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Gorges to hike and walk near Vrachási, in Lassithi region

List of Gorges near Vrachási

  • 2.4 km
  • Selinaris Gorge
  • 0.2 h

Located approximately 45km east of Heraklion and 21km west of Agios Nikolaos, the Gorge Sellinari is nestled on the eastern slopes of Selena Mount, draining the valley west of Vrachassi. This gorge is a well-known location for all Cretans as the National Road from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos runs along it. Historically, it served as the natural passage from the region of Lassithi to the fertile north coasts of Heraklion.

The dense vegetation of Selinari can be enjoyed either by car or by taking a leisurely walk until its exit near Milatos. A route worth exploring is the old National Road, which runs parallel to the New Road and winds through the gorge. The gorge walls and surrounding mountains provide a haven for many birds of prey. Selinari was once a refuge for the rare Cretan wild goat, but sadly, it is now extinct. Several springs are scattered around the area, but the most renowned attraction is the historic Saint George Monastery. For the Cretans, it is considered a bad omen to pass a gorge without stopping at the monastery. This belief stems from the past when the Selinari Monastery served as a rest stop for travelers and their animals.

  • 8.1 km
  • Maliaris Gorge

The Maliaris Gorge, which originates near the Peronides village, travels west of the Souvlos village where a trail commences, and combines with the Anemaliaris gorge before concluding at the Tzavlidon Vlyhada beach. This gorge, characterized by scrublands, expansive areas, and cave-filled walls, is a classic representation of the Mirabello region. Notably, the gorge is home to a massive cave known as Volakospilios, situated in its center.

  • 9.2 km
  • Adrianos Gorge
  • 4.5 km
  • 3.5 h

The Adrianos Gorge originates from the Adrianos village. There are areas within the gorge where large rocks obstruct the pathway, making navigation challenging, but achievable (it takes approximately 3 hours to traverse). In close proximity to the gorge, you can explore the Maridon and Atziganospilios caves.

The river that courses through the gorge is a segment of the Skoulikaris or Xeropotamos River. This river collects water from the Potami village valley and, after covering several kilometers, it finally drains near the Agios Nikolaos town stadium.

  • 11.1 km
  • Embasa Gorge
  • 2 km
  • 1 h

The Embasa Gorge, also known as Apotyposi, begins its journey from the village of Kato Kera in the Pediada province and concludes near the village of Gonies, spanning a length of approximately 2km. The upper section of the gorge is notably steep, giving rise to several waterfalls during the winter season, with the tallest one measuring around 20m in height. The largest waterfall is particularly intriguing due to its division into several smaller cascades. It is possible to reach all the waterfalls without any special equipment as they can be circumvented from the sides.

Ascending the canyon from Gonies provides easier access to the waterfalls. However, the dense vegetation and steep inclines may pose a challenge for beginners. The gorge is predominantly populated by oak trees, planes, and brambles. The Life-Giving Spring church (Zoodohos Pigi) is located on the edges of the gorge, above the largest waterfall. According to local lore, a natural rock formation resembling the Virgin Mary can be found above this church. Hence, the gorge is also referred to as Apotiposi (Depiction). The church serves as the nearest parking spot to the large waterfall and can be conveniently reached from here, provided one can first overcome the initial hurdle of the fence erected by local shepherds.

  • 11.8 km
  • Roza Gorge
  • 2 km
  • 2 h

Roza Gorge, a branch of the larger Ambelos Gorge, originates near the Panagia Kera Kardiotissa Monastery in the Ano Kera region. It connects with the rural road that traverses the Ambelos Gorge close to the village of Gonies. Walking along the riverbed is not feasible due to the precipitous drops, but a well-marked hiking trail is available on the gorge’s sides. The gorge’s sides are visually striking, showcasing unique geological formations that captivate visitors. After heavy rainfall, surface water is visible in the gorge, evidenced by the growth of oleander plants in the riverbed.

The name ‘Roza’ is derived from the pinkish hue (‘roz’ translates to pink) of the gorge’s walls. Another theory suggests that the gorge was used as a disposal site for sterile animals like donkeys in the past. As a result, locals named it ‘Stira Za’ (meaning sterile animals), which eventually evolved into ‘Sti Roza’ (or in Roza).

Canyoning in the Roza Gorge
Roza Gorge is technical in nature, implying that hiking in its bed is not an option due to the numerous steep descents (rappels) that necessitate specific technical gear and training. For canyoning enthusiasts, it’s important to note that the largest rappel is approximately 18m high. The points are secured with relays from the speleological clubs of Crete, and the descent for a small group typically takes around 3 hours. The gorge’s proximity to Heraklion and easy accessibility make it a popular choice for canyoning schools.

  • 11.9 km
  • Skotini Gorge
  • 2 km
  • 1.5 h

The Skotini Gorge cuts through some of the most secluded and untamed regions of Crete. A research station for the study of aerosols, established by the University of Crete, is situated in this isolated location, far from the pollution of urban areas and devoid of human activity. From the village of Finokalias, a brief journey northward will lead you to the gorge. As you traverse this path, you’ll encounter a stunningly wild terrain characterized by bare rocks, sparse vegetation, and a variety of spices and herbs. Within the gorge, you’ll find 2-3 wells filled with water and numerous caves nestled within its towering walls. One such cave is said to have been the dwelling of a mysterious woman known as Datserolenia, according to local lore. This cave is guarded by a stone wall at its entrance. A small beach, Skotini, is situated just a short distance away.

