Crete, a Greek island in the Mediterranean, is not only famed for its pristine beaches but also for its exhilarating hiking trails. One trail that stands out is the Samaria Gorge hike, a must-visit for any adventurer setting foot on this picturesque island.
Nestled in the southwest region of Crete, the Samaria Gorge offers an unparalleled hiking experience. Stretching over 16 kilometers, it holds the title of the longest gorge in Europe, offering a rich blend of natural beauty and historical significance. Established as a National Park in 1962, it has since become a magnet for nature enthusiasts and hikers from around the globe.
Samaria Gorge - Visiting Schedule
The Samaria Gorge is open every day from May 1 to October 15. In extreme weather conditions, it may be closed for the safety of tourists.
The visiting hours are the following:
- Between the hours of 7 am and 1 pm, visitors who enter the park are allowed to complete the entire route (Xyloskalo-Agia Roumeli or Agia Roumeli-Xyloskalo).
- Between 1 pm to 3 pm, access is permitted from Xyloskalo only for the first 2 kilometers
- Between 1 pm to 4 pm, visitors who enter from Agia Roumeli are allowed to visit the park for only 2 km, until they reach Chirstos resting point
- All visitors must exit the park by 6 pm the latest
Samaria Gorge - Transport and Logistics
If you want to traverse the Samaria Gorge downhill, as recommended, you need to start near the village of Omalos, at Xyloskalo. Xyloskalo is situated an hour's drive from Chania, at an altitude of 1250 meters.
The parking area at the trailhead is located here.
The trail concludes at Agia Roumeli - a quaint village along the Mediterranean coast.
The initial 13 km take you directly through the gorge, followed by another 3 km on a gravel road leading to the town of Agia Roumeli. In total, the journey spans roughly 16 km, descending 1300 meters in elevation. This distance can be covered in approximately 6-7 hours.
Given the length of the trail and the strict visiting schedule, there essentially isn't enough time to complete the Xyloskalo - Samaria Gorge - Agia Roumeli round trip within the same day unless you are running; therefore, the only realistic option to return to Xyloskalo on the same day is by public transport.
We spontaneously decided to visit the gorge, and were nearly ready to abandon the plan given the apparent complexity of the arrangements: we had a rental car, but would have needed to leave it at Xyloskalo, traverse the gorge to Agia Roumeli, then catch a ferry to Sougia, followed by a bus back to Xyloskalo.
We were concerned about the possibility of missing the bus from Sougia or not finding available seats. Fortunately, everything is very well coordinated, all you need to do is to make sure you purchase your return bus ticket from the cafe at Xyloskalo and you'll have your spot reserved (they supplement the number of buses based on the demand). Also, the buses will wait for the ferry to arrive at Sougia.
Samaria Gorge Bus & Ferry Schedule
Note! The schedule mentioned below was applicable in June 2023 and may undergo changes. Please refer to the official Ktel website for the current schedule, where you can also purchase tickets online.
KTEL Buses to Xyloskalo
- Chania - Xyloskalo: daily, at 05:00, 06:15, 07:45, 08:45
- Sougia - Xyloskalo: daily, at 07:00
It would be best to purchase your return bus ticket in advance to ensure you have a reserved seat. We bought ours at the cafe next to the parking area at Xyloskalo.
We arrived at Xyloskalos with our rental car, which we left in the paid parking at Xyloskalo (5 euros/day).
Agia Roumeli - Sougia Ferry
- Daily, departs from Agia Roumeli at 17:30
From Agia Roumeli, you will need to take a ferry to Sougia, where the KTEL buses will be waiting for you.
The ferry from Agia Roumeli to Sougia departs at 17:30, and the journey lasts about 45 minutes. We bought the ferry ticket in Agia Roumeli, at the kiosk there.
KTEL Buses from Sougia
- Sougia - Chania: daily, at 18:15
- Sougia - Xyloskalo: daily, at 18:15
The buses from Sougia are scheduled to depart at 18:15, but they will wait for the ferry from Agia Roumeli to arrive.
We left Sougia only around 19:00, after the driver made sure that all reserved seats were filled. The bus journey to Xyloskalo took about an hour. If you want to enjoy the view, sit on the right row, it's really worth it.
- Xyloskalo parking: 5 EUR/day
- Sougia - Xyloskalo bus ticket: 5 EUR/person. We bought it at the cafe at Xyloskalo before starting the trail, to secure our place on the bus.
- Samaria Gorge entrance ticket: 5 EUR/person. We bought it at the entrance to the gorge and had to present it at the exit.
- Agia Roumeli - Sougia ferry ticket: 15 EUR/person
Samaria Gorge Hike from Xyloskalo to Agia Roumeli - Route Description
- Length: 13 km through the gorge + 3 km on a gravel road
- Duration: 6-7 hours
- Elevation: 1300 m descent, 98 m ascent
The hiking trail through the Samaria Gorge starts at an altitude of 1250 meters, from Xyloskalo, near the village of Omalos - an hour's drive from Chania, and ends at Agia Roumeli - a small village on the Mediterranean coast.
The Samaria Gorge Hike - Recommended Equipment
- Shoes with good grip (the rocks are slippery)
- At least 1 liter of water. Along the gorge, there are several points where you can refill water
- Some snacks for the journey (the last place where you can buy snacks is at the cafe at Xyloskalo, before entering the gorge)
- Swimsuit, if you want to cool off in the sea at Agia Roumeli
Samaria Gorge - Difficulty
Only the initial 3.5 km from the entrance of the Samaria Gorge can be seen as somewhat challenging, given that it involves a significant descent, roughly 500 meters in elevation change. However, the trail is well-developed, featuring stone steps and wooden handrails.
The rest of the trail is relatively easy; the descent is enjoyable, but you need to be very careful to avoid slipping on the rocks, many of which are quite smooth due to water and the high foot traffic in the gorge. Good grip hiking shoes are essential.
The first 13 km take you right through the gorge, followed by another 3 km on a gravel road leading to the town of Agia Roumeli. So, all in all, it spans about 16 km, descending 1300 meters in elevation.
You can comfortably complete the entire route, with the necessary breaks, in around 7 hours.
We embarked on the trail at 11 in the morning.
The upside was that by starting at this later time, we encountered very few people along the way. The downside, however, was that we had to quicken our pace slightly to reach Agia Roumeli in time to catch the 17:30 ferry.
As a result, we managed to complete the Xyloskalo - Samaria Gorge - Agia Roumeli route in 5 and a half hours, leaving us an hour to relax by the seaside.
Samaria Gorge - Photo Gallery
Every kilometer of the trail is marked by a stone milestone, and the landscape changes as you approach the sea.
From the ferry, we spotted dozens of buses waiting to pick up tourists from Agia Roumeli. Some were KTEL, but many were from private operators, travel agencies.