Homebase: Agia Roumeli
If Crete is a hikers’ paradise, the little seafront village of Agia Roumeli is perhaps the 9th sphere of Heaven around which the rest is built.
As I’ve mentioned before, Samaria Gorge is one of the main highlights of the island’s impressive natural landscapes. Guidebooks talk of Agia Roumeli as a pass-through stop at the end of the Gorge hike, but Kyle and I found the village to be quite a nice base as well.
I’m a bit partial, of course, as the little copse of trees just outside of town maybe be one of the most luxurious campsites I’ve ever stayed in (excepting only that one palatial summer in the tent-with-a-ceiling-fan at Garland Scout Ranch). These campsites, just a few tent spots strewn about under the trees, front both a freshwater stream and the Libyan Sea. There are also, though, improvements that evidence the love campers have shown the area in the past. Boulder-built benches front firepits that look out over the water and pre-hung hammock lines invite full-day laziness. And of course, this far away from a major settlement the night sky is quite nice. Of course, even without the camping Crete would be beautiful.
If you’re not in town just to relax, though, there are also all sorts of nice hikes starting from Agia Roumeli. The E4 winds west from here through a hilltop forest and eventually to Paleochora and Elafonisi.
Just above town, up a pretty steep trail from the village on the seashore, yet another Ottoman Fortress just begs to be explored.
In the other direction, on the E4 to Loutro and Hora Sfakia, the little chapel of Agios Pavlos sits on a quiet beach where freshwater literally pours from the bare ground and out into the sea.
Another trail branches off from here up the cliffs to the village of Agios Nikolaos.
Climb the whole way up, panting and sweating for most of the journey, and you’ll have some idea of what it would be like to live here. In the summer boats run regularly to Agia Roumeli from Paleochora and Hora Sfakia, but in winter when tourists are few and seas are rough this four hour hike is often the nearest place to buy a loaf of bread or bar of chocolate.
For adventurers and walkers, though, this somewhat remote feeling only adds to the glories of Agia Roumeli.