The well-known area of Preveli is located about 35 km south of Rethymno and 10 km east of Plakias. The Kourtaliotis river, known also as the Great River (Megalos Potamos), flows through the imposing Kourtaliotiko Gorge and ends up in the sea in the area of the Beach of Preveli which is also known as Lake Preveli or Phoenix, the ancient name of the area as it is believed to have been a port for the ancient city of Lappa (Argyroupolis).
The area of Preveli is famous for the second largest palm tree forest in the island as palm trees of Theophrastus grow on the banks of the Great River (which at this part is also known as Preveli river) and give you the feeling that you are somewhere in Africa in an oasis. The area has thousands of visitors every summer and it was a favorite destination for hippies during the 60’s and the 70’s. At the last part of the river, as it flows out to the sea, the river widens and this area is known as Lake Preveli. An impressive fact is that the river has running water all year round (in Samaria during summertime the river dries out and does not end up in the sea). Another interesting story is how the palm trees first grew in this area. It was a common belief that the pirates that were coming out to the shore for fresh water had fruits with them and so from these seeds we got the palm tree forest. But this cannot be true as the fruits that the palm trees produce nowadays are not edible. According to the scientists the trees probably grew in the area with the help of the migrating birds on their way and back from Europe to Africa. The area of Preveli is a protected area of natural beauty for the endangered and unique species of flora and fauna that can be found in the area with the program Natura 2000. Unfortunately, in 2010 there was a big fire on a very windy day that burnt all of the palm trees and other trees and bushes along the river. Scientists were devastated and believed that it could take 5-10 years for something to be reborn. Amazingly, in only 1 year the palm trees were reborn due to a unique ability that these trees have. They are slow-burned which means that the fire as it passed quickly with the strong wind did not have enough time to completely burn them down to their core and so with the help of the river the trees had an amazing recovery. You can walk on the paths along the river banks, under the shade of the palm trees and notice how the trunks of the trees are black but new branches are born. You can also dive and swim in the waters of the river and in the numerous ponds that are formed in an ideal scenery.
As the river flows through the sandy beach (with some pebbles in the front) and into the sea the water becomes cooler and more refreshing. In the eastern part of the beach, lies an impressive rock with a shape that can look like a face, a heart, a fist or anything else your imagination might make it for depending on the time of the day and where you look at it from. There are no umbrellas on the beach as it is a protected area, as mentioned before, but there is a small restaurant with tables set up under the shade of the trees where you can have something to eat or drink.
There are three basic options to get to the beach of Preveli. Firstly, you can drive towards the Preveli Monastery and as you get past the Venetian bridge to your left, after about 1.5 km you will see a road to your left that leads to a parking area. There you can leave your car and walk down the approximately 600 steps down the hill to the beach of Preveli. This will take you about 15-20 minutes but the view is more than rewarding. The second way to get to the beach of Preveli is to drive to the left of the Venetian bridge and from there to follow the dirt road that leads to a beach next to Preveli called Drimiskiano Ammoudi. From there you can follow a few steps over a small hill that separates the two beaches for about 5 minutes and get to Preveli. Lastly, you can drive to Plakias and from there pick up a boat that will get you to Preveli beach and will come by to pick you up from there a few hours later. In this way you avoid the steps and you can enjoy a wonderful cruise along the southern coastline.