Samaria Gorge Comprehensive Guide (+4 Hiking Tips)

This comprehensive guide is about travelling in Chania and is to be considered as a comprehensive guide for Samaria Gorge. Many of our visitors in our beachfront Hotel in Chania are coming for vacations in Crete solely to pass Samaria Gorge. There are lots of people who love hiking in Chania, and Samaria Gorge is for sure at the top of their list as it is the biggest gorge of Greece, and the second biggest in Europe , second only after the gorge of verdon in France . This comprehensive guide will guide you through much needed information, tips, hints and everything in between for a successful full-day journey to the Gorge.

Samaria Gorge Comprehensive Guide: First things First.

Samaria Gorge is situated in Omalos Plateau, which is in the heart of the White Mountains of Crete. Most visitors of the Samaria Gorge are staying in beachfront hotels in Chania area or in tourist areas such as Platanias and Agia Marina, or in luxury Villas in the vicinity. Samaria Gorge is a good hour drive from the north beach shores of Chania, thus you have to get there either by hiring a car, by going there by bus, or by taking an organized tour with a bus or tour guide. 

We recommend the 2 latter options, as it’s preferred not to go to the gorge with your car because it’s harder to reach it afterwards. It is much more convenient to get a safe transfer with a bus, travel agency, or taxi and then take another bus on your way back to your hotel in Chania.

The entrance of Samaria Gorge is situated in “Xiloskalo” ( Greek Denomination: Ξυλόσκαλο) which is has an altitude of 1300 m. There are some local shops that can serve you your breakfast, some Cretan traditional products, and the necessary for the long hike. The area is called Xiloskalo because the first kilometers of the gorge have a big descent and there are many wooden steps that help with the gradual descent. Those wooden steps are called “Ξύλινα Σκαλιά “ in Greek, and this is why the entrance of the Samaria Gorge is named after this. 

Samaria Gorge Ksiloskalo/ Xyloskalo wooden step- Samaria Gorge Entrance at Xyloskalo -Omalos

Samaria Gorge Ksiloskalo/ Xyloskalo wooden step- Samaria Gorge Entrance at Xyloskalo -Omalos

Samaria Gorge Hiking: The Basics.

The entrance costs 5 euros per person and you can access the Gorge as early as 7 A.M. We say as early because we definitely insist on going to the Samaria Gorge as early as possible. You will avoid the tourist crowds, especially in July – August, you will have plenty of time for taking photographs and sightseeing and you will have plenty of time to rest on the various stops that are available through the Samaria Gorge. Furthermore, you may need more time for passing the gorge, and starting early gives you an advantage in case you need to take your time.

Samaria Gorge has a length of 16 kilometers. Technically the length of the gorge is 13 kilometers and there are another 3 kilometers after the long hike which is a paved road that leads you to the North coast and Agia Roumeli Village which is a fishermen’s village only accessible by boat. 

Passing the Gorge is a strenuous and tedious process. Traveling in Crete may be a nice experience but many times the weather is unforgiving and this is why Samaria Gorge is open only through the mild seasons of spring and summer. Normally the Gorge is open from May till October, with some mild changes every year depending on the presence of water and snow inside the gorge that alternates its difficulty. 

Samaria Gorge Ticket Price.

Samaria Gorge Ticket Information and Price.

Hiking in Crete: What to be careful of.

As a general rule of thumb, hiking in Crete is an activity that many tourists are doing as Crete and especially Chania area has many gorges, hiking paths, and trails. However, you have to know that especially Hiking in the Samaria Gorge is a difficult task, and is advised that people with health problems, obese people, or pregnant women have to be extremely careful with this task. 

Especially on hot summer days, you need to have protective clothing (hats, sunglasses, sunscreen e.t.c.) and be careful of your condition as well as your environment as it is easy for you to get disoriented or have a mild heatstroke. Although in the Samaria Gorge there is an organized footpath you have to be careful and concentrated in order to avoid any problems.

This is only a reminder in order to enjoy your vacations in Crete to the fullest. There is trained staff inside the gorge in various places ready to assist you and also mules if anything happens and you can’t walk further. There is also a medical station in the middle of Samaria Gorge’s path, right where the old Samaria Settlement was before the gorge was nominated as a national park back in 1962.

