The Samaria Gorge Hike – difficulty, length, map, time and all you need to know

The Samaria Gorge hike is one of my favourite experiences in Crete.

In this post, you will learn all about it, from the difficulty grading to the length, including the best time to visit and a handy map

I have never seen anyone disappointed by the spectacular Samaria Gorge walk.

It’s indeed a long one (more on it later) but you can have also a lazy walk to the most interesting part if you are not fancy in the long hike and I will tell you how to do that.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

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The Samaria Gorge Hike – In a nutshell

Samaria Gorge hike difficulty: It is a medium-difficult hike. It’s mostly downhill and this is gonna test your knees. The most challenging part is right at the beginning of the walk, in the first 6km of the trail, with a couple of steep downhills followed by two demanding hikes. Nothing impossible but take your time and remember that once the 6km are gone it all becomes easy peasy. In fact, once you get into the bottom of the gorge, the path becomes sort of flat and very enjoyable. The presence of sharp stones makes the walk in some points challenging and in this respect, I suggest always to take a break for photos or water, always look in front of you when you walk.

Length: The hike length is approx 16km of which 13 km are through the National Park and the last 3 km from the park to the village of Agia Roumeli where you will take the ferry back.

Elevation: The walk starts from a viewing platform at an elevation of 1,250m to finish at the beach. There are however a few hikes here and there and the total elevation gain (the sum of every gain in elevation in the walk) is around 2,800m.

How long is going to take: between 4 and 7 hours based on the numbers of stops that you do. I would probably budget in 5hours with an average speed and 4-5 stops. You can do it also in less than 4 hours with good hiking training and 1-2 stops

Best time of the year: The gorge is actually quite cool in the morning, but not cold. With an early start, you can even do it in the warm months of July and August and then you can spend the afternoon at the Agia Roumeli beach. It can be cold during the winter. Some locals told me also about challenging snow conditions. But nothing like the Alps or any high mountain you may be used too. The best time is probably between May and June and part of the early Autumn too.

Best time of the day: Early start is the best, otherwise it becomes too hot. The organised tours start all very early. Considering the drive to the Samaria Gorge entrance, you should plan to leave Chania/Rethymno between 5 and 6am.

Can you get lost: Only if you really want to. Just follow the path and you will arrive in Agia Roumeli. There is a guide with the organised trip that follows the group and makes sure that everyone gets safe to Agia Roumeli. If you feel unsure, sit and wait. Another suggestion I can give is to download the app MAPS.ME. It’s similar to Google Map, however, more detailed, especially when it comes to walks and hikes. It works offline once you download the area map

Lazy walk: The most interesting and spectacular spots of the hike are in the second part of the walk, much closer to Agia Roumeli than to the starting point. If you are in just for a lazy walk, then you should start the hike from Agia Roumeli and walk back into the gorge to The Gates, the Saint George Church, the Samaria Village and along the river. Once tired you can go back to the beach. It’s an almost flat walk. You would have however to spend the night previous to the walk in Agia Roumeli, which is actually a nice characteristic easy-going village. You can reach Agia Roumeli only by ferry boat either from the coast towns of Palaiochora or Hora Sfakion.

Do you need hike shoes: very recommended. You can also use training and gym shoes, but they are not the best. The important thing is to have a strong sole. I would definitely not suggest flip-flops or sneakers shoes, it can be really painful with those sharp stones.

Samaria Gorge hike tips: Take water with you. I would recommend one full bottle and buy it the night before as shops may be closed when you leave from your accommodation. There are no shops in the gorge (re-fill stations are available). Bring some food or snacks, there are no bars or restaurants in the gorge. Download MAPS.ME as I previously said. Take your bathing suit for a swim at the beach, you will love it. Hut, sun cream and sunglasses. There is no signal in the gorge, however, the guides have walkie talkies to communicate between each other.  

Family and kids: it’s all down to how fit are the kids, remember that it’s a long walk. Based on my experience, a 7-8 years old could do it with a few breaks between to make it an enjoyable day. It could take around 6-7 hours in this case. There is no way you can take a pram on this hike, too steep and dangerous.

