Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge is located in Southwest Crete in the regional unit of Chania. It was created by a tiny river running between the White Mountains and Mt. Volakias. The name Smaria was derived from the small church of Ossia Maria, built in 1379. The name “Samaria” is a contraction of Ossia and Maria.  The village of Samaria was a centre of Cretan resistance during the Turkish Occupation and during the German Occupation. Samaria Gorge is the most famous gorge in Crete and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Samaria Gorge is home to over 450 species of plants and animals, thus making it a World Biosphere Reserve. It is 16 km long and its width is 150 m. Samaria National Park has been a Greek National Park since 1962. It has become a major tourist attraction since then. The 16 km walk along Samaria Gorge provides a majestic scenery which is claimed to be incomparable anywhere else on the island of Crete. The Samaria Gorge usually operates from the 1st of May until the 15th of October, depending on the weather. One can visit the Samaria Gorge on an organised tour or by public transportation. Hiking is also one popular activity in Samaria gorge. It is one of the interesting things to do while visiting the beautiful gorge.

Renting a car going to Samaria Gorge is also possible, although a bit tricky. The logistics have to be thought out carefully. The Samaria Gorge is 16 km long and one needs to park a car on one side of the gorge and have to go the length of the gorge both ways to get back to the car. It is easy to rent a car in Crete. There are several car rental companies to choose from. If travelling in pairs, a smaller car can be rented. However, bigger groups may choose to rent a more spacious car for more convenience. Car Rental Crete offers an easy way of renting a vehicle. One just needs to check out their website and follow the procedures. When renting a car in Crete, it is advisable to note the important factors. In order to rent a vehicle in Crete, a valid driving licence must be presented. The driver must be at least at the ages of 21. A credit or debit card with the driver’s name is an important requirement. Choosing an appropriate car depends on the number of passengers. Visiting the Samaria Gorge using a rented vehicle makes travelling around more convenient and practical.

Starting Point of Samaria Gorge

What is the archaeology of Samaria Gorge?

The Samaria Gorge is a natural site and symbol of Crete. It holds a distinguished position in Greek, Cretan, and Mediterranean history. Throughout history, it served as an ark for life. The Samaria gorge was inhabited only by ancient plants and animals for many years. Only about 12,000 years ago did humans make their first appearance. It was first inhabited during the Byzantine period. The members of the Skordilis family from the Hora Sfakion transferred to the village in the 14th century. The ancient city of Tarra, which is located on a site now inhabited by Agia Roumeli, is better documented. There are archaeological excavations indicating Tarra’s existence as far back as the Late Minoan period. Samaria gorge is the only Greek natural site included in the UNESCO Man and Biosphere network. Spinalonga Island was once known as the “island of the living dead”. Located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete. It is also known as the Leper Island, where lepers from the rest of Greece were quarantined until 1957. At present, it is now a tourist destination, and it is the second most famous archaeological site after Knossos.

How is the economy of Samaria Gorge?

The economy of Samaria Gorge solely relies on tourism. However, activities are restricted within the national park. Tourist revenues from the numerous yearly visits to Samaria Gorge are a significant source of income for the local economy. The Samaria Gorge is a specially-protected area that is a very well-known tourist destination. For the last five years, the total number of visitors to the Samaria Gorge reached 744, 288, according to the Chania Forest Directorate.

Since 1981, approximately 130,000 people per year have visited the Samaria gorge.

How is the Samaria Gorge preserved?

Samaria Gorge is a gift of nature to the people of Crete. The area includes cave systems and flat internal upland plains surrounded by mountains. The island of Crete has established rules regarding the preservation of the Samaria Gorge. The Samaria National Park (White Mountains) Management Body was established according to article 13 of Law 3044/27-08-2002 (Government Gazette, Issue A 197). The legally-prescribed responsibilities of the Management Body, according to article 15 of Law 2742/07-10-1999 (Government Gazette, Issue A 207) are: Care for the collection, classification, and processing of environmental features and data for their areas of responsibility, as well as compiling the related evidence and databases. Drawing up and implementing management regulations and operations in their areas of responsibility. These are just a few of the responsibilities of the Management Body. The Geographical Information System has been developed to clarify the basic structural characteristics of vegetation, and land use in the area of competence of the Body, human resource management, and visitors. The European Diploma for Protected Areas was awarded to Samaria Gorge in 1979. It has been regularly renewed since then. The park is well afforested and there has been no wood cutting since  the 1960s. All areas of the National Park belong to the state, and that makes it easier to manage. The National Park is also a part of the Biosphere reserve UNESCO.

