Best Beaches in Southern Crete: Complete Insider’s Guide

Crete is one of the five biggest islands in the Mediterranean. Its unique geography makes it easy to divide the territory from east to west. However, the island is divided in half by the mountains with two very different coasts: The crowded beaches on the north, preferred by those looking for active holidays, and southern Crete. The area has some of the most spectacular beaches of the island, isolated traditional villages, and impressive landscapes. Here you can check some of the best beaches in southern Crete.

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The Southern Coast of Crete

General Characteristics of Southern Crete

Crete’s most developed area remains the northern coast, with its capital – Heraklion – located in the central portion of the island. The same goes for the remaining important cities of Crete, and therefore the most visited centers. Chania, Rethymnon, and Agios Nikolaos are also in the North.

As a consequence, it’s in the north of the island where airports are located, as well as many major touristic resorts. For those permanently living on the island, this coast also offers a highway and better roads, but also hospitals, universities, and more developed commercial centers.

The geography of Crete has also played a role in maintaining this status, being the island divided by at least three different mountain ranges, some of them of difficult access in winter months, about 90% of the local population lives in the North.

As a result, villages in the South have remained more or less the same as time went by. Mostly agricultural or fishing centers, where tourism is more of a side dish rather than the main economic income and where the family-owned business builds the local character.

Map of South Crete (the best beaches)

We’ve identified 42 stunning beaches in the South of Crete… a lot of places to put on any map! Check the references below to know their names and region.

Map Crete south beaches

South Beaches of CreteMap References

Chania Region: (1) Aspri Limni – (2) Elafonisi – (3) Kedrodasos – (4) Paleochora – (5) Gialiskari – (6) Sougia – (7) Agia Roumeli – (8) Marmara – (9) Loutro – (10) Glyka Nera – (11) Illingas – (12) Chora Sfakion – (13) Frangokastello.
Rethymnon Region: (14) Rodakino – (15) Plakias – (16) Damnoni – (17) Ammoudi – (18) Skinaria – (19) Preveli – (20) Katsouni – (21) Ligres) – (22) Triopetra – (23) Agios Pavlos – (24) Agia Galini.
Heraklion Region: (25) Kalamaki – (26) Kommos – (27) Matala – (28) Red Beach – (29) Agiofarago – (30) Lentas – (31) Tsoutsouros – (32) Keratokampos – (33) Tertsa.
Lasithi Region: (34) Myrtos – (35) Paralia Ierapetras – (36) Chrissi island – (37) Agia Fotia – (38) Makrigialos – (39) Dragon’s Cave – (40) Goudouras – (41) Xerocampos – (42) Koufonisi island.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Beaches in South Crete

It takes less than 20 minutes to cross from Pachia Ammos to Ierapetra.
How do you reach the South Coast of Crete?

To reach the South of Crete it is necessary to leave from any arrival point on the north coast, and head South so as to cross any of the mountain ranges that divide the island in half. The shortest road is from Pachia Ammos to Ierapetra, and it is in the region of Lasithi (Eastern Crete).

Why should you visit the South Coast of Crete?

The South of Crete is unspoiled and rather off-the-beaten-track. It’s less populated and not as developed as the northern coast of the island. There are fewer touristic structures and it maintains a rural character. The South is the best place to experience the authentic traditions of the island, see how the locals live, and it’s also ideal for relax and isolation.

Which are the best beaches in South Crete

There are many beautiful beaches on the southern coast of Crete, the most beautiful as well as popular are Elafonisi, Paleochora, Sougia, Plakias, Matala, Chrissi island, and Xerocampos.

Where is it better to stay in South Crete?

The most popular resorts to stay include Paleochora, Agia Galini, Matala, and Ierapetra. In these towns, there are more possibilities to find a wide range of accommodation since they are more developed than other isolated towns of South Crete.

The Lonely and Fascinating South

It’s a common belief that those who want to know Crete better choose the isolated south for their vacations, while first-time visitors tend to spend their time on the north coast.

It might be true, what’s a fact is that travelers need no less than 1.5 to 2 hours from any airport to reach the South. That’s something that the traditional holidaymaker on a package tour would not want to do. But well… I don’t write for the package tour traveler, nor would I expect him or her perusing this blog. 

Those who come to Crete looking for some authentic rest and a taste of the local traditions are happy to cross any of Crete’s mountain passes to settle for as long as their holiday lasts. That’s key in their Cretan adventure. They know that by doing so, they’ll avoid the crowds and enjoy Crete’s most stunning beaches. 

