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Loutro: Guide to Crete’s Most Stunning and Isolated Village

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Hands down, one of the prettiest villages in all of Crete, Loutro is like a shimmering white vision of exactly what a tiny Greek fishing village should look like. A small cluster of white buildings with blue trim and pink bougainvillea sheltered in a spectacular aquamarine bay with mountains rising up directly behind – Loutro Sfakia is a sight to behold.

Utterly peaceful and relaxing, there are no big resorts in Loutro, just small hotels and a few cozy tavernas. Oh, and there is no road access. So, no cars, obviously. And, while that doesn’t keep it from getting busy, especially in summer, it definitely keeps it from getting as busy. There are more goats than you might expect, though.

Boats in front of Loutro Crete
The white and blue buildings of Loutro Crete

Realistically, very few tourists even stop at Loutro. Most are content to take a few photos from the boat as part of their coastal cruise. The nearest road reaches Phoenix/Finikas, which is roughly a 20-minute walk up and over the peninsula. The closest actual town is Sfakia (in typical Greek fashion it is also called Hora Sfakion or Chora Sfakion), where you will find a larger selection of hotels, restaurants and even an ATM.

Loutro Crete Map

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Things to Do in Loutro

Relax and Do Nothing

This may seem like a rather underwhelming start to our big Loutro list. But wait until you try it! Loutro Sfakia is the perfect place to simply relax, read a book, daydream, enjoy a drink with a view or have a nap in the shade. Truly the type of place people are talking about when they use the term “recharge”.

Restaurant table
Have a drink with a view

Find Your Favourite Beach

While idling away the day on one of Crete’s many fantastic beaches only barely qualifies as doing more than nothing, it may at least mean you need to pack a bag and walk a few minutes. And Loutro has several exceptional beaches within easy walking distance.

Loutro Bay Beach

Beach at Loutro Crete

You may as well start with Loutro Bay Beach since it is literally right there. A tiny slice of sand right in front of the main group of hotels, it is scenic, convenient and the water is shallow with clear water, perfect for families. Like most beaches in the area, rather than sand, the beach is entirely pebbles and some find it handy to wear swimming shoes to go in and out of the water.

Keramos Beach

Beach near Loutro Crete

Located just on the east side of Loutro village, Keramos Beach is very similar to Loutro Bay Beach (shallow, calm, pebbly) but is just a bit longer and more spacious for when the main beach fills up (as it can do fairly quickly).

Pervolaki Beach

Heading east toward Sfakia on a scenic, rocky path you’ll first reach Pervolaki Beach. Nice, quiet, etc.

Timios Stavros Beach/Bay

Rocky beach

Next up in the same direction is Timios Stavros Beach, located in a photogenic little bay. There are also outstanding views from the little church out on the peninsula on the east side of the bay. The beach is about 2 km from Loutro and will take most people around 45 minutes to walk there (the path is slow going places).

Glyka Nera Beach

By far the most popular beach near Loutro and arguably one of the best beaches on all of Crete, Glyka Nera Beach is more commonly known as Sweet Water Beach. It is about 3 km on foot from Loutro (1 hr) or you catch a ferry with one of the two companies that run back and forth in high season.

Person sitting in ocean at Glyka Nera Beach

It is also a rocky beach but the rocks are small (and don’t stick to you like that pesky sand) and the beach is backed by a spectacular grove of trees and steep cliff. Both the name and the trees are the result of the fresh water that runs down the cliffs and to pour out an oddly penis-shaped spout.

Glyka Nera Beach near Loutro

Nudism is allowed/accepted/common (which meant we didn’t have to worry about finding a place to change to swim after our hike) and there is even a small taverna with a diving board located on a tiny islet just offshore.

If you want to visit from the other direction, Sweet Water Beach is roughly a 30-minute walk from the roadside parking area just west of Sfakia.

Person hiking
Part of the hike from Sfakia

Check out our complete list of The Best Beaches on Crete

Finikas Beach

Heading the other direction from Loutro, you’ll quickly reach Phoenix/Finikas/Fenix about 800 metres away up, over and down the ridge (20 minutes on foot). This tiny, sheltered bay has two small beach areas, Finikas and Lykos, as well as kayak rentals and a hotel with a restaurant.

