Walking on Greek Islands

Crete - Samaria Gorge

Individual Hiking Tour 8 days

720,00 €

0
(0)

Crete is a very mountainous Greek island with mountains up to 2,500 m high. As the mountains are made of limestone, over the course of many years the draining water has in some cases burrowed very deeply into the rock, resulting in spectacular gorges.

The most striking gorges in Crete, such as the Irini Gorge, the Samaria Gorge and the Aradena Gorge, are located in the southwest of Crete in the region of Chania in the White Mountains (Lefka Ori), which they cross in a north-south direction to the shore of the Lybian Sea.

On your trip to Crete, in addition to the 3 gorges mentioned above, you will also walk a little along the southern coast of Crete on the Libyan Sea. On the way back, you will stop in Chania, the urban pearl of Crete, and in Heraklion, where you can visit the Palace of Knossos before you leave.

When is the best time to visit Crete's southwest?

The time to travel for an individual walking holiday in the gorges of the White Mountains, which reach all the way to the south coast of Crete, is from May to October, because the Samaria Gorge is only open from May to October.

Travel offer "1 week hiking in the gorges at the coast in the southwest of Crete".

On this walking tour in Crete, you will arrive in the capital of Crete, Heraklion, which is located on the north coast. As Crete is criss-crossed by a mountain range stretching from west to east, the next day you will drive west along the north coast to Chania, from where you will take a panoramic road along the western flank of the White Mountains, Lefká óri, past small villages such as Agia Irini, 600 m above sea level, the starting point of your hike through the Agia Irini Gorge the next day, to Sougia on the southwest coast of Crete, the starting point of your hike through gorges on the southwest coast of Crete.

After the hike through the Agia Irini Gorge, the highlight of your hiking tour follows the next day, the hike through the Samaria Gorge, which ends in the small village of Agia Roumeli on the Lybian Sea, which can only be reached on foot or by water. The next day you will first walk along the coast and then through the Arádena Gorge, which ends in a small bay bordered with marble, from where, after a stop at the small taverna located by the sea, you will continue along the shore of the Lybian Sea, past beautiful beaches to Loutró, which can also only be reached on foot or by water.

From Loutró you take the ferry to Sfakion, from where you travel by bus along the eastern flank of the White Mountains across the Askifou plateau back to Chania, where you have time to stroll along the promenade of the old Venetian harbour in the afternoon and have an atmospheric meal in a taverna in the old town of Chania in the evening. The next day you will continue from Chania to Heraklion, where you can visit the Palace of Knossos in the afternoon before departing Heraklion for your journey home the next day.

The map shows the 3 gorges in the southwest of Crete that are part of the walking tour.

When is the best time to go hiking in Crete?

The best time for a walking holiday in the southwest of the Greek island of Crete is during the months of April and October, when the weather is pleasantly warm for walking and the Libyan Sea, especially in October, is at a temperature that invites you to take a swim.

Travel offer "Gorge Hiking in Crete"

Travel time:

1 until 26 October 2023

1 May until 26 October 2024

Itinerary

Arrival

On Day 1 you will land at the main airport of Crete, Heraklion International Airport “Nikos Kazantzakis”, where a taxi will be waiting to take you the 5 km from the airport to your hotel in Heraklion, Iraklion Hotel, in 15 minutes.

The Iraklion Hotel was chosen because it has good reviews and because it is close to the old town of Heraklion and also close to the bus station, Chanioporta Heraklion KTEL Bus Station, from where you will travel to Chania the next day. From the Iraklion Hotel you can easily explore the old town and the old harbour of Heraklion with the Venetian Koules Fortress on foot.

Come with Otto and Brigitte walking on Greek Islands in October 2023 and April 2024

The map below shows a walking tour of the old town of Heraklion, starting at your hotel and ending at the Venetian Koules Fortress in the old port of Heraklion. In the evening, a detour to the lighthouse is a good idea when the old harbour and the old town of Heraklion are brightly lit.

On the way through the old town of Heraklion, you pass the former church of Agia Ekaterini, next to which the Agios Minas Cathedral rises. Walking north through the pedestrian zone with its many small shops and cafés, you reach Platia Liontarion, the café-lined square in the centre of Heraklion, in the middle of which is the Morosini Fountain.