Day-trips to South Crete

Some areas in the south of Crete have become overcrowded in the last years through the development of what I define day-trip tourism. In short, people staying in the North jump on any given van to spend one very fast day in some of the most popular southern beaches, aka Elafonisi, Matala, and Loutro to name a few. At a lower scale, the same occurs with day-hikers, — who would not hike a mile back home — but overpopulate Samaria or the easier Imbros gorge.

These day-trips have devastating consequences in these once virgin places. As a result, small villages have now to tackle litter, noise pollution, disrespect for endangered species, and heavy traffic that our roads can’t cope with.

Always keeping these considerations in mind, I’ve decided to include both some remote as well as more popular locations on this list hoping to create awareness about Crete’s incredible resources and landscape uniqueness

But most of all, because I believe that the only way to respect and protect our island and our environment is not precisely by hiding its beauty. Nor the consequences of mass tourism.  

On the contrary, if we are aware of our actions, we will be able to take better care of our environment, no matter what beach we choose for our holidays.

At the end of every one of the four regions, I have included a list of places to stay close to each of the beaches I’ve reviewed in this article. Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This allows us to keep the blog running and to create more free content about Crete. I only link to hotels and apartments that I personally know and recommend for their quality.

Best beaches in south Crete: Chania region

Elafonisi Beach is one of the best beaches in Southern Crete
Elafonisi, one of the best beaches in Southern Crete

The region of Sfakia in Chania, Crete

General information about Sfakia

The region of Sfakia is located in the southern area of the Chania Regional Unit, counting with about 2500 permanent, 500 of which in the capital, Chora Sfakion. However, Sfakia is more than Chora Sfakia.

Sfakia is a region famous for the character of its inhabitants, and for the role they played in the history of the island during the hundreds of years of occupations. It was the Sfakians who fiercely resisted the Venetians, the Ottomans, and the Nazis, often helped by the indomitable local landscape.

A rugged scenario made of deep gorges, steep cliffs, and the blue Libyan sea. Sfakia is also a region rich in traditions, with distinctive local gastronomy, music, and dances, as well as one of the hardest to access areas in Crete.

Chora Sfakion, the capital

The small capital of the region of Sfakia, Chora Sfakion, is located between the high White Mountains and the sea. It’s a must-go place if you are staying in an isolated village nearby and you need a bank, a pharmacy or the post office.

In the capital, you can find traditional tavernas on the seafront promenade, as well as good options for accommodation. Those interested in visiting some of Crete’s most remote beaches normally depend on the boats departing from the small harbor of Chora Sfakion if they don’t intend to hike some of Chania’s gorges or the E4 European path.

Chora Sfakion, Crete.
The mountainous region of Chora Sfakion

A must in Chora Sfakion is the delicious Sfakian Pita, a flat cake made of light dough, filled with mizythra cheese and sprinkled with local honey. Sfakian thyme honey is known for its unique density, taste, aroma, and qualities.

From the small port of Chora Sfakion, daily ferries depart to Loutro, Agia Roumeli, Glyka Nera, Marmara, and the island of Gavdos.

In Chora Sfakion, it’s a good idea to visit the Cave of Daskalogiannis. A milestone in Cretan history, a hideout in the cliffs where the Cretan rebel planned his revolutionary moves. Also interesting is the nearby mountain village of Anopolis (600 m height above the sea level).

Port of Chora Sfakion. Crete
Port of Chora Sfakion.

Best Beaches in the Region of Sfakia


Loutro, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.19919 | Longitude: E 24.07828

  • Pebbles
  • Organized
  • Basics you need: –

This well-known small fishing town is located between Chora Sfakion and Agia Roumeli. It represents a good example of how the southern beaches in Crete look like: Pristine crystal waters, a laid-back atmosphere, and not much to do. Popular activities include hiking, swimming, and splurging in local tastes in one of the many fish tavernas on the seafront.

Loutro, Crete.
The beautiful coast of Loutro.

You can easily reach Loutro with the ferry from Chora Sfakion. If you prefer to walk, the hiking trail from Chora Sfakion takes about two hours. It’s common for hikers to take a resting break in Glyka Nera. If you keep walking west you can reach Marmara and, after a while, Agia Roumeli.

Fisherman on Boat - Loutro, Crete.
The sea in Loutro.

There is not much to be done in the village, just lay your beach towel on the smooth pebbles and chill until it’s time to sail back to Chora Sfakion. For lunch try the local fish in Notos, a small taverna almost at the end of the promenade with convenient prices.

