An early start for us as we tackle one of the great walks of Europe; The Samaria Gorge. 16Km of stony, rocky limestone that descends from a height of 1,200m to the sea. At places the gorge is 500m deep and only 3m wide as you descend from the start point of Omolos to the coastal town of Ag. Roumeli.
To conquer this chasm takes a little bit of planning and a whole day to complete. We went as independent travellers instead of being part of an organised tour mainly because we didn’t want to be herded about. In the height of Summer up to 3,000 people partake in this walk but fortunately on the day we did it there was only a couple of hundred other trekkers and for most of the journey we had the place to ourselves.
Up at 05:30 to catch the bus at 06:15.
Now we just had to pray our bus driver did not drive us over a cliff on one of the many hairpin bends on the route. Luckily for us it was dark for most of the way and we couldn’t see how many times we came close to death. 90 minutes after we left the warm coastal town of Paleochora we arrived at the start point, paid €5 each to enter, had a look around and a quick picture and started the descent into the gorge. The first part of the safari takes you down 1,500 steep limestone steps to the foot of the gorge. It is bloody tough. And slippery.
All smiles at the start
The descent begins
Obviously at this point we had no idea what damage we were doing to our fit, toned bodies. But my god we did find out later. The first part of the walk down to the valley floor is more undulating than you might think with constant rises and falls to conquer. The scenery is verdant and enclosed with only fleeting glimpses of the high plateau above.
After a couple of hours it flattens out and you can make good progress towards the abandon settlement of Samaria.
Rock Solid Support
Wood & Web
The High Mountains Above
There are plenty of water taps available for refilling bottles as well as places to sit and eat your sandwiches. We had an early lunch just before the abandoned settlement of Samaria as we knew the last bit along the dry river bed is tough. This is not a strenuous walk from an aerobic standpoint but is certainly very severe on your joints. A reasonably fit person can complete this but I would advise to wear a good pair of boots as the ground is quite severe.
There are a lot of people who walk the gorge from Ag. Roumeli to Samaria and then do a quick U’y and head back from whence they came. I can appreciate this is as it is a far simpler logistic journey to take using the same ferry to arrive and depart on. But, you do not get to walk the whole gorge and you miss the changing landscape and geological features as you descend. This is not willy-waving, it is a fact, but not completing the route from North to South takes away the complete picture. On the other hand it is this lower section which is the most spectacular and if you only have limited time or do not want to speed your way to a hip replacement then it is a wonderful trek. The highlight of Samaria are the misnamed ‘iron gates’ where the gorge is at its narrowest and highest. Surprisingly there is no information given at the exact point and you sort of have to guess. If you have made the walk down from the top then this challenge is easier as in the upper parts of the chasm the valley walls are considerably further apart.
Boulders, Big Bloody Boulders
Heading towards the ‘Gates’
Crossing the river
Not very wide but very brown
Approaching the End
From the gates to the end is a pleasant wind down to finish the journey. As you can see from the info below it took us just over 5 hours which then gives you about 2 hours to wait for the ferry back to Paleochora at 17:00. You can get food and drink at the many bars and Tavernas at Ag. Roumeli or take a small dip in the warm welcoming ocean.
Proud of ourselves we got back to ‘Paley’ and had a large beer and a few kebabs, or something like that, can’t really remember. However, if you are ever down this way then we would recommend it. The Costs; Bus €7, Park entrance €5, Ferry back €17. Below is the print out from Tracy’s fitbit to show the extent of the physical challenge.
Love to All