Heraklion City is the capital of Crete and its largest city. It’s known for its ancient Greek sites, and for having some of the best beaches in Crete only a short drive away. Here’s a comprehensive guide and a map of the 18 most beautiful beaches in Heraklion and nearby coastlines.
Getting to Heraklion
Before you can lie on Heraklion beaches, you need to get there! Heraklion Airport is an international airport that has direct flights from many European capitals every day. It’s the simplest way of arriving in Crete.
If you arrive in Athens you have the option of flying or catching a ferry to Heraklion.
It’s more fun, of course, the take a ferry from Athens, or to go island hopping between the Greek islands by ferry. There’s an overnight ferry from Athens’ Piraeus port and it takes about an hour to reach the Port from Athens International Airport.
A more leisurely way to get to Crete is to get the overnight ferry from Piraeus, which takes about an hour to reach if you’re arriving directly from Athens International Airport.
The Cyclades get busy during July and August, so buy your ferry tickets beforehand before the time and route you’d like sells out.
Getting around Heraklion
You have two options – car rental, or public transport. It’s wise to book a car rental online a few months before you arrive if you’ll be arriving in the European summer. I like Discover cars because of their combination of great prices and their trusted global brand.
Public transport is in the form of either taxis or buses. The bus system in Crete is good and is called the K-TEL system. You can find information on their schedules, and local, regional, and long-distance routes at www.e-ktel.com and at www.astiko-irakleiou.gr .
Where to stay in Heraklion
Heraklion Beaches Map
On the north coast of Heraklion prefecture are Heraklion’s most famous beaches but to the south, there is a wonderful variety of coves, cliffs, and isolated beaches.
1. Agia Pelagia, Fylakes, and Psaramoura Beaches
This famous beach is 23km northwest of Heraklion city. It’s easy to find because it is in front of the small fishing village of Agia Pelagia.
The main beach of the area is a long beach with golden sand and crystal-clear blue waters. For those who are interested in more active holidays, diving centers operate nearby for underwater adventures.
At the end of the main beach of Agia Pelagia on the left side, you can find one of the hidden gems, Fylakes beach.
I think it’s the most beautiful beach in the whole Heraklion area. In fact, it’s in the Top 5 of my list of most beautiful Crete beaches.
You can follow the coastline along to get to Fylakes or else reach it by sea. The beauty of this exotic location is just wonderful.
Another marvelous small beach almost 500 away from Agia Pelagia’s main beach is Psaromoura beach. It is a small paradise with deep green-blue water and soft sand with small pebbles. Psaromoura is a fishing spot so it’s ideal for snorkeling.
2. Lygaria Beach
Lygaria Beach is 21km northwest of Heraklion and 1km east of Agia Pelagia. It is a beautiful beach with golden sand, turquoise waters, and a rocky bottom.
The beach is organized with sunbeds and umbrellas and there are tavernas near the beach. Try to avoid visiting Lygaria on the weekends because hundreds of locals visit the area.
3. Ammoudara Beach
Ammoudara is a long beach just a few kilometers west of Heraklion center and it is one of the most popular tourist resorts in the Heraklion prefecture.
Ammoudara is well known as a windsurfing spot because it is exposed to wind (as you can tell from my pic!) The sand is fine and blond and is several meters wide. The sea is a clear and lovely teal color.
Along the shore, there are hotels, some of which are very large complexes, as well as tavernas, restaurants, bars, and beach cafes that offer umbrellas and sun beds on the beach.
4. Tobrouk Beach
Tobrouk Beach is the last part of the Gulf of Karteros and is only 7 km east of the capital, Heraklion City. It is yet another beautiful beach with clear waters and very fine golden sand, so you’re spoiled for choice in the area immediately around Heraklion!
The beach is organized with umbrellas, chairs, and a shower. It is one of the most popular beaches because it’s near the city and access is easy with good public transportation.
5. Kokkini Hani Beach
Kokkini Hani area hugs the northern coastline, 15 km east of Heraklion. It has many sandy beaches, large and small, with shallow waters which are affected by the strong northwest winds.
They are family-friendly beaches, well organized with sunbeds, umbrellas, showers, a lifeguard station, and water sports. In the area, you can find a great selection of hotels, beach bars, restaurants, and fish tavernas.
6. Limanakia Beaches, Hersonissos
You’ll find the Limanakia beaches 27km east of Heraklion. They are tranquil beaches with calm water because Cape Sarandaris protects them from the frequent northwest winds.
These beaches are mostly quiet, but there are also some that are organized. They’re surrounded by limestone cliffs, and the beach is made up of very small pebbles giving way to the stunningly-colored turquoise waters. There’s a diving club nearby if you’d like to have lessons.
In the evening take a walk out towards the picturesque Chapel of St. George Sarandaris. Don’t forget your camera, the sunset here is magical!
7. Star Beach
You’ll find this fun beach at one end of Chersonissos city, almost 30km from Heraklion. It’s my No. 1 go-to beach for families with teenagers and for groups of friends holidaying together.
The beach is in front of star beach water park which was one of the first waterparks in Europe – it’s been operating since 1993. The water park consists of a large complex of swimming pools with water slides, a children’s playground, and a free parking lot.
It’s the ideal place if you love water sports because it offers almost every type of water sports activity you can imagine, such as jet skis, banana boats, rings, water skis, and parasailing. It’s even possible to go bungee jumping over the water.
8. Stalida Beach
Stalida is 31 km away from Heraklion and it lies between Malia and Hersonissos. It is a long sandy beach with shallow crystal clear waters which makes Stalida a kid-friendly beach.
