If you think you’ve got Crete covered, you might want to think again. While the island has got a lively set of traditional resorts, it’s a big enough place to offer lots of contrasting experiences, and if you fancy a quieter, more traditional Cretan seaside experience then take a look at Sitia.
The pretty port town is on the eastern tip of the island. It’s a bit further from the airports than the island’s biggest and most famous resorts, but perhaps it’s that that has allowed Sitia to keep its local character.
You’ll love the beach here though. It’s long, sandy, and high quality with lots of water sports facilities and schools to get you splashing around in those perfect waters. It’s also got a pretty harbour, complete with waterfront restaurants serving traditional Greek favourites.
A couple of small museums in the town will introduce you to the history and culture of the island, which can be explored in depth at some of Europe’s best museums and ancient sites elsewhere on Crete.
If you fancy doing your wild swimming in inland waters, then make sure you head to the jaw-dropping Richtis Gorge, one of the most beautiful natural spots on the island with a good choice of walking trails. Routes of between 3 and 12km will get you around the amazingly diverse landscapes of the gorge, with the smell of fresh herbs always in your nostrils. Bring your swimming gear and jump into the pond under the spectacular 20 metre waterfalls, or hang on until you return to the gorge entrance and a pretty little beach.
Greece’s mountain monasteries are among her most characteristic sights, and Iera Moni Toplou, near Sitia is a prime example. Head along just to enjoy the peace and quiet of a tranquil setting, or dive into the services held at the monastery, or a good little museum. A working winery and olive oil press might even give you some worldly souvenirs of your spiritual day trip.
If history’s your thing you can’t visit Crete and not take in a trip to Knossos, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The kids’ll be blown away by the myths of the Minotaur and the original labyrinth, while the Archaeological Museum in nearby Heraklion holds many of the finest artefacts of the mysterious Minoan civilisation and lots of excellent Ancient Greek material too.
Sitia’s own beach has enough to keep you in the resort for most of your stay. The eastern aspect keeps it sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds on the island, and the water’s warm and inviting for safe swimming. The water sports scene is good too, and all your simpler needs – sun beds, parasols, cocktails delivered to your lounger, are covered too by a good selection of sea front bars.
Near the popular resort of Vai, to the north, take a look at the beaches of Erimoupolis. The middle of this collection of three coves is one of the island’s most beautiful, backed by an ancient city. There’s little in the way of facilities here, but nature has provided everything you could want for a perfect day by the sea.
Kouremenos Beach is the place to head if you like catching a wave or a breeze. The surfing and wind surfing here is claimed as the “best in Europe” by some visitors. It’s also good for families, swimmers and sunbathers – though it can be a bit windy – and other nearby beaches offer quieter alternatives.