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Beaches on Crete

Greece's insider take:

While none of Crete's beaches approach the household-name status of Mykonos's Paradise or Super-Paradise, there are hundreds of them, offering clear water, almost guaranteed sun, and, usually, a taverna you become more appreciative of as the afternoon grows warmer. The better beaches tend to be on the south coast, and at the eastern and western extremities of the island. Visit them in September, when the summer crowds and umbrella-snatching meltemi winds have dissipated but the water is still warm.

Beginning in the northwest, Falasarna is a long stretch of yellow sand far enough from Chania that you can find some quiet time here, if you need it. The water is especially clean, but the wind can blow, so try to go on days when the locals' cigarette smoke rises straight up into their umbrellas. At the southwest corner, Elafonisi, with its pinkish sand, sits on a lagoon bounded by islets and sandbars you can wade out to. The wading is hardly strenuous, but prepare anyway by stocking up at one of the snack bars. The new paved road along which the snack bars are popping up is, of course, a shame.

On the south coast, not far east of the Samaria Gorge, is Sweetwater Beach, named for the freshwater seeping up from the rocks at its edge. It is a favorite of nudists, no doubt because as appreciators of natural beauty they admire the dramatic cliff backdrop. Another of Sweetwater's virtues is that the only way to reach it is by boat or by walking an hour from Loutro. Directly south of Rethymnon town, another beach often reached by boat is tiny, palm-fringed Preveli. Boat rides to it are so popular that you may be happier going out of season, and walking the steep path down to it from the Preveli Monastery.

Way southeast is long and lovely Makriyalos Beach, where alternating stretches of sand and pebbles are backed by pine trees and a lively, growing resort town. At the northeast corner is the also lovely—and in this case, overloved—Vai Beach, famous for its large grove of date palms. Looking more like North Africa than Greece, it's a place where you'll find every beach enticement, from jet skis to sailboards to umbrellas without number.

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