village and the tourist resort of Hani Kokkini (2 km east) on the high Cretan Sea. It is located 17 kilometers east of the city of Herakleion.
Limanakia: Limanakia are a small number of very small sandy beaches west of Limenas on the high Cretan Sea, near the nudist beach. They are located about 28 km east of Herakleion city.
Stalida: Stalida Beach is a shallow sandy beach in front of the tourist resort of Stalida, on the high Cretan Sea. It is located 33 km east of Herakleion city.
Malia: The beach of Malia is a long sandy beach over 6 km in front of the tourist resort of Malia, on the high Cretan Sea. It is located 37 km east of Herakleion city.
Kalamaki: This sandy beach is situated right in front of the small seaside settlement of Kalamaki, on the high sea of Mesara bay. It is located about 67 kilometers southwest of the city of Herakleion, 9 kilometers south of Timbaki and 12 kilometers west of Mires village
Matala: Matala beach is located 68 km southwest of Herakleion and 13 km from Mires village, in front of the homonym magnificent and unique area, in the southern coast of Crete.
Gorgeous paradise beaches with clear waters stretching along Lasithi region.
Agia Fotia: Located about 4km east of Sitia, on the coastal road from Sitia to Vai, Agia Fotia is a small seaside settlement with a pristine beach and crystal clear water. Here you will find minimalistic hotels, a few umbrellas and deck chairs and a couple of good taverns for a quiet and enjoyable stay.
Elounda: Approximately 11 km north of St. Nicholas, the former fishing village of Elounda has become a cosmopolitan holiday destination with luxury hotels. Starting here, boats depart to visit the island of Spinalonga which is located in the middle of the bay.
Vai: Perhaps the most famous beach in Crete is located 98 km east of Agios Nikolaos. Vai is famous worldwide due to the palm grove that surrounds it which is the largest in Europe.
Myrtos: Perhaps the best beach west of Ierapetra (13km), Myrtos is a resort suitable for families attracting mainly European tourists. The beaches are sandy and narrow within a calm and organized environment.
Zakros: Located 23 km south of Vai, Zakros is a place you must definitely visit. This wonderful village is in the middle of the eastern wild coast of Crete.
Ierapetra: Located about 38 km south of St. Nicholas, Ierapetra is the largest city on the southern coast of Crete and the main commercial and rural center of the region. The beach is clean and sandy, equally comparable to the beaches of the holiday resorts.
Sitia Beach: Sitia is the last great city of eastern Crete, located 70 km east of Agios Nikolaos. The area is beautiful, consistently being the connection point between Crete and the Dodecanese, since the ferries depart from here for Karpathos and Rhodes.
Makrygialos: The name speaks for itself: a long bay located 25 km east of Ierapetra, featuring blue waters, a sandy area and tranquility. It is one of the most extensive beach areas in Crete, with a pleasant coastal settlement and a clean sandy beach. It features contemporary touristic facilities, many taverns, restaurants, bars, etc.
Tholos: The two most pleasant surprises of the prefecture of Lassithi are Tholos and Zakros beaches, located 29 km east of Agios Nikolaos. On the coastal road of Agios Nikolaos-Sitia turn left on the signs as you reach Kavousi. At the end of a snaking trail going through an olive grove there is this tropical beach. Tholos is the beach of Kavousios and is usually quiet in the afternoon. The green waters and the olive grove that reaches the sandy beach make it a must for anyone exploring eastern Crete.