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VAI BEACH & CHRYSSI ISLAND

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25 km East of Sitia, find the exquisite beach of Vai and its unique in Europe palm tree forest. The lush trees reach the water’s edge, creating an exotic illusion. According to legend, the forest was created from date pits, spat on the beach by Roman soldiers.
Chryssi (or Gaidouronissi) island is a tiny exotic island, a few miles south of Ierapetra, is among the most impressive places to visit in the region. You can enjoy swimming in its tropical lagoon scenery, sunbathing on its pink sand, formed by millions of broken shells (visitors used to take away handfuls as souvenirs, but now the practice is strictly forbidden), walking in the forest of cedar trees and bushes and diving in the colourful waters. Try the two local restaurants serving fresh fish and seafood! Access is possible by boat from Ierapetra.


OTHER BEACHES

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In the region’s northern parts, you’ll find the waters shallow and the beaches rather crowded, while the south’s waters are deeper and the cliffs steeper. For those who do not want to steer away from the city, even the beach nearest Sitia’s port has been awarded a Blue Flag! Further on, you’ll find the following beaches in succession: in the east Petras, Aghia Fotia with its greyish sand, and to the west: Aghioi Pantes, Platani and Papadokampos. Locals prefer Erimoupolis –the location of the ancient city of Itanos- where your swim will conjure images of the lost city of Atlantis, notice the ancient ruins, visible in the shallow waters. The list gets even longer: Plaka offers uninterrupted views of the islet of Spinalonga, Amoudara is easily accessible and busy, Tholos with its round pebbles, is perfect for relaxing under the trees and Elounda which doesn’t need to be introduced, being Crete’s most cosmopolitan resort. As an alternative, choose the sheltered beach of Gournia, camouflaged among the hills. The best destinations for families are the beaches Chiona, Kouremenos and Roussolakos.
In the south, near the quaint village of Koutsounari, a long beach with fine pebbles, extends for 5 km, ideal for families. Palekastro (35 km), and Kato Zakros (46 km) can allow you to combine swimming with a walk in the ancient city. Exploration enthusiasts will discover one of Crtete’s last unspoiled havens in Xirokambos (55 km southeast). Dunes, spotted with fragrant white lilies, absolute silence and clear waters make up an eerie, quasi mystical landscape, ready to be enjoyed by the initiated. Finally, you can try rowing to the deserted island of Koufonisi, a short distance away from Cape Goudouras. If you don’t have access to your own boat, regular schedules depart Goudouras or Makri Gialos, while you can go free camping with the right equipment.