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eirissa Omalos - A travel report by Irene
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Omalos,  Greece - flag Greece -  Piraiévs
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eirissa's travel reports

The gorge of Samaria - a walk to remember

  17 votes
When you go to Crete you can spend your time swimming in crystal clear blue water, visit picturesque towns like Chania or Rethymno, discover archeological treasures in Knossos or Phaestos, relax on boat cruises or..go for a five hour walk to Samaria gorge.

The gorge of Samaria is situated in the White Mountains (Lefka Ori), in West Crete. It is one of the longest and most well-known gorges in Europe. The walk is 16 km long what makes it a challenging walk, especially in the summer heat. The National Park of Samaria is open from May to October so if you have a chance, choose spring or early autumn for your visit. I visited it in August and walked in 40 degrees Celsius..not easy. The gorge starts in a small village of Omalos and ends in Agia Roumeli at the Libyan Sea. Getting there is a bit of complicated if you go by car as there are no roads connecting Agia Roumeli with the rest of the island - you can get out from Agia Roumeli only by ferry to Hora Sfakion or Sougia. Leaving your car in Omalos isn't a good idea either. There are two options then: bus/taxi to Omalos, ferry from Agia Roumeli and then bus/taxi to your town or an organized trip from a travel agency. I chose the second option and was spared all the trouble with transport. A coach took me from my hotel to Omalos, I walked through the gorge, went by ferry to Hora Sfakion and then went back by the same coach to my hotel. The cost of such a daily trip is around 36 euro plus 5 euro of entrance fee and 6,50 euro for the ferry. It is a good choice especially if you are staying far somewhere in East or Central Crete, e.g. near Heraklion. The trip to Omalos by coach will take you around 3-4 hours so be prepared to get up early in the morning. The ride through the White Mountains is very spectacular, with the narrow road and steep slopes.

Favourite spots:
Xyloskalo - the first part of the gorge
Xyloskalo - the first part of the gorge
The walk through the gorge is an unforgettable experience and every part of the path is quite different. Most tourists walk it from Omalos down to Agia Roumeli, starting at 'Xyloskalo' (wooden stairs). This part of the path is very narrow and crowded - you have to watch out for other tourists in front of you. You descend all the time which means that you have to have good shoes and be careful where you put your feet. The path is first made of uneven stones and later it changes into a pleasant forest trail. The worst is the bed of the river where you walk on pebbles and there is no shade. Once you get used to the terrain you can stop and admire the surrounding mountains, various trees and plants as well as geological formations. Do not walk and take pictures at the same time - it might cost you a sprained ankle. Naturally you don't walk all the time - there are resting areas where you can sit down, eat something and drink cold water from special taps.

What's really great:
Breathtaking mountain landscape
Breathtaking mountain landscape
I liked the variety of landscape encountered on the way - from the typical mountain valley to the narrow passage between two mountains. Once you reach the rocky river bed you walk between two huge walls which seem to be closing on you. It is forbidden to shout in that part of the gorge as there is a danger of falling rocks. You pass lying rocks that are three times bigger than you and you really feel tiny. Finally you reach the narrowest place of the gorge called the Iron Gate. The walls are 100m high and only 3m apart in that point. The Iron Gate also marks the end of your strenous walk - the exit of the park is not far away. Once you exit the park you still have to walk 3km to Agia Roumeli where you can eat in a restaurant and have a swim in the Libyan Sea.

Once you reach the rocky river bed the walk gets more difficult
Once you reach the rocky river bed the walk gets more difficult
There are interesting ruins of the village of Samaria on the way. Nobody lives there anymore but there are some old buildings on the site. It is a resting area as well as a medical point. There is also a tiny chapel with some old icons inside. During your walk you can meet some donkeys - they carry the injured people and rubbish out of the gorge. If you are lucky you can also meet kri-kri goats which live only in the White Mountains. However, even if you don't see them, you should be satisfied with the hike through the gorge (though your legs might painfully remind you of the walk at least for the next three days:)

The Iron Gate - the narrowest place of the gorge
The Iron Gate - the narrowest place of the gorge
You can stay in Agia Roumeli if you want to spend some more time in the National Park of Samaria but most tourists go there only for a one day trip. It is better to stay somewhere at the coast near Chania and go on daily trips to the White Mountains. The gorge of Samaria isn't the only gorge in Lefka Ori - there are several other gorges which are less famous but equally interesting.

Cold water in the gorge is better than any drink
Cold water in the gorge is better than any drink
The restaurants in Agia Roumeli serve cold drinks and snacks for hungry tourists but don't expect a huge variety of dishes. There aren't any restaurants in the gorge itself - you should have a bottle of water with you to refill in the resting areas and some sandwiches or fruit to eat on the way.

Published on Saturday October 6th, 2007

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Mon, Dec 10 2007 - 06:10 PM rating by louis

Excellent report, exhaustive informations, give a good idea for a trip during the holidays.

Fri, Oct 19 2007 - 12:11 PM rating by marianne

Very good description, really gives a good impression of the gorge. excellent photos that show how tall the rock face is

Mon, Oct 15 2007 - 05:52 AM rating by bineba

I really like this report. Sounds like a great day out.

Thu, Oct 11 2007 - 02:08 AM rating by downundergal

Sounds like an interesting albeit hot hike. Well written and something a little different. Crete is on my ever growing wish list but I don't think I am energetic enough to tackle this one.

Wed, Oct 10 2007 - 01:01 AM rating by shalini_md

An interesting walk narrated in the most interesting manner with just the right dose of humour mixed with practical information.

Sun, Oct 07 2007 - 06:32 AM rating by mistybleu

A very interesting read, I would like to the do this walk, it sounds really fun.

Sat, Oct 06 2007 - 11:18 PM rating by rangutan

A superb "hiking" report. I wish we had more like this!

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