I don’t know for you guys, but for me, summer 2021 will be the summer of real summer! I will have a vacation in Crete! This will be my first vacation in a long time and if the only thing I need to get is a PCR test, my nostrils are ready!
Last year, after my time in Turkey, I went back to France and then, it was summertime! When I saw my mother again, she had a great surprise for me: 2 weeks of vacation with some great friends in Chania, a regional district of Crete. I pretended I was free and properly delighted (kidding, I jumped all around like a little girl, thrilled to discover a new country).
That’s how in less than 2 weeks, after getting two big bottles of sunscreen (yeah, it takes me 10 minutes under the sun to look like a cooked lobster), new sunglasses and five brand new swimming suits, we flew away to Crete.
Arriving in Crete
We’ve arrived around the end of the afternoon. Then, one of the hotel’s managers came to the airport to pick us up and take us to our hotel. Even the trip to the hotel was amazing: we discovered (or rediscovered for my friends) Crete’s landscapes and the closer we were getting to the hotel, the closer I felt like home. I grew up on an island, so being in Crete felt like home the minute I set foot on the airport’s tarmac. At the hotel, the managers had a full program for us, including spending days at the beach!
Here are some of the greatest beaches I have discovered in Crete.
This one was the first beach I went to. I was so excited that I was ready to leave before in the hotel.
Loutro is a very special spot and also really appreciated by tourists. To reach it, you must take a car to go to the harbor, and then, a boat will take you to Loutro. You know you’re arriving at this little village when you can spot white houses and turquoise water.
After docking, you have several possibilities: go for some food, for some drinks or simply climbing a boulder to jump in the ocean.
Loutro has a range of various restaurants where you can try some Cretan and Greek specialties, in an amazing landscape. Loutro is located near the coast; around the village, there is nothing around. The only habitations are the white houses.
I tried Loutro’s boulder (it was actually a miracle I hadn’t jumped already into the water). This boulder is accessible when you head to the Kastela café up the hill, from where you have an amazing view of Loutro. A small path of earth on the left then takes you to a secret place where you can hide your stuff and climb on the boulder. You will jump from 13 feet up, but the fun is worth it and this jump will remain as one of your best memories of your time in Loutro.
Surrounded by turquoise waters and the white village of Loutro, it feels like all your worries are far away from you.
Tip: While staying at Loutro, you will spot another small rocky island a few meters away from the harbor. You can try to reach it by swimming (watch out from the boats) and you will discover a hidden path of corals and seaweeds.
When I was in Crete, the hotel I stayed in was located in the district of La Canée. Even though there are hundreds of beaches in Crete, Stavros is special. Located in the northwest, this beach is known as a setting from the 1964 movie, Zorba the Greek.
This beach is distinctive with the Vardies mountain on the opposite side of the harbor and its opening to the Aegean Sea. It can be a beach frequented, sometimes by families and tourists, but is not very crowded.
You slowly swim into the transparent water of the lagoon until reaching more green-blue waters. Then, you can either swim to the shores where you’ll have to use the strength of your arms (the earth is a little higher than the level of the sea) or swim to reach the limit between the lagoon and the Aegean Sea.
Tip: Don’t be as silly as me and be careful when you’re swimming close to the border of the lagoon and the sea. The currents can be strong and if you are too close, you can be sucked up and taken by the currents. It happened to me and I was lucky enough to reach the rocky shore before being sucked up. But no worries, this limit is very visible and you have to swim quite a distance to reach it.
Many guides and tourists describe Balos as the Caribbean of Crete. To me, it’s even more like Polynesia (I literally had flashbacks of my life there while staring at the amazing view from the Venetian fortress of Gamvousa).
Balos is located on the northwestern coast of Crete, in Chania. This beach amazes thousands of tourists every year, with its soft white sand and its crystal clear waters. The colors here are so bright that when you look at the water, you have the impression of having a Photoshop picture in front of your eyes.
