The Samaria Gorge is one of the main sights of Crete. Every tourist who visits Crete will have heard of this beautiful gorge. The locals call it the “Farangi” or “Great Gorge”, both in admiration at its beauty and to differentiate it from the many other, smaller gorges of Crete.
The Samaria Gorge is in west Crete, in the White Mountains. It is the longest gorge in Europe, with a length of 16 kilometres. The gorge starts at Xyloskalo and runs down
to the seaside village of Agia Roumeli on the south coast of Crete. The Samaria Gorge is usually open to walkers from 1st of May until 15th of October – depending on the weather.
Initially we descend from Xyloskalo (1227 m. above sea level) on the Omalos Plateau
to the riverbed of Samaria Gorge.
The gorge is located at the south of Chania Prefecture in the larger uninhabited area of Europe, where no roads even exist. It was created by the river flowing between the main massif of the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) and the range of Volakias.
In Samaria there are old houses and trees offering shades. During the route you will also find many fresh-water springs where the water is potable.
The restored but disused church of Agios Nikolaos is set in a glade surrounded by huge and ancient cypress trees. The Samaria National Park is exceptionally rich in plant and animal life. In the gorge you will find unique species protected under international law. It is said that there are 450 plant species in the gorge, and not a single flower may be removed from Samaria, by law.
The gorge became a national park in 1962, particularly as a refuge for the rare Cretan ibex. Kri-Kri, the famous resident of the gorge, is the common name of the Cretan feral goat which is the largest wild mammal on the island. Its grandeur, its bravery, its ability to observe without being noticed, its speed and its impressive horns are the features that were loved by the locals and made it a symbol of Crete. After one more hour we meet the most famous spot of the gorge, imposing Sideroportes (Iron Gates) which is a very narrow passage only 4 m between two tall vertical 500m high cliffs. We soon reach the old village of Agia Roumeli that was abandoned in the mid 1900s due to a devastating flood and was moved to the seaside settlement of Agia
Roumeli, which is about 30 minutes away.
Finally, after approximately 6 hours walking the gorge, Agia Roumeli Village is waiting in the end with its inviting majestic beach. From there the most visitors get the ferry to the port of Chora Sfakion or Sougia/Paleochora and catch a coach back to Chania.
Crossing the gorge is a demanding physical activity and it requires a robust health.
The best is to start hiking in the early morning. The first buses arrive at around 7:30 am and from then on it is an uninterrupted stream of buses until about 11:00 am. If you feel fit for the challenge, wear hiking shoes, bring a snack and prepare yourself for a beautiful nature experience. However, if you don’t feel up to the whole route, there is also the “lazy way”. This is a much shorter route from Agia Roumeli up to the “Iron Gates” (Sideroportes), which is certainly an easy way to experience some, though not all, of the magic of the Samaria Gorge.