Glika Nera - Loutro

Among the various hiking itineraries in this book, you have included a portion of the European long - distance hiking trail which is part of a project we have been nursing for some time: a two - day hike that includes a stop at Glika Nera beach, an overnight stay at Loutro and an exploration of the Aradena gorge starting from enchanting Marmara beach. So many times, as you stood on the bridge of the ferry boat taking us to Paleochora you have contemplated this area, which holds a special allure for us because it is so difficult to reach by land. Each time the ferry docked for a few moments in this bay we regretted not having disembarked to enjoy the atmosphere.

You reach Chora Sfakion and drive along the road leading to Anopoli. After roughly a kilometer and a half, you park our car in a clearing on a curve, put on our hiking boots and, backpack on shoulders, begin following the path indicated by a yellow and black sign marked E4. It takes two hours to hike four and a half kilometers. The path is difficult at times and sparks alternating emotions, slight trepidation over a few difficult passages, the joy of discovering Glika Nera, one of the most sensational beaches on this part of the island, and our arrival at Loutro with an enchanted sunset.

The crushed stone path leads alongside a sheer drop over the sea, among boulders that must be circumvented while carefully keeping one’s back to the rock face. In a few points the high, rugged coastline offers breathtaking views of the sea and a palette of amazing colors. The cobalt blue of the deeper water near the jagged underwater caverns shades to turquoise blue and mixes with the emerald green of the sea glittering in the sun. after an hour’s descent we arrive at Glika Nera, an extended silvery tongue of land protected by a massive, high wall of opalescent limestone. The beach’s name refers to the “sweet water” of the natural springs that bubble up in various points along the sandy shore. These springs are wisely protected and marked by rings of large stones with rudimental stairs leading into the pools. Glika Nera is the destination of naturists, some of whom seem to be quite at home here, careful custodians who make sure that these springs remain uncontaminated. They firmly urge us to use the water from the containers that are already filled with the precious liquid and then to refill them for the next people. Two or three tamarisk trees and a few improvised tents made of large branches and colorful cloth offer the beach’s only protection from the sun. at the western extremity of Glika Nera there is a small snack bar that rents deckchairs, as well as a dock for small boats (the last boat for Loutro leaves at five in the afternoon; the last boat for Chora leaves at 5:30 p.m.).

A few canoes are pulled up on the beach while others are slowly skimming their way ashore, a sing that some of the bathers are good rowers their way here from nearby Chora or even from Loutro.

There is a continuous coming and going of excursionists who, like us, couldn’t resit the temptation of an afternoon swim, they wash off the sea salt with the sweet water from the springs.

It is getting late, we can’t tarry any longer and thus begin walking along the mountain ridge to the west for ten minutes, passing by the small white church of Timios Stavros on a promontory known as Cape Punta before you begin to descend along a path that leads through a small forest of pine trees. The path leads upward once again, a thin white line that parallels the mountain as it hugs the naked cliff face. In the distance you can see the outline of Loutro, white and blue, stretching along its natural bay that extends from the promontory of Moures to the southern, rocky offshoots of the mountain with red and are reflected off the white walls of the houses in the village. Loutro’s activity all takes place around the port, with rooms for rent, and taverns and small hotels in old stone buildings that have been restructured but maintain their traditional characteristics. From the terrace of our room the shadow of the promontory rapidly invades, swallows and finally obscures the enormous rocky barrier that protects Loutro to the east. As evening falls, a small ferryboat with a high - sounding name, the Daskaloghianni, docks in the port. A final clattering noise as the anchor is lowered into the sea and then you are enveloped in silence. The boat’s white silhouette will motionlessly stand guard until the next morning.

The locals tell us that the name “Daskaloghianni” is in honor of a heroic event that occurred long ago, in 1769, when a small shipowner, Ioannis Vlachos, known as “Daskaloghianni” (Master John) tried to bring independence to the Sfakia region by leading the first rebellion against the Turks. The numeric superiority of the Turkish forces doomed the undertaking to failure and the epilogue was terrible. To avoid further bloodshed, Daskaloghianni spontaneously gave himself up to the Turkish authorities; he was taken to the fortress of Candia, (now known as Heraklion), tortured and flayed alive.