Samaria Gorge: The definitive hiking guide for the iconic Crete location

Samaria Gorge: The definitive hiking guide for the iconic Crete location

Imposing ravines, emerging water springs, and towering cliffs along the way make the Samaria Gorge hike a unique experience.

A National Park since 1962 and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the jewel of the Cretan White Mountains (Lefka Ori) welcomes tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Are you visiting Crete and planning to try the Samaria Gorge hike tour? This guide is for you.

After reading our comprehensive Samaria Gorge guide you’ll have answers to the following questions:

  • How to reach the Samaria Gorge?
  • What are its opening times?
  • How long is the Samaria Gorge hike?
  • How long does it take to walk it and more?

Are you ready to enjoy a challenging trek and take in the impressive view while at it?

Samaria Gorge guide: A few things to know before starting

Hair-rising, heart-stopping, awe-inspiring: the National Park of Samaria Gorge is the only one in Crete, and one of the first in Greece, established all the way back in 1962!

Not only is this one of the most impressive gorges in Greece, but it is also considered one of the longest in Europe, forming part of the E4 hiking trail that traverses the continent, from Spain through Cyprus.

Starting at an altitude of 1,200m and continuing all the way down to Agia Roumeli until you reach the Mediterranean Sea, it offers protection to more than 300 species of flora and 900 species of fauna, 70 of which are endemic to Crete.

If you’re lucky enough, you’ll be able to spot the beloved Cretan wild goat, also known as the Kri Kri – a much better hiker than you!

Sheep Herd Samaria Gorge Crete Road

The Samaria Gorge hike tour starts from Xyloskalo, literally meaning “Wooden Step,” taking its name from the tree trunks that were initially used to form the first steps of the trail.

The width of the gorge is 150m at its widest point and 3m at its narrowest – quite a jaw-dropping experience to walk through the steeping cliffs known as Portes or Sideroportes (meaning Gates, or Iron Gates).

Keep reading our Samaria Gorge guide and get answers to all your questions!

How long is the Samaria Gorge hike?

The actual walk through the gorge from entrance to exit is 13km long.

In order to reach the village of Agia Roumeli and take the ferry back to Chania, you’ll have to walk another 3km, bringing the total distance to 16km.

If you are tired and don’t want to walk any further, at the exit of the Gorge there is a small bus that has very frequent departures to take you to the village of Agia Roumeli.

It’s also possible to see the Samaria Gorge hike length estimated at 18km, which is the distance between the settlement of Omalos and the village of Agia Roumeli.

Pro tip: Once there, head straight to the beach and have a refreshing swim in the Libyan Sea!

Hiker Samaria Gorge Crete Entrance

How long does it take to walk the Samaria Gorge?

An average walk takes around 6 to 7 hours, depending on your hiking experience and physical condition.

Pro hikers may do it in 3 hours, but why rush it?

There are a total of 8 points for rest and relaxation along the way, where you can stop for a while to catch your breath, drink water, go to the toilet, or simply watch the wildlife and take in the views!

  • Neroutsiko: You’ll find the first resting stop after around 1.5 km, perfect for drinking water!
  • Riza Sikias: The second stop is 1.1 km away and also has water and a toilet.
  • Agios Nikolaos: The third stop is 1 km away, where you can also visit the small church of Agios Nikolaos. From here, the road is not so downhill.
  • Vrysi: Walk another kilometer to find drinking water.
  • Prinari: The 5th stop of the hike is 1.3 km away, and also offers drinking water only.
  • Samaria: In the middle of the trail, you’ll find the abandoned village of Samaria, 1.2 km away from the previous resting stop. This is the biggest stop, where you’ll find drinking water, toilets, and a first aid station.
  • Perdika: Enjoy the cold drinking water of Perdika after around 1 more kilometer of walking.
  • Christos: At the last stop, 2.2 km away, you will find water and toilets.
People Hiking Samaria Gorge Crete

How difficult is the Samaria Gorge walk?

Regarding the Samaria Gorge hike difficulty, most people describe it as a fairly challenging route.

As a medium-difficulty hike, you need to be physically fit to hike it, as some parts of the trail may be more difficult than others.

