Are you looking for somewhere laid-back to spend your holidays in Crete? Throw in some of the best beaches in Greece, breathtaking mountain scenery and some of the best hiking in Crete, indeed Europe. Welcome to one of the best places to stay in Crete, Paleochora.

Paleochora Kreta Image of Paleochora town in Crete
Paleochora seen from the ferry early in the morning

Paleochora is one of the main southern Crete resorts. It’s very small, but by far the biggest town for many miles around. The beauty of Paleochora is its setting and intimacy, with everything packed into a few small streets, with stunning views all around.  Don’t expect a long list of things to do in Paleochora – this is somewhere you come to slow down and chill out.

Image of a shrine and the the Greek flag near Methexis Beach Paleochora Crete
A tiny shrine and the the Greek flag near Methexis Beach in Paleochora

You could easily spend a couple of weeks relaxing at Pachia Ammos, the sandy Paleochora beach, trying out the different Paleochora restaurants and cafes. We’d suggest venturing to some of the other Paleochora beaches, and exploring west Crete beaches further afield including Falassarna on longer day trips.  

PALEOCHORA CRETE IN A NUTSHELL 

Image of a sunset on a beach in Paleochora Crete
One of those wonderful late summer sunsets at Pachia Ammos beach

Paleochora – also spelt Palaiochora or Paleohora – is a small town on the south Crete coast 

It’s 75 km (48 miles) from provincial capital Chania, about 1 hour 45 minutes’ drive over a slow, winding mountain road

Image of two cats outside a travel agency door in in Paleochora Crete
Two friendly felines outside a Paleochora travel agency

It’s located on a small peninsula with a sandy beach on one side and a pebble beach on the other 

It’s a short day trip from some of the best beaches in Crete, including the pink sand beach at Elafonissi and the remarkable Kedrodasos beach

Paleochora Accommodation Image of a 'rooms for rent' sign in Paleochora Crete
There are many Paleochora apartments and studios for rent around the town

It’s also the starting point for the Agia Roumeli ferry, one of the best things to do in Crete, Greece 

It’s also a convenient base for the Samaria Gorge Crete hike

Image of Psilos Volakas beach near Paleochora Crete
Beautiful Psilos Volakas beach near Paleochora

There are also some stunning lesser-known south Crete beaches in the vicinity of Paleochora 

If you’re looking for a taste of Greece off the beaten path, Paleochora is one of the best Crete destinations you’ll find 

GETTING TO PALEOCHORA 

Image of road sign pointing towards Paliochora (also spelt Paleochora) Crete Greece
This way – there’s only one road anyway!

Paleochora is pretty remote. If you visit Crete you’ll see a huge difference between the developed north and much quieter south coast. It’s less than 50 miles (78 km) from Chania to Paleochora but it’s like driving back 30, 40 years in time. 

If you’re driving in Crete, you can make the journey from Chania to Paleochora in an hour and three quarters. Head down the coast road or highway from Chania to Tavronitis, and take the mountain road south, passing through Kandanos.

Image of the church tower in Paleochora Crete
The church tower is one of the main Paleochora landmarks

During the May to October tourist season, the bus from Chania to Paleochora runs up to six times daily. It calls at all the Chania beaches west of the city as far as Maleme and Tavronitis before heading to the mountains. Outside of peak season – mid-October through until April – there will usually be four daily services each way. 

PALEOCHORA WEATHER 

Crete weather Image of the town of Paleochora in sunny weather with blue sky
Another sunny day in Paleochora

Paleochora is one sunny town. In summer temperatures regularly hit the mid 30s Centigrade, and they often stay around the high 20s until late October. This isn’t unusual for weather in Crete, and is one of the reasons Crete is one of the best places in Europe to visit in October

The beauty of this is that you can still swim in the sea until late October, even into early November.

