Samaria Gorge

The Samaria Gorge, at 17 kilometers (10 ½ miles), is the longest gorge in Europe. It was declared a National Park in order to protect its rare flora and fauna, in particular it is the only mainland refuge of the long-horned Cretan wild ibex called "kri-kri" or the "wild one" by locals. Starting from Xylóskalo, 44 km (27 miles) south of Chania in west Crete, a well trodden trail leads down an 18 km (11 mile) course to the seaside village of Agía Rouméli. The descent into the gorge takes from 5-7 hours. Crossing the gorge, also called the "Farangas" by the locals, is only allowed from the beginning of May to the end of October. During the rest of the year, the melting snows on the high walls of the gorge and the rains raise the level of its innocent stream and turn it into a torrent. Halfway through the gorge lies the old settlement of Samaria where a few families of woodcutters used to live.  It was abandoned a few years after the gorge was declared a National Park (1962) and is now home to a warden's station. The small Byzantine church of Saint Mary the Egyptian is located there.  The name "Samaria" comes from a corrupt form of the name of the church: Ossia Maria - Siamaria - Samaria.

Click on the thumbnails below in order to see pictures of the Samaria Gorge.  Use your browser's back button to return to this page.

Cretan Travel Sites      Vote for this site!

XylóskaloThe descent through the gorge begins at  Xylóskalo ("wooden stairway"), a zigzag, stepped path with wooden handrails located on the southern lip of the Omalós plain that drops a staggering 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) in the first 2 km (1 mile) of the walk. On this spot there was once a wooden stairway to facilitate the descent which is how the place got its name. Omalós plateauThe wild beauty of the Omalós plateau. The descent at first is through almost alpine scenery: pine forest, wild flowers and very un-Cretan greenery. StreamA little stream, which becomes a raging river in the winter, flows down the middle of the gorge.
StreamA rocky stream. Trail markersThe thousands of trail markers BridgeThe bridge leading into the village of Samaria.
BridgeThe bridge Kri-kriA kri-kri.  The Cadogan guide to the Greek Islands states that "Although the Gorge is the last refuge of the kri-kri... no one ever sees one anymore; the few that have survived the 1993 epidemic of killer ticks, or korpromantakes, are shy of the hordes."  Hmmm... glad to see the guide was wrong... or perhaps this kri-kri didn't get the memo? J Kri-kriKri-kri are found in only a few areas of Crete, notably the Samaria Gorge. They are thought to be truly wild relatives of the all-too-numerous feral goats that are found throughout the Mediterranean region, as well as other parts of the world. They are nimble and sure-footed on rugged terrain.
Kri-kriOur friendly kri-kri. Mature adults have attractively marked coats and horns with three rings along their length. This one appears to be a young one. Kri-kriThe "shy and ellusive" kri-kri joined me for lunch, going as far as putting his (her?) hooves on my lap and eating out of my hand. Gorge wallsFurther down the gorge, the path levels out and the gorge walls start to close in.
Another rocky streamMore rocks and stream... we saw a lot of rocks. Towering wallsThe towering walls of the gorge SidirósportesAt 12 km (7 miles) along the gorge, the route squeezes between two sheer rock walls that rise 300 meters (almost 1,000 feet) on either side of a passage only 3 meters (9 feet) wide called Sidirósportes (Iron Gates).
Iron GatesThe famous Iron Gates with Jeff's silhouette for scale. Iron GatesThe Iron Gates from the other (southern) side. Iron GatesThe southern side of the Iron Gates
LatzuniAn interesting looking flower that we saw many times in the gorge.  Thanks to Ron Greenfield at OurCrete.co.uk, I now know that this plant is locally known as Latzuni, the squill. It grows everywhere on the island, the flower appearing before the large strap-like leaves. It was a fertility plant for the Minoans and still is for some Greeks, the large bulb being put outside homes on Jan 1st (St Basil). The beach of Agía RouméliThe reward at the end of the trip through the gorge is a dip in the Libyan Sea. About 1.5 kms from the exit of the gorge is Agía Rouméli, a seaside settlement built over the ancient city of Tarra, where Apollo hid from the wrath of Zeus after slaying the Python at Delphi

Back to Crete

Rings page   Grisel's Home Page   Email Grisel

Go to the Herakleion Museum

Sign Guestbook   Guestbook   View Guestbook

© All pictures are Copyright 2000 Grisel Gonzalez and Jeff Prosise