When in Crete do as the hiking-nature-loving tourists do and go to the Samaria Gorge.
It is one of the longest gorges in Europe. It is an epic hike, in the Crete’s only national park and provides stunning views.
There are 2 ways to do it, the short one and the long one. Yes same same but different, it requires different physical condition, it gives different memories and it makes you feel different after doing it.
The short one – an easy walk
I did the Samaria short way in 2008, during my first season. I never was a big hiking fan and I don’t do hiking that is why I thought it would be enough for me to do the ‘lazy way’. It was. The short way means you do the Samaria gorge backwards. You go by the excursion bus to the harbour Chora Sfakion, then by ship to the exit of the gorge, Agia Roumeli. Then there you have 5-6 hours free time and you can do whatever you want to do. You can go up the gorge as long as you want and as far as you want, you decide, you know you have to go back to the exit to take the ship back to the harbour. Or you can only stay at the harbour and swim a bit in the Libyan Sea. It is totally up to you, in my opinion to come here and ONLY swim in the sea is a waste of time.
Here you don’t need much physical strength, you don’t need hiking shoes (some did it even in flip flops ). You can go up to the narrowest part of the Gorge, to the ‘Iron Gates’ (max 1 hour there if you walk slowly). It is a rock wall, on one side it rises 300 meters and it is 3 meters wide, you can almost touch both sides. And there you can see magnificent landscape, you can take nice pictures.
You can say you saw the most beautiful part of the gorge, you will have nice memories.
What do you feel afterwards? You will have a pleasant feeling: ‘Good, I saw what everyone talks about in Crete’
The long one – a true challenge
I was so lucky I spent another summer in Crete in 2013 and my team decided to do the long way. It was in June, so not soooo hot yet. I was asked if I wanted to do it and my first reaction was: “Are you crazy??? Me hiking 16 km long? No way”
Then I started to think, why not? Once in a lifetime opportunity. I can show it to myself and to the World that I can do it 🙂 And besides I can see more beautiful things there than during the short way (that’s what I heard). So I went. I collected as much information as possible about it because I was really afraid of it. I didn’t know I had the physical condition good enough to that, although there I used to work out in the gym almost every 2nd day. And what if the 5-6 hours are not enough for me there? So I prepared. I packed water (you can fill in the bottles in the gorge from many springs), crackers and banana and such things for avoiding low blood sugar level. Funny that then I had a low blood sugar problem, about which I didn’t know, so I was lucky I didn’t collapse in the middle of the gorge. Believe me, somehow I am always lucky 🙂
It looks like that that first you stop for breakfast at a restaurant after waking up and being picked up at around 6.00 from Rethymnon. After arriving at the gorge at around 8.00 you buy the entrance ticket, you take some pictures/selfies of yourself smiling to see/show the others the “before” condition (full of energy, optimistic, shining) and you start. First it goes steep down on the “stairs” from more than 1200 meters, I don’t know how many step, if you ask, but for sure you walk and walk down for an hour. And from this process, at that moment already you will know that THE NEXT DAY IT WILL HURT LIKE HELL!
But you are already there in the gorge, you can’t turn back, you have to do it till the end. If you collapse, some donkeys can take you out of the gorge. I heard it happens often to hikers. At least good to know that someone can help you…:)
Deserted farmhouse, small bridges to cross, goats (the ‘Kri-kri’-s), small ghost town, some little churches, beautiful scenery.
My colleagues walked faster, i did it slower. My favourite part was with the high cliffs where there are patterns like waves (pictures).
And you reach the narrowest part, the ‘Iron Gates’ and you know you are there at the exit soon. You can’t feel your legs anymore, just some kilometres more.
Everyone gave me suggestions what to bring, what is important and everyone told me: “Viki, don’t sit down!” And I did so. I thought “Ahhh just for 5 minutes. I am almost there”. I sat down just for 5 minutes, so 20 meters from the bus stop, because there is a small bus that takes you from the exit of the gorge to the harbour the last 2 kilometres. (OK, I confess I didn’t walk 16 kilometres, I walked about 13-14 kilometres 🙂
The 5 minutes were 10 minutes and i realised I CAN’T GET UP. Simply my muscles didn’t work, that was it. I put my shyness away and asked the next couple to help me up. From then on I don’t remember how I went 20 meters more or how I got on the bus to take me to the harbour or what we were taking about at the harbour with my colleagues. I just didn’t feel my legs, my brain was dead tired as well and shut down. By boat we went to Chora Sfakion where the excursion bus was waiting for us and we went home.
And the next day was my day-off (thank God I will do nothing), they told me not to do anything, just go into the pool and relax there. I didn’t do so, I went to Seitan Limenes Beach (Devil’s Harbour) … 🙂 So it took for about 4-5 days by the time I didn’t feel the pain.
What I felt after this: I always envied those fellow reps who guided this excursion for example every week. I envied my colleagues who had done it and told me how beautiful it was. Now I know it too, because I DID IT TOO!
And you know what? If I get this destination in the future again, I will do it again! 🙂
I am not an expert in hiking, if you want to know how the Samaria Gorge hiking looks like, what to expect, how to prepare yourselves, here is a really good web site: http://www.west-crete.com/samaria-gorge.