Heraklion is the biggest city in Crete. It’s the perfect combination of history, beautiful beaches and great food. I absolutely loved exploring it and its incredible tourist attractions, but the real gems are its beaches.
As you’d expect from any Greek island, there are tons of magnificent beaches in and around Heraklion, Crete. Some of the Heraklion best beaches are found close to the town centre, while some real gems can be found a few kilometres away.
If you’re planning to spend your vacation in Crete, I’ve got you covered! Here is a list of the best beaches close to Heraklion.
Best beaches near Heraklion
1. Fodele Beach
25 kilometres west of Heraklion, Fodele Beach is a long sandy beach with some pebbly sections, located in a bay with stunning views. The east section, separated by a tiny stream, is for the private use for the residents of an upmarket resort (Fodele Beach & Water Park Resort) spread across the terraced hillside. This resort is an amazing option for families who love water slides.
The west section is a public beach frequented by locals and is less crowded, with a few tavernas offering great local dishes and free sunbeds on a first come basis. Fodele Beach is safe for small children, but being north-facing, is exposed to the winds that blow during summer.
There is another smaller stretch a few hundred metres to the east, known as East Beach, which can be reached by public bus.
2. Agia Pelagia Beach
Moving east a little closer to Heraklion, Agia Pelagia Beach is a narrow 400 metre long sandy bay fringed by cocktail bars, restaurants and holiday resorts right to the water’s edge. It can become crowded during the summer, but nevertheless, it’s a popular beach with all the amenities you need. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available to rent, making it an excellent place to chill out for the day.
Several diving and water-craft rental companies operate here. The northern section is located beneath a rocky outcrop and includes an adjoining bay, popular for snorkeling. The water is usually crystal clear and sheltered from the wind – perfect for families with small children. It’s one of the best beaches near Heraklion!
3. Lygaria Beach
Lygaria Beach is considered by many to be one the finest of all Cretan beaches. Tucked in between two rocky outcrops beneath a steep hill, Lygaria Beach lies about a half hour’s drive from downtown Heraklion. Parking close to the beach is available but is fairly limited, so it’s always best to arrive early.
Well sheltered, the waters are normally calm and crystal clear, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, spearfishing and scuba diving. There is also a dive centre offering excursions and dive courses. The bay is about 400 metres wide, leaving plenty of space for sunbeds, umbrellas and for people to spread out.
There are tavernas serving great local food right on the beach, with numerous hotels and apartment rentals just off the beach. For great views of this little strip of paradise, climb the hills above the bay. At night, the scenery becomes magical as the lights from the villas and hotels on the hills reflect onto the bay.
4. Panagia Beach
A little closer to Heraklion, is Panagia Beach. It’s a small, secluded beach with crystal-clear water, located beneath a steep slope falling straight into the sea. The only problem is that it’s only accessible by boat. Otherwise, only the guests of the luxury villas dotting the hillsides nearby can enjoy this beach. Perhaps, its inaccessibility is what makes this beach one of the best beaches near Heraklion.
Panagia Beach is a beautiful setting to anchor and enjoy the crystal warm water and the stunning scenery, especially at sunset.
5. Paleokastro Beach
Moving closer to Heraklion, Paleokastro Beach is a tiny stretch of sand less than 60 metres wide, located beneath a towering cliff where you can find ruins of an ancient fortress. From there, you can enjoy spectacular views of the rugged and rocky shoreline. Tucked under a bridge, this is one of Crete’s hidden gems.
The towering cliffs offer protection from the wind, providing excellent conditions for a quick dip and snorkeling. The marine life here is abundant and you can admire colorful fish and corals. A few tavernas nearby provide delicious Greek food and there are sunbeds and umbrellas for rent. Parking is available at the beach, but please get there early!
6. Pantanassas Beach
Another little gem lies just over a kilometre south of Paleokastro, just before the picturesque marina, which can be seen from the road. This beautiful little beach has both sand and pebble sections and sunbeds and umbrellas, while the pine trees behind the beach offer a welcome shade, perfect to cool down and relax. The water is calm and crystal clear.
Parking is available at the marina. There’s also a taverna and a café, serving an excellent range of Greek dishes. You can also walk along the marina wharfs and admire the wonderful views of the ocean, the hills above and the town of Heraklion, just 12 kilometres in the distance.
Pantanassas Beach is one of the beaches close to Heraklion that are worth visiting! You can easily spend a day here.
7. Ammoudara Beach
Ammoudara Beach is now a suburb of Heraklion and is a well-known spot for windsurfers due to the strong winds that seem to blow here all year round.
The eastern section of this four kilometre beach, has all the amenities you need for a perfect day at the beach. You can find sundecks and umbrellas provided by the numerous resorts and beach restaurants. The western section towards the Pancretan Stadium offers a little more solitude and tranquillity, but an identical shoreline.
If you want to capture the magnificence of this part of the island, take a hike up Mount Stromboulas about 10 kilometres away, from where the whole Gulf of Heraklion is visible. Definitely a sight to behold.
8. Malia Beach
About 35 kilometres east of the city is one of the best beaches near Heraklion. Here you can find 300 meters of white sand, surrounded by inviting blue water and up-market luxury hotels, trendy beach bars and restaurants. During peak season, the beach is covered with sunbeds and beach umbrellas rented out by the hotels and resorts.
