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12 OF THE BEST BEACHES AROUND AGIOS NIKOLAOS

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Everything you know and love about Crete – the archaeological sites, traditional villages, great food and natural beauty – is found in its easternmost region, Lasithi. And to that list, you can add beaches. Lots of them. Some of the best known and most organised are around the bay of Elounda, close to Agios Nikolaos (the capital of the region), and in Ierapetra while other beaches (particularly on the southern and eastern coast) are wild and remote. Using the city of Agios Nikolaos as your reference, we introduce you to the best beaches in eastern Crete, highlighting facilities like beach bars, tavernas and water sports and taking you off the beaten track. So here they are … 12 of the best beaches around Agios Nikolaos to get your holidays in Crete started.
 

Vai beach

Nothing says vacations in Crete like palms on a beach, right? Well, Vai beach links to Europe’s biggest palm tree forest and is an Insta star. You’ll find it right at the northeastern tip of Crete (around 90km east of Agios Nikolaos) and it does exactly what it says on the tin: palm trees and exotic beauty. When you get hungry, head to the taverna. It’s justifiably been awarded a Blue Flag for environmental cleanliness and you can always burn off your meal with a hike to nearby Psilli Ammos bay (look out for the miniature bananas you can pick up from local farmers). Nearby Erimoupolis and Itanos are beaches that are also worth checking out. They’re both found in tranquil bays, bordered by palm and tamarisk trees, and have no facilities, allowing you to enjoy the blue-green water and fluffy sand all the more. Itanos comes with the bonus of a nearby archaeological site. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, water sports, parking, snack bar, taverna
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 90km
     

Voulisma beach

The white sand and teal-coloured waters of Voulisma beach (12km from Agios Nikolaos) have more than a hint of the Caribbean to them. As well as having earned a Blue Flag, Voulisma is fully organised and attracts a good cross-section of families and water sports enthusiasts. You’ll find it in a semi-circular cove that’s easy to get to. And if you’re not staying in Agios Nikolaos, it’s worth combining your beach day with a visit to one of Crete’s most charming settlements. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, water sports, parking, tavernas, beach bar
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 12km

Find the certified water sports centers around Agios Nikolaos

Kolokytha beach

They say the journey is more important than the destination. Here to prove it is Kolokytha beach. It’s the same distance from Agios Nikolaos as Voulisma beach (but in the opposite direction) and is found on a small islet-like peninsula that’s connected to the mainland. The landscape here is very different to that around the cosmopolitan beaches of Elounda, as you’re greeted by old water mills, salt flats and wetlands (it’s a flamingo spot), as well as the chapel of Agios Loukas above the beach. Kolokytha is not the only beach here but it is one of the best. So be prepared to share the shiny, shallow turquoise waters with families and snorkellers.

  • Amenities: None
  • Access: By road to Elounda or by boat (day trips)
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 12km

Plaka beach

Plaka is one of the best nearby alternatives to the hustle and bustle of the beaches of Elounda. It’s cosmopolitan yet measured and there are boat trips from here to Spinalonga island. (It’s not every day you get to combine a beach trip with a tour of a former leper colony.) Plaka beach is made up of shingle and fine pebbles and has clear, blue water, an assortment of food options and water sports facilities. There’s plenty of free space, if you’re looking for a quiet spot. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, water sports, beach bar, tavernas, parking
  • Access: By road 
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 16km

Agia Fotia beach

Located in southern Lasithi and one of the furthest beaches from Agios Nikolaos, Agia Fotia beach boasts green-blue waters, smooth pebbles and both organised and empty sections of the beach. It's a chilled setting, with just enough amenities, and is easy to access. Alternatively, you can always hop to Achlias, 1.5km to the east, with pine trees and a mix of sand and small pebbles and shallow water, if you’re looking for more facilities. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, taverna & parking
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 50km
     

Koutsounari beach

Weighing in with 5km of beachfront, Koutsounari is one of the longest beaches near Agios Nikolaos. Its real name is Agios Ioannis (Koutsounari is the name of the settlement) and it’s a hit with visitors (especially families) because of its size, facilities and Blue Flag. It’s close to Agia Fotia and Ierapetra and has plenty of places to eat and shops, as well as water sports facilities to keep everyone happy. The sprawling expanse is made up of fine pebbles and sand and you can always head over to Kaki Skala beach, a few kilometres to the east, for a change of scene and more tranquility. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, beach bar, water sports
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 42km
     