Weather in Crete Image of Pachia Ammos beach Paleochora on a warm October evening
The end of another late October day with the temperature in the high 20s

Wetter, stormier conditions are more common over the winter months, with average winter daily temperatures around the 10-15 Centigrade mark. The wind is what really makes the winter cold bite in Crete. Temperatures tend to pick up from March onwards, though the season doesn’t really kick in until May.  

OUR PICK OF THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN PALEOCHORA – PACHIA AMMOS BEACH 

Image of Pachia Ammos Paleochora beach Crete
Pachia Ammos the main town beach on the west side of Paleochora

The main beach in Paleochora is the reason the town is such a great option for Crete family holidays. It’s one of the best on the Crete south coast, a lovely sweep of sand with plenty of umbrellas, sunbeds, beach bars and restaurants where you can while away the hours.  

The beach is also much better for swimming than the other beaches in Paleochora town. There are some rocks just offshore where the sea can unexpectedly ‘dump’ waves. The best places to swim at Pachia Ammos are at either end – close to Taverna Limnaki at the northern end and across the road from the Pal Beach Hotel at the southern end.  

CHALIKIA BEACH 

Paleochora beach Crete Chalikia Image of Chalikia beach Paleochora
Chalikia beach and the sublime view along the south Crete coast

Chalikia beach is a small pebble beach on the east side of Paleochora. It’s quite rocky, with some sharp stones underfoot making dive shoes a necessity. Otherwise it’s a lovely spot to relax, with several tavernas and restaurants just metres away. The view along the coast towards Gialiskari and Sougia is sublime.  

PALEOCHORA CASTLE 

Image of the Castle or kastelli in Paleochora Crete Greece
The last surviving tower of Paleochora’s Venetian castle

The area around Paleochora and south west Crete is also known as Selino, and Castel Selino was built by the Venetians in the 13th century to control the region. It’s not as spectacular as the castle at Frangokastello or the Fortezza at Rethymno, but it’s one of the more intriguing things to see in Crete for half an hour or so. 

Some outer walls, one of the corner towers and many of the interior foundations remain intact. The castle is freely accessible, a five-minute walk up the hill from the town. It’s a peaceful place now, offering a beautiful panorama over the town. There’s little information on the site, but this place has a bloody history, having been occupied by the likes of the Ottoman Turks and Nazi Germany. 

PALEOCHORA ‘PIAZZA’ 

Image of outdoor cafes in the square in Paleochora Crete
A busy balmy evening in Paleochora

Locals call it the Piazza. Every night the street leading up to the church is blocked to traffic, so everyone can enjoy a drink at one of the Paleochora cafes, or eat al fresco at one of the restaurants.

Image of Greek men chatting at a cafe in Paleochora Crete
Some local gents enjoying a morning drink at the Enigma Cafe

Every night the area seemed to be busy, even into mid-November when most of the tourists had left for the year.  We spent many an hour sitting at one of these cafes of an evening,  giving our son his ice cream fix while we had our last caffeine hit of the day. This is one of our richest Paleochora memories, and why we think Paleochora is one of the best places in Crete.

I can strongly recommend the Greek coffee at the Enigma Café and the Agios Café Bar across the street. Faye and the Little Man recommend the ice cream and cakes at Karakatsanis patisserie, next door to Agios. We also loved Café Yannis Place, 100 metres down the street.   

PIZZERIA PORTOFINO

We chanced upon this restaurant in Paleochora, hoping they could rustle up a garlic pizza for our little fellow. He loved it, so did we, especially for the superb pizzas. “Can we come here every night, Mama?” he enquired. We didn’t quite do this, but they knew what he wanted every time he walked through the door.  A great place, we’ll be returning first night we’re back in town. 

PIZZERIA ODYSSEY

The only restaurant as busy as Porto Fino during season is Odyssey, a few doors down the street. Like its neighbour, it serves top notch pizza, plus a few Cretan dishes. They passed the garlic pizza test with flying colours. 

THE HORSE’S HEAD OF PALEOCHORA

There is a very unusual rock formation on the hill to the south of Pachia Ammos beach. It vaguely resembles a horse, and the head does indeed have a similar shape to that of a horse. It’s a two-minute walk beyond the Castello beach bar, on the right.  

