Triopetra and Agios Pavlos beaches are ideal places to spend the days soaking up the sun and enjoying the vast stretch of dark sand, lined by the turquoise Libyan sea. Agios Pavlos is fairly easy to access by car although the dirt track is quite long and winding but the view awaiting you once you get past the hill, is stunning. This is one of the reasons why sunsets seen from this beach are also so mesmerising for visitors. 

There is a tavern and certain facilities in the vicinity (such as sunbed availability) but the beach remains largely non commercial and quiet, especially during mornings and evenings on weekdays. Triopetra also boasts crystal clear waters but the sand is mixed with smaller pebbles, and it is a little more popular than Agios Pavlos, with a selection of small taverns to choose from and some rooms to rent. Triopetra can also be accessed easily by car and there are two beaches separated by a small peninsula which consists of three rocks (hence the name: Triopetra which means three stones in Greek). Ensure that you visit on a day when the weather is calm as the area is prone to wind and the sea will not be as clear and enjoyable for a swim or snorkel if there are waves.

Red sand beach (Kokkini Ammos) and Komos lie in the direction of Matala, driving from Agia Galini to the East. Both beaches are known to be used by nudists as well. While Komos is easily accessible and busier, Kokkini Ammos can be accessed only via a 30-40min. walk over hills from Matala.

In Komos there are sunbeds and a restaurants with bathrooms and showers. Apart from the spectacular sunsets, visitors may get the opportunity to see turtles that lay their eggs there too. Sadly, the Minoan archaeological site is rarely open to visitors… If you opt for visiting Kokkini Ammos, come prepared. It is advisable to take your own umbrella and there is no food or drink available onsite. However, it is quiet and the views (as well as sunsets) are stunning!

On the way from Agia Galini to Rethymnon, it would be negligent to not stop at Spili. However, on the way there, it is advisable to drive to the villages of Saktouria and Melambes, catching a glimpse of what the traditional villages are like, how locals sit in the local “kafenions” (cafés) playing backgammon or working in the fields with their donkeys. Spili (located approx. 30km from Rethymnon), got its name from the cave that exists on the outskirts of the village. Once there, you will realise that it has become most popular, not for the cave but for its lionhead fountain located in the centre of the village. The spring is surrounded by the square, trees and quaint shops and restaurants where it is truly hard to resist making a pit stop to “refuel”. If you are willing to explore further, there is also a small folk museum which gives insight to the local culture and way of life as well as a taster of the local raki.

In the opposite direction, once past the fish tavern of Red Castle area and towards (approx. 67km from) Heraklion, lies the village of Kamilari. The name comes from the Greek word for camel because the village sits between two hill tops, as if on a camel’s back. This is a small and quaint village to explore, with a picturesque square and cute shops to buy your souvenirs from. If you seek a more bustling place, then Matala is more appropriate for you. Known for being home to hippies in the 60’s, a long pebbly beach awaits, many shops and restaurants to be found and a view of the iconic caves where the hippies lived, found on most postcards for the area. Venturing inland, Pitsidia village offers a little tradition and various options for food and drink (including a vegan café-restaurant worth visiting, named Green Koukounari) while the almost abandoned village of Kouses is home to the amazing herb shop known as Votano which nobody should miss visiting – a treasure of local and international herbs, spices, teas and more.

Are you ready to explore Crete?

There is no need to venture into different directions as both suggested activities are connected to the area of Plakias – a village situated south of Rethymnon, found once you have driven through the Kourtaliotiko gorge (approx. 45min drive from Rethymnon to the south coast).

Kotsyfos Gorge can be entered from the village of Kannevos and exited at Plakias. Total length is almost 2km and it takes approx. 2 hours to venture. Within the gorge, you can visit a small church dedicated to St. Nicholas and depending on the season you visit, there may be a 20m waterfall indicating the point where Kotsyfos and Boutsinas gorges connect.

Even though the gorge entrance is quite narrow (approx. 10m), it later expands to approx. 600m width and there is much to see in the area on this hike.

For those who prefer water adventures, the South coast with is coarse rocky seafronts, is ideal for diving experiences. Kalypso bay situated near the village of Plakias is an ideal place to go diving, whether you are an experienced diver or a beginner.

The bay is protected from changing weather conditions and there is so much to see underwater whether you choose to go diving or even just snorkelling. This is the ideal day trip for those who may not wish to hike up mountains but still wish to explore unseen parts of Crete in a more relaxed manner.

One of the reasons the area of Messara developed in terms of tourism, were the famous archaeological sites of Phaistos and Gortyna. Situated fairly close, they are both significant for their own reasons and a visit by avid sightseers should not be missed. Phaistos is the 2nd largest city of Minoan Crete and was considered to have served as an administrative centre, connected to the Knossos Palace. However, very differently to Knossos, it has not been reconstructed and perhaps for this reason, has remained less popular for the masses. It is most well known as home to the famous (yet to be deciphered) Phaistos clay disc with hieroglyphic writing on both sides, which can currently be found in the Heraklion Archaeological museum.

Gortyna which is situated on the same road to Phaistos, is said to have been ruled by Gortys, nephew of King Minos and the site’s historical value lies in its unbroken 6,000 year history (from the Neolithic period, through the Minoan period and including the roman period). It was one of the first sites to draw the attention of archeologists in the late 19th century.

Sadly, only a small part of the vast expansion has been excavated but there is still much to see. If in the area, don’t miss paying a visit to see the basilica, agora and – most importantly – the Gortyn Code (legal code of civil law) inscribed on the walls of the amphitheatre.

A little further afield, towards the West, a place worth visiting is Preveli. Known for its palm beach but also for the Monastery, it can offer an excellent day trip out for anyone willing to explore.

There is a small fee to enter the monastery but the scenery, architecture and facilities are all stunning and well worth it. There is a great gift shop on site, an interesting museum and one gets a glimpse of the Greek Orthodox religion as well as the monastery’s history (dating back to 159, found on a bell inscription) which is strongly connected to WWII.

An ideal place to relax and stroll through the tranquil paths, exploring the grounds (and animals) around the monastery.