To get to the Venetian fortress of Koules, walk north through the pedestrian zone on 25is Avgoustou Street to the old port of Heraklion. You can continue along the quay wall from the fortress complex to the lighthouse at the end of the harbour, from where you have a beautiful view of the old harbour area and the old town of Heraklion.

The next day you will travel by bus to Sougia on the southwest coast of Crete, the starting point for your gorge walks.

The drive from Heraklion via Chania to Sougia on the southwest coast of Crete.

On Day 2, after breakfast, leave the Iraklion Hotel and walk the short distance to the Chanioporta Heraklion KTEL Bus Station, located on the outside of the city walls, from where your bus will depart at 9:30.

You will enjoy the 2 3/4 hour bus ride along the north coast of Crete from Heraklion in a westerly direction via Réthimnon to Chania.

On day 2 of your walking tour in Crete, you will travel by bus along the north coast from Heraklion to Chania. The above map shows the route and the places the bus goes to.

The bus journey from Heraklion to Chania is along the north coast, often close to the sea. You leave Heraklion in an arc around Ammoudára beach and turn north at the foot of Mount Stroumboulas. Turning from north to west, you look down on Agia Pelagia. Agia Pelagia used to be a tiny fishing village situated in the middle of a picturesque amphitheatrical bay. Today Agia Pelagia is a bustling tourist resort with all the trimmings. Up to Pánormos, the route runs up and down in the area of the coastal mountains. From Pánormo to Réthimnon it goes through low cliff coast.

Réthimnon is the third largest town in Crete, a harbour town between Heraklion and Chania. The historical core of Réthimnon is on a rocky peninsula where the Venetians built a fortezza in the 16th century. In the bay to the east of this peninsula is the old Venetian harbour and the marina of Réthimnon. Réthimnon gained greater importance through its harbour when it served the Venetians as an intermediate port halfway from Chania to Heraklion.

The motorway, the Northern Cretan Highway A 90, on which one travels by bus, makes a sweeping curve to the south at Réthimnon at about 120 m above sea level, so that one can look down on the town of Réthimnon.

The above map shows the route of the bus along the north coast of Crete from Heraklion to Chania.

After Réthimnon, the road continues flat along the coast to the west before leaving the coast, skirting Cape Drapano, which rises above the vast plain of Apokoronas to the east and juts out into the Cretan Sea, and rising again to almost 200 m above sea level at Neo Chorio. From Neo Chorio you descend to Souda Bay, a 15 km long and only 2 to 4 km wide bay formed by the Akrotiri peninsula and Cape Drapano, along whose southern shore you drive to the nearby town of Souda. After Souda, leave the Northern Cretan Highway and head north to the centre of Chania.

In Chania you have to change buses. The next bus takes you to Sougia on the southwest coast of Crete, where the gorge walks await you.

Drive from Chania to Sougia.

The route from Chania to Sougia on the south coast is about 65 km long. The journey by bus takes about 1.5 hours.
Immediately outside Chania it is flat as you pass through the largest orange-growing area in Crete. Then you continue along the western flank of the White Mountains towards the south coast of Crete. On the pass before Agia Irini, at the turnoff to the Omalós plain, is the highest point of the route at 915 m above sea level, from where you have a beautiful panoramic view. After the village of Agia Irini you pass the entrance to the Agia Irini Gorge, through which you will hike the next day. At Epanouchori you can already see the Libyan Sea. The descent to the sea leads through a wide valley via Rodováni and Moní.

Sougia

Sougia is a tranquil coastal village with about 100 inhabitants at the exit of the long, mighty Agia Irini valley, which runs in a southerly direction and opens up to the Libyan Sea at Sougia. The road from Chania in the north to Sougia also passes through the Agia Irini valley in the last section.

Sougia lies on a small, crescent-shaped coastal strip formed by the sediments of the river that carved the Agia Irini gorge. At its southern exit at Sougia, the Agia Irini valley widens into a rocky bay with a long beach of pebbles and grey sand and a tamarisk promenade. To the west, in the direction of Paleochóra, the bay of Sougia is bordered by a rather gentle coastline, while to the east, in the direction of Agía Rouméli, high, bizarre cliffs tower up.