I recently heard that there are two ways to reach Balos; the simplest and quickest one is the boat. I took a boat leaving Chania Town around 10AM. The trip to reach Balos lasts around 2 hours. The other way is to walk to the beach. This hike can be quite harsh as you need to leave early so you can reach the beach before the boats. It is also a good way to avoid the strong heats of noon. Walking to Balos from Chania town can be a 3-hour hike. But it’s worth it when you arrive on an almost deserted island like Balos.
With the boat, you will have the occasion to visit Gramvousa, where a Venettian fortress stands. Here, we had 45 minutes of free time to do sunbathing or hiking. I decided to go for the hike. But I thought 45 minutes was short considering the height we had to climb (it took me 15 minutes…).
I entered the fortress and evolved inside it before reaching its ramparts. Here, you feel on top of the world. You must take your time to admire the view from the fortress; you can see all of Balos.
I’m not seasick, but I can be carsick…This information can be useful. If you stay in Chania, you’ll have to travel from north to the south of Crete to reach Gavdos.
And there are many reasons to go visit this island: first, it is here that Odysseus was supposedly welcomed by the goddess Calypso. Gavdos is also a historical spot, visited by traders and pirates throughout centuries. And above all, it is the southernmost part of Europe. You can walk for around an hour to reach the southern point of the island. Then, you will find a small chair where you can sit and, if you watch carefully, you will be able to spot Libya (that’s right, you see with your very own eyes a continent, from another continent).
I didn’t stay very long in Gavdos, but the beach was really pretty. It has dashing blue waters. It’s also very peaceful, as tourists on this island are not numerous. It can depend on how you feel on a boat, as the trip to Gavdos can be harsh if you easily feel seasick.
Tip: A sunbath in your birthday suit: Okay, I actually don’t know if it’s linked to the Greeks’ love for nudity in antic art, but nudity on public beaches is not forbidden. Sometimes, you can land on a nudist beach without knowing it. I encountered several people enjoying a sunbath in their birthday suits. It was surprising at first but after being on your third beach of the day seeing nudist people, you don’t pay much attention to it. You can even enjoy a good swim in the ocean bare-bare-nacked!
Marathi was the last beach I’d been to in Crete. The day of our departure, we went to Souda Bay on the coast of Akrotiri. The beach is hidden by several restaurants and faces the south. This is why it can sometimes be crowded by families, as the bay protects the beach from strong northern winds.
Depending on your mood, you can either sunbathe in a deckchair for hours, or go for a swim in the lagoon. There are spots in the lagoon that are worth seeing. Try to swim on the left side of the lagoon: rocks and corals here create different shades of blue in the sea and you may have the chance to spot saddled seabreams.
This beach is actually the opposite of Marathi; even if it is located on the coast of Akrotiri, it faces the north. Therefore, this bay is open to the wind. But it doesn’t take away any of its beauty. Kalathas beach can be defined by its fine sand and crystal-clear waters. Like in Gavdos, it can be very calm and pleasant for sunbathing. It is also very well organized, with restaurants, mini-markets and lifeguards.
But this beach has something special. In the middle of the bay is a small island, and it’s reachable by swimming. Even children can reach it. Once you’ve arrived close to the island, you can easily climb on the island and explore it. The island is only a few meters long, so you can jump back into the sea from the other side of the island and swim back to Kalathas.
Choose A Place And Explore It
There are thousands of articles which are lists of the most beautiful beaches in Crete and Greece. But with this article, I wanted to show you the spots I discovered by myself. My aim is to show you that you can even discover new places by yourself. Even today, travel is the passion of many people. For instance, close to my hotel, there was a secret path guiding me to a swimming spot.
You feel pride when you discover a place in a world where almost everything seems to have been discovered. It actually puts you in your rightful place: a tiny human who goes into a wide world which still has deep secrets.
We must never forget, especially in those complex times, to travel, discover, open our minds, and create our very own experience of life.