A 16km downhill excursion through the rugged White Mountains of Crete and through the longest gorge in Europe, winding you up on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Need To Know
Description: One-way Day Adventure
Time: 5 hours hiking & 12-hour day trip
Grade: 4 out of 5 – A long and exhausting day
This is an epic 16km downhill hike through the rugged White Mountains of Crete in Samaria National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Actually, it’s more of an all-day adventure starting with a rugged 90-minute bus ride up from the central bus station in Chania (a thrill in itself) to the top of the range in the morning. This is followed by the long switchback route through the second longest gorge in Europe, crossing the river several times and passing Byzantine ruins, winding up on the shores of the Libyan Sea.
The swim and beer at the taverna on the beach at the end as you wait for the ferry, as well as the bus and boat rides to and from the hike, complete the epic adventure.
Distance: 16km one-way.
Difficulty: The first 2km section is super steep – you need good knees!
There is also some bolder scrambling. The heat can be intense, but it’s mostly broken up with shaded slabs.
Map Downloads: Follow this map for a detailed self-guided hike.
Bear In Mind: The trail is only open from May 1 to October 30, depending on the weather (snow!).
The entry fee for the park was 5 Euro in cash (they DON’T take credit cards).
Sarah’s Top Three Tips
1. Take your togs – the swim at the end is the best.
2. Also bring flip-flops. The beach is a pebble beach and gets VERY hot. Like, you won’t be able to get to the water’s edge without them!
3. Read Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis to get a full appreciation of this special part of Greece.
Or Natural Born Heros by Christopher McDougall which chronicles the incredible athleticism of the locals due to their climbing the White Mountains for generations.
There are various companies that do guided trips, picking you up in a private bus around 6am. But it’s super easy to do this hike solo by catching the public bus from Chania to Omalos, I suggest checking the KTEL website for up-to-date schedules and rates.
From Wild and Precious
“I’d been lured this time to Crete, Greece’s largest island. In big part because it is harsh and mountainous and threaded with challenging hikes. Also, Crete’s wild terrain has spawned heroes since before the gods. I love the Greek heroes and gods, primarily for being so flawed. All Greek myths are told via some big Greek character stuffing something up and being weakened by a force truer than themselves, often The Furies or nature, before fighting their way to victory with an even more heroic truth.”
Buy This One Wild and Precious Life
You will start your day by catching the public bus from Chania to Omalos, I suggest checking the KTEL website for up-to-date schedules and rates.
Once you arrive, the starting point of the walk through the gorge of Samaria is at Xyloskalo, which is also the entrance point into the National Park. The entry fee for the park was 5 Euro in cash.
The first section of the walk is by far the most difficult because it descends steeply. It is also quite hard on the knees if you are not a regular walker.
Once you reach the gorge bottom things do ease off but you still have a long way to go on a stony path. The whole lot is super well sign-posted, so there’s no need for me to provide more details here…..just follow the trail the whole way.
At the end of your hike, you will catch the ferry from Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion which takes an hour (Check the Anendyk ferry website for schedules and rates).
A 90-minute bus trip from Chora Sfakion back to Chania.
Turn It Into An Adventure!
Stay in Hotel Off
Stay a week in Chania at Hotel Off and use it as a hub for hiking and book into this converted (all eco efforts made) Venetian home. Ask for the room at the top – it’s where they sent women while menstruating. The windows were in the ceiling so the women could not see out and not be distracted, but the men could keep an eye on their welfare. Hmph.
Today, the room has access to the rooftop patio.
Eat at Kouzina EPE
This place is certified traditional Cretan cuisine and is one of the best places I’ve ever eaten at. In the world.
It’s where the locals dine – they cook up what they have available – horta and clams and goat and the rest.
Grab coffee at Kross Coffee
A super peaceful place in the centre of town.