While standing at the threshold of the National Park of Samariá, the play of morning light and shadow casts a smoky blue tinge to the distant faces of mountain peaks. A chill in the air at a high elevation and a vastness of green pine, unfolding amid the exposed, jagged rocks and imposing cliffs, beckon nature lovers to explore this wonder of creation.
Setting off to Samaria—Early to Bed, Early to Rise
For the independent traveller, arranging a trip to the Samarian Gorge is quite easy while staying in western Crete. Hotels and hostels can set up the early morning pick-up, which brings hikers to an awaiting coach and then onward to the national park. The on-board guide will explain the main points and important tips during the trek, including the final rendez-vous point in the seaside village of Agia Roumeli.
The journey to the Samarian Gorge passes through small towns and along olive groves, up narrow mountain roads amid rolling hills that become majestic mountains; it’s a wonderful chance to appreciate the interior countryside of Greece’s largest and diverse island.
Hiking the Samarian Gorge—100% Pure Nature
Striking Mt. Volakias and the White Mountains welcome visitors at the northern entrance on the Omalos Plateau. The dramatic landscape of the gorge, which was formed thousands of years ago by the river that flows through here, the National Park of Samariá was established in 1962 in order to save the local wild goat, the kri-kri, from becoming extinct. Today, glimpses of the brown-haired creature can still be seen in certain areas of the park.
Completing the initial, stoney trail (Xyloskalo), which winds 600 meters down to the bottom, the spectacular view of the grandiose gorge from this perspective is just as impressive as from above. Towering pine trees, pools of pure water and mountains that extend to heaven are just samples of what lies ahead.
A transforming terrain from open spaces to narrowing, sheer cliffs give rise to the most notable point in the park: the Iron Gates. Once passing through this striking portal, which is only 3.5 meters wide, the area opens up again until the finale of this illustration of natural beauty meets the sea.
The long journey ends in the village of Agia Roumeli, which lies on the southern coast of Crete. It is here that hikers have a chance to have a proper meal at a restaurant, and/or head directly to the beach and plunge into the inviting Libyan Sea; the warm waters will refresh every tired and aching muscle after a long hike.
Once meeting the initial guide at the end of a long day, a short journey by boat across the cobalt blue sea brings a perfect ending to a perfect day. Upon arriving Hora Sfakion, weary hikers find their coaches waiting to escort them to their hotels.
Packing for a Samarian Gorge Hike—the Essentials to Bring in Your Backpack
Although travellers go at their own pace, it is important to bear in mind the length of the gorge is 16 kilometers. A minimum of 4 ½ hours with a maximum of six to seven hours must be taken into consideration; therefore, visitors should be prepared for the long day that awaits them.
Good shoes are first and foremost. During the summer, the river bed is rocky and mostly dry, although, some water still remains. Paths along the way may have stones, even a somewhat flimsy foot bridge is necessary to cross at one point along the way.
Cool springs provide the water to maintain hydration, which is just as essential as suitable shoes.
Bringing along a bottle of water can be filled up again with the pure water that flows through the park.
A hat and sunscreen is an absolute must. Temperatures can heat up quite quickly in the depths of the gorge. Starting out In the early morning, at 1250 meters, is a bit chilly; so, a light jumper is also an option to pack.
Food for energy is also important. There aren’t any restaurants or snack stands in the park, but there are places to stop, rest and eat. Packing firmer fruit like apples and oranges are better than soft peaches and plums, which can become easily smooshed in a backpack. Trail mixes, granola bars and sandwiches are light enough to tote and satisfy a grumbling stomach.
The landscape is breathtaking from beginning to end, and everything the eye catches amounts to one grand moment worth remembering. Embarking on a hike through the Samarian Gorge creates an absolute climax to a trip to this beautiful corner of the Greek island of Crete.