Gorges in Crete. A special experience as it is enough to live only that. From the embrace of the gorge to the embrace of the sea. Here is a combination of very strong emotions! In the gorges of Crete the -brave- walker falls from high to low having had enough of his retina with a great alternation of landscapes. With almost 95% of its soil being limestone, Crete is... a country of canyons. With more than 400 gorges, it gathers the largest number from the rest of Greece. We recommend the most famous of them.
The Samaria Gorge on the south side of Chania is undoubtedly the most famous hiking gorge not only in Crete and Greece but also in Europe. During the summer months many tourists visit the area to descend the gorge on foot. For many of them, the gorge, which gives breathtaking images, is the main purpose of their visit to Crete.
As for its technical characteristics, its length reaches 15 km. (from the village of Omalos to the village of Agia Roumeli and its beach) and the descent lasts about 5-7 hours (depending on the pace of hiking). The gorge was created by the river that flows between the main volume of the White Mountains and Mount Volakias. And within its bowels, there are other gorges, perpendicular to the main gorge. These points are very difficult to descend / cross (they require ropes for canyoning).
In 1962, the gorge was named National Park since it was the refuge of the endangered Cretan wild goat, which continues to survive in Samaria until today. The most famous part of the gorge is the one called Portes or Iron Doors. Here, the sides of the gorge come at a distance of only 4 m. and at the same time their height reaches 500 m.
Note that Samaria, from the spring months onwards, begins to receive a very large number of tourists, resulting in high seasons even 3000 people entering the gorge. That's why the earlier, -ideally at dawn- you start crossing it, the better... position you will get inside the gorge. You can try the night before to stay in a room in Omalos- and they are affordable and tidy.
And a nice idea for the -very- determined to cross the whole gorge. If you reach the beach of Agia Roumeli in the South Cretan Sea you can take the boat that leaves for Chora Sfakion and from there the bus back to Chania. After your road to Chania has taken you, you can put in the program a visit to Lake Kournas with the "fresh water"!
Gorges in Crete: The gorge of Agia Irini
The gorge of Agia Irini is located on the west side of the White Mountains, in the province of Selino. It is 46 km from Chania and has taken its name from the homonymous small village located near its entrance. It is the second most visited gorge after Samaria. It is half the length of Samaria (7.5 km) and the crossing takes about three hours. Through the gorge passes a stream which ends up in the sea, in the village of Sougia with the beautiful beach (in the Libyan Sea too).
The gorge is one of the parts of the NATURA 2000 area and has been designated as a Wildlife Refuge. Here also lives the Cretan wild goat while in the embrace of the gorge there are various microenvironments with many different species of fauna. Only as far as forests are concerned, the environment of the gorge has cypresses, pines, maples, hollies, brushwood and aromatic plants such as dittany. In the prefecture of Chania is Aradena, the village located on the edge of the cliff.
Gorges in Crete: The gorge of Rouvas
The gorge of Rouvas (or gorge of Gafari or gorge of Agios Nikolaos). It is defined by the peaks Ambelakia (1,440 m) to the east and Samari (1,413 m) to the west. It is located in central Crete and a stream passes through the gorge. This is the emblematic gorge of Psiloritis with impressive ravines, beautiful slopes and interesting geological formations. At its exit is the church of Agios Nikolaos, which is why the gorge is often referred to by the locals as "Agios Nikolaos Gorge".
It is easy to walk since its total length is 4 km with hiking lasting about an hour and a half in the beautiful forest of Rouvas. The oaks that compose it are old and in some cases, the diameter of their trunk exceeds 1 meter while the height of the trees reaches even 15 meters. On the slopes of the forest lives the rare Cretan wildcat, the fur cat and endemic species of flora such as cephalanther and ampelitsa. A route you can try is from the path that starts from Lake Zaros to the monastery of Agios Nikolaos (the duration of this part is about 20 minutes).
Then, from the monastery begins a path that initially ascends through the forest and soon leads to the narrow gorge. You will walk alongside the stream and if you are here in spring you will see the water creating waterfalls and ponds. When you reach the chapel of Agios Ioannis in a green meadow, you will find space for a stop since there are areas with benches, WC and springs to drink cool water. In the prefecture of Heraklion you are lucky enough to find yourself in Krasi, the village with the giant plane tree of 2,400 years!
Gorges in Crete: Kourtaliotis gorge
The gorge of Kourtaliotis or Kourtaliotiko took its name from folk tradition. When the wind blows hard and passing through the pits of the rocks, whistles are heard that look like "kurtala" (crotala) knocking. It is located in the south of the prefecture of Rethymno, 22 km. from the city. It is 3 km long. and is one of the impressive natural attractions of the prefecture. Its beginning is located in the plain of Koxare village and flows between the mountains Kouroupa (984 m) and the peak Koules (676 m) of Xero Oros. The most characteristic of this gorge is the huge rocky slopes that often reach up to 600 meters. They are full of openings and caves and important species of avifauna live inside them. The gorge is crossed by the river Kourtaliotis, which flows into the beautiful Palm Forest of Preveli.
Following the steps next to the road Koxare - Asomatos you will already find yourself in the deep of the gorge. There, there are the church of Osios Nikolaos Kourtaliotis and the Springs of Kourtaliotis. Under the springs there is a waterfall with a large flow of water. You will continue hiking to the bridge of Megalo Potamos and then to the sea until you find yourself in the embrace of Preveli beach.
The gorge of Arvi is perhaps the most impressive, technically, gorge of all Crete. It is located north of the village Arvi in the south of the prefecture of Heraklion. It is formed in massive limestone of Mount Dikti. And it can be beautiful, but as we said, it is also technically difficult, making its entire crossing impossible without canyoning equipment, since along the route there are waterfalls (reaching 20). In the middle of the route there is the impressive waterfall called "The Smoker of Arvi". It was so named because due to its height, the falling water spreads like smoke.
In short, the gorge needs trained climbers/rappelling. However, if you belong to this category and try it, there is an even more magical picture. Where the river penetrates the bowels of the earth for 150 meters, a cave is created. In its underground part, the roof "closes" above the river and continues to create underground waterfalls. Here you will need a flashlight. At the end of the gorge you will fall into the fertile plain of Arvi, known for its banana plantations and for the monastery of Agios Antonios.
The choice of a targeted trip to this blessed place to see one or more gorges of Crete, is destined to give you images that will stay forever within you. With the densest network of gorges in Europe, with small or larger, famous or isolated gorges and other untrodden ones, it is no coincidence that travelers from all parts of the planet "book" appointments here. With one of the most unforgettable journeys of their lives. Such as the exploration in Ha gorge, the secret of Crete. An important tip before you put it in your plans: have plenty of water with you (because you will not find springs in all gorges and on all routes) and get the most complete and detailed maps so as not to get lost in the crevices of the gorges.