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Trip report: Desert beaches, mountain offroad, paths hanging on the sea: a wild approach to a spectacular Greek Island
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It's surprising how Crete in the mid of August can look like a deserted paradise. In a few hours you can drive from some active nightlife to completely isolated beaches.
So here below there are almost 50 beautiful photos (they are beautiful because of the landscapes, of course, not because of our photographic skills) and an entertaining trip report. Check them out!
If you haven't seen it yet, there is a map of the travel itinerary here:

Chania Port


If you are looking for a journey to a Greek Island with empty beaches, mountains and canyons, then Crete is the best one. It is the largest island of the greek archipelago. During a relaxing holiday, you can enjoy the beaches and nightlife of the northern coast, but the rest of the island can be explored as an adventurous trip.
So, here it is a phantasmagoric (to be modest) trip report.
We flew from Pisa to Chania, we landed at 3PM. We rented a Suzuki Jimny, a 4x4 convertible for our holiday: 490 euros for a week with Anna Cars (a local agency), including insurance - high season price. After just twenty minutes driving we parked the Jimny in Stavros, on a beautiful beach with crystal clear water and a rocky mountain as background. A good start for our improvised travel itinerary.
For the evening we stopped in Chania, perhaps the most fascinating town in Crete; it lies on the sea, is full of bars and restaurants, with streets and alleys on the water and an old, quaint harbor. There were lots of tourists and the city was quite animated.
Chania sea-promenade
Chania is the most beautiful and touristic city in the whole island.
The next day we drove to Balos beach along dirt roads that became more and more panoramic. You can reach this beach also by ferry, with organized boat trips, but the view from the top on this bay is something unique and unforgettable, with the lagoon and the rocky islands.
Balos Beach, Crete
Balos Beach. One of the most famous and yet spectacular landscapes of the island.
Balos Beach, Crete
Balos Beach
The dirt road to Balos is viable even with a normal car, albeit very slowly, so the road access is really advisable.
We took several photos and we explored the hidden corners of this very famous yet wild bay.
Balos Beach, Crete
Balos Beach
Balos Beach, Crete
Balos Beach. An original and unique way to explore a famous place:)
Balos Beach, Crete
Balos Beach
We left Balos in the afternoon. While walking uphill, towards the car, under the sun, we understood while many prefer the boat... But still, it's not so terrible, and there are also mules for rent. We reached Falasarna before sunset. Here we found a huge quiet beach and a double room in a hotel with a superb view and a swimming pool for only 20 euros per person (even if it was mid-August!). In the following days, this kind of room and price would prove to be the norm during our holiday in Crete, despite the last-second organization and the peak season.
Phalasarna beach, Crete
Phalasarna. A long beach in the western part of the island.
Phalasarna beach, Crete
Phalasarna beach. Here a basic double room with use of the swimming pool is just 45 euros per night in the middle of August.
The day after we arrived at Elafonisi, a famous beach destination in Crete.
Elafonisi beach, Crete
Elafonisi. A beautiful peninsula, to be explored, with crystal clear waters.
As always during our journey in Crete, the beach was touristy and crowded, but it was sufficient to walk for a few hundred meters along the sandy peninsula to find beautiful, secluded bays with crystalline waters.
Elafonisi beach, Crete
We explored the area, then I hired a windsurf. In the afternoon we decided to continue our travel itinerary along the coast (we didn't have a precise plan, but we wanted to follow - more or less - all the perimeter of Crete).

