Makrigialos, Crete: Complete Guide by a Local

Makrigialos Crete

An ideal destination for those seeking a relaxing beach holiday in a charming Greek setting, this southern village in Crete near Ierapetra is home to fantastic beaches and amazing day trip opportunities in the surrounding area.

If you’re looking for a vacation filled with long days by the sea, exciting outdoor experiences, and adventurous boat trips, check out this complete guide to Makrigialos Crete, which – who knows? – could be your next summer destination on the island!

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Top Things to Do in Makrigialos Crete

makrigialos crete

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Essential Things to Know about Makrigialos

makrigialos crete
Makrigialos.

Makrigialos (which you will also find written as Makry Gialos or Makrygialos) is a coastal town in the southeastern part of the island of Crete, in the region of Lasithi.

Where is Makrigialos

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Makrigialos is approximately 25 kilometers east of Ierapetra and 120 kilometers southeast of Heraklion, Crete’s capital.

The small coastal settlement features safe sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters and a relaxed atmosphere, ideal for a calm holiday, like most of the southern coast in Lasithi.

In the last decades, Markigialos has developed as a popular tourist destination while maintaining a captivating Cretan atmosphere and a calm pace. Although there’s not much to do in the village, the place is often chosen precisely for that reason.

However, should you get bored of the quiet atmosphere, Ierapetra is just a few minutes away and offers more entertainment and attractions.

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The waterfront in Makrigialos.

In Makrigialos, favorite activities include swimming and water sports, visiting nearby islands, and enjoying leisure walks along the harbor.

Although not as big as Ierapetra, Makrigialos remains a great base for exploring the wide Libyan coast in eastern Crete.

How to Get to There

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Road in south Crete (near Xerokampos, in the region of Lasithi).

The easiest way to get to Makrigialos from Heraklion (or any other point on the island) is by car. The distances are as follows:

  • Heraklion – Makrigialos: 120 km (about 2 hours)
  • Agios Nikolaos – Makrigialos: 60 km (about 1 hour)
  • Ierapetra – Makrigialos: 26 km (about 30 minutes)
  • Sitia – Makrigialos: 34 km (about 45 minutes)
  • Matala – Makrigialos: 148 km (about 2 hours)
  • Rethymnon – Makrigialos: 197 km (about 2.5-3 hours)
  • Chania – Makrigialos: 258 km (about 4 hours)

If you’re reaching Makrigialos from Heraklion by car, remember that the journey lasts 2-2.5 hours. You must drive east along the National Road E75 towards Agios Nikolaos and then follow the signs to Ierapetra. From Ierapetra, continue east along the coast for about 26 km.

You can also reach Makrigialos by bus. A bus service connects Heraklion to Ierapetra, the nearest major town. From Ierapetra, you can then take a local bus or a taxi. The whole journey can last from 2.5 to 3 hours.

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The landscape in South Crete, near Makrigialos.

Driving in South Crete is an amazing adventure. The area is wild but incredibly beautiful, and it’s not easy to get lost as long as you keep the coastal road.

In any case, I always suggest keeping an updated map of Crete at hand (I ALWAYS use this one) or renting a car with a good navigation system installed.

You can also find this guide to driving in Crete handy for more details.

Which car rental service is the best to choose? If you want to rent a car for your trip, consider Discover Cars, a worldwide car rental booking service.

Best Things to Do in Makrigialos, Crete

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Makrigialos.

A quintessential southern beach town in Crete, Makrigialos offers a limited yet fantastic array of things to do.

Start by spending some lazy time on the beach, resting from a long year of work, and continue by enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of the village.

Explore nearby gorges and attractions, and other equally charming fishing towns, and be amazed at the southern pace of life, made of hospitality, simplicity, and wild landscapes.

Beach Time in Makrigialos

Makrigialos Beach in Crete
Makrigialos.

One of the top beaches in South Crete, Markigialos, features beautiful sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. One of the best plans in Makrigialos is to spend your days lounging on the beach, swimming in the sea, and soaking up the sun.

