The gorge of Samaria is situated in the National park of Samaria, in the White Mountains in Western Crete. This majestuous gorge is considered one of the great attractions of Crete and many tourists visit it. However it is a long walk (5 to 7 hours) on rough terrain so not for the faint hearted. I loved it and the beer at the end was was welcomed. We took a coach to the top of the park and then got picked up by boat at the end, for a short trip to Plakias (Southern Crete), where we were staying, but you can get a coach trip from any resort on Crete, but bear in mind, Crete is a big island, so there is apt to be plenty of travelling time.
Opening times of the gorge of Samaria
The Samaria National Park has traditionally always opened at the beginning of May, but sometimes during April (from the bottom part but this depends on the weather and the amount of work needed to restore the path after the winter rains). I started from the top and walked down, during summer!
The gorge of Samaria closes to the public at the end of October. but may close earlier if autumn rains (not uncommon in October) damage the path or make some cliffs unstable. It is also closed on rainy days (when there is a danger of rock falls). In winter, high water makes the gorge of Samaria dangerous and impassable.
There is an entry fee of around Euro 5 (at time of writing), but well worth it. It is free to children under 15.
The gorge of Samaria is 16 km long, starting at an altitude of 1230m and taking you all the way down to the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli (there are bars here).
The walk through the National Park of Samaria is 13 km but you will have to walk the extra 3 km to Agia Roumeli from the exit of the National Park making it a total of 16 km (However, there is a bus that runs from the exit of the park down to Agia Roumeli.
The very narrow passage near the end of the gorge is often called the “Iron Gates”. None of the former inhabitants of Samaria know why the place suddenly got this name. They were always known by the locals as “Portes” which means “doors” or “gates”, but certainly no “Iron” anywhere!
Samaria is said to be the longest gorge in Europe. Good marketing but not quite the truth: the ” Gorges du Verdon” in South France are a little over 20 km in length.
The infrastructure of the National park of Samaria
The park is supervised by the Department of Forestry and is one of a dozen national parks in Greece. You need to pay an entrance fee of 5 Euro (free to children under 15).
There are well-maintained springs on the way so that you do not have to carry much water, which helps with the back pack, but you will be given a set of rules aimed at protecting the park, as well as making it a safe and enjoyable, if not tiring experience.
A truly memorable experience.