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Agiofaraggo

The beach of Agiofarago is located about 80km south of Heraklion city, at the exit of the homonym Gorge of Agiofarago. To get there you must either cross the gorge, by easy hiking of about 30-50’, or catch a boat from Matala, Agia Galini, or Kali Limenes. We definitely recommend the first option, as the route within the vertical walls of the gorge is breathtaking. On the way you will see the large caves were some hermits still live and the chapel of St. Anthony, with a well outside.

The beach at the exit of the gorge is stunning, with fine pebbles and clear blue waters, which are usually very calm. West of the beach a beautiful arch is formed, beneath which you can swim. Vertical cliffs surround the beach, on where you might see hermits praying. Nudism is not allowed here, like in all religious places of Crete. The beach is ideal for camping, but you must carry all your stuff in the gorge. However, you can ‘gain’ some weight if you do not take water with you, but collect it from the well in front of the chapel, located just 5’ away from the beach. You could also wash yourself there (without shampoo!). Next to the well there is a trough from where goats drink water. If you have time fill it with water and many goats will come to drink, thanking you!

If you have your sneakers with you, in the afternoon you should climb the cliffs on the east and reach the top. The view from there is fantastic. If you walk southeast you will meet a hidden saltish lake, called Vourvoulitis, surrounded by vertical cliffs. It is a sinkhole communicating with the open sea by underground passages. You can approach the lake, but it’s extremely dangerous. To see exactly where it is, check out the map. You will see a dark area southeast of the beach.

Matala

Matala is located 68km southwest of Heraklion, on the boundaries of the plain Messara and Asteroussia Mountains. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Crete and certainly the most famous beach of Heraklion. It is famous for the carved caves in the rocks and the hippies of the ‘70s. It is located close to Phaestus, the second largest palace of the Minoan civilization. Matala was the port of Phaestus, and on the Roman Times, it became a port of Gortys.

Matala is located at the exit of a small valley, which forms a large enclosed bay with nice view to the islands of Paximadia.The bay is a beautiful long sandy beach, 300m long, with fine gravel and crystal clear deep water. Moreover, the seabed is quite rocky in some places and the waves, due to frequent westerly winds, are very large and amazing. Furthermore, there is a huge cave on the north part of the beach, from the top of which some “crazy” people splash in the water. The beach is very well organized with umbrellas, toilets, showers, lifeguard, first aids, beach volley courts, snack bars, water sports, excursion boats, etc. Around Matala you will find many options for accommodation, entertainment and eating. Also, a large part of the beach is covered by tamarisk trees, where you can find shade. In the evenings, the bars on the beach are full with many people, both locals and foreigners. Especially in June, the internationally renowned Matala Festival takes place.

 

Phestos Palace

 

Phaestus (Phestos or Festos) was a Minoan city on Crete, the ruins of which are located 55km south of Heraklion. The city was already inhabited since 6000BC and prospered concurrently with the city of Knossos, till the 1st century BC.

Phaestus is famous for its Minoan palace, which is a visitable archaeological site and receives thousands of visitors every year. The palace of Phaestus was built on a low hill in the plain of Messara, with panoramic views to the surrounding area. It is the second largest after Knossos and occupies an area of ​​18 acres.

The palace of Phaestus was built in about 2000BC, according to the legend, by Minos. The palace’s king was the brother of Minos, the mythical Rhadamanthys. Rhadamanthys was second son of Zeus and Europe and was known for his righteousness. Indeed, he is considered the writer of the Cretan Code, the first standards of Justice, which was later adopted by the Spartans. Due to his fairness, after his death, he was assigned as a judge in Hades (like his brother Minos).

 

Kali Limenes

Kali Limenes (i.e. Good Ports) is located 75km southwest of Heraklion and is the largest seaside village in Asterousia Mountains. It is one of the very few coastal areas of Asterousia, where you can get through asphalt road. To get here, you have to drive from village Pompia, in Messara Plain and follow the road to Pigaidakia village. The road is quite narrow and has several sharp turns, but worth the effort. There’s a second dirt road that heads to Kali Limenes from the Monastery of Odigitria, chosen especially by those who have visited Agiofarago or those who want to get a feel for the wildness of Asterousia.

Once you get to Kali Limenes, you will see the oil tanks of SEKA located opposite from the settlement on the island Mikronisi, which locals call “Apostle Paul”. Only a few Greeks know Kali Limenes, but surely everyone knows the Vardinoyannis family, one of the richest families in Europe. This family started its business in 1961, with the construction of these reservoirs, which serve as a refueling station for ships that cross the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. These facilities are causing visual pollution, but fortunately the sea remains very clean.

If you exclude the repelling landscape of tanks, you will certainly be enchanted by the beautiful beaches of Kali Limenes, which are suitable for swimming all year round. As its name name suggests, sea in Kali Limenes (i.e. Fair Harbors) is almost always calm, except in winter. This was one of the reasons for the construction of the tanks here. If you visit the place on weekend, all its beaches are crowded by thousands of people, despite the tiring route in Asterousia.

Komos beach

Kommos (or Komos) is located 66km southwest of Heraklion, just 2km north of Matala and close the seaside settlement of Kalamaki. It is actually the southernmost and the most isolated part of the huge beachfront of Mesara Bay. Kommos was once the port of Phaestus, so you can still see the ruins of the town, near the beach. You can access Kommos by driving in the road heading to Matala, till you see a sign to Kommos.

The whole beachfront of Mesara is exposed to westerly winds, which mostly blow in the area. Thus, caution is needed because the seabed is covered by a rocky layer, not just sand. The protected sea turtles Caretta caretta nest in the sand of the beach, from May to September.

The northern part of Kommos, Potamos or Potamoserma, is a favorite destination for lovers of naturism, since the times when hundreds of hippies flooded the area. There are only a few tamarisk trees around, not buildings, because Kommos is a protected archaeological area and building is forbidden. Next to the archaeological site, on the south, there is an organized beach with umbrellas, sun beds, toilet, showers, a tavern and a lifeguard. All around there are many trees and huge sand dunes where you can admire the white lilies of sand, which sign the end of the summer. If you want to find a place to stay overnight or to eat, you can walk to the nearby Kalamaki, or drive to Pitsidia and Matala.

Wherever you are, the views to Paximadia islets is stunning, especially when the sun sets near the islands. Just opposite the archaeological site, 300m in the sea, you will see a beautiful big rock, which the locals call Volakas. Volakas could not be absent from the Greek myths. Locals say that the stone is the top of the mountain that the blinded Cyclope Polyphemus threw toward the ship of Odysseus in order not to escape. This was after Odysseus, with his companions, escaped from Polyphemus’ cave.