Some popular beaches in the area include the main shore Makrigialos Beach, Lagada Beach, and Diaskari Beach.

Try Water Sports

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All along the coast near Makrigialos, you will find water sports activities available. You can try snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, paddleboarding, and windsurfing, or just purchase a pair of goggles and enjoy the seabed in the area.

For those interested, several local water sports centers offer equipment rentals and lessons for beginners.

Explore the Sea Caves

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Join a boat tour or rent a kayak to explore the coastline’s fascinating sea caves and rock formations. This is a great way to discover hidden gems and enjoy the area’s natural beauty.

Head to Makrigialos harbor and discuss with a local boatman about excursions and fees, you’ll find a great deal and the schedule will be quite flexible too.

Visit Perivolakia Gorge

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Perivolakia Gorge (Via Tripadvisor).

Also known as Kapsa Kanion, the Perivolakia Gorge is close to Makrigialos and Ierapetra.

Those into hiking and outdoor activities can hike through Perivolakia Gorge, a scenic ravine with stunning landscapes, towering cliffs, and a river flowing through it.

The hike is a rewarding experience for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts with some experience. The gorge is generally considered a moderately challenging route, and the hike takes 3 to 4 hours.

Alternatively, you can visit Pefki Gorge, another great option for nature lovers and hikers near Makrigialos.

This canyon is located northwest of Makrigialos, offering a less touristy experience than other gorges. The gorge features impressive rock formations, narrow passages, and stunning views.

The village of Pefki, at the top of the gorge, is at an altitude of 420 meters and is on the southern slope of the Romanti Mountains. All Trails offers more information about this and other gorges to explore in Crete.

The trail is fairly easy; however, proper footwear and hiking equipment are recommended when exploring the gorges in Crete.

Visit Richtis Waterfall

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Although Richtis is not on the southern coast, it’s only one hour north. The hike through the gorge is picturesque, and the waterfall is a refreshing sight.

Don’t forget your camera to capture the beauty of this natural attraction.

Discover Ancient Sites

Zakros Palace - Minoan Ruins near Sitia Crete
Zakros (Source: V. Držík, Wikipedia Commons).

Although there are no major archaeological sites in Makrigialos, the area is close to some of the most important Minoan ruins on the island, so jump on your car and start exploring these sites within a short drive from the area:

  • Minoan Palace of Zakros
    The Minoan Palace of Zakros, or Palace of Kato Zakros, is approximately 40 kilometers east of Makrigialos. It was one of Crete’s four major Minoan palaces and dates back to the Late Minoan period (1600-1450 BC). The palace complex provides insights into the Minoan civilization and allows you to explore the ruins of the palace.
  • Gournia
    Gournia is an ancient Minoan settlement on the north coast of the Isthmus of Ierapetra, around 25 kilometers northwest of Makrigialos. It was a thriving town during the Late Minoan period (1550-1450 BC). Today, the remains of houses, streets, a central court, and a marketplace remain. The well-preserved ruins provide valuable information about Minoan urban planning and architecture.
Gournias
Gournias
  • Myrtos Archaeological Site
    Myrtos, a village located approximately 40 minutes west of Makrigialos, is home to the ancient settlement of Myrtos that dates back to the Minoan era and features remnants of a Minoan palace and a cemetery. Excavations have uncovered important artifacts, including pottery, figurines, and jewelry.

Try Cretan Cuisine

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Indulge in the local Cretan cuisine and try traditional dishes. Makrigialos has several taverns and restaurants to enjoy fresh seafood, Cretan specialties, and delicious Mediterranean flavors.

One of my favorite places to eat in the area is located on Diaskari Beach, the taverna is called Diaskari and it’s just a few minutes from the main beach of Makrigialos.

Visit Nearby Villages

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Kalo Nero sandy beach, near Makrigialos

Take a day trip to nearby villages, such as Myrtos, Analipsi, Koutsouras, or Kalo Nero, to experience the local culture, charming streets, traditional architecture, and spectacular beaches!