How does the Samaria Gorge map look?

Below is the image of the Samaria Gorge map.

Samaria Gorge map

What are the nearby attractions in Samaria Gorge?

Listed below are the nearby attractions in Samaria Gorge.

  • Kaino archaeological site. It is a small ancient city built inside the Samaria gorge. Kaino was developed in the ancient years. It was the birthplace of Artemis the Britomartia, named Diktini, who was Zeus’ daughter.
  • Osia Maria Church. The Osia Maria church is a 14th century Byzantine church dedicated to Osia maria of Egypt. The name “Samaria” is a contraction of Osia and Maria. It is located on the southern side of Samaria Gorge.
  • Mashali Beach. It is located on the west part of the bay of Agia Roumeli, a small village located south of Chania City, on a vast bay shaped at the exit of the Samaria gorge. Numerous visitors, descending the gorge, reach Mashali Beach and enjoy a bath. It is a quiet beach where visitors can explore and do some kayaking.
  • Samaria Gorge National Park. The Samaria Gorge National Park has been a National Park of Greece since 1962. The Samaria gorge is the focal point of the National Park. It stretches across a distance of 16 km. The gorge is in southwest Crete, in the regional unit of Chania. Camping, light fires, swimming in the streams, and staying overnight is strictly prohibited inside the National Park.
    samaria sign
  • Glyka Nera Beach. The beautiful beach of Glyka Nera is quite remote, and it takes a good hike to reach it. Glyka Nera is located on the southwestern coast of Crete, between the villages of Chora Sfakion and Loutro. The word Glyka Nera means “Sweetwater”, the name was derived from the clear freshwater that flows through the pebbles and into the sea.
    Glyka Nera Beach or Sweet Water Beach

What are the hiking routes for Samaria Gorge?

When hiking the Samaria Gorge, one needs to be physically fit. The first few kilometres descend steeply and will take a toll on the knees. There are 13 top trails in Samaria Gorge. These hiking routes range from easy to hard ones. First is the Samaria Gorge hiking route. It is considered to be a moderate hike for many. It would take an average of 13 hours and 47 minutes to complete the hike. The hiking route is open all year-round. The next route is the E4 European Path: Agia Roumeli-Loutro. This hiking route is an easy one. It is a popular route for hiking. Trail running, and walking. The route heads out on the 15.1 km point-to-point trail near Agia Roumeli, Crete. This route starts from Agia Roumeli, crosses the river, then continues east parallel to the coastline. The route will lead to the chapel of Agios Pavlos and continues passing through the coastal Vigla hill. Further on, it leads to the exit of the gorge of Aradena, then passing the beaches of Finikas and Lykos. The trail climbs to the top of Capoe Mouri and descends from the other side to Loutro. It takes an average of 5 hours to complete the hiking route. The Figou Gorge and Agia Irini Gorge are generally considered a hard and challenging route. The route is best for hiking, trail running, and backpacking. Two gorgeous gorges of Crete join in a challenging route from every point of view, creating a course that runs on the Cretan island. It would take an average of 7 hours and 20 minutes to complete the route. This route is a 17.7 km out-and-back trail near Epanochori, Crete.

Path in Samaria Gorge

How long does it take to hike the Samaria Gorge?

An average walk takes 6 to 7 hours to hike the Samaria Gorge. The hike will normally make some stops. The main path is 13 km, and the path is quite rocky. Visitors will need to cross rivers several times. There are recreational points inside the Samaria Gorge where visitors can rest while enjoying the lovely scenery.

Do you need a guide to hike the Samaria Gorge?

Yes, a guide is needed to hike the Samaria Gorge. Hiking is one activity that needs physical endurance. A guide is important in hiking the Samaria gorge because it makes the whole hiking easier. Guides are the ones who navigate the trail and assist hikers with their needs. Visitors will need not worry about getting lost with the help of a guide. Visitors can book a guided tour in advance for an easier hike.

When is the best time to visit Samaria Gorge?

The best time to visit Samaria gorge is during Spring, May, and the second half of September-October. During spring, the temperature is cooler than during the summer. Hiking is one activity best done during the Spring when flowers mostly are in full bloom. The Samaria Gorge can be hiked during the late spring and summer. It is also its peak season. The average temperature ranges from 15 °C to 29 °C. Visitors must avoid the rainiest months in Samaria Gorge. The rainiest months are from November to December. One must be aware of the present weather conditions before planning a visit.