Alternatively, you can take the dirt road from Finokalias to the Saint Andrew Monastery, situated at Cape Drepani. A section of this church is constructed on the mountain rock, with an inscription indicating that its repair was funded by patients from Spinalonga. To reach the beach from here, you’ll need to head eastward along the shoreline.

The name Skotini, meaning ‘dark’ in Greek, likely originates from the high, closely spaced walls of the canyon which, along with the tree canopy, significantly diminish the light, giving the gorge a ‘dark’ appearance. Another theory suggests that the name is derived from the numerous dark caves found within the canyon.

  • 12.7 km
  • Havgas Gorge
  • 2 km
  • 1 h

Situated between the peaks of Katharios Lakkos and Katharia Kefala in the Dikti Range, Havgas Gorge is a prominent long gorge on the Lassithi Plateau. The gorge is nourished by the Megalos or Xenikos river, which springs from the Katharo plateau, courses through the Lassithi Plateau, and then vanishes into the sinkhole Chonos. The water resurfaces from Fleves springs at Kastamonitsa or a man-made water pipe at Gonies and ultimately drains into the Aposelemis dam lake. The name “havgas”, along with its variants, is typically used to refer to gorges in Eastern Crete.

Spanning about 4 km, Havgas Gorge provides a leisurely walk, especially at the exit where it widens and showcases striking landslides on its flanks. As you advance, the gorge abruptly tightens, leading to the scenic Neraidokolimbos lake, situated at the foot of a charming waterfall with a round boulder. According to local folklore, the gorge’s fairies used to bathe in this lake.

Next to Neraidokolimbos is the Plystra side gorge, recognized for its successive waterfalls that flow into the main stream of Havgas. Above the gorge, there is a singular waterfall named after Plystra, known to drip water even during the dry summer months. As per the legend, this is where fairies used to wash their clothes.

The gorge, a part of the E4 trail, offers a tranquil landscape due to the lack of crowds. It is home to a variety of trees, mainly maples and holm oaks. The river is seasonal and only flows following substantial rain or snow, whereas Neraidokolymbos lake retains water throughout the year.

Travelers usually start their journey from the exit point near the reservoirs of Agios Georgios village. Another alternative is to commence from the Katharo plateau and descend along the riverbed. However, reaching Neraidokolymbos may necessitate a jump into the water or retracing one’s steps.

  • 12.7 km
  • Kouroukoulos Gorge

The undiscovered Kouroukoulos gorge originates from the abandoned village of Agalianos, located in the Merambelo district of Lasithi prefecture. The old trail from the village leads us to the Lagos stream, which is suitable for hiking along its entire length. Initially, the terrain is dominated by oak trees, but as we get closer to the sea, the vegetation changes to brushwood and oregano.

To the west of Kouroukoulos lies the Patsopoulos Gorge, separated by a thin strip of rugged, rocky land known as Spathi. From the peak of Spathi, one can enjoy views of both canyons. Just before reaching the sea, the two canyons merge into one. The Kokkinos Detis (Red Cliff), a spot of exceptional beauty in the gorge, is home to a variety of rare, mostly endemic, plants that thrive in rock crevices.

Close to the sea exit, there is a quaint chapel dedicated to St. Luke, a local hermit who was fatally struck by an arrow in the canyon. Beneath the chapel lies St. Luke’s cave, from which “holy” water drips. A little further on from the chapel, the gorge opens out onto the pebble-filled Kouroukoulos beach, boasting a captivating underwater landscape. On the beach’s eastern side, a sea cave beneath the cliff leads to the delightful pebble beach of Kakia Naspa (Evil Landslide), an excellent spot for swimming.

  • 12.9 km
  • Mavrogiannis Gorge
  • 3.5 km
  • 3 h

The Mavrogiannis Gorge, also known as Skinias Gorge, originates from the vicinity of the Skinias village in the Mirabello province. Following a winding path, it culminates at the stunning Avlaki beach in Vlychadia. This dry canyon is characterized by magnificent rock structures throughout its length. Although the gorge transports water from the Areti Monastery region, it is predominantly dry.

  • 13.3 km
  • Kritsa Gorge
  • 4 km
  • 2.5 h

The Kritsa Gorge, located 9.5km southwest of Agios Nikolaos, begins near the charming village of Kritsa and concludes at Tapes village. This 4 km long gorge, at some points, is only 1.5m wide. It is fairly easy to navigate, with a few areas requiring caution, where large rocks need to be climbed over. However, it is not advisable to visit the gorge following rainfall, as the resulting ponds can obstruct the paths.

The canyon’s entrance near Kritsa is striking. The mountain is split in two, creating the narrow Havgas passage (Havgas is a common term for gorges in East Crete). In addition to the main trail that begins near Kritsa’s stone bridge, there is an alternate path that starts in the village itself.

Close to the trailhead, you’ll find a large rock that can be scaled with relative ease. Beyond this point, the canyon becomes even more breathtaking, with slender passages and towering walls that block out sunlight. This natural wonder is particularly beautiful in spring when flowers are in bloom and water levels are low. The walls eventually recede, revealing a picturesque valley filled with olive groves. If you continue along the riverbed for approximately 1.5 hours, you’ll arrive at the lovely village of Tapes, where you can relax at the local coffee shop.

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