More specifically, the first 6km of the route are considered the most challenging since the steep downhills and demanding hikes will put a toll on your knees!  

Pro tip: It goes without saying that it’s best to start from the top and head down to sea-level rather than the other way around! However, if you’re not in the best shape, you can take the ferry to Agia Roumeli and hike a couple of kilometers up – an admittedly easy gradient.

Mountainside View Samaria Gorge Crete

What are the Samaria Gorge opening times?

The trail is open only during daylight hours, from 6am to 4pm.

Please note that if you enter the park after 2pm, you will only be permitted to hike 2km either from the top of the gorge and back or the bottom of the gorge and back, so that nobody stays in the park after nightfall.

The Samaria Gorge National Park usually operates from May to October, which coincides with peak tourist season.

Under normal circumstances, it’s typically open from May 1st to October 15th, depending on the weather, so make sure you double check in advance! Be aware of weather conditions before setting out and know that the gorge is closed for safety reasons on rainy days as well as on extremely hot days.

How much does it cost to enter the Samaria Gorge?

The entrance fee to the Samaria Gorge National Park is 5 euros.

You must keep the ticket with you until you leave, because the wardens check it on your way out (to make sure no-one is left behind after nightfall!)

Free entrance: up to 5 yrs, up to 18 yrs (Members of EU), over 65 yrs (Members of EU)

Pro tip: You can also visit the Museum of Natural History of Samaria Gorge, where entrance is free!

Samaria Gorge: what to wear and bring with you

If you’re an experienced hiker, you know the drill: packing should be a breeze.

If not, here’s what to bring with you at Samaria Gorge and what to wear:

  • Appropriate hiking shoes with ankle protection – preferably already worn in so you don’t get blisters.
  • Plasters – in case you do get blisters!
  • A hat and sunscreen – this is summer in Greece after all.
  • A lightweight fleece jacket – especially for the early morning hours.
  • A backpack with toilet paper, snacks, and water – you will be able to refill your bottle along the way from the springs.
  • Your swimwear and a towel – a dip in the sea at the end of the trek is a must!
Woman Meditating Samaria Gorge Crete

How to get to Samaria Gorge

Although it is possible to hike the Samaria Gorge on your own, you’ll find it a lot more relaxing and hassle-free to do the Samaria Gorge hike tour with an experienced guide.

It’s also possible to take the bus from Chania to Samaria Gorge. The Chania to Xyloskalo bus starts every day at 05:00, 06:15, 07:45, and 08:45 in the morning, and then you’ll have to take a boat (that departs at 17:30) from the village of Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion or Sougia, and from there you’ll have to catch a different bus back to Chania.

Similarly, it is possible to drive your car to Omalos and park at the entrance of the gorge, which means you’ll either have to hike all the way back up, or take the boat from Agia Roumeli to Sougia, and then a taxi from Sougia to Omalos – not the best, fastest, nor cheapest way to explore the Samaria Gorge hike for sure, so we highly advise against it!

The best way to get from Chania to Samaria Gorge is with a guided tour!

Balos Travel offers guided tours for Samaria Gorge hiking from Chania that include:

  • pick-up from your hotel or Airbnb (at Kissamos – Kolimbari – Tavronitis – Maleme – Gerani  – Platanias – Agia Marina – Stalos – Kalamaki – Daratso –  Agioi Postoloi – Chania Center etc)
  • bus ride to the entrance of the gorge accompanied by a guide
  • discreet presence of the guide throughout the hike

The total cost of the Samaria Gorge hike tour is 28€ per adult and 14€ per child (5-12 yrs old), while infants and toddlers up to 4 years old are included for free.

Please note that you need to pay separately for the entrance fee (5 euros) and the boat ticket back (11€ per adult and 5,50€ per child up to 12 years old).

The boat will take you to the port of Sougia. There, our bus will be waiting for you to take you back to the pick-up points.

So, is Samaria Gorge worth it?

We hope that our comprehensive Samaria Gorge guide has shed some light on all your questions and you’re now certain that the trail is definitely worth it!

Get in touch with Balos Travel to arrange the hike and book early to avoid high demand!

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