The west coast of the island of Crete boasts some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, including the wonderful Balos beach.
THE BEACH OF ELAFONISSI
Elafonissi (Elafónisos), perhaps the most beautiful sea in Crete, is a truly enchanting place for the transparency of the water and the pink reflections of the sand. This place is located at the southwestern end of the island (an hour car from Palaiochora).
The coast in this area is made up of a series of inlets and an easily accessible islet wading a stretch of shallow sea. We recommend arriving early in the morning and leaving late in the evening. Because in the central hours of the day unfortunately the beach is invaded by numerous tourists. In the vicinity of Elafonissi there is no country but only a few scattered houses and a few taverns.
THE MONASTERY OF HRISSOLKALITISSA
The visit to the nearby Hrissoskalitissa Monastery may be interesting. The monastery, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, is built on a rock overlooking the sea. To reach it you need to follow a staircase of 98 steps, the last of which, according to tradition, is made of gold, but only pious people can see it. The name of the monastery derives from this legend, in fact the word Hriso means “gold” and the word Skalitissa means “staircase”.
Another tradition has it that the disappearance of the golden step was caused by the Patriarch of Constantinople who gave the Ottoman gold step asking in return for better treatment for the Christians of the island.
The hotel facilities of the town of Chania can be used as a base for visiting this part of the island. To get from Chania to Elafonissi, you have to travel about 80 km: take the direction for Kissamos (Kastelli), after about 35 km take the road that leads inland in the direction of Topolis and Elos. Once in Elos continue to Vathy where you follow the signs for the Monastery of Hrissoskalitissa (the last part of the road is a dirt road).
Falasarna is the westernmost village of Crete, located about 20 km from Kissamos at the base of the Gramvousa peninsula. This village is not a real town but a set of scattered houses and greenhouses with a market that overlook a large, partly equipped beach, located on the west coast of the island of Crete.
In Falasarna it may happen, by turning on the radio, to intercept the signal of Italian radios, given the fact that it is the closest location in Crete as the crow flies with Italy. In this place the visitor can admire the beauty of the landscape and the blue sky. One of the most beautiful beaches of Crete, “Pahia Ammos”, is located south of Falasarna. While some tens of kilometers north of Falasarna there is the wonderful Balos beach.
The excellent hotel facilities of the towns of Kissamos or Chania can be used as a base for visiting this part of the island. To get from Kissamos or from Chania to Falasarna you travel a few tens of kilometers of the coast road.
Paleochora (Palaiochóra) is located in the south west part of the coast of Crete, on a small peninsula in the middle of two scenic bays. This is a lively town located on a peninsula overlooking the Libyan sea, about 80 km from Chania. This center offers all the services for the average tourist (2 markets, the bank, hotels, a tourist office, numerous taverns) as well as 2 large beaches, one sandy on the western side of the peninsula, the other pebbly, to the east a little further away from the inhabited center.
Further beaches are located towards Kondura (where houses and greenhouses alternate). It should be noted that in this stretch of coast the sea water is particularly cold due to the presence of underground springs.
Paleochora is also an excellent starting point for further excursions that can be carried out from there: in particular to the west towards the wonderful Elafonissi lagoon, and to the east towards the Samaria Gorges (bus that leaves at 6 for the entrance to gorges, return by ferry from Aghia Roumeli).
Written by Luca di Lalla. Photos by Luca and Niccolò di Lalla.