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A Guide to Crete’s Gorgeous Voulisma Beach


Voulisma Beach is one of the nicest stretches of actual white sand in Crete, even if the name translates to “Golden Beach”. The main point, though, is that there is actual sand, not just rocks or even those patches of small pebbles the Greeks so loosely term as beaches.

The best of several beaches in the gorgeous, turquoise Mirabello Bay, Voulisma Beach is the best place for sunbathing and watersports in the northeast corner of Crete. Not far from the main urban centre of Agio Nikolaos but worlds away in feel, it features a gentle, shallow slope perfect for families. Plus, it is set in a lovely green valley full of olive trees, pine forest, citrus fruit and plenty of little creeks and springs.

View from above of Voulisma Beach in Greece

Is Voulisma Beach Worth Visiting?

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Yes, as another of Crete’s Blue Flag beaches, Voulisma Beach is renowned for its cleanliness, facilities and generally perfect conditions. It boasts fine white sand, a shallow, smooth seabed and amazing views just a short drive from Agios Nikolaos.

Voulisma Beach Crete Map

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Voulisma Beach

One of the most beautiful beaches on Crete, although that beauty can come at the price of big crowds in high season. Nonetheless, Voulisma Beach is magnificent, with perfect sand and clear turquoise water set in a fantastic, lush valley. Well worth braving the crowds to find your ideal spot or, even better, visiting in the shoulder season to enjoy the same great weather without all the people.

Fine sand and turquoise water on Voulisma Beach Crete

But don’t let all this talk of crowds deter you, since it is a fairly large beach (around 700 metres long) and there are also several more nice little beaches very close to Voulisma if things happen to feel a bit hectic the day you’re there.

The beach is just a 5-minute walk (or very short drive) from the charming village of Istro, there are several good tavernas nearby and a fair-sized parking lot just off the highway (although you probably need to get there early in summer). There are also a number of places renting water sports equipment – everything from kayaks and floaties to pedalos and jet-skis.

View of Voulisma Beach Crete and blue sea
View from the walkway down to Voulisma Beach

Check out our complete list of The Best Beaches on Crete

Voulisma Beach Bar

This handy little bar located just above the beach is perfect for snacks and refreshments and they will even serve you at your lounger. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more substantial, take a short jaunt across the road to the wonderful Taverna Kavos. They serve delicious Cretan specialities, are known for their friendly service and there is even a playground to keep the kids occupied until it’s time to head back to the beach.

Walkway down to Voulisma Beach Crete
Walkway just below the Voulisma Beach Bar

Things to Do Near Voulisma Beach

When you have had enough beach time (if such a thing really happens), there are lots of great attractions near Voulisma Beach to keep you busy.

Have a Seaside Drink or Meal in Pachia Ammos

We loved this small village about a kilometre east of Voulisma Beach, with its long promenade along the water lined with tavernas.

Drink on table

We enjoyed an excellent meal at friendly Porto Kanaki while enjoying the sea views. There is also another excellent beach here and plenty of great scenery.

Taverna in Pachia Ammos

Check out the Gournia Ruins

Near Pachia Ammos, the important Gournia archaeological site is considered one of the best ancient Minoan towns to visit on Crete. It is more thoroughly excavated than most, with many of the buildings surprisingly well-preserved. There are several houses, a theatre, temple and even the remains of a little palace.

Hike the Richtis Gorge

One of many lush, impressive gorges scattered around Crete, Richtis Gorge is one of the easiest to hike. “Richtis” means “waterfall” and the gorge is also one of the wettest, with the trail running through lush forest to a high waterfall and nice pond perfect for cooling off in summer.

Waterfall in Richtis Gorge near Sitia Crete

The trail runs all the way from the highway down to the quiet, pebble beach of Richtis where you will find old stone tables, a nice park and a potable water fountain.

Staircase in Richtis Gorge in Sitia Crete

Hiking down from the top will take about 1.5 hours, then maybe 2 hours to climb back up. Other options are to arrange a pickup to hike it only one-way, or hike from the bottom up only as far as the waterfall (45 min) then turn around.

Winding road down to Richtis Gorge
Views on the drive down to Richtis Beach

Visit Fascinating Spinolonga Island

Spinalonga Island, located north of Agios Nikolaos directly across the bay from the wonderful beach resort town of Elounda, was used as a leper colony until 1957, then abandoned for decades and has now burst back into prominence thanks to “The Island”, both the book and the TV show.

Crossing the bay in a small shuttle boat, the high walls and remaining ramparts provide a dramatic arrival and once you pay your entrance fee (€8) you are free to roam the small island to your heart’s content.

