Visiting Loutro, a small town on the southern coast of Crete accessed only by boat or foot, was the part of our Greek vacation that I would most want to do again . . . preferably, when the temperatures are less than 40*C.
I’m a huge fan of hiking and, luckily for me, Matt is too so we try to incorporate hiking into our vacations whenever we can (like we did in New Hampshire and Tobermory) and Loutro is the perfect place to stay for easy access to lots of gorgeous hiking trails unlike any I’d ever seen before.
Because of the heat and the complete lack of any shade anywhere, Matt and I didn’t hike quite as much as I would have liked (only about 2-4 hours a day) we actually spent most of our time on the beach. Now, I’m not much of a beach person but relaxing on the stone beaches on the Libyan Sea felt much more rewarding after a hot and sweaty hike so I thoroughly enjoyed the hours I spent reading and swimming.
Since Loutro can only be accessed by boat or foot, to get to the small towns or beaches in the area you have to hike or take a ferry. Renting a boat is a good alternative option for flexibility in visiting beaches in the area or just for seeing the beautiful Southern coast of Crete.
A boat rental for the day should cost under 100Euros (more info)
I wanted to hike a gorge in Crete but I didn’t want to fight the crowds at Samaria. There were definitely no crowds here, we only encountered one goat farmer in the entire 2.5 hours. We had the entire hike to ourselves.
The Aradena Gorge is within hiking distance of Loutro and is worth the strenuous climb up to walk back down to sea level between towering walls of red stone. It is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done and nothing like I’ve ever seen. The hike ends at Marmara Beach, the most beautiful in the area (in my opinion). You can take the coastal trail back to Loutro from here.
How to Get There:
From Loutro find the trailhead just to the left of Sofia’s Mini Market. You will hike up past the Venetian Castle, as you approach the town of Phoenix don’t go into the town but stay right on the path toward Livaniana instead. When you reach Livaniana you will follow the blue spray-painted rocks pointing toward Marmara. This will take you down the lower half of the Aradena Gorge to Marmara Beach.
Alternately you can hike up to the village of Anapoli and then over to the village of Aradena and descend the entire gorge.
There is very little shade on this trail until you reach the Aradena Gorge.
The hike is very rocky and requires at least a pair of running shoes if not hiking shoes. I imagine it would be extremely slippery when wet.
We encountered a LOT of bees on this trail collecting pollen from the wildflowers.
Bring water. The only stop along the way is a small taverna in Livaniana.
Watch out for goats, especially if they’re kicking rocks down on you from the cliffsides.
You can access Marmara Beach by boat but the hike between Loutro and Marmara Beach was one of my favourites. It seemed a little dangerous at times and I spent more time watching my footing than anything else. The path is narrow and is right on a cliffside that descends hundreds of metres down to the jagged rocks on the Libyan Sea. It was scary, but very, very cool!
Marmara Beach itself was awesome. It is a stone beach lined with lounge chairs and umbrellas that you can rent for 6 Euro on the crystal clear Libyan Sea. You can’t really tell from the land, but if you swim out you’ll find numerous marble caves on the left side of the beach cut out by the sea. You can swim in the caves and even find little passages between them! It was by far the best swimming experience in Crete.
The little taverna at Marmara shouldn’t be overlooked. The food is cooked fresh and is very tasty and is actually quite inexpensive considering they have a monopoly on food service at the beach. I wish we had eaten dinner there!
How to Get There:
Walking: You can do the Aradena Gorge hike which ends at Marmara beach or you can just take the coastal trail there and back. This route starts at the same trailhead to the left of Sofia’s Mini Market. Follow the yellow and black markers past Phoenix. The trail will take you right through tavernas in the small town of Likkos, and then continue along the footpath on the cliffside, ending at Marmara. ~1 hour.
By boat: A small boat leaves Loutro from the ferry dock to take visitors to Marmara beach at 11:00am. The boat picks up visitors at 5:00pm.
Don’t do the hike if it is raining or has recently rained.
Good shoes are a must.
I love how you can just climb the ruins of this old Venetian Castle like a goat. It’s just another of the many remnants of Crete’s Venetian past. It’s a quick hike to get up here so if you don’t have the endurance for one of the more challenging hikes in the area, then this one is a good one. Plus, it’s fun to hang out in an old castle!
The castle offers great views of Loutro, the sea, and the neighbouring towns.
How to Get There:
From Loutro take the trailhead just to the left of Sofia’s Mini Market. Hike up, east toward the Venetian castle.~10 minutes.
I’ll be honest that this wasn’t my favourite beach, or hike for that matter. The hike felt safer and didn’t have the same excitment of the trail between Loutro and Marmara. The beach is similar to Marmara (stone beach, clear & refreshing water) but larger and slightly busier (so there must be something to it!). I included Sweetwater Beach here because of it’s popularity but I wish we would have gone back to Marmara!
How to Get There:
Walking: Catch the trailhead near Kostas Cafe taking the trail east along the cliffside, ending at Sweetwater. ~45 min.
By boat: A small boat leaves Loutro from the ferry dock to take visitors to Sweetwater beach at 11:00am. The boat picks up visitors at 4:30pm. Ask at the taverna to ensure the correct departure time.
I had the most delicious swordfish souvlaki at Pavlo’s. The fresh raw souvlakis were on display so you know you’re eating fish straight out of the sea. But if seafood isn’t your thing, you can find whole lambs roasting all day on a spit.
Try out one of the restaurants that displays the fresh fish so you know what you’re getting.
I mentioned the Samaria Gorge in my last post about Chania. Click over for more details. Like I said, Matt and I skipped this hike because of the heat but it is really popular with tourists.
Most tourists hike down from Omalos but since, from Loutro, you’re closer to the sea level endpoint of Agia Roumeli you can spend the day hiking upward instead, getting a better workout, and avoiding some of the crowds.
How to Get There:
The logistics of this are a bit more difficult. You can take the 10:30AM ferry from Loutro to Agia Roumeli
but buses from Omalos, the end point of the hike, only run in the morning so you’d have to catch a cab back to Chora Sfakia and then the ferry to Loutro.