Kokkini Hani, east Crete
Kokkini Hani is located 14 km east of Heraklion. Heading east from Heraklion airport, the old national highway (old road) hugs the coastline and offers some spectacular views of the sea, and its sometimes rugged shore. After about eight kilometres, you'll wind your way up a rise in an outcropping of rock and, as you come out of the last curve, the impressive sight of Kokkini Hani is spread out like a smorgasbord of holiday delights.
The area of Kokkini Hani first became known in the early 1900s when several buildings were constructed, including a hani, which was sort of a wayside inn for people and animals. Farmers, on the way to the Heraklion market with their olives, grapes and other produce, would stop off to rest or spend the night, and have a meal. At the same time, their horses and donkeys would be tended to and fed, also.
But it wasn't until as late as the early 60s, when full electricity and telephone services reached this part of Crete, and several hotels were built, that Kokkini Hani started to attract visitors and become known as a holiday resort.
Since those early hotels, Kokkini Hani has developed rapidly primarily because of its wonderful beach andrestaurants and tavernas, many of which feature seaside dining, with enough different menus to satisfy all tastes – including local traditional cuisine, freshly-caught seafood, English fare, Italian specialties, authentic Italian pizza and Chin close proximity to Heraklion and its international airport – only 10 minutes away. Today there are numerous hotels, ranging from large luxurious accommodations to smaller, more economical hotels, tourist apartments and rent rooms.
There are many bars and cafes, a few that remain open quite late and play the latest tunes, but the night life is minimal, compared to that of nearby Hersonissos, which continues to party until the wee hours of the morning.
Note: Don't get confused! A short ways into Kokkini Hani you'll see a sign saying "Vathianos Kampos". Don't worry – rest assured you're still in Kokkini Hani. That sign denotes an old district of the main village, which hardly anyone even refers to anymore. But, for one of those unknown reasons, the sign remains!
How to go to Kokkini Hani
There are very frequent buses to Kokkini Hani from Heraklion or the east, i.e. Gouves, Hersonissos, Stalis, Malia, Agios Nikolaos.
If you want to go by car, either your own or a rented one, there are many different routes you can take:
- From Heraklion to Kokkini Hani along the old road which starts at Nea Alikarnassos shortly before Heraklion Airport, runs past Karteros and the beaches of Amnissos and Tobruk, and follows the coast around the mountain of Kako Oros before reaching the first large beach just before Kokkini Hani.
- From Heraklion, take the National Road east towards Agios Nikolaos. At the end of a very long straight section you will come to the first exit to Karteros and Kokkini Hani. This will lead you to the old road, which runs past the mountain of Kako Oros with its many cliffside bends to the large beach and Kokkini Hani.
- To avoid the Kako Oros with its scenic route and many bends, don’t take the first exit from the National Road but keep going a few kilometres further east to the second exit. Be careful because the exit sign is very small and you can easily miss it.
If you are coming from the east, take the old National Road through Hersonissos, Gouves and Gournes to Kokkini Hani.
Useful Information about Kokkini Hani
You will find both large and small hotels in Kokkini Hani, as well as many tavernas and restaurants. Don’t miss the fried rabbit and other mezedes at the “Doukiani tou Haritou”, at the beginning of the road to Anopolis.
Along this stretch of 2.7 kilometres, you can find everything you will need for an enjoyable holiday, such as: supermarkets, butchers, bakeries, pharmacy, sweet shops, souvenir and gift shops, clothing shops, boutiques, men's and women's hair cutters, beauty salon, ice cream parlour, tour and sightseeing agencies, car and bike rentals, coffee shops, fast-food stands, internet café – and, of course, so that you can take advantage of all these shops, there are a couple of strategically-placed ATMs.
Regular bus service runs east to Hersonissos and beyond and west to Heraklion. Also, there is one bus a day which goes up into the surrounding villages. On the main road, taxi service is always readily available.
Kokkini Hani Beaches
As you approach Kokkini Hani from the Heraklion airport, the first thing you see is the huge main beach (Νο 1).
It runs for 400 meters, and is up to fifty meters wide, and is entirely made up of smooth, soft sand. However, it is a very commercial area – with many umbrellas, beach chairs and beach bars, and gets pretty crowded at times, especially on weekends and Wednesdays when local residents from Heraklion take to the beach.
The last 50 meters of the beach is free of umbrellas and chairs, and that's where you'll find some space to spread out your towel, if that's what you're looking for. There is plenty of free parking, and several snack bars.
At the end of the large beach is a hotel. Just after it is a small road on the left leading to a wonderful beach (Νο 2) ,which is relatively sheltered from the waves on days when a north wind is blowing.
You can reach another beach area by turning left half-way through town (at the "to the beach" sign). About 20 meters down that road, you'll come to a nicely paved beach road which runs for about a kilometre along the water.
Most of the beaches here have stones or pebbles, but if you don't have tender feet there's some lovely swimming in an area which is a bit more secluded than the large beach. Also, there are several nice beachfront taverns along this road.
The best beach in Kokkini Hani though is the long, sandy beach in front of Themis Hotel.
There is a sign to it and it is towards the east end of the town.
What to do in Kokkini Hani
Enjoy the sun and sea. After all, that’s why you’ve come to Crete.
Visit Gournes right next to Kokkini Hani, Gouves, pretty Analipsis and the other villages to the east as far as Agios Nikolaos and Elounda, or even further east to Sitia and the palm forest of Vai.
If you are looking for fun for all the family, visit the Crete Aquarium at Gournes or the Anopolis Waterpark.
If you turn right about half-way through the Kokkini Hani (sign to Anopolis), you'll climb a well-paved winding road which offers some truly outstanding vistas of the town below and its seashore. Make sure you bring your camera.
Continue on this road for three kilometres and you'll come to the popular traditional village of Anopolis, with many lovely old-style shops offering various local arts and crafts.
Southeast of the village of Anopolis, in a lovely tree-line valley, is the monastery of St. John Theologian – a site well-worth seeing (photo -->).
It was first a part of the Saint George monastery located by the mouth of Aposelemis river a few kilometers to the north, but around 15th - 16th century the monks, because of constant raids by pirates, moved from St. George’s monastery to the monastery of St. John taking, with them the icon of the saint which exists until today.
Another stop worth making is at the archaeological site of Niros, located on the right side of the main road towards the middle of Kokkini Hani. (Look for the sign). Excavated in 1918, this is an important and very well preserved Minoan villa, built in 16th century BC. Based on numerous ceremonial vessels found here, it appears to have been the house of a High Priest. There is free admission and the site is open from 8:30-15:00 daily, except Mondays.
Kokkini Hani is so close to Heraklion that you mustn’t miss the Palace of Minos and Knossos and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
If you do go to Knossos, do something different and continue a few kilometres south to the beautiful village of Archanes, which has won an EU award for best-restored traditional village. The Archanes area includes the great Cretan vineyards and three wineries open to the public, where you can learn a lot about wine.