We followed a run-down signal in Greek characters, that indicated Paleochora along a dirt road that seemed to follow the coast.
In the Suzuki Jimny we shaked a lot, but that trip was great!.
Top view of Elafonisi beach, Crete
View of Elafonisi beach from the mountains
We arrived to a beautiful beach when it was about 4PM. Later, we continued our drive, we crossed Paleochora but in the end we decided to continue to Sougia, where we arrived at sunset. The place was amazing: the town looked out on a long beach surrounded by huge cliffs.
Sougia, Crete
Sougia. Another beautiful zone in Crete southern coast.
The day after, our trip continued to the interior, toward the canyon of Imbros, which we walked on foot, downhill, between imposing cliffs.
Hills and countryside of Crete
The interior of the island features rocky mountains and countryside that can be really relaxing, especially if viewed from the terrace of a good tavern.
Imbros Canyon, Crete
Imbros gorge is several kilometers long and few hundreds of meters deep and it makes for an exciting trekking in the nature.
At the end of the trekking itinerary, lasting two to three hours, we got a passage to the departure point.
Satisfied by the trip to Imbros Gorge, we drove down to the sea and we continued along the beautiful coast.
Southern Crete coast near Hora Sfakion
Hora Sfakion. Another beautiful stretch of coast in the south of Crete.
Loutro, Crete
Southern Crete beach
A gravel road runs along a long stretch of wild cliffs and isolated beaches.
We arrived at Plakias at sunset, another great destination in the south of Crete.
Plakias is perhaps the most touristy place on the southern coast of Crete, thanks to some large beaches within easy reach. At this holiday destination you can rent canoes, as we did the next morning, and try windsurfing, sailing dinghies, water skiing, etc.
By kayak near Plakias, southern Crete
By kayak near Plakias, southern Crete
Seagull in Plakias, southern Crete
Plakias beach, southern Crete
After the kayaking itinerary, we were back in the Jimny and we continued for several hours along dirt roads overlooking the sea, until we reached Agia Galini at sunset, where we decided to stay overnight.
Agia Galini, Crete
Agia Galini. A nice town in Crete southern coast.
So far the trip was great... and I also forgot to write that, between Plakias and Agia Galini, we visited the beautiful Preveli beach and the lush canyon behind it.
Preveli, Crete
Preveli. Behind a beautiful beach with rocky cliffs on its sides, there is this very particular canyon.
Southern Crete beach
Southern Crete beach
The next destination was Matala, famous for its natural caves inhabited since prehistoric times, but also by the hippies in the 60s. The village is really picturesque, although a little touristy, and it overlooks a beautiful bay. Not far from Matala and reachable on foot through a short but strenuous trail, there is the beautiful Red Sand Beach.
Matala, Crete
The natural caves around Matala were inhabited ages ago, but also in the sixties by the hyppies.
Beach near Matala, Crete
Beach near Matala
Matala Town, Crete
When we left Matala we abandoned any logical travel itinerary and we drove to the north of Crete. We reached Mohlos, or Mochlos, a beautiful village, then Sitia, a nice town where we found accomodation.
A Mythos beer on the sea at Mohlos, Crete
This bar in Mohlos, a small village in the north-east of Crete, inspires panoramic drinks. Mythos is the local beer.
The traveld destinations of the next day were two: Vai and its beach with palm trees, and Palekastro, an ideal place for windsurfing. Vai looked too turisty to us.
Vai Beach, Crete
Vai. In the eastern part of the island, a beautiful beach with palms.
Palekastro was wilder, with dozens of windsurfs in the sea, a huge empty beach and a red promontory in the background.
By driving offroad we reached some secluded bays.
4x4 offroad driving near Palekastro, Crete
4x4 offroad driving near Palekastro
Windsurf at the beach of Palekastro, Crete
Palekastro. In the eastern part of Crete, this fantasic bay offers splendid conditions for windsurfing.
We had lunch at 3PM: in Crete you can eat at any time, and out of the touristy places the food is very good.
Then we drove to Malia, where we found a guesthouse. Before taking the plane from Chania, though, we had the time to visit the ruins, largely rebuilt, of Knossos - quite disapponting, touristy and a bit fake.
On the way to the airport we stopped for one hour in Rethymno, a charming seaside town of Venetian origins. The prize for the most beautiful city of Crete remains in Chania, in my opinion.
As conclusion of this trip report, I am to write that an adventurous holiday in Crete is possible even in August: it takes just a rental car, some initiative and ability to improvise the travel itinerary.
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