General Information

The Samaria Gorge is in southwest Crete, in the regional unit of Chania. It is a national park, a World's Biosphere Reserve, which was established in 1962 with the aim to preserve the scientific, aesthetic, touristic and cultural value of the site.

 

The National Park offers many opportunities for learning, scientific research, mountaineering, and, in general, high quality recreation. Visitors have the occasion for deep, true and meaningful contact with the natural landscape, plants and animals, opening themselves to nature.

 

The core of the National Park covers an area of 4,850 ha. The gorge entrance is at Xyloskalo (1230m above sea level) on Omalos Plateau and runs down, through a well preserved trail 16km long, to the seaside village of Agia Roumeli on the southern coast of Crete at the Libyan Sea.

 

Its width ranges from 150 meters, at its widest point, to 3 meters at its narrowest, which is also the most famous part of the gorge, known as “the Gates”, where its sides soar up to a height of almost 300 meters (980 feet).

Description of the Walk

This walk usually takes between five to seven hours, and can be strenuous, especially during the peak of summer. Be aware that it is always downhill; therefore it may be hard on your knees. You will cross the river about 6 times. Especially in spring the water can reach up to the knee. There are “stepping stones” at most places. If the water is above your knees do not cross and seek advice. Guests should be equipped with hiking boots or sneakers, and be in good physical condition.

 

The gorge begins gently at “Xyloskalo” (translated as “Wooden stairs”), leading down to a faster descent. Later, the path follows a riverbed along a beautiful forest with tall trees and outstanding views.

 

In the middle of the gorge stands a deserted village called "Samaria". The last remaining inhabitants left it in 1962 so that the Samaria gorge could become a national park and a refuge for the rare kri-kri (Cretan goat) plus several other endemic species, along with flowers and birds.

 

In the village there is a byzantine church devoted to the Sacred Mary of Egypt, which gives this area its name since the word “Samaria” is a syneresis of the Greek phrase “Osia Maria” (Sacred Mary). This church was built during the 14th century, and is particularly interesting because of its wall paintings. Sacred Mary’s church can be easily reached by following a path that begins at the helipad, and leads to the south part of the village.

Goddess Vritomartis had also her own temple in the gorge, near the abandoned village of Samaria. She was considered to be the Goddess of the mountains, forests, and hunting.  

 

At the end of the gorge you may wish to relax on the beach of Agia Roumeli, and enjoy a refreshing swim in the Libyan Sea.

Press on the boots for more information

How to visit Samaria Gorge From Sougia

By Coach

You should use the coach that leaves at 07:00 from the square of Sougia.

 

You are also able to check Sougia Bus timetable here.

 

Extra information:

On your way to the Samaria Gorge, the coach driver may ask you to transfer to another coach, which will wait and take you to the entrance of the gorge. If you decide to follow this choice, we would recommend you purchase your coach tickets one day in advance, as it will give you the extra time to wake up a bit later and get onto the coach instantly as soon as you get there the following day, without having to wait in the queue. Please note that despite the fact that we always try to remain updated, we must point out that the central coach station in Chania is responsible for potential changes regarding the timetable above.

 

By taxi

If you need a taxi, please click here. We would recommend you ask your taxi driver to take you to the entrance of the Samaria gorge before the coaches arrive. This will give you the opportunity to walk and enjoy the gorge without the crowds.

Additional Interesting Information

 

Biodiversity

 

The National Park is characterized by a rich biodiversity, high degree of endemism in fauna and flora, distinctive geological configurations and specific landscape features. It is also a place with a strong and important anthropogenic environment (history, special songs, traditions, etc.).

 

Distinctive ecosystem in the gorge

  • Cypress forests

  • Calabrian pine forests

  • Cermes oak forests mixed with maple; locally with abelicea

  • Unexploited Caves

  • Mountainous or lowland phryganic ecosystems

  • Steep cliffs

 

Flora

  • 174 Greek endemic taxa

  • 97 precious endemic plants of Crete

  • 22 steno-endemic taxa of White Mountains

  • 12 endemic taxa of Crete-Karpathos

  • 30 endangered species

 

Many of these are considered rare and endangered and for this reason they are protected by national and international legislation, such as Bupleurum kakiskalae, Nepeta sphaciotica, Hypericum aciferum, Cephalanthera cucullata, the well-known aromatic and medical plant Origanum dictamnus and the unique endemic to Crete tree species, Zelkova Abelicea.

Fauna

  • 32 different species of mammals

  • 3 species of amphibians

  • 11 species of reptiles

 

Indicative species

  • The “agrimi”, Capra aegagrus cretica, its main residence is the White Mountains

  • The wild cat, Felis sylvestris, the biggest carnivorous animal on the island

  • The Cretan white-toothed shrew, Croccidura zimmermani, a rare and not well studied species. It is the only endemic mammal species of Crete.

  • The monk seal, Monachus monachus, nest on the southern beaches of Crete.

 

Birds

  • 199 bird species

  • 60 species next in the White Mountains

 

Endangered Species

  • Gypaetus barbatus, priority species, there are 2of the 5-6 couples recorded in Crete

  • Hieraaetus fasciatus

  • Aquila chrysaetos

  • Gyps fulvus

  • Falco biarmicus

 

Man and the Gorge

Human presence in the Gorge of Samaria dates since the prehistoric years up to now. Evidence of man can be seen everywhere, in the archeological findings, in the Byzantine temples, in the two impressive Venetian fortresses, as well as in the more contemporary, but now deserted, village of Samaria.

 

During the Second World War, the gorge was a rebel shelter, while locals were living in the village of Samaria yp to 1962, when the district was disappropriated. Nowadays, the village of Samaria is used by the Forest Directorate of Chania in the framework of the management of the Gorge.

 

Landscape

The most important characteristic of the landscape of Samaria is the intense interaction between human and nature. The relationship exists both in today’s presence of humans as observers/walkers and in the historical imprint that the inhabitants of Samaria have left on this space. The traditional habitations of village, oil press, vines, preserved chapels declare the powerful relationship that the inhabitants of Samaria had with this place.

 

Useful Information

  • Follow all the instructions of the guards as well as the ones written on the signs, especially the ones referring to the falling rocks

  • Hiking is only allowed along the main path

  • Do not stray from the main path for any reason

  • A lot of attention must be given to fire issues. Inform us immediately for any sign of fire. Smoking is only allowed in rest areas

  • Knowing that you are entering in this area with your own responsibility, make sure to have all necessary equiptment for the protection against the sun, as well as your medication if necessary. Report to the guards any health issue you may have.

  • Walk through the gorge slowly with many stops

  • Spend a lot of time in observation

 

Strictly Prohibited

  • Lighting fires

  • Camping

  • Picking Flowers

  • The removal or destruction of nests

  • Destruction or damage to geological formations

  • Possession of weapons and traps

  • Swimming in the streams

  • Hunting and fishing in the park

  • Pets without leash

  • Throwing stones

  • Excessive noise

  • The disposal of rubbish in places other than those provided

  • Smoking anywhere other than the rest points

  • The consumption of alcohol

Sources:

www.nationalparksamaria.com

www.syiahotel.com

Web Designer, Creator, and Content Director 

Markos Vittorakis

www.visitsougia.com

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