Preveli Beach, Rethymno county, south coast
Preveli, is located on the southern coast of Crete, about 35km south of Rethymno city and 10km east of Plakias. Beach of Preveli, also known as Lake Preveli or Phoenix, is located at the exit of the imposing Kourtaliotikos Gorge, where the Grand River (Megalos Potamos) flows. It is certainly the most famous beach in south Crete, accepting thousands of visitors every summer. During the ’60s and ’70s, it was a favorite destination for the hippies. Preveli gets its name after the nearby historic monastery of Preveli. It is a men-only monastery, founded in the 16th or 17th century and is dedicated to St. John the Theologian. There are two monasteries, the old and the new, called Piso and Kato Monastery respectively. The old is abandoned and you will meet that a few meters south of the old stone bridge of Preveli.
On the banks of the Grand River there is a large colony of Theophrastus palm trees, which give the region a sense of a tropical landscape. The river, forming a small lake, 500m long, before emptying into the sea, has water all year round. You can walk along the river, under the shade of palm trees and other trees, and start ascending in the beautiful canyon. You can swim in the cold ponds formed in the gorge.
At the exit of the river, a sandy beach with pebbles and sand is formed, with sea water being very cool due to the river. In the eastern part of the beach, there is a beautiful rock reminding of a heart. The beach is not well organized because the area is protected, without any umbrellas.
A big fire in 2010 burnt almost everything of this paradise, but paradoxically the palmgrove recovered most of its damage.
Between the entrance to the beach car park and the monastery, a simple memorial with a bronze statue of a larger-than-life Cretan priest and British soldier towers above the sea on the left. It commemorates the significant role that the monastery played in the days shortly before the German invasion. From here, a great number of British troops, mostly composed of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand, were evacuated to North Africa with the aid of the monks.
You have three options for accessing Preveli, from the west or east. The first option is to drive from Plakias to the Monastery Preveli, following the relevant signs. 1.5km after the Kato Monastery of Preveli, you will stop at a large parking lot, where a path that descends to the beach starts. The parking is located near towering vertical cliffs, west of the beach, where you can take some fantastic photographs. To reach the beach walk the footpath that takes about 15-20 minutes. However, return is tedious as the ascent is rather steep.
To avoid the difficult climb, the second option is to drive in the paved road leading to nearby Drimiskiano Amoudi and walk the short path that leads to Preveli in just 5 minutes. However, you won’t have the chance to see the spectacular view from the tall cliffs on the west side.
Lastl option is to take one of the the small boats running to Preveli from Agia Galini and Plakias.