In summer, Crete offers perfect conditions for a relaxing beach holiday on the Mediterranean. Crete's beaches are also impressive - they range from small hidden bays to kilometre-long sandy beaches with a Caribbean atmosphere.
As the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean and the largest island in Greece, Crete has an incredible selection of fantastic beaches in store for bathing holidaymakers. More than 300 rocky coasts offer unforgettable diving experiences and a Caribbean flair of white sand and turquoise sea - even relaxing in the shade of date palms is possible on Crete.
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PICTURES: The 10 most beautiful beaches on Crete
Best time for beach holidays in Crete
The best time to travel to Crete for a beach holiday is from June to September. This is the high season on Crete (May to October) and all hotels and tavernas are open. In the interior of the island it is often unbearably hot, but on the beaches a cool breeze blows and the sea invites you to swim at 22 to 24°C with an air temperature of around 30°C. Even in October at around 23°C and even in November at around 20°C water temperature, swimming is still possible on Crete.
However, the cool breeze can increase - especially in July and August - to full-blown winds that spread the sand everywhere and cause such strong swells that bathing becomes impossible. In sheltered bays, such as the popular and therefore much-populated beach of Elounda, this is not a problem.
The most beautiful beaches on Crete
The north coast of Crete is the best developed for bathing holidays. Almost every section of the coast is equipped with sunshades, sunbeds, sanitary facilities and bathing supervision. The coast is flatter and the water is 1-2°C warmer. The largest hotels are also to be found in the north of Crete, with a party atmosphere and a variety of water sports included.
Things are even quieter in the south. Here you can still find one or two hidden spots on the Mediterranean where you are completely alone even in high season.
Crete - Caribbean on the Mediterranean
The extensive sandy beach of Elafonissi and the enchanting lagoon of Balos top our list of the 10 most beautiful beaches on Crete. Here, you can really feel like you're in the Caribbean as the sun sets over the soft sand.
However, you rarely have these natural beauties at the western end of Crete to yourself - especially in the high season from May to October, crowds of tourists unfortunately spoil the paradisiacal bathing experience a little.
Family holidays, snorkelling, relaxing - ideal when swimming in Crete!
The palm beach of Vai, with Europe's largest natural palm grove, is also paradisiacal but crowded. The beach is lined with date palms and slopes gently into the sea, making it ideal for family bathing holidays in Crete.
Around Agios Nikolaos, especially in the bays of Elounda and Mirabello or near Chersonissos, families with small children feel right at home. The snorkelling grounds around Chersonissos are also ideal, as is the small island of Chrysi off the coast, which makes holiday dreams come true with its secluded juniper forest and fine sand made of shell limestone.
Bathing holiday on Crete away from the crowds
Even those planning an individual Crete holidays far away from mass tourism Greece's largest island offers a few secluded bays where time seems to have stood still. Cosy tavernas and small hotels provide food and lodging, in front of which you can relax on the beach during the day. In the evening, the soundscape consists of the murmur of the sea and the bells of the goats.
These oases of tranquillity are most likely to be found in the less developed south of Crete, or, as in the case of the turquoise bay of Xerokambos, far away from large towns. The villages of Sougia, Agia Galini, Lentas, Finix and Lykos are particularly worthy of mention. Far away from mass tourism, the locals here are more cosy, the coasts and beaches more unspoilt and the prices (still) lower than elsewhere on Crete.