The town of Sfakia or Chora Sfakion is the capital of the mountainous area by the same name, located south from the city of Chania and part of the Chania Region. A rough and dramatic land, it was one of the places that was never fully conquered by foreign powers that ruled Crete. Although having just a few hundred inhabitants, the small town of Sfakia offers plenty of tourist attractions, being surrounded by the wild coast of the Libyan Sea and the mountains of Crete, with several small picturesque beaches and an enchanting atmosphere.
Around town, you will find many hiking trails going along the coast or exploring the nearby canyons of Imbros, Sfakia, Kavi and others. It is also a great base to visit the nearby remote beaches like the stunning Glyka Nera or take a ferry to the island of Gavdos. The village has several accommodation options, taverns, shops and a few beautiful old churches. The little town is caught between the turquoise sea and the magnificence of the White Mountains. Below you can find the most important information about Sfakia and its surrounding area.
Where is Sfakia?
The town of Chora Sfakion is located along the southern coast of Crete, in its western part, surrounded by the mountainous area of Sfakia. Although really just a small village, it is the main destination in this part of the island, offering ferry and boat service towards other less accessible beaches and destination along the southwestern coast. The distance from the city of Chania located on the northern coast is about 70 km, passing through the White Mountains, while the distance from the capital of Heraklion is about 150 km. From the airport of Heraklion, you can always get a rental car and get to Sfakia as it is the best and fastest option.
How to Get to Sfakia
Getting to Sfakia by Car
You can easily reach Sfakia with a car rental from Heraklion. The trip will most likely take over two hours, but you will pass through some exceptional landscapes, including the dramatic White Mountains. Driving along the northern coastal road, you pass through Rethymno and then turn south just before the village of Vryses. Closer towards the southern coast, the road becomes quite challenging, with tight and steep portions, but the panoramas are quite spectacular. Overall, renting a car in Crete is the best option to explore more places and reach the most remote attractions. If you choose to stay in Chora Sfakion, there are enough villas, restaurants and other tourist services in the village.
Getting to Sfakia by Bus
If you come from Chania, there are daily buses towards Sfakia on the southern coast. If you come by bus from Heraklion or Rethymno, you will have to change buses at Vryses and then continue with the bus from Chania. Although a more entertaining option, buses tend to be crowded and quite slow on the mountain slopes, so you might consider a car rental from Heraklion airport and reach Chora Sfakion faster and in more comfort.
Best Things to Do in Sfakia
While most travelers are only passing trough Chora Sfakion to get on a ferry towards some remote beach on the island of Gavdos or the village of Agia Roumeli and visit the gorge of Samaria, you will surely find plenty of things to see and do if you choose the little village as your destination. Renowned for the fierceness of its inhabitants during past occupations, you will only find welcoming people in Sfakia today, happy to share their famous Cretan hospitality.
The town of Sfakia only has a population of a few hundred people, but there are some accommodation option and other tourist services available. Walking through the settlement, you will most likely reach its two small beaches, backed by several taverns and shops. Another nice area is the small harbor, with fishing boats leaving each morning. It gets a lot livelier when the ferries arrive and hundreds of people descend, but they usually board the tour buses quite quickly, returning to the northern coast. While the beaches in town are quite small and pebbly, you can also walk a few minutes to reach other amazing beaches like Ilingas, Filaki, Ammoudi and Agios Charalambos.
One of the most fascinating beaches in Crete, Glyka Nera, can be reached by following a hiking trail towards the west. According to stories, there used to be a hundred churches around Sfakia, yet the wars have greatly reduced their number. Inside the town, there are still a few small churches worth visiting, like the old Twelve Apostles Church or the cave church of Saint Anthony. There are also some ruins of an old fort high above Sfakia.
Explore the Imbros Gorge
The magnificent gorge of Imbros is located east of Chora Sfakion and is best explore from the north towards the beach, starting in the village of Imbros. One option would be to first hike up the nearby Sfakia Gorge and then descend through the canyon of Imbros, a full day hiking trip. It is also crossed by an 11 km long winding road. It is one of the most famous and popular on the whole island, only the Samaria Gorge being more visited.
It is easier to walk from the northern village of Imbros towards the south, as the path goes down towards the sea, but it can be done either way. It takes about 2-3 hours to walk the 8 km path and it can be done by the whole family as it has an easy difficulty.
