Plakias, Crete

Beach at Plakias Credit: Sandra Bancroft

Beach at Plakias Credit: Sandra Bancroft

by Sandra Bancroft,

Plakias lies on the southern coast of Crete, with sparkling clear waters and pristine countryside, it’s a different holiday from the highly developed north.

The village of Plakias is located in the prefecture of Rethymno, a region of extraordinary natural beauty with characteristics unique not only on the island of Crete, but in Europe as well.

Mountains, Beaches and Dolphins

The countryside surrounding Plakias is untouched with towering mountains, deep gorges, gushing springs and remote bays with crystal clear water and mountain villages that still retain their local color, culture and traditions. People here are straightforward and hospitable and warmly welcome visitors with a glass of raki, the national Cretan drink.

One of the most southerly points of Europe, Plakias lies on the south coast of Crete on the shores of the Libyan Sea and has developed from fishing village to summer tourist center. The Libyan Sea is one of the cleanest seas of the Mediterranean Basin and is a paradise for dolphins, sea turtles and the Mediterranean seal. The water is high in salt content, making it an easy and relaxing spot for swimming while at the same time adding to the body’s well-being — a natural (and free) spa. There are several diving schools for those who want to explore the depths of the polymorph sea.

Relax on a Different Beach Each Day

From Plakias, it is possible to experience a different beach every day and visitors will find themselves spoiled for choice. Boats depart daily to several of the beaches, and there is a limited bus service, but for those who dream about lonely bays and private beaches, hiring a car is the best option. While the big holiday firms hog the north coast, a different type of holiday awaits those who head south.

Cavados, where the nymph Calypso kept Odysseus her prisoner for 7 years, is only one hour away, while the magical lagoon of Preveli and the monastery of the same name are breath-taking.

The Megalos Potamus (Big River) flows through the Preveli Gorge to the sea, displaying centuries-old palm trees along its banks. Explore the mountains and gorges on foot or head to the estuary where an enchanting sandy beach invites you to take a refreshing swim. Daily cruises depart from Plakias to Preveli, Agio Pavlo, Stakia, Gavdos Island and Damnoni.

Climate and Fauna

The area has a moderate Mediterranean climate – mild winters and cool summers. Winds from Africa warm the atmosphere in the winter while fresh north winds make the heat in summer tolerable. The average temperature peaks at 30C in August dipping to 18C in January, and the area enjoys 92% sunshine throughout the year.

The olive tree dominates and produces olives and the olive oil that is the basic ingredient for the majority of Cretan dishes. Wild herbs and vegetables add their pungent properties to both the atmosphere and traditional cuisine. At the beginning of autumn fragrant white sea daffodils (dianthos) abound the beaches of the area. Hares, weasels, hedgehogs and martens have their habitat in this area, as well as buzzards and a species in danger of extinction – the majestic harrier eagle, whose wings reach a width of 2m.

Local Architecture

A visit to the neighboring area gives an opportunity to discover the architecture of the area. Restored buildings and well preserved churches and chapels reveal the history of past times.

Beautiful old frescoes, such as those of Jesus Christ the Saviour in the village of Myrthios, Aghios Fatis in Sellia, Aghios Grorgios in Gianniou and of Aghios Ioannis in Asomatos are awe inspiring treasures of this area. The most important place of worship is the famous Monastery of Preveli. The lower monastery is deserted, whereas the upper one has been restored and is dedicated to Aghios Ioannis the Theologos.

A feudal lord called Preveli established the monastery during the Venetian occupation. It was several times destroyed. The monastery played an important role during both the revolution against the Turks in 1821 and the German occupation during the Second World War. Movements of the resistance were organized there and it became a refuge for the persecuted and the hungry.

Fiestas and Festivals

There are fiestas in the area towards the end of June: the Feast of Kudonis and Maritime Week, then July 25 – Aug15 are theater performance, concerts and speeches. During the first 15 days of September visitors can watch and take part in the distillation of raki in the small but hospitable village of Kali Sykia. Tourism Day is celebrated on September 27 in the center of Plakias, with music, dancing, high spirits and abundant traditional food.

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