Loutro Crete: A Little Piece of Paradise

Loutro crete

Have you ever seen a picture of a place so beautiful that you vowed to go there one day? I first saw photos of Loutro on the southern coast of Crete a few years ago and was entranced by the pretty little harbour with its cluster of whitewashed buildings. Finding out that you could only get there by boat only added to its appeal.

So when we planned a visit to Crete I knew I’d have to make it to Loutro no matter what. We were staying on the north-eastern coast of the island but while my husband and eldest son had to return to the UK, my youngest son and I planned our adventure to the other side of the island.

Crete’s south coast is much more rugged and less visited than the north. We travelled by car and several buses until at last we were crossing the White Mountains, which rise up to over 2,000 metres. You can see snow on their peaks even in June. The remote, mountainous region of Sfakia is crisscrossed with gorges and home to some of the most dramatic scenery in all of Crete.

Some of the villages here have only recently become accessible by road and the whole area has a reputation for being wild and untamed. The people here are renowned for rebelling against foreign occupiers. Hundreds of years ago, this was the centre of resistance against the Venetians and the Turks and during the Second World War, these same mountains were the heartland of Cretan resistance to the German occupation.

Even today, as the bus snakes its way down the mountain road, you notice that all the road signs are covered in bullet holes – the locals use them for target practice.

The bus takes a long time to make its way along the steep, zigzag road down the mountain but you’re rewarded at every turn, with spectacular views of the Imbros Gorge and the Libyan Sea just ahead.

We finally reached the small harbour of Hora Sfakion from where you catch the boat over to Loutro. It’s a typical sleepy Greek village, with a harbour and a couple of tavernas. We stopped to look at the monument to the thousands of British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were evacuated from this tiny harbour to Egypt after the Battle of Crete in 1941.

While you’re waiting for the ferry, stop off at one of the cafés overlooking the harbour for the local foodie treat, Sfakian Cheese Pie, a thin circular pie filled with sweet milk’s cheese and flecked with honey.

We clambered onto a small wooden boat with a handful of other passengers for the 25-minute journey to Loutro Crete. The mountains rose up from the coast to our right and the late afternoon sun turned everything blue. Indigo-coloured mountains blended into the sky and the water from the deep blue of the sea sprayed our faces.

And then, we turned a corner and there it was. A couple of rows of whitewashed square buildings with blue shutters clinging to the bottom of the reddish brown mountains rising up behind them. A semi circular harbour with little boats bobbing about on the water. It’s not even until you get closer that you become aware of the extraordinary colour of the sea here – a beautiful bluey green so clear that you can see the rocks at the bottom.

Loutro Crete is the only natural harbour on the south coast and you can still only get there by boat or by hiking across the mountains. It’s believed to be the site of the ancient city of Phoenix and St Paul is said to have sheltered here after a shipwreck.

Life slows right down on Loutro. You leave your watches and phone in your hotel room (the WiFi signal isn’t very good anyway) so that you can just enjoy being in the moment. You’ll measure time instead by the ferries stopping off to take hikers to and from the Samaria Gorge, one of the deepest and longest gorges in Europe, or by the time it takes for you to swim from one side of the bay to the other.

You can spend a couple of hours sitting with a book under one of the blue and white striped beach umbrellas, making piles of pebbles on the beach and swimming in the clearest water you’ve ever seen. You can hire boats to explore hidden coves and beaches along the coast.

We hired kayaks for an hour every day and paddled around the bay until we felt confident enough to explore further along the coast. We were aware of nothing but the massive rocks of the coastline, the vast sea all around us and the rhythm of the sound of our oars splashing in and out of the water.

At night, when the lights from the tavernas began to reflect on the sea, we’d go for a cocktail in one of the bars overlooking the harbour. Our barman would create a different exotic-looking mocktail for Harry every evening. We’d then find a table in a taverna right beside the water and feast on freshly caught seafood, Greek salad, stuffed vine leaves and tomatoes. The meal would end with a carafe and a shot glass of raki. Raki is the clear spirit distilled from the skins and stems left over after the grapes have been pressed. It tastes like fire water so I could only ever manage a couple of sips.

