The Samaria River Gorge in Crete is one of Greece’s most spectacular places.
Spanning about 16 km (10.5 miles), it is the longest gorge in Europe and has been designated a national park since 1962. The gorge has steep walls made up of cliffs that reach heights of over 500 meters and offer a one-of-a-kind experience in Crete.
Whether you’re looking for an adventurous day out or just want to take time out from exploring the Greek islands (by the way, we hope you visit Skiathos and Santorini), a journey through Samaria River Gorge is an unforgettable experience.
In this post, we will discuss the logistics of hiking Samaria River Gorge, what to expect, and what you need to prepare for the trek.
The Samaria Gorge Hike in Crete, Greece: What to Expect
The Samaria Gorge hike is a full-day adventure that can take 5-8 hours, depending on your pace. It is possible to break the trek up into two days, but you would need to make it to the end of the gorge to camp in Agia Roumeli, so it only saves you the ferry and bus back to Chania. It’s easy to see why most people decide to go with a one-day hike.
The Samaria Gorge hike follows the Samaria River, which is rich in vegetation and wildlife. There is an abundance of flora and fauna, as well as olive trees and wild goats.
Samaria Gorge: Hiking Logistics
The Samaria Gorge hike requires some preparation and planning to make sure it is an enjoyable and safe experience. It’s a long hike, and the terrain can be quite challenging on hot summer days in Crete, so it’s important to be well prepared.
It’s also important to check the weather forecast before setting out, as sudden storms and heavy rain can result in dangerous hiking conditions and even flash floods.
How difficult is it to hike Samaria Gorge?
The Samaria River Gorge hike is a challenging but rewarding experience. The rocky terrain can be difficult in places, but the trail is well-maintained, so it should be easy if you are in decent shape.
Despite what some trail maps say, there is almost no elevation gain. The entire hike is downhill on rugged, rocky terrain.
But while this will save your lungs, it can be hard on your knees (especially if you already have knee problems). It’s also imperative to have sturdy footwear since the trail can be uneven and slippery in some areas.
How long is the Samaria Gorge hike?
The length of the Samaria Gorge hike is 16km (10.5 miles), but it’s a bit ambiguous. It starts in Omalos, Crete, and passes through the National Park for 13 kilometres (9 miles), but you have to hike an additional 3 km (2 miles) to get to the end of the hike at Agia Roumeli Beach.
This hike takes a long time because it is a point-to-point hike. Getting to the trailhead from Chania, then back to Chania from the end of the hike, required two buses and a ferry, which takes time. So while the journey will take 12-14 hours, the hike itself only takes between 4-8 hours.
How do I get to the Samaria Gorge trailhead (and back)?
Although the Samaria Gorge hike is relatively straightforward, getting to and from the gorge can be tricky. The trailhead starts in Omalos village, which requires taking a bus or taxi from Chania or Sfakia.
Then after completing the hike, you will end up in the seaside village of Agia Roumeli. Hikers have to get on a ferry (or hire a boat) to take them from here to Hore Sfakion.
And finally, you must take a bus back from Hora Sfakion to your hotel (usually in Chania or Rethymnon).
Honestly, it’s a good idea to arrange transportation to and from the gorge beforehand or join a guided tour with transportation included. This way, you will have a relaxed journey home after your long day of hiking.
Taking the bus is the cheapest way to the Samaria rive Gorge. You can catch a bus from the Chania Bus Station that takes you directly to the trailhead in Omalos village, where the trailhead begins. Buses run regularly during peak season but usually do not run during the winter months.
Join a Private Tour is another option that offers convenience and peace of mind when travelling to/from the trailhead. These tours usually provide hotel pick up/drop off and lunch, along with experienced guides who can help ensure you have an enjoyable experience hiking through the gorge. They also offer assistance at both ends of your journey – helping you get to Omalos village for your trek, then collecting you again once it’s finished at Agia Roumeli beach – making it a hassle-free way to enjoy the stunning sights of Samaria Gorge.
Driving to the trailhead – Renting a Car in Crete is the best way to travel around the island, and it’s surprisingly affordable at less than $30/day. But do not drive your rental car to Samaria River Gorge. This is not an out-and-back trail, so you will need to catch a bus back to the trailhead the following day just to retrieve your rental car.
Where do you start the Samaria Gorge hike?
When to Hike Samaria Gorge
The Samaria River Gorge is only open between May and October each year. The winter months have a high risk of flash floods, and many tour agencies close down for the season. Tourism peaks in July & August so obviously these are the busiest months for hiking the gorge. The hike is always crowded, but less so in the spring and fall. So if you can plan your trip for May or September, this is the best time for low crowds, but the weather is still warm enough to enjoy the beaches in and around Chania.
What to Bring on the Samaria Gorge Hike
The hike through Samaria River Gorge is long, but you don’t need to pack as extensively as you would for an overnight excursion.
Here is a list of the most essential things to bring in your backpack:
- Comfortable walking shoes (Chacos are great sandals for hot summer days in Greece)
- Sun protection (hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses)
- Plenty of water (at least 2 litres)
- Snacks for a light lunch (energy bars, fruit, and trail mix are great)
- Hiking Poles (strongly recommended) for the uneven terrain
Best Samaria Gorge Guided Tour
The best-guided tour of the Samaria River gorge is this day trip with Platanos Tours. The price included Hotel pick-up & drop-off in the Chania region, an English Guide, and free transfers in an air-conditioned luxury bus.
After riding to Omalos, the base of the gorge, you will eat breakfast with your group and then begin the hike around 8:00 AM. The guide will lead you through the gorge, making sure you don’t lose track of him throughout the journey. Then they will give you time to dip in the water and cool off in Agia Roumeli before hopping on the ferry + bus back to Chania.
In all, the excursion is about 12 hours. It has over 1200 5-star reviews and can be booked through Get Your Guide.
Final Thoughts: Samaria River Gorge Hike
The Samaria River Gorge is the most popular thing to do in Crete and arguably one of the most coveted hikes in Greece.
It’s a beautiful gorge the pictures simply won’t do justice to, and you should undoubtedly make it a part of your Crete itinerary while visiting the island. Just give yourself plenty of time to go at your own pace, bring at least 2 litres of water, and wear sunscreen.
Need to Know
Length: 16 km (10.5 miles)
Time: 5-8 hours
Trail Conditions: Great. The trail is well-marked and has heavy traffic, so losing your way is almost impossible. However, there are some boulders and loose rocks to maneuver around.
Further Info: You do not need a reservation to hike the gorge, but the entrance fee is €5, and you should definitely arrange transportation to and from the gorge in the days leading up to your hike.
Have you visited the Samaria Gorge in Crete? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.