East Chania resorts
East Chania area resorts
One of the most attractive bays in Crete, Mirabello Bay on the island’s north coast is overlooked by the popular tourist resort of Agios Nikolaos - which gives its name to the region – and by the smaller resorts of Amoudara, Istron and Kalo Chorio.
The waters of Mirabello Bay are crystal clear and it is far less developed than the north coast closer to Heraklion. Views from the beaches here tend to feature virgin rock and lush vegetation more than concrete block. Most of the resorts along the bay are intimate and peaceful and there is always the charming and buzzy little town of Agios Nikolaos (Ag Nik to its many British fans) to provide more choice of evening entertainment.
From Mirabello Bay, it is a scenic drive through the mountains to Ierapetra on the south coast - especially scenic if you detour via Kalanafka. Climb the many steps to the cave chapel of Timios Stavros to be rewarded with panoramic views. The area directly around Ierapetra is less scenic but don’t worry, head on into town to find a laid-back beachfront promenade and plenty of holiday facilities.
Just three kilometres south of Agios Nikolaos on the gorgeous Mirabello Bay lies Amoudara (or Ammoudara, and not to be confused with a resort of the same name near Heraklion). It has a wonderful sandy beach well protected from the winds that occasionally blight (or if you are a windsurfer, bless) the north coast of Crete.
The beach here attracts holidaymakers out of Agios Nikolaos, but why not simply stay in the village and have a real Amoudara holiday without the hassle of getting to and from the beach each day. You can always pop into Ag Nik for a change of scene, a greater choice of shops or an evening out.
Amoudara’s beach has plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas as well as watersports facilities and the beach slopes gently into shallow waters so it is ideal for families. There are a few tavernas along the waterfront as well as a café and supermarket across the road. For those keen for more seclusion, there are also a few pebbly coves.
If you fancy trying a different beach one day, you could always head a few kilometres east to Istron.
On the beautiful, gleaming, Mirabello Bay, a little east of Agios Nikolaus is this lovely area of clean unspoilt beaches and crystal clear waters with just a few hotels and restaurants and a clutch of holiday villas.
There are three beaches in Istron, all within walking distance of each other and the village. Golden Beach, or Voulisma Beach, is a long stretch of yellow sand packed with sunbeds and busy in summer. There is a small kantina and a little café and if you are looking for seclusion or snorkelling, a few rocky coves off the main beach.
Close by is Silver Beach, also called Agios Panteleimonas after the pretty little whitewashed chapel dedicated to St Panteleimonas that sits right on the beach. This coarse sandy beach is rarely crowded and shelves gently making it good for families. When the wind blows the windsurfers take over.
Finally, if you are looking for the least crowded beach or would like to play like the locals then head for Karavostasi Beach or Bronze Beach. This is mostly pebbles and has a little Kantina where locals gather to drink and talk of a summer evening.
A Kalo Chorio holiday is a traditional Cretan village break with the added benefits of the glorious beaches of Istron and, only a few kilometres away, all the facilities of the area’s main resort, the charming Agios Nikolaos.
Kalo Chorio, which roughly means ‘Good Village’ nestles in the hills above Istron, amongst vegetation smelling of wild thyme and olive and citrus groves. Fabulous views over Mirabello Bay offer a foretaste of what is on offer on the coast below where the beaches of Istron await you.
Kalo Chorio has its own market – a joy if you are self-catering – as well as traditional tavernas in which to join the locals for a good Cretan meal washed down with local wine or raki.
Although the beaches of Istron are in easy walking distance, it might be worth hiring a car for a Kalo Chorio holiday giving you flexibility to explore the area. Particularly in summer this is best booked in the UK before you depart.
Ierapetra calls itself the southernmost town in Europe and it is the only settlement of any size on Crete’s south coast. It makes its living from the fruit and veg grown in the greenhouses you will notice blighting the look of the surrounding countryside. The town itself though has a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere and long seafront promenade.
The promenade is lively in a gentle sort of way with plenty of tavernas and bars and a couple of discos. The beach is of grey sand and two stretches of it have blue flag status. The East beach offers windsurfing and jet skiing, while at the west beach pedaloes can be hired. Swimming, of course, is lovely throughout!
When you’ve had enough of the town beach, take a day trip by boat from the harbour to the protected island of Gaidouronisi, more often known as Hrysi, Hrissi or Chrissi Island eight miles offshore. Just 5km by 1km, the island boasts the only remaining Lebanon Cedar forest in Europe along with lovely sandy beaches and a single taverna.
Back in Ierapetra, explore the old town with its narrow streets, medieval Venetian castle, archaeological museum and House of Napoleon where the French general is meant to have stayed when he stopped here in 1798 en route to Egypt, before settling down with a cold beer or a glass or raki to watch the sun go down.