Samaria Gorge

The Samaria Gorge is located in the White Mountains National Park. The day must be planned carefully. The drive from The Mill to Hania, the bus trip to Omalos, the 5-6 hour walk though the Gorge to Ayia Roumeli, the 1 1/2hour boat trip and the drive back to Hania makes a long day. Staying the night at Agia Roumeli is an option. The gorge is usually open between May to October, from 6am to sunset. To maximise your enjoyment set off as early as possible, otherwise the gorge can be a procession of fellow walkers which is certain to impact on your enjoyment of what ought to be a memorable experience. The gorge is usually closed from November to April due to the risk of flash floods. The name Samaria has been derived from the small white painted church of Ossia Maria, built in 1379, found half way through the gorge. The 16km walk provides scenery which is claimed to be unequalled anywhere else in Crete. The Tourist Pavilion at the head of the Gorge is south of the town of Omalos and offers spectacular views of the Limestone face of Mount Gynglios. The initial 600m descent is a breathtaking walk down a zigzag stone path with timber railings known as the Xyloskala, or wooden stairway, with viewing points on the way down. The rock faces of Mount Gynglios are visible through gaps in the pines and cypresses, which scent the clear mountain air. At the bottom is a picnic area and the small stone church Ayios Nikolaos. About half way through the gorge is the abandoned village of Samaria which was a centre of Cretan resistance during the Turkish Occupation and again during the more recent German Occupation. As you walk further south the gorge deepens with sheer rock faces on either side. The final few kilometres are unimpressive compared with what has preceded them. They bring you out at the lower gate, where refreshments are available. From here, you make the final 2km down to Ayia Roumeli and your boat to Khoran Sfakion, Souyia or Palaiokhore.