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Gorges to hike and walk near Kastrí, in Heraklion region

List of Gorges near Kastrí

  • 2.6 km
  • Portela Gorge
  • 3 km
  • 4.5 h

The Portela Gorge, positioned in the southern region of the Heraklion prefecture, serves as a drainage channel for the Ano Viannos basin, directing water towards the South Cretan Sea. The gateway to this gorge is situated at the Hondros village, and it leads out to Keratokambos. It ranks among Greece’s most perilous canyons, only to be traversed by seasoned canyoners. Particularly after heavy rainfall, the gorge can prove lethal. However, a passable trail and road run alongside the gorge, stretching from Hondros to Keratokambos, but they lack the allure of the canyon’s interior.

This gorge is a blend of beauty and wilderness, earning it legendary status in the region and ranking it among Crete’s most popular canyoning locations, alongside Ha and Arvi. It boasts the greatest water volume during winter and early spring compared to other local gorges. The canyon features 25 technical descents with the highest being 30m, and a 340m altitude difference between the entrance and exit. Owing to the area’s inaccessibility, locals are primarily familiar with the last waterfall, Richtra, at the gorge’s exit, which can be reached without any equipment.

Five faults intersect the canyon, contributing to its formation along with gully erosion. These faults divide Portela into three sections, resulting in a rich variety of plants and landscapes. A unique feature of this canyon is the abundance of mud it holds, possibly due to the “Viannos” rock formation visible before the gorge. This formation contains large amounts of clay, which is carried into the canyon by the water flow. The gorge’s signature feature is the stunning Sifoni, a large waterfall in a sinkhole, the “bottom” of which has been opened, allowing the waters to continue their journey.

  • 6.9 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.

  • 7.3 km
  • Arvi Gorge
  • 2 km
  • 2.5 h

Crete is home to numerous stunning locations, but a select few can truly be classified as natural marvels. One such marvel is the Arvi gorge, which dramatically splits Arvion Mount in two. This is the location where the shrine of Zeus Arveios once stood. The Arvi and Cha gorges are considered the most awe-inspiring canyons in Crete. The Arvi gorge can be found to the north of the coastal village of Arvi, in the southern region of the Heraklion prefecture, and it has been carved out of the limestone of Mount Dikti.

This gorge is technical in nature, meaning it necessitates canyoning equipment and flashlights to navigate due to the presence of numerous waterfalls in succession. It is a truly perilous area, and any attempts to cross it by those unaccustomed to canyoning could result in tragedy. From winter until the onset of summer, the canyon is filled with water, which adds to its awe-inspiring beauty. The majority of this water originates from the perennial springs of Kefalovrysi. The Arvi gorge presents a high level of difficulty.

The entrance to the gorge is located in the Konisma (Icon) forest, named after a rock that resembles an icon of Christ. The gorge stretches across the Fournos area and features numerous descents, the most remarkable of which is an astounding 85-meter waterfall named Kapnistis (Smoker). This waterfall is named for its smoke-like water spray, which is a result of its incredible height. Kapnistis is one of Crete’s tallest and most impressive waterfalls. However, what truly sets this canyon apart from others in Greece is the section after the high rappel of Kapnistis, where the river flows into the earth for 150 meters, forming an underground river within a cave. In this underground section, the river continues to form waterfalls. Lighting equipment is necessary to navigate this completely dark area. After this dark section, the gorge remains incredibly narrow with extraordinary formations and large rocks, known as splines, beneath which we pass.

Following approximately 20 waterfalls, the gorge concludes and leads to the fertile plains of Arvi, renowned for their banana crops, and situated next to the monastery of Saint Anthony (Agios Antonios). The area at the gorge’s exit is humorously named Donkey’s Ass! In ancient times, a bountiful water spring existed here, but it has since dried up due to the construction of wells. This natural wonder has been a popular attraction for travelers since ancient times. The gorge’s river ends in the South Cretan Sea, but the water never reaches the sea due to its use for irrigation.

  • 7.6 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.

