As the largest island of Greece and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean, you’re right to expect that Crete boasts beaches aplenty. Though the main transportation hubs of Chania and Heraklion have their own beaches nearby, you can do better. Instead of stopping there, head for some of these beautiful beaches that are further afield, and far less crowded. All of them offer basic facilities in the high season (July-September) and many will be totally deserted outside of those months. If you want sun, sand, and the bathwater-warm Mediterranean, plus some towering mountains, Crete is your Greek island.
Less than an hour north of Chania, the small village of Stavros on the Akrotiri Peninsula has a beautiful white sand beach at the foot of a towering mountain. With restaurants, guesthouses, and bars nearby, you could head straight here from nearby Chania airport. If you do want to explore the city, public buses leave twice a day for just a few Euros.
Though the town of Paleochora is located right on the water, the the ferries coming and going offer little atmosphere. Instead, the village of Anidri, four kilometers to the east, opens out onto a quiet beach . Full disclosure: Outside of the main tourism season, it's quite popular with nudists.
Accessible only by foot from Loutro or Hora Sfakion or via private boat charter, this beach gets its name from the drinkable groundwater that rises from the sand when you dig just a few feet. This, in turn, supports a handful of trees that make for great shade. The cool water and warm sand make for a perfectly restful combination, especially if you hike over from Loutro. Facilities are limited here to one small taverna (café) that only operates during the busiest months, but this secluded area is still popular all year long.
There are more famous beaches in Crete, but few of them offer the history of Fragokastello. Approaching the small town, the 700-year-old Venetian castle stands above the town as a guardian against invaders. Sitting on the white sandy beach in the shadow of this beautiful fortification, it's easy to forget that this was once the site of piracy and siege. If you're visiting in early June, keep your eyes peeled. Locals say the ghosts of old battles visit the castle during this time of year.
Though difficult to get to (especially outside of peak tourist season) the beach at Elafonisi is perhaps the most beautiful in Crete. At low tide, a long, white-sand beach extends from the mainland towards a small uninhabited island just offshore. As the day wears on, though, the clear water of the Libyan Sea slowly fills up a small cove that's perfect for swimming and wading. If you can get here, you’ll find small crowds and beautiful views throughout the year.
Do you have a favorite beach in Crete? Any of these have you planning your next trip? Leave a comment and tell us.