The White Mountains with their high peaks and deep gorges keep Agia Roumeli isolated in their embrace. The village is small, there is no road to it and all access is by the small ANENDYK vessels.
Agia Roumeli is on the south coast of Chania Prefecture, between Hora Sfakion and Paleochora. Agia Roumeli has become well-known because it lies at the end of the path from the Samaria Gorge. The thousands of visitors who come down the gorge each year end up here to take the ferry to Loutro and Hora Sfakion (to the east) or Sougia and Paleochora (to the west).
It is worth mentioning that the first solar power station in Greece operated from 1982 to 1989 in Agia Roumeli.
How to get to Agia Roumeli
- On foot through the Samaria Gorge. It you have the leisure to stay in Agia Roumeli, enter the gorge at midday and you will have it almost entirely to yourself, as all the tour groups go early in the morning. You will get to Agia Roumeli in about six hours, just as the last walkers are leaving the village.
- By boat from Hora Sfakion. There are several trips a day in the summer.
- By boat from Paleochora and Sougia. The little ferry arrives in the morning and leaves in the afternoon, giving you the chance to enjoy a day trip to Agia Roumeli and the lower part of the Samaria Gorge.
You should know that Agia Roumeli does not have a safe harbour, only a small jetty, making it hard for ferries to dock. This means that there are no trips when the weather is bad, so you may be cut off in Agia Roumeli for one or two days.
Agia Roumeli today
Agia Roumeli today lives from tourism, specifically the 350,000 visitors a year who walk down the Samaria Gorge.
After a few hours’ walk down the Samaria Gorge, it’s a great relief when you come to the last two kilometres after the mouth of the gorge and see the first houses of Agia Roumeli. A few yards further on are several tavernas trumpeting their tasty food, their “Greek salad” and chilled orange juice. Agia Roumeli loses all its charm at times like this. Everyone’s in a hurry to catch the boat and go home or to their hotel.
The first stop, then, is at the ANENDYK ticket office, where you can buy a ticket to Loutro and Hora Sfakion to the east or Sougia and Paleochora to the west.
Here we would like to repeat that the most convenient way of crossing the Samaria Gorge is to stay in Sougia, take the morning bus to the Omalos Plateau, walk down the gorge and take the afternoon ferry to Sougia, minimising any hardship.
Once you’ve secured your return ticket, you can pass the time until the boat arrives by enjoying lunch at one of the many tavernas, cooling off with a drink of juice, a coffee, a soft drink or a chilled beer, or diving into the crystal-clear waters of Agia Roumeli beach.
Read more: The Name and History of Agia Roumeli
Staying in Agia Roumeli
However, if you’re not in a hurry to get back home or to your hotel, it’s a good idea to stay at least one night in Agia Roumeli and enjoy the beautiful scenery, when the clamour of the tourist crowds has disappeared with the last ferry. It will be late afternoon, the sunset colouring the sky, and you can enjoy the peace and beauty of the large pebble beach.
Later, when it gets dark, you will enjoy delicious Sfakian recipes, good wine and, of you’re lucky, the company of the Sfakian taverna owner, dressed all in black, whose tales will introduce you to the secrets of his homeland. The people of Agia Roumeli are proud and taciturn, but their love of their home, its gorges and its mountains, the Madares as they call the White Mountains, makes their eyes shine when they speak of it.
If you’re not too tired after supper, go for a stroll on the jetty or the beach and turn your eyes heavenwards. If the night is moonless, thousands of stars will be sparkling in the firmament and the galaxy will look like a bright cloud, a glowing highway streaming across the black void. You’ll read this on other pages, but the magic of the night sky on the south coast of Crete is something you must experience for yourself.
What to do in Agia Roumeli
The next morning, Agia Roumeli unfolds even more choices before you, like a Circe trying to bewitch you with her beauty and keep you with her.
- Enjoy a large breakfast with Sfakian cheese and thyme honey from the White Mountains.
- Luxuriate in the azure water. The beach will be almost empty until midday, when the first hikers start to arrive from the Samaria Gorge.
- Climb the hill above Agia Roumeli to the ruined Turkish fortress and see from on high the mouth of the gorge, the houses of Agia Roumeli, the beaches to east and west and, of course, the vast blue Libyan Sea, interrupted only by the islands of Gavdos and Gavdopoula, the southernmost frontier of Europe. The walk takes half an hour to an hour and the path does not pose any particular difficulties.
- One-and-a-half hours’ walk past the Turkish fortress are the ruins of a second fortress. The path is all uphill and the fortress is in a poor state of preservation.
- Walk east to the beach with the pine trees and the little Byzantine church of Agios Pavlos (video), named in remembrance of St Paul’s visit. The walk is 3.5 kilometres. There is no water on the way, so take what you need with you. The beach will probably be empty, and early in the morning the scent of pine fills the air.
If you continue along the coastal path, three kilometres further on is Marmara beach, which has a taverna. Another three kilometres on is the uniquely beautiful Loutro. The path continues for another six kilometres to Glyka Nera beach and Hora Sfakion.
To get an idea of how long you’ll need, allow 4 hours to Marmara, 5 hours to Loutro and 7 hours to Hora Sfakion, from Agia Roumeli in each case.
- For experienced hikers who are not afraid of heights and have tested their mettle over long distances, there is the coastal path from Agia Roumeli to Sougia. The hike takes 10 hours, maybe more, and the path is often damaged by the winter rains, making it tricky for most people.
- Ask the locals about other walks in the area.
Agia Roumeli beaches
- The pebble beach west of Agia Roumeli.
- The beach of Agios Pavlos east of Agia Roumeli.
For those with a boat, there are far more choices and you can enjoy beaches both east of Agia Roumeli (Marmara, Loutro, Glyka Nera) and west of it (Trypiti, Domata and other, smaller ones).
Agia Roumeli sights
- At the mouth of the Samaria Gorge you can see the ruins of the temple of Apollo Tarraeus.
- The church of Panagia (the Virgin) with its beautiful 16th-century mosaics is at the east end of the village of Agia Roumeli, built on the ruins of the temple of Apollo and Artemis.
- The Byzantine church of Agios Pavlos on the beach of the same name, where according to tradition St Paul baptised Christians.
- The two Turkish fortresses above Agia Roumeli. The first, especially, is not particularly hard to reach for most people and it offers a great view of Agia Roumeli from above.
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