Agia Roumeli - Much more than just the end of the Samaria gorge
Agia Roumeli is a small town in southwest Crete. A few km above the town is the end of the Samaria Gorge, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Crete.
Agia Roumeli has a large beach and a ferry slipway where the ferry to and from Chora Sfakion via Loutro arrives, mainly used by hikers who have completed the Samaria walk. There are also rooms for rent, a few bars and some traditional restaurants.
Every summer, thousands of people pass through the village after completing the long walk through the Samaria Gorge. Anyone who has done this walk knows that this spectacular experience in nature combined with sore feet and exhaustion are a little too much.
Agia Roumeli becomes merely the place where you can get some refreshments while you wait for the ferry to take you back to a tour bus which will bring you to your departure point.
But Agia Roumeli is so much more; it is a very special and unique place with a genuine Cretan background. It has strong character and is surrounded by breathtaking, wild mountains and a long pebble beach by the clear Libyan sea.
The surroundings are so peaceful that there is a chance you might actually forget about the outside world. Watching the stars is quite an experience here. The hospitality of the locals and the quality of the food they prepare is extraordinary.
The village is remote and a little isolated since it can be reached only on foot or by boat. There are no roads, no nightlife and no entertainment. Once the last boat has left, the village becomes a restful, calm community between wild mountains and the deep, blue sea.
However, anyone who can relate to nature can find plenty to do besides enjoying the almost deserted beaches. The village is situated in one of the wildest regions of Crete and you could spend weeks exploring it on foot.
The rich history of Crete has also left many traces in this region and there are several theories regarding the name of the village. Most probably it is traceable to the Arabic words aia = water and rumeli = Greek. So Agia Roumeli would mean Greek water.
Close to the new village there is a Byzantine church, "tis Panagias" (the Holy Mother) built where there originally was a temple of Apollo and Vritomartis (Artemis).
The ancient site of Tarra was located on the eastern side of the river. Tarra was a small but strong, independent city. It was significant enough to mint its own money. The coins had the Cretan wild goat with an arrow on one side and a bee on the other side. Tarra also established colonies in the South of Italy and in the Caucasus.
Agia Roumeli was also an important shipyard during antiquity and during the Venetian and Turkish period. It was ideally located for this function: there was plenty of wood very close to the shore and the river could provide energy for sawmills. In fact Agia Roumeli was already a timber exporter 4000 years ago.
The gorge of Samaria was also a way to reach the North of the island as well as a place of refuge during the numerous rebellions against various invaders.
Today people still make a living from goat- and sheep raising as well as beekeeping. The influx of tourism, brought by the popularity of the Samaria gorge, has also become an important source of income. Things have changed very quickly in the last 30 years but if you stay here for a little while you will realise that the past still lingers and history is very close.
Agia Roumeli Map
How to get there:
Agia Roumeli is not connected to the road network so the only way to get there is on foot or by boat.
By Boat – There are daily boat and ferryboat services between Chora Sfakion, Loutro, Sougia and Paleochora on the South coast of Crete, as well as to the island of Gavdos in the summer. The service is very limited in the winter months. Once the gorge opens to the public (generally at the beginning of May) the boats run frequently: about 4 -5 times a day from Chora Sfakion to Loutro and Agia Roumeli and back.
Boats from Paleohora and Sougia and back run only once a day: in the morning from Paleohora and Sougia to Agia Roumeli and returning in the afternoon. The journey time between Agia Roumeli and Chora Sfakion is about one hour and slightly longer between Paleohora and Agia Roumeli.
The exact times depend on the time of year.
For more information contact
ANENDYK Ferries in Chora Sfakion: +30-28250-91101. Bear in mind that the service may be cancelled if there are adverse weather conditions.
Since there are no roads in Agia Roumeli there is little point in renting a car to get to the ferry departure point. The best way is to take the bus from the North coast to Chora Sfakion. The buses are reliable and safe.
On foot - Because of the past significance of Agia Roumeli, the village is accessible by numerous footpaths and trails. The best known one is through the gorge of Samaria and is easy enough if you are properly prepared for the 16 km hike.
Another easy way is the very ancient path which links the plateau of Anopolis to Agia Roumeli. You can reach Agia Roumeli in about three hours from the hamlet of Agios Ioannis and this is without doubt the most beautiful coastal walk in all of Crete.
Another easy path is the coastal path from Chora Sfakion, via Loutro and Agios Pavlos; this delightful walk takes about seven hours.
There are other ways to reach Agia Roumeli on foot from Sougia and across the mountains from Omalos via Katsaromoura but these are best left to very experienced and fit hikers with good local knowledge.