After livening up your summer with some of the best beaches of the island, today we want to tell you about our last amazing adventure, exploring the other side of Crete: the mountain.
Have you ever heard about Samarià Gorge? Probably you have, since it’s the longest gorge in Europe and one of the greatest natural wonders of this part of the world. Last Saturday, together with our friend Fernando, we embarked in one of the most exciting experiences of our life!
We left Chania at 7.45 with a bus to Omalos, but it actually continues till Xyloskalo, where the actual excursion starts from. After having paid the 5 euro entrance for the Samaria National Park (founded in 1962), equipped with water, sandwiches and a lot of energy, we were ready to start! The excursion of this gorge is not for everyone: 16 km long, it takes about 6 hours walking, counting the stops for eating, drinking and using the toilet. The road is almost all downhill: you start from a 1200 mt height (from Xyloskalo) and then you arrive at the southern coast of the island, at Agia Roumeli. Every 2-3 km, you can find fresh water springs, toilets and rest areas with tables and benches where you can have a packed lunch and restore your energy.
Our walk started with a steep and marked path that tried our strength straight away. We took about one hour to descend to the bed of the gorge, surrounded by centennial pine trees and breath-taking views over the valley. Going on, the road was a bit more “diverse”, as it was dug in a riverbed that in the winter fills with water. Huge rocks, strangely shaped trees, mountain walls more or less smoothed by the wind, and small brooks to cross. But the most memorable encounter of those first few kilometres was definitely with one of the inhabitants of this gorge and these mountains: the legendary feral goat Kri-Kri, endemic species of Crete.
The examples of the area, most likely used to the amount of daily visitors, are easy to approach: they look like small ibices and their cubs are the cutest in the world!
Halfway through, we arrived at the old village of Samarià where its inhabitants lived until the opening of the park in 1962. To think that people could live there is really unbelievable! Taking advantage of the service area equipped with toilets and tables in the shade, we had our sandwich and relaxed our tired legs that after 2 hours walking were starting to give up…
Bold and determined to reach the sea as early as possible, we resumed our journey after 30 minutes’ break. The surrounding landscape was changing repeatedly, and this made the walk varied and exciting.
Walking through rocky walls high hundredths of meters and centennial trees that incredibly grow from that rock, we felt very small. In that place and in that moment, we were facing the absolute superiority of Nature over man. Suffice it to say, that Samaria Gorge, together with the Mount Olympus National Park, are the only preserved areas in Greece to be included in the MAB Network, which is the Unesco programme “Man and Biosphere”. This must be the reason why here live nearly 500 species of plants and animals, of which about 70 are endemic of Crete.
After about 5 hours’ trek, we finally reached the most famous spot of this gorge, the “Iron Gates” (Σιδερόπορτες). This passage is known to be the narrowest of the canyon. After kilometres of very wide spaces (up to 150 mt wide), here the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only 3 metres, and the sides soar up to a height of 600 metres…it’s breath-taking!
After the gates, the worst was over! Once at the end of the route, we stopped at a kiosk where we were asked to show our entrance tickets, and we walked the last very sunny stretch of cobblestone separating us from the sea. After about 20 minutes, we finally spotted a mirage at the horizon, our “oasis in the desert”: the Lybian Sea!! Despite our exhaustion and the sore calves, we sped up our pace and in a jiffy we were swimming in the fresh and clear water of AgiaRoumeli, incredulous to finally be there! And in this place of unreal beauty, with volcanic sand and pitch-black pebbles, we spent two hours of well-deserved relax.
At 5:30 pm, we took the last ferry to Hora Sfakion, where at 6:30 pm there was the last bus to Chania. Even in the hour spent on the ferry, Crete has given us some pieces of paradise, with its unbelievably blue sea water and the magnificent White Mountains (Λεφκά Όρι) as a backdrop.
What can we say more about this adventure… the pictures are quite self-explanatory, don’t you think?
Anyone of good will, strong legs and love for the nature should go for this experience. Rest assured, you will never forget it!
Click on the map to see our path