Malia, East Crete

Malia is located 37 kilometers east of Heraklion, on the way to Agios Nikolaos. The main road seems to divide the town in two, the old Malia at the foothill of Mount Selena and the newer part towards the shoreline.

malia map

Malia is an unusual small town, unlike any other in Crete. It used to be known for its delicious potatoes. But times changed, the tourists started coming to Crete and the potato fields of Malia were replaced by hotels large and small, tavernas and bars.

Tourism eventually created a town with two different faces, like the famous split personality described by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886:

  • On the one hand is Dr Jekyll, the old Malia with its narrow streets, houses with bougainvilleas and little tavernas with live Greek music.
  • On the other is Mr Hyde, the coastal resort with its bars, nightclubs and frenzied nightlife of young tourists from 11 at night into the early hours.
malia old village and malia bar road

If you are the Dr Jekyll type, when night falls stay in old Malia south of the main road. If you are a Mr Hyde, then coastal Malia awaits you for an endless party each night.

If, like most of us, you have a little of both Jekyll and Hyde in you, enjoy all that Malia has to offer, but within reason.

How to get to Malia

Get to Malia by Bus: There are frequent buses between Heraklion and Malia.

Get to Malia by Car: To get to Malia by car, take the National Road east, towards Hersonissos and Agios Nikolaos. Malia is 30-40 minutes’ drive away.

To visit the Malia archaeological site, leave the town heading towards Agios Nikolaos. About 2-3 kilometres from Malia, turn left. The road leading to the Palace of Malia continues down to the sea and the beach. Bear the beach in mind if you get a bit hot touring the archaeological site and want a swim to cool off. You can then continue along the same road back into Malia.

Practical information about Malia

In Malia you will find many hotels both large and small, with stars or not. You will also find many apartments and studios for rent, both in coastal Malia and in the narrow streets of the old town.

There are tavernas and restaurants on every corner of every street, of all types and prices for every taste.

There are also lots of car rental places in Malia. As Malia is very popular with young tourists in search of the three “S’s” (sun, sea and sex), there are also many bureaux renting motorbikes and quadbikes.

As for bars, clubs and cafes, the place is full of them. There are even more on the beach road from Malia to Stalis, in Stalis itself and of course in Hersonissos, 8 kilometres to the west.

Most cashpoint machines (ATM) are located in the newer part of Malia. Make sure you have got money before the weekend, because the machines are not always refilled then. Most of the banks and the post office are situated on the main road.

agios nektarios church in malia
Agios Nektarios church. The old part of the town starts behind the church

There are two bigger supermarkets, one on the Malia Beach Road and the other one behind the church of Agios Nektarios. Mini markets are situated everywhere in and around Malia.

Public transport is very good in general. A bus service takes you from and to the archeological site of Malia, passing along the beaches of Malia (east) and Stalis (west). Other bus services run along the main street of Malia in both directions. Bus stops are marked with a blue sign, under which timetables are posted.

The taxi rank is in front of Agios Nektarios church.

Malia beach road, the newer Malia

new town in malia

On the north side of the main road is the newer part of Malia, mainly consisting of hotels, apartment, restaurants and bars. Dimokratias Street, running north from the church of Agios Nektarios to the shore, is better known as the Malia Beach Road.

What you see here is a complete different image of Malia compared to the old town. Filled with clubs, bars, cafes, English and Irish pubs and fast food joints, serving anything from souvlaki to pizzas, it is the place to be for those who fancy a good night out.

Visit this street in the morning and you won’t see a soul. Most of the youngsters are sleeping, either on the beach or in their beds. Around 11 you will see the first tourists heading to the beach.

Late in the evening and during the night it starts to be the busiest road of Malia. Most of the partying and drinking takes place on the street, which is closed to traffic at night.

What to do in Malia

live greek music in restaurant in malia

Visit the old town of Malia behind the large church of Agios Nektarios. In the late afternoon you can stroll through the narrow streets, admire the old houses that remain and sit down for a meal at one of the restaurants bedecked with flowers and greenery. Some of these play live music.

Walk along the beach road to shop, have a coffee, eat or enjoy the nightlife. There are so many bars it’s hard to decide on one.

At the crossroads near McDonalds you can turn left to go to Stalis. Stalis and Malia were once quite far apart, but now the road between them is full of shops, restaurants, tavernas, cafés and bars, so they seem to have joined into a large agglomeration. The road follows the coast and there are various beaches along it. Go and discover them!

Near the end of the Malia beach road, turn right (east) instead of left (west to Stalis). This road will take you out of Malia to the beautiful sandy beaches nearby, and then to the archaeological site of Malia. The road is lined with restaurants, minimarkets and car rental shops.
About halfway along is a sign to Malia Harbour, a tiny harbour with a half-built marina. The only thing worth seeing here is a little church among the pine trees with a view of the sea.

If you want to be a bit more active you can always visit the Malia Slides, a small waterpark, the Malia Soccer Centre, the Kartland or the Crazy Golf, an 18-hole mini golf course.

From Malia there is a road up to the picturesque village of Krassi with its stream and fountain, huge plane tree and delicious food. The road continues past Krassi to the Monastery of Panagia Kera and the Lassithi Plateau with the Dikteon Cave, one of the two caves on Crete vying for the title of the birthplace of Zeus.

Malia is just a few kilometres from Hersonissos, which offers lovely beaches and a lively nightlife. A kilometres above Hersonissos are the traditional villages of Koutouloufari, Piskopiano and Ano Hersonissos. These are worth visiting one afternoon.

Thirty kilometres east of Malia is Agios Nikolaos with its picturesque lake. From here you can take the boat across to the islet of Spinalonga with its Venetian fort and small houses where the lepers were once kept isolated.

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