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Gorges to hike and walk near Ethiá, in Heraklion region

List of Gorges near Ethiá

  • 4.4 km
  • Mesosfini Gorge
  • 2 km
  • 4 h

Situated 55km south of the city of Heraklion, in the remote Asterousia range to the west of the coastal village of Tris Ekklissies, lies the untamed and hard-to-reach Mesosfini canyon. This technical gorge is characterized by waterfalls and necessitates specific canyoning gear and training for descent. The entrance to the canyon is found at an elevation of 450m near the village of Mournia, while the grand Voidomatis beach can be found at its exit, accessible via a dirt path from Tris Ekklisies.

At the outset, the canyon is quite narrow, but gradually widens. The vertical drops are substantial, creating waterfalls in the winter and an abundance of boulders that render it impassable. In fact, the Mesosfini Gorge is unique in Crete for having two almost 90m high descents. Therefore, Mesosfini has become a haven for seasoned climbers and canyoners who have been adventuring here for many years.

  • 4.5 km
  • Kakoperatos Gorge
  • 1.5 h

Situated 10km south of Ahendrias village, on the eastern flank of the Asterousia Mountains, you’ll find the majestic and untamed Kakoperatos canyon. Its journey begins at the Apomoni site, along the road linking Achendrias to the Saint Nikitas monastery, and concludes at the Skiadaki beach. To access its riverbed, technical canyoning gear is a must due to the presence of towering 15m waterfalls. However, if you prefer a less challenging route, you can bypass the falls by skirting around the edges and trekking down the gorge.

  • 6.2 km
  • Ambas Gorge
  • 4 km
  • 6 h

The Ambas gorge, positioned 53km south of Heraklion within the Asterousia Mountains, is home to the Mousoulis stream. This stream, active during winter, gathers water from the springs of Paranymfi and Amygdalos plateau (approximately 700m above sea level) and carries it to the Tris Ekklisies beach. The stream’s gentle flow on the fertile plateau is abruptly interrupted when it meets the rocky Asterousia fault, forming the spectacular Ambas waterfall. This waterfall, with a total height of 145m, is one of Greece’s highest free-falling waterfalls, following the Mastoras waterfall in the Ha gorge (215m) and the Perdika waterfall in Samaria Gorge (240m).

A road located just above the waterfall directs us past the village Paranymfi, towards Tris Ekklisies. A parking lot near a dilapidated watermill serves as a starting point for a short path along the cliff that leads to an incredible viewpoint of both the waterfall and the sea. According to local accounts, there was an old trail that reached the base of the waterfall, although it seems impossible to descend without technical equipment. The name Ambas is believed to originate from “abbas” (priest), as a monk once found refuge at the base of the grand waterfall.

The gorge, formed after the large waterfall and leading to the beach, houses several smaller waterfalls. The gorge has been secured by Crete’s speleological associations and can be descended by a small group of highly skilled canyoners in about seven hours. There are 21 rappels in total, with the highest being 45m (the large waterfall has four air changes). The cliffs in the surrounding area are home to the largest population of birds of prey on any European island, and therefore, the descent should be avoided during their breeding season, which is in the winter months.

On September 2, 2018, the accomplished canyoner Kallia Miliara tragically lost her life at the Ambas waterfall due to an accidental fall. In honour of the Cretan athlete, a small shrine has been erected next to the watermill, close to the gorge’s entrance.

  • 6.7 km
  • Achendrias Gorge
  • 4 h

The Achendrias gorge, situated approximately 50km south of Heraklion, concludes at the Maridaki beach. It traverses the barren landscape of the Asterousia Range, marked by stark mountains, jagged rocks, and coarse grazing lands. The gorge is quite accessible for the most part, except for the final stretch, which can only be navigated by seasoned canyoners. This is where high waterfalls form due to the Asterousia fault line.

The journey begins gently from the plain of the Achendrias village, where the gorge collects water. It initially passes through the Farangouli location, a fairly open ravine. It then moves through the Plakoures position, a striking stony mass with layered limestone, before reaching the sea via the Lihnistis gorge. Just before it reaches the sea, it forms five waterfalls, the tallest of which is 60 meters and named Lihnistis. This part requires canyoning equipment to cross, otherwise, one must turn back and follow the trail in the Ligiofarago.

After the waterfall, the landscape transforms into a verdant river valley at the Maridaki settlement, just before the sea. This area is lush with a spring, tall plane trees, and babbling water. If you’re fortunate, you might even spot the river fairies who are said to reside here!

If you prefer not to walk along the gorge, you can still enjoy its beauty by driving the rugged 15km dirt road from Mesohorio to Maridaki, passing by the Agios Nikitas monastery and the Agios Antonios palm grove. A significant portion of this route runs alongside the gorge.

The canyon is home to a large population of raptors and vultures, making the Asterousia gorges the largest habitat for these birds in Europe.

At the gorge’s exit, you’ll find the Lichnistis waterfall, a sequence of 5 waterfalls with the tallest standing at 60 meters. These waterfalls flow after heavy rainfalls and form ponds that are ideal for a refreshing dip in the spring. The waters of Lichnistis originate from springs south of the Ahendrias village and flow into the gorge, whose exit is home to Lichnistis. It’s a mere 10-minute walk from the Maridaki settlement. Named after the way the water disperses into the air like a misty cloud, resembling the winnowing process, the Lichnistis waterfall is one of many in the Asterousia mountains.

