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A small and charming coastal town with a beautiful beach, Agia Pelagia is ideal for a relaxing holiday in Crete. It's located just 20km from Heraklion, to the west and is first seen from its main road - the National Road which meanders high alongside the impressive coastline.
The town is famous for having been destroyed and swept into the sea at least twice in its history, once probably due to an earthquake - the one that created Santorini. Agia Pelagia only came to be developed after 1965 and before that was simply a small port where coal and wood were transferred to Heraklion. Now, however, it is an increasingly popular tourist destination. In the winter time it has only a couple of hundred inhabitants and many of the tavernas and other facilities are closed, but in summer it becomes hugely busy with tourists and holidaymakers arriving in their dozens.
There are plenty of small hotels around the town and along the hillside, or you can rent a self-catering apartment - there are supermarkets and small shops in town to get supplies from. Small local bed and breakfasts or boutique hotels are also a lovely choice to get a sense of the place and to meet the friendly locals who will give you advice about where to go during your stay.
Agia Pelagia is blessed with stunning geography, including the large cove, which is itself surrounded by a smaller cove of Ligaria on the east and Mononaftis Bay to the west. The blue of the sea, the white buildings and the lush green vineyards surrounding the coastline provide a landscape of particular beauty. It is built like an amphiteatre on the hills and it slopes around the shore. The road has steep slopes and has hotels that appear on the hillsides as you head down to the developed town centre. It's worth noting that a bike or car is fairly essential in Agia Pelagia, unless you are a good walker, to get the most of the area and explore the sites of interest and various beaches.
Agia Pelagia has a busy town centre, with tavernas, cafes and restaurants around the shore and in the heart of the town. There are also tourist and souvenir stalls and shops selling local crafts and produce such as olives, wine, leather goods, pottery and textiles. The beach is a famous draw and being a bay it is protected from the famous Cretan wind, which means the sea is usually calm and ideal for swimming in. It is a favourite of both tourists and locals alike.
The area doesn't have the buzzing nightlife of other larger resorts, but it does have a good range of bars, restaurants, tavernas and cafes to enjoy. Primarily, the atmosphere is one of relaxation rather than wild nights, although you will find that the locals are partial to some local spirits or wine and will happily tell you stories about their town and its history. Food in this area is particularly good, with Greek, international and Cretan cuisine all featuring - and most of the restaurants having sea views. Try traditional meze which is similar to Spanish tapas - small dishes of delicious food such as olives, fresh fish, seafood and meat stews, houmous, vegetables, breads and dips - more than enough to fill you!
There are several lovely beaches in Agia Pelagia. The central beach is sandy and offers water sports and diving, as well as plenty of loungers, beach chairs and umbrellas. The bay does get deep quite suddenly but there is a narrow and rocky plate at the middle which is ideal for children. Along the front there are cafes and tavernas for food and refreshment. There is another beach on the peninsula at Capsis Beach resort which is very small but lovely. Only a handful of people can visit, however, so check that it's not occupied before you peddle boat or swim over! Ligaria Beach to the east is also sandy and has good facilities. It is protected from the winds but is generally used more as a local beach for tying up fishing boats, rather than for sunbathing.
Transfers from the airport at Heraklion are easily made as it is just 20km away and there are coaches and hire cars available. However there is no night bus service - taxis can be expensive so you are best to organise a car during your visit. There are many car rental booths at the airport.