The Samarian Gorge hike in Crete….a hike on a Greek island? That sounds fantastic! My mind envisioned tropical plants and curious wildlife never before seen by Josh and I. I envisioned gorgeous blooming flowers of every color and flowing rivers with a water fall here and there. At the end of the hike there would be a glorious beach that would live up to all of Greece’s other beaches and we would have a drink while we sat by the water in the sand. Let me be the first to say that I could not have been more wrong about this hike.
Had someone told me, you are going to walk downhill surrounded by slow old people with nothing but rocks and a few trees to look at for miles on end, I would have surely skipped this stop on our trip. However, my expectations were high and I was excited about this and it took several minutes of non-changing, boring scenery for my hopes to finally be crushed. As a general bit of advice…If you enjoy an easy downhill walk in a single file line where it’s difficult to get in front of the hundreds of people in front of you with nothing to look at then by all means, this is the hike for you. If that sounds like your personal version of hell, skip the hike and find something else cool to do when you visit Crete.
Perhaps I’m being a little bitter just because of my expectations. Had I known what I was coming in to, I may have been able to enjoy it for what it was. At the very base of the gorge you get to walk in between two several hundred foot straight up cliffs and it looks pretty cool. There is also a beach at the end, but there is no sand, just burning hot black rocks.
Let’s start from the beginning. It cost us 28 euro for the bus from the city we were staying in (Chania) to the hike. They don’t take cards so have your cash ready. When you get to the start of the hike, there’s a little food shop which is also cash only (no ATMs anywhere). We are under the impression that this is our last chance to get food for the day based on what we had read about the hike. We planned out our meal and snacks accordingly to save enough money for the ferry back from the beach at the end of the hike (ferry is the only way back unless you want to hike back UP the gorge). Unfortunately and unknown to us beforehand, the hike costs FIVE EURO EACH. Not sure how we missed that memo but there goes our return ferry money. You’d think I would have learned to carry extra cash while in Greece after what happened in Zakynthos but alas, I had not so I spent a large part of the hike fretting about getting back.
Nothing we can do about the money issue at the moment so we start the Samarian Gorge hike. We walk downhill over rock. Surrounding us is more rock and some trees. This is a pretty long hike so I still had high hopes at this point for it to get better. We walk quickly downhill, passing the slow pokes along the way, anxious to get to the beautiful scenery I was anticipating.
We walked and walked…downhill…for three hours…the scenery did not change. At the very base of the gorge it is really cool to look up at how high the rock stretches. There is one area where the “walls” are only about 10 feet apart and that was probably the epitome of the hike.
Another word of warning….The “restrooms” are just holes in the ground. There is brown water all around the hole. I don’t generally feel like I am a spoiled brat about these types of things, but I couldn’t do it. I would much rather have gone pee outside in the wilderness than squatting over that nasty hole in the ground slipping in the murky brown water surrounding it.
At the end of the hike there is a beach as promised. It is not secluded like my understanding of it. It’s fully equipped with restaurants, groceries, convenience stores, souvenir shops, hotels, and bars. Lucky for us, they even accept credit cards there so no problems buying ferry tickets back.
I’d say the whole hike took us about 3.5 hours. Unfortunately the ferry doesn’t come to pick people up until 17:30. We bought a couple beers and hung out on the beach for a while until it started to rain. We spent the rest of our time using wifi from a store to look up information about Santorini–our next stop! The ferry came eventually to take us back. We got lost on our walk home and ended the day a little grumpy.
Again, some people may think the Samarian Gorge hike is awesome and beautiful and challenging. For me at this point in the trip, we had done way cooler hikes and seen way prettier beaches and I definitely would have skipped it if I’d known what it was going to be like. However, you live and you learn! We still got to do something new and now we know for next time we’re island hopping around Greece.