Our waiter most nights was an elderly man with a grey beard and twinkly blue eyes, who’d convince us to try the special dish of the day. We’d see him in the daytime washing down his fishing boat in the harbour or going for a quick dip in the sea.

One day, we followed the path out of the village and climbed the steep mule tracks which zigzag up the mountain to the ruins of the Venetian tower and Byzantine church. After exploring the ruins in the heat of the day we sat in the shade of the olive trees and listened to the sound of the bells hanging around the necks of the grazing goats. The area around here is perfect for hiking whether you just want to go for an hour or for a whole day. There are some wonderful views over the bay from the top of the mountain.

Loutro creteAfter four days it was time to leave. We got the early morning ferry back to Hora Sfakion and watched Loutro disappear around the corner. It felt as if we were leaving a little piece of paradise behind us.

How to get there

It is easiest to reach Loutro Crete from Chania rather than Heraklion airport. Buses travel from Chania bus station to Hora Sfakion a couple of times a day. The journey is about two hours. Ferries travel from Hora Sfakion to Loutro several times a day.

Where to stay

There are several simple guest houses and hotels on Loutro. We stayed at Hotel Porto Loutro Crete right on the beach. Rooms are simple, but clean, with balconies looking over the sea. A delicious breakfast (toast, muffins, home-made jams and freshly squeezed orange juice) is served on the patio. Double rooms cost from €75.

For more information

We booked our hotel through the excellent Crete Travel. They were really helpful answering all my questions about getting to Loutro Crete from the other side of the island, sending me copies of bus and ferry timetables. I’d really recommend using them if you’re thinking of travelling anywhere in Crete.

For more ideas and inspiration about visiting Crete take a look at Photos to Make you Fall in Love with Crete and 5 Places you Must Visit in Eastern Crete.

For Greek island inspiration, see The Most Beautiful Greek Islands for your Bucket List

5 of the Best Laid-Back Greek Islands,

Folegandros: Is this the Perfect Greek Island? and

Is Santorini Really Worth the Hype?

 

Loutro Crete is the perfect greek harbour. You can only reach it by boat. A scattering of excellent tavernas and simple hotels are all you need. This is laidback Greece at its best. Find out what to do and how to get to this incredible place. #loutro #bestofcrete #familytravelgreece #laidbackgreece #bestgreekislands

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58 Comments

  1. 31st July 2017 / 10:31 pm

    Wow not only the photos but your words Clare conjure up such a magical place. I love these islands and their laid back approach, it’s like time has stopped. I can’t think of anything more relaxing! I’m also such a sucker for beautiful white washed buildings and that sea – so beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd August 2017 / 7:49 pm

      Thanks so much, Mags. I absolutely love finding places that are laid-back and lesser known. Loutro was perfect in that respect.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      1st August 2017 / 7:41 pm

      Thanks so much, Tanja. we’ve been there twice now but I would definitely go again!

  2. Sold! Oh Clare – so serene this place. I love the idea of being somewhere secluded and special away from the larger more visited towns. Fresh fish? Kayaking? Crystal clear blue waters? Absolute perfection – you have transported me there and now I need to go! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:10 pm

      It was absolutely amazing, Erin. I love being away from it all too – and this was that special place.

  3. 3rd August 2017 / 9:11 am

    This is so stunning. It’s quite the challenge to find a secluded spot in Crete, and you managed. I simply love all things Greek. This year husband tossed a coin between Corfu and Malta (Malta won, next year… Athens!)
    #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd August 2017 / 9:19 am

      Oh my goodness, Esther! We’re off to Malta too! I do love Greece but it’s good to see other Mediterranean islands too.

  4. 3rd August 2017 / 10:43 am

    This is beautiful – I adore Greece and this looks like one of those places you have to visit in your life time. I have now added it to my own list #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:11 pm

      I’m a huge Greece fan too, Kate. We’ve visited lots of different islands, always looking for the more laid-back and lesser known places. This really was something special.

