Samaria Gorge on Crete is one of Europe’s longest and most beautiful canyons. For nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts visiting Crete, the 16-kilometer trek from Omalos plateau to the village Agia Roumeli is a hike that you won’t want to miss! While picturesque, the trek is also, however, strenuous and not without its risks. Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of your hike:
Get an Early Start
As the daily highs during a Cretan summer can approach 100°F (38°C), visitors would be well advised to begin their treks when the park opens at daybreak to avoid the midday sun. The 16 kilometers take roughly six hours to complete, making a 6am start time reasonable. An early start will also give you an advantage over the crowds arriving in coaches, allowing for a more intimate experience in the park. It is recommended to bring a light jacket as the high altitude may be chilly in the early morning, even during the summer. As the park opens at sunrise, the exact opening hours vary throughout the hiking season from May to October.
Get to Know the Path
The path along the first two kilometers is where most injuries occur due to its steepness as the path rapidly descends 1,250 meters from Xyloskalo. Take care not to trip on the rocks, which can be slippery as they have been worn down by the thousands of hikers who make the trek every year. Visitors with bad knees should definitely think twice about attempting to hike the gorge. Good footwear, preferably hiking boots, is a must. Once you make it past the steep section at the beginning, the hike levels off and gets much easier.
Beware Falling Rocks!
Hikers should be mindful of potentially fatal falling rocks once they make it down into the canyon. It is a bad idea to rest at the foot of the gorge, where large rocks can stumble down from above. Visitors should walk quickly through areas marked by signs warning of rock falls. While the risk is at its greatest after heavy rains and on windy days, rock falls can happen at any time.
Bring Plenty of Water
While safe drinking water is available from natural sources throughout the trek, you will not have the opportunity to buy drinks or snacks once you have started. Take a sturdy water bottle with you, as well as any snacks you may want. If you run out of water, don’t worry because you can easily fill it at one of the drinking stations.
Rangers Are Available
Rangers are stationed at regular intervals throughout the trek to assist hikers. In serious medical emergencies, hikers can be evacuated via donkey. Rangers will also let you know to turn around if unexpected bad weather threatens to make the park unsafe. Rangers also can help with minor first aid on the trail. They patrol the trail on a regular basis to make sure everything is okay.
Hiking at Samaria Gorge is something that you should consider while visiting the island of Crete. If you decide to do it, you will want to make sure you are prepared. Consider hiring a tour guide for extra safety while doing this hike!