Beach near Loutro Crete

This is the closest road access to Loutro and the best place to have a taxi pick you up after hiking down the Aradena Gorge.

Marmara Beach

Located right at the mouth of Aradena Gorge, this is where you will emerge from the canyon upon completion of your hike. There are amazing views down the coast from here, a nice taverna and some sea caves you can swim or snorkel to.

Beach with rocky hills

Marmara is about 3 km from Loutro and it will take about an hour to walk between the two, or you can take one of small ferries that go back and forth.

Head Out on the Water

Although the Greeks call them canoes for some reason, there are kayaks for rent so you can explore this gorgeous area at your leisure. Or, if you want to eliminate the physical exertion, you can hire a local boat to take you on a coastal cruise. Prices usually start at around €80 per day plus fuel.

Or you can simply take one of the public ferries which run short routes from Loutro Crete or all the way along the coast starting in Sfakia (going as far as Agia Roumeli, Sougia and Paleochora). Guided kayaking tours can also be booked through companies in Sfakia.

See the View from the Venetian Ruins

I’m not sure why I waited so long to mention this one. The photos from this point are the main reason we came all the way to Loutro in the first place, and they certainly didn’t disappoint in person.

Person sitting on rock

There isn’t much left of this old fortress except a few low walls but the look back across the bay at Loutro village is phenomenal. There is even a small snack/drink shop nearby.

Explore the Village

Loutro is a pretty neat little place and worth wandering around on foot. Just don’t block off a whole lot of time – it is not a big place. Just two small roads connected by a few narrow alleys.

Building with flower pots

However, you will find a few shops selling local crafts and souvenirs, plus several cafés with atmospheric outdoor seating offering refreshing beverages and almost always some fresh fish.

White and blue buildings of Loutro Crete

Check out the Church of Sotiros

Just a little bit farther out on the peninsula from the Venetian ruins viewpoint you’ll find the charming white Church of Sotiros. It is set in the middle of a cemetery and enjoys commanding views out over the Libyan Sea.

White church

And just past the church you will find another, even tinier chapel built right into the rock. Also worth a look because, let’s face it, if you’ve set aside time to stay in Loutro you probably don’t have any pressing plans.

Find the Koules Fort of Loutro

Ruins on hill above Loutro Crete

Up the hill above the baby churches is the most notable and recognizable historic site around Loutro, the Koules Fort. This 19th century Turkish tower/castle was built to stamp down the 1866 Cretan rebellion, which was based out of Loutro Bay.

The ruins have a great vantage point overlooking the village and a few bits and pieces are still standing – some walls, the tower and a windmill.

View from above Loutro Crete

Wander Sfakia (Hora Sfakion)

While Sfakia – also called Hora Sfakion – is a booming metropolis compared to Loutro, that isn’t really saying much and it is still a very small, cute, walkable town with a few interesting attractions.

Ocean front village

There is an appealing harbour, a hilltop castle, another small beach, and a good selection of hotels and restaurants. It is also the place to go for shops, bars and even a pharmacy.

Restaurant tables

Head out on a Hike

Although Loutro is hemmed in by the steep cliffs and the ocean, the trails that do exist around Loutro are still plenty impressive. The E4 long-distance European trail passes through here along the coast.

Person hiking along ocean

You can follow it in either direction as far as you dare, or continue all the way west to Agia Roumeli (15 km) or east to Frangokastello (21 km). From either one you should be able to get a boat back (or take the boat there and walk back).

Person hiking to Loutro Crete

You can also hike up the hill to the ancient city of Anopolis (or get a taxi up and walk back down). Make no mistake, this is a strenuous climb (650m of elevation gain) and will probably take around 2 hours (or much longer depending on your fitness).

The trail ends (or starts) with fabulous views from Ancient Anopoli. Once there, take some time to wander around this pleasant village and maybe stop in at one of the tavernas to try a delicious Sfakian pie (goat cheese filling with honey on top).

Plates of food
Our meal at Anapoli Taberna included Sfakian pies

If you want to stay in Anopolis and just take a day trip to Loutro a great choice is Madares Apartments. We loved the sunrises and sunsets, outdoor seating area and having a kitchen. The very helpful owner also arranged transportation for when we hiked the gorges.

