Seven Havens for Serene Holidays in South Crete

Uncover unique spots featuring captivating small towns embedded in lush landscapes and impressive beaches

South Crete is home to marvellous destinations where you can indulge in peaceful holidays and truly relax. Small villages perched on slopes or along the coastline are ideal to combine remarkable swims in the captivating waters and serene moments with a book in hand, or simply dozing off in absolute tranquillity.


Tucked away behind the White Mountains, where the Imbros Gorge finds its end, lies the town of Sfakia. This challenging region, where awe-inspiring mountain slopes meet the sea, boasts a barren yet striking beauty. The influx of tourism during the summer brings a lively buzz, yet it remains a place for a relaxed and laid-back holiday. A stone’s throw away are magnificent beaches like Iligas with its caves, Frangokastello with its castle standing proud, Glyka Nera embraced by towering cliffs, Agios Pavlos graced by a chapel on the beach, Agios Haralambos, and the stunning Domes.

It also has two of its own small beaches in front, one is at the small harbour with the fishing boats, and the other just behind it, named Vrissi. The town offers a plethora of accommodations, taverns, shops, and mini markets. Besides lovely swims, you can engage in other activities in the area, such as hiking the beautiful trails with views of the Libyan Sea or gorge trekking.


Rodakino is one of the larger villages in the south of Rethymno. It is split into Ano and Kato Rodakino as the exit of the homonymous gorge cuts it in two. Behind it stand tall mountains, specifically Mount Kryoneritis, and it offers views that reach the sea. It is one of those traditional villages with whitewashed courtyards and flowers anarchically sprouted in the flower beds, lending it an unpretentious beauty. If you are seeking tranquil holidays and fresh mountain air with quick access to the sea, Rodakino is an excellent solution as Korakas beach is only 3 kilometres away. The beach is organised, has sand and pebbles, wonderful waters and plenty of green in the background, while nearby there are other beaches, that of the settlement of PolyrizosRodakinoAgia Marina and a little further away Orthi Ammos and Frangokastello.

Sellia, Crete/Photo: Shutterstock


Perched on the slope of Mount Xylis at an altitude of 280 metres, Sellia gazes out over the Libyan Sea. This well-kept village is a harmonious blend of old and new, with aged stone houses sitting shoulder to shoulder with white lime-plastered residences, their small arches marking the entrances. The village isn’t overly large, but it does have fifteen churches. Of these, several are of particular interest, such as the church of Agios Fotis, dating back to the second Byzantine period, and the church of Agios Ioannis.

Don’t expect to find buzzing bars or vibrant nightlife here. Instead, you’ll find quaint taverns and coffee shops, where locals are always ready to share their knowledge about the area. Around seven kilometres away, you’ll discover the beautiful Souda beach, where a small stream flows into the sea. Further east, about 6.5 kilometres away, is Plakias, a livelier settlement with its own charming beach and plenty of dining options.

Pitsidia/Photo: Shutterstock
Matala/Photo: Unsplash

Pitsidia, Heraklion

Located on the Messara Bay and nestled among olive trees and vineyards, the large village of Pitsidia in Heraklion is a perfect family destination. Although it’s a popular tourist spot, the village maintains its beauty and tranquillity. Nearby, you’ll find some fantastic beaches, such as SarantariKommosKalamaki and Pachia Ammos, which essentially form one extensive stretch of sand. Also within reach are the famous Matala with its caves, the serene Red Sand beach, and Agia Galini. Moreover, the archaeological sites of Phaistos, Agia Triada and Gortyna are a stone’s throw away.

Kastri/Photo: Shutterstock

Kastri, located in Heraklion prefecture, is a tiny coastal settlement in the bay of Keratokambos. Nestled amongst olive groves and featuring a lovely beach, this sparsely populated area is a haven for tranquillity seekers. In front of the settlement, there’s a sandy beach for a refreshing dip and a small harbour, while the beautiful Skouros beach, with its plentiful tamarisk trees offering ample shade, is just next door. A little further afield lies the magnificent Lissos beach with its crystal-clear waters. The area offers a good selection of accommodation and tavernas serving fresh fish and other delicacies.

Kerames/Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons


At an elevation of 300 metres in southern Rethymno, you’ll find Kerames, a delightful village surrounded by a tapestry of olive groves. The sight of the sea from here is magnificent. This well-equipped village is replete with a mini-market, a selection of accommodations, and appetising local cuisine. As for the beaches, Agia FotiniPodareKatsouniLigres, and Triopetra are perfect for a refreshing dip. Venture a bit further, and you’ll encounter the gorgeous waters of Preveli, complete with a captivating palm grove and a rivulet that empties into the sea.

Pefki/Photo: Shutterstock


Located at an altitude of 400 metres, the semi-mountainous village of Pefki rests in the south of Lasithi county, overlooking the Anegyrous gorge. This enchanting hamlet, although situated high on a hill, is just 8 kilometres from the crystal-clear sea. If tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle is what you’re after, Pines might be your sanctuary. The village, built in an amphitheatrical fashion, gazes out at the sea and exudes a distinct island charm with white cottages covered in flowering vines and narrow, twisting lanes.