Stunning Agios Pavlos Beach Crete – And Its Beautiful Byzantine Church

Agios Pavlos beach Crete is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Crete. We rate it among the best beaches in Crete, and one of the highlights of our recent Crete holidays. The beach and setting are magnificent, and you get the bonus of one of the best things to see in Crete, an exquisite thousand-year-old Byzantine church above the beach.

There are actually two beaches called Agios Pavlos in Crete, around 50 km (30 miles) apart along the south Crete coast as the crow flies. This post is about Agios Pavlos beach near Agia Roumeli, in Chania province. The other Agios Pavlos beach is more developed, and is located near spectacular Triopetra beach, in Rethymno province.

You’ll sometimes see it referred to as ‘Agios Pavlos beach Agia Roumeli’ or ‘Agios Pavlos beach Sfakia’.


Image of Agios Pavlos church Crete Greece
Agios Pavlos beach and Byzantine church

This Agios Pavlos beach can only be reached on foot or by boat, so it never gets crowded

It’s around an hour and a half on foot from Agia Roumeli Crete, close to the end of the famous Samaria Gorge hike

It’s famous for its beautiful 11th century Byzantine church, from which it takes its name

Image of a sign welcoming visitors to Agios Pavlos Beach and Church, Crete
Do not follow me, I am lost too – not a bad spot to be lost though!

The beach is over 1km long, with amazing clear water from the Libyan Sea

It’s a mixture of pebbles and grey sand

It’s surrounded by spectacular mountains, some of the most beautiful coastline in Europe

Image of the taverna menu painted on rocks at at Agios Pavlos beach
The taverna menu, painted on the rock

It can also be reached from the beautiful village of Loutro, also along the coast path – this route takes up to 4 hours, and is much more difficult

There is a taverna on the beach open during the season (April to late October) serving drinks and meals


Beaches near Chania Image of Agios Pavlos beach and church Crete
Agios Pavlos beach is one of the most beautiful in Crete

Agios Pavlos is a 4 km ( 2.5 miles, 60-90 minutes) hike to the east of the coastal village of Agia Roumeli, on the Crete south coast. It is pretty secluded and remote.


Image of Agios Pavlos church Agia Roumeli Crete
Agios Pavlos church and the Libyan Sea

It is an incredible place, one of the outstanding Crete beaches. The coastal scenery leaves you running out of superlatives. The rugged Lefka Ora (White Mountains Crete) rise up out of the crystal-clear sea. The tiny Byzantine church is sublime, and the St Paul Tavern 200 metres along the beach from there is a great place to stop by.

It takes a real effort to reach Agios Pavlos, but I thought it was one of the best places in Crete. I visited near the end of the season, late in October, when there were about twenty people on the whole beach. If you want to escape the crowds at Balos and Elafonissi, this is ideal for you.

See Also: 30 Gorgeous Chania Beaches – Discover The Wonders of West Crete


Image of an icon in the Byzantine church of Agios Pavlos Crete
An icon in the church of Agios Pavlos

The name ‘Agios Pavlos’ is the Greek for Saint Paul. St Paul is believed to have stopped at Crete during his journey to Rome in the first century AD.

The church was built in the 11th century AD – reputedly by St John the Hermit (Agios Ioannis Xenos in Greek). The stones used to build the church are believed to be from the beach.

Image of a shaft of light illuminating flowers in Agios PAvlos church Crete
A shaft of light through the tiny window highlights the flowers below

It is one of the most gorgeous churches I have ever seen. It’s built in the Byzantine style, cruciform in shape, with a central dome. The interior is simple and captivating, with some of the walls and ceilings covered in faded frescoes.   

See Also: 32 Of The Most Beautiful Churches In Europe


Image of a pebble beach on the path to Agios Pavlos beach
You have to walk along this amazing beach to get from Agia Roumeli to Agios Pavlos

Agios Pavlos is one of the most remote Crete destinations, and the effort involved getting there means very few people who visit Crete make it here.

In order to reach Agios Pavlos, first you have to reach Agia Roumeli. I did this by catching the Agia Roumeli ferry from Paleochora, a 90-minute trip one way. The ferry runs from May to the end of October. You can also catch the ferry from Chora Sfakion and Loutro.

Image of the ferry to Paleochora from Sougia
The ferry to Paleochora from Sougia

The hike from Agia Roumeli is more difficult and longer than some guides suggest. I’ve seen some say it is only an easy 30-minute walk from Agia Roumeli. It is emphatically NOT.

The E4 trail is one of the highlights of all of Crete island. It has some incredibly beautiful sections, including from Krios beach to Kedrodasos and Elafonissi in the far south-west. The Agia Roumeli to Agios Pavlos section is, if anything, even more stunning.

Image of the view from the E4 path near Agios Pavlos
The view from the E4 path near Agios Pavlos

I hiked the 4 km (2.5 miles) from Agia Roumeli to Agios Pavlos in around 90 minutes. It was more difficult than I had anticipated. It’s not an easy walk – I would grade it as moderate. Some of the terrain is tricky, especially if you’re a novice walker. There are some scrambles over and between rocks, long trudges along pebbly beaches and up through sand dunes.  There are also some steep, long, unprotected drops from the path – and the surface below is sometimes loose and rocky.

Another possibility is chartering a boat from the harbour at Agia Roumeli. A ferry sometimes runs to Agios Pavlos during the season – after mid-October, just ask around at the harbour or in the village.


Paleochora Crete Image of Paleochora town in Crete
Paleochora seen from the ferry early in the morning

If you plan to visit Agios Pavlos beach, you need to start the day fairly close by as it’s so remote. A day trip there is possible if you can make the morning Paleochora ferry (it usually leaves at 0830) or the morning Chora Sfakion ferry, it’s a straightforward trip.

Paleochora is a great place to stay, as it has several great beaches nearby and a boat ride away from Elafonissi. Another option is Sougia, Crete, which can also be reached on the ferry from Paleochora to Agia Roumeli.

Check here for the latest ferry schedules, which vary day by day.

Image of Agia Roumeli village in Crete Greece
The dramatic setting of Agia Roumeli beneath the White Mountains

Agia Roumeli is the ideal place to stay if you just want to do this hike. However, it’s not suitable for the Samaria Gorge hike, as there is no road transport from there to the starting point. Agia Roumeli is the finishing point of the Samaria Gorge walk, and where hikers stop for a few hours every day. Once they head off on the ferries to Paleochora and Chora Sfakion, the village empties and it becomes a very quiet, peaceful spot once again.

If you’re planning to hike the Samaria Gorge and do the Agios Pavlos walk you may be better off staying in Paleochora, from which buses run to the starting point of the walk at Omalos and Samaria Gorge tours run during the season. There is no direct transport from Chora Sfakion to Omalos – it’s far easier to reach it or book a Samaria Gorge package (including transport to Omalos and back from Agia Roumeli) from Chania, Rethymno or smaller Crete resorts like Georgioupolis.

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David Angel
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.

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