Best Samaria Gorge hike tour from Chania: you can book your tour when you are in Chania, however, being a popular destination availability is pretty limited. My personal suggestion is to book in advance. There is no extra cost and you can always cancel free of charge up to 24 hours prior to the experience, in case you change your mind. This Samaria Gorge Tour starts early from Chania and it will leave you at the starting point. You will hike down to Agia Roumeli on your own at your speed (you do not need to walk with the tour group). You re-group at the ferry mid-afternoon, catch the boat and there is a bus waiting for you in Sfakia that will take you back to Chania. A guide will follow the group to make sure everyone is safe. It’s a no-worries experience.

Check the Tour from Chania

Best Samaria gorge hike tour from Rethymno:  very similarly to Chania, book your tour in advance to avoid disappointments. Free late cancellation (till 24 hours from the experience) are accepted anyway. This Samaria Gorge Tour starts from Rethymno very early in the morning, with a very similar route as the one from Chania. It’s a no-worries experiences.

Check the Tour from Rethymno

Can you do it yourself: Yes you can, but you would need more time and effort. You need to take a public bus to the Samaria Gorge starting point (Chania-Omalos line, check the KTEL website for the timetable). The trail is the same as with the organised tours. Once in Agia Roumeli, you need to wait for the boat and catch the KTEL bus from Palaiochora or Sfakia, however, they are not synchronised with the ferry. In just a few words, it may stretch the experience length by a few hours. You can also think of spending the night in Agia Roumeli but you will have to take down your rucksack. I personally suggest the organised tours.

Samaria gorge trail map 

Samaria Gorge Hike Map
Samaria Gorge Hike Map

Photos of the Samaria Gorge Hike

The entrance to Samaria Gorge
The entrance to Samaria Gorge – The view is incredible and when you arrive the sun is just above the nearby mountains inundating the gorge with a beautifully soft light. Something you would not expect from a Greek island but Crete offers so many surprises
Start of Samaria Gorge Hike with a steep descend
Start of Samaria Gorge Hike with a steep descend – Indeed all those steps are not ideal for the knees but it does not last that long. You can decide to leave everyone else going for the hike and you will have the gorge by yourself. You will catch up along the path
Early start in the gorge
Early start in the gorge – it is essential to leave early in the morning, between 5 and 6am from Chania/Rethymno. You want to start the day with coolish temperatures and this lovely view
Stone towers along the hike
Stone towers along the hike – Stop and build your own or take a few photos of them. You will find them in the first 3-4 km on the right side of the trail
Most interesting part of the Samaria Gorge Hike
Most interesting part of the Samaria Gorge Hike – It starts just after the old Samaria Village, halfway through the 13km trek through the National Park. Suddenly the gorge gets narrower and narrower and the two sides almost touch
Refreshing river in the gorge
Refreshing river in the gorge – It’s perfect for a break and a splish splash in the water. I was said you can also drink this water but I had my water bottle with me. There are however fountains along the root where you can refill your bottle.
Crossing the river
Crossing the river – There are a few man made (temporary) bridges along the trek which are quite fascinating and reminded me somehow of the Tibet old bridges. As you see in the above photo, part of the hike is in the shadow, however, part of it is in the hot sun.
Getting close to The Gate
Getting close to The Gate – This is the part where the east and west sides of the gorge almost touch and they form a gate. Pass that and in a few km you will be in Agia Roumeli
The Gate
The Gate – You need to walk on an elevated rudimental platform to pass the Gate. The vegetation on the other side is much greener, you can feel, and smell, you are getting closer and closer to the sea.
A local in Agia Roumeli
A local in Agia Roumeli – This a town is still a bit stuck in the past. One of the main reasons is that it is connected to the remaining part of Crete only by ferry, and they are not as frequent. It is actually quite busy in the afternoon with all the travellers completing the hike, but once the ferry leaves only a few tourists actually sleep in Agia Roumeli, which make the whole place very romantic


21 thoughts on “Samaria Gorge hike [difficulty, length, map, time and all you need to know]”

  1. We will be visiting Crete in Nov. ‘22. I see that the gorge will be closed to tourist. Is there any way to view/hike some portion of the gorge even when it is closed for tours?
    Also, for anyone who is an avid hiker like myself, I highly recommend The Narrows in Zion National Park in Utah, USA. The pictures of Samaria Gorge are similar in a lot of ways. Very, very beautiful!


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