Paleochora • Loutro
Transfer time 90 minutes (Paleochora) to 2 hours (Loutro)
The spectacular south-west coast encapsulates the best of Crete – dizzy mountain scenery, a sparkling sea and some fine beaches. In fact a winding drive through the mountains is the only way in to Paleochora other than by sea.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafés above the sea or in the main street. In the summer evenings there is a positively cosmopolitan atmosphere, as both roads are sealed to traffic.
The main beach is of fine golden sand and stretches for nearly a kilometre – it affords superb swimming. Inland offers wonderful walking – try Agia Irini gorge as an alternative to popular Samaria. Boats run to the foot of Samaria and on to Loutro, to Sougia (another gorge here), remote Elafonissi island, or simply for spotting dolphins. A Dive Centre operated from Anidri Beach in 2012. During high summer Paleochora can be windy. In the early season, there is the bonus of countless wild flowers up in the hills.
Unrealistically pretty and quite tiny (pop. 100!), you can only reach Loutro on foot or by boat – there are no roads and no cars! Guarded by steep mountains, some dozen waterfront restaurants serve an amazing variety of dishes.
Canoes can be rented to explore nearby sea caves and beaches, and a small boat runs to others. This is superb walking country and the hotel is happy to give further information.
In recent years Loutro has become a popular destination for the Greeks and, although accommodation is still limited, can be busy, especially at weekends and in the high season. Visit off-season if you can.
Twin-centre holidays: Paleochora and Loutro make an excellent two-centre pairing. The transfer between the two is a scenic cruise along the dramatic south-western coastline, a total of c 2½ on the ferry. However you need to change boats at Roumeli at the foot of the Samaria Gorge.
Last year's connection Paleo to Loutro was very short, whereas Loutro to Paleo took most of the day, so we recommend Paleo as the first centre. If you do have time to kill at Roumeli you can have lunch and a swim, and even walk a little up the gorge (tavernas will keep your luggage).