ELAFONISSI BEACH 

What to see in Crete Image of Elafonissi beach Crete
What to see in Crete? The pink sand beach at Elafonissi is a good place to start

Elafonissi – also spelt Elafonisi – is near the top of many a ‘what to do in Crete’ wish list, along with beaches like Balos and Gramvousa.  It’s a remarkable series of beaches, partly on ‘mainland’ Crete island, partly on a small offshore island. Elafonissi is best known for the phenomenon of the pink sand fringe that forms close to the shoreline – it’s made up of millions of crushed shells, many with a red or pink pigment.

Crete Greece beaches Image of pink sand at Elafonissi beach Crete
The pink sand of nearby Elafonissi beach

During the season Elafonissi is one of the most popular destinations for day trips from Paleochora. A Paleochora to Elafonissi ferry runs through the summer into autumn, though when it finishes running is only determined a day or two before the services stop. Alternatively, you can go on a speed boat to Elafonissi for around 30 euros per adult.  

Otherwise you can drive from Paleochora to Elafonissi, but it’s a long way. It’s roughly 50 km (30 miles) – you need to turn off the road to Chania at Plemenania, then pass through Strovles before taking a left turn to Elafonissi. As with elsewhere in southern Crete, the roads are mountainous and winding, and the going is, out of necessity, slow.     

KEDRODASOS BEACH 

Best beaches in Chania Image of one of the small coves at Kedrodasos Crete
One of the coves at glorious Kedrodasos beach

Kedrodasos beach is a short distance (around 2 km) from Elafonissi. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece that we have visited, a wonderfully secluded place you can hike to from Elafonissi within 40-45 minutes. Otherwise if you’re coming by car, there’s a small car park a few minutes’ walk from the beach. 

GIALISKARI BEACH 

Image of Gialiskari beach near Paleochora Greece
Splendid Gialiskari beach

Gialiskari is a gorgeous pebble beach on the Crete south coast 4 km (2.5 miles) east of Paleochora along a dirt road that forms part of the E4 trail across Crete. The approach along the dirt road is dramatic, especially as you pass between two walls of rock before the beach is suddenly revealed below. Anidri beach is easily reached from here. It’s a sandy beach with a lovely taverna in the shade of the trees. 

A TRIP ON THE PALEOCHORA FERRY 

Image of the Paleochora ferry cruising along the Crete south coast
A beautiful morning as the Agia Roumeli ferry approaches Sougia

We rate the Paleochora to Agia Roumeli ferry as one of the absolutely essential Crete travel experiences you should seek out. The ferry runs once daily, departing Paleochora at 8.30 am.  The ferry runs daily between April and October weather permitting.

Where to go in Crete Image of remote Domata beach Crete
Stunning Domata beach bathed in late evening light

Crete’s south coast is rugged, and dominated by the White Mountains (Lefka Ora). This landscape makes getting from one place to another very slow. You can only reach Agia Roumeli by boat or on foot via the Samaria Gorge hike. 

The ferry takes 40 minutes to reach the village of Sougia, and a further 50 minutes to reach Agia Roumeli. You can wait there for 90 minutes before continuing east to the gorgeous whitewashed village of Loutro and on to the terminus at Hora Sfakion, also known as Sfakia.

Image of ferry returning to Paleochora Greece at sunset
Approaching Paleochora, Greece at sunset

The ferry journey is one of the most memorable journeys we have ever made. It’s one of the most spectacular public transport journeys in the world, up there with the waterbus along the Grand Canal in Venice or the train from Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps. The scenery is incredible all the way, especially the final approach past Domata beach to Agia Roumeli, the tiny village dwarfed by the vast, imposing mountains behind.  

