Falasarna - a visitor's guide

Falasarna viewed from the road

 

Falasarna (sometimes written as Phalasarna) is located on the West coast of Crete and, similarly to Elafonisi is popular with day trippers because of its stunning beaches and clear turquoise blue sea.

It consists of several sandy beaches of various length, all facing the West (which makes it a wonderful place to watch the sunset from). The sea is generally very clean and with lovely colours because of the sandy bottom.

If you are interested in archaeology you can also visit the remains of a fortified Hellenistic harbour. Because of a sudden uplift of the West of Crete 1500 years ago the harbour is now located inland.

Because there is a good area of flat fertile land running along the coast, a lot of greenhouses have been erected in the last 20 years or so and Falasarna, especially seen from above as you drive down the hill, is not as beautiful as it once was. But when you are on the beach you won't notice them anymore.

 

The main attractions of Falasarna are the superb sandy beaches, the crystal clear sea and the antique harbour.

Falasarna actually consists of several beaches (see the satellite picture below) of variable size. All have a fine sand and none feel crowded even on busy days because they are so wide and long.

When you drive down to Falasarna (perhaps after stopping on the way to admire the views from above - there are a couple of cafés with terraces offering very good views) you will see several signs pointing to the beach. You can follow any of them. You will have space to park near the beach. Once on the beach you can choose whether you want to use the sun beds and umbrellas provided (during the tourist season) or stay without. There is plenty of space without umbrellas so that you won't be relegated to some corner of the beach.

During the tourist season there are a few beach restaurants and cafés on or close to the beaches as well as a couple of small shops along the road where you could shop for basics.

Many visitors also come to Falasarna to visit the ruins of the ancient Hellenistic harbour located a little further to the North. To access them you need to drive all the way to the end of the asphalted road and continue on a dirt track (you will see a sign pointing you in the right direction) for about 5 minutes. If you prefer to walk it takes about 15 to 20 minutes each way. See more about the harbour further down on this page.

Most people go to Falasarna by hire car. The road goes past the town of Kissamos (about 40 km to the West of Chania) then on for around 10 km to the village of Platanos where you turn off to the right following the signs to Falasarna. A small winding road takes you down to sea level and on to Falasarna. It takes about 20 minutes from Kissamos, one hour from Chania.

There is a limited public bus service to Falasarna during the tourist season (April to October). Check their web site for information.

Quite a few small hotels, studios and apartments have been built in the last few years but the choice is still limited so it is probably best to find a place to stay and reserve in advance if you want to stay in Falasarna.

Falasarna is a wonderful place all year long but what you really want to avoid are very windy days. It is almost impossible to stay on the beach if it is really windy. There is a local weather station in Falasarna where you could check the wind conditions before going.

In the summer you will find Falasarna busier at the weekend as it is also popular with Cretans. But it never really feels cramped.

The site of the antique harbour is now fenced off and is only open from Tuesday to Friday, from about 9.00 to 15.00.

What Phalasarna might have looked like  over 2000 years ago

The ancient city of Phalasarna was already inhabited in the Minoan period and in the Archaic and Classical years. The city was at its peak between the middle of the 4th century B.C. and 67 B.C. when it was destroyed by the Romans, most probably because it had become a pirate's stronghold. The channels leading into the fortified harbour were blocked with huge rocks and it went out of use.
In 500 A.D (the date is still being debated) the West of Crete lifted and raised Falasarna by 9 meters and the harbour was turned into dry land and buried under tons of landfill.

The very first excavations of the harbour started in 1966 and are still ongoing, gradually unveiling the ancient harbour, the city and the necropolis.

Phalasarna was one of the most powerful naval cities of Crete in the Hellenistic period. It was a fortified citadel with a southward orientation. Ruins of temples, probably consecrated to the goddess Artemis - Diktynna can be found on top of the ridge above the city. 550m of the city walls are still intact, doubled in some places, and date back to the second half of the 4th century B.C..
Phalasarna had an enclosed military harbour fortified by an extension of the city walls. The harbour fortification had four towers linked by walls and quays. The south-east tower is the best preserved one.
The harbour was linked to the sea by two channels. The shallower channel was used for the circulation of sea water or small boats. Excavations have revealed blocks of built quay with mooring stakes. To the North a second smaller artificial basin probably has to do with the ancient shipyards which have not yet been excavated.
A pavement leading from the harbour to the acropolis was discovered next to the second basin as well as five small cisterns which had to do with the public baths of the 4th-3rd c. B.C.

The ancient quarries are located at the South of the harbour (near where the large rock-cut "throne" stands). Near the quarries there is also a rock-cut fish tank 25m² in size.

The necropolis is situated outside the city walls and covers a large area south and east of the harbour. It dates from the Archaic and Hellenistic periods. The tomb types include pithos burials, pit graves, cist graves and rock-cut graves.

You can see a large image showing explanations about the archeaoligical site here

The site of the antique harbour is now fenced off and is only open from Tuesday to Friday, from about 9.00 to 15.00.

Falasarna is listed as Natura 2000 site and is very interesting place for botanists who make special trips to see Juniperus oxycedrus, Tulipa goulimyi, Centaurea pumilio, large populations of Pancratium maritimum, Viola scorpiuroides, many types of orchids and much more as well as a couple of small coastal ponds.


View Falasarna in a larger map

 

 

Photos of Falasarna

Click on images to enlarge. Use the ► and ◄ to move forward or back or click again to close

  • Falasarna from above
  • Falasarna from above (with Cape Koutri)
  • A beach in Falasarna
  • A beach in Falasarna
  • Testing the water (in early April - it's still cold)
  • A beach in Falasarna - Sun beds for rent
  • Testing the water (in early April - it's still cold!)
  • Coral sand beach in Falasarna
  • Coral sand in Falasarna
  • Coral sand in Falasarna
  • A beach in Falasarna
  • A beach in Falasarna
  • A beach in Falasarna (winter time)
  • Falasarna beach
  • Falasarna beach
  • Falasarna beach
  • Falasarna beach
  • Falasarna beach
  • Falasarna beach
  • A beach in Falasarna (early morning)
  • A beach in Falasarna (early morning)
  • A beach in Falasarna (early morning)
  • A beach in Falasarna (early morning)
  • A beach in Falasarna in summer
  • A beach in Falasarna in summer
  • Sand dune vegetation in Falasarna
  • Sand dune vegetation in Falasarna
  • Sand dune vegetation in Falasarna
  • Sand dune vegetation in Falasarna
  • Sand dune vegetation in Falasarna
  • Crithmum maritimum near the beach
  • Centaurea pumilio
  • Centaurea pumilio
  • Pancratium maritimum - Sea daffoldil
  • Euphorbia paralias
  • Sign to the harbour of Phalasarna
  • General view of Phalasarna and the acropolis
  • The chapel of Agios Giorgos and the acropolis
  • Remains of a temple on the acropolis
  • The chapel of Agios Giorgos and the acropolis
  • Harbour quay (with the acropolis in the background)
  • Ruin of one of the harbour fortification  towers
  • Ruin of one of the harbour fortification  towers
  • Fortification walls
  • The giant rock-cut 'throne'
  • Rock-cut grave
  • Harbour quay
  • A map of the archaeological site

 

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Crete photo of the day
Crete Photo of the Day