Samaria Gorge- Mountain Gigilos in Chania

Mountain Gigilos in Chania, seen inside of Samaria Gorge.

 

Samaria Gorge Hiking tips: What to bring.

After you have organized your transfer to the gorge and you have bought tickets at the Samaria Gorge entrance you start your hike. We recommend that you always carry a backpack through the gorge with all the essentials. Experienced hikers always carry with them: Sunscreen, a hat, socks,  some medicine for bees and wasps bites, some extra pairs of comfy clothing, dry food and fruits and water. Loads of water.

There are many natural sources throughout Samaria Gorge where you can drink water but carrying some extra liters in your backpack is surely a must as you may need it in any case of emergency. Hydration is key, this is why Despina Studios is insisting on keeping your water reserves full and drinking water from the sources when needed. 

The crucial element is comfy anatomic hiking boots. We strongly recommend that you avoid sporty running shoes on this long hike in Chania. It may sound like a good idea but we definitely believe that the extra cushioning, extra comfort, and excellent ankle protection of hiking boots are really paramount here. 

Charged cell phones and photo cameras are also a must in order to take unforgettable pictures of the gorge and in order to contact someone if needed. You also need to take with you the best mood for the hike. The duration of the hike is between 4 to 7 hours depending on your pace.

Samaria Gorge White Mountains in Chania Crete- Pine Trees

Samaria Gorge White Mountains in Chania Crete- Pine Trees

Samaria Gorge: What not to bring.

Those 6-7 hours that you normally need for passing the Samaria Gorge is for sure a difficult task and you definitely don’t need to bring heavy and unwanted items with you. Large amounts of food is not necessary, as there are plenty of taverns and shops with local specialties on the Village of Agia Roumeli on your way out of the gorge. Big backpacks and camping gear is also unwanted, as camping is prohibited, and large bags will put extra stress on your body which is unwanted. You need to pack light and if you have  company 

it’s better to split between groups of 2-3 persons in order to be more focused, enjoy nature better and protect yourselves if something happens.

Samaria Gorge Hiking: Navigating yourself.

As we said you start your hike from a point of 1300m. You will descend for 16 kilometers until you reach the sea which has an altitude of 0m. This is the route that almost everyone gets to hike, and especially tourists that are on vacation in Chania.

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, thus ascending from 0 to 1300 meters. You will see some athletes or trained soldiers doing this but it is an activity not for the faint-hearted, and 99 % of the visitors in Chania are not capable of doing. We will focus on the normal route through the Samaria Gorge.

During those 13 kilometers of the path there are plenty of stops offering you the much-needed shade from the sun and water. Typically there are spaced 1-2 kilometers between each other, so by the time you feel exhausted you will have the opportunity to relax and take your time. There are 8 stopping points on the gorge. We recommend that you eat some of your snacks during those stops and stay hydrated. You may also consider changing socks in order to avoid any blisters or funghi on your feet.

Goats of Crete

Goats of Crete- Take a close look at the gorge’s mountains. Goats, Sheep, and Kri – Kri’s might be nearby!

By the time you have reached the end of Samaria gorge, you will be congratulated by a sign and a guard that will take your ticket for safety purposes. Every day the number of tickets has to be counted in order to make sure that the entrance and the exit have the same number. Otherwise, someone might be in danger or lost inside the gorge. There are some shops right after the gorge’s exit offering you refreshing orange juice, traditional Sfakian Pie (sweet pastry with Cretan Cheese and Honey).

The exit of the Gorge is on the place where the old village of Agia Roumeli was established. Because of the severe rainfalls and water streams that passed through the Samaria Gorge in winter this village was constantly affected by damages because of the weather and this is why it was relocated on the beach shore, 3 kilometers south. However, there are many relics of the past, some old churches, and sheepfolds that bond you with the local folklore tradition and way of living.

After half an hour of your exit from Samaria Gorge, you will eventually reach Agia Roumeli village and the north shore of Crete with views over Libyan Sea. We recommend that you take your time, enjoy a nice swim on the crystal blue waters and then take the boat that will get you to the nearest village which has a bus in order to get back to Chania centre or your hotel- if you have an organized tour already booked.  The boat usually departs early in the afternoon (5-6 p.m), so if you enter Samaria Gorge early, most probably you will have plenty of time in order to pass the Samaria Gorge and Relax in Agia Roumeli village afterward.

