Lasithi area and resorts
The north coast of Crete – with its many beaches and perfect blue Mediterranean sea – offers a great range of resorts from lively centres of tourism where younger visitors boogie the night away, to peaceful havens that retain their traditional Cretan charm.
The whole coast (except a few protected bays) can be affected by Crete’s summer winds, an occasional nuisance to swimmers and joy to windsurfers that seems to put few people off. Do take notice of the flag system on beaches, though, or take local advice.
Amongst the quieter, more traditional places for a relaxed north Crete holiday are Panormos, about 20km from Rethymon towards Heraklion, and, east of Chania, two neighbouring resorts, Almirida and Kalives. These places offer families and couples a really restful holiday where nightlife means a local meze and a carafe of raki as the sun sets over the sea.
In complete contrast is Platanias, west of Chania, a thriving modern tourist town that is the nightlife capital of western Crete.
Panormos is a delightful Cretan fishing village with a few extra tourist facilities. A Panormos holiday is for those who want to know they are in Crete while they enjoy the sun and sea.
The village has a lovely sandy beach protected from the wind by a little harbour. There are plenty of sunbeds and parasols – and plenty of people too in July and August. This little resort is very popular with families with children of all ages, but is suitable for anyone.
There is a second sandy beach a few minutes’ walk west of the town. This gets less crowded but is more exposed to the winds.
Several friendly tavernas and small bars overlook the harbour and there are more in the village itself – enough to keep you in new culinary experiences for more than a week.
The fresh seafood is particularly good.
A little road train offers local rides, evening jaunts and longer excursions into the surrounding area. Or if you fancy a bit of shopping and a wander round an impressive Venetian fortress, it is only a short taxi ride into Rethymnon or about forty minutes on a bus.
Almirida (Almyrida) is a delightful little town with gently shelving blue flag sandy beaches – very family friendly. Tavernas and bars line the seafront, but this is no Malia or Platanias. An Almirida holiday is a laid back affair. Here Greek weekenders mix with foreign tourists all enjoying sun, sea and Mediterranean food.
The beaches have sun beds and parasols and if you feel like something more active there is a windsurfing school and a dive centre as well as mountain bikes to hire. These are most fun in spring and autumn when it is not so hot and you can take them out into the White Mountains that provide a dramatic backdrop to the resort.
There are many pleasant walks in the area and in spring the countryside is scattered with wild flowers. If it happens (unusually!) to rain there is always the ten pin bowling in the Almirida Beach Hotel.
Ten minutes’ drive away, on a hillside above Souda Bay is the archaeological site of Aptera with stunning views and important Roman remains. Chania is just 15km away and its old town is a delightful place to explore. Or if you just fancy a change of coastal scene, head 4km – on foot if you are feeling energetic – to coastal n village of Kalives.
A picturesque village, still retaining its Cretan character and working local population despite an increasing number of tourists. A Kalives holiday allows you to soak up a genuinely Greek atmosphere and share meals with the locals in the traditional tavernas as well as lying on the blue flag sandy beach and splashing in the shimmering blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Kalives is a relaxed place suitable for all ages, though those seeking the bright lights of nightlife might wish to look further along the coast to Platanias in the west or Rethymnon in the east.
You will find everything you need in Kalives from a bank and post office to petrol and plenty of food supplies. There is a bus service to Chania and an occasional one to Almirida which can also be reached on a pleasant 4km walk – ideally outside the summer heat.
Spring is the ideal time for an Almirida walking holiday. The countryside is full of wild flowers and the wonders of the Lefka Ori – the White Mountains – that rise dramatically above the resort, await your discovery.
Ten kilometres west of the town of Chania and just a twenty minute drive from Chania international airport, Platanias is the biggest resort in the area. With one of the few soft sandy beaches along the Gulf of Chania, and with blue flag status to boot, Platanias attracts large numbers of tourists in summer and offers a lively sun and sea experience.
There is plenty of beachfront action here from jet skiing and banana boating to boisterous bars and the only real clubbing in western Crete. For a more peaceful sunbathe or swim, head west along the beach which continues uninterrupted for 4km. You may have to put up with some small pebbles in your sand, but you will find a quiet spot.
Alternatively, head out of the resort, up the hill to the traditional old village of Platanias, or into the countryside. Within a kilometre of town you will find scenic hills with herb-filled undergrowth, olive and orange groves, particularly beautiful in spring when the wild flowers are in bloom.
To really leave the noise behind (and for this trip it is important that you do), take one of the occasional boat trips out to Agia Theodoroi (Thodorou islands) just off the coast at Platanias. This is a protected reserve for Crete’s wild goat the Ibex.