9 Pretty Little Islets Near Crete
- 1. Gavdos Island (Chania prefecture)
- 2. Chrissi Island (Lassithi Prefecture)
- 3. Dia Island (Heraklion Prefecture)
- 4. Paximadia Isles (Rethymno Prefecture)
- 5. Koufonisi Island (Lassithi Prefecture)
- 6. Spinalonga Island (Lassithi Prefecture)
- 7. Gramvousa Island (Chania Prefecture)
- 8. Thodorou Island (Chania Prefecture)
- 9. Psira Island (Lassithi Prefecture)
An important fun-fact you might not know about Crete is that it has several small “satellite – islands” around it, some completely unknown to tourists, that are totally worth discovering.
Follow us to exotic Cretan island getaways, secluded archaeological sites, and historical islets that inspired writers, pirates, and adventure-lovers around the world!
1. Gavdos Island (Chania Prefecture)
The largest, most famous, and perhaps the most beautiful and exciting island of Crete can be accessed via ferries from several ports of southern Crete (e.x Palaiochora, Sfakia, Agia Galini) and ideally needs more than a day or two to explore it.
Gavdos is also the only smaller island of Crete that is inhabited and offers a lot of amenities (hotels, taverns, supermarkets). Some of its beaches are a hotspot for campers and nudists, and the most popular beach is definitely Ai Giannis, voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
If you decide to spend some days there, you can bring your car (or rent one) to explore the whole island (don’t miss the spectacular beach of Trupiti, which is also the southernmost corner of Europe, and the amazing lighthouse – cafe!
2. Chrissi Island (Lassithi Prefecture)
A small exotic paradise just a few miles away from the coast of southern Crete and the picturesque town of Ierapetra, Chrissi island attracts thousands of visitors every year who come to enjoy its turquoise waters and fine pinkish sand, formed by broken shells. The island is 5km long and 1km wide, so you can easily explore it.
Alternatively, head straight to the awesome Golden Beach on the northern part of the island, where you will also find sunbeds, umbrellas, and a small beach bar.
Chrissi might be popular but it is also a protected area with a fragile ecosystem, so if you visit it make sure to only walk on the designated trails and stay away from the juniper trees, as their root system is very sensitive.
Boat trips start from the port of Ierapetra every morning from mid-May to the end of October and return in the afternoon.
3. Dia Island (Heraklion Prefecture)
The “dragon-island” across the city of Heraklion is a natural paradise with a long history that goes back to Minoan times, according to the discoveries of Jacques Yves Cousteau.
From afar, the island looks like a dragon, which inspired mythological tales of a giant sea monster sent to destroy the island of Crete, but just in time, Zeus turned it into stone with a thunderbolt!
Dia is integrated into the European Nature Network (Natura 2000) because of the important biodiversity and there are no facilities on the island, apart from a small port, a small chapel, and a forestry shelter at the north part of the island.
There are boats offering daily tours to Dia starting from the ports of Gouves, Hersonissos, and Heraklion, but the best way to enjoy this exceptional destination is via a private family sailing tour that will take you to the best-hidden bays of the island!
4. Paximadia Isles (Rethymno Prefecture)
The mysterious rocky island you see across Matala, Kommos, and other beaches of Messara valley in Souther Heraklion and Rethymno are in fact two small uninhabited islands close to each other 7 miles away from the port of the tourist settlement of Agia Galini.
The island looks dry and hostile, but it has a couple of tiny spectacular beaches, perfect for snorkeling and fishing.
According to Cretan mythology, goddess Leto gave birth to the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis on these islands.
Paximadia can be accessed by excursion boats from the ports of Kokkinos Pyrgos and Agia Galini. If you are lucky, you may even see dolphins on the way!
5. Koufonisi Island (Lassithi Prefecture)
Known as the “Delos of Crete”, the island of Koufonisi (aka Lefki) is not only exceptionally beautiful, but it also hosts a large archaeological treasure dating back to the early Minoan period.
A small paradise reserved for the few, Koufonisi is situated 3.5 miles south of Cape Goudouras in southeastern Crete and 10 miles from the settlement of Makrigialos.
You can reach it via excursion boats starting from Makrigialos that will take you to its most beautiful beaches and secret coves. Koufonisi may be small but it is absolutely impressive with amazing sandy beaches with turquoise waters, surrounded by mesmerizing landscapes that resemble the ones of North Africa.
6. Spinalonga Island (Lassithi Prefecture)
The historical island of Spinalonga probably needs no introduction as it is the most visited sight of Crete after Knossos. Its “dark” history as a leper colony inspired films and novels, including “The Island”, written by Victoria Hislop.
Located at the heart of Elounda bay across the picturesque village of Plaka, Spinalonga is a must-see and makes a perfect family day trip. There are several daily boat trips to Spinalonga from Plaka, Elounda, and Agios Nikolaos. We recommend hiring a guide to show you around the site, as you will get a better insight into the island’s turbulent history.
Looking for a more exclusive experience of Spinalonga that includes visits to amazing nearby beaches, away from the tourist crowds? Then check out our family sailing experience in Elounda for a trip you will never forget!
7. Gramvousa Island (Chania Prefecture)
A necessary stop to all excursion boats heading to the famous Balos Lagoon, Gramvousa has been a pirate island famous for its historical Venetian fortress and the legends connected to it. According to one of them, a great pirate treasure is hidden somewhere on the island!
The old shipwreck near the beach has become an integral part of the landscape, making it even more mysterious and exciting. Gramvousa is almost always combined with a visit to the wonderful Balos lagoon, a memorable trip for the whole family. Daily boats run from Kissamos (1-hour trip) and the route next to the wonderful coastline of Chania is also amazing.
The best way to enjoy a combined trip to Balos and Gramvousa is through a sailing tour! Check out our family sailing tour in Balos and Gramvousa, or -even better if you have time- a three-day sailing experience to truly explore this unique landscape!
8. Thodorou Island (Chania Prefecture)
Thodorou or Agioi Theodori is in fact two uninhabited islets just half a mile off the coast of Chania of great ecological importance. The most part of the island is rocky
with a large arched cave at its southern side, so that it resembles a monster with an open mouth from afar. As it is the case with all the other smaller islands of Crete, Thodorou is connected to countless legends and tales.
Its long history starts in the Minoan era as a sacred place and later the Venetians fortified it to protect the coast from hostile invasions. Today Thodorou is home to many endemic and rare species of flora and fauna, including the famous Cretan wild goat (Kri-Kri).
There are several boat trips to Thodorou from the port of Chania, however, we highly recommend you take a sailing tour to Thodorou that will also take you to other hidden places of the area that only a few lucky ones can see!
9. Psira Island (Lassithi Prefecture)
A small island 1 mile off the coast of northern Lassithi near Agios Nikolaos, Psira once hosted an important Minoan settlement that flourished between 1700BC-1450BC. Archaeological findings suggest that this was a small but wealthy society engaged in the commerce of purple dye, like the island of Koufonisi (Lefki).
Psira only has a small beach, but the waters are crystal clear and the seabed amazing for snorkeling. Plus, there are several other smaller islands around, and the only and best way to see them all is through our 3-day family sailing trip that starts from Heraklion and the island of Dia and then continues to explore the most beautiful islets of Lassithi.
Best season to visit