Hippies used to meet in Sougia. This relaxed atmosphere of yesteryear has remained in Sougia to this day.

Today’s Sougia was built on the ruins of the ancient city of Syia, which was a port of the large ancient city of Elyros further upstream. Since the land mass of western Crete has risen by about five metres since the beginning of the Christian era, the former harbour of the ancient city of Syia has dried up. The wall remains of Syia, round vaults, house ruins and parts of mosaic floors, lie on the terraces east of the river.

After you have checked into your room at Pension Irene in Sougia, you can settle down in a taverna. The next day, the first gorge hike is on the agenda.

Agia Irini Gorge

On Day 3, after breakfast at 9am, you will be taken by taxi in 25 minutes to the entrance of Agia Irini Gorge. The gorge of Saint Irene is the second most visited gorge in Crete after the gorge of Samaria. The Agia Irini Gorge is part of the Natura 2000 site and part of the habitat of the Cretan wild goat. The lush green, partially shaded Agia Irini Gorge starts near the village of Agia Irini at about 600 m above sea level, is 7 km long and ends at about 100 m above sea level 4.5 km from Sougia, from where a taxi will take you back to Sougia.

Admission to the Agia Irini Gorge costs € 2.00. The hike through the Agia Irini Gorge on a path marked with blue dots is partly directly in the riverbed of the Ageriniótis, which is dry in summer, where there are wooden bridges and ladders in difficult places and partly on narrow, lateral alluvial terraces, past several rest areas with toilet huts and water points. Good footwear is necessary for the hike through the Agia Irini gorge because you have to walk over stones in the riverbed and boulders on the alluvial terraces.

There is a café at the entrance and exit of the Agia Irini gorge.

In 1866, 1000 women and children fled through the Agia Irini Gorge from the Turks who were trying to put down the Cretan revolt against Turkish rule.

Through the Samaria Gorge to Agia Roumeli.

On Day 4, after breakfast at 9am, a taxi will take you in 45 minutes to Xyloskalo on the plateau of Omalos, in the Lefka Ori, the White Mountains, 1250m above sea level. Xyloskalo means “wooden staircase” and refers to a wooden staircase built by the locals to facilitate access to the Samaria Gorge, as the cliffs are very steep at this point. Today, this part of the path is made of stones and secured with a wooden railing.

The Samaria Gorge is the classic gorge walk in Crete. The limestone rocks of the White Mountains in southwest Crete have been deeply carved by water run-off, forming large gorges. Lime rock is very hard and resistant in itself, but can be easily dissolved by rainwater. This process is called karst erosion. The acids of the run-off water erode the limestone. This process creates plateaus, caves and gorges.

The Samaria Gorge is the longest and deepest of the many gorges in southwest Crete. In addition to karst erosion, tectonic movements were also involved in the formation of Samaria Gorge about two million years ago.

The Samaria Gorge is lined by vertical rock walls up to 600 m high, which allow a passage of only three to four metres at the narrowest point, the so-called “iron gate”.

At the exit of the gorge on the Libyan Sea lies the small village of Agía Rouméli. Due to its geographical location in the middle of the White Mountains, the Samaria Gorge played an important role as a place of refuge for resistance fighters. In 1770, 4,000 women and children hid from the Turks in the Samaria Gorge, and Omalos, the Samaria Gorge and Agia Roumeli were also places of assembly and retreat during the Cretan liberation struggle in 1866. When Crete was occupied by the German Wehrmacht in 1941, the Greek government used the Samaria Gorge to flee to Agía Rouméli, from where it was evacuated to Egypt.

Agía Rouméli, which can only be reached on foot or via the Libyan Sea, lies in a wide bay in front of the mighty exit of the Samaria Gorge. Perched on a ridge above the village is a fortress built by the Turks to guard the gorge.

In ancient times, there was a town called Tárra in the bay of Agía Rouméli on the eastern bank of the stream that flows through the town, one of the 100 towns reported by Homer. Tárra, which minted its own coins, dates back to the late Minoan era. Tárra exported wood to ancient Egypt, Mycenae, Knossos and Troy, where it was used to build palaces and ships. In the Roman occupation period, Tárra was known mainly because it was on the maritime trade route between Rome and Egypt, and in the Venetian period Agía Rouméli was an important shipbuilding centre because of the large timber deposits of the White Mountains.

