Chania Samaria Gorge

Location: Omalos

Lying on the southern side of Chania prefecture, the Samaria Gorge is a marvelous place for hikers. Visitors from all over the world come to Crete in order to trek here. In 1962, it was declared a National Park for the survival of the endangered kri-kri species, the rare Cretan wild goat that lives only in Samaria and the Thodorou islet. Apart from the kri-kri, this canyon is home to more than 300 hundred species of flora and 900 species of fauna, 70 of which are endemic to Crete.

The small village of Samaria used to stand right in the heart of the gorge; however, it was abandoned by all its inhabitants in 1962 for the creation of the national park. Samaria is said to have been named after the old church of Osia Maria, though it probably shares the same root as the word ‘amara’, which denotes the meeting place of many brooks.

Stretching 16 km, it is said to be the longest gorge in Europe after the Gorges du Verdon in South France. It is part of the 10,000-kilometer-long E4 hiking path that traverses the continent all the way from Spain to Cyprus. It has been created by a stream running between the enormous White Mountains and Mount Volakias. There are several smaller gullies vertical to the one of Samaria, but they require canyoning equipment. One of them, Perdika, boasts a 240-meter-high cascade, the greatest waterfall in Greece.

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  • Full day Samaria Gorge trek excursion

    Category: Hiking, Day Trips

    Take part in a challenging trekking experience through one of the finest gorges in Europe! See wonders of nature, such as the White Mountains and a gorgeous, thousand-year-old forest.

    12 hours Map
    from € 30.60
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The trek

The gorge starts at Xyloskalo, a steep stone pathway bordered with wooden rails below the northern side of the Omalos Plateau, and ends on the shores of the Lybian Sea, at the village of Agia Roumeli. Its breadth ranges from 150 to 3.5 meters. For the first 6 km, it is wide and spacious, passing through pine forests, cypresses and streams of running water that create breathtaking scenery. Note that, in the beginning, the descent is rather steep. After about 3 hours, you will reach the deserted village of Samaria. You can still see the buildings and visit the settlement’s seven churches. After that, the gorge is more thinly vegetated, but, to make up for that, the ground is less precipitous. You will also notice that it tends to narrow down and, when you reach the 11-km mark, its walls are only 3.5 meters apart. This point is known as the Iron Gates, and the cliffs tower 500 meters above sea level!

The actual distance of this long trek through the park itself is 13 km, but, from the exit point of the park, one has to walk another 3 km to reach the seaside village of Agia Roumeli, where there are plenty of local ferries to take you to Chora Sfakion. From there, you can take the bus back to Chania Town. The time to complete the hike differs from 4 to 7 hours, depending on each trekker’s capacity. You have to be in good physical condition because it can be very exhausting, especially in summer, when the sun is burning hot.

Opening hours and access

This National Park is only open from early May to late October, from 07:00 to 16:00, though the exact opening and closing dates depend on the weather conditions. For safety reasons, it remains closed on rainy days. The best time to visit it is in spring when the weather is cool, nature is at its best and visitors are far fewer than in summer. If you realize that the journey is too difficult for you within the first hour, you should stop; there are forest guards with donkeys, who can take you back to where you started the journey. Guards with radio contact with each other can be found all over the way in case one gets injured or dizzy, and a doctor is stationed in the abandoned village. There are 8 resting points in total, where you can take a break, refill your bottle, go to the toilet, or just sit back and take in the sublime view. Rubbish bins can be frequently found along the way too.

As the gorge is a national park, swimming in the streams, camping, lighting fires, hunting, or staying overnight is prohibited. After 15:00, visitors are only allowed to trek a 2-kilometer distance, either from Xyloskalo or Agia Roumeli, because the authorities need to make sure that nobody will be there after nightfall. All visitors must have exited the park by 18:00 at the latest.

Some operators and guides organize trips from Chania Town to Samaria Gorge. Alternatively, you can take the public buses from Chania Town to Omalos. The last boat from Agia Roumeli to Sfakia leaves at 17:30. The bus from Sfakia to Chania Town leaves at 18:30 and the driver waits for the boat from Agia Roumeli to come before the bus departs.

Bonus info: At Xyloscalo, you will also find the Samaria Natural History Museum, where you can discover a wealth of interesting facts about the local flora and fauna.

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