Best beaches in Crete

The largest of all the Greek islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete has long been a favourite holiday destination for beach goers. And with almost 100 miles of beaches along its coastline, tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing their favourite beach. Thanks to such an abundance of beaches there is everything from secluded relaxing beaches with soft white sands, to those with great nightlife and even little pebbly ones hidden in rocky coves.

The beaches along the northern coast are the most developed and made up of soft golden sands that stretch out flat between the island's main cities and popular tourist resorts. One of the most popular resorts here is Rethimno with its wide sandy beach backed by a palm tree lined promenade which leads to the historical streets in the town. Bali Beach offers a much more charming location and set within an old fishing village.

Most visitors will head to the beautiful palm forest and soft sands of Vai; set on the eastern end of Crete it attracts tourists with its safe, crystal clear waters. To the west is Chania, a popular tourist destination and boasting various Blue Flag beaches and historical sites. One of the most visited beaches here is the 2km stretch of white sands of Georgioupolis. Not so far away you'll also find Falassarna beach which is set in front of an ancient city; it's a soft white sand beach and as it stretches away along the coast it rarely gets busy. Another beach set by a historical site is Prevelj beach which is close to the monastery and Kourtaliotikos Gorge; it's fringed with palm trees and dotted with pools from the Grand River.

Head to the southern coast of Crete if you’re in search of quieter and more secluded, rugged beaches, although bear in mind these beaches tend to be pebblier than the soft sands of the northern coast. There are still some sands here though; Elafonisi in the far west is one of these with its secluded expanse of unusual pink sand and blue waters, it's backed by sand dunes and there is a sandy islet just off the shore that can be reached through the shallow waters.

  • Red beach, Matala naturist beach

    Red Beach

    Red beach, so named because of the pinkish hue of the sand, is located just south of the better known beach of Matala. Both were firm favourites on the 1960s and 70s hippy trail and whilst Matala may have gone mainstream, Red beach still retains some of its laid back credentials.
    It's a lovely little beach set at the base of arid hillsides and... read more »

  • Balos beach, Crete Pavel Timofeev / 123RF

    Balos Beach

    Located on the north-western tip of Crete, Balos beach is a strip of sand and lagoon stretching between the Gramvousa Peninsula and the headland of Cape Tigani. The landscape of Balos is stunning with white / pink sand interspersed with turquoise pools all dominated by the bulk of cape Tigani. Despite the beach here being immensely popular there... read more »

  • Falassarna beach, Crete Milan Baloun / 123RF

    Falassarna Beach

    The island of Crete is famed for its great beaches, particularly in the north west. Falassarna beach is among the very best of these with its fine white sand and crystal-clear, azure waters. Set in a long sweeping bay backed by agricultural land Falasarna rarely feels crowded owing to its size. Visitors are well catered for with several bars and... read more »

  • Vai Beach, Crete Karapas

    Vai Beach

    Vai beach sits at the foot of the Vai palm forest, the largest of its sort in Europe. There are various stories of how the palm trees came to be here ranging from Arab pirates spitting date stones ashore to Phoenician traders planting them. The truth is though, they were always here and as a protected site will hopefully remain. Such a backdrop... read more »

  • Elafonisi beach, Crete, Greece Halina Jasińska

    Elafonisi Beach

    The beach here is a strip of sand that just connects the tiny island of Elafonisi off the far western coast of Crete. This area has a wild, unspoilt feel to it and development has been restricted leaving the pristine beaches a beautiful spot to unwind. Whilst the sand at Elafonisi appears white at first glance you may notice a pink hue. This is... read more »

  • Matala beach, Crete

    Matala Beach

    The fishing village of Matala was just that until the 1960s. However, since then, like many other things, it hasn't been quite the same! It was then that Matala became a popular destination for hippy travellers attracting the likes of Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell (who even wrote a song about it) in its heyday. Many of these hippies... read more »