The beach is well-organized, with umbrellas, sunbeds, lots of water sports facilities, and a beach volleyball court. There are numerous beach bars and cafes near so you can relax and enjoy your day in front of the beach.
9. Potamos Beach
Potamos beach is one of the best beaches in the Heraklion region. It is located in Malia, 37 km east of Heraklion city and it is a very popular beach and tourist destination.
Potamos beach lies near the archeological site of Malia and it’s a beautiful long sandy beach with crystal clean water. The access to the sea is easy also there are tamarisk trees at the edge of the beach where you can sit in a shade on a bench or bring your own portable chairs.
10. Keratokampos Beach
Keratokampos is a small fishing village on the southern coast of the Heraklion Region, 72km away from Heraklion city.
The main beach of the village is part of a large bay with fine sand, pebbles, and clean water. It is partly organized but you can find plenty of free space. Near the harbor, you can find traditional tavernas.
Don’t you just want to walk along the edge of this beach at sunset?
11. Listis Beach
Listis is 69km southeast of Heraklion and it is between Keratokampos and Tsoutsouras villages. It’s a bit hard to reach because you have to traverse the steep slope down to the beach.
But once you’ve arrived you can jump into the water from the stone cliffs and you can dive into the caves.
This secluded sandy beach has crystal clear waters, a rocky sea bottom, and small coves, ideal for both swimming and snorkeling. It isn’t an organized beach so take your snorkeling and any other stuff you need.
12. Tsoutsouros Beach
Tsoutsouros beach is 63 km southeast of Heraklion, in front of a small village of the same name. In the center of Tsoutsouros there is a small harbor that divides the local beach, about 2 kilometers long, into two parts.
West of the harbor in Pera Tsoutsouros there is a big beautiful beach with dark sand and pebbles organized with chairs, umbrellas, and a shower. It’s lovely to spend a lazy afternoon lazing in the shade of the tamarisk trees that grow along the beach.
East of the harbor there is another beautiful long beach with sand and pebbles organized with sun beds and umbrellas, showers, coffee shops, tavernas, and mini markets.
13. Maridaki Beach
The coastal settlement of Maridaki is about 65 kilometers from Heraklion, behind the Asterousia Mountains.
It is west of Tsoutsouros, only 2 km away, but there is no direct road from it. The only way to come here by car is to drive a 15km along the dirt road that starts before the village of Achentrias.
Maridaki is a small pebbly beach with crystal-clear water. The beach isn’t crowded and is used mainly by locals. The beach isn’t organized and there are no amenities except a small taverna nearby.
14. Trypiti Beach
Tripiti Beach (Trypiti Beach) is 73km south of Heraklion. Access to the beach is by two alternative dirt roads from Lentas or Vasiliki.
The road from Vasiliki passes through the Agios Savvas Gorge and Tripiti. Near the beach, the gorge becomes so narrow that it hides the sky. The landscape is so impressive that it’s worth visiting.
The beach takes its name from the church of Panagia Tripiti, which is built inside a small cave at the base of the gorge. Tripiti beach has coarse sand and pebbles, crystal blue waters, and tamarisk trees for shade.
15. Lentas (Lendas) Beach
Lentas is a peaceful and remote village on the southern side of Heraklion Prefecture.
The beach is sandy with a few trees valuable for their shade. The community has set up umbrellas that are free of charge. The beaches near the village of Lentas are preferred by nudists.
16. Agiofarago Beach
The Beach at Agiofarago is about 80km south of the Heraklion city center, at the exit of the homonymous Agiofarago Gorge.
The gorge is about 1.5 km long and leads to a beach surrounded by high cliffs. You need to walk for about half an hour to cross the gorge but it is so worth it!
This secluded beach is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete.
It is a sandy beach with small pebbles and clear blue water. There are no tourist facilities in Agiofarago and you’ll have to carry in everything you need.
Another way to get to secluded Agiofarago Beach is to approach by boat from Matala, Kokkinos Pyrgos, Kali Limenes, or Agia Galini.
17. Kokkini Ammos (Red Sand) Beach
This red beach is located only 1 km away from Matala and the landscape here is captivating.
Access to the beach is from a trail that begins north of the settlement of Matala and crosses Kastri hill, north of Matala. It takes about half an hour.
The other option is to take a boat from Matala. When you arrive at the beach you’ll immediately understand why it’s special. The sand is red and the waters are blue-green and crystal clear.
It is partly organized with some umbrellas. The beach has been nudism-friendly since the 1960s and it has been voted as one of the top nudism-friendly beaches in the world.
18. Matala Beach
Matala is one of the most famous beaches in Greece and a visit to Crete isn’t complete without a visit here. If it’s good enough for Bob Dylan, it’s good enough for me!
Matala Beach is 67 km southwest of Heraklion City. The most famous attraction of this beach is its caves carved into the cove.
Matala hosted a roll call of famous artists in the 60s and 70s, including Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin.
In front of the village is a 300-meter-long sandy beach with crystal clear water. It is a well-organized beach with umbrellas, toilets, showers, and lifeguards. In high season, the beach gets very crowded, so you might want to consider a morning visit.
What to do next?
You can’t leave Heraklion without seeing the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Peer down and try and spot the Minotaur’s labyrinth! The Palace of Knossos is the most visited site in Greece after the Acropolis of Athens. The Archaeological Museum here is also a must.
If you love Greek history and beaches, have you thought about taking a Crete road trip? Here’s a Crete road trip itinerary especially made for the beach and history lovers.
But if it’s really just Cretan beaches you’re in love with, you’ll love reading about the 20 best beaches in and around Chania.