Xerokambos is a quiet and beautiful coastal settlement on the far end of South East Crete. It is located approximately 100 kilometre southeast of Agios Nikolaos, about 45 kilometre south of Sitia and roughly 43 kilometre east of Makrigialos. It belongs to the municipality of Sitia and is characterised with all kind of beaches with crystal clear waters. Xerokambos means actually ‘dry plain’. The name came from the fact that this region had been a dry place for a lot of years. The beaches of Xerokambos and the area around it are considered as some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches of Eastern Crete and the Mediterranean. It has beaches with golden sand, with white sand, with small pebbles and a beach with sandy clay for those who enjoy a natural spa.
Xerokambos is a place of natural beauty, offering an infrastructure of small hotels, taverns, apartments, super markets, some luxury villas and facilities. It is an old settlement, recorded first in the 1583 Venetian census. The ancients were certainly aware of the beauty of this place and its important position, the area has been inhabited since Minoan times. The wild beauty of the steep mountains and canyons surrounding Xerokambos are combined with fantastic beaches, coastal bays, palm trees and olive groves in peaceful surroundings. This creates a fabulous scenery transforming the area of Xerokambos into a paradise of South East Crete. The place is also an ideal stop for vistors doing a tour from Makrigialos towards the other paradise close by, Kato Zakros.
Regarding food and entertainment, there are several taverns and restaurants in Xerokambos, some of them right on the beach. The atmosphere is warm at these restaurants, the food is delicious and they serve a selection of traditional, tasty Cretan food and fresh fish. In Xerokambos there is also a small mini market that can cover all your basic needs. For a gas station, butcher, withdrawing cash and a pharmacy you will have to visit by car the near by village of Zakros. The village of Zakros is about 9 kilometre further to the north and just before the beautiful bay of Kato Zakros. Because of it’s location and isolation, tourism has not discovered Xerokambos and is pretty much low key. The busiest period is in July and August with a lot of local visitors and people going for a day trip.
Mazzida Ammos beach is the largest tropical beach of Xerokambos with white sands and turquoise swallow waters. Opposite of Ammos you will see the large rocks of Kavali and on the east one can easily see Koufounisi island. The legendary oceanographic ship Calypso of Jacques Yves Cousteau has stopped at this place for an entire summer. On the north side of Xerokambos, you can see and visit the large seasonal salty lake or "Alatsolimni" (Alati is Salt in Greek) as it is called in Greek. During the summer months the wetland dries and reveals a large area full of salt. Forming a lagoon during the winter period, it’s an ideal and significant biotope of the area. The lagoon is an ideal refuge for many migratory birds such us flamingos and herons.
Close and around the salt lake you can find many sand dunes or Ammothines. They are generated by the combined action of the sea water and the wind and very sensitive ecosystems, hosting a large variety of animal and vegetative species. See also our news post about Ammothines. A little bit further, beneath the small church of Saint Nicholas and in a small bay you will find the renowned beach of Argilos where the Pliocene marl make their appearance. This soil formation has two characteristics; they contain a high percentage of clay and they are very fragmented. This specific soil can easily be broken off by hand and used by bathers to apply natural clay to their body and during summer you will see people covered with clay in order to enjoy a natural spa and massage.
For gorge walkers it is a must to visit the Irini gorge, clearly described in the book ’34 walks in East Crete’ by Peter Dijkstra. One of the rewards of walking this gorge is the visit at Hamatoulo, a picturesque traditional small village which is said to be the oldest habitable village on Crete! Xerokambos can be reached by road from the direction Sitia to Palekastro or from Makrigialos to Goudouras. The latest is a well built, asphalted, winding and breathtaking road through roughed, rocky mountains. This road close to the end passes the Ziros plateau and is one of the most beautiful roads of Crete with a beautiful view of Xerokambos and the sea. The road is built around a stony natural landscape, with many herbs and congestion caused only by goats or sheep!