The Samariá Gorge, Crete

The Samariá Gorge is a National Park in Greece (since 1962) and is situated on the island of Crete – a major tourist attraction of the island – and a World's Biosphere Reserve.

Photo 08-07-2016, 21 27 21 White Mountains

Photo 08-07-2016, 21 27 03 Start below White MountainsThe gorge is in southwest Crete, in the regional unit of Chania.  It was created by a small river running between the White Mountains and Mt. Volakias. There are a number of other gorges in the White Mountains. While some say that the gorge is 18 km long, this distance refers to the distance between the settlement of Omalos on the northern side of the plateau and the village of Agia Roumeli. In fact, the gorge is 16 km long, starting at an altitude of 1,250 m at the northern entrance, and ending at the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli.

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The walk through Samaria National Park is 13 km long, but one has to walk another three kilometers to Agia Roumeli from the park exit, making the hike 16 km long. The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Gates (or, albeit incorrectly, as "Iron Gates"), where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of almost 300 meters (980 feet). The gorge became a national park in 1962, particularly as a refuge for the rare kri-kri (Cretan goat), which is largely restricted to the park and an island just off the shore of Agia Marina. There are several other endemic species in the gorge and surrounding area, as well as many other species of flowers and birds.
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Photo 08-07-2016, 21 29 43 Derelict village

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The village of Samariá lies just inside the gorge. It was finally abandoned by the last remaining inhabitants in 1962 to make way for the park. The village and the gorge take their names from the village's ancient church, Óssia María.

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A must for visitors to Crete is to complete the walk down the gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea, at which point tourists sail to the nearby village of Sougia or Hora Sfakion, where they could spend a night there, or they could catch a coach back to Chania. The walk takes five to seven hours and can be strenuous, especially at the peak of summer.

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The images in this post are in order, from the beginning of the hike high in the White Mountains, Descending thousands of steps through the forest with views looking down the gorge. At the bottom the path is dry and rocky, the derelict village is reached, then the walk eventually reaches the iron gates. All along passing through some unbelievable scenery, till the end.

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A killer of a hike in the heat but worth it!  Here's the rest of it!

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For a list of Ian Cook's photography and TravelGumbo contributions, please click on this link.


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