A national park in Crete
The Samaria Gorge is a national park on the island of Crete, and a major tourist attraction of the island.
Hike duration:6 hours
Level of difficulty:easy, obvious path with signs, attension needed because of the risk of falling rocks.
The main pole of attraction in the National Park of Samaria is the Samaria gorge. The gorge is renowned all over Europe, as it is the longest and more beautiful of all. It is 16 kilometers long and at some points it is not wider than 3 meters, while its vertical cliffs are like walls, reaching up to 500 meters. Its formation was probably caused by the intense geological changes and the erosion by the water of mountain streams.
The entrance to the gorge is allowed between May and October, always depending on the weather conditions, from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., both from its beginning at the settlement of Omalos and its end at Agia Roumeli.
Crossing the gorge requires good condition and strong hiking shoes, as one has to walk for about 6 hours, both on a stone path and through the river bed. Walking off the path is prohibited. We should be even more careful when passing by spots having signs warning us for the risk of stones falling.
The main entrance to the Samaria gorge is at Xyloskalo, at the end of Omalos plateau and at an altitude of 1225m. The trail begins among the highest peaks of Lefka Ori. The old and no longer inhabited village Agia Roumeli is situated at the gorge's exit, at a distance of about 2 klm. from the sea and the new settlement.
Along the trail there are many water springs with excellent water, as well as several resting spots. At some point the river suddenly disappears, to appear again some kilometers further.Many rare and threatened plant species, protected by Greek and International Law, grow at the slopes of the National Park.
We should also mention the aromatic and pharmaceutical herbs, such as dittany, thyme sage, malotira and of cource the unique tree endemic to Crete, the Cretan Zelkova. There are also many forests in the National Park.
Nevertheless, in Samaria live various animal species. The most famous of all animals are the Cretan wild goat and the wild cat. Furthermore, 40 different kinds of birds nest in the gorge.Many churches of rare beauty are also to be seen in the gorge.
Take your time to enjoy all the beauties and let all your senses rejoice in an unforgettable walk within nature and civilization.