Malia Beach is a safe and excellent beach for swimming and sunbathing. It’s also the perfect destination for visitors seeking a little more adrenaline. A few water sports companies offer para-sailing, jet skiing and banana boat riding tours. The small Afentis island, located about 100 metres offshore is the perfect place for snorkeling.
9. Stalidas Beach
Just three kilometres west of Malia is a truly beautiful beach, wider than most beaches, with a shallow shoreline, suitable for small children and the elderly. Stalidas Beach is sheltered from the east and usually calm, but can become a little choppy when the winds pick up.
Stalidas Beach is packed with sunbeds and umbrellas for rental, and some are provided free for the customers of the numerous restaurants and bars lining up on the edge of the sand. Showers and foot baths are available.
Similar to all beaches close to Heraklion, Stalidas Beach can become crowded during the high season. It is however easily accessible and it has parking facilities nearby. Don’t forget to arrive early, Stalidas Beach is quite crowded.
10. Analipsi Beach
Located in the eastern part of Heraklion, Analipsi is a long sandy beach with some rocky sections, that is easily accessible by car or public bus from the city. Much of it, however is utilised by the guests of the many luxury resorts spread across its length.
It is a Blue Flag beach with clear water. However, strong waves often lash this shoreline during and after strong winds. Various water-sports such as para-sailing, banana boat riding and jet skiing are offered by water-sports companies operating on the beach. There are numerous beach bars and restaurants providing delicious meals and drinks, as well as sunbeds and umbrellas to rent.
11. Gouves Beach
Just two kilometres to the east is a tiny sandy bay flanked by two rocky promontories, called Gouves Beach. Although sheltered, it can get a little rough during strong winds that blow in the summer months. Here you can find sunbeds and umbrellas to rent from the nearby cafes and restaurants.
Change rooms and showers are available, as well as parking space if you get there early enough. Gouves Beach is easily accessible by bus from Heraklion. It’s a beautiful place to explore while admiring the scenery, especially at sunset.
An even smaller bay to the left offers calmer swimming conditions and is less crowded too. A beautiful little church (Saint Konstantinos) on the left of the bay adds more charm to this setting, especially when it is lit up after dark.
12. Gournes Beach
Just 14 kilometres east of Heraklion is Gournes Beach, characterised by its two long rocky jetties and a shallow beach packed with sunbeds and umbrellas. The two piers provide sheltered and calm conditions, making Gournes Beach an excellent location for families with small children.
There are almost identical beaches on either side of Gournes Beach for people to spread out when it becomes crowded.
13. Arena Beach
Moving a few kilometres to the east and closer to Heraklion, Arena Beach is a sandy stretch of beach almost a kilometre long, with tons of parking space directly behind the beach. Many consider Arena to be one of the best beaches near Heraklion. It is a fairly wide beach allowing plenty of space for people to spread out and not feel swamped.
As with most other north-facing Cretan beaches, it can be extremely calm and safe for small children on one day, and choppy when the wind blows, but excellent for surfers. Surfing equipment can be hired at the Surf in Crete surf shop, which also offers surfing and stand-up paddling lessons. They are situated on the eastern end of the beach while the western section is occupied by the luxurious Arena Beach Resort.
14. Amnissos Beach
Perhaps not the finest beach in the world, but Amnissos Beach is perfect for a quick escape out of town without having to travel too far. Nevertheless, the fine sand, crystal water, and the wide open spaces so close to town, makes it a popular beach destination for visitors and locals alike.
Sunbeds and umbrellas can be hired from the News Café on the beach. A small hill directly above the beach offers a lovely hike through the rugged landscape. Here you can find some archaeological ruins, as well as stunning views of the shoreline spread out below.
Amnissos Beach is easily accessed by car with loads of parking space, while the bus stop is a mere 200 hundred metres away.
15. Karteros Beach
Situated on the eastern outskirts of Heraklion, Karteros Beach is less crowded and for that reason is more popular for the local residents. There are however, several hotels and apartment rentals nearby that draw enough visitors, while beach bars and restaurants on the beach, provide meals, drinks, sunbeds and umbrellas to rent. Changing cubicles and public showers are also available.
The beach is a one kilometre stretch of soft sand with clean calm water, but like all north-facing beaches, can become fairly rough when the winds blow. With the airport directly next to this beach, you can watch planes landing and taking off all day long.
There is plenty of free parking space almost on the beach, and it’s also on the city’s bus route, five minutes’ walk away.
Where to stay in Heraklion
- Budget – Lemon Garden – beautiful apartments, clean rooms, excellent location, good amenities
- Mid-Range – 3 Pines Design Living – spacious and clean suites, excellent location, new accommodation, great amenities, beautiful pool
- Luxury – GDM Megaron Hotel – infinity pool with city view, spacious and luxurious rooms, spa, excellent amenities, excellent location
Crete is an island richly endowed by nature and blessed by the Gods with a magnificent coastline filled with contradictions. An island with long sandy beaches and secret rocky coves with crystal blue sea, sometimes calm for those who prefer swimming, and sometimes rough, for those seeking more active water-sports. Crete has it all.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section below. May the travel bug bite you!