Getting insider knowledge on the gorgeous little Greek port of Loutro from Dave was a stroke of luck. He’s the sort of tourist you actually need to cross paths with — a chatty English holidaymaker who visits this blue-and-white fishing village in rural southern Crete every 12 months.
Dave is correct to say that Crete is an exquisite ‘last blast of sun’ destination, staying hot well into October. How could it fail? It’s the southernmost major holiday island in Greece. EasyJet and BA fly here until late within the season.
Dave knows his onions in the case of eating out, recommending the delicious — and reasonably priced — moussaka at The Old Phoenix. And that’s only for starters.
Nick Redman explores the gorgeous little port of Loutro, pictured, on a tour of the unspoilt hamlets and isolated strands of Crete’s South-West coast
‘Go to Stratis, behind the church,’ he tells me, after we next bump into one another. ‘It’s the most effective food in Loutro. They barbecue the chicken souvlaki in front of you — and so they do the most effective chips in Greece.’
The food from the grill is juicy and this family run restaurant is generous with the orange cheesecake in addition to the free raki.
Because the day fades to pink then grey over the horseshoe harbour I feel, ‘Why doesn’t everyone come here?’ Then I feel, ‘What a relief so few do.’
It’s uncrowded and so devoid of high-rise package hotels — fairly just like the Mediterranean of 30 or 40 years ago.
Loutro is one in all a string of unspoilt hamlets and isolated strands along a 20-mile stretch of the South-West coast. It isn’t a spot for culture cravers, so don’t come for historic sites or museums. You’re here for a vacation full of transparent shallows, unfussy tavernas and lurid sunsets that can make you are feeling carefree and 25 again.
‘It’s uncrowded and so devoid of high-rise package hotels — fairly just like the Mediterranean of 30 or 40 years ago,’ Nick says of Loutro
So where’s the catch? There isn’t one. It’s just that this a part of Crete can’t be developed easily — sheer flanks fall away to the ocean, leaving practically no room for roads or resorts, just little time-warp beach towns served by boats and ferries.
Fly to Chania fairly than Heraklion and hop on a bus (£15) south.
In an hour and 45 minutes, after a final Scalextric descent from the Lefka Ori (White Mountains — the spine of western Crete), the tiny port town of Hora Sfakion emerges. Here my odyssey begins. The waterfront restaurants are pleased but not hectic. I even have two days here, although I could live here for a 12 months — double-balconied rooms at Samaria By The Sea cost £90 an evening and have fridges for Mythos beers bought at a mini-market.
Vrissi, the cove here, is reached by steep steps, with rental loungers to laze away the times. It has a blue swell that, after an hour’s swimming, makes me hungry.
To best explore Crete’s South-West coast, fly to Chania (pictured) and hop on a bus south
Vrissi (above), the cove by the tiny port town of Hora Sfakion, is reached by steep steps, with rental loungers to laze away the times
Time to hit the Three Brothers taverna, framed by pink rhododendrons, above the beach. The Greek salad has an entire paving slab of delicious feta.
After I move on to Loutro, I stay just across the headland at The Old Phoenix, walking back over the eerie promontory for nightcaps beside Loutro’s harbour waters. The Old Phoenix is a reasonably unreconstructed pensione, but it surely’s perfection for the value: family run, intimate and presiding over its own deep, silent bay, with kayaks you may take out.
Hikers walking the southern coastal path check in — doubles start at £50, or £45 should you pay money — and breakfast toast with honey on the terrace is a rarefied moment; ditto dinner, under a Biro-blue sky with stars.
At Agia Roumeli, pictured, Nick sees ‘hot and bothered hikers throw themselves into the cooling shallows’
An aerial view of Sougia, Nick’s final destination, where he enjoys ‘cool swims off the beach’ and ‘sea-bass lunches’
Sunvil (sunvil.co.uk) has seven nights’ self-catering in Loutro from £1,156 pp, based on two sharing, including flights from Gatwick on October 18, 2022.
Tiny motorboats call in to take guests west for 20 minutes to Marmara beach, with its aquarium-clear, bouldery shallows; or east, to Sweetwater, where nearly the one signs of life are the goats — and Yorgos, who runs the informal Mermaid Taverna, set over the water.
I couldn’t feel farther from the posh resorts of the north as I sit here peacefully beside the Libyan Sea, with North Africa over the horizon. I feel almost sorry to be heading further west tomorrow to Sougia, and the top of my trip.
I needn’t have anxious. The 90-minute voyage there’s a breezy break in itself, on a flat-bottomed multi-deck automobile ferry.
I purchase a calming beer and crack it open because the shoreline changes. Here and there, Orthodox churches cling to rocks, tiny and pastel-pale as Mr Kipling French Fancies. At times we shudder right into a small port.
At Agia Roumeli, hot and bothered hikers throw themselves into the cooling shallows. Finally, we reach Sougia. The owners of my white, cubic apartment leave free wine and raki within the fridge, and I lie in before rising for long, cool swims off the beach.
There are sea-bass lunches and wine-laced conversations with guests at the following table. We agree never to inform a soul about this stretch of southern Crete. Oops, too late. I just have.