The Samaria Gorge trail is Crete’s most famous trail and one of Europe’s most spectacular. Crossing a stunning scenery, includes abandoned villages, river crossing – sometimes over wooden bridges, sometimes hopping from rock to rock – and the rich wildlife of the Crete’s White Mountains. The 16km trail runs from a plateau beneath the White Mountains all the way to the Libyan Sea. The walk through the National Park of Samaria is actually 13 km but you will have to walk an extra 3 km to Agia Roumeli from the exit of the National Park, making it a total of 16 km. It is a long (5 to 7 hours) walk on rough terrain so you will need to be in good fitness and have walking experience in order to enjoy it. The trail starts at an altitude of 1230m with quite a steep descent and goes all the way down to the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli. This is the route that almost everyone gets to hike, however, if you are an extreme sports enthusiast, you can take it the other way around. Reach Agia Roumeli Village and enter the gorge from the opposite direction. During the hike you will pass through forests of pine, cypress and holly trees, freshwater springs, abandoned villages and old Byzantine churches. There is also a very narrow passage near the end of the gorge, almost 3 meters wide, with sheer walls of rock soaring skyward. There are 8 stopping points on the gorge where you can sit and rest.
Starting the hike early in the morning may not be a good idea. By the time you get lower down, it will be midday and you will have the sun right above you in the second part of the gorge. If you start a bit later the cliffs at the lower part will offer you more shade. The trail is well-maintained and marked. There are wanders along the way and a doctor stationed in the abandoned village of Samaria. The water springs offer drinking water but carrying some extra liters in your backpack is surely a must as you may need it. Toilets as well as rubbish bins are available at several points. Photo cameras are a must in order to take unforgettable pictures of the gorge. Please, follow all the rules, to make the hike safe and pleasant. Sun cream and a hat are also a must, so are good hiking boots and some snacks. It would also be a good idea to have some warm clothes with you for the early morning as it can be cold at 1200m even in summer. Hunting, lighting up fires, camping, cutting flowers and even taking rocks with you is prohibited by law.
The Samaria National Park normally opens to the public on May, 1st and usually closes at the end of October but it may close earlier depending on the weather and the water level inside the gorge. It also remains closed on rainy days, due to the danger of rock falls. The Park opens daily at daylight and closes in the evening. If you enter the park after 14.00 you will be allowed to walk up to a certain point and then return to the starting point. The wanders want to make sure that everybody who walks in also gets out before nightfall. For this reason, you must keep your ticket till you exit the gorge. A guard that will take your ticket for safety purposes. There is an admission fee of 5 euros for adults but children under 15 are free. To be sure for the opening hour, you’d better call the information desk +30 28210 67179.
The gorge can be really crowded with over 2000 visitors a day on a very busy day. The best time of the year to cross the gorge is in the spring and in autumn, when it is not so hot and the gorge not so crowded. You should have in mind, that start walking after 11.30 or 12.00, you will probably have to spend the night in Agia Roumeli because the last boat will already have left by the time you get there (usually departs early in the afternoon, between 5-6 p.m). It is a quite easy hike as most of the time you go down, but requires some extra attention because of the stony terrain. Young kids won’t have problems walking but make sure they stay close to you and not jump and fall. Hiking Samaria is a great experience, everyone should have.