Beaches & Nature
Immaculate beauty you will remember for a lifetime
Samaria Gorge is the most famous natural formtion in Crete. It is located in the South of Chania region, in the Sfakia area, in a distance of about 45 km from Chania city. Samaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe, with a total length of 16 km. It is the biggest among many spectacular gorges in the White Mountains of Crete, or Lefka Ori. The gorge has one of the most unique floras and faunas in Europe, with rare wildflowers and animal species like the rare wild goat of Crete, Kri Kri. The gorge was declared a National Park in 1962. The entrance to the gorge is at its highest point at Xyloskalo, in an altitude of more than 1.200 m, and the exit is at the beach of Agia Roumeli. You need about 5-6 hours to pass through Samaria Gorge. Close to the exit of the gorge you pass through what is considered its most special point for many visitors: The Iron Gates, or “Sidiroportes” in Greek, the narrowest part of the gorge – about only 3 m wide – and one of the deepest – the sides of the gorge have a height of about 500 m here. As a final note, remember that hiking across Samaria Gorge is allowed only between May and October, as during winter months there are sometimes streams running through the gorge, which are dangerous for hikers.
Balos is one of the best beaches not only in Crete, but in Greece in general. In fact, Balos beach is a tropical lagoon in Chania region. The beach is located northwest of Chania city, on the north of Gramvousa Peninsula. The road to Balos beach is not in good condition, and only accessible if you have a 4x4 vehicle, or an appropriate motorcycle. For most visitors, the easiest way to get to Balos is by boat from the small harbour of Kissamos. But the jaw-dropping beach will reward you for any small hassle to get there. Balos beach has characteristic white and pink sand and many seashells – which have given their pink color to the sand. The water is shallow, crystal-clear and warm, as Balos is a lagoon. The beach is very well protected from the winds, and the water is always calm. Before starting your trip to the magnificent Balos beach, make sure to take sunscreen and anything else that will protect you from the sun, as there are not any trees or shade in the area.
Paleochora is the biggest village in the south of Chania region. It is in a distance of about 75 km southwest of Chania city, the road being in excellent condition. The village is built on a perfect location, on a peninsula overlooking two large bays with beautiful beaches. The two beaches inside Paleochora are great, and organized, with sun beds and parasols. But that's not all: On the coast around the village, with a total length of 18 km, there are more than 10 excellent beaches to choose from, all of them with crystal-clear water. Probably the most known of them are Platia Ammos, Chalikia, Psilos Volakas and Krios. Apart from its splendid beaches, many visitors are drawn to Paleochora by its authentic atmosphere of a beautiful seaside village of South Crete, as originally did the hippies in the ‘60s, who first discovered the charms of Paleochora.
Falasarna is blessed with one of the best beaches in Crete. It is located in the northern part of the west coast of Crete, in a distance of about 45 km west of Chania city. The road from Chania city to Falasarna is in excellent condition. Falasarna is essentially a large coast with white sand and crystal-clear water, lying between high mountains. Both the beach and the surrounding natural environment are stunning. In Falasarna coast, there are three distinct beaches. The first in the southern part of the coastal zone, called “Pachia Ammos”, is organized and has sun beds and parasols. The second beach is located close to the first and to the north, being the main beach of Falasarna, also with sun beds and parasols, and with a beach bar. The third beach is a little further to the north, on the end of the paved road along the coastline. This beach is the most remote - and the most unique - of the three, and you will also find a nice tavern here. The Falasarna beaches look to the west, offering you magical sunsets when the sun is gently “falling” into the clear water of the Cretan sea. A last thing you should keep in mind, is that, when there are heavy winds blowing from the west, it may be difficult to swim in Falasarna beaches.
Sougia is a tranquil small village in the south coast of Chania region, in a distance of about 70 km from Chania city. The location of the village is great: on the mouth of the scenic Agia Irini Gorge. The large, 1,5 km beach in front of the village is the ideal place to relax, and then move to one of the numerous cozy cafes, taverns and bars that lie close to the beach, under the trees that provide ample shade during the hot summer months. The beach has small pebbles and the water is crystal-clear. On the eastern edge of the long beach of Sougia there is a small part for nudists. The village of Sougia, as it is relatively remote, has managed to retain its authentic feeling of a small South Cretan village, and for many visitors is the ideal place for deep relaxation.
Apokoronas is the most known area for ecotourism in West Crete. It is located in Northwest Crete, with almost equal distance from the cities of Chania and Rethymno. Many of its residents are skilled farmers, producing, among others, olive oil, wine and raki (tsikoudia) spirit of excellent quality. Apokoronas is one of the greenest areas in the island, nested on the side of the high White Mountains (Lefka Ori) of Crete. In the central and main part of Apokoronas, we find picturesque plateaus between the surrounding hills. The south of Apokoronas is the southeastern part of Souda Bay and extends to the scenic Drapano Peninsula. Apokoronas, apart from its natural beauty, is also famous for its villages, which are full of tradition and local color: From Apokoronas' capital, Vamos village, which is a center for ecotourism, to Douliana, with its interesting architecture, to the cool atmosphere of Vrisses, to traditional Gavalohori and Armeni, to the seaside villages of Plaka, Almirida, and Kalyves featuring great beaches, the more than 70 villages of Apokoronas are a sought-after destination on their own.
Seitan Limania beach is among these one-of-a-kind places that make it hard to forget. The beach is located in a distance of about 20 km northeast of Chania city, on the east side of the Akrotiri peninsula. The beach, which has a small strip of fine white sand, and characteristic bright blue water, lies on the end of a zigzagged canal that forms among the rocky cliffs of the area. This canal is the reason for its strange name, which means "devil's ports", as the place was a trap for any ship that approached it during a sea storm. The beach had been known only to the locals until recently, but now it attracts visitors from all over the world - the good condition of the road leading there, and the parking place in a short distance from the beach have surely helped. You may find the place by its other name, "Stefanou beach", as there is a chapel of Agios Stefanos in the area. The area around the beach, with other two picturesque canals carved by the water on the rocky cliffs, is also good for hiking.
Elafonissi (meaning "Deer Island" in Greek) is a magnificent, rare beach - essentially a tropical beach - in the southwest of Chania region. The beach is in a distance of about 75 km from Chania city. In the area there is the beach of Elafonissi, the Elafonissi islet, and the picturesque lagoon in between, the three of them creating an amazing natural landscape, known all over Europe. The beach has shallow, crystal-clear turquoise water, and its fine sand is white and pink, the pink color coming from the abundance of seashells in the area. The whole surrounding area of Elafonissi is environmentally protected by the Natura 2000 Environmental Program. The area hosts, among many other unique species, rare species of cedar trees that grow on the sand, and many migratory birds. For many visitors to Crete, Elafonissi is the most iconic, must-visit beach on the island, which also provides spectacular photo opportunities. Although it is relatively far from Chania city, the good condition of the road leading there makes a visit to Elafonissi easy for any traveler.