You can (and should) check out the colourful marketplace of former shops, read up on a lot of the fascinating leprosy-themed history and check out the former lodgings of the lepers themselves (don’t forget your hand sanitizer).

Then you can climb to the top of the island, walk the ramparts, enjoy panoramic views of Korfos Bay and explore a whole series of interesting ruins. Short boat rides (€10-15) to Spinalonga leave from either Plaka or Elounda Beach.

Tour the Lasithi Plateau

On an island full of gorges and beaches, Lasithi Plateau stands out as an incredibly unique and fascinating area. An extremely fertile plateau covering 25 square kilometres, much of it close to 1,000 metres above sea level, it features numerous historic sites dating back as far as the Neolithic Period.

Flat Lasithi Plateau Crete with mountains behind

Sometimes called the “Plateau of Windmills”, there was a time when nearly 10,000 of these ancient machines dotted the plateau. Today only a few of the original windmills remain, well worth a visit, and some newer, more efficient ones have also cropped up.

Windmills in Lasithi Plateau Crete

Surrounded by the Dikti mountain range, Lasithi benefits from considerable snow melt each spring. This moisture, combined with excellent soil and a slightly cooler climate than along the coast, makes Lasithi the ideal place to grow fruit and vegetables. It is particularly known for the quality of its apples, cherries, pears, almonds and walnuts.

The best part of a visit to Lasithi Plateau, however, is simply exploring the many charming, traditional villages that circle the plateau along a single main road.

Old buildings in old town in Lasithi Plateau Crete
Wandering the backstreets of the Lasithi Plateau villages

A leisurely tour of the entire route will probably take a couple of hours, plus the time spent on any longer stops.

Sample the Beaches near Voulisma

As great as Voulisma Beach is, who doesn’t like a little variety? Luckily, there are almost endless small beaches along this pretty bit of Cretan coastline around Mirabello Bay, making it easy to beach-hop through the area to find your favourite spot.

Fine sand and turquoise water on Voulisma Beach Crete

Heading west, you will first see the nice church and big beach of Agios Panteleimonos, then reach the interesting Minoan ruins of Priniatikos Pirgos, followed by the natural, serene Karavostasi Beach. Continuing on you will hit Vathi Beach, Ammoudara Beach and Almyros Beach, popular with people staying in Agios Nikolaos.

Beach with trees behind

Exploring in the other direction you can check out the picturesque cove of Istron Bay, then the group of three tiny Vryonisi beaches. After that is an even quieter stretch with Frouzis Beach and Kamini Beach before you reach the popular Pachia Ammos.

Where to Stay: Voulisma Beach Hotels

Istron Luxury Villas

If you are looking for a villa with a private pool and gorgeous views, Istron Luxury Villas are the place for you. Choose from one-bedroom or two-bedroom villas and relax in luxury after your busy days or just hang out on the terrace by your pool all day. You also have access to all the facilities at the Istron Bay Hotel below.

Click here for Istron Luxury Villas prices

Istron Bay Hotel

With views of the beautiful Istron Bay from your room’s private balcony, restaurant and pool, you can’t go wrong with Istron Bay Hotel. They also have 3 restaurants and 2 bars so you are spoiled for choice if you prefer not to leave the grounds.

Click here for Istron Bay Hotel prices

Villa Asimina

If you are looking for a budget choice, Villa Asimina is perfect for you. Within walking distance of Karavostasi Beach, you can pick a self-catered apartment with balconies overlooking Mirabello Bay. You can also enjoy the pool with plenty of loungers.

Click here for Asimina prices

When to Go to Voulisma Beach: Weather

Like most of Crete, the Voulisma Beach weather means a very mild climate year-round thanks to the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. Summers are warm (some would say hot) with almost no rain. Most precipitation comes in the winter months, although that is still pretty minimal compared with many coastal cities.

Crete is one of the most southerly islands in Europe and compared to most of the continent the weather remains bearable all year, with the daily average temperature in Voulisma Beach only dropping as far as 10 / 12 (low/high) in January. Which is why Crete is one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter.

Voulisma Beach Crete with blue ocean
Warm days in late fall

Voulisma Beach gets very crowded in July and August so it is best to visit in the shoulder seasons if possible. May-June and September-October are perfect for good weather and fewer tourists. It will also be far less crowded early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

How to Get to Voulisma Beach Crete

There are many ferry connections to Crete, some of which stop in directly at Sitia. FerryScanner has one of the best ferry networks in the world and is the most user-friendly site we’ve come across. It is the site we use to book all our own ferry trips.

By Car

Voulisma Beach is easily accessible by car as it is just off the spectacular main highway between Agios Nikolaos and lovely Sitia and is a popular Agios Nikolaos beach. There is also a large paid parking space south of the beach.

