Crete is famous for its brilliant beaches, but it can be hard to know where to start. So we’ve pulled together our favourites to make picking your spot a breeze. With more Blue Flag beaches than any other island in Greece, you’re never too far from a heart-stopping swathe of sand. From hippie hangouts to sunset-facing hideaways, we’ve done the hard work of flopping our towel down on hundreds of them, so you can cut to the chase and make the most of your time on this Mediterranean isle. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.
With its flamingo-pink sands and luminous blue water, there’s something uniquely magical about Elafonissi Beach. Unfortunately, we’re not alone in thinking so. It’s a popular strip of sand, this one – and sunbeds get snapped up quickly. We’d strongly suggest getting there straight after breakfast (or even before, if you’re prepared to picnic) – not just so you can bag a lounger, but so you can get your money’s worth, as they cost around €9 (£8) for the day.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
This beach is as much about its translucent water as it is its unusual location and remarkable history. It fringes the island of Spinalonga, which has served as an ancient acropolis, a Venetian fortress, an Ottoman safe haven and a leprosy colony at various points over the centuries. Now uninhabited, you can explore the atmospheric ruins which remain – and afterwards, take in the views across Mirabello Bay to Elounda.
With its paddling pool-like lagoon and acres of blinding white sand, Balos beach always makes the list of most incredible beaches in the world. However, getting there is a bit tricky. There are two main routes: hiking on foot (about a 20-minute walk from the car park), or, if you’re in no rush, you can take a boat from nearby Kissamos. Our pick would be to walk and get there as early as possible, as the boats usually arrive around 11am, causing crowds to swell.
“Today is Life, Tomorrow Never Comes” is the motto of this bohemian hippie hangout. With reggae music blasting from nearby bars, it’s a bit like Woodstock-by-the-Sea, which adds an element of dreamlike surrealness to the views of ancient cave dwellings bored out of the cliffside that flanks the beach. And what a beach it is, by the way – long, wide and as clean as a Japanese zen garden. Lost your mojo? You’re sure to relocate it here.
Although it’s known as a nudist beach in this part of Crete, the name comes not from an exhibition of sunburned body parts but from the colour of the sand – a vibrant terracotta red. Close to hippie haven Matala, it takes a half-hour hike across rugged yet attractive terrain to reach. You don’t have to strip off to fit in, but do bring your snorkel – the water is exceptionally clear, and the small beach bar does the best mojitos on the island.
Located on the island’s west coast, Falasarna beach gives you a front-row seat to the most dramatic sunsets. But that comes later. First, you’ll want to hire a jet ski or boat from the watersports stall at the north end of the beach and go tear up the glittering turquoise water before coming back and drying off on one of the sunbeds. Bored of sunbathing? Explore the ruins of what once was a Roman city, just to the north of the beach.
Hiking down from the rocky hillside to this south coast beach, you could almost believe you’d stumbled upon a Saharan oasis. Here, the Kourtaliotiko River, shaded by a forest of palm trees, leads the way out to the sandy beach. Where the fresh water and the seawater meet, there’s a magical dance of currents on the surface. And if that wasn’t unusual enough, there’s a huge heart-shaped rock jutting out of the sea. It has to be seen to be believed, this one.
A favourite with local families, this laid-back beach is a must-visit while taking in the nearby ancient Minoan Palace of Phaistos (also a must). It ticks all the boxes parents – sunbeds, umbrellas, lifeguards and a changing area. There’s even a playground for the kids. There’s a cluster of excellent (and inexpensive) family-owned restaurants serving fresh seafood and traditional Greek dishes when it comes to refuelling. It’s an excellent all-rounder.
Not sorted your stay yet? Choose from the best luxury or best beach hotels in Crete, now bookable through Culture Trip. Explore more of what Greece’s biggest island has to offer by checking out its must-see sites or taking a look at the best things to see and do in the capital city of Heraklion. Finish the day off by sampling Cretan cuisine at one of the capital’s best restaurants.
This article is an update of one originally by Sarah Charles.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
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