With its cool, deep blue-green waters, wild nature, and majestic landscape, the beach has justly earned its reputation. It is a great place to swim, relax, or just visit. The sight alone is worth it.
Literally meaning “Sweet Waters”, it is named thus for the springs of potable water at and around the coast. You can even drink some of the water pooling right next to the sea itself. Glyka Nera is a prime destination for anyone wishing to enjoy the greatest Crete has to offer. Fine, smooth pebbles, a magnificent turquoise sea, proud mountain drops that set the heart racing, and a romantic, soothing atmosphere brought about by the calm remoteness of the area make for some of the most memorable moments of your vacation.
Glyka Nera beach is located about 75km from Chania, in the Sfakia region of south Crete. Nestled in a small cove under the local mountains, it lies 4km away from Chora Sfakion and less than 10 from the village of Loutro.
Despite its proximity to the region’s bigger settlements, Glyka Nera is not in a commercial or high-profile area. The beach is surrounded by steep cliffs and there are no roads nearby. The wilderness and remoteness are part of its incredible charm, but it also means you will need alternatives to your usual car or bus in order to get there.
How to get to Glyka Nera
With the surrounding mountains restricting access, getting to Glyka Nera is an adventure in and of itself. Driving from Chania or Heraklion will only get you as far as Chora Sfakion or the nearby Illigas beach. From there, you have two options.
The easiest way to reach Glyka Nera beach is to take the boat from Chora or Loutro. It is a nice, short trip which will also give you the chance to appreciate the south coast from the outside.
However, if you are more daring, wish to experience the untamed nature of the area to its fullest or just do not want to be limited by boat schedules, there is an alternative. A mountain trail, part of the E4 European path, runs along the cliffs and leads to the beach. The sheer drops are impressive but also scary to behold and the trek takes around 30 exhausting minutes. However, the path is well-maintained and safe to walk, and taking in the wilderness is exhilarating. Just make sure to protect yourself from the sun and stay hydrated. You can also take the path from the village of Loutro, but the distance is twice as long and might be prohibitive for many.
Things to do in the area
First and foremost, you have to take a swim! You are in Glyka Nera beach, crown jewel of Crete, so make the most of it. Because of the nearby springs that give the area its name, the water is quite cool, but that matters little on a hot summer day. Lose yourself in the turquoise bay as you gaze up the mountains that surround it and then rest and sunbathe, enjoying the breathtaking scenery. While the beach is very remote, there is a small tavern there where you can get food and drink and rent a sunbed, so take your time and relax. You can even spend the night there. Camping is allowed and common and the scenery takes on a whole new presence as night falls.
Of course, taking a dip and enjoying the sun do not have to be the limit. You are in Sfakia. There is plenty more to do.
Holy Cross Church and Fort
This lone white chapel is situated a short distance from the beach, right next to the coast. It is a picturesque sight that makes a nice addition to the day’s trip. For history buffs, the ruins of an old fort are located nearby. If you happen to visit on September 14th, you may also bear witness to the celebrations for the church’s feast day.
Iligas beach and Kavis gorge
This is more of an alternative in case you find getting to Glyka Nera beach too arduous. Iligas beach is one of the most popular in Sfakia and has its own merits to boast of. Smooth pebbles, characteristic of the local coast, clear and clean water and seaside caves make for a beautiful sight and a good swim. Easily accessible on foot from Chora Sfakion and next to one of the region’s main roads, the beach offers itself for a nice morning dip or for a relaxing afternoon after returning from a local excursion.
Iligas is located at the exit of the Kavis gorge, one of the longest and wildest among the many trails of the area. Walking down the gorge takes three hours through untamed nature, with a lot of caves, a beautiful forest and breathtaking cliffs, before the final reward of the beach at its end.
The Anopolis plateau lies to the north and houses, except for the village of the same name, the ruins of the ancient city that once prospered there.
An important settlement with a long history, ancient Anopolis thrived during the hellenistic, roman and byzantine years and there are still structures there, the most impressive one being Saint Katherine’s fort. Outside the historical interest of the location, it also offers some stunning views.
Save ancient Anopolis for a day of touring Sfakia, as climbing down cliffs to beaches and climbing up plateaus to forts are not the best combination. Alternatively, you can start your day with a visit there, then head down to Loutro and take the boat to Glyka Nera. The choice is up to you.
We have mentioned Loutro a few times already as a starting point for hitting Glyka Nera beach, but it would be unfair to treat the village as just a waypoint. The picturesque little settlement lies within its own small cove, a perfect place to sit and gaze at the sea. It also has its own share of ancient ruins, with a temple to the god Apollo and the old church of Saint Anthony being the most prominent.
So if you are heading to Glyka Nera through Loutro, take some time to look around the village as well. You will not regret it.
Other Beaches Nearby
Glyka Nera might be a gorgeous beach, but it would be a shame to visit south Crete and only try that. There are beaches practically all along the coast in the region, to the point where you can claim your own personal swimming space. And a number of them are sure to interest you.
Aside from the aforementioned Iligas, Chora Sfakion has another popular beach nearby. Called Ammoudi, it lies to the east of the village and is notable for its impressive geological formations. There is also a cave which is visited by seals once in a while.
To the west, on the other hand, lies the small Marmara beach. Located at the exit of the Aradena gorge, it is another one of those places where walking or boat are your only ways in. And as you might have noticed by now, such places are usually worth their trouble. Marmara is no different, with its blue waters, colorful rocks and small caves housing beaches of their own making it one tempting destination.
And lastly, if you are a naturist, Filaki and Agios Charalambos, a bit further than Ammoudi, are for you. The east side of Glyka Nera is also reserved for naturists, but at Filaki and Agios Charalambos you will have the whole place to pick a spot and enjoy yourself.
Why Glyka Nera is one of our favorite beaches
Glyka Nera beach is truly the pinnacle of the Sfakia experience. It combines natural beauty, memorable hikes and a clear sea, all at their best. You will not find another beach with waters as blue, pebbles as fine, scenery as majestic.
Glyka Nera is not a commercial spot. It is a place for the traveler and the wanderer. It is for the thrill-seeker and for the visitor looking beyond mass tourism, the one who wants to experience everything on offer.
There is no shortage of beaches in Crete. But even in a place so associated with the greek summer, there are standouts. Glyka Nera is such a standout. For anyone willing to venture off the beaten path and put in a little effort, it returns that effort tenfold. It is one of the greatest experiences you can have in Greece and a memory sure to stay with you for years to come.