Hiking Samaria Gorge

If you’re in Chania, one of the must do day trips has to be hiking to Samaria Gorge. It is one of the top attractions in Crete and offers some of the best hiking in Greece being either the longest or second longest gorges in Europe depending on who you ask. While there are tours that visit Samaria Gorge from both Heraklion and Rethymno, you arrive much too late to make this an enjoyable hike for you. This hike takes around 5-7 hours to complete so if you lag behind, you’ll find yourself struggling to get out in time and risk missing the last boat out of town. Make your life easy and use Chania as your home base and do this trip on your own. No tours needed as long as you have the right information…meaning the information in this post.

Lets Begin…

Like I said, begin your trip from Chania. Get yourself to the Central bus station at the corner of Kydonias St and Kelaidi St.

Catch the earliest bus to Xyloskalo to beat the heat, midday crowds and to give you some time to relax at the beach and cafes end of your hike (trust me that cold beverage tastes sooo good after this hike). A round trip ticket to the gorge and back is €15.70. The bus will be full of fellow hikers so no need to worry about missing your stop as it’s also the very last stop. After a scenic 25-mile bus ride, you’ll be a the very top of Samaria Gorge. Just so you know it does get a bit cold up here early in the morning.  Xyloskalo is actually small lodge, the end of the road, and the beginning of the trail. Ahead of you lies a 16km trek and 5000 foot downhill drop into the gorge offering some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Greece. The entrance fee to the gorge is €5

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If you think that just because the climb is primarily downhill it’s easier, you would be wrong. The path down into the gorge is rough and steep so wearing proper hiking shoes is essential. No flip flops or thongs here. The loose rocks and skeet also make for a very unstable surface so you need to be careful or rolling an ankle becomes a concern and theres nowhere to go for help. With those concerns in mind, you’ll have a great hike.

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Once you’ve made it down into the gorge keep an eye out for some old, now abandoned settlement towns.

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About halfway through your hike you’ll come to the Samaria settlement and it’s the perfect place to sit down, take a lunch break to refuel. If you came here on the first bus you wont have that much company here. If you do linger here you will eventually run out of solitude as the hordes of other hikers on tours and later buses come in. You’ll probably want to leave at this point

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Not too long after Samaria Settlement you’ll come across a vast pathway that begins to look more like a gorge. You trade in greenery for soaring rock cliffs. It is here that I recommend you really haul through and heed signs of warning of falling rocks. It is no joke. You get maybe a two second warning at most of a rock falling near you. Duck and cover! Many tourists are injured every year

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Hiking along the creek, you’ll pass an occasional deserted farmhouse, lazy goats, and another small ghost town. In the middle of this part of the hike, you’ll come to the narrowest (and most photographed) point in the gorge, called the Iron Gates, where only three yards separate the 1,000-foot-high cliffs. Keep your eyes peeled for the wild Cretan mountain goats. I have yet to see one though.

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Once you exit the gates, theres not that much more to go. You’ll see some greenery again and some creeks and before you know it you’ll be at km 14, the official exit where you can stop in for some fresh squeezed juice (at some pretty steep prices)

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From the exit point you still have another 2km until you reach the town of Agia Roumelli. This is where you can pick up more affordable drinks as well as some food. You can also find a nice spot by the beach and take a dip before you catch your ferry back to the bus station. The water in the Libyan Sea is warm and inviting and from here there is nothing between you and Africa. The black sand beach absorbs heat so you’ll either love it or hate it. Walking barefoot isn’t pleasant, but the heat on your sore muscles was definitely welcome for me.

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From Agia Roumeli town, you’ll find a ticketing booth to purchase ferry tickets. Be sure you purchase a ticket heading to Chora Sfakion. The last ferry is normally around 6pm. From the ferry head upstairs to catch a view of some of the best of Crete’s coastlines.

The price for this ticket is €12.50 and takes around an hour. Once at Chora Sfakion run up the hill to the many buses that are waiting in the parking lot. The buses always wait for the ferries to arrive so don’t worry about missing it.

So, that’s it. You’re back in Chania safe and sound. Hopefully you enjoyed your hike here. You might be sore for a few days so take it easy and maybe do a couple day trips to some beaches. I suggest a trip to Elafonissi, Balos or the hidden (but not so secret anymore) beach of Seitan Limania.

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