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12 OF THE BEST BEACHES IN HERAKLION

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As long as it takes to eat a Greek salad
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One of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece, Heraklion (the name of Crete’s largest city and its surrounding region) bursts with reasons to visit. The legendary Minoan palace of Knossos, great food, traditional villages and vineyards, and activities in nature are all epic experiences, as well of course as Crete’s world-famous hospitality that makes you feel part of the family. And to that list, you can add Heraklion’s outstanding beaches, many unknown but certainly not unsung.

There’s wild beauty to most of them (one is found at the end of a gorge), while others are easily accessible and fully organised. So if you’re planning to take your holidays in Heraklion (or you’re looking for some inspiration), you’ve come to the right place as we introduce you to 12 of the best beaches in Heraklion
 

Agia Pelagia beach

Agia Pelagia beach caters to everyone. The once small fishing village in which the beach is found (around 30min drive from Heraklion on Crete’s north coast) has turned into a fully functioning tourist resort with hotels, restaurants and bars. It attracts families and younger crowds drawn by the party vibe, as well as water sports enthusiasts (there’s a scuba diving centre). If you want something a bit quieter once you’re here, you can swim to the tiny sandy beach around the bay to the north, close to the cave-chapel of Evresi. Alternatively, there are other nearby beaches like Lygaria, Mononaftis (both have diving centres) and Psaromoura. They all have fine sand and facilities. As for Agia Pelagia beach, enjoy with abandon.  

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, water sports, beach bars, parking, tavernas
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Heraklion: 24km 

Find the certified water sports centers of Heraklion

Matala beach

The claim to fame of Matala beach goes back several decades to the heyday of the free love movement, with the limestone caves that line the fine-pebble beach once serving as makeshift homes for hippies. Nowadays, it’s fully organised and family friendly which makes it feel a little incongruous, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying it. A 1.5km hike away is Kokkini Ammos beach, equally pretty and worthy of your time (it caters to nudists at its northern end). If you feel bold, the Minoan Palace of Phaistos is not too far away. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, snack bar, parking, cafes, tavernas, bars, souvenir shops
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Heraklion: 69km

Learn more about Phaistos and Matala

Agiofarago beach

Secluded takes on a whole new meaning at Agiofarago beach. If the name doesn’t clue you in (it means saint’s gorge) the obligatory 30-minute hike through a canyon (unless you take a boat from Matala, Agia Galini or Kali Limenes) and absence of amenities surely will. Flanked by a sheer rock face, with clear waters lapping its golden sand, this place is great for couples and snorkelling enthusiasts. Some of the caves inside the gorge are reportedly also home to ascetics and hermits so maybe pack a flashlight. Alternatively, if you aren’t too keen on the hike, you could always head to Vathi beach, one of the prettiest spots around, located within a small cove and with fine yellow sand and tamarisk trees. Getting there requires a small boat ride from Kali Limenes or a drive along a dirt road. But it’s more than worth it.

  • Amenities: None
  • Access: By road & 30min hike or by boat 
  • Distance from Heraklion: 71km
     

Kommos beach

One of the longest of beaches near Heraklion, Kommos is a great alternative close to Matala beach. Its size allows you to blend in with nature but still enjoy plenty of amenities and getting there is straightforward. You’ll find fat, fluffy sand as far as the eye can see and clear blue waters (not to mention a killer sunset). The northern part of the beach is nudist-friendly, if you fancy donning your birthday suit. And note that it’s a nesting site for loggerhead turtle eggs, so tread carefully. And Kommos beach reveals a final drawcard with an archaeological ruin located in the southern part. Spread out and enjoy the experience. You could even visit the adjacent Afrathias and Pachia Ammos beaches if the mood takes you. 

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, snack bar, taverna
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Heraklion: 66km
     

Listis beach

Listis may mean robber in Greek, but it is you who’ll be laughing all the way to the bank because this beach is pure gold. Located between Kastri and Kamboula beaches on the south coast of Heraklion, Listis is one of the prettiest and wildest beaches near Heraklion. It’s notable for its shallow, clear blue waters (pack your snorkelling gear), greenery and fun disposition and is made up of sand and fine pebbles, with a giant boulder dividing the beach in two. They say the beach was home to a resident robber back in the day (hence the name). If you explore to the south, you’ll get to a bigger sandy expanse that is essentially a continuation of Listis beach. To get there, you’ll need to leave your car and walk down a short, steep path. Alternatively, you can park at Kamboula beach and walk. And an easy 1.5km car ride away is another great beach choice, Skouros, with sand and fine pebbles and a row of tamarisk trees at the back of the beach.

