Istron is a charming, peaceful village with spectacular beaches in eastern Crete, just a 10-minute drive from Aghios Nikolaos. It has a pretty old quarter called Kalo Horio, which is set among olive groves and orchards just inland, while most of the hotels and restaurants are strung out along the coast. It boasts no less than three beaches, including Golden Beach (also known as Voulisma Beach) which is regularly voted one of the best in all Crete. There is a good choice of shops, bars and restaurants in Istron, with an even bigger choice in Aghios Nikolaos, plus plenty to see and do, whether you want to take boat trips, enjoy some water sports, or hike through the beautiful countryside.
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At a glance
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Istron is a traditional, enchanting village overlooking beautiful Miravello Bay in eastern Crete. There are lots of wonderful beaches dotted around the bay, but Istron is home to one of the loveliest: Golden Beach (also known as Voulisma Beach). You’ll also find a charming old quarter (Kalo Horio) that sits amid olive groves and orchards, plus a great choice of shops, cafés and restaurants, including lots of family-run traditional taverns. There are even more in nearby Aghios Nikolaos, a 10-minute drive away, along with a wide choice of water sports. The rolling hills just inland boast some fantastic hikes if you want to escape the crowds.
Despite its diminutive size, Istron offers a surprisingly wide choice of places to eat and drink. Often family-run tavernas, these usually provide delicious Cretan cuisine prepared with fresh, home-grown produce. You’ll find all the Greek classics, such as moussaka and souvlaki, and you can tuck into some tasty fresh seafood, or go for one of the island’s famous lamb dishes. The Greek salads are perfect on hot summer days, and come topped with mizithra cheese - just one of the scores of cheeses produced on Crete. Grab some of the local pies, best bought warm from the bakery, which are perfect for picnics.
If you want a relaxed holiday by the sea with gorgeous scenery, fantastic beaches and plenty of peace and quiet, then Istron is a perfect option for a family holiday. The stunning beaches – particularly famous Golden Beach – are ideal for children, with sheltered waters and plenty of convenient amenities. Older kids will be happy with the jet skis and kayaks, while young children can build sandcastles and paddle. There are lots of child-friendly places to eat and drink, and several easy but enjoyable walks in the surrounding hills. The kids might enjoy a visit to Lake Voulismeni in Aghios Nikolaos, or you could hit one of the water parks near Heraklion, about an hour’s drive away.
Action & Adventure
Golden Beach (also called Voulisma Beach) has a water sports centre where you can rent out kayaks, jet skis and even have a go at water-skiing if you feel like getting the adrenaline pumping. There are more facilities for water sports in Aghios Nikolaos, a 10-minute drive away, which also offers sailing, parasailing, and wakeboarding among countless other activities. It also has several diving schools, where you can take courses or sign up for one of the excursions to fantastic local diving sites. The hills and mountains inland also provide a range of adventures, from hiking to canyoning.
Istron is boasts no less than three beaches, including Golden Beach (also known as Voulisma Beach), a glorious curve of pale sand and turquoise waters which regularly appears on postcards. It’s truly stunning, and is very well equipped with sun loungers, parasols, amenities for water sports and a couple of great places to eat and drink. It can get very crowded in summer, but you can escape the bustle in the little rocky coves that surround it. Agios Panteleimonas Beach has a mixture of fine sand and pebbles, and is named for the tiny whitewashed church that overlooks it. The smallest of the trio is Karavostasi Beach, which is reached by a lovely path through olive groves. It has fewer facilities, although there is a charming beachfront bar where you can enjoy a drink or some snacks.
Nightlife in Istron is as relaxed and laid-back as the village itself. You’ll find plenty of cafés and restaurants where you can sit out on the terrace, enjoying a drink or two and watching the world go by. If you’re visiting at the end of June, you’ll be able to join in with the village festival, held in honour of Agios Panteleimonas. A church service and procession is followed by a fantastic party, with local food, and plenty of traditional music and dancing. If you’re looking for bars and clubs, you’ll need to head into Aghios Nikolaos, which is just a 10-minute drive away. This resort is not a big party hub like Malia or Stalis, but it does have enough bars and nightspots to keep you entertained on balmy summer nights.
If your idea of a romantic holiday is a quiet, authentic Greek village with picture-postcard beaches and olive groves, then come to Istron. You can relax on Golden Beach, one of the loveliest on the island, or rent a kayak and discover your own secluded cove to enjoy a romantic picnic. The little resort has lots of atmospheric places to eat and drink, whether you want to tuck into some Cretan cuisine in a traditional tavern or linger over a drink with your toes in the sand as the sun goes down. There are some beautiful walks through hills and orchards, and you’ll find a decent choice of nightlife in nearby Aghios Nikolaos, just a 10-minute drive away.
The Istron area has been inhabited for centuries, and was once the site of an ancient Minoan settlement that existed here in around the 6th century BC. There are several fine churches and monasteries scattered across the mountains near Istron. Among them is the beautiful Faneromenis Monastery, which dates back to the 10th century, and was built directly into the rock. It is said to contain a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, and is still an important place of pilgrimage. The monastery is reached via a steep, winding road, and offers tremendous views over the whole coastline, including the remarkable Gournia archaeological site near the coast. This preserves the remarkable remains of a Minoan city established around 2500 BC.