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Samaria Gorge

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Gorge description

The gorge of Samaria is the most famous trekking gorge in Europe and a part of the European E4 hiking trail. Thousands of tourists flock here daily in the summer season to walk from the top to the bottom. For many visitors, it is the sole purpose of their visit to Crete. The length of the gorge reaches 14.5km and takes almost 5-7 hours to hike from Xyloskalo at Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli beach, depending on the trekking pace.

The gorge is located in the south of Chania Prefecture in the larger uninhabited area of Europe, where no roads even exist. It was created by the river flowing between the main massif of the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) and the range of Volakias. There are many smaller gorges vertical to Samaria Gorge, some of which have never been crossed by humans and require canyoning equipment. One of these, Perdika, has the highest waterfall in Crete (220m).

Samaria gorge hike

While the gorge is officially 15km long, this distance actually refers to the hiking distance between the settlement of Omalos on the northern side of the plateau Omalos and the village of Agia Roumeli. In fact, the gorge is 13 km long, starting at an altitude of 1,250m at the northern entrance, and ending at the shores of the South Cretan Sea in Agia Roumeli. The walk through Samaria Natural Park is 13 km long, i.e. from the ticket kiosk at Xyloskalo to the kiosk at Agia Roumeli old village, but you have to walk 1.5 more kilometres to reach the beach of Agia Roumeli, making the hike totally 14.5km.

The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Iron Gates (Sideroportes), where the sides of the gorge close into a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of 500 m. The gorge became a national park in 1962, particularly as a refuge for the rare Cretan ibex, which is today restricted to the Lefka Ori National Park, the island Thodorou and several more islets. There are several endemic species of fauna and flora in the gorge and surrounding area.

The desert village of Samaria lies just inside the gorge. It was finally abandoned by the last remaining inhabitants in 1962 to make way for the park. The village and the gorge are believed to take their names from the village’s old church of Mary of Egypt (Osia Maria).

A “must” for visitors to Crete is to complete the walk down the gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the South Cretan Sea. From there most visitors get the ferry to the port of Chora Sfakion and catch a coach back to Chania. The walk takes 4-7 hours and can be strenuous, especially at the peak of summer.

When to visit the gorge of Samaria?

The problem with the gorge of Samaria is crowds. It has become one of the most popular attractions in Crete and there are up to 3000 visitors a day on very busy days. If you have the bad luck to pick one of those days, the atmosphere will be really spoilt. Starting at dawn (before the tourist coaches arrive) will give you a bit of a head start. It is possible to find good and cheap accommodation in Omalos or get the first bus from Chania. You can also start walking after 12:00, there won’t be many people and you will have shade at all times, but you will most probably need to spend the night in Agia Roumeli because the last ferry will have left. However, we encourage you to do that, since staying in Agia Roumeli is quite cheap and the beach is majestic. The first tourist buses arrive at around 7:30 am and from then on it is an uninterrupted stream of buses until about 11:00 am.

As far as the times of the year are concerned, the best time is spring: the weather is still cool and the vegetation is at its best. The worst time is in the middle of the summer during a heat wave. Please give it a miss and come again at a better time.

Samaria gorge tour

All local tour operators in Crete provide organized tours to the gorge. These include bus transportation from your hotel to the entrance (near Omalos village), and the bus will be waiting for you to disembark the ferry in Chora Sfakion to take you back. If you are on your own, you can make a one-day round trip from Chania, Sougia or Paleochora. Note that the morning buses from Sougia and Paleochora do not operate on Sunday, but still make sure that you know the timetables. The ferries leave Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion (eastbound) and to Sougia/Paleochora (westbound) in the afternoon.

The trail from Xyloskalo

Descent in the canyon starts from the position of Xyloskalo at Omalos Plateau, at an altitude of 1200m, where you have to pay a small entrance fee for the protection of the reserve. The trail is wooded with cypress and pine trees, wide and very well discernible, while at the beginning descends abruptly. We meet drinking water and toilets very often. In about three hours we reach the old village of Samaria, at an altitude of about 300 meters, after crossing by the church of Saint George.

In Samaria there are old houses, trees offering shade, water springs and if you are lucky you will meet the endangered Cretan wild goat. From here onwards the landscape changes, becomes drier and the slope gets smooth. One hour later we walk along the riverbed for some time. There are several small wooden bridges in several places, above the river.

After one more hour, we meet the imposing Sideroportes (Iron Gates) which is a very narrow passage between two tall vertical 500m high cliffs. We soon reach the old village of Agia Roumeli which was abandoned in the mid-1900s due to a devastating flood and was moved to the seaside settlement of Agia Roumeli, about 30 minutes away.

Gorge details

Location

Get directions to Samaria Gorge 

Most frequent asked questions

What type of trail is Samaria Gorge?

Samaria Gorge is a signed trail and part of the E4 trail.

Is there water in Samaria Gorge?

Yes, there is water all year round in Samaria Gorge, thanks to the numerous springs in the area.

How can I access Samaria Gorge?

You can access Samaria Gorge by bus services, paved road, or boat.

