Life’s a beach: an insider’s guide to Rethymno’s best
Rethymno province’s southern shores feature some of the best beaches in Crete, and a glorious drive through one of Crete’s most evocative landscapes gets you there in under an hour.
For a taste of the exotic, head to to Preveli off the road to Plakias, set below the ancient clifftop monastery of Preveli. With its backdrop of Theophrastus Date Palm trees this is an iconic spot. A haven for hippies in the 1960s, today it’s very popular in high-season. For a dip with a difference try the tranquil cooling waters of the palm-lined Mega Potamos river that runs to the beach and its ponds.
The pick of the shores close to Plakias is Damnoni, where comfort and serenity go hand in hand. With sunbeds and good tavernas Damnoni’s unique selling point is its great water sports, including canoeing, diving, windsurfing and yachting. A boat picks up passengers from Plakias, Damnoni and Preveli three times a day for those wanting a taste of each. Nearby are three more legendary south coast beaches – Ammoudi, Ammoudaki, and Schinaria.
Further afield, beyond Spili off the road to Agia Galini, are Rethymno’s most isolated beaches accessible by car, between the tiny hamlets of Agia Fotini and Agios Pavlos. Ligres and Xiromilia beaches (together a one-kilometre stretch of golden sand) are set in a pristine landscape, before the gently developed Triopetra beaches, with their smattering of tavernas and sunbeds. Get to wild Agios Pavlos and its dunes (58km south of Rethymno town) and you’ve covered some serious ground.
Head west from Plakias and you’ll arrive at Rodakino after 20 minutes. Take the road down and a handful of beaches appear – Korakas, Polyrizos, and beyond the headland, Peristeres. Used mostly by locals, a handful of good tavernas are on hand at this ‘off the beaten track’ destination.
For the ultimate Rethymno beach adventure and to feed your inner castaway, the Paximadia Islands, two uninhabited islets in the Gulf of Messara are the place to go. But you’ll need to get a boat from Kokkinos Pirgos or Agia Gallini. Paximada, the easternmost isle, is the one to head for. Four beaches, crystal clear waters, and serene solitude guaranteed.
Much closer to home, just west of Rethymno city, the pick of the northern beaches off the E75 National Road include Kamari at Gerani (set in a bay of crystal clear water with an excellent fish taverna nearby), and a hidden gem set amongst palm trees amongst the rocks just after, at Vythos. Further on the wide sweeping sands of Episkopi beckon, a kilometre of golden sand where the Aegean waves tumble and crash. With its easy access and a handful of chilled beach cafes and bars, Episkopi’s exhilarating openness is its unique selling point.