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Crete: Way out West

Staggeringly stunning beaches

Balos Beach

West of the Rodópou Peninsula (see Chaniá and around), the coastal plain and knobbly hobbity hills are densely planted with olives and vines, before the often wild and unruly west coast, hosting some of the island’s biggest and most gorgeous beaches. The capital is Kastélli-Kíssamou, which delightfully refuses to put on any airs.


Set at the bottom of a deep, rectangular gulf, Kastélli-Kíssamou’s double-barrelled name recalls its predecessor, Kissamos, the port of Dorian city of Polyrenia.

Map by Francesco Basilicata, 1618

An ancient temple and theatre were dismantled by the Venetians in 1550 and refashioned as a castle: when the Cretan Kaptános Kantanoléo captured it, the Venetians pretended to recognize Kantanoléo’s authority and offered a highborn Venetian girl as his son’s bride. At the wedding, which took place south of Chaniá, the Cretans were given drugged wine, and the Venetians slit their throats and took Kastélli back.

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Text © Dana Facaros

Images by Fiore Silvestro Barbato, Gerd A.T. Müller, Howard Stanbury, Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho, PD Art, Renatas, Udri, Yanni Koutsomitis, Ziegler175