This summer, I spent over two weeks in a small, remote village named Agia Roumeli at the end of Samaria gorge in Crete island. Agia Roumeli is located in the South-West of Crete, between the mountains of Lefka Ori (the White Mountains) and crystal clear Libyan Sea. The village is built on the ruins of ancient Tara, and there are many historical sights you can see.
After a hectic year, all I wished for was having peace, quiet and relaxation (although I didn’t initially plan to stay for two weeks) – a get-away. Away from massive amounts of tourists and noisy distractions like nightclubs. I wanted to enjoy nature – go hiking, start my mornings with a refreshing swim…
How I found Agia Roumeli is actually a fun story. When I started to plan my solo adventure, my itinerary was quite empty – I just had a one-way flight to Chania, Crete. I knew that I wanted to have a relaxing start before continuing my travels further.
I was scanning the cheapest accommodation options in Crete island – preferably either near Chania or Heraklion, from where I was thinking to continue to Santorini. Well, this place called Agia Roumeli popped up in every search. It looked like a beautiful place. When I was trying to check how to get there from the Chania Airport, the service told me there is no road access. My interest immediately grew. 😀 As I read more – only accessible on foot or by boat, lousy reception, kilometres of coastline – and saw the photos, I didn’t need to think twice before booking my first destination’s accommodation.
Agia Roumeli is at the end of the famous touristic hiking destination of Samaria gorge. Usually, the hikers come all the way down to the village and then take a boat to either Chora Sfakia or Sougia, where you can continue to the other parts of Crete island. For most people, Agia Roumeli is not more of a destination than waiting for a few hours after finishing the hike to go back to the places where they are spending their holidays. That is so sad because honestly, it is one of the most incredible places I have ever visited! It is hard to explain, and even the pictures don’t make justice for the site; it’s something you need to sense yourself. (You can check some videos on my Instagram stories under Agia Roumeli to get a bit more of the sense.)
How to get there?
Like I mentioned, the village is not connected to the road network – however, you can take a car on the boat if needed. You can take a boat from either Chora Sfakia or Paleohora or Sougia to Agia Roumeli. You can check the timetables and other information on the ferry line Anendyk’s website. From Chania to Sfakia, there are several daily bus connections operated by the public bus service KTEL. The journey takes around 2 hours, and the scenery is breathtaking. However, if you get easily motion sick, this might be the route from hell for you. The road between the mountains is serpentine!
The surroundings of the village are incredibly peaceful. Wherever you look, you see the mountains and the clear turquoise sea. The sounds of nature fill the air; sheep, goats, chickens and birds are having their discussions while the waves hit the shore. The most likely accident would probably be bumping into a goat. I liked to walk to the old village, and there were many animals on the way. But don’t worry about the goats – they usually give you way. 😀
Agia Roumeli has definitely kept a feeling of an authentic Greek village, despite having the hiking tourists passing it by daily during the high season. I was told that during the winter, there are not many people living in the village. All the locals I met were so kind and helpful, and I’m glad that I made some friends there. They make their own honey, cheese and all kinds of cool things – the local treats in the cosy tavernas are too delicious.
What to do?
My days filled with walking, swimming, laying at the beach and reading tons of novels. I also hiked to Agios Pavlos and half-way the Samaria gorge starting from the village. Sometimes that is exactly the kind of a holiday a gal needs! When I got hungry, I ate fresh Greek food in the lovely tavernas of the village. In the nights, I often sat at the beach, listening to the waves and watching tens of stars in the clear sky. In places like Agia Roumeli, it is easy to enjoy the simple life.
The beach is excellent and the water crystal clear! It is one of the best places I have ever swum! However, with black pebbles, the ground gets super hot during the daytime, so swimming shoes are useful here.
When the gorge hikers start to arrive in the village in the afternoon, the beach is quite crowded until around 5.30 pm when the last boats leave. You can find isolated beaches if you go a bit further by the coastline, either by hiking or boat. After the ferries have left, the village goes back to its quiet mode. Then it feels like the time has stopped.
I hope to go back to Agia Roumeli one day! I highly recommend it if you are in need of complete relaxation. This place is really something. You know, some destinations just sparkle magic a little more than others, and Agia Roumeli sure has some charm. In fact, when I was leaving, I couldn’t help but cry – that doesn’t happen often. I feel like a piece of my heart was left on the shore of that small village.
If you are just thinking about hiking through Samaria, I can assure you that it would be worth to stay in the village for the night. After a long 6-7 hours hike, you want to relax, swim, have a nice dinner and a good sleep.
I stayed in Hotel Tarra which I can highly recommend – the staff was friendly and helpful, rooms super clean and everything worked smoothly. I had a balcony overlooking the sea. In the night, I had my balcony doors open and listened to the sounds of the sea – a real-life sleeping meditation!
If you are considering staying for a longer time than just for a night or two, you won’t regret! In a few days, you are likely to forget daily life troubles and things that are stressing you out and notice that you have charged your batteries with the Vitamin Sea! 🙂