Featured / Hike · May 6, 2022

Hiking The Samaria Gorge In Crete – Epic Trek In Europe

Samaria Gorge is rated as one of the top 5 hikes in Europe, covering 16km with a descent of 1,230m – at times you feel like you are in the middle of an Indiana Jones film set.

Distance: 16km

Elevation: 1,230m

Time: 5-6hours

This is an epic hike, taking roughly 5-6 hours and is best started off early in the morning to avoid the heat of the midday and afternoon sun, especially in the summertime.

I completed this hike on the first open day of the season in May, and the gorge is open until the end of October each year.

The Route

Where is Samaria Gorge?

Great question, it is located in Western Crete, in the Samaria National Park, which is part of the beautiful white mountains. The park (and this hike) is open from the 6th of May each year, and closes at the end of October. However, opening times vary as the path is sometimes subject to rockfalls and landslides which means it can be closed with short notice.

To enter the national park, it costs EUR5.

What is the best way to get to Samaria Gorge?

Samaria Gorge is a one-way hike, so the best option is to book onto a tour where a bus picks you up from the town you are staying in and is there to meet you at the end of the hike to return you back at the end of the day. 

The advantages of the tour are:

  • The roads leading to and from Samaria Gorge are pretty scary; best let a local take the hassle of this, especially after a long hike;
  • Local buses may be full so you are guaranteed a seat to get back to your accommodation

You can find most tours on booking.com, tripadvisor or airbnb experiences.

Setting off on the walk

Starting off at the entry to the national park, the first 500m of the path is zigzags which cross down a path which is steep at times. This section often is busy, especially at around 9am when the park has just opened.

On average, there are 2000+ visitors each day doing this walk when the park is open, so at times it can feel busy. As you progress though, the crowds spread out and the walk becomes more enjoyable.

More Zig zags

At around the 2km mark, you reach another set of zig zags from 910m down to 750m and you come up to your first encounter with the river which flows into the gorge.

Crossing the gorge and through the forest

Once you are down in the gorge, the path crosses across the river back and forth. The park rangers do regular maintenance building rock or wood bridges to make crossing safer, especially as snow melts up at the summit and flows down into the gorge.

It is worth avoiding getting your feet/shoes wet in these crossings as the water is often freezing cold, so wet socks for a few hours is not much fun if that happens.

Samaria Village and Water stops

Along the route you will find many water refilling stations, it isn’t recommended to drink water straight from the river. There are also ‘toilets’ on the route, but do go before you enter as the facilities are pretty basic.

The halfway point is Samaria Village, which you will spot as you will see a bridge crossing the gorge. This has a large number of picnic tables and a fresh water fountain, it is recommended to only stop here for 20 mins and to keep walking to avoid injuries.

Across the gorge and towards the Iron Gates

As you leave the village, depending on the time of year the water in the gorge will become deeper and faster.

Soon you are walking in a tight section where the gorge has forged a path between the mountains, in some parts the water heads under ground before emerging again later down the path.

The gorge narrows and you find yourself crossing between large boulders from one side of the gorge to the other. This can be challenging if the path is busy as people wait to take their turns to cross the bridges and stepping stones. 

In some parts, where the water is flowing fast, wood bridges have been constructed.

As you pass through the Iron Gates (4m wide, but 300m in height), you walk on top of a wooden bridge built over the top of the fast flowing water. This is one of the most epic parts of the walk and well worth it after the hike down hill.

The final stretch of the path takes you up and over rocky pathways and through some final narrow sections of the path. Soon you will see a bridge will symbolizes you are near the end of the hike.

At the end of the hike, you will find a small bar and restaurant. From here, you can either get a minibus (1-2mins ride) down to Agia Roumeli or you can walk the final 3km.

Boats from Agia Roumeli

From Agia Roumeli, ferry boats run to Loutro and Hora Sfakion (major bus station here), where tour buses return guests to their accommodation, or you can get a KTEL bus back to Chania. 

Things to bring when hiking Samaria Gorge

This is a list of helpful things to bring when hiking the gorge.

  1. Water
  2. Sunscreen
  3. Sandwiches and snacks
  4. Antibacterial gel
  5. Change of shoes/thongs for after the walk