Samaria

The Samaria Gorge, located in the Sfakia province in the southwestern part of the White Mountains, is one of the longest gorges in Europe. The gorge is between 3 and 300 meters wide and falls from a height of 1,250 m. at the beginning until it reaches the shores of the Libyan sea approx. 3 km from the village of Agia Roumeli. The climate varies from alpine to subtropical over the approx. 13 kilometer.

Location

At the bottom of the gorge the Tarraios river ensures plenty of water to the surrounding landscape. It makes Samaria a lush home to a number of plants and animals. Many of them rare and many of them only to be found right here. These include the Cretan Ibex, the 'Kri-Kri', whose endangered status helped to turn Samaria into a national park in 1962. But Samaria is also home to some of Europe's last bearded vultures, several eagles and several rare endemic plants.

As the gorge and the surrounding landscape was made a national park, the village that lay around the middle of the gorge was deserted. But otherwise, the gorge has been inhabited since ancient times. Samaria's natural resources were used - e.g. wood was exported from here to Egypt. Thus many archaeological finds have been done in the gorge.

The national park and the gorge is open to visitors during daytime from early May to late October, where you can walk right through the impressive gorge. In winter (and on rainy days) the park is closed as the river becomes flooded and dangerous and there is a risk of rock slides. It is not allowed to stay in the gorge over night.

If you want to visit Samaria, it is advisable to arrive early. Early in the season and early in the day. In high season there can be up to 3,000 visitors daily and the heat can be unbearable in the summer. But if you come in the spring the landscape will be most fertile, and if you come before the first buses (arriving from 7.30am), you can get a leading edge before the invasion starts. The path through the gorge is in good condition but steep in the beginning, so even if you do not have to be a mountaineer, you should be in reasonably good physical shape. With stops along the way it probably takes about 6 to 7 hours for most to get through the gorge. It is not recommended to walk with small children.

A good site with advice on hiking in the Samaria Gorge can be found here.