Agia Roumeli Village-sea view

Agia Roumeli Village Sea View – Where Samaria Gorge is ending and meets the sea.

 

Samaria Gorge Journey: Travel Tips 

In case you didn’t know, Samaria Gorge is a place where endangered species live. Both flora and Fauna. This means that you don’t take anything with you (including rocks as souvenirs)  and you need to preserve the natural beauty of our homeland. The most famous species of animal that lives in the Samaria Gorge is the Cretan Wild Goat- Best known as Kri- Kri. They are protected by law and are prohibited to hunt them as they are nearly extinct.

There is a big chance that you see some Kri – Kri on the old Settlement of Samaria, where the biggest stop of the route and the doctor’s office are. We recommend you pass some time there and look carefully at the mountains and the nearby river. You might be lucky and spot some wildlife. 

Portes- the most famous spot of Samaria Gorge in Chania

Doors (Portes): The most famous spot of Samaria Gorge in Chania

Leave Samaria Gorge last!

We believe that everyone has to pass through our nation’s biggest gorge at least one, and especially people who are on vacation in Chania. However, because many of us are not well trained, we may be exhausted and have swollen muscles and feet. This may continue for a few days which means that you will not be 100 % active for the next few days. We recommend that you visit Samaria Gorge on the very last days of your holidays and just rest on your way back home. By doing this you will have more time exploring Crete rather than resting in your hotel room.

Pay a tribute to the Helipad in Agia Roumeli

Just before you reach Agia Roumeli village center you will see a helipad, used for emergencies (medical, fires etc) for the locals that live in the village which has no roads. In the helipad, there is also a monument for a tragic event that happened to a soldier around 20 years ago. During a military exercise hike, he had a severe health condition that needed medical attention. Because of the desolation of the place and the wilderness he, unfortunately, died on his way to the hospital.

We insist that you pay a tribute to the memorial inside the helipad. This is a way of respecting his memory and understanding how tough the climate is on the White Mountains, and how demanding is daily life in this impeccably beautiful but desolate part of Crete.

Visit Samaria Gorge through our Beachfront Hotel in Chania.

Despina Studios is a beachfront hotel in Chania and is only an hour’s drive from Samaria Gorge entrance.  We cooperate with reputable travel agencies that are organizing daily trips (private or group) to the Samaria gorge offering you impeccable views and the essence of wilderness that pure wild Crete has to offer you. For more information about Samaria Gorge Hiking Tours please contact us,  or search for hotel availability online! 

Leaving Samaria Gorge from the port of Agia Roumeli.

Leaving Samaria Gorge from the port of Agia Roumeli- Despina Studios Beachfront Hotel in Chania/ Agia Marina

Did you know? Samaria Gorge alternative Routes!

Although this comprehensive guide is full of information about passing the Samaria Gorge that suits 99 % of the hikers in Crete, there are also some alternative routes that can be combined with passing from the gorge. They are indicative of people that have already passed the gorge many times or want a more adventurous and competitive journey. Skilled hikers with years of experience are amongst the people who are most likely to take the following routes.

Loukoumades- Traditional Cretan pastry- Deep fried dough with honey and sesame

A nice rewarding dessert after passing the gorge is a must. Traditional “Loukoumades” Greek pastry- Deep fried dough with honey and sesame seeds

You can reach Samaria Gorge from Paleochora, Sougia Or Sfakia by car, taxi or bus. After you have to take the boat that leads you to Agia Roumeli Village and afterward you can take the “reverse” Samaria gorge way, which leads you to the ascending route from 0 altitude all the way up to 1300 meters. For those who want a smaller hiking experience, you can reach the famous “Doors-Portes” point in an hour of hiking and then return back to Agia Roumeli. If you decide to ascend all the way up to Xyloskalo you need to start very early in the morning and be heavily trained, as the last kilometers have a serious incline.

There is also another route close to the entrance of the Gorge from Ksiloskalo which leads to the neighboring mountain called “Gigilos” (i.e. Rotten, in Greek) which is also very famous amongst experienced hikers with the necessary hiking equipment. Another popular route and part of the E4 European Long Distance Path is to take the route to Kallergi Mountain Shelter and see Samaria Gorge from above. Whatever you decide to do, it is certain that the experience will be remembered for a lifetime!