Crete Day 3 – Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge is a national park and a World’s Biosphere Reserve located some 38km’s south of Chania.

The hike down the gorge is an all day event starting with an hour bus ride from Chania to Omalos. Busses leave at 7:45am sharp, and we had to make sure we got their with plenty of time to find a parking spot for our Jimmy. With tickets in hand we  boarded the bus but that’s when things didn’t go so smooth. Turns out the ticket dude oversold the only two busses leaving for Samaria that day and people started getting verbal about the mess and the fact that they had to stand for the entire trip to the gorge. I don’t know where the problem is; every ticket has a seat number, you know exactly how many seats there are on the bus…Greek math? Well, Greek math doesn’t work so well when you’ve got non-Greek tourists on board.

Anyway, the drive to Omalos is pretty sleepy except for the fact that the bus climbs up to 1,250meters above sea level (4,101feet) from the actual sea level through hundreds of very tricky switchbacks. The top is where a 12.5km (7.7mile) trail down the gorge begins. I never thought I’d say this, but hiking constantly downwords has never been so uneventful in my life.

Alright, I get where the whole hoopla about the gorge comes in; Samaria is the Greek Grand Canyon and is a very popular tourist attraction. But if you have seen the actual Grand Canyon, and like me hiked down and camped next to the Colorado river… Samaria is just a walk in the park. On the way down the gorge I saw great scenery, beautiful colors, and got a good work out too boot, but was it a must see? Eh, I’m not convinced.

One interesting thing I noticed while walking down the forested path were the oddly placed fire extinguishers along the trail. How much of a forest fire can be put out by a small fire extinguisher? Apparently a lot cause these things were quite common along the trail.

We hiked down the mountain until reaching a river bed of the now dry river that’s responsible for carving the gorge within these White Mountains. We didn’t bring any hiking shoes with us, mostly because I decided we didn’t need them, and that was really a big mistake. The terrain is fairly tough, taxing your feet with every step either on steep descents or on river bed rocks. My Puma sneakers will probably never forgive me for this trip.  But I did see some girls in straight out sandals and couldn’t decide if they were brave or just stupid for wearing them. Coincidentally they probably made it out faster than we did.

At about the 6km mark is where the trip finally starts getting a little more interesting. That’s were the trail leads next to mountain walls hundreds of meters tall. Not only is it pretty humbling to seem so tiny next to a giant wall, it was fairly dangerous too as rocks kept dropping from the top. But the view was very impressive.

The culminating part of the Samaria gorge is the place where the two mountains almost meet with only about 2 meters of space between them known as the Gate seen on the photo above. Nice, but again, not a Grand Canyon. What were in fact very Grand Canyonesque were the visible land flow lines on the mountain walls. I loved seeing them in Arizona, and couldn’t stop thinking about the millions of years it took to create them here as well.

After a 12.5km hike there’s still a 3km walk to the sea side town of Agia Roumeli, but after a 7 hour mountain walk we took a short ride to the beach in a van instead. Best 1.5 Euro’s ever spent! There we got a couple of boat tickets and headed to the beach for a quick dip in the Libyan Sea. The water was warm but the sea was a little rough and it was the first time we saw some serious waves on Crete. The beach was also very black, much different than what we’ve seen thus far on the west side of the island.

At 5:30pm our ferry with pretty much every tourist from the Samara gorge on board headed for the town of Chora Sfakion where a bus awaited to take us back to Chania. From dusk till dawn and home by late night, day three was by far the most tiring day of our vacation trip. Seven hours of hiking in crappy shoes was especially felt the next morning.

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