20 kilometres west of Heraklion, as the national road drifts high above the coastline, you’ll begin to see the first impressive pictures of Agia Pelagia – the type of pictures that postcards are made of.
Agia Pelagia is a small coastal town with a lovely beach, suitable for relaxing holidays in Crete. At least twice in past times Agia Pelagia has been destroyed and washed into the sea. Once was probably due to a seismic sea wave from the earthquake that created Santorini.
Before 1965 there was almost nothing in Agia Pelagia, which was a small port from where they transferred wood and coal to Heraklion.
In 1965, a man appeared and started buying land from the locals for 5,000 drachmas (approximately 17 EUR) for 1,000 square meters (or 1 strema, the common way of measuring land in Greece).
Soon another buyer showed up and he offered double the price. Tourism had just started in Greece and those two men were among the first to see the potential in this area. Soon after that, the Capsis Beach Resort was built on the Souda peninsula of Agia Pelagia.
Agia Pelagia, Ligaria and Mononaftis
The large deep cove of Agia Pelagia itself is surrounded by the smaller Ligaria Cove on the east and Mononaftis Bay on the west. The picturesque white buildings, the bluish-green of the Mediterranean and the varying shades from sandy brown to lush green along the shore, create a landscape of rare beauty.
Agia Pelagia is an awe-inspiring example of the beauty of Cretan Nature and it’s almost impossible to resist taking a closer look.
We drive downhill to the main area of Agia Pelagia, which is built amphitheatric-like on the hills and slopes around the shore, creating an even more impressive sight when viewed from above.
Along the road, which slopes quite steep at times, you’ll begin to see the first of the hillside hotels, and tourists sweating as they walk uphill from the beachfront.
Remember, these first hotels are quite far from the beach and the developed centre of Agia Pelagia, which means – unless you’re a dedicated walker – you must rent a car or bike in order to explore the area’s different beaches and many other interesting sites.
Relaxing holidays in Agia Pelagia
As you make your way closer to the shore, the buildings increase in numbers. Agia Pelagia has developed around its shores, so that’s where you’ll find many of the tavernas and cafeterias. In the center of Agia Pelagia you will find a super market, tourism offices, pharmacy, an ATM, tourist and souvenir shops and the taxi stand.
The Agia Pelagia bay is protected from the wave-creating north winds, and the sea is almost always serene. On the weekends, many people from Heraklion find refuge on its sandy shores for a cooling dip in the azure waters.
There is no intense night life here. There are, of course, a good selection of bars and cafes to enjoy your favourite drink, but Agia Pelagia is mainly for people interested in calm, relaxing sea-side holidays.
There are many restaurants and tavernas featuring Cretan, Greek or international cuisine, and all have a beautiful view of the sea. As you dine in Agia Pelagia, you can also partake of the wonderful scenes around you, and snap these memories into a treasured photo album: the various shades of the rippling sea, the cute little kid building a sand castle, the old fishing boats anchored in the bay, the fishermen preparing their nets for the night’s labour.
And at night, when the beach is empty and the sounds of the day fade away, and the soft purl of the sea becomes more vocal, Agia Pelagia is even a more magical site. Whether looking at it from an elevated hilltop or sitting so close you can almost reach out and touch it, Agia Pelagia is the place where you will enjoy a relaxing holiday on Crete.
Useful Infomation about Agia Pelagia:
Agia Pelagia has just about everything you’ll need on your holiday: super markets for fresh bread and other local products and produce, pharmacy and a doctor’s office, car and bike rentals, tourism and sightseeing offices, internet cafe and an ATM (automatic cash machine).
There are daily buses to Heraklion (20 kilometres) but the departure/arrival times are not always exact, and there is no night bus service. If you plan to visit Heraklion, and plan to stay late, you can take the bus there, but you will have to return by taxi, which costs about 30 euros (2009).
In the winter Agia Pelagia has only a few hundred inhabitants and only one or two tavernas and a supermarket will remain open. The situation changes drastically during the tourist season.
Beaches in the area of Agia Pelagia
- The central beach of Agia Pelagia. It is sandy, with umbrellas and beach chairs, plus water sports and diving centres, which offer beginners’ courses. The bay deepens relatively fast, but in the middle of the beach there is a long and narrow rocky plate which provides a small area safe for children. There is a good selection of tavernas and cafeterias along the beachfront.
- A small beach on the peninsula of the Capsis Beach Resort. It’s a nice, but tiny beach, with just enough sand for about four or five people to lay down their beach towels. You can get there by swimming or by peddle boat. To find it you must look at the centre of the peninsula for an inlet with steep sides and green waters.
- The Ligaria beach, east of Agia Pelagia. This one is also sandy, with umbrellas and several tavernas. The bay is smaller, but it is also protected from the north winds, and rent-rooms are available.
- The beach of Made. You can get here from the Ligaria road, but it is not particularly attractive. It is used mainly by the locals for tying up their fishing boats. A big hotel imposes above the bay.
- The Psaromoura beach. Another rather small beach, preferred by locals on weekends. There are umbrellas, but it is not protected from the north winds, and the water can get choppy. To find it, continue on the road after the Capsis hotel, but you may have to ask a local for accurate directions.
- Mononaftis beach, west of Agia Pelagia. This is a lovely small cove with umbrellas, restaurants and hotels, but it is not protected from the north winds. The beach is beautiful with sand and pebbles, but, here too, the water deepens rapidly. The tavernas which surround the beach create a claustrophobic sensation which is soon forgotten as you immerse yourself in the pleasurably cool waters.
- Pictures from Agia Pelagia, photos from the area of Agia Pelagia
What to do in Agia Pelagia
If you want to see more of Crete, having Agia Pelagia as base allows many possibilities. By bus, car, scooter, taxi – any of these will bring you to the most famous places of interest:
- Knossos, the famous Minoan Palace is only 25 km away
- The village of Rogdia, high above the bay, stands out for the unique view it affords of the cove below and the entire city of Heraklion in the distance. The tavernas offer good food, along with the beautiful vistas, and they attract the residents of Heraklion along with the tourists. The village streets are narrow, dotted with traditional Cretan homes, and there is the Monastery of Savathiana, which is one of the most beautiful Cretan monasteries.
- The area of Agia Pelagia is almost totally owned by people who came down from the high village of Achlada. Visit this quaint village situated on top of the mountain over Agia Pelagia, offering an incredible view of the Fodele bay and the sea beyond.
- Heading west on the national road from Agia Pelagia, turn off at the sign for Fodele village. Fodele is known as the birth place of painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco. The house where he was born is now a museum, featuring copies of his work.
- Visit the Melidoni cave. Drive past Bali (west, 20 km) and then turn left to Melidoni.
- If you like diving, Agia Pelagia is a good choice both for snorkeling and scuba diving.
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