Have you noticed that the most fabulous beaches tend to require some hiking? We experienced it again in Crete. We visited in July, and even though cloudless, hot July days in Crete are among the least suitable for hiking, beach hikes are exceptions. At least we were happy we made exceptions, because we found our favorite beaches at the end of these short and scenic trails!
And if you’re wondering whether you can find an empty beach in Crete in the middle of the high season, our answer is again: yes, but you need to hike for it. Not that the beaches we list here were all empty, but none of them felt crowded. So even though challenging full day trails – like the famous Samaria Gorge – are more suitable for spring or fall, short beach trails might still be fun in the summer.
But please bring enough water. Even more than what you think is enough, and not only for the hike, but for the beaches, too. Most beaches have a small bar or restaurant, but that’s your only source of water.
Also note that you need proper footwear to do these trails. They’re not light walks that can be done in flip-flops, so put those in your backpack for the beach.
Balos Beach Trail
Balos Beach is a postcard perfect beach, and the most famous one in Crete. But if you want to enjoy the best postcard views, you have to hike there. (The other way to access it is by boat.)
It’s a short, medium difficulty trail, but it offers no shade. The first section is quite easy, but after the viewing platform with the first view of Balos Beach it gets steeper. The path is made of a series of large stone stairs that can be hard on your knees.
We did this trail with our almost 2 years old Tomi, and he actually walked on his own for the most part, while holding our hands. (Yes, I need to add that we hike with him regularly.) And we loved the views all the way! Magically blue waters and red dirt path – an amazing combination of colors, isn’t it?
We’ve already written about Balos Beach in another article about the best beaches we’ve found in Crete. Here we’d only mention a few things about getting to the trailhead. That was the part we enjoyed the least, though it was not as bad as we expected based on online reviews. You drive to the trailhead, but the last 8 kilometres is a dirt road. It’s a toll road, too, costing a few euros per person for a day. You can consider this a maintenance fee for the beach or a parking fee, but it’s collected at the beginning of the dirt road which is a dead-end road to Balos Beach parking.
The quality of this dirt road is fine for the most part, a bit bumpy at some sections. Some steeper sections are asphalted, and you shouldn’t have any problem driving it with a normal car. But it takes about 30 minutes to complete this 8 kilometres, because you need to drive slowly so that you don’t damage your tyres and the bottom of your car. It’s wide enough for the most part, so no need to worry about oncoming traffic. But keep an eye out for goats – and for great views!
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Preveli Beach & Palm Canyon
It was the two short hikes with very special views that made Preveli Beach one of our favorites in Crete!
There’s one trail that took us down from the parking lot to the beach. (We mean the parking lot from the direction of Preveli Monastery. Because there are two parking lots that give access to Preveli Beach.) It was a path made of several hundred stairs, and it offered fabulous views of the beach and the palm forest behind it.
Well, yes, the other hike is the one in the palm forest in Preveli Gorge. Yes, Crete has palm forests, though not many. Preveli palm forest is one of the only three forests of the endemic Cretan date palm (called Phoenix theophrastii).
The trail starts from the beach, and it’s a flat dirt path under the palm trees along the emerald green river. We saw many people who actually walked in the river, and you can do that as the river is waist-deep for the most part. (It’s surprisingly cold though, especially compared to the sea.)
Either way, the trail ends at a deeper pool, and it’s not possible to continue hiking in the gorge after that. You can take a dip, have a picnic, then walk back to Preveli Beach.
|Essential hiking info:|
E4 from Elafonisi Beach to Kedrodasos Beach
This is a tiny section of the E4 Trail Crete which is part of the E4 European Walking Path. The E4 hiking and trekking path begins in Tarifa in Spain, ends in Cyprus in Greece and goes through Crete, as well.
The 2.5 kilometres section from Elafonisi Beach to Kedrodasos Beach is a short and easy enough route for a hot summer day, and offers astonishing views! You can find your own private beach along the way. Then you get your first glimpse of Kedrodasos Beach.
Kedrodasos Beach is a barely known beauty, located very close to Elafonisi Beach. It has the beauty of its famous sibling, but without the crowds. You can also drive there from Elafonisi Beach in about 10 minutes (it’s still a steep, few hundred meters long walk down to the beach from the parking lot) – but then you miss all the great views of the E4 coastal path. 🙂
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Glyka Nera Beach Trail
This is a dramatic coastal trail at the side of a steep rock wall – and leads to a dramatic beach at the foot of it. All this in a remote area of Crete that has its own wild magic.
The terrain is rocky, and there are some sections on the trail that are secured by iron railing that you can hold onto. It looked very steep and narrow from the trailhead by the road, but it turned out to be easier than it looked at first glance. However, we decided not to do it with Tomi on our way back. I took him back to Sfakia by boat while Csaba hiked back to the car solo.
Why didn’t we want to do it with our 2-year-old on the way back? We didn’t have a carrier backpack on this trip, so Csaba carried him on his shoulders. Navigating with him among the rocks was not ideal, he had to take utmost care not to hit Tomi’s head to the rocks. We just didn’t want this stress on our hike back.
The trail could be fun for adults, and even with older kids, but small kids can’t walk on this terrain on their own for the most part, so they have to be carried.
And the beach? Glyka Nera is a pebbly bay with crystal clear, deep water – and a towering 600 metres tall rock wall behind the beach. Stunning views! Especially if the water is calm, and you can swim far into the sea to enjoy the best views.
Alternatively, you can get to Glyka Nera Beach by boat from the towns of Sfakia or Loutro.
|Essential hiking info:|
Do you like beach trails? Which of these beaches would you hike for?
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