Samaria Gorge is one of many beautiful gorges in Crete and one of the places you should visit on your Crete holidays. 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.

How To Get To Samaria Gorge From Chania

You may choose among three different ways to get to Samaria Gorge National Park:

1) The most common way to reach there is to book a guided Samaria Gorge tour. There are tours organised in most big cities and resorts of Crete. The main advantage of those tours is that you don’t have to organize anything regarding booking tickets (included in the price), checking bus itineraries, e.t.c. The buses are air-conditioned and you have the benefit of a guide. This does not mean that you have to walk in a group: everyone walks at their own pace and meet at a prearranged time and place in Agia Roumeli.

2) If you don’t want to book an organised tour, the second most convenient choice is to get to the Public Bus Service (KTEL) and get one of the buses going to Omalos from Chania every morning (only when the gorge is open).  Once you end your hike and reach Agia Roumeli, you get the boat returning to Chora Sfakion, Sougia or Paleochora. From any of these regions, you may take the bus back to Chania again. Check here the timetable of the Public Bus Service (KTEL).

3) Finally, If you prefer to drive your car to Omalos, you have two options:

– You have somebody with you who drives your car to Sfakia or Sougia or Paleochora, so he/she catches you up from there

– You leave your car at Xyloskalo, cross the gorge until Agia Roumeli and then, return, through the gorge to get your car. We would not recommend that option, as you will be exhausted.

Starting Your Route In Samaria…

In Xyloskalo, you will find the entrance of the National Park of Samaria, as well as the ticket office.  The ticket costs  5 Euros. Entrance for children until 15 years old is free. You should hold your tickets until the way out where there is a ticket control. The hike in the gorge is permitted from mid-April until the end of October. There is no exact date that you will find Samaria open. It depends on the weather.  In case of heavy rain, the entry to the public may be forbidden to avoid accidents from falling stones or overflowing of the river flowing through the canyon.

The steep downhill path starting from Xyloskalo
The steep downhill path starting from Xyloskalo

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.

The river crossing Samaria Gorge
The peaceful river crossing Samaria Gorge

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 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!

Foresters in Agios Nikolaos rest point welcome you in Samaria Gorge
Foresters in Agios Nikolaos rest point welcome you in Samaria Gorge

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 travelled the first 3 kilometres in Samaria Gorge! In Agios Nikolaos, you will find a fountain of drinking water, fire station and toilette. Here are 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 the spring of water. The next stop for water turns to the rest point “Prinari” after 1.3km (20 min hiking).

The bridge leading hikers to Samaria village
The bridge leading hikers to Samaria village

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. In Samaria village, there are also a fountain of drinking water, fire station and toilette.

Read also:  Best Crete Holiday Adventure: Anopolis – Aradena Gorge – Marmara Beach
Stone benches in Samaria village
Stone benches in Samaria village

Crete Villas Accommodation Guide

After a rest in the village, you start again and will 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 to reach the rest point “Perdika” (partridge). There is also a fountain of drinking water there and a fire station.

Bridges over the river leading to Portes
Bridges over the river leading to Portes

Continuing to the next station, you will 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, a fountain of drinking water, fire station and toilette.

The impressive Portes in Samaria Gorge
The impressive Portes in Samaria Gorge

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!

This little cute donkey will carry you to the exit of the gorge in case of need
This little cute donkey will carry you to the exit of the gorge in case of need

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 you about 4 hours. If you want to be very relaxed, sit and eat in Samaria village, then it may take 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.

Cafe at the end of Samaria Gorge
Cafe at the end of Samaria Gorge

Coming out of the gorge you will see three cafes where you can sit and have a refreshing drink, ice cream or something to eat. Then you can walk another 3 km towards Agia Roumeli. Alternatively, there is a mini-bus service!

Take a breath of coolness in the blue waters of Agia Roumeli after crossing Samaria Gorge
Take a breath of coolness in the blue waters of Agia Roumeli after crossing Samaria Gorge

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 to buy a ticket to Loutro, SfakiaPaleochora 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.

Samaria Gorge Best hiking tips

  • 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 you about 4 hours. If you want to be very relaxed, sit and eat in Samaria village, then it may take 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 of wearing 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.

The Flora And Fauna Of Samaria Gorge

In the gorge, you will encounter unique species of plants and animals, protected by international conventions. It is reported that, in the gorge, are 450 species of plants. According to the law, visitors are not allowed to take anything from the Samaria area, not even a flower. In Samaria, you can admire the forest with the huge pines and cypresses, as well as their famous inhabitants, the wild goats of Crete, Kri-Kri. The wild goat is endemic to Crete and you will probably meet them in the village of Samaria.

The above post is initially published Creti.co and you can find it here.