The Samaria Gorge is the longest in Europe, with a total length of
18km. The width of the gorge is 150 metres at its widest to 3 metres at its narrowest.
Its status as a national park protects its rare flora and fauna. The walk through
the gorge takes between 6 and 8 hours. The path runs downhill but requires strong,
comfortable footwear and some degree of physical fitness.
The gorge begins at Xiloskalo (Wooden Stairs) which, as the name suggests, is a wooden staircase descending steeply to the river bed through an impressive forest of trees and exceptional views. At the bottom, near the small church of Agios Nikolaos, one can relax for a few minutes and enjoy the view. The path then follows the river bed. Here the mountains tower more than 2,000 metres above sea level. The highlight of the walk is the Sidheres Portes or Iron Gates. Here the walls of the gorge are only 3 metres apart and tower to 600 metres on either side. You can glimpse the blue sea in the distance.
Agia Roumeli lies at the end of the gorge. From here boats take you to Hora Sfakion where buses transport visitors back to Chania.
This text is cited Nov 2002 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains images.
The gorge of Samaria is the biggest, most imposing and beautiful gorge
in Chania and in Europe, and
that is why it is internationally renown and mostly visited, since more than 300.000
people have the opportunity to cross it each year. It has a wonderful landscape
with rare geo-morphological formations. It is a unique biotope with particular
richness in fauna and flora. It has a rich mythology as well, that goes back to
pre-historical years and a tumultuous history during the difficult years of Crete.
It was proclaimed National Park of the White Mountains of Crete in 1962, date at which two or three Sfakian families still lived in the village of Samaria, in the middle of the gorge, who were mainly busy with cattle-breeding and woodcutting.
The surface covered at the time was 48.500 sq.m., whereas the expansion of the Park is promoted today on 250.000sq.m. that will include the remarkable portion of the White Mountains.
The gorge was awarded the following prizes:
•1971: National Diploma of Nature Protection.
•1973: was proclaimed a place of special natural beauty.
•1979: First Order European Diploma of Protection of the Natural Environment awarded by the Council of Europe, renewable every 5 years. The same diploma was indeed awarded anew in 1984, 1989, 1994 and 1999.
The length of the passage to the limits of the park is 12.800km and the distance to the coast of Agia Roumeli is then another 3.200km.
The gorge can usually be visited from the beginning of May till the end of October, unless there are bad weather conditions. There are guardhouses of the State’s Service of the Park (Forest Inspection Service) at the beginning of the gorge (in the village of Samaria) and at its end. A doctor is also available to serve the visitors of the gorge, as well as a helicopter airport in Agia Roumeli.
The gorge has a lot of narrow passes that are called “gates”, but the narrowest pass, the “Iron Gate”, is 3m wide and 300 to 700m high from both sides. There are a lot of spots where you can walk over the river of the gorge on small wooden bridges.
(Text: Antonis Plymakis)
This text (extract) is cited February 2004 from the Chania Prefecture Tourism Committee tourist pamphlet.
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