Samaria Gorge is one of many beautiful gorges in Crete and one of the major tourist attractions of Chania. The gorge has a length of 16 km, starting at an altitude of 1,250 m., in Xyloskalo and ending on the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli. It is quite long (4 to 6 hours hiking), so you should be prepared for a quite rough route. The gorge was declared as a national park in 1962 mainly because it is a shelter for the rare Kri-Kri (Cretan Ibex).
Samaria Gorge has also a variety of several rare endemic species as well as many species of flowers and birds.
You can reach Xyloskalo by car or by intercity bus, starting from the bus station of Chania and ending to Omalos. There you will find the entrance of the National Park of Samaria, as well as the ticket office. You should hold your tickets until the way out where there is a ticket control.
Entering the gorge, there is a steep rocky trail with a wooden fence for you to lean on. This path is about 3km. This is the most difficult route into Samaria Gorge, as it is downhill enough. After 1.7km (40 min. hiking) you will see the first rest point called “Neroutsiko”. There you will find a fountain with drinking water, fire station and toilette. In the next 1.1km (25 min hiking) there is the rest point “Riza Sykia”. It has also a fountain with drinking water, fire station and toilette.
Moving on, you will see the river that crosses the gorge and you will hear its gurgling water on your way there. Also, around the trail you will definitely notice large areas covered with stones stacked on top of one another. It is said that if you stack a rock on top of them your wish will be granted!
In the next 0.9Km (25 min. hiking) you will find the rest point “Agios Nikolaos“, where you can make a five-minute stop if you want. You have already traveled the first 3 kilometers in Samaria Gorge! In Agios Nikolaos you will find a fountain of drinking water, fire station and toilette. Here is the forester’s building and a very old church of St. Nicholas (open to access). From now on, the path is not downhill, but a little steep, full of stones. Continue towards the fourth rest station (20 min hiking), the “Vrysi”. Here you will find only a spring of water. The next stop for water turns to the rest point “Prinari” after 1.3km (20 min hiking).
After 1.2km (25 min hiking), you will find an impressive wooden bridge leading to the rest point “Samaria”, in the old village of Samaria. You’ll see quite a few abandoned stone houses, which formerly hosted the village residents, but also many rebels during the struggle against the Turks and the Germans. It is located in the middle of the gorge and is the biggest rest area, with wooden benches, and tables, in case you need to eat something! Here is the First Aid station. InSamaria village there are also a fountain of drinking water, fire station and toilette.
After a rest in the village, you start again and will definitely be surprised seeing how many olive trees are near the village! You’ll also notice many stone benches on croplands indicating the human presence. A little bit further you will find another church (locked unfortunately), but also the family tomb of Kalogeraki Brothers. Completing the next 1.1km (20 min. hiking), you will cross another wooden bridge in order to reach the rest point “Perdika” (partridge). There is also a fountain of drinking water there and a fire station.
Continuing on to the next station, you will definitely enjoy crossing small bridges over the river. You will notice beautiful geological shapes on the rocks. Completing the next 2,2km (45 min. hiking), you will reach the last rest point, the “Christos” (Christ). Here you will find an old church, fountain of drinking water, fire station and toilette.
After “Christos”, continue for the last 2.8km (30 min. hiking) and you will get to the impressive “Sideroportes”, or simply “Portes”. This is the narrowest point of Samaria Gorge. The distance between the two sides of the gorge at this point is only three meters and their vertical height reaches 300 meters, a perfect spot to take some majestic photos! Then, you will see two parallel bridges, in a short distance from one another, a building for tickets checking and… that’s it!
If you walk leisurely, stop for taking photos and rest, you will spend 5 hours approximately. If you want to walk a little more strongly it will take to you about 4 hours. If you want to be very relaxed, sit and eat in Samaria village, then it may take to you 6 hours approximately. In case of injury or exhaustion, you don’t have to worry! The foresters riding cute donkeys are there for you to take you to the exit of the gorge.
Coming out of Samaria gorge you will see three cafes where you can sit and have a refreshing drink, an ice cream or something to eat. Then you can walk another 3 km towards Agia Roumeli. Alternatively, there is mini-bus service!
In Agia Roumeli you will find several restaurants offering delicious food and iced orange juice. You may also enjoy a swim at the pebble beach there. Then you will get to the ticket office of ANENDYK in order to buy a ticket to Loutro, Sfakia,Paleochora or Sougia. If you are willing to spend a night in Agia Roumeli, we recommend you to enjoy the beautiful sunset until late on the beach and then taste the delicious Sfakian pies and Cretan wine in one of the traditional taverns. In the next morning, do not forget to taste breakfast with Sfakian cheese and thyme honey from the White Mountains.
Useful hiking tips for Samaria Gorge
- Bring any kind of fruit and vegetables or a light snack, enough to fill you up on your way. As for water, you may bring in your backpack a bottle to fill it at each rest point.
- If you walk leisurely, stop for taking photos and rest, you will spend 5 hours approximately. If you want to walk a little more strongly it will take to you about 4 hours. If you want to be very relaxed, sit and eat in Samaria village, then it may take to you 6 hours approximately.
- Wear a white T-shirt, a hat and don’t forget your sunblock. Especially after passing Samaria village, there are no trees along the trail to protect you from the sun.
- Wear soft sneakers with notched soles. They are essential so as not to slip on the steep path. Also, be aware to wear thick athletic socks.
- Beach towel, slippers & swimwear in case you want to swim in Agia Roumeli beach, after coming out of the gorge.
- Climbing canes will be useful for the first 3 km.