Crete has many of the island charms that frequent many of the surrounding islands in the Ionian Seas. Pristine beaches, clear blue waters, quant shops and food to die for but what pulls the billy-goat inside us all to Crete are the hiking trails along Tripiti and especially the Samaria Gorge, which is about an hour’s drive from Rethimno, a popular coastal town.
A little information goes a long way
The Samaria Gorge trail is about 16km long but there’s a couple of extra km’s getting to Agia Roumeli from the National Park’s exit and is situated in the western White Mountains of Crete. Also, don’t believe everything the guides tell you, it’s not the longest gorge in Europe and no matter what they say, even the locals don’t know why the narrow passage at the end of the gorge is called “the iron gates”…
Visit the gorge, or any gorge for that matter in the summer seasons. For Crete that is between May and October. The high waters make hiking here impossible and incredibly dangerous, they even close the trails if there is a sudden rainy day in summer.
The trails are very well maintained, with natural springs along the way (nothing beats the crisp cool water from a spring right?) guides and marshals are around to help in case of injury or confusion and there are plenty of rubbish bins and toilet facilities that are surprisingly neat and clean considering the amount of people that visit it.
Speaking of people, if you want to avoid the minibuses of visitors, then I suggest you make an early start at 07h30 and get ahead of the pack. That way you have plenty of time to take pictures, stop to look at the sheer beauty of where you are standing.
What you can expect
Lots and lots of stones. And rocks. Flowing rivers and luscious vegetation (if you visit in the springtime). You need to be able to walk for about six hours at a good pace and handle some climbing over rocks and manoeuvring uneven terrain. It’s incredibly fun and rewarding for the surefooted and a great way to see Crete from such a magnificent perspective.
Extra things to consider
Hiking should be a planned excursion with good shoes, sunscreen, some snacks, and a large water bottle to store the delicious cascading waters. It might be a good idea to bring a jersey along (especially if you are getting an early morning start) and some plasters if you are wearing shoes that might cause blisters. There is a small village around half way that most people stop at to have lunch and chat with other travellers about their experiences but when you’re there, see if you can spot some Cretan goats (the young ones are quite friendly but still remember, they are wild creatures…even if they look like Bambi)
Getting there and around
I found it fairly easy to find a flight to Crete, I don’t know why I thought it would be difficult (maybe because I’ve had to take ferries for most of the islands around Greece) but since most popular airlines and travel agencies offer flights to Crete, travelling there has become easier due to its increased popularity. Getting around the island is fairly easy, I took a taxi to Rethimno because I knew it was close to the gorge and has great sea-facing accommodation (we spent the rest of our trip on the beach).
I spent less than a week in Crete and only scratched the surface of what this island has to offer. There are more valleys, gorges and mountains to explore the next time I get the chance to travel to this Grecian paradise island. Have you been to the gorge? What do you love about Crete?