The gorge of Samaria is situated in the National park of Samaria, in the White Mountains in West Crete. This majestuous gorge is considered one of the great attractions of Crete and many tourists want to visit it. But you must realise that it is a long (5 to 7 hours) walk on rough terrain so you will need to have a certain degree of fitness and walking experience in order to enjoy it..
The 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 take their names from the village's ancient church, Ossia Maria
While some say that the gorge is 18 km long, this distance refers to the distance between the settlement of Omalos on the northern side of the plateau and the village of Agia Roumeli. In fact, the gorge is 16 km long, starting at an altitude of 1,250 m at the northern entrance, and ending at the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli. The walk through Samaria National Park is 13 km long, but one has to walk another three kilometers to Agia Roumeli from the park exit, making the hike 16 km long. The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Gates (or, albeit incorrectly, as "Iron Gates"), where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of almost 300 meters (980 feet).
The opening dates of the gorge vary: it could open a little before the 1st of May, on the 1st of May or later (if the weather is bad or repair work is late). The gorge of Samaria closes to the public at the end of October.
In winter, high water makes the gorge of Samaria dangerous and impassable. It will also be closed on rainy days (when there is a danger of rock falls).
The park opens daily at daylight (so the exact time will vary depending on the time of the year) and closes in the evening. If you want to enter the park after around 14.00 you will not be allowed past the first quarter of the walk and will need to return to your starting point.
Once you have walked through the gorge and are in Agia Roumeli you take a ferry boat returning to Hora Sfakion
What to take with you on this walk?
- A water bottle which you can refill on the way.
- Sun cream and a hat, especially for the last part of the walk which has very little shade.
- Good shoes. These don't have to be hiking boots but you won't be contributing to your enjoyment by wearing tennis shoes or sandals.
- Some food. There is no food available inside the National Park.
- Something warm to wear for the early morning: it can be cold at 1200m.
- A supply of plasters in case of blisters.
How long does it take
A walk of 16 km on flat ground should take just over 3 hours if you walk at a brisk pace. This is theoretically quite easy in the gorge of Samaria as you are going down most of the time but the path requires some care and attention and the walk will take you a minimum of 4 hours of walking time. Add to this time to rest, to stop and look at the scenery, take photographs and you can count about 6 or 7 hours to cover the entire distance.