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.
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.
“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.
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.