Driving on dusty dirt roads across rocky pastures and hiking in the canyons usually end up in a refreshing swim at a splendid secluded beach. The hues of the sea play their color game with the stones and the sun. Some of the most popular beaches are Agiofarago, while there are still impressive beaches at Vathy, Trafoulas by Lendas, Aspes and Agios Nikitas. Those preferring to stay close to “civilization” can swim below the legendary caves of Listis by Keratokambos and the dunes of Komos by Matala. Οn the north coast, in the coves of Sarandaris at Hersonisos, Potamos by Malia, as well as on Dia island one comes across heavenly beaches, where the water is azure blue.
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To get there you must either cross the gorge, by easy hiking of about 30-50’, or catch a boat from Matala, Agia Galini, or Kali Limenes. We definitely recommend the first option, as the route within the vertical walls of the gorge is breathtaking. On the way you will see the large caves were some hermits still live and the chapel of St. Anthony, with a well outside.
The first beach you come across east of the port of Hersonissos is a long sandy narrow beach, which is flooded by thousands of people. It is very well organized and close to the amenities of the city. However, it is inappropriate for those who do not like crowds.
The Red Beach is located at location Moudia, 68km southwest of Heraklion and just 800m south of Matala famous resort. To get here you have to walk a trail that begins north of the settlement of Matala and crosses the hill north of Matala. There used to be some signs showing the way.
The majestic black beach of Aspes is located about 58km south of Heraklion, in one of the most remote and inaccessible areas of Asteroussia Mountains. It is situated 4km east of the hamlet of Treis Ekklisies.
Matala is famous for the carved caves in the rocks and the hippies of the ‘70s. It is located close to Phaestus, the second largest palace of the Minoan civilization. Matala was the port of Phaestus, and on the Roman Times, it became a port of Gortys.
The beach is shaped at the exit of a small gorge, surrounded by long cliffs. The circular bight of the bay conceals it from the open sea, making Vathy a natural hideout. It is no coincidence that pirates used it as their anchorage. The well-protected beach has almost always calm waters, although the surrounding beaches can be very wavy.
The Coves of Hersonissos are located 27km east of Heraklion, starting from Cape Sarandaris and continuing to the east till the harbour of Hersonissos. They are really beautiful beaches with calm waters, since Cape Sarandaris protects them from the northwest winds.
Potamos is a long sandy beach, very well organized, but less crowded than the main beach of Malia. The region, particularly its east part, is not developed due to the archaeological site. However, in the west of the beach, there are several hotels with small bays in front of them.
The beach of Malia is the eastern part of the vast beach (6km length) starting from Stalis. It is a wide beach with fine sand and shallow waters. It is so crowded that there is no space between the sunbeds to fit a pin! Here you can find whatever comfort you ask.
Kaminaki Beach is located 58km south of Heraklion, in the southeastern outskirts of Asterousia Mountains. The surrounding mountains form a purely Cretan landscape, with inaccessible gorges, bare rocks, steep cliffs and remote beaches accessible only on boat. The beach of Kaminaki is formed at the exit of the wild Perivoliano Gorge.
Ammoudara is a long beach which starts 1km west of the center of Heraklion and reaches the mouth of the river Almyros, 7km on the west. Ammoudara is today a suburb of Heraklion, with thousands of visitors every year, mainly because of the vast beach.
Kommos (or Komos) is located 66km southwest of Heraklion, just 2km north of Matala and close the seaside settlement of Kalamaki. It is actually the southernmost and the most isolated part of the huge beachfront of Mesara Bay. Kommos was once the port of Phaestus, so you can still see the ruins of the town, near the beach. You can access Kommos by driving in the road heading to Matala, till you see a sign to Kommos.
Agia Pelagia (Santa Pelagia) is located 21km west of Heraklion, on the west side of a long peninsula, which has many small coves with beautiful beaches. Agia Pelagia, initially a small and picturesque village built from the residents of Achlada village, transformed into a very popular tourist resort with many hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, internet cafés, ATMs, taxi, etc., that is connected with regular bus services to Heraklion.
On the vast bay, there are two settlements, Karteros and Amnissos. The area has grown so much that the two villages are now united. The main reason for the rapid development of the area is the small distance from Heraklion and the vast beach with the fine golden sand.
Kato Gouves (or simply Gouves) is a popular holiday resort located 18km east of Heraklion, in the foothills of Mount Ederi. In the past, the valley of Kato Gouves was cultivated by the residents of the village Ano Gouves with vegetables, olives and cereals.
Ligaria is located 21km north west of Heraklion and 1km east of Agia Pelagia. The Bay of Ligaria is closed and well protected from the winds blowing in the region. Nearby there are the ruins of the old monastery of Panagia Ligariani, where many monks lived in the past. The region gets its name from the monastery, which in turn gets its name from the beautiful plant “osier” (ligaria in Greek), with the flexible stems and the beautiful flowers, which used to abound in the area.
The peaceful resort of Anisaras is located 21km east of Heraklion, west of Cape Sarandaris. The area is now full with big hotels, which offer primarily all-inclusive services. In front of the hotels, there are small sandy beaches with rocky seabed. All beaches are well-organized with umbrellas and sun beds, which are offered for free to the customers of the hotels.
Mononaftis is a beautiful pebbly beach, located 24km northwest of Heraklion and just 1km north of Agia Pelagia main beach. According to the tradition, a ship was sunk here once and only one sailor survived. This story gave the name Mononaftis to the beach, which means “One sailor”. However, Mononaftis is a huge rock floating just 50m off the coast.
Lendas is a remote coastal village located 74km south of Heraklion, on the southern slopes of the imposing Asterousia Mountains. It is a tourist resort and a port, mildly developed offering very relaxing holidays. Lendas can be accessed from Agii Deka, close to Mires town, via the village of Miamou, through a narrow paved road.
Dia is a small uninhabited island located 12 miles north of Heraklion. During the summer, excursion boats run daily to Dia, where the visitor can admire the rugged landscape of the island and swim in the crystal clear waters. The place where the boats stop is called the port of St. George.