I fell in love with Greece the moment we landed. Every island has its own history and rich culture. We had planned our honeymoon around a few basic hikes, the Samaria Gorge being one of them. My husband had read about it, and desperately wanted to arrange our travels accordingly.
Every website and travel brochure called this hike easy – Um, I am guessing the person who wrote that has probably not attempted this hike, or is superman.
According to the Crete website it is 16km, but 18 to the village, but the tour guide told us that it was 20km from start to finish, as the finish is really to the beach, not the end of the National Park.
When we got to Chania, there wasn’t that much information on the Gorge or how to get there by local bus. We did however, figure it was best to get there when the National Park opened, as it would get congested. So, we opted to take a private tour bus that left earlier than the local buses, and made a stop on the way up to use the washroom. It actually made travelling there easy and less stressful.
The bus was leaving from Chania, Crete at 5:15, we rushed to get there in time. When we got on the bus, I had a lot of snickers and chatter about my apparel. I incidentally, was wearing hiking boots, merino wool socks, and a hiking dry fit skirt (best skirt to travel with when you know you are doing a lot of walking or hiking). Apparently, I did not look like an avid hiker. We looked around the bus, people were wearing, jeans, sandals- no backpacks, no hats etc. My husband and I both thought, well, maybe it is easy and they know something we don’t know.
We came prepared, we had a tensor bandage, extra socks, sunscreen, water, nuts, granola bars, and power bars – can’t forget the trusty old package of moleskin (we never leave home without it). I also packed T.P, lip balm and Polysporin spray.
We went to the bathroom at the stop, everyone else stopped and had coffee…As we got back into the bus and we were only 30 minutes to the National Park, the tour guide (not really one, just made sure we got on the buses and the ferry) asked if anyone had a heart condition – seriously, you are asking now, not before we give you money and tickets? Then he asked if anyone had bad knees. Again, I sort have thought they would have warned people before getting there.
As we got to the entrance, there was a massive warning sign. Once you start descending, you have to keep going, even if you are hurt. It is too dangerous to go back up the stairs to fight the pedestrian traffic down, and there is no way to get anyone out of the gorge other than by foot. I had to chuckle a bit, some of the people on our bus were significantly unprepared!
The stairs going down are steep. My husband figured we had to pass as many people as possible, mostly because half way down, people would slow down and stop, creating more of a hazard for us. So we politely moved as quickly as possible where there were still trees and could pass people. Half way down we began to speed walk the rest of the stairs, as we had already passed everyone. It sounds insane, but we are actually used to this kind of running and hiking.
By the time we got down into the gorge, we were grateful that we a) came in October and there was no water in the Gorge and b) that we came so early as to avoid much of the sun. The gorge is all rock, which is hazardous to your feet, if we could feel the rocks, guess what it did to the poor folks wearing sandals! We realized we had someone who was trying to catch up to us, no big deal, we just thought it was funny that some guy and his girlfriend wearing Pumas and jeans wanted to sort of race us. We weren’t interested, we just wanted to have time to see some of the beauty without having an obsene amount of people gawking at the same time.
Half way through though, the boyfriend was yelling at his girlfriend to keep up, and the girlfriend was crying. As we stopped to have a snack, the couple actually ran past us – I know a little strange, but we tried ignoring it.
The gorge is a fabulous experience, well, it is interesting, but we would never do it again. We did much more beautiful hikes, that we enjoyed more in Greece.
It is not/not child friendly. I would never do this with a baby in a pack, or with young children. We did the whole thing in less than 4 hours. Most actually do it between 6-7. Those who attempted to do it in sandals actually had extremely bloody feet. We tried helping one woman who was badly bleeding when she came out, but her feet were destined for the hospital. There are washrooms, but they are holes in the ground, and have snakes (not something I would use, nor did I), It is extremely hard on your knees – if you have any issues, not a good place to hike. It has a few areas to rest, but there is no shade!
It is extremely hot in the gorge. Sunscreen and a hat or a necessity, as well as keeping enough water with you. We had a blast, but it was the incredible dip that you have in the ocean after the hike, that is the real treat.
You have to take a ferry back to your bus, and if you get car sick, the ride back is horrendous!