Glyka Nera (Sweetwater Beach)

Sweetwater Beach, Anopolis gorge, Chora Sfakion, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.201796 | Longitude: E 24.107225

  • Sand mixed with pebbles
  • Very little organization
  • Basics you need: water

Another wonderful beach in Sfakia is Glyka Nera (meaning “sweet water”). A wide sandy-pebbled beach with usually cold and blue waters.

There are abundant tamarisk trees and it’s not weird to find goats in the cliffs that abruptly end on the sand. More tourists started visiting the beach when the London Times included it in the list of the 20 Best Beaches in Europe. However, it still retains a lonely atmosphere since it’s not so easy to visit.

Remember that the water in Glyka Nera is generally cold because of the springs, even in midsummer.

The beach of Glyka Nera in Sfakion, south Crete.
The beach of Glyka Nera in Sfakion, South Crete.

Frangokastello Beach

Fragokastello, Sfakia Municipality, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.181586 | Longitude: E 24.231458

  • Sand
  • Organized
  • Basics you need: –

About 14 km east of Chora Sfakion lies Frangokastello. This village is famous for a wonderful Fortezza right in front of the sea. The only attractions in town are the castle and a fine sand beach, ideal for children.

Water is shallow but it can get a bit windy on occasions. Frangokastello is the perfect place to disconnect from everyday life, enjoy the local food and get to know the traditions of the island.

The beach of Frangokastello. CRETE
The beach of Frangokastello.

The Castle

Even though it seems rather impressive from a distance, or even from the beach, nothing much remains but its huge walls and the corner towers. 

The Venetians built the fortress between 1371 and 1374 to deter pirate attacks and to bring order to the area of Sfakia, whose inhabitants are still known for their rebel character and spirit.

A curious legend lives among the walls of the castle. During an important battle fought at Frangokastello, in May 1828, hundreds of Sfakiots, in an attempt to spread the War of Independence from mainland Greece, occupied the castle but were killed by the Turks.

Frangokastello, Crete

As a consequence,  imagination fuels the legend. In fact, the locals claim that around the anniversary of the battle, shadows of the armed Cretan soldiers seem to march towards the castle. They’re known as Drosoulites (the dewy ones) because they appear in the mist at dawn. A phenomenon that has often been explained as meteorological.

Where to Stay in Frangokastello

In the need for some utter disconnection, we spent about five days in Frangokastello and chose a family hotel. We were incredibly happy to discover a host which was also an amazing cook… So much so, we never looked for a restaurant in town.


Paleochora, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.231045 | Longitude: E 23.681817

  • Sandy, pebbled, and mixed
  • Many organized beaches
  • Basics you need: –

Votsala one of the many popular beaches in Paleochora (Photo courtesy, Callumn Anderson).

Paleochora is a village about 77 kilometers from Chania, located on a small peninsula. It has the traditional atmosphere of Cretan villages plus some amazing beaches to enjoy.

Krios Beach, west Paleochora (Photo courtesy: Callumn Anderson).

Paleochora is a relaxing destination popular among locals and visitors alike. Several visitors that travel to Crete every year often keep coming back and staying in the area.

Not only they find the village a perfect, relaxing place for a vacation in Crete, but there are also beautiful organized beaches with very clear waters.

Generic view of Pachia Ammos, the main town beach is a long sandy shore on the west side of the peninsula (Photo courtesy: Callumn Anderson).

There are several tavernas, cafés, bars, and hotels as well as a lively spirit at night. It is possible to reach the area also with a ferry boat.

Gialiskari Beach (east Paleochora) – (Photo courtesy: Callumn Anderson).

Agia Roumeli

Region: Chania
Latitude: N 35.228682 | Longitude: E 23.963295

  • There are beaches with fine pebbles as well as with big pebbles, rocky coves
  • Partially organized and limited access
Agia Roumeli Beach, Crete.
Agia Roumeli Beach.

Agia Roumeli is a small village on the southwest coast of Crete, located less than 2 km away from the exit of the imposing gorge of Samaria.

There’s not much to do in the village, and it is mostly populated by those exiting the gorge, both staying in the village for a night or two, or just enjoying the beach for a couple of hours before going back to Chora Sfakion or Sougia, after a day hiking the gorge.

Agia Roumeli is a good place for holidays in complete isolation, there are in fact a few small shores at a walking distance from the main beach of Agia Roumeli that could be rightfully included among the best naturist beaches on Crete.

