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Western Crete in a Week (Part 3/3) - The Beaches: Falasarna, Elafonisi & Balos

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

Day 5: Falasarna & Kissamos

Waking up in a little stone cottage in the hills above Kissamos was just what the doctor ordered – a bucolic delight. A breakfast of fresh Greek yoghurt and honey, melon and grapefruit and a strong coffee on a balcony looking out over grassy hillsides to the azure blue seas of the Kissamos Gulf beyond wasn't a bad way to kick off the day. A stroll around the village of Meridiana took about five minutes – just a cluster of houses with not so much as a shop, I met more goats than people. A workman who I bumped into smiled and spread his arms wide, indicating the superlative view, and I could only nod in agreement. It's a special part of the world.

The westernmost part of the island is quieter and more deserted than what we'd seen so far, and is in fact the least populated part of Crete. Developers haven't made it this far – partly because there are few beaches suited to large resort hotels, and partly because the most famous ruins and archaeological sites are elsewhere. The big town in the region, Kissamos, is a large, straggly port with a decent little centre containing a few old buildings and a respectable seafront, including a handful of cafes, bars and restaurants, but it's not really a place to linger, and I wouldn't recommend it highly as a base. There's a soap factory on the edge of town, visible from the seafront, which rather spoils the view. On the plus side, there are some budget hotel options here, and it's a place to avoid the crowds – it's a world away from the hustle and bustle of Chania – and it's also surrounded by places of breathtaking beauty to which you can do excursions. This is what we planned to do for the final three days of our trip – namely, to visit the three 'unmissable' beaches of western Crete – Falasarna, Elafonisi and Balos.

Falasarna was our target for the day, and it took us only twenty minutes to drive there from Kissamos. We had hoped to see more on this day, but when we laid our eyes on the beach, which we did from a height as the road descended from high above it, it became clear we wouldn't get too much else done. The sun was out, and the view over Falasarna Bay was simply stunning. The broad, sweeping bay of sparkling turquoise blue stretched away to Koutri Cape, past Petalida Island and beyond – next stop Malta, over 1000km west. The descent from Platanos – about 10km south of Kissamos – was via series of hair-pin bends, making the scene even more spectacular.

When we got down to the beach it was practically deserted – which is a major reason to come to Crete at Easter, as we did. It's a beach of such almost indescribable beauty that it's unthinkable it could be so quiet in the season. We strolled over some dunes to some half-buried rocks that provided shelter from the slight breeze and proceeded to do nothing for a few hours, which we hadn't done until that point, so probably felt it was deserved. Of course, I got itchy feet soon enough and decided to try out the waters for a spot of snorkelling. There were some promising rocks and pools in the distance and I fancied there might be a few fish there.

The water was cold, but certainly not to cold to swim – it might be for some, but being used to the near-freezing waters of the North Sea as a child it didn't bother me. I wasn't wrong about the fish either – there were quite a few shoals amongst the rocks and I snorkelled happily for half an hour or so. The air temperature was somewhere around 24-25 degrees so extremely pleasant, and not too hot to go for a walk – which we did about 3pm after we'd had enough lazing around. We walked a couple of kilometres north from the main beach to Ancient Falasarna, along a stony cliff path past olive groves, past a mysterious stone 'throne' which has archaeologists scratching their heads, and to an ancient Roman site.

Memorable for being again quite deserted – there was literally not another person around – this small site was quite impressive, containing some well-preserved teracotta baths. Continuing past the site takes you to Koutri Cape and past some rugged coastal scenery – long-distance walkers can continue from here to explore the Gramvousa Peninsula, a nearly unpopulated peninsula in the far north-west of the island. It's about a six hour hike from here to