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SAMARIA GORGE

The gorge is open from 1st. May until 31st. October. It is closed during the winter time as it is impassable due to heavy rain, which may also affect these dates.
Entrance is from 6a.m. until 3p.m. From 3p.m. to sunset you can enter, but are restricted to the first 2km. from the point of entry.
From the entrance at Xyloskalo on the Omalos plain the gorge descends 1250 metres to sea level at Agia Roumeli, a distance of 16km. The end of the National Park is 13km after the entrance, immediately after which are a couple of tavernas, and a locally operated minibus that will take you the remaining 3km for around 1.50euros, if you’ve had enough by this point.
If you walk from the village of Omalos to the gorge entrance then add a further 2km.
Entrance fee is 5euros, under 15s go free, and students are half price. The ticket has a counterfoil, which you are supposed to hand in on leaving so the wardens can ascertain if anyone is unaccounted for (allegedly). The reverse of the ticket has a little map showing the location of fresh water springs and toilets.
The terrain is very stony and quite hard going, a pair of sturdy trainers are really a minimum requirement. It is hard going on the soles of the feet, and takes its toll on calf muscles. Open toed shoes of any kind will almost certainly guarantee bloodshed. Normal walking speeds don’t apply in this terrain. A good time would be 4 hours, but more realistically, taking time to admire the scenery, take the odd picture, and generally absorb the ambience you should reckon on 6 to 7hrs. The ground is such that you need to watch where you are placing your feet, so sightseeing and walking at the same time is not a practical option.
There are no food or other commercial outlets in the park, so all you will have tob eat and drink will be what you take with you, and water from the springs.
Unfortunately as well as being arguably the most spectacular gorge in Crete, Samaria is without doubt the busiest, and tour buses arrive at Xyloskalo in convoy from around 8:00 until around 11:00.
The walk itself descends quite sharply for the first 2km, then thereafter at a much shallower incline. Being a narrow gorge with a fairly obvious path through it, it would take a concerted effort to get lost, though some have managed it, and some have paid the ultimate price. At the halfway stage you will arrive at the now deserted village of Samaria from which the gorge takes its name. This is a good place to stop for lunch , and where you should see some kris kris, an endemic Cretan goat species. This once extremely shy and rarely seen animal has seemingly developed a taste for sandwiches, and are tame enough to be fed by hand. Going onwards the gorge narrows towards its end, and you will be obliged to cross the stream several times during this last section. Ladder like structures have been laid across it for this fpurpose. The narrowest point is some 3metres across, and is now fairly universally referred to as the “Iron Gates” for no other seemingly obvious reason than one travel writer’s love of dramatic nomenclature, and a large degree of plagiarism on the part of other travel writers. Inspired by this I have decided to christen the initial descent of the gorge “The Devil’s Staircase”. I urge you all to refer to it as such. Then in a few years time, when all the guide books have adopted this name, we can take smug satisfaction in our part in engineering this. Meanwhile, back at the walk, shortly after this narrowest point the National Park ends, and 2 very welcoming tavernas pop into view. From here it’s another 3km. to Agia Roumeli, though this is along a paved path, or there is the option of the minibus.
Agia Roumeli’s purpose in life these days seems to be to cater for the gorge dwalkers, so there are plenty of restaurants and tavernas, and indeed accommodation. There is a ticket office for the ferry boats in the middle of the village, and you must purchase your ticket here before boarding the ferry.  Ferries go from here to Sougia, but most gorge walkers, especially those on organised trips, head for Chora Sfakion. The Chora Sfakion ferry stops briefly at Loutro, don’t disembark here by mistake.

GETTING THERE
The text above assumes that you will start the walk from Omalos and walk down to Agia Roumeli, as this is by far the most popular direction. A few hardy souls do walk up from Agia Roumeli, but public transport is geared to the downhill route.
Driving to the gorge doesn’t make a lot of sense as you end up many miles away from where you left your car, and walking back up is a feat beyond most of us. Buses run from Chania to Omalos, and also from Chara Sfakion back to Chania, or you could take a taxi, which between four people shouldn’t be too unreasonable. The vast majority opt for the holiday company excursion, which in this particular case does have many things in its favour. You are not obliged to walk along in a jolly group, by the way. Most people just go at their own pace, and meet up with the rep in Agia Roumeli to sort out the ferry ticket.

PRECAUTIONS
This is a long walk over uneven ground, and it will undoubtedly be hot. First of all you need to consider if you are fit enough to do this. Holiday reps, who get commission for selling these trips, have a habit of glossing over the physical effort the gorge demands. 
You will need sturdy footwear, a sun hat, and whatever sun creams you normally use. The last 3km. are completely without shade, and you will be doing them around midday. You will have to take whatever food you need with you, and plenty of water, though there are springs along the route. Agia Roumeli has a very pleasant beach, so you may want to take a swimming costume, and recover from your efforts with a dip in the Libyan Sea. 

This is the reverse of a Samaria Gorge entry ticket. It shows the location of toilets, fresh water springs, and fire stations. The toilets, it has to be said are not the most luxurious you are likely to encounter, and packing your own toilet roll may prove to be a smart move. The springs provide quite potable cool water, and their convenient distribution means you don't have to carry huge quantities with you.