The beach is a good spot for water sports, such as diving and snorkeling, as well as for those keen on hiking and climbing. Towards the western extreme of Agia Roumeli, there are some stunning pristine beaches hidden by some cliffs, which means you can only reach them after some trekking (this made them quite inaccessible, and a favorite among naturists.

In general, this is considered a remote and isolated village, which can only be reached by walk or by the sea.

Pink sand beaches in the South of Chania

Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi Beach, Innahorion, Crete Greece
Latitude: N 35.272627 | Longitude: E 23.541815

  • Pink sand, sandy, rocky coves
  • Organized
  • Basics you need: –

Elafonisi is the real Pearl of the South. Since I moved to Crete, there’s nothing like knowing I’ll be spending a day in Elafonisi.  I’ve recently published a super complete guide to Elafonisi beach. 

The guide includes all the details regarding the alternative routes to get there, the beach facilities, Elafonisi hotels, and other attractions in the area and on the way to Elafonisi.

Gorge of Topolia, Crete.
Gorge of Topolia, on the way to Elafonisi.

Elafonisi is famous for its unique turquoise waters that contrast against pinkish tones of the sand. Elafonisi is, in fact, an island, within walking distance from the mainland. Most times to reach it, it’s necessary to walk through the water, but sometimes you won’t get wet at all. It depends on the tides. 

The waters are shallow which makes it an ideal spot for families with children. The island is a Natura 2000 protected area and has more than once been included in different lists of Best Beaches in the World. 

Elafonisi beach, Crete
Elafonisi colors, Crete.

Exotic and with bizarre vegetation it shines bright against the bare Cretan mountains. There is a lot to explore in the area, coves, rock formations and over 100 species of plants that easily put this place among the 10 best beaches in south Crete.

How to Reach Elafonisi

Elafonisi is located 75 kilometers from Chania. There’re several roads to get to Elafonisi (Google maps suggests 3), locals recommend to go through the gorge of Topolia, dangerously narrow at times but with gorgeous views

The second choice on the list is the coastal road that passes in front of the beaches of Sfinari and Falasarna.

Where to eat and stay in Elafonisi

On the main road leading to the beach, Glykeria is a fantastic taverna with great sea views. To sleep we recommend Elafonisi Resort, a pretty array of bungalows among olive groves.

Finally, if you happen to drive around Elafonisi at night, open your eyes wide… chances are you encounter a deer or two wandering in the darkness. It was impossible to picture them, but they were a feast for the kids!

Kedrodasos Beach

Kedrodasos, Pelekanos, Chrisoskalitissa, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.26903 | Longitude: E 23.557351

  • Sand
  • Unorganized
  • Basics you need: Cold drinks, lunch

This stunning place is 1 kilometer east of the lagoon of Elafonisi. There is a juniper grove all over the area which offers comfort and shade under the hot Cretan sun. Naturists are usual visitors to the beach, some even camp there for days.

The sand is white sand and there are some rocks all over the area. This is a completely secluded beach, so pack lunch and drinks if you visit for a day trip.

When visiting Kedrodasos, do remember that the area is home to a very fragile ecosystem that should always be respected. if you can, avoid camping in the area or damaging the unique juniper trees that grow by the sea.

kedrodasos beach Crete

Wanna be certain you’re booking accommodation in the right spot? Check this useful guide packed with information about the places to stay in Crete and the different regions.

Where to Stay in Southwestern Crete

Here are some options to book accommodation in the different areas mentioned above:

Chora Sfakion

  • No Problem Luxury Suite is a one-bedroom apartment ideal for couples, just a few meters from the waterfront.
  • Lefka Ori 2 Luxury Suites is a beachfront place to stay, with a restaurant, a bar, and a seaside terrace.
  • Livikon Hotel is just a few minutes from the main beaches of  Iliggas and Ammoudi. There’s a sea-view tavern too.

Loutro, Glyka Nera and nearby beaches with access by boat

  • Taverna Akrogiali has a fantastic location on the seafront area of Loutro.
  • Daskalogiannis Hotel is one of the top-rated places to stay in Loutro, it’s located on the beachfront and there’s a nice restaurant.

Frangokastello Beach

  • Votsalo Studios and Apartment is just a few meters from fro beach of Koutelos and has excellent reviews.
  • Kallicrates Village offers a shuttle to the airport as well as a spacious swimming pool.
  • A favorite in Frangokastello is also Captain Tom, with great reviews. The facilities are located 700 m from the beach of Orthi Ammos and there is a large garden with a terrace and a swimming pool.