How long is Samaria Gorge?

Samaria Gorge is 18 km long.

How difficult is Samaria Gorge?

Samaria Gorge has a difficulty rating of 6 out of 10.

How many hours does it take to hike Samaria Gorge?

It takes approximately 6 hours to hike Samaria Gorge.

What is the altitude difference in Samaria Gorge?

The altitude difference in Samaria Gorge is 1200 meters.

 

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Stays near Samaria Gorge

  • 9.1 / 10
  • Omalos

Mike Omalos Houses features lake views, free WiFi and free private parking, located in Omalós, 5.1 km from Samaria Gorge.

The holiday home provides guests with a terrace, mountain views, a seating area, cable flat-screen TV, a fully equipped kitchen with an oven and a microwave, and a private bathroom with shower and a hair dryer. A toaster, a fridge and stovetop are also featured, as well as a coffee machine and a kettle.

Mike Omalos Houses offers a picnic area.

Guests at the accommodation can enjoy hiking and bike tours nearby, or make the most of the garden.

Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete is 22 km from Mike Omalos Houses, while Limnoupolis is 36 km away. The nearest airport is Chania International Airport, 52 km from the holiday home.

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  • Omalos Kydwnias, Chania

Located in the plain of Omalos, at 1,050 metres above sea level, the 2-star hotel Neos Omalos features a traditional restaurant, and offers rooms with view of Lefka Ori Mountain.

Neos Omalos guest rooms are heated/air-conditioned and each is en suite with shower, bath amenities and hairdryer. Standard amenities include free Wi-Fi and satellite TV.

Hotel Neos Omalos serves a Continental breakfast each morning. Traditional Cretan dishes prepared with fresh, local products are served at the hotel’s restaurant. Also available is a bar and a spacious reception lounge.

Neos Omalos is a 10-minute drive from Samaria’s Gorge and serves as a great base for mountaineering activities. Transfer service from the hotel to the gorge and free private parking are provided. Chania is 35 km away.

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  • Agia Roumeli

Set 400 metres from the centre and featuring a restaurant serving homemade dishes prepared with local produce, the family-run Sweet Corner Masxali offers pet-friendly accommodation, 350 metres from Agia Roumeli Port.

All units are air conditioned and feature a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. There is also a kitchen, equipped with a refrigerator. There is a private bathroom with free toiletries and a hair dryer in each unit. Towels and bed linen are provided.

Sweet Corner Masxali also includes a sun terrace. Guests can enjoy a meal and delicious breakfast at the on-site restaurant. At the restaurant you will also find traditional meals with locally produced ingredients. The property also offers packed lunches. Free sun loungers and umbrellas are available on the beach.

You can engage in various activities, such as snorkeling and diving, while 2 water bikes and 6 canoes can be provided free of charge. Free shuttle service from Agia Roumeli Port is provided.

from

€58

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  • Eparchiaki Odos Chanion - Sougias

Featuring pool views, Villa Aeolus with private overflow, endless, heated pool offers accommodation with a balcony and a coffee machine, around 23 km from Samaria Gorge. This villa has a private pool, a garden, barbecue facilities, free WiFi and free private parking.

The villa with a terrace and mountain views features 3 bedrooms, a living room, a flat-screen TV, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and an oven, and 2 bathrooms with a bath. Towels and bed linen are featured in the villa.

The villa offers a picnic area.

Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete is 36 km from Villa Aeolus with private overflow, endless, heated pool, while Limnoupolis is 41 km away. The nearest airport is Chania International Airport, 58 km from the accommodation.

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  • Agia Roumeli, Sfakia

Located 60 metres from the beach of Agia Roumeli, the quietly located Artemis Studios offers split-level, self-catering accommodation with side sea view towards west, garden or mountain views from its balcony. It features a family-run restaurant.

The air-conditioned studios of Artemis have an open-plan kitchenette with seating and dining area. Each is equipped with a fridge and cooking hobs. The private bathroom comes with shower and free toiletries. Free WiFi is offered.

Guests can start their day with a continental breakfast served daily at the Artemis Restaurant, where traditional Cretan dishes can also be enjoyed at discounted prices for lunch or dinner.

Mini markets can be found within a short walk from the property. The village of Agia Roumeli is accessible either by crossing the Samaria Gorge or by ferry from Sfakia, Sougia or Paleochora. Guests have the chance to participate in a 4-day activity programme at Samaria Gorge.

from

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  • Agia Roumeli Sfakion

Calypso Hotel is located just 20 metres from the beach, in Agia Roumeli village. It features rooms with air conditioning and a furnished balcony with Libyan Sea views. The on-site café-restaurant serves breakfast.

Calypso rooms are fitted with tiled floors and wooden ceilings and include a refrigerator. Free Wi-Fi access is offered in all public areas.

Sun beds and umbrellas are available on the beach at an extra charge. Staff can provide information on organized excursions, such as a hike of the Samaria Gorge.

Calypso Hotel is 75 km from Chania. Nearby Sfakia and Loutro are accessible by boat. Free public and private parking are available.

from

€65

/night

  • 9.5 km

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