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8 Most Beautiful Gorges in Crete You Have to Hike in 2024

by Crete Locals

  • Posted 4 weeks ago

Gorges in Crete offer a captivating blend of natural beauty and unique geographical landscapes, positioning this Greek island at the forefront with its rich abundance of magnificent gorges. Known as the ‘King of Gorges,’ there are over 400 spectacular gorges in Crete, each meticulously carved by the relentless flow of river water through the land over millennia.

These awe-inspiring gorges in Crete, steeped in tales of fairies and ancient goddesses, are the crowning glory of Crete, presenting an unforgettable journey into the heart of nature’s splendid creations. For those with an adventurous spirit and a keen eye for natural wonders, Gorges in Crete offer an exploration opportunity like no other.

1. Samaria Gorge: One Of The Most Famous Gorges in Crete

The Samaria Gorge is the most famous gorge in Crete and, indeed, one of the most renowned gorges throughout Greece, attracting hordes of both tourists and locals. As a standout among the gorges in Crete, it is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and trekkers from all over. The attraction remains bustling from early May through October.

However, the popularity of Samaria Gorge is no mere accident. This natural wonder is a testament to the splendour of Mother Nature, offering an unparalleled blend of mountains, rivers brimming with pristine, drinkable water, abundant sunshine, and a pebbled beach at the trail’s end. The diverse terrain and breathtaking vistas create a surreal experience, one where you can’t help but pause to appreciate the might and beauty of nature.

Navigating the path does require caution, as the rocks can be slippery. Yet, necessities like water and restrooms are well provided for. Along the trail, you’ll find several restrooms and natural springs to refill your water bottle.

Despite its reputation as one of the longest gorges in Europe, Samaria is not particularly strenuous, with the entire trail sloping downwards. Armed with the right footwear, a refillable water bottle, and a can-do spirit, anyone in reasonable shape can conquer this trail.

Upon reaching Agia Roumeli, you can reward yourself with a refreshing swim at the beach or opt for an overnight stay in the quaint seaside village. It’s a savvy choice to rest for the night before sailing back to Chora Sfakia the next morning – your weary feet will thank you! If you’re in a hurry, the 5 pm boat can take you back to the nearest villages, Chora Sfakia or Sougia, from where you can catch a bus or taxi to your initial point or hotel.

2. The Gorge of Agia Irini in Chania

Situated to the west of the White Mountains, at a distance of 43 km from Chania, lies the enchanting Agia Irini Gorge. Nestled in Selino, the gorge derives its name from the nearby village of Agia Irini located at its northern entrance. Spanning 7.5 km, it forms part of the notable European E4 trail. The traverse across this remarkable gorge typically takes about 3 hours.

The quaint village of Sougia, renowned for its scenic beach, is situated just 5 km from the southern entrance of the gorge. The gorge is a biodiversity hotspot, hosting a variety of animal species including the native Cretan wild goat, Kri Kri. It also nurtures a diverse range of trees, plants, and herbs.

The Agia Irini Gorge has been a place of refuge and historical significance. During the Turkish occupation, it served as a safe haven for many Greek rebels. Nearby, you’ll find the ancient church of Christ, constructed in 1358 AD, along with the church of St. George, built in 1460 AD. Other significant monuments and sights in the vicinity are well worth exploring. Ranking second only to the Samaria Gorge in terms of importance, the Agia Irini Gorge holds a special place in network of gorges in Crete.

3. Imbros Gorge: Family Friendly Gorge on Crete

Should the idea of traversing the lengthy and often crowded Samaria Gorge seem overwhelming, or if a quieter hike aligns more with your preferences, then the Imbros Gorge, located near Chania, serves as an excellent alternative. The hike, suitable for families and those seeking a relaxed exploration of a Cretan canyon, can typically be completed in approximately 2 hours. It is a fairly easy trek that promises stunning natural beauty without the fear of weary legs the next day. The path is clear and easy to navigate, reducing the chance of misdirection. Always remember to carry water and wear appropriate sun protection to enjoy the best of the gorges in Crete.

While in the area, ensure to carve out time to visit the charming village of Imbros. Here, you can refresh yourself with a drink or indulge in a meal amidst the quaint, traditional setting. This hidden gem of Crete offers a taste of timeless tranquillity. The gorge is accessible via the road from Chania that leads to Chora Sfakion. You can park your car near the gorge’s entrance, close to the last houses of the Imbros village. The hike concludes after eight kilometres in the village of Komitades. Here, taxis are readily available to ferry you back to your car, completing your memorable journey through one of Crete’s natural wonders.

4. Zakros Gorge: Valley of the Dead

When touring the eastern half of Crete, specifically in the Lasithi region, don’t miss the chance to explore the spectacular Zakros Gorge. This astonishing ravine can be traversed in less than an hour, immersing you in an environment adorned with sparse shrubs and a smattering of oak trees. The pathway, cocooned by towering, rocky precipices, winds its way down to the charming village of Kato Zakros, culminating at its breathtakingly beautiful beach.

However, the trek through Zakros Gorge is predominantly unsheltered, leaving you susceptible to the sun’s rays for a significant part of your journey. Therefore, don’t forget to pack essentials like a hat and sunscreen to shield yourself from the heat. Likewise, carrying sufficient water is crucial as the trail lacks water sources, except at its endpoints. Nevertheless, despite these considerations, the hike is enjoyable and fairly straightforward. It’s well-signposted, making it accessible for children with some experience in hiking. The route ends in the heart of Kato Zakros, home to a plethora of local taverns where you can rest, refresh with a drink, enjoy a hearty lunch, or cool off with some ice cream.

