The superb resort of Xerokampos or Xerocampos is one of the most secluded and peaceful destinations of Crete, a small remote village that is blessed with beautiful beaches and crystal clear seas. It can barely be called a village as there are only a handful of houses, guesthouses and taverns spread around a charming valley, surrounded by olive groves. This little-known area of Crete is far away from any major settlement, the nearest villages being Ziros and Zakros, while the town of Sitia is located about 50 km to the north. Xerokampos is a magical place, with barren land and rocks that lack vegetation, apart from several enchanting olive groves.
The coast is truly fascinating, with a succession of small beaches separated by rocky capes with sea caves. The roads that reach this destination have only been paved in the last years and travelers have started to discover this peaceful place, with only a few tourist services. The beaches are mostly wild, with only several organized areas. Below you can find the most important information about Xerokampos and its surrounding area.
Where is Xerokampos
Xerokampos is located on the remote eastern coast of Crete, relatively far from other settlements. It is part from the Sitia municipality and the town of Sitia is about 50 km to the north, with the nearest villages being Ziros and Zakros. There are paved roads linking Xerokampos to these villages and further away with the capital of Crete. The distance from Heraklion is about 160 km, with two itineraries passing through the town of Ierapetra, that is about 70 to the west. From the airport of Heraklion, you can easily rent a car, which is definitely the best option to visit Xerokampos.
How to Get to Xerokampos
Getting to Xerokampos by Car
The best way to get to Xerokampos is with a rental car from Heraklion airport. The trip usually takes almost three hours, passing along parts of the northern and southern coast of Crete. The best option is to drive up to Pachia Ammos and then turn south across the island to Ierapetra, continuing to Ziros and further up to Xerokampos. The winding road from Ziros is recently paved and offers superb views of the coast. Hiring a car in Crete and driving to Xerokampos is definitely your best option to reach this remote destination and further explore the eastern coast of the island.
There are a few guesthouses and taverns close to the beaches, while more services can be found in Ziros or Zakros, including a gas station.
Getting to Xerokampos by Bus
There are no direct buses to Xerokampos and if you wish to use public transport, you can take a bus from Heraklion to Sitia and then find another bus to either Ziros or Zakros. From Sitia or these villages, you will then have to take a taxi and the cost will definitely rise much more than simply hiring a car and driving to Xerokampos. You could reach it in about two and a half hours, depending on traffic. Getting to Xerocampos with a bus plus a taxi could take half a day.
Best Things to Do in Xerokampos
The tranquil destination of Xerokampos is perfect if you wish for a peaceful holiday far from the tourist crowds of Crete. Even during the summer months of July and August, there are not many people on the beaches of this place, making it perfect if you are looking for a peaceful experience. The roads connecting this small valley surrounded by low mountains to the villages of Ziros and Zakros have been paved and you can easily reach Xerokampos from either of them.
The total population of this tiny settlement is about 50 people, with only a handful of houses, villas and taverns spread between the olive groves. Apart from the astonishing beaches and splendid natural surroundings, there are not many other things to do in Xerokampos, yet this is part of its authentic charm.
There are actually plenty of smaller beaches spread along this wild portion of the eastern coast of Crete, each one with its own particular characteristics. You can choose another beach each time, with the main ones being known as Ambelos beaches, including the Agios Nikolaos Beach close to the little church by the same name and continuing with the Argilos Beach, where visitors use the nearby clay soil to cover themselves. To the north, there is the sandy beach known as Vourlia, followed by a few coves leading to the beach of Alatsolimni, where there is a small dried salt lake that sometimes becomes a lagoon.
You could see rare birds in this area, as well as admiring the small rocking islets off the coast. Another small and remote beach can be found north of Xerokampos, while others like Mazida Ammos is located west of the main ones. There are plenty of beaches to choose from, some with pebbles and some with sand, while all of them feature exceptionally turquoise calm waters.
There are only several umbrellas and sun-beds on some of the beaches, most of them being quite wild and unorganised. Right off the beaches, you can also see a few old ruins that are known as Ancient Ambelos, part of a prosperous city founded around the 5th century.
Visit the Minoan Palace and the Museums of Zakros
The fascinating Minoan Palace of Zakros is located in the old village of Kato Zakros, a few hundred meters from the sea. It was the last discovered Minoan palace in Crete and smaller than the ones at Knossos, Malia and Phaistos. Before being destroyed with many other settlements of the Minoan Civilization, the palace covered a large area and had about 180 rooms. Many archaeological finds were uncovered on the premises and today travellers can visit the ruins to get a glimpse into the distant past of Crete.