  5. 3rd August 2017 / 11:30 am

    What a crack up about the signs being targets for shooting practice. Wonder what the locals shoot? Birds or animals? #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd August 2017 / 11:32 am

      …or just the road signs perhaps? They were literally covered in bullet holes. It was hilarious!

  6. 3rd August 2017 / 12:21 pm

    This looks so magical, the colour of the water…. what a gorgeous haven. I agree it’s mad that the locals shoot the road signs, I’d be a bit wary of them after seeing that… #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:12 pm

      It absolutely was a gorgeous haven. The colour of that water was something else!

  7. 3rd August 2017 / 1:00 pm

    Crete is such a lovely island and you managed to find a hidden gem. Loved the pictures. Was just thinking of what to make for dinner and the pictures of the fresh fish inspired me to pop down to my local fish shop. Thanks! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:14 pm

      Thank you so much, Jules. Glad to help you out with dinner inspiration!

  8. 3rd August 2017 / 1:21 pm

    I felt that way about Sveti Stefan – somewhere soooo beautiful, you vowed to go! So I was glad to go this year, but Loutro is definitely on my radar now thanks to you!! Pinned! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:14 pm

      I’d really love to go to Sveti Stefan, Lori. It’s so special when you finally do get to visit these places you’ve been dreaming of!

  9. 3rd August 2017 / 2:27 pm

    I can get over how pretty Crete is, that water is so clear! And raki does not sound appealing at all lol

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:15 pm

      Raki is so strong! I did laugh when one evening they accidentally brought out a shot glass for my 11-year-old too. That water was so amazing.

  10. 3rd August 2017 / 3:30 pm

    Loutro I shall remember this place! It looks stunning! We recently went to Kefalonia and oh how we loved it…. may have to look at Crete now! Thanks. #farawayfiled

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:16 pm

      Kefalonia is so gorgeous too. It’s so much greener than a lot of the Greek islands we’ve visited. I would recommend Crete though. We loved it.

  11. 3rd August 2017 / 4:07 pm

    What a beautiful place to go slow, relax and enjoy every moment!I get a bit silly when I see clear, clean water like that. It makes me want to get there and jump right in. #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:17 pm

      It was perfect! I quite understand about wanting to jump into clear water like this – it was just incredible! I loved swimming and kayaking in it.

  12. 3rd August 2017 / 4:55 pm

    Whoa! Clare, this was truly an adventure! You almost lost me at steep mountain roads, but then… reading about your time there exploring and just enjoying the moments. What an amazing experience you and Harry had together. I could just imagine the two of you at the bar together! Everyone should do something like this at least once! #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd August 2017 / 5:30 pm

      I probably shouldn’t admit this but I LOVED the bar evenings. We live in such a tiny, middle of nowhere village that cocktails are a distant dream. Having one every night in Loutro was the biggest treat. Loutro itself is a gem of a destination and so special to have that time with just one little boy was really cool. I especially loved our time paddling in a kayak together.

  13. 3rd August 2017 / 5:31 pm

    Oh my goodness, Clare, that’s such dedication – travelling all that way to stay in such a beautiful place. I’m so glad it was worth it. You describe a day in Loutro so beautifully. I can taste the food and feel the warmth of the Greek sun. Perfect.
    #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:18 pm

      I can be a bit crazy like that, Trish. It was definitely worth the effort this time. Thanks so much for your lovely comments.

  14. 3rd August 2017 / 6:40 pm

    Loutro sounds perfect and the Samaritan gorge has been on my list forever, shall squirrel this away! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:19 pm

      I’d really like to go hiking here. Loutro would be a great place to visit after hiking the Samarian Gorge. The perfect place to relax after all that exercise.

  15. 3rd August 2017 / 7:11 pm

    Your photos are stunning and I love your descriptions too, really transports the reader to Crete. I could easily eat a slice of Sfakian Cheese Pie right now! #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:20 pm

      Thanks so very much, Christine.

  16. 3rd August 2017 / 11:23 pm

    I would not want to leave this place! How absolutely stunning. Was the cheese pie a sweet pie? Sounds interesting. Those guest houses are beautiful looking out onto the ocean – a gorgeous stay. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:21 pm

      We would definitely have liked to have stayed longer here, Juliette. Yes, the cheese pie is a sweet pie, more like a pudding with all that honey. The guest houses really had the perfect location.

