Samaria Gorge, in southwestern Crete, is one of Europe’s longest canyons. A popular hiking destination, its rugged river valley trail runs 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Xyloskalo in the White Mountains to he coastal village of Agia Roumeli. The gorge is part of Samaria Gorge National Park, which enjoys a seat along the Libyan Sea coast.
The Samaria Gorge hike is a favorite among walkers and a must-do for adventurers in Crete. A steep stone pathway with wooden rails leads down to the trailhead on the gorge floor; from there, the path continues between sheer limestone canyon walls, known as the Iron Gates at their narrowest point. Often more than 1,000 hikers hit the trail each day in summer, so it’s best to start early in the morning before the crowds arrive. The simplest way to manage the logistics of getting to and from the gorge by far is to join a walking tour from Chania, which includes hotel pickup, transportation to the trailhead on air-conditioned bus, and the ride back from Chora Sfakion. Ferry tickets for the trip between where the trail ends and Chora Sfakion are not included in Samaria Gorge tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Take sturdy footwear, a sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, a full water bottle, and food to complete the 4- to 6-hour hike safely.
- Stick to the trail! If the going gets too tough, there are park wardens on donkeys to rescue you.
- Overnight camping is not permitted in the gorge; this is a day hike only.
- Some walking tours from Chania do not include the national park entrance fee..
- Because of the rough terrain and length, this hike is not recommended for young kids or those who are not in good physical condition.
How to Get There
Most visitors join an organized Samaria Gorge tour, though it’s possible to reach the trailhead independently via the towns of Omalos or Agia Roumeli. Public buses run to the head of the gorge at Xyloskalo from Omalos, and Agia Roumeli connects to Chora Sfakion by ferry.
When to Get There
The shallow stream on the valley floor runs with clear water in spring; in summer the riverbed rocks become stepping stones, and hikers can revive with a refreshing dip at the Agia Roumeli beach at the end of the trail. In any season, the hike takes most of the day, so hit the trail in the morning.
Flora and Fauna in the Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge is known for its lush wildflowers in spring and summer. And hikers may catch glimpses of rare kri-kri—wild goats—perched on the cliff tops and birds of prey circling in the sky above.