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Where To See Turtles In Crete – Complete Guide

If you’re looking for somewhere to see turtles in Crete then you’re in the right place.

Nothing can beat that amazing feeling of seeing a turtle up close and personal in their natural habitat! Why not try it for yourself?

This post will tell you all of the best places to see turtles in Crete and includes where you can go swimming with turtles in Crete and where you can see baby turtles hatching.

Are There Sea Turtles in Crete? 

Yes, there are sea turtles in Crete.

Crete is a popular turtle breeding ground meaning that sea turtles return every single year to lay their eggs and baby sea turtles hatch on the beaches.

During the summer, you can actually go swimming with turtles in Crete. The most common species of turtle present in Crete is the rare Loggerhead turtle.

These are known locally as caretta caretta sea turtles.

I’d recommend joining this day tour to Elafonissi Beach for the best possible chance of seeing the turtles for yourself.

Turtles nest on this beach every year without fail so you have an insanely high chance of seeing turtles here.

In fact, turtles can be found all over Greece. Check out my post on where to see turtles in Greece for more information.

Best Places To See Turtles in Crete

There are many places where you can swim with turtles in Crete. 

Below I’ve listed the top spots where you’ll have the best possible chance of seeing a turtle including some handy links to the most top rated sea turtle tours.

1. Elafonissi Beach

One of the best places to see turtles in Crete is at Elafonissi Beach which is located on the southwestern corner of the island.

Head over to Elafonissi Beach during nesting season to see the mother turtles laying their eggs and the baby turtles hatching!

It’s a wonderful experience and something you shouldn’t miss.

To make things super easy for you, you can join an Elafonissi Beach Full-Day Trip which will take you to the beach from Chania.

This beach is very famous, not only for its nesting turtle population, but also for its pink sand! Yep, you read that right – this beach is pink.

The pink color comes from the thousands of broken seashells which form part of the sand.

2. Mirabello Bay

Another place where you can see turtles in Crete is at Mirabello Bay which is located on the northeastern side of the island.

The best way to explore this bay and spot turtles is by joining a boat tour around Mirabello Bay.

Whilst on the boat tour, you will be able to spot a range of colorful fish species as well as turtles, seals and dolphins!

This serene bay is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. With crystal clear waters, impressive mountains and soft white sand, you won’t be disappointed.

Snorkeling is also a super popular activity here and gives you the chance to get in the water and swim with the turtles. It’s actually one of the best places to go snorkeling in Crete.

Check out the sea turtle spotted whilst snorkeling in Crete at Mirabello Bay in the video below:

3. Lake Kournas

Another place where you get the chance to go swimming with turtles in Crete is at Lake Kournas which is a freshwater lake located near the village of Kournas.

This 3.5km wide lake is teeming with marine life and the water is insanely clear so you’ll have a hard time NOT spotting turtles.

To reach this lake (which is a bit out of the way), I’d recommend joining this West Crete day tour from Heraklion.

The knowledgeable guides will take you to the best spots in western Crete including the magnificent Lake Kournas for a dip in the lake with the turtles.

Lake Kournas is actually Crete’s only freshwater lake and it is truly one of Crete’s best kept secrets with turquoise waters and a mountainous backdrop…what more could you need.

Feel free to take a plunge into the lake and go swimming with the turtles, watch them glide peacefully through the water searching for food or coming up for air.

💡Tip: Bring a waterproof camera like the GoPro Hero 10 to get some photos and videos of you with the turtles.

Check out what you can expect from Lake Kournas in the video below:

4. Rethymnon Beach

Another place where you can see turtles in Crete is at Rethymnon Beach which is located on the northern coast of the island.

Rethymnon Beach is a long, sandy beach with crystal clear waters.

Turtles return to Rethymnon Beach every single year without fail to lay their eggs and these eggs eventually hatch into cute baby hatchlings. 

You may see small wooden structures on the beaches. These are placed over turtle nests to protect them. Charities work in this area to protect the turtles.

There are usually opportunities to volunteer with these charities and help the baby turtles’ chances of survival (more on this later in the post).

Check out these super cute baby sea turtles spotted on Rethymnon Beach in the video below:

5. Chania

Another place where you can see turtles in Crete is in Chania, a city located on the northwest coast of Crete.

Chania is a vibrant city known for its 14th century Venetian harbor, narrow streets and waterfront restaurants.

The beaches of Chania are another super popular turtle breeding ground with female turtles coming here every year to lay their eggs.

Head to one of the many beaches of Chania to see a turtle nest but remember not to disturb them!

