The South of Crete (South Coast)
None of the places in the south has undergone the extreme development of the north coast. Houses which are more than two floors high (ground floor and first floor) are forbidden on the south coast of the island. Such building regulations exist hardly anywhere else in Europe. So the church is still the tallest building in most villages.
The hotels and restaurants are often family businesses. Each of the small villages has its own character. Many times you hear: Tourists, who know Crete well, spend their holiday on the south coast. Holidaymakers, who know little about Crete, are on the north coast. This is more or less correct. There are of course also a few big hotels on the south coast and some small, quiet villages on the north coast.
The south coast of Crete is mainly chosen by people as a holiday destination seeking tranquility and authentic Cretan culture. Also many holidaymakers, who like hiking, visit some regions in the South of Crete. Lovers of secluded beaches and ecological tourism, fans of holiday on a farm come to the south coast of Crete. Most villages are small. The only city on the south coast is Ierapetra with some 15,000 inhabitants. No other town has more than 5,000 inhabitants. In Ierapetra you can find the only traffic lights in southern Crete. There are also no escalators or shopping centers. Elevators you find only in the few upmarket hotels from the ground floor to the first floor. Higher buildings are not allowed on the southern coast of the biggest island of Greece.
In same places like Matala you can still fell the old days with long political discussions and hippies. The majority of the guests nowadays come from Germany, but you also meet many people from many other countries like England or the Netherlands. Many of the staff in the taverns and hotels are from Albania and other countries in Eastern Europe. Some former tourists also live in Southern Crete, a lot of them in "my village" Plakias.
One reason for the less developed tourism on the south coast is the long transfer from the airports. No place in South Crete can be reached from the two international airports Heraklion and Chania in less than an hour by car or bus. You have to use high mountain pass roads. From same villages it even take two hours and more to the next airport. Most package tourists do not like such long transfer times.
A large number of package holidaymakers visit South Crete just for a day by bus or car. Very popular among hikers is the famous Samari Gorge and the much shorter Imbros Gorge. Popular beaches for day trips are Preveli Beach near Plakias, Komos Beach and the beach of Matala. Other destinations are villages like Mirtos, Lentas, Frangokastello, Sougia, Paleochora.
The most beautiful beach in the south of Crete is, according to many tourists, is the beach of Preveli. Palm trees grow next to the beach. The Palm Beach of Preveli can be reached from a parking lot by foot in 30 minutes. A river flows into the sea at Prevleli beach (picture down).
The south coast of Crete is quite long. A car ride from west to east can take more than 4 hours.
Map of Crete
Some villages and towns in South Crete from East to West
Ierapetra: It is the only city in southern Crete. Crete is very narrow here. Ierapetra is less than 15 km from the north coast. The town is not ugly, but there are nicer places on the island.
Mirtos: One of the most beautiful villages on the south coast. You find everything you need for a basic holiday. Beautiful beaches, fishing taverns, rent rooms and a few hotels.
Matala: The former hippie place is still a unusual holiday destination. The good old times in Matala are not completely over. Famous are the former hippie caves and the beach Red Beach nearby.
Agia Galini: Beautiful, small resort, built on a slope. Good beaches. In Agia Galini, Ikaros is said to have started his flight with wings built by his father Daidalos from bird feathers and wax (Greek mythology).
Plakias: Now maybe the most visited place on the south coast. Some great mountain villages nearby. Both, beach lovers and hikers, come to Plakias.
Chora Sfakia: Mainly hikers and day tourists come to this place in South Crete. Here the ferries leave to the most important hiking area of Crete, the region in and around the Samaria National Park.
Loutro: Tiny, picturesque fishing village, which can only be reached by ferry or by foot on hiking trails. No road leads to Loutro.
Agia Roumeli: The place is the access point to the Samaria Gorge and the Samaria National Park. Thousands of hikers come to Agia Roumeli every day in summer. Also Agia Roumeli can not be reached by car (no roads).
Sougia: A village with about 25 houses. There are about 10 hotels and pensions and 8 taverns in Sougia. You can still camp on the beach. Many people stay weeks or even months here.
Paleochora: This is a slightly larger place in Southwest Crete. Paleochora has a lot of fans, who come every year. The place is located on a peninsula surrounded by several beautiful beaches. There are ferries to Sougia, to the Samaria Gorge and to the small island Gavdos.
The author: My name is Jorgy. I am German and I have been living in Crete for more than 10 years. I translated this article from German into English. I am not a native English speaker. When I will find a proofreader, the quality of the article will improve. If you know somebody who wants to help me, please write me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org