Agia Roumeli is a small secluded village, located 56km south of Chania city, on a wide bay shaped at the exit of the Samaria Gorge. Thousands of visitors, descending the gorge, reach this place every day. Agia Roumeli is a calm place in the wild and mountainous landscape of Sfakia province. The only way to reach the village is either through the gorge or by getting the ferry from Chora Sfakia, Loutro, Paleochora and Sougia. The more adventurous (and lucky) visitors could walk the path from Chora Sfakia to St. Roumeli (7 hours). The picturesque village of Agia Roumeli provides all basic amenities, such as taverns with traditional food, rooms for accommodation, cafes, mini market, internet access and telephone.
Daily, between 13:00 to 16:00, the village and its beaches are swamped by the visitors of the gorge. However, after the departure of ferries, the village gets very calm! If you choose not to follow the crowd with the ferry, but to stay in the village for at least one night, then you will have the opportunity to admire this beautiful place with its unique people, good food and the stunning natural beauty.
The beaches of Agia Roumeli
The beaches of Agia Roumeli wider area are magnificent, spanning a length of 3km or more. The closer you are in the village, the more crowded and organized it is. The beach in front of the taverns, west of the harbor, called Gialos, is the most organized and provides a lot of amenities (restaurants, showers, umbrellas, pedal boats, etc.). This pebbly beach is the most crowded beach of all in the area.
Gialos is not the only beach of the area, is however the busiest. On the east side of the bay, beyond the river of Samaria gorge, there are beautiful rocky formations and cavities at position Zeromouri, which have beautiful pebbly beaches in front of them. Opposedly, the west end of the bay of Agia Roumeli is called Mashali and there is a second dock for boats and a lonely tavern with rooms. Next to this dock, there are two beautiful beaches with fine pebble. Lastly, if you swim or kayak beyond the western edge of the beach, you will meet three caves, in front which "XS size" pebbly beaches are formed! They are known as Spilies sto Marmaro (i.e. Caves in Marble).
What to see
The Samaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe, having a length of 18km. During the summer, it is visited by thousands of tourists who trek the 18km in about 6 hours. Many of them have visited Crete just to cross the majestic gorge of Samaria. If you do not have the time to walk all the distance in the gorge, you can walk backwards, starting from Agia Roumeli.
Agia Roumeli is built on the ruins of ancient Tara. Tara was built by the Romans. To the west of the village, there are still ruins of the Temple of Apollo (or Artemis). Today, at this point you can visit the old church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) built in 1500.
On the hill above the village, there is a ruined Turkish castle (Kule), from where the view to the village, the vast Libyan Sea, Gavdos and Gavdopoula islands is fantastic. Walking the easy path to the castle takes 30’-60’. From the castle, if you continue walking on the steeper slopes of the mountain for 90’ more minutes, you will reach the ruins of a second castle.
On the eastern edge of the gorge, near its exit, you can visit the beautiful church of St. Anthony. The chapel is built in a cavity, shaped in the rocky walls.
Approximately 2km north of the village, inside the gorge, there is the old village of Agia Roumeli, in a lush green landscape. There you will see ruins of old houses and some homes restored by their owners. The village was abandoned in 1954, when it was completely destroyed by floods. Then, the village was moved to its present position, in Agia Roumeli.
Even people and food in Agia Roumeli constitute attractions! The people are genuine Cretans, with pure heart and real smile. The meat you will eat in their restaurants is bred by them. They also are the producers of cheese, vegetables and honey they provide in tavernas. Fortunately, despite the development of tourism, Agia Roumeli has remained authentic and picturesque, where you can meet friendly people, enjoy high-quality traditional recipes and the tranquility of nature.