Sunset at a hotel
Sunset at Madares

Descend the Aradena Gorge

One of the best hikes in the Loutro area is down Aradena (pronounced a-RA-de-na) Gorge. This beautiful gorge walk/scramble from the abandoned village of the same name that takes much less time and planning than the more famous Samaria. There is a parking area on either side of the Aradena Bridge, then you can either circle around behind the taverna on the official route or make your way to the stone steps on the east side (the old route).

Person hiking in gorge

It is a steep descent to the floor of the gorge and then a mostly gentle downhill the rest of the way, interspersed with some scrambling, some ladders, a few cables and even a bit of climbing. None of it is overly difficult or dangerous but you need to be relatively agile and confident in your balance.

We used trekking poles and they were useful about a third of the time and kind of in the way another third of the time. The final third we just carried them as we strolled along on the flat spots, often whistling like 1950’s dads on their way to work.

It took us just under 2.5 hours (including breaks) to make it from the bridge to Marmara Beach, where there is a taverna with food and drink. From there we hiked east to Likos Beach, Old Phoenix (Fenix/Finix) and Loutros (roughly 1.5 hrs with some stops and taking the longer route around the point to Loutros, which we would recommend as it brings you into the bay quite dramatically at the best Loutros viewpoint).

If you are not staying in Loutros and left your car at the Aradena Bridge then you can arrange for a taxi (i.e. some guy in a truck) to pick you up near the taverna in Old Phoenix and take you back up for €25.

Marvel at the Imbros Gorge

This classically picturesque gorge featuring steep, looming walls and an oasis of trees along the bottom is the second-most popular gorge on Crete after the world-famous Samaria Gorge. Located just on the other side of Sfakia, Imbros Gorge is much easier than Aradena Gorge. Although the path is rocky, there is no scrambling required and the descent is very gradual.

Person hiking in gorge

It took us 2 hours to make it all the way down, where we had lunch at the taverna where our car was waiting for us. If you are staying in Loutro, you can take a boat back from here. Or if you are staying elsewhere, any of the restaurants should be able to give you a ride to the top for €25-30 and in high season a public pickup makes the trip for €5 per person (supposedly).

Head Out for a Swim, Snorkel or Dive

Finally, it would be a crying shame to have access to such an incredible, clear bay and not spend some time in and under the water. The swimming is obviously terrific, and you can rent snorkelling gear at several places in Loutro. Sea turtles are often seen cruising the bay.

Floating in ocean

And for something even more adventurous, you can go scuba diving with Notos Mare out of Sfakia.

Where to Stay: The Best Loutro Hotels

There is only so much room for hotels in Loutro, so none of them are all that big and certainly none would qualify as a “resort”. But they all look out over the bay and are comfortable and quiet. Because the accommodation options are fairly limited it is a good idea to book well in advance (especially for July and August).

Villa Niki Loutro

Up a few flights of stairs, all the better to take advantage of the views, Villa Niki is a popular choice. The studios and apartments all have private balconies and a kitchenette.

Decks of Loutro hotels

The rooms also have aircon for when you need to cool down.

Click here for Villa Niki prices

Daskalogiannis Hotel

The Daskalogiannis Hotel is on the waterfront with great views from the rooms.

Outside of Loutro hotel

People love the included breakfast and the friendly staff will help you with anything you need.

Click here for Daskalogiannis Hotel prices

Molos Apartments

The Molos Apartments may have some of the best views in the village from their spacious private balconies. The small kitchenettes will come in handy, too, and you’ll love the modern, bright and airy rooms.

Click here for Molos Apartments prices

History of Loutro Crete

Built on the site of the ancient city of Finikas/Fenix/Phoenix, Loutro spent time as the main port of both Anopolis and Hora Sfakion at different points in history. The well-protected harbour and small island provided natural protection, making it a very defensible spot.

White buildings of Loutro Crete

The big moment in Loutro history was the 1770 revolution, where Ionnas Vlacho, also known as John the Teacher, led (or “taught”) the Sfakians against the Turkish intruders. A statue of him can be found in Anopoli.