Elafonisi Beach as well as Kedrodados

  • In the area of Chrisoskalitissa, Xasteria is a wonderful villa with top reviews. There are beautiful garden views, free WiFi and free private parking.
  • Musagores Rooms is just 700 meters from Elafonisi Beach, the facilities feature stunning mountain views.
  • Glykeria Hotel is another favorite in the area (I personally love the food they serve in the restaurant and the views from the terrace). The rooms and the swimming pool face the Libyan sea.
  • Elafonisi Villa Above the Beach is a new villa in the area with a patio, garden views, and barbecue facilities, 2 km from Kedrodasos Beach.


  • Manto Studios is one of the top-rated places to stay near the beaches of Paleochora, right in the center of the village. Although the units feature a small kitchen, there’s also the possibility to enjoy their breakfast every morning.
  • Another top-rated place to stay in Paleochora is Art Apartment. It’s hard to find availability because of its privileged location and the services provided.
  • Finally, if you want to enjoy a stunning view of the beach, Paleochora Apartments is the place for you. Excellent reviews and services, you can also check pictures and prices in the link above.

Best beaches in south Crete: Rethymnon region

Preveli Palm Tree Grove & Beach

Preveli Beach, Gefira Bridge, Gianniou, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.152323 | Longitude: E 24.473218

  • Sand with pebbles, palm trees, river
  • Not well organized, protected region
  • Basics you need: tennis shoes, cold drinks, lunch

Preveli Beach is about 35 kilometers from Rethymno, and it’s located at the exit of the Kourtaliotakos Gorge. Its river, Megas Potamos or Big River, flows through the gorge to reach the sea.

The palm forest on the margins of the river has also made the beach very well-known since they add a tropical note to the landscape. 

Best Beaches in South of Crete: Preveli
Preveli beach south Crete.

At the exit of the river, a sandy beach with pebbles and sand is formed, with sea water being very cool due to the river. In the eastern part of the beach, there is a beautiful rock reminding of a heart. The beach is not well organized because the area is protected, without any umbrellas.

Plakias Beach

Plakias Beach, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.190429 | Longitude: E 24.39392

  • Sand and some coves small pebbles
  • Some beaches are organized
  • Basics you need: –

If you approach the south from Rethymno, you will go through a few spectacular gorges to reach the sea. Drive through the narrow Kotisfou Gorge.

The bends of the road produce stunning landscapes, forcing you to pull over to admire the scenery all around you. There’s a wonderful church perched on the side of the mountain once you’ve passed the gorge. The whole area is really worth the drive.

Kotsifou gorge, Rethymno
Kotsifou gorge, Rethymno.

There are several beaches in the area of Plakias, other than the more crowded Plakias itself. Most of them are divided by rocky promontories offering dramatic views of the sea.

Damnoni is a fantastic long beach with golden sand, clear waters, and a secluded angle for naturists. Other pretty places to spend the day include the beaches of Amoudhi and Skinaria, popular among divers for their submarine landscapes.

Plakias beach, south Crete
The beach of Plakias.

Triopetra Beach

Triopetra, Agios Vasileios Municipality, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.119377 | Longitude: E 24.547915

  • Small pebbles, sand
  • Organized
  • Basics you need: –
Triopetra beach is another one to be considered among the best beaches in Southern Crete
Triopetra, another coastal area to be included among the best beaches of Southern Crete.

One of the most stunning beaches on the southern coast of Crete is probably the lonely Triopetra each (sometimes also written as Triapetra). This extremely long and wide shore extends both west and east of the three-rock formation that gives the name to the beach.

Triopetra beach, Crete island.
Triopetra beach.

Triopetra can be reached driving from Rethymno (it’s about a 52-km drive), through the small mountain village of Spili, worth a lunch stop as well.

Triopetra beach, Crete
The beach of Triopetra seen from the rocky formation.

From Triopetra it’s possible to reach the next beach on our list, Ligres, either walking or through a scenic semi-off road trail, with some breathtaking cliffs by the side of the road.

The area between Triopetra and Ligres. Crete island, Greece
The area between Triopetra and Ligres.

After Ligres, you can check the fantastic sandy beach of Katsouni, also good for naturism and complete relaxation.

Ligres Beach

Ligres Beach, Agia Paraskevi, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.137884 | Longitude: E 24.530168

  • Sand and small pebbles
  • Unorganized, there’s a taverna nearby
  • Basics you need: cold drinks, lunch

Probably one of my favorite beaches in Crete is the lesser-known Ligres.

Ligres Beach at sunset in Crete
Sunset hour in Ligres.

