The Samaria Gorge is one of the most famous places on the island of Crete. With its 16 kilometers long, it is the largest gorge in Europe. It is therefore no coincidence that they attract thousands of tourists every year eager to discover its breathtaking landscapes! Indeed, what makes the attraction of this colorful place is undeniably the raw beauty of its rocky walls and its vegetation. Classified as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, you will be able to admire the diversity of plants encountered, or even see wild goats. It is therefore an ideal destination when you want to enjoy the great outdoors, while respecting nature. Moreover, its thousand-year-old history in the heart of the Mediterranean is particularly rich: one can discover ancient churches or ruins at the bend in the road. These gorges have not finished surprising you!
The year-round climate in Samaria
The Samaria Gorge enjoys a particularly pleasant Mediterranean climate.
Indeed, the summers are hot and the winters quite mild, sometimes exceeding the 10 degrees. Precipitation is rather irregular, but is more concentrated between the months of November and January.
However, it is important to note that the wind blows quite strong throughout the island, allowing the summer temperatures not to climb too high.
You can easily enjoy outdoor activities, even in July and August when the thermometer oscillates between 26°C and 28°C. There’s nothing like lounging in the shade of a cliff or near a waterfall!
How to go to the Samaria Gorge in 2022?
Samaria in excursion
You can take advantage of these organized excursions from different major cities of Crete, such as Chania, Heraklion and Rethymnon:
Samaria by car and ferry
To get to the Samaria Gorge, you are spoilt for choice overall! Whether you prefer the car, the bus or even the boat: the possibilities are numerous.
Organized excursions are regularly offered, allowing you to combine hiking and cruising for example. However, you should know that you cannot use your car exclusively because if you cross the Gorges, most of the southern towns, such as Agía Rouméli, are only accessible by boat.
If you have rented a car during your stay, you can park in Xyloskalo, towards Omalos and then take the ferry at Agía Rouméli to Sougia, and then take the bus back to the parking lot where you parked your car.
For those who prefer public transportation, many cities like Sougia or Chania offer bus routes connecting them directly to Omalos. As for the southern cities, you will have to take the boat, passing by Agía Rouméli. You can thus start from :
- Chóra Sfakíon,
- or Paleóchora.
However, remember to check the bus and boat schedules before your trip! Indeed, many of them only offer two to three trips per day, sometimes less in low season.
For those who prefer contemplation to effort, know that there is a walk called “chemin des paresseux” which consists of a small discovery of the gorges. A return trip is therefore organized in the same day, from Agía Rouméli.
How to visit the Samaria Gorge?
The natural site of the Samaria Gorge is primarily known for its protected landscape and for its hiking trail. That’s why most tourists go there mainly to walk and enjoy the fresh air amidst its rocky facades.
The best way to discover these gorges is to go on an excursion with a guide. Indeed, it allows you to free yourself from the imperative of having to organize and plan everything. All that’s left to do is enjoy the walk, which is a particularly pleasant way to discover this unique place!
You should also know that the price of most of these excursions is around 30 €.
For those who prefer to go alone, note that the hike starts next to the Xyloskalo restaurant, which is located high up. It will start with a descent, during which you will be able to admire the chapel Ágios Nikólaos before reaching the gorge further on. It will then follow the river which is often dried up, passing by the ruins of the city of Samaria. Finally, you will be able to live an extraordinary experience by passing through the famous “Iron Gates” of the gorge, with an extremely narrow path and a landscape that is worth the detour! The end of the hike is in the village of Agía Rouméli, by the sea.
The more adventurous will be able to discover these rocky cliffs by climbing and thus push their limits like Alex Honnold in the documentary Free Solo. The climbing sites are those of Gigilos, and you will be able to access them via the numerous trails of the Park. Be aware, however, that the 600-meter route promises an eventful climb: it is therefore reserved for experienced climbers! However, the panorama at the top will reward your efforts.
In order to prepare for your visit, here is some information that may be useful to you:
- The trail is quite uneven and rocky so bring good shoes.
- The entrance to the park costs 5 € and the ticket office is located at the beginning of the route.
- The signage is well done, so you shouldn’t get lost. However, you should know that guardians walk the trail regularly and are available to help you.
- The park is only open during the day, from 6am. Leaving early can therefore allow you to enjoy the place more.
- The hike lasts 5 hours on average.
- Rest areas are available throughout the walk to refill your water bottles and access the toilets.
What other gorges to visit in Crete?
The Samaria Gorge is not the only place to visit on the island! Indeed, it is full of natural sites to explore and experiences to live.
- First of all, in the Heraklion area, the Rouvas Gorge is home to one of the densest forests in Crete!
- For history lovers, the Zakros Gorge with its Valley of the Dead is particularly interesting: you will see many caves, once used as tombs by the Minoan civilization.
- As for the Imbros Gorge, it is easier to access with its 8 km of walk!
- Finally, for those who would like an alternative to the Samaria Gorge and a place less frequented by tourists, The Agia Irini gorge in the Lefká Óri mountains is ideal! The fauna and flora are identical and you can also admire the famous “white mountains”, made of limestone and granite.