A hike to Katholiko Bay in the Akrotiri Peninsula of Crete will reward you with sweeping views of the Sea of Crete, abandoned monasteries, and the crystral clear waters of this small fjord.

Hiking Katholiko Bay and Monastery, Crete: Akrotiri Peninsula’s Hidden Gem

While you are spoiled for choices of hikes in Crete, Katholiko Bay and Monastery ended up being my favourite one when I was road-tripping Western Crete. Located on the Akrotiri Peninsula, Katholiko Bay is a great day trip from Chania and easy to add to your Crete travel plans.

While this hike is much less famous than some other gorge hikes, Katholiko Bay has fantastic natural scenery taking you through the Avlaki Gorge, by an ancient monastery, and ending at a beautiful fjord. Especially if you are going to be based in Chania, this is a must-visit destination on your Crete travel itinerary.

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Planning Your Trip to Katholiko Bay Last Minute?

Planning your hike to Katholiko Bay? Below are some places to stay and tour options. The best way to visit Katholiko Bay is by rental car, I used DiscoverCars for Crete and recommend them.

Best Tours to Visit Katholiko Bay
  1. Katholiko Bay: Hiking with Pickup
  2. Private boat trip to Katholiko Bay and Seitan Limani from Chania
Top Hotels for Visiting Katholiko BAy
  1. Mosaic in Chania (I stayed here, great hotel)
  2. Lena Beach Hotel on Akrotiri Peninsula (Great location next to sandy beach)

Quick Katholiko Bay Hiking Logistics

Hiking Length: 4.5 km out and back
Time to Hike: about 2-3 hours, moderately challenging
Water: Bring plenty of your water (minimum 1.5L), none available here
Bathrooms: None, closest is Holy Trinity (Agia Triada) Tzagaroli Monastery
Special Equipment Needed: Active monastery so need shoulders and knees covered. Sneakers should be sufficient. Swimsuits are not needed as swimming is forbidden.

View of Katholiko Monastery that shows a bridge built into Avlaki Gorge
The bridge of Katholiko Monastery.

Is Katholiko Bay Worth Visiting?

Katholika Bay was my favourite hike on my trip to Crete. I personally rank it higher than more well-known destinations such as Samaria Gorge and think the coastline here is as beautiful as Elafonisi Beach or Balos Bay, although swimming is prohibited. The crystal clear water of the fjord with mountains in the background is stunning. From the top of the hike there are stunning views of the sea and then you walk through an ancient monastery and Avlaki Gorge. It’s one of the most unique hikes I’ve ever done and I highly recommend it. If you have any doubts, I hope this post will convince you to add it to your itinerary.

View of the mountains and Sea of Crete from Katholiko Bay
View from Katholiko Bay, Crete

When to Hike Katholiko Bay

You can hike Katholiko Bay year-round as there are no closures. The trail is exposed to the sun and has some steep step locations so be prepared for the sun and avoid it if it has been raining as it may be dangerously slippery. The best months to visit are in spring (March-June) and autumn (October-November) for milder temperatures.

How to Get to Katholiko Bay

The best way to reach Katholika Bay is by car. In Crete, I used DiscoverCars for my car rental and I was happy with the service and options I had for cars.

While you can get as far as Agia Triada using buses, the walk from there to the start of the hike adds 4.1 km of walking each way.

The hike to Katholiko Bay starts at Gouverneto Monastery not far from the Chania Airport and the beach of Seitan Limani. When you are searching for directions, make sure you put in Gouverneto Monastery as your destination and not Katholiko Bay. From Chania, it is approximately a 35-minute drive so it is a perfect day trip destination. To reach Gouverneto Monastery you drive past Agia Triada, which is the last place you can purchase water or use the bathroom. Past Agia Triada, the road turns into a dirt road with some switchbacks. You do have to drive carefully so you do not damage the underside of the car.

Parking at Gouverneto Monastery is free but there is a small cash only entry fee for the path.