Ligres is about 5 km from Triopetra, and it’s a perfect place for complete isolation. The vast sandy beach of Ligres has deep shores perfect for submarine exploration and interesting rock formations as well as a small collection of waterfalls on one of the ends of the beach.

Ligres Beach Crete
Ligres in the afternoon hours.

Since reaching the area is not simple, it still maintains a rather secluded atmosphere, with very few tourist structures. On the beach, there’s a wonderful tiny taverna serving exquisite fish and local salads.

Where to Stay in South Rethymnon

Here are some options to book accommodation in the different Rethymnon beach areas mentioned above

Preveli (Kerames area)

  • Kionia Apartments is located on a slope, right above Agia Fotini Beach in South Rethymnon. The views of the Libyan Sea, as well as the gardens, make this a top-rated place to stay very near the beach of Preveli.
  • Also in Kerames (which is probably the closest place to choose to stay if you’re visiting Preveli), Petrino Paradosiako is a 3-room villa just 4 km from Preveli Beach.
  • If you prefer to stay in Damnoni, and also visit that great beach on the southern coast of Rethymnon, check Schoinaria Bay, family accommodation with great views of the sea, also close to Plakias Beach (10 km).
  • Finally, you can also stay in the village of Lefkogeia, close both to Plakias and Preveli. Plakias Villas are separate villas with a private pool and separate children’s section 2 km from Ammoudi Beach. Always in this village, but more on the budget side, check Villa Faragi, a studio with an outdoor pool, a sun terrace and a small children’s playground.

Plakias Beach, but also Triopetra and Ligres

  • Check the great reviews of Lamon Hotel, a few steps from the sandy beach of Plakias and a 5-minute walk from the village. It features a snack bar and a swimming pool.
  • Kalypso Cretan Village Resort and Spa has its own private, secluded shore on the beach of Karavos, there are a swimming pool, a tennis court, and a spa overlooking the Libyan Sea.
  • Belvedere Apartments and Spa is a wonderful place to stay close to Plakias Beach in Rethymnon. They serve continental breakfast every morning, and there is also a fantastic spa center.
  • Alianthos Garden is another top-rated property, hard to find available, close to the beach of Plakias. This is a family-run complex, opposite the beach, a few minutes from the village.

Best beaches in south Crete: Heraklion region

Matala Beach

Matala Beach, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 34.992533 | Longitude: E 24.749378

  • Sand and very small pebbles
  • Organized
  • Basics you need: –

The hippie village of Matala is located about 75 km south of Heraklion, the capital of Crete. It is, in fact, one of the best places to spend a few days at the beach when you’re staying in Heraklion. But also, Matala is a place rich in history, legend, and ideal to explore both the areas to its west and east.

Rock caves of Matala by the sea.
Rock caves of Matala by the sea.

Matala is a natural harbor which makes it well-protected from the winds. It is located on the beautiful bay of Messara, with soft sand and pebbles, and clear, cold waters, as in the rest of the south. Matala is one of the favorite beaches in Crete with many returning tourists every summer.

If you want to read more about the legendary hippy past of the village, read my post about Matala as well as beaches and archeological sites in the area.

Agiofarago Beach

Agiofarago, Kali Limenes, Faistos Municipality, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 34.925487 | Longitude: E 24.778493

  • Sand with small pebbles
  • Unorganized, nudism is forbidden
  • Basics you need: cold drinks, lunch, tennis shoes to explore the gorge

About 80 kilometers from Heraklion, at the exit of the gorge of the same name, the beach of Agiofarago is a wonderful place to visit. You reach the beach after crossing the gorge, after a hike that can last up to an hour. It is also possible to visit by boat, departing from Matala or Agia Galini. 

Agiofarago, at the exit of the stunning gorge in Crete
Agiofarago, at the exit of the stunning gorge.

Agiofarago beach is a place of unique beauty, with clear waters and very fine pebbles. Towards the west of the beach, there is a nice rocky arch, perfect for photography fans.

Where to Stay in the Southern Coast of Heraklion

Matala Beach, Agiofarago Beach, Red Beach, Kalamaki, Kamilari areas

  • Boutique Hotel Die Zwei Brüder is a hotel close to Matala Beach, run by German staff, it offers bicycle rental service and car rental service.
  • Check the pictures, prices, and reviews of the beautiful Nikkon Summer Home 70 meters from the beach of Matala.
  • The self-catered apartments of Beach View Matala are just a few steps from the beach and offer comfortable rooms and every facility you need for a vacation feeling at home.
  • If you want to look for more hotels close to Matala Beach, including the quiet villages of Kamilari, Pitsidia, Kalamaki or Agia Galini, check this list of accommodation in the area.

