Crete Gorges are the magnificent monuments of nature and will give you a flavor of the beauty of this wonderful Greek Island. If you are an adventurous traveler, there are many opportunities to explore the great gorges and mountains in Crete. The options for hiking in the island are countless, so we have selected only the most popular and beautiful Crete Gorges.
Samaria Gorge is one of the most famous Crete Gorges. It is located in the sierra of White Mountains in Chania. Its length is 18 km and is the longest gorge of Crete and Europe. It has a width from 150 meters to 3 meters, which is the narrowest point of the gorge, called “Doors”. In 1962 it was declared a National Park of Greece and residence of many endemic birds and different species. The most famous of the animals that find refuge in Samaria Gorge is the Cretan goat (Kri Kri). There also herbs and rare plants growing there, such as the wild burning bush and wild flowers. The entire trail is very well marked and is the most walked path in Greece. The path to the gorge begins from Omalos, at Xyloskalo point, at an altitude of 1,200 m. It is a narrow path that descends. From the very beginning you feel the awe dominating you: majestic mountains and an endless ravine gush in front of you! The end of the route is beautiful, as you face the Libyan Sea and the magnificent beach of Agia Roumeli! A refreshing dip in the sea and relaxing on the shore of the beach is the beautiful end of our tour in the beautiful and majestic Gorge Samaria – the most famous of all Crete Gorges!
Kritsa Gorge starts near the picturesque village of Kritsa, 9.5km southwest of Agios Nikolaos and ends at the village Tapes. It’s 4km long, reaching a width of only 1.5m in some places. It is easily accessible with a few points that need attention, where you have to climb over some big rocks (not too hard). The only time you should not visit the gorge is when it has rained previously and there are ponds in the gorge, which block the passages. The entrance of the canyon near Kritsa is impressive, as the mountain is torn in two, shaping the narrow passage of Havgas (havgas is a common name for gorges in East Crete). Apart from the main path starting next to the stone bridge of Kritsa, there’s a second trail starting in the village. Near the starting point, there is a large rock, which you can climb quite easily. From there, the canyon becomes more impressive, with very narrow passages and tall walls surrounding you and blocking sun rays. It is a masterpiece of nature, which is worth a visit especially in spring, when flowers bloom and there is a little water.
According to the greek mythology, the giant Sarantapihos, who was son of Zeus, once stopped to drink water from the river Kryos or Myrtos, near Ierapetra. His long beard slashed the mountain in two parts and created the canyon of Sarakina. Sarakina is located very close to the traditional village Mythi and near the seasise settlement of Myrtos, where the river Kryos exits to the sea. It is considered by many visitors as the nicest hiking gorge in Crete. Its length reaches only 1.5km, but during this short course the visitor will meet an amazing wonder of the Cretan nature, a natural sculpture formed by water in millions of years. Sarakina has imposing walls reaching 150m height and very narrow passages, usually met in technical gorges (needing canyoneering equipment). Its width ranges from 3 to 10 meters, with only a few points exceeding that. This is a canyon with most of its length being accessible by anyone, with water, ponds and only some climbing points requiring attention. What is really impressive is the large quantity of water almost all year round, that forms very beautiful waterfalls and ponds, ideal for swimming, even in summer. In winter, it is impossible to cross the gorge without getting wet. During the course one has to climb, come through huge boulders and rocky bridges. In tough positions, there are stairs carved in stone and some tree trunks for easiest climbing.
Imbros Gorge In Chania-
Imbros Gorge is located in province Sfakia and is the third most visited gorge in Crete, following Samaria Gorge and Agia Irini by Sougia, all belonging to the E4 European hiking path. The scenery is beautiful and the low difficulty make the descent of Imbros ideal for families with children. The length of the gorge is 11 km and the course lasts 2-3 hours. Narrow part of Imbros GorgeThe route starts from the small village of Imbros, 700 meters above sea level. We follow the sign to the gorge entrance and soon arrive at a ticket counter (the price was € 2 in 2014). The initial part of the gorge, which is quite wide, is called Porofarago or Porolagos. Initially the course is descending and the sidewalls are relatively low. But while descending, the canyon narrows continuously, the sidewalls raise higher and the scenery is impressive. Soon the sides of the canyon start approaching and getting higher, We see various caves, while the vegetation consists of old cypresses, oaks and maples popping up through the rocks. Xepitira ArchIn many parts of the gorge we meet traces of the old stone paved trail that was once the main passage from Sfakia to Chania. Therefore, the canyon was a theatre of several battles between the Ottomans and the Christians during the Turkish Occupation of Crete, especially in 1821 and 1867. Moving on, we cross the position called Airplane, where a German plane crashed during the Second World War (debris is housed in the war museum at Askyfou). Immediately after that, we encounter the first very narrow passages of the gorge and then arrive at position Gournia (i.e. basins), where there are several small basins in the rock filled with water in winter. After this we reach the most impressive part of the Gorge, Stenada. Here the gorge walls approach at 1.6m, while their height reaches 300m! The rocks are carved with very beautiful formations. After this narrow point, the canyon widens and we meet a resting place at position Mesofarango. Here is a Venetian water cistern and the hut of the guard of the gorge. After a few meters we cross a landslide and immediately after the impressive narrowing at Gremnaria. Immediately after that, we meet another trademark of the gorge, the stone arch Xepitira. Continuing our journey, we pass through some narrow passages and soon reach the exit of the gorge by village Komitades. Just at the exit there are some taverns and in the village there are more options.
