Xerokambos is located 103km southeast of Agios Nikolaos, 47km south of Sitia and 69km east of Ierapetra. As evidenced by the long distances from the major cities of Lassithi, the settlement of Xerokambos is one of the most remote areas of the island. It can be accessed primarily through the road connecting the town of Sitia (and Ierapetra) with Ziros, while there is a second choice of asphalt road coming from Zakros. From Ziros, the paved road passes through some green plateaus and deserted medieval villages (Etia, Chametoulio). Then the road descends and has spectacular views of the Libyan Sea while it passes close to the rugged Gorge of Lamnoni.
In Xerokampos the landscape is arid and truly eerie, characterized by bare rocks and steep mountains. The vegetation is limited to bushes and there are some places with a few olive groves. A small tourist destination has started developing during the last years, especially after the roads were paved with asphalt. Xerokambos is ideal for relaxing holidays and is not suggested for party animals. In the village you will find several rooms, mini markets and taverns. Pharmacy, butcher and petrol station can be found at Zakros (15 minutes by car), while for withdrawing cash you have to drive up to Ziros (30 ').
Xerokambos wild mountains are in direct contrast to the calm sea and the beautiful beaches. In a relatively small area you will actually find all types of beaches, as there are beaches with rocks, coarse pebbles, small pebbles, golden sand, white sand and turquoise waters, while there is also a beach with clay for lovers of natural spa! We decided to present you all of them as a single article rather than dividing them into different parts.
The first beach of Xerokambos (on the west) is the
harbor of Amatos
. A natural harbor with calm waters is formed there with several boats. The remote beach is pebbly and is ideal for fishing. There are 2-3 tamarisk trees and a ramp for launching boats. The road leading to the harbor from the settlement of Xerokambos is an accessible dirt road. From here starts the path to the beach of Agia Irini.
By following the road from the Harbour to the settlement of Xirokambos, after in 100m you will find a secluded bay with small gray fine pebbles, next the only house in the area, and a smaller cove next to it. The area is called
and is accessible via a stone path that crosses the surrounding tall cliffs. The scenery around is beautiful with huge rugged mountains behind you, the tranquil harbor on your right hand and the three islands of Kavalli on your left hand.
After 500m you will meet the first hotels in the area and the long beach of
, the largest beach of Xerokambos. Mazida Ammos, falsely known as Amatos, is a beautiful un organized beach with white sand and turquoise swallow waters. It is well protected on the east by Cape Trachilos, on the edge of which there is a sealcave. A paved road runs along the coast (the same leading to the harbor) and there are several tamarisk trees aside. Opposite of Amatos you will see the three large rocks of Kavali and on west one can easily see Koufonisi island. The legendary oceanographic ship Calypso of Jacques Yves Cousteau has stopped at this place for an entire summer.
After passing the Cape Trahilos you will meet the main area of Xerokampos, Ambelos, where the settlement is built with several rooms and taverns. On a nearby hill you can see the picturesque church of Saint Nicholas with its blue dome and the remains of the Hellenistic city of Ambelos. The beaches of
start close to the church, at the east base of Cape Trahilos. The beaches are formed in several adjacent small coves. The first beach is called Gerontolakkos or Saint Nicholas (due to the church). After Gerontolakkos you will find a narrow beach surrounded by several whitish rocks. The rocks are argillaceous and this is why you will see many people bathing and massaging with the clay! The beach is called
(i.e. Clay). After Argilos you will find a small bay with golden sand, next to which there are several rooms and taverns. The bay is known locally as
. From there, the coast becomes rockier and heads northeast and crosses a protected area for the white sand lilly.
After 500m you will find one of the weirdest landscapes on Crete. Here you will see a large dry lake next to the sea. You may not get very excited on summer, but if you come here in spring or in winter, you will understand why this is so important. In the winter
(Salt Lake), as it is called, is flooded with water, forming a small lagoon. Thousands of microorganisms are developed here, making this an ideal refuge for hundreds of migratory birds that stop here waiting for the winds to abate. You might see herons, hawks and if you’re lucky …
! Indeed, the best time to visit the area is in spring, when the lake is flooded and the wider area is covered by colorful blossoms. The area is also called Alykes by locals, due to the saltmines (alykes means saltmines), shaped by the shallow water.
North of Alatsolimni there is another beach,
, at the exit of a river (potamos) with large round pebbles, which can be reached by car, by driving along the river of the region towards the sea. It is not something special, but it is certainly very quiet and secluded.
If you continue to drive from there northwards, along the east side of the river, you will reach the exit of the gorge Katsounaki surrounded by wild cliffs and stunning sand dunes. Leave your car at the plateau and can cross the dunes. After 2’-3’ you will be on the stunning sandy beach of
, with the blue waters and the beautiful rocks to the east. On the beach there is no shade and it is very likely to be alone, especially on June or on September. The beach, the last beach of Xirokambos, is a shelter for the rare turtle caretta caretta, just like all the beaches of Xerokambos. Moreover, these dunes host the rare white sand lily, which flowers mainly in September, filling the air with amazing scents.
If you have the courage to walk a bit further along the rocky shore, you'll reach a small fjord after 1km with the small pebbly beach of
(or Rousso Skisma) at is innermost point, very well protected by the winds. The beach is surrounded by red-soiled limestone, which can very easily collapse. Thus reaching the beach is diffucult and attention should be taken for the stone falls. Of course, if you have a boat, this beach is one of the most isolated that you could find in Crete and its rocky bottom is also suitable for snorkelling. The fjiord is called Roussospasma (meaning red cracking / break in Greek) because it reminds of a cracking in the red soiled shores.
All beaches of Xerokambos are unique, with exotic colors and many isolated points. They are all crystal clear and quite shallow, but you should be careful not to swim far from the coast as there are many currents: The locals say that when a boat sinks in Xerokampos it will be found later in Libya.