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Vai beach, Lassithi Crete

The exotic sandy beach of Vai with the unique palm trees wood in Europe is situated at a distance of 94 kilometers far from Aghios Nicolaos at the Northeast and 24 kilometers eastern to Sitia. It has been named after the word “vagia”, meaning “palm tree” or “rims of palm tree” in Greek. According to the local tradition the wood had been grown from the stones of dates thrown away by Arab pirates or Phoenician merchants set ashore at the place. Within a space of 60 acres there are some 5.000 perennial trees, a real oasis at the desert-like landscape of Eastern Crete. The beach is somehow affected by the winds blowing in the area, but who cares about winds when being in such a breathtaking environment!

It is quite impossible to describe in words this landscape of unique beauty! Only whoever has visited it can perceive what is it like. It is one of the most special places in Greece and can be compared only with Meteora in Thessaly, with the Samaria Gorge at Chania and with a couple of other places. Due to the palm trees wood it looks rather like an African beach with sand and fine pebbles, placed on the territory of Europe.
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The core of the wood, where plantation is thicker, is fenced; access to this part is allowed every day from sunrise to sunset, all year round; staying overnight it the wood is strictly forbidden. The beach is well organised and has been awarded a blue flag. This beach is one of the few samples of good combination of facilities with preservation and respect to the natural environment. Sea sport facilities, cafes and restaurants are available, in a scale that doesn’t damage this amazing landscape. However, many visitors suggest that Vai was better a few decades ago, without human intervention and the recent constructions; even the access was difficult as the road leading to the wood was unsealed. Anyway, today Vai receives thousands of visitors and in summer it is really packed.

The wood is situated at the exit of a quite narrow valley, ending up at the famous beach of Vai; a spring of good sweet water and a small brook with numerous oleanders within the riverbed are found in the inner wood. The wood is unique not only for its beauty but also for the species of palm trees it is comprised of. A wood of the “phoenix theophrasti” as it is called in Botanology is found in European territory, only here and on the Canary Islands.

Not only the wood, but the whole landscape contribute to this inconceivable beauty: the thick sand forms dunes around, while at the nearby low hills you will find rare plants with extraordinary flowers (mainly in spring), certainly worth of taking photos of them.

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The best seasons for a visit to Vai are spring and autumn, as in summer it is too hot for walks. But if you go there in summer, try to stroll around before 11.00 in the morning, or after 5.00 in the afternoon. Don’t forget that in summer the area gets too crowded. However, walking northwards along the beach you will find some smaller beaches, less crowded but equally beautiful. And a piece of advice: if you don’t want to rent an umbrella near the sea, don’t worry! You may relax under the natural shade of the palm trees, within the wood. What is better in a hot summer noon!

Wherever you are in Crete, don’t miss to visit Vai! If you leave the island without going there, you will have the feeling that you have seen nothing! It is not an exaggeration; it’s just the truth!!

If you feel like wandering around, you may drive for 2 kilometers northwards to the archaeological site of Itanos, where you will see the ruins of the ancient city sunk in the sea. And, if you are lucky enough to have a yacht or a small boat you may visit the islet of Elassa, at a distance of 3,5 nautical miles eastern to Vai.

Access from Aghios Nicolaos or Sitia is possible by rented or private car and motorbikes. The beach is also connected with Sitia by public bus, with frequent service, running to Palaekastro, Zakros and Vai and back to Sitia; the duration of the journey Sitia – Vai is some 1.30 hours. From Sitia you can also use a taxi.
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