I picked the island of Crete a little randomly — the flights were cheap, I needed a holiday, it wasn’t awfully far from Berlin, the Chania weather sounded like just what I needed, the gazillion Chania beaches were just the ticket, this little town called Loutro seemed too good to be true, and a Chania car rental cost peanuts. It do be a done deal, I thought. My friend Olga and I decided to wing it a little, flew right into Chania, decided on a cheap Chania airport car rental company, picked one of many affordable Chania hotels for the first three nights, and off we went on a whim.
And Crete was all sorts of magical. Never have I seen water so blue, locals so friendly, and figs so plumped, cheap and sweet. In my 15+ years of travel, Crete was one of my biggest and best surprises, and the town of Loutro one my favourite spots ever, which I am hesitant to share with you now, because mayyyyyybe it should be kept a secret.
Of course, not everything was perfect as we were a little unprepared, but Crete blew my mind and I wanted to share with you our nine-days Crete itinerary which culminated in the magnificent town of Loutro.
Here’s the lowdown.
Chania weather & when to go
So the weird thing is that the weather in Crete is very different on weather apps than the weather in Chania specifically — so if you’re heading to the Chania beaches, or the West of the island, do check the Chania weather as opposed to Crete as a whole — it’s a lot warmer!
Like many countries around the Mediterranean, Crete is hot and balmy between May and October, with August and September being the warmest months, but also the busiest. So, for the quietest time, do pick the beginning or end of the high season.
The off season (late October through April) can be windy, rainy and cold, so really not best to enjoy the best part of the island (the beaches). Transportation and restaurant openings could also be disappointing during that time window.
Best Chania Car rental
From doing some research, I found that Auto Europe is the best search engine for price comparison when it comes to Chania airport car rental options. You can pick up your car directly from Chania airport and it’s definitely best that way, because public transport is not amazing and it will be so much easier to access those small magical places before anyone else does with a car.
Do take a full insurance, as the roads in Crete can be narrow and quite bendy in places. Since car rentals in Crete are so cheap, it’s really not a big expense and that could save you a big headache later — it sure did for us!
Nine-day Crete itinerary
Crete is relatively large and the roads can be winding in the mountains — so getting from A to B can take longer than you’d expect. Although we had plans to tour the whole island in our nine days, we eventually made it to the village of Loutro and decided it really was worth staying there longer and, as such, only saw the west side of the island, which by some accounts is the most beautiful side anyway.
Overall, we spent three days in Chania to explore the Chania beaches and Chania town itself, and then made our way to Elafonisi with a sleepover inland, which was our least favourite beach because of how crowded it was. As such, I would not recommend it and would head straight to Sougia, which is a great gateway to either Agia Roumeli if you want to hike, or if you want to ferry straight to Loutro.
Chania’s old town is extremely pretty and is worth spending a few days exploring, simply to get lost in the small alleys, stock up on great olive oil to slather everywhere, and take some photos of the amazing vegetation and buildings. It’s really stunning.
From then, I recommend exploring the Chania beaches, and skipping Elafonisi all together and head to Sougia to park the car to go hike the Agia Roumeli Gorge. From Agia Roumeli, we took a ferry to Loutro where we spent three days, then took a ferry back to Sougia to pick up our car, and then drove back to Chania in one day. To me, outside of the Elafonisi blergh, it was the perfect nine-day itinerary.
We spent the first three nights in Chania and did day trips to explore the nearby beaches.
This was my favourite. Seitan Limania has goats who will steal your food, pebbles that will leave your butt looking like a freshly pressed waffle, no service whatsoever, but damn, it is so so so beautiful. Worth making the trip very early to avoid the crowd, please note that it’s a bit of a hike getting down there — but totally doable and totally worth it. The electric blue water gets very deep very quickly, making it possible to jump from the nearby cliffs. Do not leave your belongings unattended if there is food inside, because the goats will smell it and steal it! Consider yourself warned!
The second most beautiful option close to Chania is Balos beach. Account for about 20 to 30 minute of walking before you finally reach the beach, so again, worth making the trek early. Take water and good shoes as the walk is not that easy. There’s a small café on the beach but they have hardly anything vegan or vegetarian, so I’d recommend packing snacks.
There are many affordable and amazing hotels in Chania, below is my selection.
Just a few hundred meters from the old Venetian Harbour is the beautiful Samaria Hotel. The swimming pool is definitely a highlight here, so make sure you have enough time to chill and grab breakfast in between day trips and exploring the old town.
Another wonderful option in a great location. SanSal is just a mere two-minute walk to the old town. Another fabulous rooftop pool with great sunset views. Large, spacious, and modern. Really great.
Located in a 13th century Venetian, Hotel Off (don’t mind the name!) has beautiful plush design at every turn, a lovely courtyard to eat your breakfast in. Amazing view over the old town, a real special location.
Hiking the Agia Roumeli Gorge
I’ve seen several forums on how to best reach the Agia Roumeli Gorge hike, and I also saw several people stranded because the ferries and buses operate a little on island schedule — but here is what we did, and it worked really well.
We parked and slept over in Sougia. Sougia is actually really pretty, fun, and cheap. There are plenty of hotels, car parks and really early restaurant openings, because the town is pretty much made to accommodate ealy hikers. From then, the bus (very easy to find, it’s a tiny town, just ask around) picks you up at 7am (check with the locals to be sure) to bring you up to the town of Omalos, which is where the hike starts.
The hike itself is rather challenging! Don’t be like me and show up in Chuck’s, I had horrible toe pain and slipped and fell a few times. Bring plenty of snacks, water, sunscreen, a hat, etc. There are water stations along the way — in fact the gorge is the main water supply for the island.
The bottom of the hike brings you to the town of Agia Roumeli, where you can literally just jump in the sea after your hike and it’s the most heavenly thing ever.
From there, you can either catch a ferry back to Sougia, or, like we did, go to Loutro (same ferry, opposite direction), which really was THE highlight of the trip.
And this brings me to Loutro. What can I possibly say here. Imagine an undiscovered Santorini, with no road, no large resort, a population of five, the most gorgeous transparent blue water you have ever seen, cute little hotels and restaurants sprinkled across the shore — and you get yourself the most relaxing place I have ever been to: Loutro. I will let those images speak for themselves.
We stayed at Hotel Villa Niki, which was spacious, friendly, affordable, beautiful, and just perfect. The owner Andreas recommended some day trips and hikes we could do, which Olga decided to do while I just stayed on the beach with my book like a lizard.
The ferry back to Sougia is a bit irregular and we didn’t plan our journey back so well, so from Agia Roumeli, we had to hire a private boat, which ended up a little more expensive, but a lot more fun. I can’t quite remember how we found it, I think I just Googled and sent a few emails around, and some dude just messaged back and quoted us something like 60 or 70EUR to bring us back. It was totally worth it!
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