These villages often offer a glimpse into the authentic Cretan way of life.

Ancient Villa

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Ruins of an ancient villa near Makrigialos.

Located in the northern area of the village, archaeologists have found the ruins of an important villa of the late Minoan period that is supposed to have been destroyed by fire.

The villa featured solid walls and inner courts. It was probably roofed with bamboo and a layer of clay. During the excavations, researchers found pottery vessels, figurines, and an important seal stone on the site.

Day Trips and Excursions from Makrigialos, Crete

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The small port in Makrigialos, Crete.

On the southern coast of Lasithi, there are several incredible places to visit, not just beautiful coastal villages but also two of the most beautiful uninhabited islands off the coast of Crete. They are both easy to reach by boat from the small port of Makrigialos.

Down below are some of the best day trips you can enjoy in the area.

Ierapetra

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The fortress in Ierapetra at sunset.

Ierapetra is an important town on the southeast coast of Crete, about 35 minutes from Markigialos.

This is the most remarkable city on the island’s southern coast and the fourth most important town over Crete in terms of population. Despite all that, Ierapetra is a peaceful coastal village and a great starting point for visiting Chrissi Island.

If you don’t want to drive to Ierapetra, this Jeep Adventure makes the day trip much more entertaining!

Vai Beach

Vai Palm Beach, Crete

Vai Beach (Παραλία Βάι – Paralia Vai, in Greek) is one of the most beautiful and exotic beaches in Crete and a fantastic place to discover. It’s 55 km from Makrigialos and a great place to experience an exotic Cretan beach.

Toplou Monastery

makrigialos crete

If you’re planning to travel to Vai, make a stop and visit one of Crete’s most important monasteries, Moni Toplou.

The monastery, which also hosts an important war museum, is only 9 km from Vai and about an hour’s drive from Makrigialos.

Due to its isolated and rather vulnerable position and the continuous attacks it endured, Toplou stands behind solid fortification walls about 10 meters high.

On the premises, you can also check out the rare collection of icons and engravings and the on-site winery that produces some of the best wine labels on the island.

Myrtos

where to stay in south crete

Myrtos is a picturesque southern seaside village just a few kilometers from Ierapetra, the most important city in the south. The journey from Makrigialos to Myrtos is about 50 minutes.

The village is a favorite among tourists who appreciate the traditional and relaxing atmosphere and the hippie-like vibe you can experience in Myrtos. If you have the time, visit one of the local taverns to try delicious Cretan dishes.

Chrissi Island

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Chrissi Island.

Only 14 km off the coast of Ierapetra, on the southern coast of Crete, Chrissi Island is a magnificent gem and a natural ecosystem with pristine beaches facing the Libyan Sea. 

>> Daily boats to Chrissi Island depart from the harbors of Ierapetra and Makrigialos.

Considered a natural paradise, this uninhabited island is one of those places you cannot miss visiting.

A whole day on Chrissi guarantees a rare experience of unique beauty made of enchanting crystalline waters and one of the wildest landscapes you can dream of.

Adding to the enchanting atmosphere, a cedar forest extends into the island’s center, while almost the entire island is covered by white sand. 

Koufonisi

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Koufonisi.

One of the most exotic islands off the coast of Crete, Koufonisi is a small group of tiny islands on the Libyan Sea. It features wonderful beaches, sea caves, wild bays, and deserted landscapes.

The two main islands are Pano Koufonisi (Upper Koufonisi) and Kato Koufonisi (Lower Koufonisi), and their main trait is the crystal-clear turquoise water surrounding the islands.

Both islands are uninhabited and are a land of untouched natural beauty. The larger of the two, Pano Koufonisi, offers stunning sandy beaches, rocky landscapes, and beautiful hiking trails.

Kato Koufonisi is known for its impressive sea caves, which can be explored by boat or kayak. Both islands are protected nature reserves to preserve their unique ecosystems.

