Οut of all the canyons sites Crete has to offer, there are some you just have to see!
One of them is Samaria canyon, our 9th worldwonder and the European counterpart to the Grand Canyon.
The European community repeatedly named it ‘Best National Park’ over the last years. Why? Very simple: an amazing, ever-changing scenery a deep ravine immersed in glaring sunshine, deep shadows and mist, refreshing crystal clear springs and rocks that have been shaped by aeons of winter torrents.
During the 16km hike you’ll discover a big variety of fauna and flora, unique and exclusively found on this island clinging to sheer rock faces watch out for the Kri-Kri, the wild Cretan goat. The isolated, deserted village of Samaria makes the ideal place for a rest, before you continue to the ‘Iron Gates’ the waypoint where the canyonwalls get so narrow they almost touch…
The walk ends at the small village of Aghia Roumeli, with plenty of taverns to enjoy a tasty meal and that well-earned drink.Relax on the beach and cool off in the turquoise waters of the Libyan Sea, before taking the boat following the coastline to the village of Chora Sfakion where the coach will be waiting to return you back to the resort. Although, as written before its a 16 km walk, its not too difficult even for the ones whose daily exercise consists of walking from the couch to the fridge during the ad segment on TV.
The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Iron Gates (Sideroportes), where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of 500 m. The gorge became a national park in 1962, particularly as a refuge for the rare Cretan ibex, which is today restricted to the Lefka Ori National Park, the island Thodorou and several more islets. There are several endemic species of fauna and flora in the gorge and surrounding area.
The desert 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 is believed to take their names from the village’s old church of Mary of Egypt (Osia Maria).
A “must” for visitors to Crete is to complete the walk down the gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the South Cretan Sea. From there the most visitors get the ferry to the port of Chora Sfakion and catch a coach back to Chania. The walk takes 4-7 hours and can be strenuous, especially at the peak of summer.
Agia Roumeli is a unique place. It has genuine Cretan heritage and a strong sense of character. It is a peaceful community, nestled between breathtakingly high and wild mountains and a long beach of fine pebble by the deep blue, crystal clear Libyan sea. The village is remote and near enough isolated; you can only reach it on foot or by boat, as there is no road.
You can also start walking after 12:00, there won’t be many people and you will have shade at all times, but you will most probably need to spend the night in Agia Roumeli because the last ferry will have left. However, we encourage you to do that, since staying in Agia Roumeli is quite cheap and the beach is majestic. The first tourist buses arrive at around 7:30 am and from then on it is an uninterrupted stream of buses until about 11:00 am.
Wear walking shoes or trainers, no sandals, a sun hat, bring a bottle of water, maybe a snack and don’t you forget your camera!
For the average person the walk takes 4 – 6 hours and by the end you will have achieved something you can brag about to your future great-grandchildren.
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