Best beaches in south Crete: Lasithi region

Xeroxampos Beach

Xerokampos, Sitia Municipality, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.033636 | Longitude: E 26.216042

  • Pebbles, sand, clay, rocks, different options
  • Some organization on a few beaches
  • Basics you need: depending on where you go, lunch and cold drinks

Xerokampos (or Xerocampos / Xerocambos) is a stunning group of several beaches on the southeastern coast of Crete. In the area, there are beaches for every taste: sandy, pebbled, and even a cove of clay!

As you drive down the main road that from the north (usually Zakros) takes you down to Xerocampos, you will be impressed by the massive extension of this coast, usually not crowded, unspoiled, and very peaceful due to its remote location.

There are wide sandy beaches, both completely unorganized or with the possibility of renting sunbeds and umbrellas. Among the different shores, Alatsolimni is a sandy beach worth mentioning because of the salt lake that lies behind.

Xerocampos beach, southern Crete.

With a harsh landscape of rocks and scarce vegetation, the place is simply perfect for a holiday on the beach for those travelers looking to put their brain completely offline!

Makrigialos Beach

Marina of Makrigialos, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 35.037216 | Longitude: E 25.973475

  • Sand
  • Organized
  • Basics you need: –

Makrigialos is a rare gem in the south of the island, not very popular among tourists so not usually crowded. It’s only a few kilometers east of Ierapetra, about 30 minutes by car. It’s also easy to reach from the nearby Sitia (just an hour away).

Makrigialos, beach in south Crete
Makrigialos, the coastline.

The village is mostly developed along the coast, where you can find nice and convenient tavernas for lunch and dinner, and lovely little venues for an afternoon drink.

It is a sandy beach with shallow waters and rather calm due to the shape of the bay. Don’t miss the impressive mountain backdrop and the gorges of the area.

Makrigialos is a great place for a day at the beach when staying in nearby bigger towns. Still, you should consider it’s also a good place to spend a few days too since there are several hotels, apartments, and rooms for rent.

The relaxed atmosphere makes it a great place for family holidays or for couples.

Beaches of Chrissi Island

Chrissi Island, Ierapetra, Crete, Greece
Latitude: N 34.873509 | Longitude: E 25.70358

  • Sand, some coves have small pebbles
  • Organized areas
  • Basic you need: there are canteens, take your own drinks and lunch to save.

Finally, this list could not finish without another paradisiac post in Crete. This is definitely the nearby island of Chrissi or Gaidorounisi. The island is about an hour by boat from the port of Ierapetra, (about 9 nautical miles to the south), and it is also a Natura 2000 protected area of unique beauty.

Chrissi Island Crete
Chrissi island. 

Since it’s isolated and also uninhabited, Chrissi is considered one of the last gems in the Mediterranean. A day trip to Chrissi is a day trip to heaven.

The island is pretty small, there are no houses, structures, roads or cars. It has very exotic waters, with a wonderful shade of turquoise and green, the beaches are sandy, some with rock formations. There is a unique cedar tree forest too, about 200 years old. 

Chrissi can be reached from Ierapetra every day (weather conditions allowing). The boat departs in the morning (11.00 am) from the port of Ierapetra. However, please check the timetable because it is a seasonal service.

The tickets range from 12 to 25 euros, kids up to 2 years old travel for free, and meals are not included in the price. 

ChrysiCruises is one of the companies you can get in touch with to visit the island (+30 28420 20008/  89988, [email protected]).

Where to Stay in South Lasithi

Ierapetra is the best place you can choose to stay, it’s ideal to visit the beaches of Myrtos, Makrigialos, Agia Fotia, and more beaches close to Ierapetra, as well as to spend the night when planning a visit to Chrissi Island.

Xerokampos (as well as Kato Zakros beach)

  • Close both to Kato Zakros and Xerokampos, Katerina Apartments is a property perched on a green hill in Kato Zakros, 500 m from the beach. It offers self-catering units with panoramic views over the Libyan Sea.
  • Villa Paris is just 60 m from Xerokampos Beach with beautiful balconies overlooking both the Libyan Sea and the mountains. In high season, there’s a 5-day minimum stay.
  • If you’re lucky enough to find Villa Kalliopi available, don’t hesitate to book a stay there. This magnificent villa in Zakros has very convenient prices.  It’s surrounded by an olive grove and features a private pool with a furnished sun terrace. The two-bedroom villa includes a seating area with a fireplace.

