Sfakia region on the southern coast of Crete is rugged and wild with exits from the great canyons of Samaria and Imbros. Hidden among the steep cliffs you will find the remote and picturesque villages of Chora Sfakion, Loutro, and Agia Roumeli. If you love adventures in nature, swimming, hiking and exploring mountainous villages and ancient sites, this is the place to be.
Agia Roumeli – at the exit of Samaria Gorge
Agia Roumeli is a small village in southwest Crete and is popular with tourists. Located a few kilometres above the town is the exit of the Samaria Gorge.
For most walkers, this is the exit, as the usual route through the gorge is to descend from the north. The gorge is a popular tourist destination in Crete, the longest gorge in Greece, and one of the longest in Europe, measuring 18 km. Agia Roumeni has several hotels and a few rooms for rent and also some tavernas. The village has a large beach and a ferry slipway where the ferry to and from Hora Sfakion via Loutro, arrives, mainly used by walkers who have completed the Samaria walk. The village is not accessible by road.
STARTING FROM CHANIA TOWN
Where is Hora Sfakiá?
Sfakia Chania is a village built on the hill slopes on the southern side of the White Mountains in Crete. It is completely unspoiled, overlooking the stunning natural bay. You will know it as the harbour which you reach after having hiked through the famous Samaria Gorge. Another famous, but shorter gorge nearby is Imbros. The historical village of Sfakia is 72 km southeast of Chania town. Most of the 265 inhabitants are involved in fishing and goat herding and production of the delicious Cretan cheeses. . Chora Sfakiá has two small harbours, where the ferry boats from Agia Roumeli dock, which in the summer bring the hikers from the Samaria Gorge to take buses back to the northern coast. From Chora Sfakiá ferries also run to the nearby coastal town of Loutro and the island of Gavdos.
Sfakia – authentic and tranquil atmosphere
This traditional and authentic village is perfect for your expeditions on the southern coast of Crete. The tranquil atmosphere is only interrupted by the afternoon arrivals of hikers coming from Samaria Gorge with small boats.
Sfakia and the excellent local cuisine
The traditional village of Sfakia offers picturesque settings for enjoying the local cuisine at one of the few great restaurants whether you prefer the seafront or inside Chora Sfakia. Around the port of Sfakia you will find plenty of fish taverns and cafes. Go for a dip in the blue sea at the main beach of Sfakia before your lunch at the port, it is an excellent choice. From Sfakia it is easy to visit wild gorgeous landscapes of Imbros and Samaria gorge.
Samaria the Lazy Way
STARTING FROM RETHYMNO TOWN
Hora Sfakion is a small village with a main harbour front of tavernas, two minimarkets, a butcher and a bakery. There is a quiet local beach immediately west of the village, and several pebbly beaches nearby. The town offers a variety of tourist accommodation: rooms, studios and apartments. The local economy is based on tourism, fishing, olive oil production and sheep and goat herding.
Hora Sfakíon during history
Hóra Sfakíon prospered during the Venetian and Turkish occupations and up to the 18th century carried on a flourishing trade with its own small fleet. It was said to have had a hundred churches but the town suffered badly from wartime bombardment during the Battle of Crete and the Allied evacuation that followed.
Hóra Sfakíon is famous as one of the centers of resistance against the occupying forces of both the Venetians and the Turks. The impenetrable White Mountains to the north combined with the rocky beaches on the south helped the locals fight off all invaders. Anopolis, a village near Hóra Sfakíon, is the birthplace of one of the most celebrated Cretan revolutionaries, Daskalogiannis.
Loutro village – an ancient natural harbour
You will find the seaside village of Loutro on the south coast of Crete, 70 km from Chania town, near Sfakiá. The name Loutro means ‘bath’ probably referring to the ancient baths in the region. Today it is believed that Loutro is identical with ancient Phoenix, of which no remains have been found. Being a safe natural harbour, even during storms, it was the port of ancient Anopolis in ancient years. Later, it also became the winter port of Sfakia.