When you arrive in Agía Rouméli after the long hike through the Samaria Gorge, you can immediately sit down on the terrace of the cafe-restaurant of Hotel Calypso and enjoy a traditional Cretan dish prepared with pure olive oil and vegetables from the hotel’s own garden, overlooking the Libyan Sea. Afterwards, you won’t have far to go to your room, which is just above the restaurant, where you can rest up for the next day, when you will continue hiking to Loutró.

From Agía Rouméli to Loutró

Day 5 of your walking tour takes you, first on the E4, a European long-distance hiking trail, along the southwest coast of Crete and then through the Arádena Gorge, from the coastal village of Agía Rouméli to the coastal village of Loutró.

When you start the hike to Loutró in Agía Rouméli, you initially follow the E4 along the coast in an easterly direction, passing the exit of the Eligiás gorge in the area of Agios Pavlos beach after only 2.5 km.

The Eligiás Gorge, one of the largest and most impressive wild gorges, full of cypresses and pines, is 13 km long and runs parallel to the Samaria Gorge. The route through the Eligiás Gorge starts on the Omalos plateau and ends at the 1.5 km long Agios Pavlos beach, which is surrounded by a beautiful pine forest. Towards the eastern end of Agios Pavlos beach, you pass by a taverna and a chapel built in the 11th century in honour of the Apostle Paul. At the end of Agios Pavlos beach, the path gains about 50 metres in altitude and after about another km, in the middle of the pine forest, you come to the turnoff towards Ágios Ioánnis. The path continues steeply uphill over stones in a north-easterly direction until you reach a plateau at an altitude of about 600 m, on which you continue in a south-easterly direction to the Arádena gorge, where you then walk in a southerly direction through the gorge with steep walls over 100 m high.

At the exit of the Arádena Gorge is Marmara Beach, which lies in a small, secluded bay.

The small pebble beach of Marmara Bay is bordered by marble rocks that rise out of the crystal-clear waters of the Libyan Sea.

The stretch from Agía Rouméli to Loutró is about 17 km long. On the way from Marmara Bay to Loutró, you will pass 2 more fine pebble beaches, the so-called Lýkos beach and the beach in Fínix Bay. You also have the option of taking a boat taxi for the remaining 3 km from Marmara beach to Loutró. In the summer months there are also regular trips, e.g. by Athitis Lines, between Marmara beach and Loutró.

Loutró

Loutró lies in a deep, crescent-shaped bay between the Libyan Sea and the cliff behind it. Loutró can also only be reached on foot or by boat. There was a settlement in Loutró from the Mycenaean to the Byzantine period. The name Loutró comes from the Greek and means “bath”, which refers to the many ancient baths in the area. It is believed that the ancient city of Finikas and the port of ancient Anópolis were located here.

Your hotel in Loutró is Loutró Holidays.

The next day you will take the ferry to Chora Sfakion and continue by bus to Chania.

From Loutró to Chania

On day 6, you will take the ferry from Loutró to Chora Sfakion at 9:30, from where you will continue by bus for 85 km to Chania at 11:00. As you can see from the map below, the return journey to Chania is along the eastern flank of the White Mountains of Crete. On the outward journey to the southwest coast of Crete to Sougia, the route ran along the western flank of the White Mountains. On your hiking trip, you have thus circumnavigated the White Mountains to the south.

The bus ride from Chora Sfakion initially runs steeply parallel to the Imbros Gorge up the mountain to over 800 m above sea level, passing the entrance to the Imbros Gorge just before Imbros. In May 1941, the Allied troops on Crete fled the island on foot through the Imbros Gorge.

Shortly after Imbros, you come to the Askifou Plateau at the foot of Mount Kastro, which is 2218 m high to the west. The plateau of Askifou was probably a lake in prehistoric times. Wheat and potatoes are grown on the fertile fields of the Askifou Plateau. The Askifou plateau was the site of a major battle between the Turks and the Sfakian revolutionaries in 1821, which ended in a victory for the revolutionaries.

On the Askifou plateau there is also a war museum for which a local man has collected traces of the struggle for his homeland in the period from 1940 to 1944.

