The eastern part of Crete hides some of the nicest surprises. The exotic beaches of the islands Chrissi and Lefki can be explored by taking a sea trip on excursion boats from Ierapetra and Makrigialos. The protected palm forest at Vai and Itanos strongly reminds of an African landscape, while the secluded beaches of Karoumes and Xerokambos are a must-see for nature lovers. The dry rocky landscape changes dramatically a few miles to the west, on the serene strands formed below the slopes of Thripti range. The capital of Lassithi, Agios Nikolaos, hosts the lovely beaches of Gargadoros, Istron and Ammoudara.
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It is a small and secluded pebbly beach within a rocky bay. It is totally unorganized without any facilities. There is a nice cave in the sea, however the sea streams gather a lot of rubbish at the wider area. The next beach you'll meet is the beach with the abandoned camping site of Gournia. It is very secluded, but rubbish is very often due to the currents.
The first beach you meet is called Kalami and is named after the reeds (kalami in greek) that are next to it. It is a nice pebbly beach, perfect for seclusion with a spring with fresh water on the beach! There are no tall trees on the beach, but there is a big cave offering natural shade to its visitors, all day round.
The last beach north of Agios Nikolaos, on the way to Elounda, is the beach of Katsikia (i.e. goats). The area is named after the many goat pens in the past. Similarly, Agios Nikolaos town was called Mantraki that means goat pen. Katsikia host a nice sandy beach with stones in a places, well hidden in front of the hotel Candia Park. To get there you should walk either across the hotel or around it.
Mavros Kolimbos or Agios Panteleimon is located 51km southeast of Agios Nikolaos and 16km east of Ierapetra. It is a small settlement near the shore, that has faced a mild development during the last decades. There are some rooms to rent around and some small taverns.
Ammoudares is located 8km west of Ierapetra and 45km south of Agios Nikolaos. It close to the settlement of Nea Anatoli and Stomio, which all share actually the same beachfront. Ammoudares beachfront consists of sequential long beaches with coarse gray sand. All beaches are unorganized and secluded. They are not popular, mainly because the area is surrounded by thousands of greenhouses. The locals avoid swimming in the area due to pesticides and drugs, but still the water is clean.
Here are some sandy bays away from prying eyes, while generally the rocky bottom is maybe the richest in the island, attracting many fishermen from all over Crete. It generally very windy and you will almost always see windsurfers. The west bay is called Tenda and is open to west winds and wavy, while the east is called Eligas and sea surface is usually flat.
In the southeastern part of the magic island is formed Chiliaderfia bay with 4 beaches and 2-3 islets colored by the characteristic white color of the rocks of the area, which in ancient times gave the island its name Lefki (i.e. white). All beaches have shallow water, as clear as anywhere in Crete, and fine golden sand.
Gra Ligia is a seaside village located just 5km west of Ierapetra and 39km south of Agios Nikolaos. It is situated at the exit of a large fertile valley, which is full with greenhouses with early vegetables. Locals were the first to grow vegetables in greenhouses and this was later extended throughout the area of Ierapetra. There are so many greenhouses, that locals call Gra Ligia as “Silicon Valley of Greece”.