The best way to get there is by boat tour or charter a private boat from Makrigialos or Ierapetra. The boat journey takes 30 to 60 minutes, and the boats often stop at the best beaches and sea caves.

Check out this Cruise to Koufonisi departing from Markigialos.

Where to Eat in Makrigialos, Crete

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You can enjoy the best Cretan cuisine, Greek dishes, and a variety of fresh seafood in the many taverns along Makrigialos’ waterfront.

These are some of the places I loved when I visited the village.

  • Cafe Olympia: This is a great place for lunch and dinner but also first for breakfast. Located by the sea and offering a great bay view, the family-run cafe is a must-visit in Makrigialos. Check out the website and the reviews.
  • Diaskari: Located on Diaskari Beach, a few minutes from the main beach of Makrigialos, this beachside taverna offers excellent service, delicious local dishes, and sunbeds and hammocks for hire. Check out the website and the reviews.
  • Makis Grill: This affordable place by the sea is ideal for families. It is good for a quick snack or an unpretentious lunch. Portions are good, and many dishes are kid-friendly. We used to eat here when the kids were little. Check out the website and the reviews.

Breakfast and Bakeries in Makrigialos:

  • Takis Voula Patisserie: Located in Analipsi, you won’t believe this bakery’s lavish desserts and delicious pastries! Check out the reviews.

Best Areas to Stay Near Makrigialos

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Makrigialos.

Although there are quite a few places to stay in Makrigialos, the village is not huge, and not being able to find accommodation is not odd—it personally happened to me twice!

For that reason, in addition to looking for a hotel in the village, you can also check out other areas close by, where accommodation might be more easily available.

Makrigialos Beach

Of course, this is the best place to stay as it is steps from the center of the village, the harbor, the beach, and most of the shops and restaurants. There is a good choice of hotels, apartments, and studios to rent. As always in Crete, booking early is key, especially if you plan to visit in August.

Lagada Beach

Situated about 8 km east of the town center, Lagada Beach has a long stretch of sandy beach. Several accommodations, including hotels and self-catering apartments, are available in this area.

Analipsi

Not to be confused with the more popular Analipsi on the northern coast of Heraklion, this small neighborhood east of the town center is a quieter place with a very tranquil vibe yet within walking distance of Makrigialos.

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Koutsouras.

Koutsouras

Situated 2.5 kilometers west of Makrigialos, Koutsouras is a secluded village with a beautiful beach and a small fishing harbor in a gorgeous olive grove. A few hotels and apartments are available in this area.

Galini

Not to be confused with the village of Agia Galini in Rethymnon, this small settlement is 10 km west of Makrigialos on the way to Ierapetra. Offering another place to pick if you want a laid-back ambiance and stunning sea views.

Where to Stay in Makrigialos

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Makrigialos.

Despite what you might think, finding accommodation in Makrigialos can be tricky, even if the village is remote and off the beaten track.

Many people visit the village year after year and stay for long periods, making it sometimes hard to find available accommodation.

However, if you book well in advance, you will certainly find the right place to stay and the best prices in Makrigialos.

I publish new content about Crete almost every day! Bookmark my Crete and Practical Guides pages to learn more before your trip.

Are you dreaming of a getaway to Crete but feeling overwhelmed with planning?

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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my ultimate guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Remember to explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets for an unforgettable experience.

Use this comprehensive Crete packing list to ensure you have everything you need. Explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches, and check out the best times to experience its beauty.

If you are exploring specific areas like Lasithi or Heraklion, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Lasithi

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these places to stay:

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Find convenient ferry tickets with Ferryhopper.
  • Welcome Pickups offers a convenient pre-paid airport transfer service, while Discover Cars is the engine I use to find a rental car on the island.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I recommend Get Your Guide.

Pin this Useful Guide to Explore the Village of Makrigialos in South Crete!

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About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the Crete. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

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