Public transportation on Crete can be tedious so we highly recommend renting a car to reach all the best spots. Plus, it is nice to be able to set your own schedule. We find that Discover Cars usually has the best deals in the area.

Car on dirt road
Exploring in our rental car

Driving Times to Voulisma Beach in Crete

Agios Nikolaos to Voulisma Beach: 15 km / 15 min

Lerapetra to Voulisma Beach: 25 km / 25 min

Sitia to Voulisma Beach: 55 km / 1 hr

Heraklion to Voulisma Beach: 75 km / 1 hr

Rethymno to Voulisma Beach: 150 km / 2 hrs

Chania to Voulisma Beach: 215 km / 2.75 hrs

By Bus

It is also possible to reach Voulisma Beach by bus, it just isn’t as convenient as having your own car. Several daily buses run between Agios Nikolaos and either Sitia or Lerapetra and any of these can drop you off near Voulisma Beach.

From the west part of the island, regular buses run from Chania, Rethymno or Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos.

Voulisma Beach Crete, rocks and turquoise water

Other Gorgeous Beaches Around Crete

If you love Voulisma Beach, you should probably check out some of the other beautiful Crete beaches.

Vai Beach

Relatively few tourists make it to all the way to Vai Beach, located at the extreme eastern end of Crete.

Palm trees at Vai Beach crete

However, it boasts a large, beautiful forest of palm trees, some great viewpoints in the hills surrounding the beach, as well as several secluded coves and there are even some more Minoan ruins nearby.

For more info, check out Vai Beach: Stunning Palm Forest and Ancient Ruins

Matala Beach

Another beach that started out as a hippie enclave, today Matala Beach still retains much of that relaxed vibe. With a nice, sheltered bay ringed by welcoming tavernas, the west end of the beach features sandstone cliffs filled with ancient caves.

View from inside cave at Matala Beach Crete
View of Matala from the caves

They are worth exploring (€2 per person) for both the historic implications and the interesting views.

For more details, see Matala Beach: Crete’s Original Hippie Village

Preveli Beach

Home to the other magnificent palm forest on Crete, popular Preveli Beach is one of the most beautiful and photogenic spots on the entire island.

Preveli Beach Crete

The palm forest is hemmed in by steep cliffs and from above you can see the trees, the river, the beach and the lagoon that splits the beach in two. A definite must-see.

For more info, check out: Preveli Beach: How to See Crete’s Spectacular Palm Forest

Seitan Limania

Not far from the major city of Chania, Seitan Limania features a small but incredibly photogenic rocky gorge leading to a miniscule beach sheltered by tall cliffs on each side.

Seitan Limani Crete

It only gets a few hours of sun each day but is worth a visit for the view from the top alone (although we would highly recommend taking on the rugged 10-minute descent to explore more closely).

Find out how to visit at Seitan Limania: Guide to Crete’s Most Unique Beach

Balos Beach

Up in the extreme northwestern corner of Crete, you’ll find Balos Beach, the most photographed beach in all of Crete and one of the most beautiful in Greece. It can only be reached via rough dirt road or on a boat tour but is still well worth the journey for the spectacular viewpoints and beautiful turquoise water.

Man looking down at Balos Beach from viewpoint

What sets Balos Beach apart, however, is the narrow sandy isthmus connecting mainland Crete to tiny Cape Tigani. This isthmus divides the area into a warm, shallow lagoon on one side (south) and a relatively sheltered bay on the other (north).

You may also want to check out our Ultimate Guide to Balos Beach

Falasarna Beach

A huge west-facing beach that enjoys some of the best sunsets on Crete, Falasarna Beach is one of the few beaches on the island where you can show up in high season without any worries about finding a place to park.

Fine sand on Falasarna Beach

There are several smaller, more secluded beaches within walking distance and some outstanding seafood tavernas where you can watch the sun go down.

To find out more, go to Falasarna Beach: Guide to Crete’s Best Sunset Beach

Elafonisi Beach

Rivalling Balos Beach for sheer beauty, Elafonisi Beach is tucked away in the southwestern corner of Crete about an hour from Kissamos.

Turquoise water and the Elafonisi pink sand beach in Crete

The narrow, pink sand isthmus separates two great beaches and shallow swimming areas, features sand dunes and leads to an island with caves, a church and phenomenal views.

You may also want to have a look at Elafonisi Beach: Is it Worth Visiting?

Voulisma Beach Summary

With lovely white sand, top-class facilities and a whole host of interesting places nearby, Voulisma Beach is an ideal beach holiday destination. Check out some Minoan ruins, hike a beautiful gorge, explore a unique plateau, or just beach-hop your way along the coast. Or just relax on your sunbed and enjoy the wonderful views of Mirabello Bay.

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