Loutro – follow hiking paths to ancient, mountainous Anopolis
Loutro is a small place but it too has a rich history. Loutro is believed to be part of ancient Foinikas and the port of ancient Anopolis. It became the winter harbour of Sfakia. The gulf and the islet make a natural harbour where ships can be safe even in the worst of weather. Today nothing remains of ancient Phoenix except the name preserved by the small village in the bay west of Loutro. Later the Saracen pirates used Loutro as a lair from which to attack the ships sailing south of Crete. The Venetians managed to drive out the Saracens and fortified Loutro with a small fortress whose ruins are still visible today. Another fortress preserved in better condition in Loutro is evidence of the Turkish presence here.
Loutro is also a rocky islet in the gulf of Loutro in the Libyan Sea. The islet can be found close to the end of Cape Mouri.
Charming remote village – only by boat
The only way to get to Loutro is by ferry from Chora Sfakion. There is no road there, which is part of its unique charm. The boat leaves the harbour at Chora Sfakion, travels past the steep coastline with its caves and cliffs dropping sheer into the deep blue water, and enters the calm bay of Loutro where a row of white houses comes into view, crowning the small beach hidden in the arms of the Sfakia mountains.
Loutro holiday resort
Loutro is a picturesque and tranquil place off the beaten track. You can reach it only on foot or by boat, which is why it has kept its authentic charm. Ferries connect Loutro with Agia Roumeli and other nearby towns daily, as hikers reaching the exit point of Samaria Gorge passes Loutro by ferry on their way to Agia Roumeli. You will find hiking paths from Loutro to the ruins of Ancient Anopolis and the Byzantine church of Archangel Michael. Loutro has some beautiful old buildings along the waterfront, among them is the Governor House, used during the Greek uprising against the Turks in 1821.
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Loutro – What to do?
- A short walk to the Turkish fortress or a stroll to the ruins of the Venetian castle of Loutro.
- Hire a canoe and paddle around Loutro bay.
- Take the morning boat to the nearby beaches of Marmara and Glyka Nera. Glyka Nera is one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete and is usually popular with naturists.
- Walk along the path to Glyka Nera. It’s an easy route and takes about an hour.
- Walk to Marmara, about one and a half hours away.
- Walk up to Anopolis along the path starting on the east side of Loutro. You climb up to about 700 metres above sea level, with the stunning view unfolding before you all the way.
- Take the ferry to Agia Roumeli and walk up the Samaria Gorge. This is known as the “lazy way”, as it’s only 3.5 km from Agia Roumeli to the “Sideroportes” (Iron Gates), the narrowest point of the gorge.
If you love adventure and extreme sports, you can enjoy a plunge into nothingness by bungee jumping from the high bridge over the Aradena Gorge. Watch (below) the video of a bungee jump from the 138 meters high bridge.
Trekking the Aradena Gorge
If you prefer a bit of a trek, walk along the spectacular and still lonesome Aradena Gorge. Start in Loutro, walk up to Anopoli, follow the paved road to Aradena. The entrance is just after the high bridge. and the exit is at Marmara beach, from where you can return to Loutro along the coast path. This trip may take more than six hours (breaks not counted), and in July or August when it is really hot, only experienced walkers should start on this trip. Some returning visitors find this the finest hike you can do in the area.
Sougia beach – remote, clean, and unspoiled
In between the villages of Agia Roumeli and Paleochora, 70 km southwest of Chania lies one of the best beaches in all of Crete. It is 1200 m long and therefore never crowded. It has smooth and colourful pebbles and crystal-clear waters. The beach of Sougia has been nominated as one of the cleanest beaches Greece. It is only partly organized since it is protected, just a few showers along the beach, but no tourist facilities and buildings. For a large part of the beach nudism is allowed. If you want to stay for a few days, the village of Sougia has accommodation in all categories and great taverns and restaurants.
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Weather and climate in Chora Sfakiá