Last month I headed to the Greek island of Crete for a few days of sunshine and relaxation, that is other than one day when we decided to do a hike. The Samaria Gorge is now a national park and runs from the town of Omalos on the Northern side of the plateau and the village of Agia Roumeli which sits on the shore of the Libyan Sea. The gorge was created by a small river running between the White Mountains and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Crete. The gorge itself starts at an altitude of 1,250m ending at sea level so there’s a lot of downhill walking, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it will be easy. The walk itself is 13km long but then there’s another 3km to walk to the town where you can go home from.
Having done the trek myself while away here are ten important tips if you’re thinking of doing it yourself.
If you’re taking a public bus you will end up at the harder trek end
There is an easier/ lazy trek which you can do at just 4km but any public bus will take you to the Northern Side and the only way to get back to the buses is to walk the full route. The shorter route starts at the other end and is basically a small 2km into the gorge and the same walk back out but it doesn’t seem a lot of public transport can take you this way as buses do not go into the seaside town of Agia Roumeli so if you want to do this route you’ll need to look into alternative transport.
Rest up well beforehand, it will be a long day
Only one bus leaves Chania Bus Station each day for the gorge at 7.45am (an additional one in peak times) and after getting the boat and a longer bus home you won’t be back until about 830pm so it will be a long day. Ensure you have a good rest beforehand with plenty of sleep so you’re on top form and don’t plan anything too strenuous for the evening/ the next day as even the best of walkers will need their rest. We opted for a beach day the following day which was a great way to relax after the walk.
Have good walking shoes or decent trainers
The walk itself is unsteady and can be slippery at points through small streams and steep drops so you’ll want to make sure you have really good trainers with a decent grip or proper walking/ hiking shoes. I spotted people doing the trek in fashion trainers like converse, someone in sandals and even someone in ballet shoes. None of these will cut it and you risk hurting yourself if you don’t have the right footwear.
Always fill up on water
Along the walk, there are around ten break stops sometimes they’re 0.5km apart and other times they’re nearer 3-4km apart so it’s always important to fill up your water every time you pass a stop because you never know when you’ll see the next one. When you arrive you’ll pick up a guide which will show you the distance between stops which is where there are toilets, water spots, and places to sit down but with the altitude the distance between stopping points can seem a lot longer, and while a brisk 1km walk on flat ground won’t take long it can take a long time when you’re navigating uneven rocks.
Make sure you take good breaks
While you don’t want to sit down and take a half an hour break every time you stop it is important to make sure you take good breaks, especially as you near the end as the final two stretches are the longest. You’ll want to give your legs a rest – especially your calves and knees – and you’ll want to take advantage of the shaded areas as the sun can be really strong with some stretches providing little shade.
Don’t rush uneven floorings
Some of the flooring is really uneven even when you’re on seemingly flat ground, but don’t rush it. I was seeing people almost running down and hopping from one rock to another, and while this may be comfortable for some it won’t work for everyone. I took my time when walking to ensure I didn’t hurt myself and if people were behind me they could either wait or go around me, their choice. Don’t feel you have to rush or keep up with anyone elses’ pace, go at what feels best for you.
Take plenty of snacks and food
Once you start off on your trek there is nowhere to buy anything until you finish so make sure you take enough food and snacks to last you. My trek took around 6.5-7 hours in total which is a pretty average time and walking that much you do get the munchies, but remember you’re carrying the food around all day with you so opt for things which aren’t heavy, won’t go funny in the sunshine and are light.
Have plenty of spare change
We took the bus from Chania bus station and paid 17 euro’s for a return trip which for almost three of driving was pretty good, but you’ll also need 5 euro’s entrance for the gorge walk itself and 22 euro’s for the boat which takes you from the sea to where the buses park and there’s no way around it. There is absolutely no way of getting out of Agia Roumeli without the boat so make sure you carry enough cash on you for at least this.
Remember you need to get done and by the boat at 5.30
Only one boat leaves the seaside port each day and that’s at 5.30pm where it takes around an hour to get to the next seaside port where you can collect your bus/ get a lift etc. With this in mind, there’s no point rushing the walk because other than chilling on the seafront it’s not going to get you away from the area any earlier than if you use all the time given to you. On the other hand, though remember that you must be finished walking with enough time to get the 3km from the walk end to the town (there is a bus available which I took full advantage of), to buy your boat ticket and get on the boat so pace yourself.
Regardless of bus departure times they will wait for the boat
We were told that the bus left at 6 pm which meant we’d miss it as the boat took an hour, but don’t stress, all of the buses will wait until the boat has arrived so it can collect all the passengers. Very little is said about where to go so we just followed the crowds which leads you away from the seafront and up some stairs where all the buses and coaches were waiting to take everyone home.