Samaria Gorge trail in Crete
Awesome mountains and a 16km trail called Samaria Gorge in Crete? In my mind, Crete has always been a place where lazy package deal travellers end up to. The biggest island of Greece attracts a lot of Finns, Norwegians and Swedes (and obviously other nationalities) from March to October. Frankly, who could blame them/us? With sunny weathers and 25 degrees Celsius in the beginning of October it’s absolutely a place to consider for an easy getaway.
My homogenous analysis of Crete 10 years ago left me with the illusion that the island is packed with partying, drunk people (myself included) and doesn’t host anything spectacular. Boy, does it feel good to be wrong!
If you’re a hardcore hiker, you already know about Samaria Gorge. I’m not. I’m a sporadic “hey, let’s see where this path takes me” kind of a hiker. Therefore I found Samaria Gorge a cool thing to pursue. Mind you, five years ago I didn’t like hiking at all. Gee, I’m turning into an adult, I guess. Samaria Gorge hosts a 16km hike that, if you take the downhill trail, takes you from Omalos through Samaria and ends up in the village of Agia Roumeli by the Libyan Sea.
How to get to Samaria Gorge
Needless to say there are multiple options. You can rent a car, drive up to Omalos, hike the path and then hike back up to the car again. That would result in 32km both ways and would probably take you somewhere between 6 to 9 hours. Not a good idea, unless you have the memory of a goldfish or you’re just a hiking junkie with a semi functioning imagination.
The hassle-free option is to get in touch with a tour organiser (there’s plenty of them on the island) or if you stay in a hotel, ask the reception if they can help you out. Our deal was 20 € for the bus from the hotel and back and 15 € in total for the entrance to Samaria Gorge and the ferry from Agia Roumeli to Sougia. Prices are per person. It’s not a tour really, they just pick you up, leave you at the entrance, give you a time and a meeting point in Agia Roumeli and wish you luck. When you get down, you get the ferry ticket and wait for whichever ferry you want to take. The last one leaves at 17:30. In Sougia a bus awaits you to take back where you were picked up.
For the hardcore guys out there with an adventurous soul. An awesome variant would be to first hike the Samaria Gorge (3-6 hours), have a swim in Agia Roumeli and have something to eat and perhaps stay the night. Then embark on the 20km coastal trail from Agia Roumeli to Hora Sfakion through Agios Pavlos and Loutro (about 7 hours).
What is Samaria Gorge like?
You want to get on the very first batch of people getting on the hike. Therefore make sure to catch the first bus which is somewhere around 5 or 6 am. The bus takes somewhat an hour and a half and you get to see the sunrise. Third for us during this trip.
The trail itself is pretty rocky. It’s basically rocks all the way, in fact, so you want to mind your steps. The trail starts from an altitude of 1230 metres, but already during the first 2km of the hike, you’ve descended 600 metres. What a nice end to the hike if you walk it from Agia Roumeli upwards.
For you history nerds, Samaria Village is somewhat in the middle of the trail, and it was inhabited until 1962, when the park became a park and the inhabitants were driven out. It’s quite astonishing to stand in the village that it was in full power such a short time ago, access being possible only by foot or donkies.
The walk is very easy, so nothing to fear there. It might get crowded during the high season, so lucky for us, we were there in October. Making our way down all the way to the bottom of the gorge is also breathtaking. The feeling of walking on a river bed with tall rocks climbing on both sides of you is really amazing. “What if a sudden swell of water would appear from thin air, we’d be f*cked sideways!” During winter the river is supposedly full of water, but during the summer it’s basically just a dry river bed.
The narrowest point of the hike is a mere 3 metre wide passage, called Portes. Once there, you know the end of the trail is close by. At the end of the trail you have to dig up your entrance ticket as it also has an exit ticket in it.
From the end of the trail there’s still 2-3km left to walk down to the village Agia Roumeli. You can also catch a minibus, but why would you? The village is small, but thanks to one of the main tourist attractions, Samaria Gorge, it boasts a lot of restaurants and tourist shops. You can also find a room for rent for the night. In case you’re mainly based in Chania during your stay in Crete, you will appreciate the nature on the south side of the island. Ferries come and go, and as there aren’t any roads leading to Agia Roumeli, every car you see there has come there by boat. Fascinating.
Anyway, we got on the ferry to Sougia, had a few beers, caught the bus and enjoyed many hours of mountain roads. Until we got home and was informed that our flights were cancelled from Chania on Sunday. Thanks strikers!
“Dangers” of Samaria Gorge
- You might witness dizzyness of all of the awe you’re in.
- You’re going to have a new experience afterwards.
- Wear good shoes for walking, I rocked a pair of Nike’s and I survived. Hiking shoes recommended.
- If you’re morbidly obese, have a heart disease or know that you can’t withstand open areas with high walls on both sides, this trail isn’t meant for you.
- Apparently the hike is worst during the middle of the summer because it’s hot as hell and there are probably a lot of tourists around and best in spring because of the vegetation.
What to pack:
- Bottles of water. There are water points throughout the trail with spring water for refills. You can also drink the water from the river. (Our guide said that, so don’t sue me over it if you get a bad tummy).
- Swimwear and snorkels. The water seems way clearer in Agia Roumeli than in Chania.
- Another t-shirt. It will get warm and sweaty during the hike.
- Sun lotion.
- Some food as there aren’t any restaurants on the way.