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Falassarna (spell it both ways), on the extreme west coast of Crete, has stunning scenery and has so far managed to avoid the excesses of concretisation which has afflicted so much of the north coast. A fast and easy drive along the main highway from Chania through Kastelli [also Kissamos] takes you across the base of the Gramvousa peninsula to the stunning wide sweep of Falassarna beach, with its off-island (uninhabited) of Petalida slightly sheltering it from the vagaries of the Meltemi, the strong northerly wind which traditionally blows in high season. That can make the sea choppy – and occasionally even a bit dangerous, so watch your children – but also acts as free air-con.
At the northern end of the beach is a small archaeological site (also Falassarna), so informal that you just walk in. Behind the narrow coastal strip, the Gramvousa mountains tower majestically, framing the whole dramatic panorama. Along the edge of the beach, and the set-back road, there are a few small hotels and restaurants, of which the most splendidly placed are the Panorama Rooms, literally perching on the low cliff above the sands. A short drive back towards “civilisation” brings you to the pretty village of Platanos with more restaurants and Greek atmosphere if you have tired of the sea-shore.
After Falassarna the dramatic corniche snakes its way southwards through small villages like Sfinari and Kambos until it drops to sea level at the monastery of Chrisokalitissa and, just beyond, the amazing sands at the lagoon of Elafonisi. After that, you have to take a long inland diversion before you reach the south coast.
In season, there are boat trips from Kastelli to the famous lagoon at the northern tip of the Gramvousa peninsula; out of season pack your sandwiches and walk (2 hours?) up the west coast from Falassarna.