Lissos Crete – The Complete Guide

by Greece

Lissos has one of the most beautiful settings of all Crete beaches. It’s surrounded by stunning coastline and backs onto one of the most evocative ruined cities in ancient Crete.

It could have been one of the most popular places to visit in Crete, had it been located close to one of the main Crete resorts.

Instead, Lissos Crete is one of the best hidden gems of Greece, tucked away in a remote corner of south Crete. With the help of the local Paleochora ferry, and one of the most enjoyable hours of hiking in Crete you could find, you can reach Lissos beach and see the remains of the ancient city.

Our guide explains how to reach the nearest village, Sougia, and the onward journey to Lissos from there. We also show you the lovely beach at Lissos, and the Crete ancient ruins scattered around the valley behind.

WHERE IS LISSOS CRETE?

Image of a lone tree at Lissos archaeological site in Crete Greece
A lone tree at the ancient site of Lissos

Lissos is situated around 2 km west of the village of Sougia, 12 km east of the town of Paleochora and 75 km south of the provincial capital of west Crete, Chania. Its setting makes it one of the best beaches in Chania province to visit.

GETTING TO LISSOS BEACH

Image of boats in the tiny harbour at Sougia Crete
The colourful harbour at Sougia

Getting to Sougia can be done via road from either Chania or nearby Paleochora. As with most roads in southern Crete, they are slow and winding, and require cautious driving.

You can also reach Sougia on the Paleochora to Agia Roumeli ferry during the tourist season. The way the ferry schedule works, you can only get there from Paleochora – the ferry only runs from Agia Roumeli to Paleochora via Sougia late in the day.

From Sougia, you can either hike the 3 km to Lissos, which takes around 90 minutes, or catch a boat from Sougia to Lissos. This departs from the small harbour between the ferry wharf and the entrance to Lissos gorge.

WHAT’S LISSOS BEACH LIKE?

Image of Lissos beach near Sougia Crete Greece
Secluded Lissos beach can only be reached by boat or on foot

The pebble beach at Lissos has an idyllic setting, with dramatic mountain and cliff scenery, and the attraction of ancient Crete ruins right behind the beach.

The sea at Lissos beach is crystal-clear, as is also true of many other south Crete beaches. We were there on a glorious sunny autumn day, the water was turquoise, reflecting the gorgeous azure blue sky.

Image of Lissos beach near Sougia Crete
Remote Lissos beach, a short walk from the ancient city of the same name

Lissos beach is a wonderful place to relax, and the cliff provides shade from around 11 am. The sea water looks very tempting, but be aware that there are a lot of sharp rocks there – we’d strongly recommend bringing dive shoes if you’re venturing into the water.

We had a wonderful time at Lissos, spending some time in the water and building rock towers with our five-year-old son. The beauty of Lissos is that you have some of the most evocative ancient ruins on Crete just a couple of minutes’ walk away. It’s also a great place to spot wild goats scrambling up the cliffs.

WHAT FACILITIES ARE THERE AT LISSOS?

There are no facilities at Lissos beach, other than the landing jetty tucked beneath the cliff.

WHAT’S THERE TO SEE AT THE ANCIENT CITY OF LISSOS?

Image of pieces of stonework stonework from the ancient Greek city of Lissos Crete
The atmospheric ruins of ancient Lissos, near Sougia

Lissos was originally an ancient Dorian city (like ancient Falassarna) and served as the port for the nearby ancient city of Elyros.

It survived through ancient Greek and Roman times until the 9th century, when it was sacked and destroyed by Saracen raiders.

Ancient Lissos derived much of its prosperity from the temple of Asclepius, where people visited to bathe in its waters which were reputed to have healing properties. You can see the walls of the Asclepion near the top of the site, around 400 metres from the beach. The mosaic floor is also usually visible, but frustratingly was covered when we visited.

Image of an ancient tomb at the necropolis at Lissos Crete
One of the ancient tombs at the necropolis at Lissos

There is also an ancient Roman necropolis on the west side of the valley. Initially these look like ruined houses, but they are chambered tombs. A small Byzantine church, Agios Kirikos, is also close to this part of the site.

Image of the Panagia church and bell at Lissos Crete
The Panagia church and bell next to Lissos beach

Closer to the beach, parts of the ancient Panagia church walls are made up of sculpted marble blocks from around the Lissos site.

You can also find many other remnants of ancient Lissos scattered around the valley. I found several carved capitals left under a tree. These were once part of imposing buildings in a prosperous ancient port. It takes a leap of imagination to picture this, but a visit to an open ancient site like this is as rewarding as seeing ‘organised’ ancient sites like Knossos.

ONWARDS FROM LISSOS

Image of Gialiskari beach near Paleochora Crete
Part of the amazing beach at Gialiskari

The Crete E4 trail continues westwards from the top of the Lissos archaeological site, continuing 8 km (5 miles) westwards to Anidri beach and adjacent Gialiskari beach. It’s an additional 4 km (2.5 miles) from there to Paleochora town.

Image of the village of Agia Roumeli and the White Mountains of Crete Greece
Agia Roumeli, in the shadow of the magnificent White Mountains

If you’re staying in Sougia, you can use it as a base for talking the Samaria Gorge hike, which finishes close to Agia Roumeli, the next village along the coast. From Agia Roumeli, you can also explore magnificent Chania beaches including Zeromouri, Agios Pavlos beach, Loutro and Glyka Nera.

WHERE TO STAY IN CRETE TO VISIT LISSOS?

Sougia Beach image of one of the beaches at Sougia Crete
The smaller beach at Sougia, with the magnificent mountains behind

Sougia Crete is one of the really quiet resorts in Crete, with a slow road, bus and seasonal ferry connection from Paleochora. There is a small but good choice of Sougia hotels, guest houses, apartments and studios. It sometimes gets a little busy when the ferry arrives and again before it departs – but never for long. Sougia beach is a better bet than Lissos for swimming, and there are also plenty of tavernas and facilities there.

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

Paleochora Crete is one of the best places to stay in Crete if you want to go beach-hopping. The town is small but vibrant, with a thriving café culture and there are plenty of Paleochora restaurants to choose from. It’s a 40-minute ride on the Paleochora ferry to Sougia, with the hike to Lissos starting from the harbour just behind the Sougia ferry wharf.  Paleochora is also an ideal starting point for trips to Elafonissi beach, usually until at least the end of September.

You can also reach Sougia from regional capital Chania. It’s a slow, narrow winding route, the 75 km taking a good 90 minutes in all. So a day trip to Lissos from Chania is a definite possibility.

DAVID ANGEL

DAVID ANGEL

AUTHOR

David Angel is a British writer, historian and photographer. He has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 20 years and his work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the Guardian, BBC, Times and Sunday Times.

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