Far on the easternmost shores of Crete lies a little village that is truly an escape from everything. Among the most beautiful destinations of Crete, the village of Zakros is definitely unique, with its quiet and peaceful atmosphere, with the fascinating ruins of the Minoan palace, with its splendid natural wonders that surround it and the enchanting beach that is perfectly protected by the bay. Zakros is an excellent choice, offering an unforgettable experience for people who search for the most authentic and inspiring places in Crete. Here are the most important things to know about Zakros village and beach in Crete.
Where is Zakros
The village of Zakros is located on the eastern coast of Crete, about 40 kilometers southeast of Sitia and about 170 kilometers from the capital of Heraklion. From the capital, you can rent a car and visit Zakros and it takes about 3 hours to reach the village. While the village is quite remote, there are plenty of services available to make it a great holiday destination. Zakros is split into the upper modern Epano Zakros and the old Kato Zakros, with the ancient palace and the splendid beach. The two parts are connected through an impressive canyon known as the “Gorge of the Dead”.
How to Get to Zakros
Getting to Zakros by Car
By car you can reach Zakros with a car rental from Heraklion or from Heraklion Airport. The trip usually takes about 3 hours, following the road east along the coast through Agios Nikolaos, Sitia and Palekastro, and them turning south along a winding road. The best option is definitely to rent a car, as there are many spectacular destinations that can only be reached by private car and you can also visit multiple beaches during your holiday. Most accommodation options and tourist services are located in the modern village of Zakros, the beach being located about 9 km from there.
Getting to Zakros by Bus
To reach by bus Zakros from Heraklion with public buses, you need to make a stop and change the bus line in Sitia. There are frequent buses between the capital and the city of Sitia and there are two daily connections from there to Kato Zakros. Considering the need to change and the speed of buses, it is a better choice to rent a car in Heraklion Airport and drive to Zakros.
Best Things to Do in Zakros
The village of Zakros is one of the most peaceful and underrated destination on the whole island of Crete. It is a remote village on the eastern coast, located in a magical natural setting and featuring impressive attractions. The modern village lies inland on the high ground, being connected to the old fishing village and the beach by a short road. The stunning Gorge of the Dead also runs from the upper settlement to the sea and offers adventurers a nice experience.
Before reaching the sea, the impressive ruins of the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros can be visited for an inspiring history lesson. The splendid beach of Kato Zakros is located inside a protected bay that was used as a safe harbor for ships during ancient times. It is mostly a pebbly beach and the waters are extremely calm, making it the perfect summer destination. It is a wonderful place to experience snorkeling and spear fishing. There are a few villas and taverns along the beach, but other than that, most of the services can be found in the modern village of Zakros. Other main attractions close to Kato Zakros are also some fascinating caves and gorges that can be explored nearby like Pelekita Cave, Katsounaki Gorge, Chocolakies Gorge.
Visit the Minoan Palace 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 among other antiquites of the Minoan Civilization, the Zakros palace covered a large area and had about 180 rooms.
Many archaeological finds were uncovered on the premises and today you 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.
Explore the Zakros Gorge – Gorge of the dead
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. You can visit the gorge during summer and winter. You have the opportunity to admire the 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 which starts in Portugal and continues along the coast of the Mediterranean, through Greece and Crete.
Visit the Museums of Zakros
There are two interesting museums in the Ano Zakros (Upper) village, where you 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.
Beaches Nearby Zakros
While the beach of Kato Zakros is certainly amazing known for the tranquility and remoteness, if you wish to explore other beaches along the Crete’s eastern coast, there are several great choices. One of the most fascinating beaches on the whole island is Alatsolimni Beach, close to the village of Xerokambos. During the winter, there is a lake filled with salty water that dries up during the summer, creating a surreal landscape. The beach is sandy and has shallow clear water, while the lake makes it perfect to visit during the spring.
Other smaller beaches can be found further to the south, followed by the large Xerokambos Beach, a beautiful and wild stretch of sand backed by rocky cliffs. To the north of Zakros, the best beaches to visit include the wonderful Karoumes Beach that can only be accessed on foot through a canyon, or the remote three coves of Skinias Beach.
Where to Stay in Zakros, Crete
As one of the most secluded and hidden destinations of Crete, located far away from the crowds of tourists, there are not big hotels and resorts in Zakros. Instead, travelers can find amazing traditional accommodations that include villas and private rooms, small guesthouses and taverns. There are a few options for those who wish to stay right next to the beach and there are also more rooms to rent inside the upper modern village. Considering that there are not so many places, it would be a good idea to book the accommodation well in advance.
Terra Minoika Villas
Located a few minutes away from the beach of Kato Zakros and the old palace, these splendid villas feature beautiful architecture with local stone and traditional design style. The four villas are perfectly equipped and there is even a gym.
+30 2843 023739
Kato Zakros Palace Apartments
Conveniently located a few hundred meters from the beach and the palace of Kato Zakros, this complex includes 10 perfectly equipped apartments and studios. It is one of the best reviewed accommodations in this destination.
+30 2843 029550
Kato Zakros Palave Apts on Booking.com
Located in a beautiful garden about 10-15 minutes from the beach of Kato Zakros, these traditional studios offer the most inspiring atmosphere and all the needed amenities.
+30 2843 023739
Where to Eat in Zakros
Located right on the beach of Kato Zakros, this pleasant family restaurant is the oldest in the area. It offers delicious dishes with fresh olive oil, vegetables, fish and meat from local producers.
+30 2843 026893
This friendly and appreciated restaurant is located right on the beach of Kato Zakros. It offers traditional Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, with especially delicious seafood.
+30 2843 026890
This vegetarian friendly restaurant also offers amazing traditional Greek and Mediterranean food in a nice and cozy atmosphere. It is located right on the Kato Zakros beach and has affordable prices.
+30 2843 023793
Best Time to Visit Zakros
Weather is quite nice in Crete most of the time, except a few months in winter when it is too cold and humid to visit any beach on the island. The best months to visit Zakros are in spring and autumn, when the weather is almost perfect and there are fewer tourists. The peak summer season (July and August) might be too hot for some people.