Along the way, there are plenty of amazing narrow sections, unique geological formations, as well as flowers and plants. This is an especially pleasant trip during the hot summer days, as there is shade inside the canyon for most of the time. The drive along the road above the gorge is also extremely thrilling, with stunning views of the canyon and the sea.
Explore the Sfakia Gorge
With a length of over 6 km, the gorge of Sfakia or Sfakiano is a natural marvel, offering an enchanting adventure opportunity. I can be reached even on food from Chora Sfakion by following the road east and then turning north close to the Vritomartis Naturist Resort. The gorge exploration usually starts from its higher end, yet you can walk fairly easily uphill through marvelous scenery. It is one of the greenest canyons in Crete, with a great vegetal diversity, including many trees. The path ends high in the mountains, near the deserted village of Kali Lakki, while on the way there you will also encounter the old church of Saint Paul (Agios Pavlos).
Explore the Kavi Gorge
Another option close to Sfakia town is the wild Kavi Gorge, starting high in the mountains close to the Sfakia Gorge. You could hike up the Sfakia Canyon and return towards the coast along the Kavi Gorge, reaching the beach of Ilingas, just about 2-3 km east of Chora Sfakion. Kavi Gorge has impressive rock formations, dry riverbed and virgin forests. Some parts of the gorge are extremely wild and untouched, offering nice shade from the sun. It has some of the largest forests of cypress and maple, while the surrounding cliffs are truly impressive. Close to the sea, there is the path leading from Chora Sfakion to Anopolis and the beach of Glyka Nera.
Hike to Anopolis and Glyka Nera
One of the most fascinating activities from Chora Sfakion is to hike along the E4 trails towards the village of Loutro, passing by the high village of Anopolis and with the option to descend to the idyllic beach of Glyka Nera. Meaning “Sweet Water”, Glyka Nera is a splendid fine pebble beach, worth visiting for its secluded and romantic atmosphere, as well as the dramatic surrounding scenery with high cliffs or the clear freshwater springs that flow into the sea. The ancient town of Anopolis used to be located on the plateau above the beach of Glyka Nera and interesting ruins have been discovered along the year
Take the ferry to Samaria or Gavdos
If you choose to the stay in Sfakia for a longer time, it would be a shame to miss the main destinations from this small port. Ferries leave each day during the high season towards the village of Agia Roumeli, there the famous exploration of the Samaria Gorge can begin. Another option is to visit the island of Gavdos, with its idyllic beaches and quaint fishermen villages.
Where to Stay in Sfakia, Crete
Although quite a small settlement and fairly remote on the southern coast of Crete, Sfakia or Chora Sfakion has several accommodation options, with a few hotels and villas that offer quality services. Nevertheless, during the peak tourist season, even these become crowded and it would be a great idea to book your accommodation in advance. There are also choices to eat and buy stuff in Sfakia, so you do not have to leave the village besides visiting the nearby attractions.
Located right by the beach of Chora Sfakion, this nice hotel sits just above the main beach in town, offering quality refurbished rooms with air conditioning and private bathroom. There are also rooms with great views, an included tavern and private parking.
☏ +30 28250 91490
This family run hotel is located just 50 meters from the beach and harbor of Sfakia, offering the same amazing Cretan hospitality. It features comfortable rooms, studios and apartments with kitchenette, private bathrooms and more. There is also an outdoor café.
☏ +30 28250 91220
Hotel Lefka Ori
This amazing hotel is located right on the waterfront of Sfakia, about 100 meters from the main beach in the village. It features superb Cretan architecture and design, with large white and blue rooms that have private bathroom and other amenities, superb views of the sea and a delicious restaurant right on site.
☏ +30 697 900 7185
Where to Eat in Sfakia
Probably the most exquisite dining experience in Chora Sfakion, the restaurant of the Samaria Hotel offers a rich menu with traditional Sfakian and Cretan delicacies, as well as international recipes. It also features superb views of the sea.
☏ +30 28250 91211
Offering the most delicious Cretan and Mediterranean recipes, including fresh seafood, this traditional tavern is located right in the port of Sfakia and is highly appreciated by its customers.
☏ +30 28250 91111
Located in the harbor of Chora Sfakion, this tavern features welcoming service and delicious traditional recipes that include excellent seafood, meat and salads.
☏ +30 28250 91002
Best Time to Visit Sfakia
Being located on the southern coast of Crete, Sfakia has pleasant weather all year long, although it can get quite hot during the summer months of July and August, while the winter months can be chilly at times. To avoid the heat and the tourist crowds, it might be best to visit during the spring or autumn for the perfect experiences.