I love Greece and the Greek Islands! You can never go wrong with the endless stunning beaches, clear blue lagoons with colorful fish, friendly, relaxed locals, and traditional Greek cuisine.
It’s not my intention to cover all the info about the places we visited, I’m just going to give you my angle. We were looking for a quiet romantic vacation: easy walks in nature, unwinding on the beach, light sightseeing, strolls through the alleyways of an unfamiliar city. We found all this and more in Chania, Crete, and its surroundings.
Arriving in early June turned out to be a lucky choice, since the weather was pleasant and warm enough for the beach but the crowds of the high season had not yet arrived.
We flew into Heraklion, rented a car in the airport, and drove about an hour and a half to Chania, where we rented an Airbnb apartment on the pleasant and unpretentious Nea Chora beach.
Day 1—Balos Beach
From reading the reviews on the internet, it was difficult to choose which beach to visit, since so many of them are labeled “The most beautiful beach in Crete.” It’s true, in Crete there are stunning beaches around every corner, but for me, the day we visited Balos beach was the most perfect day.
This beach is World-renowned for its spectacular turquoise waters. Princess Diana and Prince Charles visited it on their yacht during their honeymoon.
The drive was easy. Don’t be intimidated by the dirt road when approaching the beach—it is in good condition and wide enough (see video). The walk from the parking area to the beach is not too long, and in my opinion contributes to the experience. First the goats in the parking lot hiding in the shade of the cars, then the winding path down the hill to the beach where every curve opens a glorious new vista of the magnificent, serene bay of white sand and myriad shades of blue and turquoise water.
Inside the lagoon, the water is shallow and warmer than in the sea, and it’s totally calm. Fish swim peacefully between your feet, and you can easily relax and float in this pristine natural pool until you lose track of time.
The walk back up the hill to the parking lot was not too bad, but do remember to have water with you. We stopped in the first village on the paved road, Kaliviani, for a lovely late lunch at Agarathos tavern.
It was a perfect day!
Day 2—Elfonissi Beach/Kedrodasos Beach
We were eager to check out the “second best beach of Crete,” so we drove to Elfonissi. Once the road reached Topolia gorge, it narrowed and wound along the steep slope, allowing only one-way traffic for many stretches. One driver needs to find a wider spot to stop in order to allow the car on the opposite side to pass. I could see why some guides suggested arriving to Elfonissi beach by charter boat! We had a few nerve-wracking minutes when we encountered a bus and had to reverse along the bend of the road next to a steep drop with no protective rail.
The beach itself was as beautiful as described. A few natural lagoons as calm and clear and stunning as those at Balos. It was windy though, so we continued to the more secluded Kedrodasos beach, ten minutes’ drive further.
Kedrodasos is unique because of its forest of cedar trees that grow all the way to the water. Small lagoons scattered between the rock formations make this beach exceptionally beautiful.
After two days with lots of driving, we decided to take a “lazy day” in Chania, where there was plenty of stuff to do within walking distance. We went to one of the cafes in the old port for a late breakfast. It was a beautiful ten-minute walk along the seashore, the ancient walls of Chania looming over the quay as we approached the old quarter.
Exploring Chania was a lot of fun. The city was lively with tourists (mainly Europeans) but not crowded. We walked back and forth in the beautiful old port, we wandered the narrow Venetian-style alleys of the old quarter, we checked out the souvenir shops, and tried souvlaki and ice cream.
In the afternoon, we grabbed a towel and relaxed on the beach next to our apartment.
As in other days, we had dinner at one of the restaurants on Nea Chora beach. We found them less touristy than the ones in the old city. We chose a different restaurant every evening among the options with tables on the dock and were not disappointed in any of them. They all served local traditional cuisine, fresh fish and seafood, and they had similar prices. Here’s a link to one of them: Mikrolimano.
Day 4—Lake Kournas
On our last day, we stopped along our way east to the Heraklion airport at Lake Kournas, a small, serene freshwater lake, the only one in Crete. As with the other places we visited, there were only a few other tourists around. The boat rental employee told us that the water was high now, and so there were no beaches at the moment—they were flooded. We didn’t mind that.
We rented a paddleboat and paddled around the lake, engulfed by the quiet punctuated by chirping birds, watching the wildlife, and occasionally jumping in the water for a swim.
Lake Kournas was a perfect end note to a lovely beach vacation in Crete.