After passing the plateau of Askifou, the road descends again to Apokoronas in a wide plain of rolling hills that stretches from the foothills of the White Mountains northwards to the coast. Apokoronas is an area that is very green and fertile, where citrus fruits and olives are grown. The first place you pass through when coming from the Askifou plateau is Vryses, the seat of the Apokoronas administration.

Shortly after Vryses, you continue north on the Northern Cretan Highway A 90 and along the shore of Souda Bay via Souda to Chania.

After about 2 hours by bus, you will arrive in Chania at around 1 pm. After checking into your centrally located, modern yet classically furnished, urban Hotel Mosaic, close to the bus station and the old town, there is plenty of time in the afternoon for a stroll around Chania.

Komm wandern mit Otto und Brigitte auf griechischen Inseln im Oktober 2023 and April 2024

City stroll in Chania

Chania in the northwest of the island, made the capital of Crete by the Turks in the 19th century, is the second largest city in Crete, an urban pearl. The old town of Chania is a highlight of a Crete trip. The labyrinth of narrow, cobbled, winding stairways with archways is formed by picturesquely decorated, ornate buildings. The atmosphere of the picturesque Venetian Harbour with the quay wall and the round harbour pier with the historic house facades of the Venetian palazzi, the Old Fort, the Hasan Pasha Mosque and the lighthouse invite you to stroll along the harbour promenade lined with cafés and tavernas. The hustle and bustle around the harbour wall takes place against the backdrop of the high, white mountains, the Lefka Ori.

Chania is a starting point for crossing the Samaria Gorge, the most famous gorge of the White Mountains, which stretches over 14 km from an altitude of 1,200 metres down to the southern coast of Crete.

Splantzia

From our hotel in Chania, we walk north towards the old town, intending to make a circuit that first runs through the east side of the old town. We pass the cross-shaped Agora market hall and subsequently enter the Turkish quarter, which is situated around Splantzia Square. An old plane tree shades almost the entire area of the green square, which is lined with cosy bars and cafés with terraces.

Officially, Splantzia Square is dedicated to the struggle of the Greeks against Ottoman rule for an independent Greek republic, which began on 25 March 1821.

Splantzia is the Venetian name for the neighbourhood where prominent Turks lived during the Ottoman occupation. The Church of St Nicholas, which overlooks the square 1821, was built in 1320 and was originally the place of worship of the neighbouring monastery of the Dominican Order but after the invasion of the Turks in 1645 the church was converted into a mosque by adding a minaret to the south side. In the northwest corner of the square 1821 is still the Venetian church of St. Rocco.

Arsenals

If we continue our steps in a northeasterly direction, before we reach the quay wall with the lighthouse, we pass the arsenals of Chania. The arsenals were built during the Venetian rule in Crete. They are barrel-vaulted buildings, each about 500 metres long and nine metres wide, which were originally open to the sea so that ships could be pulled into them. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, the arches of the seafront were bricked up. Of the larger group of arsenal buildings, a connected complex of seven buildings in the area of the eastern harbour and the so-called Great Arsenal, cut off from the rest of the complex a little further west, have survived.

The Great Arsenal is now an exhibition and event centre that houses the Centre for Mediterranean Architecture and is the venue for important cultural events, art exhibitions and international events.

The Republic of Venice had taken possession of Crete in the aftermath of the 4th Crusade against Constantinople in 1204. As the “Regno di Candia”, Crete developed into one of Venice’s most important bases for its maritime trade in the eastern Mediterranean. The port of Chania was the most important link between Crete and Venice, so that Chania was also referred to as the “Venice of Crete”.

The first of these arsenal buildings were completed in Chania in 1526 so that Venetian ships could also be wintered and repaired on Crete. After the conquest of Chania by the Ottomans in 1645, the arsenals gradually lost their importance and were mainly used as depots for military purposes.

Old Venetian harbour

After our walk along the long quay wall, we return from the lighthouse and continue along the waterfront promenade of the marina to the old Venetian harbour of Chania, which was built in the 14th century for trading purposes and to protect against pirate raids. Today, the old Venetian harbour is the centre of Chania, where there are numerous cafés, restaurants, tavernas, bars, pastry shops and art shops, as well as monuments from various historical periods. There is a mixture of Cretan, Ottoman and Venetian elements in the narrow streets adjacent to the old Venetian port.