Turtles can very commonly be spotted in the ocean at Chania so keep your eyes peeled. 

You also have the opportunity to go swimming with turtles here which is truly an incredible experience!

Check out the huge sea turtle spotted in Chania in the video below:

6. Messara Bay

Another place where you can see turtles in Crete is at Messara Bay in southern Crete.

There are several beaches that line this expansive bay which play host every year to female turtles who come to lay their eggs.

This area is another hotspot for turtle activity.

Turtle Hatching in Crete

Crete is actually one of the most important breeding grounds for caretta caretta turtles as hundreds of loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the island’s sandy beaches every single summer.

The charity Archelon works in the area to protect turtles by placing small wooden structures over the nest to let people know they are there.

If you ever see these structures then be careful and ensure you don’t mess with it. 

It is also advised that you avoid evening walks on the beach when it’s dark as you may step on a nest without realizing. 

The work that charities like Archelon do is vital as the baby turtles face more challenges than ever including:

  • Eggs are often crushed by beach activities.
  • Birds take the eggs whilst looking for a meal.
  • Development on the beaches damage breeding grounds.
  • Ocean pollution.

Some of these baby turtles struggle to make it to the ocean because of this and need extra help from volunteers. 

Luckily for you, the charity Archelon allows volunteers to join them and will take you to the exact beaches where the turtles lay their eggs. 

You can help the baby turtles’ chances of survival by taking care of their nest, protecting them until birth and then helping them reach the ocean after hatching.

Volunteering with Archelon allows you to make an environmental impact whilst on vacation, learn about the baby turtles and is also a super fulfilling experience and something you can tell all your friends about.

Check out one of these beautiful baby turtles in the video below:

When Can You See Turtles in Crete?

Sea turtle nesting season in Crete runs from late May through to August. This is when the mother turtles come onto the beaches to lay their eggs.

Baby sea turtles tend to hatch around 45 days after their egg has been laid and then they make their way into the ocean to begin their life.

This means that from May to August you will actually be able to see the turtles nesting. 

The baby turtles start hatching from late July until October so if you’re lucky you might even spot a baby sea turtle hatching from an egg! Now that would be a sight you wouldn’t forget in a hurry.

Tips For Swimming With Turtles

First time swimming with turtles? 

To ensure the turtles remain safe, there’s a few key things to bear in mind when swimming with them in Crete.

Remember that all of the different turtle species are endangered so it’s important that we do all we can to help their chances.

  • Don’t be too loud. Try to be as quiet as possible when swimming up to a turtle as loud noises will scare them away.
  • Do not touch the turtle. Turtles are wild animals and should be respected.
  • Do not get too close. This might scare the turtle and they could bite you if they get really scared (don’t worry this is super rare!).
  • Do not feed the turtles. They don’t need help finding food.
  • Always approach a turtle from the side. This gives them a clear view of you and a clear path ahead of them if they want to swim onwards.
  • Don’t disrupt the turtle’s natural behavior. You can enjoy the turtles by watching them do their thing but try not to disturb them.

These key tips protect both you and the turtles.

Fun Sea Turtle Facts

To get you prepared for your trip to Crete where you’ll hopefully see some beautiful sea turtles, here’s some fun turtle facts.

  • The correct word for a baby turtle is a ‘hatchling’.
  • A typical Loggerhead turtle will be 90cm long and weighs around 160kg.
  • Sea turtles tend to build their nests for their eggs in the same location that they were born.
  • Mother turtles lay up to 100 eggs in each nest.
  • It is estimated that only 1 out of 1,000 hatchlings survives to be an adult so they need all the help they can get.
  • In their lifetime, female turtles lay thousands of eggs so at least a few will survive.
  • Loggerhead turtles mostly eat crabs, whelks, and conchs.
  • Sea turtles have been on Earth for more than 100 million years, even outliving the dinosaurs who became extinct 65 million years ago.
  • All species of sea turtles are either threatened or endangered.
  • Sea turtles never get to meet their babies as after laying their eggs, the mothers return to the ocean.
  • Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea.
  • The gender of a baby turtle is determined by the temperature of the nest – warmer temperatures tend to lead to females whereas cooler temperatures tend to lead to males.

Thanks for reading this post on where to see turtles in Crete. 

Crete is one of the best locations in the whole world for seeing the rare Loggerhead sea turtles (or caretta caretta turtles) up close and personal.

You may even get the chance to see baby sea turtles hatching too which is truly a once in a lifetime experience. 

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