The palm trees shade serves as the perfect tent. The warm breeze brushes your face. You feel the soothing sand beneath you. You want to close your eyes, but you cannot take them off the crystal clear waters. You are not on a tropical island in the heart of South Pacific. You are in the eastern part of Crete, at the palm beach of Vai.
As the largest and most impressive natural palm forest of Europe, covering 50 acres, Vai has inspired many legends. Some say it was formed by the Phoenicians, others believe it is the result of discarded pips left by the Egyptian soldiers of Ptolemy Philomater and most enjoy the stories of the Saracen pirates using it as a refuge.
The mystery surrounding it, was probably what attracted the last Hippies who fled Matala and Preveli in the 70s. It remains one of the most popular attractions on the island. So if you want to find the perfect spot on the beach, you need to wake up early.
How to get there: Vai is located 24 km east of Sitia and about 6 km from Palaikastro. From Sitia, take the road to Toplou Monastery and continue another 8 km further. It is about 4 hours’ drive from Rethymno and 5 hours drive from Chania.
Text and photos by Natasa Stasinou