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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 a see at the end. I want to tell you about how you can visit Samaria Gorge with a rental car.
Drive your own car to Samaria gorge hike
On the first time when I visited Crete the tour operator offered an organized tour 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’s not possible. This summer my friends an 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 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.
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 to be 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 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 height and goes on for about 16 kilometers until 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).
While in Crete, I went through the Richtis gorge as well, but that was much shorter and less challenging.
How to prepare for 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:
- Cap/scarf to protect yourself from 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
- Swimsuit for after-hike swim in the sea
- Money for the ferry and bus
Samaria gorge hike
To enter the Samaria park you will have to pay 5 Eur entrance fee.
In 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 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 in 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 for Samaria village, which was abandoned by the last inhabitants to make way for the park. There are still some stone housing remains, 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 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 with 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 the last one. Ferries are operating until around 17:00.
Here you can check the latest prices and timetables of the ferry to Sougia.
On the right side from the ferry stop, there is a beach. It is so nice to go for a refreshing swim and stretch out the 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 checking 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. On 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 par around 6 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 fee, proceed until the Gates. This is the narrowest and the 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.