Zakros used to be an important hub on the eastern trade routes with Egypt, Cyprus and the Middle East. The palace used to be surrounded by many other buildings of a flourishing city that are still to be discovered in Kato Zakros. Among others, archaeologists have discovered the kings and queen’s rooms, religious areas and rooms for public events.
Most of the treasures found when digging up the palace can be admired in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. There are two interesting museums in the upper Zakros village, where travelers can learn more about the area history and traditions.
The Natural History Museum is dedicated to the natural environment of the Sitia Geopark, featuring small dioramas and other exhibits showing the diversity of this region. The Museum of Water and Hydraulics is housed in three old water mills that were used to grind olives and cereals in the past. There were more mills in the past and these three have been restored in 2007, now displaying various objects and other things that are related to the use of water in everyday life.
Explore the Zakros Gorge
The spectacular gorge of Zakros is also known as Gorge of the Dead, many Minoan graves being discovered in the caves along its course. It is located between the upper village of Epano Zakros and the lower Kato Zakros. It can be explored during summer and winter, travelers having the opportunity to admire amazing geological formations, unique scenery and rich vegetation. The route through the gorge takes about two hours and ends close to the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros. The gorge is also the end of the E4 European Path that starts in Portugal and continues along the coast of the Mediterranean, through Greece and Crete.
Explore the Agia Irini Gorge
Located about 5 km west of Xerokampos, the gorge of Agia Irini connects the tiny village of Agia Irini with the remote beach of Agia Irini, surrounded by high rocks. The gorge can be reached from the road that connects Xerokampos with Ziros. You can explore the Agia Irini Gorge and the gorge of Platyvolo on foot along old unmarked trails. Both gorges are extremely wild, with high walls and steep descents towards the sea.
Discover the beaches near Xerokampos
Although you will have enough choices for excellent beaches in the Xerokampos area, if you wish to explore further, you can find other superb and secluded beaches along the eastern coast of Crete. To the north, the beach of Kato Zakros is just a few kilometers away and is considered among the most beautiful on the island. There are few beaches further to the north, usually inside small sandy coves, but you can drive to the world-famous Vai beach, with its superb palm trees. South of Xerocampos, you can find the small beaches of Agia Irini, Vlyhada and Livari.
Where to Stay in Xerokampos, Crete
The remote resort of Xerokampos has begun to develop after the pavement of the roads connecting it to Ziros and further along to Sitia and Heraklion. During the last years, more and more villas, guesthouses and taverns have appeared around this small village, with only a few houses scattered through the valley. You will usually find good accommodation options right in Xerokampos, with good prices and excellent services. There are not large hotels in the area and you will have to choose small authentic lodging.
Vista Mare Luxury Villas
Located just about 1 km from the beaches of Xerokampos, these splendid Cretan villas offers unforgettable views of the coast and feature exceptional facilities and services, including beautiful rooms with all amenities, private swimming pool, fully-equipped kitchens and more.
☏ +30 28430 26094
Natica Mare Villas
These amazing villas are located in the southernmost area of Xerokampos, just a few minutes from the beach of Mazida Ammos. They offer splendid panoramic views of the beaches and the coast, a charming area surrounded by olive groves, excellent rooms, kitchens and private parking.
☏ +30 28430 20340
Located just a few minutes from the beaches of Xerokampos, this accommodation consists of six comfortable apartments with all the necessary amenities, including a kitchen area, as well as splendid sea views. It also features a tavern and a garden.
☏ +30 28430 26702
Where to Eat in Xerokampos
Located right on the main beaches of Xerokampos, this tavern offers delicious traditional Cretan and Mediterranean recipes in a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere.
☏ +30 28430 26777
Cretan Sun Tavern
Located a few minutes from the beaches, this traditional tavern offers authentic and fresh local food, including seafood and meat specialties.
Just a few minutes from the beaches of Xerocampos, this traditional tavern offers a Greek menu, with delicious specialties that include fresh seafood, grills, salads and more.
☏ +30 697 493 1046
Best Time to Visit Xerokampos
Apart from the short winter season, you can easily visit Xerokampos and enjoy its peaceful and pleasant atmosphere. Nevertheless, for swimming and sunbathing, it would be advisable to visit between April and October, when the weather is perfect for any type of activity. Fortunately, Xerokampos is not very crowded even during the peak summer season, although the temperatures can be too high at times.