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Gorges to hike and walk near Stérnai, in Heraklion region

List of Gorges near Stérnai

  • 6.7 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.

  • 6.8 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.

  • 6.9 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.

  • 7.6 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.

  • 8.3 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.

  • 10.5 km
  • Tripiti Gorge - Heraklion
  • 4 km
  • 3 h

The Trypiti Gorge, nestled in the Asterousia mountain range, lies south of Vassiliki village and channels water from the valley east of Miamou village through the Agiosavvitis river. Stretching over 4 km, the gorge ends in a stunning pebble beach named Tripiti. A dirt road, running along the eastern side of the gorge, provides access to the beach, following several kilometers before reaching the riverbed at the sea’s edge.

The gorge narrows near Saint Paraskevi church, situated at an elevation of 655m. The initial section of the gorge houses steep waterfalls, making it inaccessible without technical expertise and canyoneering equipment. The western side, in particular, is incredibly steep and dangerous. The Prophet Elijah church is a prominent feature at Katsakne, the peak of the western slopes. This church can be accessed via another dirt road that begins about half a kilometer before the gorge’s entrance.

Midway through the gorge, close to the dirt road, lies the Saint Savas church, surrounded by wild olive trees. The unique feature of this woodland is its wild, uncultivated olive trees, offering a glimpse into the natural habitat of these trees. The gorge is also home to an array of wildlife and bird species.

As you continue towards the sea, the road merges with the ravine and soon leads to the most picturesque part of the gorge: the narrow canyon, also known as Steno Faragi. Here, the sides of the gorge come so close together that they appear to touch. A road, just wide enough for a car, passes through this narrow gap. At the end of this narrow section, next to the beach, you’ll find the Panagia Tripiti church, built inside a cave, that celebrates its feast on September 1st.

The Trypiti Gorge is known by various other names, including Saint Savas Gorge, Katsakne, and Lavri. On the eastern side’s Papouri hill, archaeologists have uncovered a significant Preminoan settlement. Additionally, vaulted graves have been discovered at the Kalokambos location.

  • 13.8 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.

  • 14.0 km
  • Trafoulas Gorge
  • 0.5 h

The Trafoulas Gorge, located in the Asterousia Range, begins southeast of Krotos village and concludes at the Psili Ammos beach on the southern coast of the Cretan Sea. The majority of trekkers only explore a small portion of the gorge, typically from where they park their vehicle to the beach, despite the gorge’s origin being at a greater altitude. Even this limited section of the gorge is quite striking, characterized by narrow walls and towering rocks. According to local lore, the most narrow section of the gorge is referred to as the Pidimatou Gorge, or Jumping Gorge, given that a goat could feasibly leap from one side to the other.

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