5. Kourtaliotiko Gorge and Waterfall

Nestled south of Rethymnon, the Kourtaliotiko gorge offers an awe-inspiring landscape for nature enthusiasts. This impressive chasm, flanked by rugged cliffs and lush trees, stretches from north to south and adjoins the route towards Plakias and the historic Preveli Monastery. The Kourtaliotiko gorge is nothing short of a haven for explorers, featuring captivating vistas, cascading waterfalls, tranquil springs, and remnants of ancient chapels and monasteries that seamlessly blend into its stunning backdrop, creating an idyllic setting for a prolonged, leisurely saunter.

While a concrete road enables visitors to traverse the gorge by car, a detour on foot offers a chance to fully absorb the grandeur of this spectacular setting. Roughly midway through the gorge’s road, stone steps descend into the heart of the canyon. Navigating these steps reveals the immense scale of the gorge, which, from its base, is truly a sight to behold.

A journey to the very end of the gorge rewards you with the unspoiled beauty of Preveli Beach, one of Crete’s most pristine coastal gems. Furthermore, this region is home to the cheerful Lammergeiers birds, as well as smaller raptors and pigeons that frequently occupy the base of the gorge, adding a touch of wilderness to this serene Greek wonder.

6. Aradena Gorge and the Abandoned Village of Aradaina

The Aradena Gorge in Chania, often referred to as the Faragas or Huge Gorge, is a marvel of the natural world that deserves a top spot on your Crete itinerary. This expansive gorge, reaching depths of 138 meters and stretching over 15km in length, is not only a stunning sight to behold but also a hotspot for adventure seekers, offering activities like hiking and bungee jumping off an iron bridge – the highest in Greece and second in Europe. The gorge begins at the Thodoris peak of the White Mountains and culminates in the picturesque Marmara beach. Trekking through the enchanting landscape, one can uncover the remnants of abandoned villages and observe the rich biodiversity of the region.

Getting to the gorge is an adventure in itself. Starting from Chora Sfakion, the journey takes you to the mountainous village of Anopoli, followed by the deserted village of Aradena perched high on the edge of the gorge. The hiking trail, starting near the Astratigos chapel, takes you through a 2.5-hour trek that includes challenging terrain and a refreshing swim in the Libyan Sea upon reaching the Marmara beach.

You’ll also encounter an iron ladder-assisted vertical pass, old trails, towering cliffs, and the vestiges of two more abandoned villages, Azogyres and Stern. The end of this exhilarating journey can be celebrated with a picturesque walk to Loutro village, where boats can ferry you back to Chora Sfakion, marking the perfect end to your adventure in the Aradena Gorge.

7. The Magnificent Sarakina Gorge – Lasithi Region

Despite its modest length of just 1.5km, the Sarakina Gorge stands out as one of Crete’s most captivating hiking locales. This extraordinary natural marvel has been shaped by water’s persistent course over time, unveiling towering walls that ascend up to 150m and extraordinarily slim passages. The width of the gorge fluctuates between 3 to 10 meters, making for an up-close and personal encounter with Crete’s natural beauty.

The majority of the gorge offers a manageable journey for hikers of varying abilities, encompassing elements of water, pools, and sporadic climbing spots necessitating careful navigation. Impressively, the most visually arresting section of the gorge is just a brief 10-minute stroll from the parking area. A consistent flow of water throughout the year creates mesmerizing waterfalls and ponds, perfect for a soothing, rejuvenating pause. Therefore, while visiting the Ierapetra region, seize the opportunity to immerse yourself in this spectacular display of nature’s craftsmanship.

8. Sarakina Gorge, Meskla – Chania Region

Sarakina gorge Meskla

Tucked away at the foot of the White Mountains and a mere 20 km journey from the town of Chania, the compact yet extraordinary Sarakina Gorge presents itself (note, this is a different gorge from the Sarakina found near Mythi in the Province of Ierapetra in East Crete). The most enchanting segment of this gorge unfolds right at the trailhead, providing a spectacle of nature’s splendor with just a fraction of physical effort.

As one embarks on the trail, the path takes on a winding journey across wooden and stone staircases, with metal walkways clinging to the riverside. After this initial part, the landscape undergoes a dramatic transformation, shifting from a simple gravel path to an intimidating canvas of limestone boulders. This sudden metamorphosis paints an awe-inspiring scene, where it appears as if the rock formation has been split open to craft an incredible sculpture, leaving anyone who ventures here completely spellbound.

Gorges In Crete That Can Be Enjoyed From The Comfort Of Your Car

Even if you’re not one for strenuous physical activities, you can still bask in the awe-inspiring beauty of gorges in Crete from the comfort of your vehicle. No need to lace up your hiking boots or pack a rucksack, as you journey through the island’s landscape, the majestic gorges will unfold before you, providing a memorable encounter with Crete’s grandeur without breaking a sweat.

While the experience may differ from an on-foot exploration, the breathtaking spectacle of these ravines will leave you equally amazed. Routes adjacent to the Imbros and Kourtaliotiko gorges in Chania and Rethymnon respectively offer splendid views, while a drive over the Gorge of Topolia, on your way south to Elafonisi Beach, adds another layer of scenic delight. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to drive through the Theriso gorge, located in the Chania region, where a pit stop promises some of the island’s most sumptuous grilled meats, a perfect culinary accompaniment to your scenic drive.

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