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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The area has warm climate, which favors the cultivation of olive trees, subtropical fruits such as bananas, or early outdoor vegetables. The area of Psari Forada has experienced a mild tourist development in recent years and now is a traditional tranquil place, perfect for quiet holidays at a very leisurely pace.
Maridaki is a seaside hamlet on the eastern side of Asterousia Mount, 65km south of Heraklion and in the west side of Tsoutsouras Bay. Despite the short distance from Tsoutsouras (2-3km), there is no direct road linking the two settlements (except a footpath). The only thing that separates Tsoutsouras and Maridaki is a very steep mountain with numerous caves and karstic formations.
Hersonissos is a very busy, touristic town located 28km east of Heraklion. 2km east of the Hersonissos port, you'll find several nice coves, that constitute the complex of east Hersonisos beaches.
Paliokastro (or Paleokastro) is located 14km west of Heraklion, on the western shores of the Bay of Heraklion. It is a picturesque beach with pebbles, shaped in the exit of a green valley which is crossed by the torrents descending from the village Rogdia. Paliokastro cove is well protected on both sides by tall cliffs and faces east.
Agios Ioannis (St. John) is a small coastal village located 73km south of Heraklion, south of the village Kapetaniana. Kapetaniana is very close to the highest peak of Asterousia Mountains, Kofinas Peak. In Kapetaniana, you can visit the Byzantine Church of the Panagia and the Church of the Holy Cross, or climb in the local climbing track.
Tris Ekklisies (i.e. three churches) is a secluded seaside village located 64km south of Heraklion, amid the wild and inhospitable landscape of Asterousia Mountains. The surrounding area, one of the most isolated in Crete, is difficult to access, but has some amazing beaches. To get to Treis Ekklisies you have to drive through a rough dirt road, about 10km long, from the village Paranymfi.
Vathianos River empties in the area, but it gets dry on the summer. The area has several adjacent coves with gold sand and shallow waters. Because the beach front is facing north, waves are quite common. That's why in some places you will see several small piers, breaking the waves.
The monastery of Koudoumas is located 74km south of Heraklion, on the western side of Cape Martelos and south of Kofinas Peak (the highest peak of Asterousia Mountains). The whole area is full of cavities where hermits used to live. To reach the monastery, you have to drive in a passable dirt road of 20km, starting from the village Sternes, which descends from an altitude of 1000m to the sea level.