Crete, with its miles of beautiful coastline and clear, clean waters – visibility is typically 30 metres or more – has long been an attractive destination for divers and snorkellers. There are several superb diving centres on the island and snorkels can be bought or hired from any beach with general facilities. For those new to scuba, the calm bays are ideal for learning the basics, while more experienced divers can find an array of challenging and interesting sites.

Snorkelling in Crete

Snorkelling in Crete

Snorkelling is a popular holiday activity and one that requires no previous expertise and little in the way of equipment. Once you have bought or hired your snorkel and mask – flippers are optional – all you need is a beach! Here’s where the fun really begins. The best beaches for snorkelling are those with superb visibility and warm, clean waters with no currents, and those with a range of fishes and other sea life. Beaches with a rocky seabed tend to have the best sea life, both in terms of quantity and diversity. You might come across starfish, moray eels and even octopus, as well as sponges and various marine plants.

Many beaches in Crete tick all those boxes, so how do you choose from amongst them? In general less crowded beaches are better for snorkelling, as crowds create noise and activity which can disturb sea life. Fortunately, the most crowded beaches tend to be those long sandy stretches that are not ideal for snorkelling anyway.

Many of the best beaches for snorkelling are found in the south, where there are plenty of rocky coves and inlets and sheltered bays. They include Elafonissi, a beautiful island reached via a shallow lagoon; Souda, a lovely, quiet cove; Plakias, a nearby resort with excellent facilities; and Matala, an outstandingly beautiful beach with caves and clear waters.

The northern beaches tend to be busier, but several of them are suitable for snorkelling. They include Pachia Ammos near Stavros, an excellent sand and limestone beach; Gerani, a quiet pebble beach in a beautiful natural cove setting; and Anissaras, a more populated beach with excellent facilities.

If you want a little more adventure, why not try out a snorkelling tour? Many hotels organise day-long snorkelling trips to some of the finest spots around the island. This gives you the opportunity to further escape the crowds and take advantage of local knowledge to find the clearest waters and best diversity of sea life. Snorkel (and scuba) sites include Dia Island, a small island off Heraklion; Chrissi, an island south of Ierapetra; and Thedorou, near Platanias.

Dive centres, offering equipment hire, lessons and day trips, can be found at many of the busier resorts, including Rethymno, Gouves, Agia Pelagia, Malia, Plakias and Vai. Beginners may want to take a PADI course, starting from two day courses with theory, pool dives and open water dives. Junior courses are available for those aged 10 to 14. Various advanced and speciality courses are also on offer.

Some of the finest beaches for snorkelling are a little out of the way and few have accommodation options. Unless you happen to be staying at one of the above beaches and are happy to spend your entire holiday there, searching out the best snorkel sites and getting to the dive centres is often easier with your own transport. With car hire the island of Crete becomes very easy to navigate and drive around, making the service very reasonable. Having your own transport also means that you get to experience some of the spectacular scenery to be found along the coastal and inland roads – you may even be tempted to spend more time on land! But whichever beaches you choose, the clear turquoise waters of Crete are sure not to disappoint – it is the perfect destination for a diving or snorkelling holiday.

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