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Samaria gorge, national park of Crete

Samaria gorge is situated in south west Crete, in district of Chania. Samaria gorge is part of the national park of Samaria, in the white mountains (Lefka Ori in Greek) . The national park was created in 1962 for the rare kri kri local goat as well as for a few rare endemic flowers and plants species and rare birds (there are about 1.100 flowers and plants species in the natural park and 300 fauna species).

Ticket office at the entrance of Samaria gorge. Photo Joe Hawkins

Its flora is far different from the starting point to the end! Xyloskalo can in someways look like forest walk (cypres, pine tree, cretan maple tree,…) but as far as you go down to the village of Samaria, flora change to scrubs and herbs. That’s where are thyme, marjoram, savoury, sage, and the endemic ditany of Crete (Origanum dictamnus found in gorges and ravines). Samaria gorge is also the place of White Peony (Paeonia clustii) that is found only in the Samaria Gorge and  few parts of Dikti mountains.

Samaria gorge entrance Chania Crete
The samaria gorge entrance

Samaria gorge is also one of the protected area, with Dia island, of the Kri Kri cretan wild goat (Capra aegegrus Creticus). On your way to Roumeli, you will maybe approach the youngest ones, mostly in Samaria village area, because they  start to be used to man.

Samaria gorge,  the longest gorge in Europe?

Many people say that Samaria gorge is the longest one in Europe with 18 kms (distance between the settlement of Omalos on the northern side of the plateau and the village of Agia Roumeli) but is in fact only 17kms from an altitude of 1250m at Xyloskalo (the wood stair in Greek!). The longest gorge in Europe is the Gorges du Verdon  (20.3kms) and is located in south France (from Moustier Sainte-Marie). By the way, Samaria gorge is one of the most attractive place in Crete.  The 5 to 7 hours walk through the natural landscape of this national park is really stunning.

Samaria gorge down way Chania Crete
First kms. Starting down walk in Samaria Gorge, Chania Crete. Photo Lapplaender

The Samaria Gorge trail starts with a precipitous hike downhill along a path sometimes bordered by a wooden handrail. This part of the path lasts for two kms. Then start a slow down rocky path till the libyan sea and Agia Roumeli, following a small river.

On the way you can see some informative signs about flowers and other infos of this natural park. On the mid way to the sea, (about 8.5kms from Agia Roumeli) lay the ruins of old Samaria village. The village was abandoned in 1962 when the whole area was declared national park. Some of these houses have been restored to be used as post house for park authorities, guards, emergency,…

Samaria Gorges Chania Crete village Samaria
Abandoned village of Samaria in Samaria gorge, Chania area, Crete. Photo from Lapplaendre

The abandoned village is a frequented halt place during the summer visits of Samaria as it provide fresh water ( a fontain with drinkable water) and shadow under the trees. For religious art lovers and curious people, don’t miss the Osia Maria of Egypt church. This one-aisled, arch-roofed church with 14th century murals was maybe the church that gave its name to the gorge. From Osia (saint) Maria of Egypt came by contraction Samaria.  You can see this church on your right when coming from Xyloskalo, before to follow on your left the main path to old Samaria village. (don’t confuse with Agios Giorgios church that lay few hundred meters closer to the village

Samaria gorge walk Chania Crete
Samaria gorge walk, Chania Crete. Photo Lapplaender

After a well deserved halt in the abandoned village, The journey continue for 1h30  to the famous “sideroportes “, the iron gates.  An impressive 4m large narrow rock passage through 400m high cliffs.  Passed this natural rock door, you will reach the old village of Agia Roumeli, that was devastated by flood (in the mid1900’s) and abandoned for the new village on seaside, about half an hour from the old one.  Arrival at Agia Roumelli is quite supernatural after this average 6 hours walk, following a small road, as libyan blue sea and blue sky emerge from the grey stones.

Frequently asked questions about Samaria Gorge:

When is Samaria gorge open?

  • Opening hours: Daily, from 6.00 AM to 16.00 PM
  •  Operates from May 1 to October 15

Are Samaria Gorge open when bad weather?

Due to bad weather, Samaria gorge usually remains closed. Hard rains can provoke some rock falls. The first days of may and october can count some rainy days so, if you pan to hike on Samaria Gorge at that period, you can contact authorities of the national park at +302821045570.

What is the best month, period and time to do the gorge of Samaria?

Due to its succes, (more than 147.000 visitors in 2016), Samaria gorge can be sometimes crowdy during the summer time and temperatures can easily reach 35°c. If you can choose your holiday period and decide that Samaria gorge is a must do (and you are right!) then may and september are the best months. Starting at dawn, before majority of tourists and high temperatures, is also a good tip.  Staying one night in Agia Roumeli or Omalos (to start your walk earlier) will highly contribute to spend a memorable day in the gorge.

How long does it take to do the Samaria Gorge?

Of course, all this depend on your average walk speed. Walking on flat ground is quite different also than walking on rocky paths.

The lazy way is about 7kms . An average time to do the lazy way Samaria gorge  is about 3 hours.

The long way, from Xyloskalo, can be done in an average of 5 to 7 hours. The management services of Samaria gorge suggest that the entrance to the canyon from Omalos to be done as early as possible. The crossing must be done slowly, with many stops and following the instructions of informational placards and guards. If you want to start walking in the afternoon you will only be allowed in up to a certain point. The guards check the tickets as they want to  be sure that everybody who walks in also gets out before nightfall.

How to go there and do the Samaria Gorge?