  • 7.4 km
  • Mindris Gorge
  • 7 km
  • 4 h

The Mindris Gorge, starting near Filippi village and ending at the Tsoutsouras port, spans a length of 6km. It’s an open canyon with no vertical walls and a riverbed that dries up in the summer, making it easy to traverse. Along the riverside, remnants of ancient settlements from the Minoan to Roman Era have been discovered.

One can start their hiking journey from the road that links Kasteliana and Tsoutsouras. This route takes you through the riverbed of the Myndris River, where carob trees are predominant. Midway through the canyon, at Perdikoneri, you’ll find a spring with drinkable water.

In the vicinity of the canyon and near Tsoutsouras, archaeologists have unearthed signs of the ancient town of Inatos, including Roman Baths, a trail, and several other structures dating back to the Minoan era.

  • 9.2 km
  • Tsoutsouras Gorge
  • 1.5 km
  • 2.5 h

Situated in the eastern region of the Asterousia range, the Tsoutsouras Canyon is nestled within the Tsoutsouras area. This canyon is one of the many inaccessible ones in the region, initiating at the Sfakias position and culminating near the Larinaki area, close to the settlement. The sight of it can be quite breathtaking at first glance.

Despite its relatively short length of 1.5km, the Tsoutsouras Canyon serves as an excellent training ground for those new to canyoning. It’s a technical gorge, implying that the only way to navigate it is through the use of canyoning ropes. There are 12 descents or rappels within the canyon, with the highest one towering at 30m.

The majority of these rappels are found near the canyon’s exit, where the gorge deepens and the rocks display a stunning array of colors. During spring, the presence of water enhances the experience of rappelling down the waterfalls, making it truly unforgettable.

  • 10.0 km
  • Troulla Gorge
  • 0.7 km
  • 2 h

A few kilometres west of Tsoutsouras gorge in the eastern Asterousia range, you’ll find the smaller and narrower Troulla gorge. Though it’s shorter than the Tsoutsouros canyon, it has captivated the hearts of canyoners with its over 15 stunning waterfalls, the tallest reaching 15m. Its close proximity to the Tsoutsouras Canyon makes its geological features similar. It was endearingly named Tsoutsouraki, meaning small Tsoutsouras, by the first group to traverse it.

The entrance to the gorge is situated just west of a remarkable rock known as Troulla near Tsoutsouras, at a location called Meli Lakos (Honey’s Pit). The exit is located in the area of Staoussa, adjacent to the village. Descending the gorge requires technical canyoning equipment, particularly during the winter when the waterfalls are in full flow.

  • 11.1 km
  • Koudoumas Gorge
  • 3.5 h

The Koudoumas or Kofinas gorge starts at an elevation of 1000m near the base of Kofinas, the tallest peak of the Asterousia Range, and concludes at the Koudoumas Monastery beach. Its initial segment is a technical gorge of exceptional beauty, locally known as Katarraktis (Waterfall) or Keadas (Kenad). The total descents in the gorge leading to Koudoumas monastery are 18, with the highest reaching 38m. The upper section is only accessible with canyoning gear and was first explored in 2004 by Kostas Psarakis and Manolis Kambourakis, and bolted in 2017 by the Asterusia Adventure Team (Manos Petrakis, George Makrygiannakis, Nikos Foukakis, Savvas Paragmaian, Giannis Aggelis, Christina Aggelidou, Savvas Eftychis, and Dimitris Karatarakis).

It is possible to descend the gorge without technical equipment by navigating around the Katarraktis section. However, caution is required due to the area’s steep slopes, unstable ground, and lack of marked trails, which can strain the knees.

As you descend, the initial vegetation is predominantly cypress and oak trees, but as you near sea level, pine trees become more prevalent.

  • 13.7 km
  • Goula Gorge
  • 1.7 km
  • 4.5 h

The Goula Gorge, a rugged canyon nestled in the Asterousia Range, begins just south of the village of Kapetaniana and concludes at the coastal settlement of Agios Ioannis. Like its counterparts in the area, such as Flomias, Salamiano, Koumos, Gerakia, and Valahas, it is untraversable without the correct canyoneering gear. Nonetheless, there is a hiking trail on the eastern side of the gorge that takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete.

Entry to the gorge is via Kapetaniana, with the closest access point being the telephone antenna en route to Agios Ioannis. The gorge boasts 18 rappels, the tallest of which is 55m, and others measuring 25m, 15m, 13m, and smaller. The gorge spans roughly 1700m in length and a team of five would require around 4 and a half to 5 hours to traverse it.

The gorge’s beauty lies in its wild and haunting rocky landscape, caves, and rock shelters. The primary vegetation is pine trees. Although it is generally dry, the name “Goula” translates to “spring” in the local Cretan dialect. True to its name, Goula is home to the area’s main spring, which provides for the water needs of the Agios Ioannis settlement.

  • 14.2 km
  • Koumos Gorge

The Koumos Gorge, nestled in the Kapetaniana region, concludes near the coastal village of Agios Ioannis, amidst a landscape abundant with pine trees. This relatively undiscovered gorge requires technical equipment for access, making it exclusively passable for canyoning experts. Typically, the gorge remains dry, but intense rainfalls transform it into a spectacle of stunning waterfalls. The tallest waterfall reaches a height of 60m, accompanied by approximately 10 smaller cascades.

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