The recommended city walk ends at the west side of the Venetian harbour in Topanas. After the occupation of Crete by the Turks in 1645, the Greek Christians and the Greek Jews were relocated to the west side of the old town. The Christians lived in the Topanas quarter with Theotokopoulou Street as the main street and many Venetian houses. At the end of Theotokopoulou Street, south of Topanas is the former Jewish quarter of Evraiki with Kondylaki Street as the busiest street. The most prominent residents of the Jewish community lived here, which is why the street is wider so that carriages could pass through it. Following the city tour that ends in Toponas, you can look around the narrow streets of the former Jewish quarter with its boutique hotels, shops and excellent restaurants.

From Chania to Heraklion

On day 7 you will travel by bus from Chania to Heraklion at 09:30. After checking into your Iraklion hotel, you will have plenty of time to visit Knossos Palace. Bus No. 2 will take you from the centre of Heraklion to Knossos in the south of Heraklion in 30 minutes. Tickets for the bus are available from the driver or at a kiosk near the bus stop.

Komm wandern mit Otto und Brigitte auf griechischen Inseln im Oktober 2023 and April 2024

Knossos, one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe, is located on a hill between the confluence of two rivers about 8 km inland from the north coast of Crete.
Knossos was the capital of the legendary King Minos of the Minoans, the earliest Aegean civilisation. Excavations at Knossos revealed a palace and surrounding buildings that were the centre of a sophisticated Bronze Age culture that dominated the Aegean between about 1600 and 1400 BC. Around 1580 BC, the Minoan culture and its influence began to spread to mainland Greece, where it was further developed and became known as the Mycenaean culture. The Mycenaeans in turn gained control of Knossos in the 15th century BC.

On day 8 you will depart from Heraklion. A taxi will take you from your hotel to the airport.

Transfer from the airport to the hotel in Heraklion on arrival

7 nights in 3* hotels with breakfast

Bus transfer from Heraklion via Chania to Sougia

Transfer from hotel in Sougia to the entrance of Agia Irini Gorge

Transfer from the exit of Agia Irini Gorge to the hotel in Sougia

Transfer from the hotel in Sougia to the entrance of the Samaria Gorge

Transport of your luggage ( 1 piece per person with a maximum of 23 kg ) from Sougia to Agia Roumeli and from Agia Roumeli to Loutró

Ferry crossing from Loutró to Sfakion

Bus ride from Sfakion to Chania

Bus trip from Chania to Heraklion

Entrance to the palace and archaeological site of Knossos

Transfer from hotel to airport in Heraklion on departure

  • You will walk through 3 gorges of the White Mountains that stretch towards the Libyan Sea, including the longest and deepest gorge in Crete, the Samaria Gorge.

    You will hike along the southern coast of Crete, passing beautiful beaches that invite you to swim in the sea.

    On this tour you will also get to know the two cities. Chania with its Venetian harbour and Heraklion with the Palace of Knossos, both located on the north coast of Crete.

Arrival details

On arrival at Heraklion International Airport, a taxi will be waiting to take you to your hotel in Heraklion.

Departure details

On departure, a taxi will take you from your hotel in Heraklion to Heraklion International Airport.

Unfortunately, the individual walking tour offered in Crete cannot be completed in a wheelchair.

  • Bookings are made by sending a booking request.
    Bookings are confirmed after a deposit has been paid.
    The balance is due 20 days before departure.
    Minimum number of participants: 2
  • Price per person for double room occupancy: € 720.00

    Single room supplement: € 289.00

  • The cancellation conditions are:

    Up to 60 days before day 1 of the trip 10% of the price

    59th to 27th day before day 1 of the trip 30% of the price

    28th to 15th day before day 1 of the journey 50% of the price

    14th to 6th day before day 1 of the journey 75% of the price

    5th to 1st day before day 1 of the trip 90% of the price

    In case of no-show 100% of the price

  • If you have any questions about the individual walking tour in Crete, just give us a call.

  • The telephone number is: +43 680 301 7720. You will speak directly with Mr. Schlappack.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*