The Greek Island of Crete has its fair share of paradisiacal beaches, from pink sand stretches to craggy mountain inlets. But whatever type of beach floats your boat – whether you’re looking for undisturbed seaside wilderness or convenience and modern facilities – you’ll find it in and around Chania, a seriously photogenic city on the island’s north-west coast. Here’s our pick of the best spots easily reachable from Chania.
Once little-known to anyone other than locals, this beautiful beach (found just over an hour’s drive from Chania) became hugely popular when it slowly started appearing on various online lists ranking the best beaches in Europe and even the world. It’s little wonder that Elafonissi received so much hype when you consider the turquoise water, the fine white sand with pink hues, and the sublime sunsets.
While some parts can get busy in summer months, it’s always possible to find more peaceful scenes over at the small islet just across the lagoon, which can be reached by foot during low tide. As a protected nature reserve, it offers space to pitch up and sunbathe, as well as opportunities to discover endemic plants and animals.
You don’t need to travel to Bermuda for pink sand beaches, as Crete has a few of its own – and Balos is arguably the best of the bunch. As well as the rose-tinted sand found along the main strips, the wider setting is what makes Balos so breath-taking. That setting just happens to be a lagoon, dominated on one side by a steep rocky cape and a rising peak on the other, creating a seriously dramatic scene. This also makes it a little trickier to get to than some beaches, but it’s absolutely worth the journey. Access Balos either via 4x4 along a dirt road or by ferry from the port of Kissamos.
A jagged strip of vibrant blue water cutting through marble cliffs, Seitan Limania is one of the island’s most striking beaches, yet somehow also one of its lesser-visited spots. It’s an ideal spot for swimming, cliff jumping and even hanging out with a few local goats. Yep, goats – because why should humans hog all the beaches?
Happily, Seitan Limania is only a 15-minute-drive from Chania, plus a little time to hike down to the beach itself, making the reward even greater. But if you’re not up for the rugged hike, approach by boat instead. In case you’re wondering, the name Seitan Limania translates as ‘devil’s harbour’, supposedly due to a strong current that once flowed here and troubled sailors, but thankfully, today Seitan Limania is free of sinister currents and instead full of gorgeous vistas.
Reachable in just 20 minutes from Chania, Stavros isn’t just famous for its beauty, it also starred in the big-screen adaptation of Zorba the Greek back in the 1960s. Those familiar with the film will remember it as the backdrop for a scene in which free-spirited Zorba teaches uptight Englishman Basil to dance. While you can still throw some shapes on the sand if you wish, visitors these days generally prefer to sunbathe and swim, while enjoying views of the craggy mountain surroundings. Those mountains also come in useful on gustier days, providing welcome shelter from the wind.
Ideal for those who like variety, Falasarna is essentially a series of smaller beaches in one. The main site is a one-kilometre-long stretch of golden and pink sand that melts into the water, housing all the facilities you could need (including a car park, beach bars, sun beds and watersports equipment hire). Venture further along, though, and you’ll find that things become wilder and less-populated – perfect if you’re looking for time away from it all and the chance to recharge on your own little piece of paradise. Falasarna is around a 50-minute drive from Chania, but worth the journey, as you can easily spend a whole day there.