Kourtaliotiko Gorge In Rethymno-
The Gorge of Kourtaliotis is located 22km south of Rethymno and has a length of 3km. It is one of the most spectacular natural attractions of Rethymnon. It starts from the village Koxare and flows between the mountains Kouroupis (984 m) and Xiro Oros (Dry Mountain – 904m). The huge cliffs of the canyon reach a height of 600 meters and are full of openings and caves, where significant fauna species live. The canyon is crossed by the Kourtaliotis River which flows up to Lake Preveli, after merging with Frati Gorge. In its latest part it is called Big River. It is a wonderful gorge worth visiting and trekking along its riverbed, while playing with water. The canyon is crossed by a road, but walking in it is really nice. By following the steps at the side of street Koxare – Asomatos, you reach the bottom of the gorge, where the church of St. Nicholas is located. The springs of Kourtaliotis, near the chapel, are one of the nicest attractions of the gorge.
The amazing gorge of Richtis is located in Lasithi Prefecture, on the north side, between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia. It starts just outside the village Exo Mouliana and ends at the Richtis beach, east of the village of Kalabro. The total length of the route is approximately 3 kilometers and the elevation difference between the starting point and the beach is about 350 meters. The gorge, even in summer, has enough water, which is used by locals. Hiking in the gorge takes three to four hours. The route starts from the stone-arched bridge of Lachanas (19th century) which has a tragic history to tell. During the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, it is said that, at this point, Christians killed the Turks of the region, who were trying to reach Sitia and get the boat to Turkey. The route continues in a lush landscape in the river, an amazing scenery of East Crete. The mountain is actually above your head. Platan, oleander and sage are numerous, and the smells of fresh herbs change constantly.
The lush canyon of Boriana (mainly known as Karanou Gorge) starts from the village Boriana and joins the River Mavropiliotis after 1800 meters in a nicely landscaped trail. Along the trail we meet a ruined watermill, caves, entrances of the old iron ore quarries (known locally as quarries of Averof), a charcoal furnace and galleries. The gorge is parallel to Kydoni Gorge and hiking is usually combined for both gorges.
Aradena is one of the most interesting gorges and one of the longest ones (15km long). The old Sfakians called it Faragas (Huge gorge) due to its size, to discern it from the rest gorges of Sfakia. This characterization was later falsely used for Samaria Gorge. The gorge actually starts from the root of the peak Thodoris of White Mounts, and specifically from the underground stream of cave Drakolakki. However, most people think that it is only 7km long, because the easiest way is to reach it from Aradena village, at the middle of the gorge length. Aradena bridgeIn order to reach it from Chora Sfakion, you walk the carriageway up to the mountain village of Anopoli (12 km, at an altitude of 600 m), built on the southern side of the foot of the White Mountains. You then walk another 3,5 km to reach the village of Aradena (at an altitude of 520 m), built on the brink of the gorge and deserted after a vendetta. The ancient city of Aradin used to be there. An iron bridge over a vertiginous precipice unites both sides of the gorge, constructed by the family Vardinogiannis, one of the richest on Greece, over a dizzying precipice, to unite the two sides of Aradena gorge. This is the bridge from where visitors can make jumps with bungee in 138m down! This is the highest bridge for bungee in Greece and the second in Europe. Before the bridge, on your right hand-side, you will find an old stone path once leading to Aradena gorge bed next to the scenic chapel of Astratigos (Michael Archangel). You walk from there down to the bottom of the gorge and then on a slightly rough ground to its end in the Libyan Sea for 2,30 hours. At the end of the gorge, on the very clean gravel beach of Gialeskari, widely known as Marmara, you can enjoy an unforgettable swim. On your way in the gorge you will meet a 9m deep vertical pass where an iron ladder was placed for accommodation purposes. There are very high vertical cliffs, however there are 8 placess (apart from Aradena) where you’ll find old trails to the walls of the gorge. There are two more abandoned villages on the sides of the Gorge, Azogyres and Sterni (St Vasilios). From the exit of the gorge up to the picturesque village of Loutro, where there are crafts sailing to Chora Sfakion, you can walk for about an hour across the beaches of Likkos and Finikas. From the coast of Marmara, a little boat transports people to Loutro daily. It takes two hours to walk from Loutro to Chora Sfakion, if you don’t take the boat.