Sweetwater beach (Glyka Nera) is another one of those beautiful, breath-taking beaches you may find on a postcard. If you only can make it to one beach on Crete, this would be well worth considering and you would not be disappointed. You will definitely leave this beach with a very positive feeling and the longing to come back one day, if not tomorrow.
In 2003, the beach was ranked among the best 20 in Europe by ‘The London Times’. You can never be too sure who ranks the beaches and why one makes it one year and not the other, but it’s fair to say that this beach should make any such list every year. It is truly a remarkable and memorable beach.
The beach is popular but not overcrowded with enough room for everyone and boasting a relaxed and laid back atmosphere.
Glyka Nera is typical for such a beautiful beach, it’s out the way and does takes some effort to get there. The cove that forms the beach would be one of the most dramatic you could find. It’s where the ‘White Mountains’ reach the coast and plunge almost perpendicular from a couple of hundred metres to the Libyan Sea which during summer is crystal clear and a colour that is best described as deep blue. Which is ideal for snorkelling. The beach being on the south coast of Crete faces the sun and is bathed in sunlight the whole day with the sun theatrically falling from the beach over the mountains at the western end closing a specular day. Despite the backdrop of the cliffs, some danger comes with this due to the occasional falling rocks and landslide, and you are advised not to sit too close to the cliff face.
Glyka Nera is located between Chora Sfakion (3km) and Loutro (4km) (about 75km south of Chania). The easiest way to reach the beach is by boat and regular services leave from both Chora Sfakion and Loutro and return at various times through the day. You are best to check when you arrive in the area for times and prices. Water Taxi services are also available upon request.
The European E4 footpath follows the coast and links Chora Sfakion and Loutro. The path is a very scenic and drops onto the beach from both directions, but is for the more adventurous and will require a certain level of fitness especially if you are bringing your beach supplies for the day.
From Chora Sfakion take the road to Anopolis or head west and after only a few bends the road makes a dramatic hair-pin right turn up the hill and you will see the access to the path is marked by the sign ‘E4 Sweetwater Beach’. This access point in GPS coordinates: N35 12′ 07.0″ E24 07′ 02.7″. This sign, like many other road signs and rubbish bins in rural Crete, is riddled with bullet holes and the odd blast from a shot gun.
You can park your car in this area. The path is cut into the side of the cliff and some care is needed in parts. Appropriate footwear is best for this walk as you may find the walk rather difficult in ‘flip-flops’ or bare feet. The walk from this direction will take about 30 minutes. You may also consider making this walk outside the heat of the day and taking some water. The walk can be very hard during the middle of the day.
The path from Loutro takes about 60 minutes and is an easier walk, however again footwear and water is best considered. The path is safe and well maintained by local authorities.
Once on the beach, you realise that paradise can be found on earth. The beach is about 500m long, about 50m wide and mostly small pebbles. Behind the beach are some groups of salt cedar trees that offer some valuable protection from the sun. The beach is mostly nude from the Chora Sfakion end to about ¾ the length of the beach or the sun beds near the tavern. A sign is now posted to mark the clothed area. Due to the rock and pebbles the beach tends to heat up during day so water is esential as is some sun cream.
One of the highlights of the beach are the fresh water springs. There are several springs that have been dug along the beach with stone paths and small fences preventing possible contamination. The water in the springs is potable but only one of the springs was marked ‘drinking water only’. The other springs have buckets of spring water ready to tip over yourself after you have been for a swim in the inviting water of the beach. The unwritten rule is that you full the bucket for the next person, and you wash your self away from the spring. Just watch the other people and you will quickly see how it works.
If you get it wrong – one of the campers will show you the way and they cover the springs of an evening to preserve the water. There are likely to be a few campers who seem to have some permanency and appear to stay for some time during the summer months. The number of campers change from year to year.
There is a small tavern on the beach that sells an excellent range of hot and cold food including Greek (naturally) salads and the like, cold drinks and also hires the sun beds. The tavern is well frequented and most people on the beach will make at least one journey. It’s a great place to break the day and enjoy their offerings. A very clean toilet block is just near the tavern, a shower area is also available but in the clothed area.
The tavern also doubles as the wharf for the ferries and water taxis. The tavern will also call a water taxi should you need one. The tavern is in the clothed area of the beach and you must be clothed to use the tavern.
A couple of our friends visited Glyka Nera a few years ago. They were enjoying themselves on the beach losing track of time only to realise the ferry had pulled in and was making preparations to depart. Running along the beach they managed to wave to the ferry; which waited for them. Once on board they gathered their things and took a collective breath. Only when the ferry operator asked the female friend to get dressed as it wasn’t a nude ferry did she realise that her husband was dressed and she had ran the entire beach naked.
Sweetwater is famous for its goats well to be fair they are all over the island. Apparently, if you feed them, they will lie down next to you and spend the day just like a loyal dog. They also accept petting but can become a nuisance.
This beach rates in our minds as one of the most beautiful beaches Crete has to offer, accessible by ferry, with the tavern offering a fine range of food and drinks, a very relaxing atmosphere and a stunning setting, this beach comes highly recommended.