Crete: how to walk the Samaria Gorge, the longest gorge in Europe
Going down the long, long stairs, you will get into a long, long valley. Passing the long, long valley, you will walk out to the turquoise blue sea. But before you see the turquoise blue sea, you will have to pass a long, long road and, if you're lucky, you will meet the goats standing upright and stripping green branches of trees.
Then, drinking a glass of ouzo, you will amaze your friends with stories, as you walked 17 kilometers beneath the scorching sun through the longest gorge in Europe. You will show photos, where the rocks go up to the sky, and trees grow out of the rock crevices. But the journey is still ahead, and you need to get ready!
Travellizy invites you for a walk through the largest canyon of Europe, located in the mountains of Lefka Ori in the southwestern part of Crete.
What is the Samaria Gorge and what it is famous for
The Samaria Gorge's length is 13 km. But in order to get there, and then, after getting out, to reach the nearest village of Agia Roumeli, located on the coast of the Libyan Sea, you need to travel a few more kilometers. The average width of the gorge is 150 m. The narrowest place is the “Gate” or “Iron Gate” - 3 m. The height of the rocks is 300-500 m.
The Tarreos River, named after the ancient city of Tara, flows through the entire gorge. From ancient times, people lived in the gorge. In different centuries during different wars, civilians from neighboring villages, partisans, rebels used to hide here.
In 1962, the Samaria Gorge received the status of the Samaria National Park, protected by UNESCO. The villagers were resettled. Now, only state-protected kri-kri, also called Cretan goats, live in the gorge. These rare animals are found only in Crete and on several smaller neighboring islands.
In the National Park, there are many rare plants, birds, animals. There are several old churches and houses in the gorge.
How to get to the Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge is located in the southwestern part of Crete - in the White Mountains of Lefka Ori, the largest mountain range on the island.
If you are going to walk through the whole gorge, it is better to go on a trip from the city of Chania. You can get to the northern entrance to the gorge on the Omalos plateau by a rented car or by a regular bus. In the first version, you will have to think about how to get back to your car. The entrance is called Xyloskalo, which translates from Greek as “wooden staircase”. You will have to go downstairs straight into the gorge.
Chania-Omalos (Samaria Gorge) buses leave from Chania’s central bus station.
From the village of Ayia Rumeli, you can get out only by sea - by boat or ferry. They run to Paleochora, Sfakia, Loutro, Suya. If you are going to return to Chania, get off in Sfakia or Sougia. And then take a bus to Chania.
By the way, those who left their car in Omalos can get to this place by bus (you need to find out with the driver).
If you stopped at Ayia Roumeli or traveled here by ferry, leave the village, walk two kilometers, and there will be the southern entrance to the gorge. Some travelers reach the narrowest point and come back.
The Samaria Gorge's opening hours
The gorge is open to the public from the beginning of May until the end of October. The specific start and end dates of the season may vary slightly. During rains or extreme heat, the gorge is closed for safety reasons. Clarify this information in your hotel prior to the hike. Opening hours to the gorge are from 7 am to 4 pm.
It is best to start the trip as early as possible, until it is very hot and there are not so many people.
In July and August, it is very hot.
What to wear and take for a hike through the Samaria Gorge with
Going on a trip, you should wear shorts or light pants and a T-shirt. In case of cool and windy weather, a windbreaker is fine. Take a swimsuit for after-hike swimming in the Libyan Sea.
Don't forget a hat, because you have to go through the open area and, perhaps, it may be at noon.
Comfortable thick-soled sports shoes with good fixation of the foot would be useful - thanks to them, it is easier to move on the stones. A few tourist forums sometimes are full of bravados about how tourists can overcome the gorge in beach slippers or sandals. Don't give in! Any journey should be a joy, not a punishment.
Grab a bottle of water. There will be sources on your way, and your water supply can be replenished. The patch will be helpful as well. You might need sunscreen too.
Infrastructure and security in the Samaria Gorge
There are toilets, but the gorge is short on stores. Going on a journey on an empty stomach, you should take sandwiches or fruits. There is a cafe in Omalos, where the buses arrive, and where the way down to the gorge begins: you can have a snack or a cup of coffee there.
In the gorge, there is a medical center and emergency point. There are special places for smoking.
It is better not to leave the path. And if you have health problems or feel sick, it’s better not to go at all.
How much time it usually takes to walk through the Samaria Gorge
Reserve a whole day for visiting the Samaria Gorge. You need to get to it, go through it and leave it.
How long to go through the gorge is up to you. Knowing your average speed of movement, make adjustments for the heat, the stones (sometimes, you will have to walk on them), technical stops and photo shoots.
If you don't want to get up very early, or if you want to rest after the hike, spend the night either in Omalos or in Agia Roumeli (depending on your route). In Omalos, you will live surrounded by mountains, in Agia Roumeli - on the shore of the Libyan Sea. There are beaches, several churches, including the cave, the ruins of a Turkish castle.
How much money are to spend on a trip to the Samaria Gorge
You can book a tour, but it is important to clarify what is included in the price. Or you can go on your own.
- A ticket for the regular bus line Chania - Omalos costs 7.5 Euro. Travel time is 1 hour. Schedule is here.
- From Agia Roumeli, you can get out only by sea - by boat or ferry. A ticket to Chora Sfakion costs 12 Euros (6 euro for children), to Sougia - 11 Euros (5.5 Euros - for children). It takes about an hour. Schedule is here.
- A ticket for the bus Chora Sfakion - Chania is 8.30 Euro. Travel time is 1.45 hours. Schedule is here.
The entrance ticket to the gorge is 5 euros. It is purchased in the information center near the entrance.
If you are not ready to go the whole route, but only a couple of kilometers and come back, you will still have to pay 5 euros for the ticket. For children up to the age of 15, the entrance to the gorge is free.
The ticket must be kept until the end of the journey - you will have to show it when leaving the gorge (the number of tourists entering and leaving must match). You can also buy fresh orange juice for recuperation.
But the exit from the gorge is not the end of the road! You have only 2 kilometers to the sea! And you can walk them just as cheerfully, as all your way, or take a small bus (if you're lucky, and it will be there at the right time), which carries tourists from the exit of the gorge to the village of Agia Roumeli. The ticket costs 2 euros.
Traveling through the Samaria Gorge is adrenaline, beauty, good physical exertion and many beautiful pictures!