What to do in Vai Palm beach
The Vai Palm Beach is the largest natural palm forest in Europe with approximately 6000 palm trees. It belongs to the Toplou Monastery which is 12 km from the beach and is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Crete. Vai lies close to Palekastro, Sitia and the Dionysades islands.
The name derives from the word vai which means palm trees in Greek. It is said that the forest was created during the times that the Arab pirates had conquered the Meditteranean Sea. The pirates ate the dates (Phoenix Dactylifera) and threw the seeds on the ground which they grew as palm trees (Phoenix Theophrasti). Although, it is not certain if the pirates were Saracens or Phoenicians.
The Vai Palm Beach became popular after a Bounty chocolate advertisement in the early 1970s where you could see the beautiful scenery and coconuts falling from the trees. The palm trees actually produce dates so coconuts were falsely hung to the trees to create the right impression.
After the ad made this earthly paradise renown to the whole world hippies and backpackers would visit it and camp making the place a rubbish pit. In the 1980s the place was declared a protected area and camping was forbidden.
The beach has whitish sand and turquoise waters. In a few places, you will find slippery smooth rocks, while on the opposite you will find some small islets that make the landscape more beautiful. The beach is slightly organized (whatever the protection scheme allows) with umbrellas, showers, water sports (windsurfing and jet-skiing are popular) and a canteen. The closest rooms to let are located outside the protected area (15'-25 'walk). If you want to stay isolated, there is a great sandy beach 5 minutes north of Vai, while another option is the lovely Psili Ammos beach in the south. Also, at the beautiful small beach of Psili Ammos you can enjoy topless or nudist bathing. The nearby monastery runs a restaurant right on the beach which serves delicious Greek food.
How to get to Vai
You have 3 options to visit Vai, by car, by bus or by booking a tour from a travel agency in Crete (they organize daily tours). Vai is located 24 km east of Sitia and about 6 km from Palekastro.
Sitia is about 2 hours’ drive from Heraklion, and Vai is another 30 minutes further. From Sitia, take the road to Toplou Monastery and continue another 8 km past the monastery to the palm forest.
If you are coming from Rethymno, it will take you 4 hours to get to Vai, while it is 4.5-5 hours’ drive from Chania. The beach itself is worth the drive.
A stop at Sitia is a must.
Sitia town is the birthplace of the great medieval poet Vitsentzos Kornaros (Vincenzo Cornaro). It is located 70 km off Agios Nikolaos (the biggest town in Lasithi). It is built amphitheatrically with elegant buildings ending at a busy port, an ideal choice for relaxed vacations all year round. If you stop at Sitia you should visit The “Governor’s House” and the 13th century Venetian Kazarma fortress.
Enjoy a stroll along the harbour’s promenade area, lined with cafés, tavernas, trendy bars and traditional rakadika (local styled tavernas serving raki).
Toplou monastery is one of the most significant monasteries in Crete, dedicated to Panagia (Virgin Mary) and St. John the Theologian. It is about 6 km north of the village of Palekastro and 85 km east of Agios Nikolaos.
You can combine the trip to Vai palm beach with a visit to Sitia port, Toplou Monastery and Palekastro.
Rent a car and drive to Vai
To rent a car is the best way to explore Crete, for travellers who prefer to make their own itinerary. Many picturesque villages, beaches, monuments, archaeological places, breathtaking views, cosmopolitan cities. You might be more tired but also more rewarded too.
Our local car rental agencies offer affordable and valuable car rental services to all types of travellers.
You can collect the car directly at Chania airport or at Heraklion airport ( HER) so you can get started immediately. Alternatively, if you arrive by boat, a car rental in Souda Port or Heraklion Port can be brought to you when you disembark.
Also, you can collect the car directly outside of your hotel or apartment.
Choose from luxury or economy packages and enjoy fleets of quality cars, all protected by fully-comprehensive insurance policies and equipped with different amenities to help make your trip more comfortable. You can easily book a vehicle online using our website, or by calling us at (+30) 6970980918. ( Whats app & Viber)
Visit us and choose one of our cars.
Pick a bus tour to Vai Palm Beach
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