What is the importance of Samaria Gorge to the history of Crete?

The Samaria Gorge is not only known for its beautiful landscapes, and the national symbol of Crete.  Samaria gorge played a principal part as a hideout from the persecution of foreign invaders. It was a safe haven for Cretans who were fighting for freedom during those times. The geographical position of the Samaria gorge makes it a perfect place to hide and flee from invaders. During the early years of Crete’s fight against the Turks, some of the most significant happenings in Cretan history took place in the Samaria Gorge area. Almost 4000 children and women pursued by the Turks took protection in the mountains, mostly in Samaria Gorge. The village of Samaria was a centre of Cretan resistance during the Turkish Occupation and during the German Occupation.

Samaria Gorge - Iron Gate

What are the myths about the Samaria Gorge?

Listed below are the myths about Samaria Gorge.

  • The Samaria Gorge is not 18 km long. The beautiful Samaria Gorge is not 18 km long. It is actually 16 km only. The 18 km refers to the distance between the settlement of Omalos on the northern side of the plateau, and the village of Agia Roumeli.
  • Samaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe. The Samaria Gorge is said to be the longest gorge in Europe. It is good marketing, but not quite true. The “Gorges du Verdon’, in South France, is the longest gorge in Europe. It is a little over 20 km in length.
  • The Samaria Gorge is always crowded. Contrary to  popular belief, the Samaria Gorge is not often crowded. People walking through the gorge do not start at the same time. Most of the visitors walk in only one direction, and the number of people one can encounter is much lower.
  • Legend of Chrisomalousa (The Gold Haired). The legend of Chrisomalousa started during 1319. A beautiful girl named Chrisi, of the house of Skordili from Sfakia, was the cause of a great slaughter. A braid of her hair was cut off as a punishment for her refusal to give in to the Venetian Kapouletos romantic overtures. According to legend, the golden-haired Chrissy became a nun. The Church of Maria Osia in Samaria Gorge is where Chrissy’s life was spent. The church was restored during the 1970s, and the workers found a grave. It was believed that the bones found belonged to the nun Chrissy because the hair was unaffected by time, and it was adorned with a unique jewel.
  • Ancient town of Keno. The ancient town of Keno, is believed to have existed in the Samaria Gorge. According to Mythology, Keno was the birth land of the Goddess Vritomartis.
  • One Titan cuts the land with a knife. According to Greek Mythology, one of the Titans cut the land with a knife to create the gorge. Zeus then placed his throne on top of the Gygilos mountain when the Greek God got bored with the disputes and intrigues in Olympus.

What are the factors to consider before renting a car in Crete?

Listed below are the factors to consider before renting a car in Crete.

  • Insurance. Vehicle rental insurance protects a passenger against the cost of damage when renting a car. Crete car rental includes insurance for Collision Damage waiver, and a driver’s credit or debit card is required as a guarantee.
  • Driver’s age. The minimum legal age requirement to drive a rented car in Crete is 21 years old. One must present a valid driving licence, issued at least 12 months before the rental pickup date.
  • Driver’s gender. Both women and men can drive in Crete. As long as the driver is of the legal age of 21 or 23, driving is allowed in Crete, regardless of gender. Although, some may still prefer a male driver over a female one, because of the belief that male drivers are better than females.
  • Car type. When travelling, one must learn how to choose the right car to rent in Crete. Travelling with groups or with members of the family requires a much bigger car. Car rental companies in Crete offer a variety of cars to choose from. Choosing a smaller car is best when driving in Crete. The reason for that is that some Greek roads are narrow.
  • Documents needed for renting a car. A valid driving licence is one important document when renting a car in Crete. However, a debit or credit card with the driver’s name is also one important factor when renting a car.

How much does a car rental in Crete cost?

Crete is a gorgeous island with several tourist spots that can be travelled using a rented car. Crete car rental costs vary depending on the number of passengers, itinerary, car type, location, and duration. The average cost of renting a vehicle in Crete is around €30 to €40 per day. A car rented for a whole week will cost an average of €250. Renting a vehicle for the weekend will cost around  €78. Affordable car rentals in Crete vary depending on the car type. Car rental companies offer a variety of cars depending on customers’ preferences.