Hiking Katholiko Bay

While you can hike this without special equipment, I highly recommend taking at least 1.5 liters of water and protection from the sun. You can do this hike in sneakers but sandals or flip-flops are a bad idea. The stairs and downhill element of Katholiko Bay make the hike moderately challenging because of the exposure to sun and heat. Overall, this is a must-visit location on the Akrotiri Peninsula and is perfect as a half-day trip from Chania.

Starting the Hike

At the entrance to the hike, you do have to pay a cash-only fee, 2.50 euros when I visited. You also need to make sure to have your shoulders and knees covered as you will be denied entry if you are not wearing appropriate clothing. They are a bit more lenient with men if their shorts are above the knee.

To start with you hike through the gardens of the Gouverneto Monastery. It’s just a small area but it is well-kept. After a short flat section, the path starts to get rocky and goes down into the gorge. At the start of your walk, you can look across to the mountain and see the abandoned Monastery of St. Anthony on the hillside.

View of Monastery of St. Anthony from the start of the Katholiko Bay hike in the Akrotiri Peninsula of Crete
Monastery of St. Anthony at the start of the Katholiko Bay Hike

Arkoudospilios Cave

Before descending into the gorge and seeing the ancient Monastery Katholiko, there are some interesting sites at the top. One must see on the hike is the Arkoudospilios Cave. Arkoudospilios Cave means Bear Cave and when enter you will see why. Arkoudospilios Cave contains a stalagmite that when viewed from the side, looks like a bear. It’s in front of a pool that has been built up to store water.

The cave is a welcome reprieve from the blazing sun outside but do not be tempted by this water. The cave is also a reprieve to goats that drink from the water collected here. I did see people washing their faces with this water and I would avoid it because there were goat droppings in the pool.

Interior of Arkoudospilios Cave in Crete with its bear shaped stalagmite
The Bear Stalagmite of Arkoudospilios Cave

This cave has quite a history. There are inscriptions on the cave that indicate that it was used for the cults of Artemis and Apollo before being dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Of course, there is lore about the bear stalagmite with one legend saying that the bear is the figure of Artemis and another saying that ascetics that lived in the cave prayed to the Virgin Mary because the bear was drinking their water and she petrified it.

This cave has been an important religious site for ages. Now, you will find a small chapel inside and a dedication to the residents of the Akrotiri executed by Nazis. Arkoudospilios Cave and others in the area were used as a refuge in World War Two by partisans during the Battle of Crete.

Hiking Down to Monastery Katholiko

A cobblestone path that leads down to Katholiko Monastery with stunning views of the Sea of Crete and mountains.
The path leading down to Katholiko Monastery

If you keep an eye out, this the perfect spot to see lizards. Nice and sunny, plenty of rocks. It’s home to the endangered Cretan Wall Lizard which can only be found in Crete. Katholiko Bay is also home to some beautiful wildflowers including multiple orchids and the dragon arum.

Cretan Wall Lizard sunning itself on the Katholiko Bay hike in Crete
Cretan Wall Lizard sunning itself on the path

After exploring the cave, you begin your descent towards Monastery Katholiko. There are fantastic views of the Sea of Crete from here. Serpentine trails will take you gently down to Avlaki Gorge. The walk down is not overly difficult as it is cobblestone and has stairs but it is completely exposed to the sun.

Stairs up a mountain that are part of the Katholiko Bay hike in Crete, a day trip from Chania
Stairs that form part of the path down to Katholiko Monastery

At the bottom is the Monastery Katholiko. This is the only truly technical part of the hike as there is a small section near the bottom that does not have a proper staircase and you will need to climb up a rocky section. In the photo below you can see this technical section that leads from the left side and curves down a rocky section. As a shorter-statured person, I did find it a bit difficult to do the large step up here that is required and it turned into more of a small climb.