Things to Do Near Loutro

Explore Pachnes Mountain

Tours to visit the highest point of the White Mountains at over 2,400 metres above sea level can be booked out of Sfakia or Anopoli. Even in summer there is often snow at the top but the bizarre moonscape is truly unique among the lush gorges and coastal walks normally found on Crete.

Reaching Pachnes starts with a 1.5-hr drive from Anopoli – a 4×4 is necessary, so don’t attempt it in a tiny rental car. From the trailhead, it is roughly 1.5 hours to hike to the top and probably about an hour to get back down.

Hike Down Samaria Gorge

The most famous and popular of the dozens of beautiful gorges on Crete. While it is possible to visit using drive/boat/taxi combos or take the boat to Agia Roumeli and hike up and back a portion, the most logical method is to book a Samaria Gorge transfer from one of the tour agencies in Loutro (€27 per person for a bus to the trailhead and boat ticket back from Agia Roumeli to Loutro).

It is a national park and is only officially open from May 1st to October 15th, although sometimes that will be extended to October 31st if the weather holds. We tried 3 times to go and each time it was cancelled due either to poor weather in the gorge (it suffers from a bit of a rainy microclimate certain times of year) or big waves which shut down the ferries. I guess it’s always nice to have something left for next visit…

There are also several other gorges in the area to explore, either on your own or as part of a tour, including Anidri, Agia Irini and Lissos.

Beach Hop at Paleochora

Pleasant, scenic Paleochora is a great choice for a good selection of small, quiet beaches. Most of the beaches are a bit on the pebbly/rocky side, but not all, and the relative solitude is well worth the lack of powdery white sand. The hiking east toward Sougia is terrific and Paleochora is close to several impressive gorges that can be visited on day trips.

Paleochora Crete malecon

Visit Gavdos Island

The southernmost island in Europe, Gavdos has a fascinating history that seemingly features every major empire throughout the ages. It is also an interesting, scenic place to visit on a day trip. Ferries from Sfakia stop in Loutro and head to Gavdos via Agia Roumeli (€20).

Check out Frangokastello

Another popular spot along the south coast of Crete, Frangokastello has a nice beach, some decent accommodation options and the ruins of a Venetian fortress right behind the beach.

Old fortress walls at Frangokastello fortress

Stay at Plakias Bay

On the far side of Frangokastello, Plakias Bay is a popular beach resort town. This is the closest place to Loutro where you can find high-end resorts and luxury villas. The bay and beach are both beautiful, as well.

Beach, town and mountains at Plakias beach

Take a Boat Trip to Preveli Beach

Small tour boats offer day cruises to see the lovely and rather famous Preveli beach. Home to one of two magnificent palm forests on Crete, popular Preveli Beach is one of the most beautiful and photogenic spots on the entire island.

Preveli Beach Crete

The palm forest is hemmed in by steep cliffs and from above you can see the trees, the river, the beach and the lagoon that splits the beach in two.

For more info, check out: Preveli Beach: How to See Crete’s Spectacular Palm Forest

Transportation

How do You Get to Loutro Crete

Loutro is in south Crete and is not accessible by road and can only reached either by boat or on foot, the main reason it has retained its peaceful charm.

Frequent Loutro ferries run from Sfakia (20 min / €6) in high season and private taxi boats can be hired from any of the villages along the coast (approx. €100 for the entire boat from Sfakia).

Port of Chora Sfakia
Sfakia harbour

Longer-distance Anendyk ferries travel daily along the coast and stop off in Loutro.

Agia Roumeli to Loutro (€7.50)

Sougia to Loutro (€15)

Paleochora to Loutro (€20)

It is also possible to walk along the coast to Loutro from the tiny village of Finikas (20 min) or the town of Sfakia (approx. 2 hrs). Another option is to walk all the way down from Anopoli (1-1.5 hrs).

How to Get to Hora Sfakion

By Car

Public transportation on Crete can be tedious so we highly recommend renting a car so you reach all the best spots. Plus, it is nice to be able to set your own schedule. We find that Discover Cars usually has the best deals in the area.

As an added bonus, the drive across Crete down to Sfakia follows an extraordinarily scenic road.

