Visiting Samaria Gorge With a Rental Car

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Hiking Samaria Gorge is one of the best things that you can do in Crete. It is breathtakingly beautiful and offers various views of Cretan nature – high, rocky mountains, exotic plants, and a rewarding swim in the sea at the end. I want to tell you about how you can visit Samaria Gorge with a rental car.

Samaria Gorge is located in South Crete in the Samaria Gorge National Park. The Greek island is famous for its hikes, and this might be the most famous.

Drive your own car to the Samaria gorge hike

The first time when I visited Crete, the tour operator offered an organized hiking tour from Chania Town to Samaria. At the time it seemed a bit too expensive, so I tried to clarify if it was possible to go to Samaria on my own without taking the bus tour. The tour operator said that it was not possible. This summer my friends and I proved them wrong.

Gorges are a bit tricky as one-day trips with a car. The logistics have to be thought out before any hike has been started. The reason is that when you park at one side of the gorge, you either have to go the length of the gorge both ways to get to the car or somehow travel from the bottom of the gorge back to the car. As the Samaria Gorge hike is 16 km long, we chose the second option.

It is easy to rent and drive a car in Crete. Here you can see different rental car options at a variety of prices. If you are just two people traveling, it’s OK to rent the cheapest and smallest car. However, if there are more people in the car, I’d suggest taking something bigger so that the car wouldn’t struggle going up a mountain.

The starting point of the hike is in Xyloskalo. There are many free parking spaces, so you can easily leave the car and enter the Gorge. I’d suggest being at the entrance no later than 10 a.m., to take into account any time needed for resting during the hike. It will get hot during the day.

Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge is a major tourist attraction in Crete. It has been a National Park of Greece since 1962. It was created by a small river running through mountains, and today it is by no means small anymore.

The hike starts at 1,250 m in height and goes on for about 16 kilometers until the sea level of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli. It takes around 5-7 hours for hikers to go through the Samaria Gorge (depending on fitness and photograph spots).

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While in Crete, I went through the Richtis Gorge as well, but that was much shorter and less challenging.

How to prepare for the Samaria Gorge walk

The trail is long and a bit rough. I went through it at the very beginning of May, and it was already hot. My recommendation would be to go on a hike in spring or autumn, or at least start early in the morning, to avoid the extreme hotness throughout the hike.

There are some things that you need to take with you when you go:

  • Sunscreen
  • Cap/scarf to protect yourself from the sun
  • Hiking boots, as there are many stones on the path, and it is easy to have too much pressure on the ankles on such a long walk
  • Drinking water, at least one liter
  • Snacks
  • Swimsuit for an after-hike swim in the sea
  • Money for the ferry and bus
  • Check out these commonly forgotten hiking items for a day hike!

Samaria gorge hike

To enter Samaria Park you will have to pay 5 Eur entrance fees.

At the beginning of the hike make sure you capture the views of the surrounding mountains and the gorge below. The trail will lead you downwards from now on, and the views will be different there.

While on the trail, you may notice some strange endemic species of plants or even some of the Cretan goats. It is easier to spot the goats because of their bells – even if you don’t see one, you may still hear the bells ring somewhere up on the nearest mountain.

There are numerous resting places with toilets on the trail, as well as many trash bins. As this is a National Park, avoid littering.

In the middle of the Gorge, there are remains of Samaria village, which was abandoned by the last inhabitants to make way for the park. There is still some stone housing remaining, and a possibility for the hikers to get some food and drink.

Along the way, you may notice some men walking with mules. This is a service for picking up hikers along the way if they have an accident and aren’t able to continue the trail on their own.

Further down the Gorge, you will find yourself between the high walls of the mountains. “Gates” is a well-known part of the Samaria Gorge, where the width of the gate narrows down to 4 meters, and the walls reach up to 300 meters.

The last three kilometers of the hike are outside of the park, so the trail gets wider, surrounded by bright flowers and small houses of the locals.

Agia Roumeli is a small town at the bottom of the Samaria Gorge. There you will find numerous restaurants and shops, where you can indulge in some ice cream after the hike. But first, find the place where the ferry tickets are sold, so that you don’t miss it. The ferry leaves at 17:30, and boarding starts at 17:00 (times have been checked for the 2022 season).