  • 9.4 km
  • Eligas Gorge
  • 3 h

Eligas Gorge, a stunning natural monument, is nestled on the western side of Koupa Mountain, just above the village of Miliaradon in Embaros. This remarkable location boasts a towering waterfall with nine rappels, making it a perfect spot for canyoning. The altitude difference from the entrance to the exit is approximately 230m.

Eligas is just one of numerous waterfalls in the vicinity, standing tall at 150 meters. It cascades down in 5-6 stages, with the largest drop being 50 meters.

During the winter, the waterfall is fed by crystal clear water from the local ‘Papa Lagos’ springs. On exiting the gorge, it merges with the Baritis River, a primary tributary of the Anapodaris River.

In the Cretan dialect, Eligas translates to ‘waterfall’. The gorge is unique due to its distinctive formations, created by layers of limestone that resemble a vast open-air theatre with stone tiers.

A trail from Miliaradon village leads to the base of the waterfall. From there, visitors can ascend to its highest points, offering a breathtaking view of the impressive waterfall and the Baritis-irrigated plain villages.

  • 9.5 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.

  • 10.5 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.

  • 10.8 km
  • Panagia Keralimeniotissa Gorge
  • 0.6 km
  • 1.5 h

Also known as Kalami I, the Panagia (Virgin Mary) Canyon runs in parallel to the Xerofarago Gorge, or Kalami II. It’s named after the Panagia Keralimeniotissa Monastery, which used to be located at the canyon’s exit. This canyon is technical, meaning it features steep descents and requires special canyoning gear to traverse. Spanning roughly 600 meters, the canyon includes six rappels, the highest of which is about 15 meters. It’s rich in vegetation and has a distinct beauty. The riverbed holds water until spring. Crete’s speleological clubs have bolted the canyon, and a small canyoning group can navigate it in about 1:30 hours.

If you’re planning to use two cars and park them at the canyon’s entrance and exit, the distance between the two parking spots is around 2.5 km or a 10-minute drive. Alternatively, you can reach the entrance by walking along the canyon walls for approximately 20-25 minutes.

  • 10.9 km
  • Erganos Gorge
  • 3 km
  • 3 h

On the southeastern side of the Afendis Christos peak, nestled above the villages of Embaros, you’ll discover lush vineyards sprawled across the Erganos plateau at an elevation of 900 meters. The water, collected from the melting snow of the nearby slopes and numerous regional springs, contributes to the main tributary of the Anapodaris river, Baritis. This river traverses the Erganos plateau, carving out the striking Erganos canyon.

The Erganos canyon, adorned with flourishing plane trees, cypresses, and oaks, is a natural gem in this region. However, it is only navigable for a small portion, suitable for trekkers. After the initial 20-minute descent, the scenery transforms, revealing a unique natural sculpture with slender walls and spectacular waterfalls at nine different points. To navigate these areas, rappelling equipment is necessary.

  • 14.4 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.

  • 14.6 km
  • Holy Apostles Gorge (Lapathos)
  • 4 km
  • 5 h

The Holy Apostles (Agii Apostoli) or Lapathos Gorge is situated on the southern part of Mount Dikti, 28km to the west of Ierapetra and 72km to the south of Heraklion, in the broader vicinity of the village of Kato Simi. This is a technical canyon, implying that crossing it necessitates technical gear and specific training. The Lapathos canyon is an ideal challenge for highly skilled canyoners. It spans approximately 4km and there is a height difference of about 900m between the start and finish points.

The canyon originates from the small plateau of Lapathos, where the Holy Apostles church stands, and concludes on the road that links the village of Pefkos with Ierapetra. Although it’s typically a dry canyon, in 2009, the team of seasoned canyoners Vassilis Vagias, Savvas Paragamian, and Giannis Skondinakis discovered it to contain surprisingly large amounts of water.

The gorge features 28 steep descents that demand excellent rappelling skills. The tallest rappel is 80m, making it one of the highest in all of Crete. The sheer walls of Lapathos serve as nesting grounds for a variety of birds including vultures, hawks, and crows. Towards the gorge’s exit, the vegetation is predominantly made up of pines and cypresses. Following the exit, the stream continues its journey to Tertsa beach.

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