Many tour operators propose the Samaria Gorge as it is one of the best sellers of Crete’s activities. If you prefer to do it by yourselves, there are two ways:

The long way:

The access to the entrance of Samaria, “Xyloskalo“, is made ??by bus which starts from the central bus station in Chania and goes to “Omalos“. The ticket costs six Euros and ninety tens (6.90 €). ”Xyloskalo” is the northern entrance to the “National Park of Samaria” and the ticket costs five Euros (€ 5). At the end of crossing the gorge you reach “Agia Roumeli” where the boat of ANENDYK departs towards “Sfakia” (ticket € 10) or “Sougia” (ticket 8,5 Euros) or “Paleochora” (ticket 14 Euros) or “Loutro” (ticket 5,50 Euros) or “Gavdos” (ticket 15 Euros). The return from Sfakia, Sougia or Paleochora to Chania is made by bus and the ticket price is 7,60 € from Sfakia and Paleochora and 7,10€ from Sougia. If you issue simultaneously both tickets to go to Omalos and return from Sfakia, all tickets are fourteen Euros and thirty cents (€ 14,30).

Alternative route, the “lazy way”

If you do not wish to cross the entire path of the gorge, you can reach Sfakia and Paleochora (ticket costs € 7,60) or Sougia (ticket costs € 7,10) via a bus and then take the boat ANENDYK (ticket costs €10) to Agia Roumeli, where you start in reverse crossing of the gorge (ticket costs € 5). For the itineraries ANENDYK, Sfakia -> Agia Roumeli -> Sfakia,Sfakia -> Gaydos -> Sfakia, Sfakia -> Loutro -> Sfakia there is an offer at a price of thirteen Euros (€ 13), twenty five Euros (25€) and seven Euros (7€) respectively.

Is there entrance fee on Samaria gorge?

There is an entrance fee of 5 € to pay at the entrance to the department of forestry for site protection tax. It’s free for children under 15 years old.

What to take with me to do Samaria Gorge?

Samaria gorge is a 17kms walk in rocky paths of E4, so you will need usual mountain clothes and equipment:  hat, sun glasses, sun cream protection (for the second half of the walk with very few shade) and a pull over (even in summer, dawn at 1.200 m high can be chilly). Take with you a big bottle of water that you can refill on the way.  It’s also necessary to take food with you. It’s not allowed to sell food in Samaria gorge and you will only find some in Agia Roumeli!  A backpack can help for a family. And plasters for blisters.

What shoes to wear for Samaria Gorge?

Samaria gorge is 99% of the time rock pathways so shoes are very important. They don’t need to be necessary mountain shoes but good hiking shoes are the best. Fore those wo don’t have with them, avoid slippery shoes and sandals! Good sport shoes, as long as they are not slick, will also be all right. Think twice about comfort and that your ankles will suffer. Another usual mistake is to wear sport shoes without socks that will make you suffer from blisters.

Is the way well signposted in Samaria gorge?

Samaria gorge is part of the national park and the entrance fee is used to maintain the pathways in good state. There are many signs on the way. There are few  risks to loose your way and some forestry guards on the way.

Samaria gorge lenght kilometer sign Chania Crete
kilometer mark in Samaria gorge

What happen in case of injury on the Samaria gorge?

As the trail is stony, we advise to walk slowly and carefully. In case of injury, there are guards along the way, with radios. There are also men with mule in case hikers have an accident and are unable to walk out of the gorge on their own. There used to be a doctor also in old Samaria village by the past but, for the last few years, is not always there.

To avoid accident, it’s highly requested to go slow in the first two kms of trail, where path is the  most sloping. That’s where most of the accidents occur. It’s also requested not to shout and whistle, as it can increase risk of rock falls. Authorities also advise to stop walking while taking pictures or admiring the landscape. They also advise to monitor children carefully.

Where do i go to the toilets in Samaria Gorge?

There are some toilets on the way down to Agia Roumeli so don’t be afraid about that. But have in mind that there are sometimes more than 2.000 hikers per day in the gorge. So waiting time can be something to deal with. It’s not bad to take some paper with you, just in case.

Is it possible to do the Samaria gorge with children?

If children are used to walk, they can manage a few hours trail but may be exhausted very quickly in Samaria gorge, as the trail is often without shade, as they for sure had to wake up early or for many other reason. Parents who plan to make the long way with children have to be prepared to carry them part of the way. We kindly advice not to do the long way with children under 10 years old, unless they are well trained to mountain walk.  A good alternative with children is the lazy way of 7kms.  We also kindly advise parents to closely monitor children as they can very easily twist ankle of fall on the stony trail.

Can i do the Samaria gorge with my dog?

Yes, you can do it but be careful that national park rules prohibit animals that are not on  leash so you will have to keep in on leash all the time

What can I do and what is prohibited in the natural reserve of Samaria?

  • Visitors can walk along the length of the main footpath. All those who wish to walk beyond the main footpath require a special licence.

It’s forbidden to:

  •  Cut trees and bushes, uprooting and collecting plants and seeds.  Collecting and transporting plant soil and firewood.
  • Lighting fires in general and smoking in all areas apart from the recreational areas.  Camping in any form and staying the night within the Park.
  •  The free movement of any animals accompanying visitors.
  •  Displaying and erecting boards and signs. Selling food and other items as well as their display or distribution.
  •  Consumption of alcohol.
  • Hunting of all animals.
  • Removal or destruction of all nests, eggs and newborns and the general disturbance or destruction of wildlife.
  • Swimming in the Park’s rivers and streams.
  • Dumping waste in areas other than the waste bins.
  • Damage to the geological formations and cultural monuments.


More info on official site

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In Agia Roumeli

In Omalos

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