The Samaria Gorge hike begins in the mountains near Xyloskalo and ends at the sea at Agia Roumeli. We opted for the simpler and more expensive (but still reasonable) option of taking a tour.
There were multiple tour busses picking up at our meeting point in Chania, leading to mild confusion. It got sorted out and we were on our way.
The top part of the hike reminded us a lot of the Grand Tetons. Very rugged, lots of pine trees, and arid. It was very slow going at first because it was steep. Some parts of the trail had railings, as shown below right.
There’s also the luxury of WCs along the trail and being able to refill water bottles. Below is one of the springs along the way and an abandoned village that is now a rest stop. You only need to bring one water bottle since there are plenty of places to refill.
At one of the rest stops, we saw kri-kri, indigenous wild goats. They know where the snacks are! (And no, you’re not supposed to feed them.)
At one point on the trail there was an incredible number of cairns.
Trees find creative ways to grow among the rocks. The tree in the feature photo at the top is a full-size tree growing from a tall sheer cliff.
We saw donkeys working and waiting for work. The one was hauling supplies. The other was on standby in case an injured hiker needed a ride. It’s a pretty easy hike and the trail is well-maintained, but it is still a hike. I wouldn’t try it in flip-flops, though some people do. I wore hiking boots because I have them. I wouldn’t buy them for this hike.
The trail gradually flattens and the gorge narrows as you get closer to the sea. There are small footbridges to get you through wet areas and across the stream.
There are also some larger bridges and places where the trail weaves from one side of the gorge to the other.
As we neared the village we saw more domestic goats and other farm animals, and a small hobbit-like house built into the cliff.
It’s amazing how hard walking downhill can be. Your knees will feel it, especially if you have bad knees like I do. We were too tired for anything but wading when we got to the sea. (We saw one guy change into a swimsuit on the beach.) The beach is pebbly and you sink really fast. The cool water and pebbles felt good on our feet after all that walking. We found a nice pocket rock on the beach.
This is the Libyan Sea. Maybe the closest we’ll get to Africa? There are no roads to Agia Roumeli so you leave there via ferry. We came back by way of Sougia, and through the tourist area west of Chania.
We booked our tour through a nearby agency recommended by our hotel. The tours are similar, and basically cover transportation to and from the gorge by bus and ferry. Ours cost €34 for the two of us, with €10 entrance fee to the Samaria Gorge. We wondered if we would have to hike in a group. We didn’t. We also wondered if we would have to hike faster than usual — I AM the slowest hiker on the trail — and we didn’t. We had plenty of time. We left at 6:10 AM and were back in town at 9:00 PM. Take snacks or lunch; there’s no food between the gorge entrance and Agia Roumeli though there are plenty of places to refill water bottles.
You can also do the hike using public transportation, taking the bus to the entrance and from Sougia after getting off the ferry.