Despite being rather built-up, this beach resort some 20km west of Iraklio hugs a lovely, sandy beach with clear water and excellent swimming. Seafront tavernas are great for people-watching even if they don’t offer any culinary flights of fancy. For a glimpse of underwater life, check with Diver’s Club, which offers the gamut of PADI courses and dives to caves, reefs and even a WWII plane wreck.
A 10-minute drive from Agia Pelagia (or a winding 3km), but seemingly a world away, Mourtzanakis Residence is a cluster of seven modern loft-style guesthouses offering plenty of elbow room and thoughtfully equipped kitchens. Enjoy a dip in the smallish pool, take in the grand vistas out to sea from your balcony or stroll to the nearby historic village of Achlada. For those who don’t want to dirty their hotplates (yeah, great excuse), evening meals are available for €17 and breakfast €9.