Agia Irini Gorge is located in the southwest part of the island of Crete. It starts near Agia Irini village, and ends 4.5km away from Sougia . It is 7km long and it usually takes up to 3 hours to walk.
Although it is the second most visited gorge after the gorge of Samaria , it remains very beautiful and less crowded. During tourist season, there is a small fee, which is used to pay for the maintenance of the path.
Agia Irini gorge is part of the Nature 2000 area, and the Ministry of Agriculture has also designated it as a wildlife refuge. The gorge is part of the habitat of the Cretan wild goat, and contains a variety of microenvironments which are refuge and habitat for many species of fauna. Another characteristic is the wealth of forest vegetation in terms of trees, shrubs, brushwood and herbs.
The importance of Agia Irini gorge is not only limited to its high biodiversity or aesthetic value, but also the historical and cultural identity. During the Ottoman era, rebels had their dens at the location of “Polla Spitakia” and, in 1866, 1000 women and children escaped from the Turks through this gorge.
Advice and Description of The Gorge
Agia Irini gorge is an amazing gorge to walk. Throughout the journey, you will be accompanied by the smell of sage, and the sounds of cicadas. Moreover, Agia Irini gorge is full of various plants, pine trees, oak trees, cypresses etc.
In many places, you will find places for recreation with toilet, water and benches. Due to the fact that water in the gorge is not guaranteed, it would be suggested to carry a bottle of water with you.
Although Agia Irini gorge is considered easy and suitable also for children, you should not neglect to use proper shoes, such as sneakers or hiking boots. It is downhill, without particularly steep areas.
At the end of the gorge, you can decide either to walk 4.5km on asphalt so as to get back to Sougia or to call for a taxi. A suggestion would be to have some rest in the cafeteria, where you can find at the end of the gorge, and later on to walk back to Sougia, since it is also considered as a beautiful walk. During this part, you will still walk around mountains, trees, and flowers. The decision is always yours.
Description of the Walk
Agia Irini gorge starts near Agia Irini village, on the main asphalt road. You turn right (south) to enter the gorge and walk past the café. Arriving in the river-bed, cross the wooden bridge and follow the path downhill.
The route is easy. You cross the river several times, then continue along one side. After about 20 minutes you encounter a steep stretch. To master this, you have to climb first, then descend steeply along a few hairpin bends. The path proceeds along the wider valley bottom. A fallen tree or small landslide may obstruct the path, but you can make your way around these.
After about 2 hours 30 minutes the gorge widens and the landscape becomes more open. An old chapel of the Panayia (Mother Mary) stands in the middle of the flat land at the exit of the gorge- look for the grove of dark green cypress trees to locate it. The moment you leave the gorge you turn left, leaving the river-bed. Walk past a bar/restaurant and follow the asphalt road south. You see an old stone bridge in the middle of the river-bed to your right. Continue on the road until you cross a concrete bridge and turn left for Sougia. 800m away for that bridge, you will meet another crossroad. Stay left in order to go back to Sougia, which is located 2km away from this point.
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Some Advantages of Agia Irini Gorge over Samaria Gorge
It is less crowded.
It is much shorter.
The amount of descending areas is around 500m instead of 1250m, hence it is better for
It is open almost all the year round compared to the Samaria Gorge which only opens from May to October. It is not advised to visit
it during rainy days.
Most of the walk is in the shade so it could be said that it is ideal for walking during the summer.
How to Visit Agia Irini Gorge from Sougia
You have two choices:
During spring, summer, and autumn months there is a coach from the square of Sougia, leaving at 07:00 am, which will take you to Agia Irini Village and the start of Agia Irini Gorge. You should ask the coach driver to drop you at the entrance of Agia Irini’s Gorge.
You are able to walk from Sougia to Agia Irini Village using the Agia Irini Gorge. However, you should manage your time so as to be in Agia Irini Village before 14:45, when it is the time that the coach, which goes to Sougia, passes by the village.
If you need a taxi, please click here.
By Rental Car
You have two choices:
You are able to drive to the entrance of Agia Irini’s gorge, where you will easily find a parking spot and can start walking the gorge. When you return to Sougia, you are able to get the coach which leaves at 18:00pm - 18:30pm (after the arrival of the ferry from Agia Roumeli) or take a taxi to Agia Irini Village, so as to collect your car.
You are able to drive to the end of Agia Irini Gorge, where you can park your car easily. Afterwards, you are able to walk the gorge starting from the bottom to the top. You can either walk the whole path or part of it. Later on, you walk back to your car so as to move on with your day.