Crete holds so many secrets safe-and-sound still. Our journeys here began in 2014 on an extended vacation visit. And as a friend who’s a Cretan once told me, “During my lifetime here I’ve searched something new each week, and I’ve still not discovered it all.” After having lived here some months I am convinced too, that finding the breadth and depth of this magical island is impossible – but we shall try to share it. Today a tiny village no car ventured to, an ancient port, a secret pirate den, and a unique Cretan experience awaits you at Loutro, in Chania prefecture.
In the far south of the province, about 70 kilometers beneath the famous port at Chania, the area known as Sfakia sits on the Libyan Sea like a shimmering portal in time. Remote, rugged, and at the same time glorious in its beauty, this part of Crete is in a word – peaceful. And at the center of the area lies the tiny fishing village of Loutro, once the ancient harbor of the city of Phoenix (Finikas), the town is inaccessible by car even today. The tiny village is unique for its harbor as much as for its solitude. Because of the bay and the small island at the entrance of the harbor shelter it, this is one of the only places on Crete where there are no winds.
Once the hideout of Saracen Pirates, the name of the village comes from the word “bath”, due to the many ancient baths in the surrounds. The ruins of an ancient fort built by the Venetians can still be seen today, and remnants of Turkish occupation also exist nearby. Somehow, visitors to Loutro are few, even though tourists ferried from the trek down famous Samaria Gorge to their cars in Chora Sfakion, where the road leads from the sea. The fact there is no road also makes Loutro special in that there are no cars, trucks, or mopeds whatsoever – this makes the village a place out of time – and it makes contemplation and togetherness all the more real. Staring out over the deep blue and emerald sea from landward here comes in a close second to swimming the secluded beaches of nearby “Glyka Nera”, “Marmara”, “Timios Satvros” and “Perivolaki”, which can be reached by boat. For the hiker who’s ventured down Samaria, hiking the paths and canyons in nature here will be a further revelation of Crete’s majesty.
Accommodations are a not so scarce in the village considering there’s no road. Visitors cannot miss choosing any of the wonderful stays including; Sifis Hotel and Daskalogiannis Hotel, Hotel Porto Loutro, Notos Restaurant & Rooms, Villa Nikki (above) and a few others, all of them being comfortable and friendly respites. Visitors will also get the real flavor of Crete at several tavernas, a mini-market, 3 cozy bars, a souvenir shop, and daily ferry boats to: Chora Sfakion, Agia Roumeli ( Samaria gorge ), Sougia, Paleochora, and Gavdos island.
This tiny dot of a town just may be that gateway to peace you have looked for, it’s a place of great emotion. Lying awake on a starlit night, hearing the distant clinking of goat’s bells, seeing the shadows play off the whitewashed walls of the town, bathing at midnight in the warm sea, there’s Cretan magic here.
How to Find True Peace
From Chania, hire a taxi or rent a car at the airport for the 1 hour and 20-minute drive to Chora Sfakia. From the port there take the 20-minute ferry from Chora Sfakia, there are 4 ferries each day during the season. You can hire a water taxi too, but the price is a bit more. Hikers can walk the path with what experts would consider medium effort, but this takes something on the order of 2 hours. Just a mental note, if you rent a car and make the drive yourself, the scenery along the route is nothing short of spectacular.