Chrissi Island is a great day trip from the small port of Ierapetra. This island is not one of soft, white sands but of shells, mainly in the north. It is also a protected nature reserve, hosting the largest naturally formed Lebanon cedar forest in Europe. With its shallow turquoise waters, Chrissi Island is ideal for snorkeling and diving. Other points of interest include Minoan ruins, a lighthouse, a tavern and a Roman Cemetery. Should you want to bare all, a nudist beach is on the north coast of this tiny island.
Gramvousa and more specifically, its castle on top of the island--Scoglio e fortezza Garabuse--was built by the Venetians to protect over 3,000 Cretans from Turkish occupation and the first area of Crete to be liberated from the Turks in 1825. During this tumultuous period, the residents of the island started looting boats passing through, which gained the island its pirate reputation. Today, tourists flock to Gramvousa to take boat tours and to swim in the serene Balos lagoon. Thousands of sea shells give the white sands of Balos a pink sheen. Animal enthusiasts will love the bird watching and opportunities to see donkeys. From Kissamos, this is a relaxing and beachy day trip.
Elafonissi is a tiny island, its pinkish-white sands separated from the shore by a lagoon, which you will have to wade through to get to the beach. Make sure to make a pit stop to the Chrissoskalitissa (or Chrysoskalitissa) Monastery if you have time, as it is 5 kilometer drive on a dirt track road to the island. The beach can get very crowded in the summer time so make sure you get here early and try to find a secluded area such as the small rock islands, where the snorkelers are. Lounge chairs, umbrellas and bathrooms all have fees.
Near Elounda in Eastern Crete, Spinalonga is also known as the Leper Island, where lepers from Crete were quarantined until 1957. Today, you can visit Spinalonga by boat from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka, to tour its ruined buildings and the fortress for € 2. It is the most popular archaeological site in Crete after Knossos. Swim the azure islets to cool off.
Gavdos is not only the southernmost Greek island but also the southernmost point of Europe. This idyllic spot has some of the best beaches in the world including Tripiti beach, featuring a huge arch carved in its rocky peninsula as well as Sarakiniko beach, a 20 minute walk from the harbor. Make sure to get a photo on the giant chair near Tripiti indicating its geographic status.
Souda Bay is Crete’s second largest port and a gateway for ferries connecting to Piraeus. Souda’s strategic position has enabled a base for a NATO naval station. Though there are no beaches, make sure to see the Venetian castle in the Souda’s inlet. Souda is about a 20 minute drive from Chania. Chania has a beautiful harbor and is a great pit stop for entertainment and nightlife.
Opposite to the island of Platanias, Thodorou is a wildlife reserve, mainly to Cretan wild goats, known as kri-kri. Thodorou’s legend is that the island was a sea monster, its cave acting as the beast’s gaping jaw, one day emerging from the water with the intention of swallowing Crete. The gods favored the islanders and the island has remained intact. If you love nature, history and folklore, this island is a must-see.
Tours & Tickets
Visit two of western Crete’s highlights on a full-day trip to Chrissoskalitissa Monastery and Elafonissi Island from Chania. After traveling by coach to the ... Read more
Duration: 14 hours (approx.)