The most famous gorge on Crete is the Samaria and may be one of the reasons you came to Crete! The longest gorge of Europe you can walk through has a spectacular landscape. As you probably have heard you won’t be the only one walking through the gorge but the numbers written in most guidebooks are not that dramatic anymore. Still visited yearly by thousands of people it is there for by far the most popular walk.From Xyloskalo, the entrance of the gorge, you have great views over the White Mountains towering around you as the route leads seawards under shady pine trees and at the second half through the riverbed with imposing rock walls! It is the classic walk to do in Crete and with a reason! The coastal boat trip to either Chora Sfakion or Sougia/Paleochora (where you’ll find your bus back to the north coast) is a nice bonus at the end of a long hiking day! Although this walk follows a well-trodden path, walking the gorge requires stamina and robust footwear is essential. Enjoy this special day!
Extra information about the Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge got its name from a small Byzantine church located in its middle and named Santa Maria. This chapel gave its name to the village ‘Samaria’, which was built nearby, and was abandoned by its residents in 1962, with the proclamation of the National Park of Samaria.
It was to protect the forest, endemic plants and rare animals, like many different species of birds and the Wild Goat (Agrimi or Kri-Kri) that was almost extinct!The Samaria gorge was always a strategic location where Cretan freedom fighters, especially during the Turkish occupation, took shelter. Also during WW II the gorge of Samaria was playing an important role in hiding partisans and allied undercover units who were dispatching information by radio to their Middle East headquarters.
Some facts about the gorge:
- The Samaria Gorge is not the longest gorge of Europe. This is the "Gorges du Verdon" in South France which is a little over 20 km in length.
- It is not always crowded in Samaria. In many guidebooks it still writes over 3000 visitors per day! It is said it happened in the 90s but nowadays over a 1000 people is a busy day, although it is still quite some! Also not everybody starts at the same time!
- Start early so that you can beat the heat in summer doesn't work and might even be counterproductive. You start your walk at an altitude of 1230m which is generally pleasantly cool even in mid-summer. The heat builds up once you get lower down and towards noon (when the sun will be right above you in the second part of the gorge if you start early). If you start later you will get to the lower part of the gorge later and the cliffs will offer you more shade.