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Here you can check the latest prices and timetables for the ferry to Sougia.

On the right side of the ferry stop, there is a beach. It is so nice to go for a refreshing swim in the clear waters and stretch out tired feet. There is also a shower so that you aren’t salty later on the ferry.

I have been to several other beautiful Cretan beaches, and suggest you check those as well.

It doesn’t take long for the ferry to reach Sougia. Meanwhile, there is a charming view of the wild coast and blue sea.

In Sougia when you get off the ferry, follow the crowds of people. At the first crossroads nearby you will find a bus station with schedules. Check the buses and ask for the one going back to Xyloskalo. The bus will drive you right back to the place, where your car was parked. Note that buses take only cash, so be prepared to pay around 6 Eur per person. You can also take a minivan for 10 Eur per person or a taxi for 130 Eur per person.

Samaria Gorge the Lazy Way

The so-called Lazy Way for Samaria Gorge is much shorter than crossing the whole Gorge. You can go either by car or public transportation to Sougia and take a ferry to Agia Roumeli. From there go up the nice road until the entrance of the National Park. After you have paid the 5 Eur fees, proceed until the Gates. This is the narrowest and most famous point of the Samaria Gorge.

This route will take around one hour both ways and the terrain is not challenging.

Afterward, go back to Agia Roumeli and take a ferry to Sougia. Or it is always an option to stay in one of the accommodations at Agia Roumeli.

Samaria Gorge tour

If you prefer a guided tour instead of going just by yourself, then check out these top tours:

Frequently asked questions

How long is Samaria Gorge?

The Samaria Gorge is 18 km long and is located in the Samaria National Park. It’s a popular destination for hikers, who can enjoy stunning views of the longest gorge and its surroundings.

Which smaller gorges can you hike in Crete?

Imbros Gorge is a great alternative to Samaria Gorge if you are looking for something less strenuous.

How wide is the narrowest point of Samaria Gorge?

The narrowest point of Samaria Gorge is 3m.

How much does a guided tour to Samaria Gorge cost?

A guided tour to Samaria Gorge hike costs around 35 Eur to 50 Eur.

Other hikes in Crete

Samaria Gorge may be the most popular hiking place in Crete, but there are many lesser-known hikes that are as beautiful. Check out these other places perfect for a hike in Crete!

Mount Ida

The highest peak in Crete, Mount Ida, offers breathtaking views on the way to the top. This is definitely a less popular place for a hike, so it will be less crowded and more challenging to get to. However, it’s more of an adventure to find the right starting point and to be at the place from where you can see the sea surrounding Crete from at least three sides on a clear day.

Imbros Gorge

Parallel to Samaria Gorge, Imbros Gorge is a smaller one with a shorter hike. In only 2,5 hours you’ll see impressive rock formations, a narrow canyon with 300 meters high walls, cute goats, interesting flora and fauna, and so much more.

So if you want a similar hike to Samaria Gorge, but have less time, or want to go with your children, then Imbros Gorge is the right choice for you.

In addition, the Imbros Gorge hike is open the whole year, so if you are in Crete in the off-season when Samaria Gorge is not open for hiking, then Imbros Gorge is the best alternative.

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12 thoughts on “Visiting Samaria Gorge With a Rental Car”

  1. I agree. Traveling by your car means you are free to do whatever or whenever you want to stop by. I like taking photos like aesthetically bizarre places, and things or whatever catches my eyes, so traveling by rental car is the best option. I love your idea here, well put.

  2. Yea, good job dude. We’ll put that gorge to the test in two days. Most def we will try to get that bus ride back to top of gorge. Enjoy the autumn!

  3. Many thanks for all the info, especially about bus back to car as not seen that on any other blog – much appreciated as we like to do our own thing in our own time (probably earlier than the tours too) and a swim & ice cream at the end sounds a great idea!

  4. Is there typically more than 1 ferry per day? When I filled out the boxes for day and taking the ferry from Agia Roumeli to Sougia it only listed one time at 1700

  5. We would like to do the gorge this way in the next few days….this post is two years old – can anyone advise us re the ferry and bus services?! will they still be running 10.10.2022?!

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