Gorge of Samaria
The gorge of Samaria is situated in the National park of Samaria, in the White Mountains in West Crete. This majestuous gorge is considered one of the great attractions of Crete and many tourists want to visit it. But you must realise that it is a long (5 to 7 hours) walk on rough terrain so you will need to have a certain degree of fitness and walking experience in order to enjoy it.
Opening times of the gorge of Samaria
The Samaria National Park has traditionally always opened to the public at the beginning of May. It has often been possible to enter the gorge of Samaria at some point in April from the bottom part but this depends on the weather and the amount of work needed to restore the path after the winter rains.
So the opening dates of the gorge vary., it could open a little before the 1st of May, on the 1st of May or later (if the weather is bad or repair work is late). The gorge of Samaria closes to the public at the end of October but may close earlier if autumn rains (not uncommon in October) damage the path or make some cliffs unstable. The gorge will also be closed on rainy days (when there is a danger of rockfalls). In winter, high water makes the gorge of Samaria dangerous and impassable. The park opens daily at daylight (so the exact time will vary depending on the time of the year) and closes in the evening. You have to pay an entrance fee of Euro 5.00 to enter the park (free to children under 15, half price to students).
The longest gorge in Europe
The gorge of Samaria is 16 km long, starting at an altitude of 1230m and taking you all the way down to the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli.
The very narrow passage near the end of the gorge is often called the "Iron Gates". Samaria is not always crowded. There may be up to 2000 or more people a day walking through the gorge of Samaria but on many days there are only a few hundred. Keeping in mind that these people do not start at the same time and most of them walk-in only in one direction (down) the number of people you will encounter is much lower and it is quite possible to have the gorge more or less to yourself if you choose your time well. You start your walk at an altitude of 1230m which is generally pleasantly cool even in mid-summer. The heat builds up once you get lower down and towards noon (when the sun will be right above you in the second part of the gorge if you start early). If you start later you will get to the lower part of the gorge later and the cliffs will offer you more shade (because the sun will be past its zenith. The path is maintained and is substantially better than "normal" mountain paths in Crete.
There are wardens along the way (in radio contact with each other) who will help you in case of trouble or injury. There is also (in theory) a doctor stationed in the village of Samaria. This has not been the case in the last few years. There are well-maintained springs on the way so that you do not have to carry much water.
There are toilets in several places and plenty of rubbish bins. You find surprisingly little litter, considering the amount of people passing through every day.