The beach of Agios Pavlos is one of the most striking landscapes in south Crete and is set at the mouth of the Elygia Gorge. The small church of Agios Pavlos, which has given its name to the beach, has stood here since the early 11th century AD, when Agios Ioannis Xenos, one of the most influential people in Cretan history, built it in honour of Saint Paul the Apostle who was shipwrecked here on his way to Rome. After the wreck, it is said that he spent time here, baptizing those that believed in the faith. The church has a cruciform plan, with a façade of pale marble and stone. Inside we find preserved, only a few fragments of later frescoes, in the apses and the dome.
The bay of Agios Pavlos is beautiful, isolated and with crystal-clear deep water, sand and pebbles. It is framed, above and behind, by the imposing bulk of the White Mountains, while pines and 30 m-high sand dunes hold it in their embrace. Though the scenery is fantastic, the beach itself is frequently exposed to the west winds’ (mealtime) fury, making this quite an experience but ideal for certain water sports. The beach is extensive, and an ideal spot for free camping and nudism. A small taverna nearby can supply visitors with food and water.
The beach can be reached on foot from the E4 route starting in Agia Roumeli ( approximately 5 km) or the village of Agios Ioannis to the north. There are no amenities nearby so make sure to come prepared. From Agios Pavlos, there is another hiking path that you can follow towards Loutro. The whole section from Agia Roumeli to Loutro is one of the most interesting and enjoyable in Western Crete since it combines contrasting landscapes with an easy trek and beautiful bays where you can stop for a swim. Loutro attracts a wide range of people, from nature enthusiasts, that seek to spend a few days here after a hike, as well as yachters and laid back travellers looking for an intimate destination away. It is known for its charming harbour and tavernas with fresh fish.