Winding road

Driving Times to Sfakia, Crete

Rethymno to Hora Sfakion: 70 km / 1.25 hrs

Chania to Hora Sfakion: 70 km / 1.5 hrs

Heraklion to Hora Sfakion: 145 km / 2.25 hrs

Agios Nikolaos to Hora Sfakion: 200 km / 3 hrs

By Bus

It is also possible to reach Loutro by public transport if you are based in Heraklion as direct KTEL buses travel between Heraklion and Loutro twice daily (1.5 hrs). From anywhere else, however, you’ll need to transfer at least once.

When to Go to Loutro, Crete

Like most of Crete, Loutro enjoys a very mild climate year-round thanks to the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. Summers are warm (some would say hot) with almost no rain. Most precipitation comes in the winter months, although that is still pretty minimal compared with many coastal cities.

White buildings of Loutro Crete
Quiet but warm and sunny in the fall

Crete is one of the most southerly islands in Europe and compared to most of the continent the weather remains bearable all year, with the daily average temperature in Loutro only dropping as far as 10 / 12 (low/high) in January. Which is why Crete is one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter.

Loutro gets very crowded in July and August so it is best to visit in the shoulder seasons if possible. May-June and September-October are perfect for good weather and fewer tourists. It will also be far less crowded early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Other Gorgeous Beaches Around Crete

While Loutro is a very unique place, there are also several other amazing beaches scattered throughout Crete.

Balos Beach

Up in the extreme northwestern corner of Crete, you’ll find Balos Beach, the most photographed beach in all of Crete. It can only be reached via rough dirt road or on a boat tour but is still well worth the journey for the spectacular viewpoints and beautiful turquoise water.

Panoramic photo of Balos Beach Crete

What sets Balos Beach apart, however, is the narrow sandy isthmus connecting mainland Crete to tiny Cape Tigani. This isthmus divides the area into a warm, shallow lagoon on one side (south) and a relatively sheltered bay on the other (north).

You may also want to check out our Ultimate Guide to Balos Beach

Elafonisi Beach

Rivalling Balos Beach for sheer beauty, Elafonisi Beach is tucked away in the southwestern corner of Crete about an hour from Kissamos.

Turquoise water and the Elafonisi pink sand beach in Crete

The narrow, pink sand isthmus separates two great beaches and shallow swimming areas, features sand dunes and leads to an island with caves, a church and phenomenal views.

Have a look at Elafonisi Beach: Is it Worth Visiting?

Seitan Limania

Not far from the major city of Chania, Seitan Limania features a small but incredibly photogenic rocky gorge leading to a miniscule beach sheltered by tall cliffs on each side. It only gets a few hours of sun each day but is worth a visit for the view from the top alone (although we would highly recommend taking on the rugged 10-minute descent to explore more closely).

Find out how to visit at Seitan Limania: Guide to Crete’s Most Unique Beach

Matala Beach

Another beach that started out as a hippie enclave, today Matala Beach still retains much of that relaxed vibe. With a nice, sheltered bay ringed by welcoming tavernas, the west end of the beach features sandstone cliffs filled with ancient caves.

View over Matala Beach Crete

They are worth exploring (€2 per person) for both the historic implications and the interesting views.

For more details, see Matala Beach: Crete’s Original Hippie Village

Vai Beach

Relatively few tourists make it to all the way to Vai Beach, located at the extreme eastern end of Crete. However, it is similar to Preveli Beach in that it is home to a large, beautiful forest of palm trees.

Vai Beach Crete

It also has some great viewpoints in the hills surrounding the beach, as well as several secluded coves and there are even some more Minoan ruins nearby.

For more info, check out Vai Beach: Stunning Palm Forest and Ancient Ruins

Loutro Summary

If you are in the mood for a prototypically beautiful Cretan fishing village tucked in a calm, secluded bay (and who isn’t?), then Loutro is the perfect place to add to your Crete itinerary. When it comes to amazing views, tremendous hiking, excellent swimming and snorkelling and even some historic sites in Crete Loutro is a truly memorable stop. Just be sure to book your room early as the few hotels in the village tend to fill up quickly.

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