Loutro, Crete

Location of Loutro

Loutro is a seaside resort on the south coast of the region of Chania (south-western Crete, Sfakia area). It is only a few kilometres from Hora Sfakion, lying in the embrace of a cliff which towers 600 metres above the village.

Loutro in Crete, map

Loutro is a unique spot in Crete for many reasons:

  • its white buildings with blue windows are reminiscent of the Cyclades and are unique in Crete.
  • there is no road to Loutro. You can only go there by scheduled boat service (20 minutes from Sfakia) or on foot.
  • there is no road in Loutro itself, no cars and no motorbikes. There is just one car, which is used to transfer supplies from the boat to a hotel.
  • all the houses are just a few metres from the water’s edge.
  • the sea is always calm and meltemia (north easterlies) are unknown in Loutro

History of Loutro

Loutro has its history stretching back thousands of years. It was originally a harbour of Anopolis high above Loutro. The town established on the site of modern-day Loutro was known as Phoenix, a place name preserved in the neighbouring village of Phoenix. Phoenix flourished during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, while it later became a lair of Saracen corsairs and slavers. This situation changed when the Venetians arrived in Crete. They drove out the pirates and fortified Loutro with a small fortress whose ruins are still visible today.

After the Venetians came the Turks, whose presence here, as well as the importance of the natural harbour of Loutro, is demonstrated by the Turkish fort above the town. The Turks built it after the 1866 uprising in an attempt to control the area and the harbour of Loutro which the Cretans were using as a base in their frequent revolts. Loutro harbour was used during the Daskaloyannis rebellion of 1770 and the 1821 uprising was declared in Crete at Loutro.

Loutro today

Today Loutro is full of rooms and apartments for rent, all with a view of the calm bay with its islet and the lighthouse at its entrance. Dozens of boats and speedboats visit the harbour each day, the only means of communication with the surrounding areas.

All the houses in Loutro are built around the small beach and the jetty where the boat from Sfakia and Agia Roumeli moors. You rarely need to walk more than a few yards from your hotel to the taverna or the beach. You will gradually feel the peace and lazy atmosphere of the place affecting you, making you wonder how you could have lived so long in the busy, stressful city. Expensive clothes, cars and other consumer goods lose their meaning here since all you need is a pair of flip-flops for the beach, shorts and a T-shirt, your bathers and suncream. Anything else seems completely unnecessary in Loutro.

Loutro, beaches, sightseeing and activities

You can spend the day on Loutro beach swimming in the cool waters of the bay, drinking coffee and beer, canoeing or walking as far as the Venetian and Turkish fortresses.

If you feel in need of something more adventurous, take a 30-minute walk to neighbouring Phoenix for a coffee and a dip on its tiny beach. If you continue, after Phoenix you’ll come to Marmara beach and the exit of Aradena Gorge. At Marmara there is a small taverna and the omnipresent beach umbrellas.

You can also visit Marmara beach (to the west) and the beach of Glyka Nera to the east, on the boat that leaves Loutro at 11 every morning and returns in the afternoon. You can walk to Glyka Nera in an hour and a bit, along the narrow footpath that starts just behind the Kri-Kri taverna in Loutro and joins the road to Sfakia and Anopolis. If you suffer from a fear of heights and vertigo, though, it is best avoided.

Glyka Nera beach (Sweet Water) is one of the loveliest beaches in Crete, with no umbrellas or other facilities but with clear blue-green waters in which to cool off after the hot sun. The sea here is quite cold, due to the icy mountain water that rises in the sea and the sand. This water is clean and perfectly drinkable. On the beach you’ll find a small canteen serving refreshments and fast food. Unfortunately, there is no shade anywhere on the beach, but you can rent an umbrella from the canteen. Avoid sitting too close to the cliff because of the risk of rockfalls. Finally, be aware that the beach is popular with nudists, so if you object to the practice you had better avoid the spot.

Another itinerary for determined hikers is the path that ascends from Loutro to Anopoli. You climb up to about 700 metres above sea level, with the stunning view unfolding before you all the way. At the end of the path is the church of Agia Ekaterini (St Catherine) and a small Venetian fort.

hiking at Loutro in Crete

Enjoy the panoramic view with the South Cretan Sea spread at your feet. In the distance you can make out the islands of Gavdos and Gavdopoula, the southernmost border of Europe. If you go on past the church you come to the village of Anopoli, birthplace of the hero Daskaloyiannis who led a major rebellion against the Turks in 1770. The rebellion failed and Daskaloyiannis was forced to surrender to the Turks, who made an example of him by flaying him alive in Heraklion.

From Anopoli you can either turn back or continue to Aradaina and the gorge of the same name. If you walk through the gorge of Aradaina, you will wind up on Marmara beach, returning either along the coastal path or by boat. This route is quite long and tiring and recommended only for those who are used to mountain treks.

The Aradaina Gorge is also an excellent spot for lovers of extreme sports. If you like bungee jumping, then every Saturday and Sunday in the summer months, you have the chance to enjoy a jump from the Aradaina bridge, a metal bridge built 138 metres over the bottom of the gorge. It is the highest bridge for bungy jumping in Greece and the second highest in Europe.

Dining and entertainment

Start with a delicious meal at one of the many tavernas available in Loutro. There are tavernas serving cooked dishes, at least two grills with tasty local meat on the coals, and you may even get fresh fish if you’re lucky.

Whatever you choose, don’t forget to try traditional Greek specialities and especially Chania dishes, such as boureki and Sfakianes pites (sweet cheese pies).

After supper there are two café-bars, but don’t expect the place to be swinging nightclub-style. Loutro is a quiet place and we hope it will remain so for many years to come. What could be more pleasant than sitting right next to the sea, enjoying your drink with good music in the background and letting your gaze lose itself in the moonlit reflections on the mirror-like sea?

Practical information on Loutro

  1. The only facilities available in Loutro are a few minimarkets. There is no chemist, no rural doctor’s surgery and no cash machine. Be prepared and bring the basics.
  2. Camping and topless bathing are not allowed at Loutro. If you want to get more of your clothes off, go to Glyka Nera beach. Spearfishing isn’t allowed either.
  3. The boat from Sfakia continues to Agia Roumeli, where you can visit the exit of the Samaria Gorge, along the so-called “lazy way”. You will be walking along the flat part of the gorge from the exit to its narrowest point, the famous Sideroportes (Iron Gates). The round trip takes about 2-3 hours.
  4. Loutro is usually crowded in August, so it’ll be more enjoyable if you pick a different month.
  5. A different entertainment option is a boat trip to admire the sunset over the sea, and maybe even see dolphins if you’re lucky.

Loutro, ferry timetable

Loutro, a special place

waiting for the ferry in loutro
My friend Bill “Walking Hawk” waiting for the ferry that will take him away from Loutro

Remember that Loutro is a very special place, which some people find magical and others boring and “closed in”. Read the description carefully before deciding whether its peace and solitude attract or repulse you. If you think it’ll suit you down to the ground, remember that its scenes will be graven deep in your heart and memory, and that return to daily life in the city will be a particularly “traumatic” experience.
If only everything were as simple and natural as it is in Loutro…

* Article by Yannis Samatas – All Rights Reserved – No unauthorised copying or reprinting is allowed

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