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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Agia Fotia, one of the favorite beaches of all Cretans, is located 45km southeast of Agios Nikolaos and 12km east of Ierapetra. It is a small bay formed at the mouth of a small stream that descends from the surrounding mountains. The settlement takes its name after the local Church of Agia Fotini (or Agia Fotia). The area is hidden in plane trees and tamarisks, while the bay is surrounded by high mountains and cliffs that create a magic scenery.
Almiros beach is located 2.5km south of Agios Nikolaos and is the most popular beach of the city. It is shaped near the exit of Almiros River, which empties on the south part of the beach. Next to the beach, the protected wetland of Almiros hosts several rare birds, towering eucalyptus trees, reed and some palm trees.
The name is taken after the ancient city Itanos, sited in the area. Next to the archaeological site of Itanos there are the three consecutive bays of Erimoupolis (a second name of the region). Thus, you can combine your visit to the archaeological site with a dip in the cool waters. It is noteworthy to tell that part of the ancient Itanos is under water. Thus, a unique experience is to snorkel above the ruins, which now house only fish!
Makrigialos is located 58km southeast of Agios Nikolaos and 23km east of Ierapetra. It is a large village, located near the exit of the lush canyon of Pefki. Being initially a humble harbor with no roads in the ‘50s, Makrigialos has faced a strong growth and has become the largest tourist destination in the region. It actually consists of two settlements, Makrigialos and Analipsi, which are now united.
Plaka is located 16km north of Agios Nikolaos, opposite the entrance of the lagoon of Korfos (or lagoon of Elounda), in one of the most beautiful places of Crete. A feature of Plaka is the wonderful views of the island Kalydon, on where the famous fortress of Spinalonga stands.
1km south of the village Agios Ioannis lies the Long Beach of St. John that has a length of 5km, being one of the longest in Crete. This wide quiet beach the characteristic wonderful coarse grayish sand of southern Crete, which in the sea turns to fine sand. This is an interesting detail, because although you walk on the fine sand in the sea, when you get out your feet is clean because you step on the fine pebbles.
Ammoudi is located just 1km north of Agios Nikolaos city centre, in a large and well protected bay. It is a small sandy beach with shallow waters, which is preferred both by locals and visitors. It is hidden among large tamarisk trees and picturesque buildings, offering many options for accommodation and eating around. The beach has also water sport facilities.
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.