Level: Intermediate, Good, Specialist
Chryssi Island (or Gaidouronisi) is an island 7 km long with a maximum width of 2 km. It is located 8 miles south of Ierapetra city, in the open Libyan Sea. From Ierapetra it’s a 15km ferry-trip to this island. Then there's no mains water or electricity, just one taverna. It is a flat islet very famous for its tropical blue water that cover all possible palette hues of blue and green, the protected forest with large juniper trees and the thousands of broken shells that make the sand pinkish. The residents of Ierapetra love this island and call it simply "the Island".
Chryssi takes its name (golden) after the golden sand that covers the entire island and comes from shell debris. The tropical beaches are crowded by many visitors who come by the excursion boats that leave Ierapetra in the morning and return in the afternoon. Chryssi has been declared as an area of natural beauty and it is strictly prohibited to camp and spend your night here. You must keep away from the fragile cedar forest, which has been signed with ropes. Lastly, collecting sand and shells is strictly forbidden.
Quality: Crystal Clear
Depth: Shallow (walking several steps not to step on)
Arrive in the morning, go straight from the dock into a day’ s freeride on crystal-clear water, then come back in the afternoon.
The water has sparkling light blue colors, strongly reminiscent of the beaches of the Caribbean. It is shallow and has great clarity.
Bathers Period: June, July, August
Kid Friendly: Yes
The best kite/windsurf spot is “Belegrina” or “Golden Beach”, the most popular beach of the island. It is located on the north side of the island, where you can get after a 5’ short walk from the harbor, crossing the magnificent cedar forest. Belegrina is full of broken shells. It is 900 m long, sandy and not very big.
Chryssi is protected by Natura 2000 Networking Programme, as an "area of intense natural beauty", and also has been designated as a wildlife refuge. The island hosts the largest naturally formed Lebanon cedar forest in Europe. The majority of trees have an average age of 200 years and average height of up to 7m; some of the trees are up to 300 years old and 10m tall. The density is approximately 28 trees per hectare. The contact with such a natural and unique environment, creates environmental awareness, but also requires respect for its natural functions.
Access to Chryssi Island: For six months a year - from mid-May until late October there are timetables with small boats, departing from the ports of Ierapetra and Makrigialos, to the island on a daily basis. After an hour's trip around, the vessels approaching the southern side of the island, which is usually calmer. The exit is in the "Vougiou Eye" where there is a small pier, reception, and the tavern.
Access to Ierapetra: There are several ways to access to Ierapetra. Among them, the coastal access is not included, as there is no port in Ierapetra to serves such purposes. The airports of Heraklion (97 km away) and Sitia (59 km away) are the closest to Ierapetra. If you decide to come by boat, the nearest ports are those of Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos and Sitia.
To reach Ierapetra from Heraklion by car (or public transport) or it is required to drive about an hour and thirty minutes. Drive towards Agios Nikolaos, without entering the town, turn right and get the southerly direction towards Ierapetra. It must be noted that the road is very good without any difficulty.
An alternative route is the one which starts from Heraklion, stops in Upper Vianno and Myrtos and finally to Ierapetra. Although the route is longer, is more scenic and breathtaking as many villages make their appearance in the prefecture of Iraklion and Lasithi.
From Chania: Visitors can reach Chania either by plane, either by boat. The route Chania - Ierapetra is 240 km and lasts 3,5 hours.
From Rethymno: Starting from Rethymno you will need 2,5 - 3 hours, as the mileage distance is slightly shorter than that of Chania.
Access to Crete:
Arrival by Airplane: Millions of visitors come to Crete every year from all over the world directly by plane, especially by charter. The three international airports on the island, in Heraklion, Chania and Sitia are linked to hundreds of other international airports. The largest low cost companies have regular flights to Crete and the most important international airlines organize charter flights. If you take your own equipment, it’s best to reserve this in advance.
Airport at Heraklion: It is the primary airport on the island of Crete and the country’s second busiest airport after Athens International Airport. It is located about 5 km east of the main city center of Heraklion, near the municipality of Nea Halicarnassus. It is a shared civil/military facility. The airport is named after Heraklion native Nikos Kazantzakis, a Greek writer and philosopher. Nikos Kazantzakis Airport is Crete’s main and busiest airport, serving Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Malia, Hersonissos, Stalida, Elounda and other resorts.
Airport at Chania: Located on the Northwestern part of the island, the airport is also known as the “K. Daskalogiannis” Airport. This international airport is situated near Souda Bay, on the peninsula of Akrotiri, serving the city of Chania (14 km away). Moreover, it is a gateway to western Crete for an increasing amount of tourists. It is a joint civil–military airport. It is much smaller and far less busy than Heraklion airport. The airport is connected with many countries (about 30) from Europe and Asia especially in summer season and with flights connections in Greece and Cyprus whole year.
