Agiofarago is within walking distance through a deep gorge surrounded by jagged cliffs that are safe to venture through. The beach at the exit of the gorge is spectacular, with small pebbles and crystal clear waters. As opposed to taking the ferry to the beach, the trip through the ravine is breathtaking.
If you’re a seasoned hiker, you must climb the rocks to view the surreal seascape on the east side . Through the gorge, you’ll come across cave nooks against vertical walls where monks once lived (and still do). This is an experience in itself as you hike through the vertical walls of rock. The largest one is called Goumenospilios. Vertical cliffs surround the beach creating a daunting yet beautiful environment.
You’ll also stumble upon Vourvoulis, a hidden lake that is an open sinkhole. This lake is embraced by vertical cliffs that are connected to the open sea via an underwater passage. Through the sinkhole, you can swim through an undersea passage that leads to the open sea. Once you reach the beach, you’ll be greeted by fine pebbles, sparkling blue waters, and majestic high cliffs. This beach should be on your itinerary if you want to experience authentic Cretan life.
Where is Agiofarago Beach?
This beach is approximately 80 km to the south of Heraklion city at the edge of a gorge. Once you get to the south of Heraklion, continue to the west side of Kali Limenes and the east side of Matala Village.
If you love beaches and outdoor activities, you will love the calm azure waters, virgin sand, and fine pebbles that make up the Agiofarago beach. We highly recommend swimming under the shade of imposing cliffs that tower over the waters to the west of the beach.
If you’re not up for the trek through the Agiofarago gorge, which will last about half an hour to 50 minutes, you can take a ferry boat to the beach from Matala, Agia Galini, or Kaloi Limenes. The ferry boat will pass by the rocky reef islet called papadoplaka with its clear sea salt-filled holes. Locals sometimes gather the clear sea salt, and if you’re lucky, you can take some home.
Agiofarago is undeniably one of the best beaches in southern Crete. Be sure to explore the neighboring sites to glimpse the island’s rich heritage and rural life.
How to Get to Agiofarago Beach
Getting to Agiofarago Beach by Car
The best and cheapest way to get to Agiofarago is by hiring a car in Heraklion. You’ll need to drive to Messara and continue past Sivas Village until you reach Odigitria Monastery. Take a left from the dirt road towards the port of Kali Limenes. After about 4 km, you should be able to see a sign that says Agiofarago beach.
You’ll know it’s the right place once you hit a dead end. Park your car in an unshaded spot (goats and birds tend to jump on cars to reach the leaves of overhead trees) and continue on foot into the gorge.
Getting to Agiofarago Beach by Bus
There is a bus route that you can take from Heraklion to Mires. Once you get to Mires, take a taxi to Kali Limenes. Finding a taxi to take you back to Heraklion won’t be easy, so renting a car to get around makes the most sense.
Getting to Agiofarago Beach by Taxi
Taking a taxi in Crete can be an expensive affair. In particular, finding one that will agree to take you to Agiofarago will be tricky since the area is quite secluded. It’s best to book a rental car to the beach since there’s parking on site.
History & Facts of Agiofarago Beach
The word Agiofarago translates to “Gorge of the Saints” or “Holy Gorge” since spiritual ascetics and hermits once lived in the caves in solemn isolation. Once a year, they would meet and sit in silence within a large cave. If one of them didn’t show up, the others assumed that he had passed away. Some of the monks still live in the large caves of the gorge to this day.
Best Things to Do in Agiofarago Beach
The best part about this beach is that there is plenty to explore around the area. The following sites are the most religious places in proximity to the beach. You will be awestruck by the rustic beauty and history of these iconic landmarks.
Chapel of Agios Antonios
About 250 meters before you arrive at Agiofarago through the gorge, you’ll come across the church of Agios Antonios. This chapel is built within a small cave in the rocks. When the number of hermits increased over the years, the chapel was expanded to accommodate them. It was last renovated in the 15th century and features remnants of murals that were later destroyed by pirate raids and seawater.
There’s a well with brackish water close to the church that supplies drinking water to the hermits. It is also where goats drink water (there’s a separate trough for animals) when they traverse through the gorge. To the south of the church, you’ll see a Minoan tomb that stands as evidence of the Minoan era. The church is owned by the Monastery of Panagia Odigitria near Sivas village.
The monastery is located 250 m high on the Asterousia Mountains and is a male-dominated sacred place. It was built by hermits like a fortress in the 14th century. The complex houses a two-aisle church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the Apostles Peter and Paul. The famous Tower of Xopateras, a base that was once used to fight off the Turks, stands tall in the compound.
Here is where you’ll find an archaic olive mill, a baking house, wine press, and even a cheese cellar that was maintained when the cemetery was under siege. The monastery’s nooks and crannies will reveal a fascinating Cretan history of resilience in the face of battles. From Odigitria you should take the dirt track heading to church of Saint Anthony.
Where to Stay in Agiofarago Beach
Experience true Cretan hospitality and classic Greek architecture with a contemporary flair at these luxurious hotels and villas.
Hotel Neos Matala
Located just 500 m from sandy shores, the hotel is a quaint stay with a beautiful garden, terrace bar, and swimming pool. The basic amenities and Mediterranean-style breakfast spread will leave you wishing you could stay longer.
☏ +30 2892 045157
Hotel Villa Maxine
The villa Maxine is is just 55 km south of Rethymnon and just a car ride away from the beach. Enjoy the luxurious amenities provided by the property and unlimited access to the swimming pool. Prepare to be greeted every morning by a perfectly blue seascape with lush foothills dotting the perimeter.
☏ +30 2832091530
This family-friendly hotel boasts an envious view of mountains, foothills, and crystal clear waters that make up the beauty of Crete. The comfy rooms, readily available amenities (including a hot tub), and delicious Greek meals will make your visit worthwhile.
☏ +30 2832 091331
Where to Eat in Agiofarago Beach
Explore the culinary delights around Agiofarago beach that promise to have you coming back for more.
Dig into local Cretan food with a modern twist and let the flavors of locally sourced ingredients consume your senses. From beef stifado to risotto with truffle mushrooms, the meals are an array of scintillating, delightful flavors.
☏ +30 694 995 1952
Enjoy a classic Mediterranean meal under the shade of trees in a lovely garden. The staff here is exceptionally friendly and considerate. Enjoy continental staples such as grilled or charred meat with sides or a vibrant salad with subtle yet rich flavors from fresh ingredients.
☏ +30 2892 091094
Athivoles Tou Kara
Tuck into a perfectly grilled or barbecued portion of meat or the fresh catch of the day. This restaurant serves up classic Greek meals that will tantalize your taste buds. Do order a round or two of Cretan raki to complement your meal.
☏ +30 2892 045745
Best Time to Visit Agiofarago Beach
The best time to visit the Agiofarggo beach is between April and October, when the weather is pleasant. Traveling during the other months isn’t advisable because of rain (that makes it extremely dangerous to hike through the gorge) and the chilly weather.
The driest and hottest month is July, but since the trek down the gorge is mostly shaded, you shouldn’t have trouble with the heat. It’s best to carry plenty of water, wear appropriate hiking gear, and slather sunscreen when heading down the Agiofarago gorge.