The South of Crete with Kids

Families with kids looking for safe beaches and a relaxing atmosphere can easily head to the southern coast of Crete. The best and safest sandy beaches for kids in the south are:

  • Elafonisi: sandy and shallow, with a safe lagoon.
  • Paleochora: rather big village with basic facilities, a few sandy shores.
  • Frangokastello: somewhat isolated, but sandy and safe beaches.
  • Plakias: sandy, some basic facilities in the village.
  • Myrtos: quite close to Ierapetra for basics, sandy and wide.
  • Xerocampos: a bit isolated but wide, sandy beaches available for kids.

There are not many attractions in the South especially designed for children. For amusement and themed parks or better and bigger museums, you will need to reach the North. For families with teens, it’s good to know that there’s a very limited nightlife in the South.
Those kids interested in archaeological sites will find a few places to see in the area of Matala, such as the Palace of Festos.

What’s your favorite beach?

This guide is currently up to date, but I’m sure you can help me to make it better.
Is there a place missing? What’s your favorite beach in Southern Crete?
Let me know in the comments below!

Useful resources to visit the best beaches in southern Crete

Disclaimer: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Keep in mind that I link to products & companies that I personally use and recommend for their quality.

When in Greece, I always recommend choosing a local rental company over an international one. With Rental Center Crete fees are more convenient, there’s a zero-excess insurance policy (as well as no hidden costs, free mileage, and extra driver). Check this car rental website and use my promo code to get a 5% discount.

Whenever I need to book accommodation in Crete I personally use Their Genius Loyalty Programme allows me to find better fees. As they say, the more you stay with them, the more rewards you get.

For organized activities, I usually book my tours through Viator and GetYourGuide. From transfer to cooking lessons, including archaeological site visits, skip the line attractions, and boat trips, both platforms help you save time and money.

Getting to Crete can be really comfortable with an airplane, but nothing beats the romantic experience of traveling by sea. Choose Let’s Ferry to visit several Greek islands or to travel directly to Crete.

Greece, and especially Crete, is a fairly safe destination, however, you should never travel abroad without an insurance policy for complete peace of mind. My favorite? World Nomads, click here for a quote.

Go to the complete destination guide

Read more about Crete


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About the Author

Hola! I’m Gabi. I moved to Crete to explore the island all year round.
I love taking pictures and driving on the mountain roads of Crete.
I’m a beach freak and on this island, I’ve found heaven on earth!

Gabi Ancarola
The Tiny Book – Crete Travel Blog

19 thoughts on “Best Beaches in Southern Crete: Complete Insider’s Guide”

  1. Love having this information on beaches of southern Crete. I’m curious as to whether you know if you can charter a boat to see these beaches.

    • Hi Shari, yes you definitely can. If you’re interested in doing so, drop me a line via mail so I can put you in touch with the right company! Or you can use the contact page and fill in the form. I’d be happy to help

  2. Haha, day-trip tourism is a funny word, and I’ve heard it for the first time but I know what you mean. I have been to Greece but not Crete so when I go, it’ll be my first time on the island. I’d definitely want to make it to the ‘touristy’ north but even the south looks incredible to me and I would want to spend more than just a day there. Some of the beaches are so beautiful, Triopetra for example with its blue waters and contrasting brown rocky formations don’t only look beautiful scenically but also a great place to relax.

    • Sounds funny, I know, but you understood what I mean, and day-trip tourism is not really helpful to the environment… anyway, a lot to talk about I guess. I think we’ve all forgotten the value of slow travel and we are trying to see more in less time as if we were collecting destinations… are we really enjoying our trips?
      The south of the island is really stunning, and Triopetra is indeed one of the quietest and relaxing places I’ve seen so far. I’m sure you’d love it 🙂

  3. I never thought that small island like this can have so many amazing beaches. It is also awesome how you describe both the once that are not so known and the once that are well know.

    • This is just a small part of them! The island is not really small, it’s the 5th biggest in the Mediterranean and Greece’s biggest as well!

  4. I have not travelled to Crete yet! Your post has certainly moved Crete up the list. So very information and very clear, practical tips. A great guide for visitors to plan their itinerary.

  5. I have never heard of any of these places so thank you for this informative and interesting post. I love that these are not the usual touristy places. How cool is the Legend of the Castle and the Caves? I am always intrigued by myths and legends.

    • Thanks for your comment Verushka! I am always happy when this blog gives me the possibility to talk about less known places, it’s co cool to show people new destinations! Thank you!!


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