The Cretan village of Tavronitis, and the enormous beach that is named after it, is located in the northwest of Crete, about 20 kilometers west of Chania, and about 18 kilometers east of Kissamos. If you’re traveling on the National Road, you’ll need to take the Tavronitis exit to get here. If you’re driving on the Old National Road (essentially, a surface street stringing together all the towns and villages from Kolymbari to Chania), you’ll drive right through it. But, as my grandmother would have said, “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.” Tavronitis is really just a few blocks of stores and taverns along the Old Road, which is technically called the Kissamou Chanion Road at this point. Once you hit Tavronitis, take a right (or left) turn depending upon which direction you’re headed – that is, turn north – and in a moment or two you will emerge at a rather extraordinary beach. It is part of one of the longest uninterrupted stretches of beach I have ever encountered.
Travelling east to west, it begins around the village of Stalos and runs unbroken all the way to the village of Kolymbari. This stretch of pebbly sand has several names along the way. Below you will look at photos which belong properly to Tavronitis beach (about the first 6 or 8, maybe), and then what is known as Rapaniana beach (further to the west), and ending with Kolymbari beach. There are no markers, no signs or monuments telling you where one beach begins and the other ends. When you get out of your car and walk out on this beach – at whatever point you come upon it – you won’t care about names. There is virtually no development along this segment, aside from two tavernas and an empty road. A handful of homes are creeping closer to the beach, but, so far, no one has been allowed to build right on the beach. Even in the heat of summer, this place is so big, and so far from dense centers of population, that it always has the feel of a deserted beach.
Now, you’ll say, “What could possibly be better than a deserted beach?!” And you would be right. I’m not going to argue that with you! But in the service of honesty, I must also say there is another reason why Tavronitis beach, and the other nearby swaths, haven’t made it into the feverish international search for the world’s greatest beaches. Most of the rocks here are gray, and the sand that has been ground down from them is a sort of dirty gray color. It’s not the black sand you get, say, in Hawaii, or even on a beach or two in the far West of Crete. It’s just kind of dirty gray. Next up is the huge amount of driftwood scattered all over the place. Driftwood can lend artistic brilliance to a beach – I immediately think of some of the great beaches in Northern California. But, for the most part, the enormous amount of small-to-mid-sized driftwood on Tavronitis beach, often enough entangled with plastic trash that has floated in from the sea, has no real aesthetic impact on the area. Frankly, in places, it brings up thoughts like, “Wow, if this place could be given a thorough cleaning, it could really be something.” It’s not so much that it is dirty or trashy, the problem is that it occasionally seems to be dirty or trashy…
And yet, and yet! As you walk and walk and walk and walk on this seemingly endless stretch of wide beach looking out to the Sea of Crete, it begins to grow on you. In fact, before long, you suddenly find that that you don’t want to leave. There is a solitude and majesty to the surroundings that can’t help but keep you focussed on the beauty, rather than on the drawbacks. Before my wife Oksana and I went down for our extended walk on Tavronitis Beach a few days ago, we chatted for awhile with a part-time local resident, an Englishwoman from Zambia who loves the area so much she can’t stop coming back. “The beach here is the best,” she said. “It’s under the radar, a little bit plain, and everybody here wants to keep it that way! Nobody wants the tourists coming in!”
Copyright © 2021 by John Freedman. Should you wish to copy, repost or reuse anything from this blog (the photos included), please ask. I have never said no to this day. But, boy, does it make me mad when I see people publishing my work on their blogs/pages as if it were their own!