  • Amenities: None
  • Access: By road & walk
  • Distance from Heraklion: 64km
     

Tris Ekklisies beach

One of Heraklion’s best-known beaches, Tris Ekklisies is named after the charming seaside village in southern Crete. It’s one of the wildest and most remote parts of the region, with fewer visitors, and the beach is known for its fluffy sand, deep clear waters and isolation (bring shade and water). You won't find beach bars at Tris Ekklisies, but there are several tavernas in the settlement and they’ll do just fine. If you do fancy a change, you can walk to nearby Pachia Ammos beach

  • Amenities: Tavernas, cafe
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Heraklion: 64km
     

Potamos beach

If you’re in Malia and want a break from the revelry, Potamos beach is for you. Bathed in fine sand and lapped by shallow blue waters, it is a 700m expanse of sand that is wild and exotic but also has amenities. The White Mountains loom in the distance and Potamos beach is a great choice if you’re planning to visit the nearby Minoan palace of Malia

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, snack bar, taverna
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Heraklion: 37km
     

Limanakia beach

There are three main beaches to visit (all with clear green-blue water, fine pebbly sand and amenities such as beach bars and sunbeds). Sarantari is a gorgeous slice of sandy pebbles backed by a 15m rock face that gives a feeling of intimacy and leads round to Gefyri beach, which has similar features and offers slightly more leg space. If you want something livelier, Limanakia beach is in a third bay just around the peninsula to the south.

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, beach bars, tavernas, restaurants
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Heraklion: 27km
     

Amnissos beach

Close to the city of Heraklion, Amnissos beach is a long expanse of fine white sand (the beach sprawls into the adjacent beaches of Tobruk to the east and Karterou to the west) and boasts shallow, clear water that is great for kids and has extensive water sports facilities. The trademark view of Amnissos beach is the islet of Monocharako in the bay. Otherwise, choose your sunbed and take it easy. Alternatively, the fat, powdery sand of nearby Arena beach is worth visiting (it even has a surfing school). Note that Amnissos beach is best avoided when the northerly winds pick up.

  • Amenities: Sunbeds & umbrellas, beach bars, tavernas, restaurants, water sports, sea ramp
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Heraklion: 8.5km
     

Diskos beach

Another of the memorable beaches in southern Heraklion is Diskos (or Ditika), around 500m west of Lentas village. There are no sunbeds or umbrellas, just a smattering of tamarisk trees for shade and a landscape of dark sand and fine pebbles and the rocky terrain framing the beach. You will, however, find a couple of tavernas and a cafe close by for essentials. Diskos is ideal if you’re staying in the area and want a little more peace than other nearby beaches, such as the main beach of Lentas. Stay for the sunset!

  • Amenities: tavernas, snack bar
  • Access: By road
  • Distance from Heraklion: 67,6km
     

Koudoumas beach

For even greater solitude, you can’t beat a beach with a 20km dirt road to get to it and a working monastery just behind it. That’s what you get at Koudoumas beach, also on Heraklion’s south coast, at the end of the long, winding road that starts at Sternes village and descends around 1,000m to sea level. The final stretch is alongside the Koudoumas Gorge and is utterly beautiful. The beach itself has fine pebbles and wonderful, clear water and the monastery (also called Koudoumas) extends to the edge of the beach, creating its own ambience of peace and tranquility. Try not to disturb the monks. 

  • Amenities: None
  • Access: By (dirt) road
  • Distance from Heraklion: 70,2 km
     

Trypiti beach

The last of our beaches in Heraklion is for the more adventurous. To get there, you’ll have to negotiate a 10km dirt road that, in some parts, passes within Trypiti Gorge (also known as Agios Savvas) on a road that becomes so narrow that it fits only one car. You reach it by passing through the villages of Vassilika Anogia and Vassiliki (confusing, right?), after which the long dirt road begins until you emerge at the clear blue waters and craggy shoreline of Trypiti beach. There are some scattered trees for shade, but you’ll need to come fully prepared. You pass a couple of tavernas with fantastic Cretan food on the way, but nothing else. Another great way to enjoy this beach is as part of a guided mountain bike excursion, which you can book locally. Alternatively, you can reach Trypiti beach by boat from the port of Lenta. 

  • Amenities: Taverna
  • Access: By (dirt) road or By boat
  • Distance from Heraklion: 70km
     

12 of the best beaches in Heraklion

Whether you’re looking for wild and inaccessible or cosmopolitan and fun, the beaches of Heraklion have you covered. 

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