  17. 4th August 2017 / 3:13 am

    Loutro looks so beautiful! Kayaking surrounded by that beautiful scenery sounds like such a dream!

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:22 pm

      It really was a dream, Bryna. Kayaking here was so relaxing.

  18. 4th August 2017 / 4:30 am

    What an excellent post! Loutro seems to be an Instagram favorite. I saw so many photos and had to see where It is located. So, I am happy to learn more about the place. I didn’t know there are no roads that take you to the village. That makes it more interesting. Like your relaxing routine and the fact that you were treated so well. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:23 pm

      Thanks so much, Ruth. I agree it makes it much more interesting not having any roads that lead to the village – it makes it seem more special somehow. It really was the perfect place to relax and so very beautiful.

  19. 4th August 2017 / 2:25 pm

    How wonderful, your photos are so mesmerizing. They make me want to plunge into this stunning water! xx, nano

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:24 pm

      Thanks so very much, Nano. I couldn’t believe how clear and blue the water was in Loutro Xx

  20. 4th August 2017 / 2:50 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful find Clare. I know little about the area, but this looks like the kind of place I’d love to go and unwind… #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:25 pm

      It’s the perfect place to unwind, Keri. Wish I had a magic carpet…

  21. 4th August 2017 / 4:53 pm

    That is a beautiful place–I love the clear water!

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th August 2017 / 5:25 pm

      Thanks so much. It’s the most incredible place to swim and kayak in.

  22. 5th August 2017 / 2:55 pm

    Aawww, what a blissful holiday! There are times I long for weak WIFI signal so that I don’t get distracted by the phone and instead focus on my book, relax and soak in the peaceful atmosphere. Loutro sounds like a place that I could visit to do a digital detox. Thanks for sharing these wonderful posts on Crete – new places for me to learn and to add to my list 🙂 #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      8th August 2017 / 11:55 am

      Thank you so much, Kat. I’m really enjoying writing up my Crete posts. I’m hoping to have another digital detox when we go to the Mediterranean island later this week. It’ll take some self control but will definitely be worth it.

  23. 5th August 2017 / 8:30 pm

    Did not come across this place in Crete. Looks teeny tiny 🙂

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      8th August 2017 / 11:55 am

      It is teeny tiny, Bea. I just loved it!

  24. 6th August 2017 / 10:25 pm

    What a deeply relaxing yet scintillatingly beautiful place. Oh to go swimming and kayaking in that crystal-clear water! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      8th August 2017 / 11:56 am

      Loutro is the best kind of travel discovery, Jonny. Just wonderful.

  25. 7th August 2017 / 12:54 pm

    I love that beautiful blue water that’s in so many of your photos – I would struggle to tear my eyes away from it! Did you swim much? It looks very enticing.

    Also I can’t believe you had those ruins basically to yourself (plus goats), that doesn’t happen often!

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      8th August 2017 / 11:57 am

      Thanks Rachel. I could not get over the colour of the water. We did swim a lot – it does feel amazing to swim in that clear water and see the rocks at the bottom even when you’re swimming in deep water. And yes, so great to have the ruins to ourselves – and the goats!

  26. 10th August 2017 / 6:48 am

    This sounds like the perfect holiday. So relaxing! I like the idea of leaving your phone and watch behind. I think disconnecting for a week may be a great thing to do every so often! #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      12th August 2017 / 8:14 pm

      I love the idea of disconnecting from everything cluttering my mind, Chiera. This really was a relaxing idyll.

  27. 22nd August 2017 / 8:37 am

    Such a beautiful place. Looks like a cool place to put up your feet and relax.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      30th August 2017 / 7:32 pm

      It’s so very beautiful. We loved it in Loutro.

  28. 21st November 2023 / 11:40 pm

    A hidden gem ! I love it !!

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      24th November 2023 / 12:49 pm

      It’s the most fabulous place.

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