A new public airport in Sitia: it is a small community airport in the region Bonda of Sitia Municipality, on the eastern part of Crete, located 1 km north/northwest of the city center. The facility is serving the city of Sitia, currently only with a small number of domestic flights, mainly to/from Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos with an internal flight. The flight time from Athens to Sitia is 55 minutes. Also from Rhodes Island, with stops Karpathos and Kassos flight time and 120 minutes. Fly from Alexandroupolis during 105 minutes, from Preveza to over 100 minutes and from Heraklion during 25 minutes.
Inland airport at Kasteli: There are long term plans to replace Heraklion airport, which is too close to the city, by a new inland airport at Kasteli, southeast of Heraklion. It is a small airport located at the edge of Heraklion. It has basic facilities and a small parking lot.
Almost all scheduled international flights transit through Athens (which take about 45min) where you must take a scheduled domestic flight to Chania or Heraklion. These are quite frequent (around 6 to 8 times a day to Chania and more to Heraklion). During the months of July and August there are flights from Thessaloniki to Heraklion and Chania (they take about 90 minutes). The airport at Heraklion also has daily flights to Rhodes which takes 1 hour. From April till early November charter airlines fly directly to Heraklion and Chania from many European airports.
Arrival by Ferry/Boat: If you are already in Greece and specifically in Athens, you can continue your journey to Crete not only by plane but even by ferryboat from Piraeus. Athens airport offers good public transport connections to the city center as well as to the port of Piraeus. The three biggest ports of Crete, Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania have dozens of luxury ferry boats linking them with Greece’s largest port, Piraeus, on a daily basis. You can also go from Piraeus to Crete to Agios Nikolaos or Sitia Ports and from Thessaloniki to Heraklion.
The regular ferryboat service from the port of Piraeus to Heraklion and Chania is that ships depart every evening around 8.00 or 8.30 (times vary a little depending on the season) and arrive very early morning (generally between 5.00 or 6.00 am). Avoid weekends and especially the beginning and end of holidays. If you want a cabin it is often safer to book in advance.
Ferryboat from Peloponnese: South Peloponnese (Gythion, Neapolis or Kalamata) and Kythira Island is connecting to Kastelli/Kissamos (45 km west of Chania). Timetables are rather erratic (and very difficult to find) but it is an option if you want to spend time on the Peloponnese or simply avoid Athens.
Ferryboat from Cyclades and Dodecanese: From April to October you can also get boats from Cycladic Islands to Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos. There are daily catamarans (hydrofoils) to Santorini and the trip takes about 2,5 hours. Also Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos and Milos from the ports of Sitia, Agios Nikolaos and Kissamos.
Since there are no roads along the southwest coast there is a ferry line with connections between Paleochora, Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro and Hora Sfakion (Sfakia). There is also a connection with the islet of Gavdos, Europe's southernmost point (Cape Tripiti).
Ferryboat from Italy: Several shipping companies connect Italy (Trieste, Ancona, Bari, and Brindisi) with the mainland of Greece (Patras and Igoumenitsa). It is preferable to book your passage in advance in the summer season.
Arrival by Car, Moto, Camper Van: Be careful when driving in Crete; despite the fact that most roads (including the new National Highway) are full of twists and turns through mountains, Cretans usually drive aggressively, fast, and on the edge of safety. In rural and mountainous areas (which is almost everywhere), there can be goats, sheep, donkeys, and stray dogs on the roads.
Overland to Greece: Traveling to Greece overland has virtually stopped since the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. The alternative through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria takes so long that it is not worth thinking about unless you want to visit these countries. The only option if you want to come by car or bike is by ferry from Italy.
For those who don’t have their own means of transport, there is of course always the possibility to rent a car or a camper which will allow you to explore the island on its modern network of roads. Taxi services are another way to get around Crete, but can be quite expensive.
Arrival by Bus: Most of the bus services are run by KTEL (around 200 intercity modern buses of all sizes) conducts hundreds of routes daily, thus linking the major cities of the island with all the settlements, but also with the rest of Greece within a framework of combined transportations. Public transportation is fairly frequent and timetables quite trustworthy. Bus drivers usually divert from their marked routes to enter little villages if asked to do so. Bus services along the north coast and towards the south coast are excellent, reliable, frequent and cheap.
Cretan bus stations are very simple for the most part, except for in Heraklion which has two major bus stations (one for buses going in town and one for KTEL run buses).
On foot: Although Crete is the largest of all Greek islands; you can get around on foot. Especially the countryside in the western part of Crete offers some rough country walking and there are good paths between Chania and Chora Sfakion. These go via forests with cypress, evergreen oak and cypress, various gorges and of course olive and orange groves. This part of Crete is good for walking holidays.