If you see a photo of this church, built of ancient stones right at the edge of the sea, with some imagination you will feel
- the resinous smell of pine trees on the shore,
- the heat of coarse sand under your bare feet;
- and the salty sea wind, the same one that once accompanied St. Paul on his way to Rome. The preacher’s ship made stop here, in the Golf of Selouda, on the coast of Southern Crete.
Of course, a temple was built here: it dates back to the 10th century (Church of Agios Pavlos, Google map: 35.22291186268982, 24.000448536676), founded by St. John the Wanderer, who chose the most secluded corners of Crete for his prayers. Until now, Agios Pavlos beach is reliably hidden from idle curiosity among the mountains of Sfakia (the most inaccessible region of the island of Crete), pine forest and sand dunes.
There are no roads here: only trails and canyons. Forest-covered cliffs drop steeply, almost vertically, from a height of 600 meters to dunes and a beach of silver sand. Here, untouched by either the sea or time, the delightful temple of Agios Pavlos listens to the whisper of the waves.
“This is a small and inaccessible paradise”, guidebooks scare, since it is not accessible by car but on foot, along the path from Agia Roumeli (3 km) or from Loutro (6 km). Of course, it is also accessible by sea.
The blue-blue Libyan Sea will cling to your feet, leaving you away from everyone; and the mighty Chronos will allow you look into the time when St. Paul baptized the first Christians here. This Agios Pavlos is a place to pray and meditate.
The blessed shade of the pine trees is just above the beach, so it’s worth taking an umbrella with you; and you can get food and water at the tavern nearby.
Another Agios Pavlos Beach (Google map 35.10366015630973, 24.563422044112627), located 58 km away from the city of Rethymnon, claims the right to be called the shore where St. Paul landed. Getting here is much easier: along an asphalt road through the village of Saktouria. The beach is landscaped: there is a possibility to change clothes and to eat there.