This village may only have 265 inhabitants, but it is proud to call itself the 'Capital of Sfakia', a region which is considered one of the wildest and most remote on the whole island. Its inhabitants were involved in practically every rebellion against the Turks, and have held their own personal vendetta right into the post-war period.
The most famous Sfakiot is the partisan Daskalogiannis (meaning Ioannis the Teacher), who was captured by the Ottomans in 1771 and skinned alive in Heraklion. Today, many streets and squares throughout Crete are named after him. During the Second World War, the Sfakiots took to the hills to fight the German occupying forces. They fought to help protect the retreating Commonwealth troops, who were evacuated from Chora Sfakion in the night from the 31st May to the 1st June 1941. Standing at the port of Chora Sfakion, gazing out across the Libyan Sea, you can picture the boats that carried the last of the Allied troops to North Africa.
Chora Sfakion, Crete
These days, Chora Sfakion is a peaceful place. The only signs of violence are the bullet holes piercing the road signs on the rapidly twisting route down the mountains. They serve as target practice for the locals, who often still keep a gun – mostly only to fire in the air at weddings, christenings and other celebrations. Nevertheless, visitors who make it this far south will be greeted with the same warm hospitality as in the rest of the island. Most are hikers, coming from the E4 European Long Distance Path, or returning from the Samaria Gorge. The ferry to and from Agia Roumeli, the exit of the Samaria Gorge, departs from Chora Sfakion.
Driving the road down to Chora Sfakion is an adventure in its own right. From the Askifou Plateau and the entrance to the Imbros Gorge, 20 narrow, tight switchbacks lead down to the shore. On a map, the road looks rather like a coiled spring. The historic village centre is clustered around the small harbour with a shoreline promenade extending for about 100 m. Tiny tavernas jostle for space along waterfront.
A second street runs behind the promenade with a few shops – and that’s it. There’s not much more to see of Chora Sfakion. However, there’s no lack of parking spaces, as most visitors are here to take the ferry from the new harbour, which links the village with the Samaria Gorge, Paleochora and the island of Gavdos.
In between the commotion of passengers boarding and disembarking the ferries, Chora Sfakion is a tranquil retreat, and also a suitable bathing spot. The only beach in town is Vrisi Beach, with fine gravel and about 70 m in length. Approximately 1.5 km out of town, the road takes you to Illingas Beach, with a section for naturists.
To make Chora Sfakion more than just the start or end of your ferry ride, a 10 km detour into the mountains is very much worth your while. Drive up 600 m above sea level to the village of Anopoli by following the road north-west out of town. You will be rewarded with a picture-perfect, rural idyll. Anopoli also offers a unique activity for thrill-seekers: at weekends the narrow, one-way bridge across the Aradena Gorge becomes the venue for one of the most extreme bungee jumping sites in Europe! At 138 m, it’s the continent’s second-highest jump. Only the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland lets you fall further, and there you’re just falling next to a prosaic concrete wall. Aradena offers spectacular natural surroundings which you can drink in with your eyes – if you can focus on anything other than a mind-blowing adrenaline rush, that is!
Don’t be alarmed by the vultures that occasionally circle the gorge. Bungee-jumpers are not their main food source – we promise! For more information visit: Liquid Bungy
Loutro: On Foot or By Sea
These days, Loutro is one of the only villages left on Crete that can only be reached on foot or by water. A ferry service and water taxis provide a daily link between Loutro and Chora Sfakion. Those who choose to walk can take the E4 European Long Distance Path west from Chora Sfakion. This section is approximately 6 km long, and takes about 2 hours to hike. It is a scenic, coastal section of track passing a picturesque castle and a shrine, with only one small difficult section requiring walkers to cross an area of scree on a rocky slope. This section of the path is open all year round, although you will only find people living in Loutro in the summer.
Thanks to the energy and investment of a certain English hotel owner and her Cretan husband, the hamlet of Loutro is thriving in the modern world. This entrepreneurial lady has paid great attention to the appearance of the resort, ensuring that all buildings old and new retain the uniform and traditional aesthetic of white-washed walls with blue doors and window shutters. She has also made certain that the resort retains a wholesome, family-friendly atmosphere. There is no loud music played here after 10 pm, and topless or nude bathing is prohibited in front of the promenade.
The sandy beach of Glika Nera is situated to the east, around the corner from the small cape of Pounta with its picturesque chapel. There is a lovely beach bar here, which can be reached on foot via an easy section of the E4 hiking trail, or by boat. In the other direction, to the west, it’s about a 30-minute walk along a rocky trail to the ruins of a medieval fortress, and on to Finikas Bay with a small gravel beach and the remains of ancient cisterns.
Sea kayaks are available to rent from Chora Sfakion, taking you, usually on guided tours, along the coast past Glika Nera (Sweet Water Beach) as far as Loutro, and allowing you to explore the sea caves and gorgeous beaches en route.
An island full of surprises
A holiday destination for bathing enthusiasts, nature lovers, hikers, and those interested in history and culture. Today, Crete is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean - cosmopolitan and mysterious at the same time.
Popular hotels on the sandy beach
The Corissia Hotels are situated within the tranquil, picturesque village of Georgioupolis right on the sandy beach. An ideal seaside resort both to relax and explore the island, because that is just what holidays on Crete are all about.
Let yourself be pampered