The Samaria Gorge

The Samaria Gorge

The gorge is the largest in Europe with 18 km length and the road that we walk is 14 km long. Its width ranges from 150 to 3 meters, which is its narrowest point, the Doors. It was declared a national park in 1962 to protect the rare flora and fauna. In 1980 it was awarded by the Council of Europe as one of the most beautiful areas. Thanks to the rugged and precipitous form, it is the only place that is the "beast" is still living as the locals call the Cretan wild goat. There are additionally many rare species of birds and along the canyon grow many rare herbs like burning bush and wild flowers.

In the gorge: hunting, setting fires, flowers and herbs, and staying through the night are prohibited. Throughout the length of the route there are guards and guides with mules carrying anyone that has a problem, with a fare.

Moreover, there is a ticket that is refundable at the exit to verify that all visitors are out of the gorge. In winter the gorge is impassable and passing is allowed from early May until late October. The passing takes 6-8 hours depending on the capabilities of the hiker. For the hiking we must be supplied with suitable hard shoes (boots), and light food. We don't need to take water with us, as in the whole length of the gorge there are streams with crystal clear water. Though, we must be informed about the departure of the last boat from Agia Roumeli, which is the exit place, to Sfakia.

Xyloskalos at the entrance of the gorge at an altitude of 1200m, is a narrow path with a wooden handrail to ease and protect those who will descend to the canyon, as the locals call it. Going down the path, one is slowly dominated by an awe. Towering mountains right and left and a ravine in front of you without end. Numerous shades of green and at far more and more tall mountains. Four kilometers before descending and chaos in front of you, sometimes towering trees, springs and huge rocks make you think you cannot go further.

After a 30 minute walk, a little change of scenery. In front of us and on the right the church of Saint Nicholas surrounded by enormous cypress and 2 gates in the lobby. We have already reached the bottom of the gorge and around are huge mountains up to 2,000 meters tall. Here the route changes and becomes smooth. Other smaller canyons are united with Samaria. The valley widens and  water suddenly disappears into the earth.

Down here in the middle of the gorge is the village of Samaria, now uninhabited, as the woodcutters and shepherds who lived, moved elsewhere when it became a National Park in 1962. In the Byzantine church of the 14th century located here, remain many icons and frescoes. Osia Maria of Egypt, whose name was made Sia Maria and finally Samaria, gave name to the entire area.

With its spring, the village is an ideal place for a rest and a snack. Besides, we are halfway. The landscape changes again. The narrow canyon walls and towering rocks come closer. Just before you reach the Doors, there is a plateau on your right and a creek that runs in, causing you to stop and quench your thirst.

Arriving at the Doors spectacle is magnificent! The two sides of the gorge close to one another so that you think they will unite and form a narrow gate width of 3 meters and 600 meters. Passing through the narrow passage ypu see at the end the deep blue sea. The trail leads to a dry waterfall on round stones. The canyon widens and reaches another desolate village, Agia Roumeli.

One kilometer on the same rocks and we reach the new Agia Roumeli. A beautiful end to our journey leaving the gorge is the Libyan Sea. Swimming after that long journey is the best, in a superb beach with sand, black pebbles and crystal clear sea.

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