Diaskari beach

Located near Makrys Gialos, Diaskari beach has shallow, blue water, fluffy sand and some scattered tamarisk trees that provide some shade. It’s a fairly big beach, separated from Lagada beach (which is pretty similar) by a rock. Diaskari is a family favourite, with just enough umbrellas and sunbeds and other facilities to let you relax peacefully all day long. If you’re looking for something livelier, you can try Makrigialos beach, where you’ll find water sports as well and more tavernas and shops. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, taverna
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 62km
     

Kato Zakros beach

One of the furthest away of our beaches around Agios Nikolaos, Zakros is a wonderful beach that’s also pretty special to get to. You pass above a gorge that offers impressive vistas and you can visit the Minoan palace of Zakros, just behind the beach. As for the beach itself, it’s popular with families and is a mix of sand and pebbles and has shallow, clear water and scattered tamarisk trees. You can chillax on the beach or go snorkelling, followed by a seafood lunch overlooking the sea. For the more adventurous, there’s the option of leaving your car in the village of Hohliakies (you pass it on the way to Kato Zakros) and following the Hohlakies Gorge on foot. After around 1.5hrs walking, your reward will be the calm water and tranquility of Karoumes beach

  • Amenities: A few sunbeds & umbrellas, tavernas, parking
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 110km
     

 

Kouremenos beach

Blue Flag-awarded Kouremenos is as big as it is fun. Its 1.5km of beachfront has sand and pebbles and its shallow, blue waters are great for kids. Near the edges, tamarisk groves offer shade, but you can just as easily head over to the organised part and enjoy all the facilities there. There are water sports activities, with wind- and kite-surfing being especially popular because as it’s one of the windier beaches in the area. There are some lunch options but you can also hop over to Chiona beach, to the south, and grab a seafood meal at one of the tavernas along the coast. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds, beach bar, tavernas, water sports
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 85km
     

The beaches of Xerokampos

In the southeastern corner of Crete, Xerokampos has several beaches to choose from, all of them wild and remote. You’ll pass rocky hills and lonely olive groves to get there, with the occasional glimpse of a medieval castle or a gorge. The main beach, Mazida Ammos is covered in fine yellow sand and has wonderfully clear water to swim in, but there are only limited facilities here so you’ll need supplies. Further east is wild and sandy Alatsolimni beach, which has some cool rock formations. And if you follow the coast eastwards, you reach the otherworldly beauty of Alona beach, with sand and shallow water that’s loved by everyone.

  • Amenities: Some sunbeds & umbrellas
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 103km
     

Myrtos beach

Very close to Ierapetra, the seaside settlement of Myrtos and its namesake beach are a favourite with families. The beach stretches out in front of the settlement, with pockets of facilities and a mix of sand and shingle throughout, providing the perfect setting to relax and enjoy the sunshine while the kids have a blast. There are plenty of shops and tavernas lining the beach and within Myrtos itself. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, beach bars, tavernas
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 51km

Ammoudara beach

The closest of our beaches near Agios Nikolaos, Ammoudara is shallow, with fluffy yellow sand and has water sports, beach bars and tavernas and is another to be awarded a Blue Flag. You’ll find it just before Voulisma beach and it is close to Almyros beach, which is another final alternative (with sand and some facilities). You can combine a day here with a walking tour of Agios Nikolaos, if you’re not already staying in Lasithi’s main town. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, water sports, tavernas, beach bar
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 5km

 

Pro tip: From Ierapetra, you can catch a boat to the golden isle of Chrissi, while from Makris Gyalos you can get to Koufonisi island. Both are fantastic day trips. 

 

The best beaches near Agios Nikolaos

Eastern Crete is a treasure trove of beaches that you’ll adore discovering. Whether you’re staying in or near Agios Nikolaos, or elsewhere in the region, there are fully organised and remote beach options all around you. Are you ready?

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