Friday, March 11, 2016

4 Beautiful Beaches on Crete, Greece

by Laura Bianchini

Greece is famous for its gorgeous beaches – swimming in crystal clear waters surrounded by the beautiful colors of the Aegean will make anyone feel new again. And Crete in particular has some of the most stunning beaches in all of Greece – from small coves to long stretches of fine white sand, lagoons and inlets with shallow water leading to deserted islands and soft pink sand.

We’ve explored many of Crete’s beaches and have chosen four of our favorite ones in western Crete to share with you. We often take day trips to visit these during our yoga holidays and one afternoon during the yoga week we practice a sunset yoga class on one of these stunning beaches – heavenly!

But whether you’re in Crete for a yoga retreat or just for a visit, these beaches are definitely worth a day trip.

Falsarna Beach
4 Beautiful Beaches on Crete, Greece: Falsarna Beach
A wide long stretch of golden sand, majestic, wild and free.
Aquamarine sea and fine golden sand – magnificent Falasarna is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Crete. Thankfully it has not been overcome by tourism and still feels very peaceful and spread out, perhaps due to its size. It’s located at the very western tip of Crete, and an easy day trip from Chania town.

The view from the top of the cliff when driving down to the beach is breathtaking – you get a sense of how wild and free it still is and why people from all over make a special trip to visit. There’s plenty of space on the beach and there’s a nice breeze, which makes it an ideal escape on a hot day. The sea changes depending on the sun and the wind. Most of the time the water is calm with a soft turquoise-green color. But when the wind picks up, the waves do as well, giving it an even more dramatic feeling.

Falasarna is a short drive from Chania town, you’ll find sunbeds and umbrellas on the beach, as well as a handful of tavernas offering home-cooked meals and cold drinks. This beach is a must see on our Crete yoga retreats, and we make a whole day-trip out of it – spending the day swimming and relaxing on the beach, followed by a relaxing yoga class on the beach at sunset, and a group dinner at a delicious Greek taverna on the cliff above the beach – all with gorgeous views out to sea.

A perfect day on a perfect beach!

Starvos Beach 
4 Beautiful Beaches on Crete, Greece: Starvos Beach
A smaller peaceful cove with amazing colors, the local’s choice.
Not many tourists know about Stavros beach – it’s a bit off the beaten path and not as touristy and crowded as some of the other beaches in western Crete. It has its own charm and beauty, and perfect for a calm quiet day on a sunbed – which is why it has made our top-four list!

The beach sits on a small circular bay with very calm waters protected from the wind, located at the foot of a mountain and next to a picturesque harbor. The lagoon-like bay has white sand and shallow green water, and the contrast of the wild mountain with the peaceful beach makes Stavros a favorite swimming hole with Greeks and a handful of tourists in the know.

The beach tends to be very quiet during weekdays, but it can get more crowded on the weekends since it is a popular choice for the locals. There are plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas for everyone, and there are a couple of taverns and a beach cantina for a snack.

A quick drive north from Chania town, Stavros is an easy escape for the day.

Elafonisi Beach
4 Beautiful Beaches on Crete, Greece: Elafonisi Beach
Walk barefoot through pink sand and shallow clear water across to a lovely island.
Every guidebook about Crete will mention beautiful Elafonisi beach – and rightfully so, this is not like any other beach in Greece! The beach has clear blue water reminiscent of the Caribbean, but with rare pink sand from pink coral and shells that have been ground naturally over the years. Another unusual characteristic is the very shallow water between the beach and the island – you can literally walk across the water to Elafonisi Island and stroll around barefoot in more beautiful pink sand.

Elafonisi sits on the southwestern coast of Crete, the drive to get there is very scenic, albeit a bit windy and long, but it’s worth it, with several cultural things to see along the way including a monastery. There are a few places to grab a bite on the beach, and you can spend the day on a sunbed reading a book and taking in the beautiful scenery.

A little slice of heaven in southern Crete!

Balos Beach
4 Beautiful Beaches on Crete, Greece: Balos Beach
Raw beauty, deserted-isle feeling, and a boat trip to paradise.
The raw natural beauty of Balos beach makes you feel like you’ve landed on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by flora and fauna and sundrenched swimming spots. It’s ideal for sunbathing and snorkeling, with soft white sand and light green water, framed by dramatic islets and mountains. The sea close to the shore is protected by the wind and very shallow and warm, ideal for young children, and in many places the sand has a lovely pinkish color similar to Elafonissi beach. A little further out, the water is deeper and refreshing, perfect for snorkeling.

This exotic beach-lagoon is not on the mainland but easily accessible – there are several boat trips to Balos that leave from Kissamos in the morning for an easy day trip, with a stopover on Gramvousa island. On a historical note – the castle on top of the island was built by the Venetians to protect Crete from Turkish occupation – another fun and quick visit in between dips.

Kissamos is located less than an hour west of Chania, and the morning boat trip that leaves Kissamos for Balos will bring you back by early evening, with enough time to drive back to Chania for dinner, or grab a bite at one of the delicious tavernas along the way.

Despite the many day-trippers, Balos still feels like you’ve reached the end of the world!

And so many more secret little corners to explore…

These are just four of the numerous wonderful things to see in Crete – an island rich in beauty, history and culture. We’ll have plenty of time to visit these places on our trips, and also explore secret corners that only the locals know about.

Check out these amazing holidays in Crete!

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About the Author, Laura Bianchini

Laura has worked in the travel industry for many years, primarily organizing tours for U.S. visitors to Europe, accompanying many guests on their first trips abroad. Born and raised in Rome with an American mother and Italian father, she has lived in New York and London and has traveled extensively to many parts of the world, always in search of those special beautiful corners of the planet. She is a yoga instructor and has been practicing for over 12 years, experimenting with various styles from Vinyasa, Iyengar and Ashtanga, to restorative and Yin yoga, continuously learning and discovering how yoga can help people physically and emotionally. After holding marketing jobs in banking and media in New York and London, Laura decided to make a change from corporate life to start her own business. Combining her passion for travel and yoga, she created Yoga Escapes, keen on sharing those two passions with others on her retreats.

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