The technical hiking section of Katholiko Bay which is just before the bridge at the bottom
The technical section of the hike with the arrow indicating where the path is, this section requires a bit of a climb up and down

Exploring Monastery Katholiko

Monastery Katholiko and the Monastery of Saint John the Hermit (Ioannis the Hermit) flourished in the Byzantine Empire. Monks lived in the caves of the area, including the caves you can see high in the cliffs here. Founded in the 5th or 6th century, this is the oldest monastery in Crete. When St. John the Hermit died, this area became a huge monastic village. Because of this, this is an important pilgrimage site every year on October 7th for St. John the Hermit’s Day.

Around the monastery there is also a small cave here where you can explore some more stalagmites and get a break from the heat of the sun.

Abandoned building that forms part of the Katholiko Monastery with the path in the background
Part of the Katholiko Monastery. In the background you can see the path you have to walk down.

The monastery here was abandoned in the 18th century but is still interesting to view. The highlights here are seeing the cells of the hermits and the bridge. The large bridge over the valley built into the Avlaki Gorge is impressive and makes you wonder how such a large monastery could be abandoned. The answer appears to be pirates. This monastery became a popular pilgrimage site that brought in a lot of income. When pirates were targeting Crete, the monks were said to have fled Katholiko Monastery and moved up to Gouverneto Monastery.

View of the Katholiko Monastery bridge with path below and mountains behind it, in the Akrotiri Peninsula of Crete
The Katholiko Monastery

Hiking through Avlaki Gorge

After exploring Katholiko Monastery, there is a short walk through Avlaki Gorge. While the gorge isn’t quite as impressive as others on Crete like Samaria Gorge, this short walk is still quite nice. The path here is quite rocky so it is slow walking. Winding between large boulders, this is a stunning hike. You finally emerge to the Sea of Crete.

Avlaki Gorge on the Katholiko Bay Hike on a sunny day. The rocky path starts to head into the gorge.
Hiking the rocky trail of Avlaki Gorge

Katholiko Bay and Fjord

Looking back towards Avlaki Gorge, Crete, from Katholiko Bay
Avlaki Gorge, Crete

Around Katholiko Bay there are broad views of the mountains and Avlaki Gorge. There is a small cape made of red sandstone here that offers views of the clear teal water. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a sea turtle feeding at the inlet. I spent a lot of time here watching the sea turtle I saw. Crete is home to three species of sea turtle (Loggerheads, Green, and Leatherbacks) so you may get lucky.

The Sea of Crete and waves that hit the rocky shore of Katholiko Bay
Waves at Katholiko Bay
A sea turtle swimming in the Sea of Crete as viewed from the Akrotiri Peninsula
Sea turtle seen at Katholiko Bay

The big reason people do this hike is to see Katholiko Bay and Fjord. This small fjord is stunning. The shades of aquamarine to teal to dark blue that it forms are beautiful. It is a highlight of the Katholiko Bay hike. While you are asked not to swim here as it is a religious site, people still do. There are stairs down to the water but it is quite slippery.

The small Katholiko Fjord you reach at the end of the Katholiko Bay hike in Crete
Katholiko Bay, Crete

Hiking Back to Gouverneto Monastery

The hike up is the more challenging part. Being fully exposed to the sun and quite a lot of steps, you’re going to want to have some water on hand. That said, this hike round trip is only 2 to 3 hours long. I was on the longer side as I spent quite a lot of time at Katholiko Bay watching the sea turtle and waves.

Visiting Katholiko Bay

Katholiko Bay is a fantastic destination if you are looking for a short hike close to Chania. I combined it with a visit to nearby Seitan Limani for a perfect day trip from Chania. It is not a busy trail so it is easy to find some space to yourself to admire the views of the Sea of Crete and mountainous landscape. Hiking to Katholiko Bay ended up being my favourite hike on my trip to Crete. The spectacular views, ancient buildings, the sea turtle, and Katholiko Bay create a unique and memorable hiking experience.

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