AGIA ROUMELI

Image of Agia Roumeli village and the White Mountains Crete Greece
Agia Roumeli nestling beneath the imposing White Mountains

Agia Roumeli village is best known as the end of the walk down the Samaria Gorge, one of the best hikes in Europe.  Every day between May and October, the village is flooded with visiting hikers, many on Samaria Gorge tours, who have completed the descent. This never lasts long, however – as soon as the ferries to Paleochora and Hora Sfakion arrive, the place empties. It’s a magnificent place, with fantastic pebble beaches in the village and a mile or so to the east. There are several cafes and restaurants catering for hungry and thirsty hikers.

E4 TRAIL TO AGIOS PAVLOS CHURCH 

Beaches near Chania Image of Agios Pavlos beach and church Crete

The trans-European E4 trail runs across the entire island of Crete and if you’re moderately fit, one of the best things to do in Crete is to tackle a day hike. 

One of our favourite sections runs from Krios beach west of Paleochora to Kedrodasos and Elafonissi. Another great short E4 hike is from Agia Roumeli village to the beautiful 11th century Byzantine church of Agios Pavlos.

Image of pebble beach near Agia Roumeli Crete
This amazing beach doesn’t have a name on Google Maps!

The trail passes through some rocky sections as well as steep sand dunes and an incredible pebble beach that I’d have to say must be one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete.  

The destination of this walk is pretty special too. Agios Pavlos church is exquisite, a thousand years old, time-worn, a humble yet magnificent building. Its setting, above the long beach that shares its name, is incomparable. If you’re not up to the hike (90 minutes each way, roughly) hire a boat from Agia Roumeli. It’s one of the most iconic sights and best places to visit in Crete. 

The St Paul Taverna, 100 metres or so along the beach, serves great food during the season.  

SOUGIA BEACH 

Sougia Beach image of one of the beaches at Sougia Crete
The smaller beach at Sougia, with the magnificent mountains behind

The tiny village of Sougia (pronounced ‘Soo-ya’)is the first stop on the Paleochora ferry route. Like Agia Roumeli, it enjoys a superb mountain setting. And like Paleochora, this is a place to unwind, far from most trappings of modern life. Except wifi, of course.

Image of boats in the tiny harbour at Sougia Crete
The colourful harbour at Sougia

Sougia mainly consists of a few guest houses and restaurants clustered behind two great pebble beaches. The smaller of these is located right next to the ferry disembarkation point. The larger beach at Sougia is a few minutes’ walk further along, a wide spacious curve of pebbly shoreline with the inviting warm waters of the Libyan Sea tempting you in for a dip. 

It’s one of the best beaches south Crete has to offer. Judging by the large number of people disembarking the evening ferry at Sougia, it might be one of the most remote places to stay in Crete, but it’s very popular. One look at that huge, fantastic beach explains it all.  

EXPLORE THE ANCIENT CITY OF LISSOS, CRETE 

Image of pieces of stonework stonework from the ancient Greek city of Lissos Crete
The atmospheric ruins of ancient Lissos, near Sougia

On the approach to Sougia, the boat passes a tiny beach which you can see from the port side. This is Lissos beach, and behind it lie the scattered ruins of the ancient Greek city of Lissos. 

You can catch a boat to Lissos from Sougia harbour during the season – the harbour is a minute’s walk from the ferry jetty. This costs 5 euros each way per person. You’re dropped off at Lissos beach, a beautiful cove with a rocky beach. The ruins are in the countryside behind this.

Paleochora holidays Image of Lissos beach near Sougia Crete
Remote Lissos beach, a short walk from the ancient city of the same name

Lissos was a port of the Dorian city of Elyrus, which was a few kilometres inland. It’s not the most obvious of Crete attractions, but it’s a very evocative site, with blocks of ancient stonework scattered beneath trees. The most substantial remains are the mosaic floor of the Temple of Asklepios and the Roman-era chamber tombs, which look like small houses. There are also two small churches to visit, one at either end of the site. 

Lissos beach is an idyllic spot to relax, and part of it shaded from mid-morning onwards. The clear water looks very enticing, but many rocks lie underneath it. You should only attempt to swim in it if you’re wearing dive shoes.