The island of Crete is called the "Land of gorges. Therefore, if you vacation here, you must visit at least one of them, and there are many of them.
The Samaria Gorge is the largest on the entire island. Its length is 18 km, and it is worth spending a whole day on the trip. The route is walking, expect for the walk 4-6 hours one way. The duration depends on the pace of walking.
The gorge was formed more than 2 million years ago. People lived here and it served as a shelter during wars and raids. Today, Samaria Gorge has the status of a national park and is open to tourists.
By yourself by car you should leave early in the morning. There is free parking at the entrance. From Chania it's about 1 hour, from Rethymnon it's 1 hour. 45 min. If you decide to drive from the capital, it will take almost 3 hours.
The route can be divided into a long and a short one.
- The long route
The route begins from the Omalos Plateau. The first 3 km should be done quickly, it is not the most picturesque road, but after that you will have a lot more fun. On the way you will find several stops where you can stop to rest, have a bite to eat, take pictures and enjoy the scenery. You can meet mountain goats Cree, which are only found in Crete, horses and other rare animals: badgers, martens, wildcats and eagles.
You will go down to the river bed, walk along wooden bridges between rocks, past springs, look at the rough vegetation, replacing the stone jungle. At some points the rocks almost join and the passage becomes quite narrow.
The route ends near the coast of Agia Roumeli. After a long walk you can swim in the sea and relax a bit on the beach. From here the ferry will take you to Suia, where you can take a bus back to your car.
- Short route
If you are in poor physical shape or the walking time is limited, you can choose an easier and shorter route. It starts from Agia Roumeli to the Iron Gate (3.5 km). This part of the hike is quite landscaped and not very tiring.
You can also start from the Omalos Plateau and walk 4 km to Agios Nikolaos. The most interesting part goes further, so it's better to walk the whole route during the day. This way you can better experience the beauty of Crete, which is packed in one Samaria Gorge.
- It's better to walk at a slow pace in order to keep your strength until the end of the route;
- Footwear should be suitable for stony, winding roads. Special hiking boots are better;
- Take plenty of water and snacks;
- Rest time should not exceed 30 minutes, so you won't feel too relaxed and won't lose your energy.
The best time to visit
Entrance to Samaria National Park is open from May through the end of October. It is best to visit in the spring and fall, because in the summer time there is a scorching sun and a walk can be too tiring because of the heat. Also, at this time a lot of tourists.
In the spring in the gorge blooming plants, and in the fall, quite comfortable temperature and you can still swim in the sea (at the exit from the national park).