Imagine a hike that starts with an altitude of 1230 meters then ends all the way down to the beautiful Libyan Sea. From high up the White Mountains with views of slopes covered with snow... down to the calming sight of this blue blanket:
Hiking Europe's second longest gorge was definitely one of my most memorable adventures while solo traveling in Europe.
I have never imagined myself solo hiking for sixteen kilometers in a foreign land... but I think that I've chosen the best place to hike like this.
From Chania, located at the beautiful Greek island of Crete, I joined a day trip tour with Balos Travel. Getting a bus from Chania to Samaria can be tricky so I opted to join a group tour that made my tour 1000 times more convenient. Balos Travel took care of my pick-up service from hotel, buying entrance and ferry tickets in Samaria, and drop-off back to my hotel. I loved how our tour guide gave us background and information about the hike and Samaria Gorge. He gave us target times for each resting point:
9:30AM for Agios Nikolaos (3.8 kilometres from starting point)
11:30AM for Samaria Settlement (7 kilometres from starting point)
1:30PM for Christos (11.2 kilometres from starting point)
4:45PM for Agia Roumeli (end)
It is not really a group hike. You can go at your preferred pace, without waiting for anyone. We were already on our own once we reached the starting point. All we had to do was hike and reach the ferry before its 5:30PM departure.
FIRST STAGE: The Wooden Staircase
The hike usually takes about four to eight hours, depending on your pace. Most hikers rented some walking sticks as the first portion of the hike was downhill.
This is the most challenging part. The terrain was very steep and there were so much loose rolling rocks on the ground. Be extra careful with the slippery terrain! It’s the most accident-prone area according to my guide. They call it “The Wooden Staircase” because of these never-ending terraces that force you to hold on to these wooden rails.
One shouldn’t miss this gorgeous view from the top! You could still see some snow from the White Mountains.
What I love about this national park is that it is very tourist-friendly. It's hard to get lost with so many signs everywhere! There are clean springs where you could refill you water bottle (no need to carry heavy water bottles!). You also don’t need to fear pee breaks and toilet emergencies as you could toilet-hop along the route.
Here's an example of its many rest areas, Agios Nikolaos:
16 kilometres may seem long but with breathtaking views, one should pause and appreciate the view from time to time.
Being a solo hiker was surprisingly not lonesome as it may seem to be. Most hikers were in groups and pairs but I was able to exchange fun stories with some tourists along the way. I met a senior citizen couple from UK who shared their hiking and biking adventures all over the world. They’re already sixty something but I think they’re fitter than me! #coupleGoals
I wish I took a photo with them but they were so kind to take photos of me :P
I love how the terrain and environment changed along the route— from rocky and filled with pine trees to flat and filled with boulders and streams.
There were so many streams along the way so I had to cross (and sometimes balance) on these ladder bridges and go boulder-hopping.
The temperature also drastically changed- cool while I was up in the mountains then very warm once I've reached the portion filled with streams. Our tour guide advised us not to go super slow to avoid the sizzling hot weather in the afternoon. My fear of getting dehydrated was my main motivation to finish the route fast. I hiked in May and they said that the temperature could even be more punishing during hot season.
OLD SAMARIA AND KRI-KRI
Samaria Gorge was named after St. Mary the Egyptian Church, located near the village of Samaria. Samaria used to have a famous oracle site where people from other countries have their pilgrimages during the olden times. Samaria Gorge is also a known refuge for the kri-kri goats (rare Cretan goats only found in this gorge and another island). Kri-kri is the largest wild Cretan mammal that has been around since prehistoric times. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single kri-kri :(
There are other several species of plants, flowers, and birds which make the hike perfect for nature lovers.
Samaria Gorge is frequented by so many tourists but with its long route, you can easily find yourself alone or with the company of few hikers. If you want your quiet time to reflect, be sure to position yourself away from annoying noisy tourists :-P
Except for the steep portion in the beginning, this was an easy non-technical hike. No need to crawl or stretch your legs or flex your hiking powers. The only catch is that it's 16 kilometers and if you're not really used to walking, 16 kilometers might be hard for your precious feet.
But who wouldn't want to take a glimpse of these greens and browns?
Settlement Samaria is one of the rest areas here. You could see some ruins from the old village. This village was displaced in 1962 when Samaria Gorge was declared national park.
I love the variation of trails here. Sixteen kilometers may sound dragging but with Samaria Gorge's picturesque views, you wouldn't feel like you're hiking 16 kilometers.
And there are markers along the trail so it's easy to set your pace and answer the never ending "Are we there yet?" hiking question.
This area called The Iron Gates is the most popular part of Samaria Gorge.
These mammoth "Gates" are towering up to a height of 980 feet and at one point, the gates' distance from each other narrow down to only 10 feet!
I wish I brought a tripod (or photographer) so I could take badass hiker photos of myself :))
There are also some horses in case hikers back out or get injured in the middle of the route.
Here are some of my other favorite snapshots from my hike:
Of course it's a different sight when you're really out there. You'd feel humbled with these gorges' fantastic heights and nature's breathtaking sights.
This sign looks like sunshine for tired hikers! 2 more kilometers to go. The last portion is the easiest-- it's flat!
More ruins to see!
The last stretch looks fantastic too. Rolling mountains, streams, and colorful flowers!
AND FINALLY!!!.... AFTER FIVE HOURS!
This is the best reward after a long hike! Dip in the waters of the Libyan Sea. Hike pains? ALL GONE after the calming feel of this beauty!
I had to take off my shoes, swim, and lie down on these pebbles. It felt like heaven but I wished that I had the power to turn these pebbles into powdered sand :P
After swimming and sunbathing, I ate a plate of fresh prawns at one of Agia Roumeli's restaurants. The best lunch view indeed!
I had plenty of time to kill before my ferry's 5:30PM departure. More chill time on the beach!
Be sure to pick the best topdeck seat on the ferry for excellent views of the Libyan Sea :)
TOTAL COST = 39 euros
24 euros for bus transfer & guide, 5 euros for entrance fee, 10 euros for boat ride
Address: 131 Iroon Polytechneioy Str. Kissamos
73 400, Chania , Greece
Tel: +30 28220 22900 - Mob: +30 6947091549
I will definitely recommend Samaria Gorge to tourists (even beginner hikers and solo travellers) who want to experience hiking and enjoy nature's beautiful sights. It's very rare to combine hiking and swimming in one day & in one route. My only disappointment was the absence of kri-kri goats :-P
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