Many of us have indulged in a spot of Greek island hopping, but what are the best Greek ferry routes? Well, we’d like to nominate one along the coast of southern Crete – the Paleochora to Agia Roumeli ferry.
South Crete – especially south west Crete – has some of the most beautiful places in Greece. The vertiginous White Mountains (Lefka Ora) soar out of the sea to the height of over 8,000 feet (2,450 metres), giving us some of the best scenery in Europe.
Greece travel is seldom slower than on the south Crete coast. There are few roads in this part of the world, and some places, including Agia Roumeli, can only be reached by boat. Agia Roumeli is best known as the finishing point of the Samaria Gorge walk, one of the most popular things to do in Crete. Paleochora is the only town of any size in the region, and it’s the departure point for the daily ferry to Sougia and Agia Roumeli, passing some of the best beaches in Crete and best scenery in Europe on the way.
In our feature below we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this amazing Crete ferry journey. We cover all practicalities including when they run – and when they don’t, where to buy your ferry tickets and more. We’ll also show you what you’ll see en route, including some of the best places to visit in Crete.
- 1 WHERE IS AGIA ROUMELI CRETE?
- 2 WHERE DOES THE AGIA ROUMELI FERRY RUN FROM AND TO?
- 3 WHEN DOES THE PALEOCHORA TO AGIA ROUMELI FERRY RUN?
- 4 WHO RUNS THE FERRY TO AGIA ROUMELI?
- 5 WHERE DO YOU GET AGIA ROUMELI FERRY TICKETS?
- 6 WHAT DO YOU SEE BETWEEN PALEOCHORA AND SOUGIA FROM THE FERRY?
- 7 SOUGIA TO AGIA ROUMELI
- 8 WHAT ABOUT THINGS TO DO IN AGIA ROUMELI?
WHERE IS AGIA ROUMELI CRETE?
Agia Roumeli is 32 km due south from Chania, the regional capital., on the south coast of Crete, on the Libyan Sea. However, don’t be deceived into thinking it’s a quick trip because it certainly isn’t!
If you’re intent on getting to Agia Roumeli, you either go on a Samaria Gorge tour which drops you off early in the morning at Omalos, and you complete the 15 km (9 miles) Samaria Gorge hike to reach Agia Roumeli. The other option is to travel to either Paleochora or Chora Sfakion, then catch the daily Agia Roumeli ferry from there.
Most Samaria Gorge tour packages tend to include a ferry from Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion (and less frequently Paleochora) then onward bus travel back to wherever you’re staying.
WHERE DOES THE AGIA ROUMELI FERRY RUN FROM AND TO?
The Paleochora ferry runs to Sougia Crete and Agia Roumeli, where everyone disembarks.
From Agia Roumeli, you can catch the onward Chora Sfakion ferry, which also calls at the gorgeous village of Loutro. You can also continue on the Gavdos ferry to the beautiful island just to the south across the Libyan Sea.
WHEN DOES THE PALEOCHORA TO AGIA ROUMELI FERRY RUN?
Most Crete ferry routes tend to operate a daily service during the season (which is usually 1st May to 31st October, give or take a day or two at either end). As with most other Greek island ferries, they only operate a skeleton service during the winter and early spring – this tends to be just two days a week.
The season for Crete holidays finishes by the end of October, and if you were to catch the ferry to Agia Roumeli in November or later, very few places, if any, would be open. Southern Crete is one of the best places to visit in October in Europe, but one thing to keep on top of is the changes in public transport timetables at that time. Greek ferry timetables tend to change by the week, and the daily sailings can sometimes continue into the first few days of November.
WHO RUNS THE FERRY TO AGIA ROUMELI?
It’s run by Anendyk Ferries- their website is https://anendyk.gr/
WHERE DO YOU GET AGIA ROUMELI FERRY TICKETS?
If you’re taking a car with you (fine if you’re travelling to Sougia or Chora Sfakion), you can book your tickets through the website.
Otherwise you need to turn up around 20 minutes before departure time (0800 or 0830 in Paleochora) and buy ferry tickets from one of two travel agencies, both of which are a minute’s walk from the ferry wharf. Selino Travel is on the main street across Paleochora, close to the Vakakis bakery and café. Psarakis Travel is just the other side of Vakakis.
WHAT DO YOU SEE BETWEEN PALEOCHORA AND SOUGIA FROM THE FERRY?
The reason we rate this journey one of the best ferries in Greece because of the staggering scenery and coastline you see for the 90 minutes of the trip.
Our pick of the best Crete boat trips begins at Paleochora, a small town that’s one of the best quiet resorts in Crete.
After rounding a prominent headland, you then begin the slow approach to Sougia. Just before the first sight of Sougia, you may glimpse a tiny beach to the left – this is the site of Lissos Crete, a remote ruined ancient Greek city with a quiet pebble beach. It’s an hour or so on foot back there from Sougia harbour, which you reach a couple of minutes later.
Sougia beach is a blissful spot, one of the best beaches in south Crete, a. broad pebbly strand with a mountain backdrop and cafes aplenty in season. However it’s such a quiet place compared with the main Crete resorts on the north coast of the island. If you really want to get it away from it all, this is one of the best places to stay in Crete. There is a road in and out, so you can drive around the limited road network, and as far west as Elafonissi beach or Falassarna beach within two hours.
SOUGIA TO AGIA ROUMELI
The second, longer leg of this Crete boat trip sent me seeking superlatives from the thesaurus the first time I experienced it. By the fourth time, I abandoned the verbal quest, and leave it to the pictures.
After Sougia, the Crete coast becomes more mountainous as you approach the mighty bulk of Lefka Ora. Dramatic gorges including Tripiti and Kavdos are gouged out of the sheer mountain terrain. By land, most of this is inaccessible. Domata beach, one of the most beautiful of all Crete beaches, is also one of the least accessible, a four-hour trek from nearby Agia Roumeli.
Eventually, you reach the highlight of the journey, turning the corner to see tiny Agia Roumeli village beneath the awesome White Mountains.
WHAT ABOUT THINGS TO DO IN AGIA ROUMELI?
The tranquillity of Agia Roumeli gives way to bustle during the May to October Samaria Gorge season, as hundreds of hikers arrive at the village after their walk down from Omalos, the Samaria Gorge entrance, 15 km away and 1,250 metres higher. The village has a few tavernas and supermarkets to cater to the daily rush, but after everyone leaves, all is once again very, very quiet.
Just in case you’re in any doubt – the Samaria Gorge walk only finishes at Agia Roumeli. It doesn’t start from Agia Roumeli. The Samaria Gorge Crete is a long descent, which takes anything between four and eight hours.
The main Agia Roumeli beach, Gialos beach, is a minute’s walk west of the ferry wharf. It’s a wide pebble beach with a superb mountain backdrop, like others in the area.
There’s also a Turkish castle, or koules, sited high above the village, which makes a dramatic sight as you approach on the ferry.
My main reason for visiting was to walk to Agios Pavlos beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete. It’s a moderately taxing 4 km walk east of Agia Roumeli to a remote wide pebble and sand beach. There’s very little there – an 11th century Byzantine church just above the shore, and one of the best tavernas in Crete that I’ve visited.