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Hania - Samaria


3. HANIA - SAMARIA (see Map )

3.1 Hania to Samaria 3.2 The Samaria gorge 3.3 Other gorges

There are fifty-four gorges in the Hania prefecture alone! Some of them can be crossed by bike, some can be very easily walked through, and some can be explored only by experienced mountain climbers.

Map  Hania Omalos  Samaria gorge

Do you know which is the most beautiful? No, it isn’t the one you think! The Samaria gorge is the most famous in Crete (and Greece, actually), but it isn’t the most beautiful. It has become very popular because it is practicable and yet quite demanding. It is true, of course, that it is a very beautiful gorge with high vertical walls and narrow passes, and it is also true that crossing it is quite difficult because it is long (16 km) and drops about 1200 metres from one end to the other.

At the same time, though, there is a whole infrastructure meant to facilitate the visitor: organised transport to and from the gorge, places to eat and sleep at either end of it, a smooth path, bridges at all difficult points, a first-aid station etc. Yet the most spectacular gorges of Crete, far more imposing than that of Samaria and truly unspoilt, lie west and east of the gorge, only a few kilometres away. They are not mentioned in any tourist guide, nor marked on any map, because they are hard to cross, have no infrastructure to help the visitor, and lie outside the area of organised business interests. Crossing them is an adventure that calls for all your strength, endurance and skill and will take you to your limits. It is a hard struggle against Nature, an experience that will sharpen all your senses.

Eligia gorge

Strict warning: do not attempt to cross these gorges unless you are an experienced climber, have detailed maps and information from the Hania Mountain Climbing Club, and are accompanied by an experienced guide.

The Klados gorge is the first one to the west of Samaria. The path leading to its north entrance starts from the Linosseli pass west of peak Gigilos. It is not marked except by a few “domes” - piled up rocks - at the most dangerous points, and it is evidently very infrequently crossed as the path is often blocked by bushes. A little before the entrance to the gorge there is a very dangerous spot with a chalasè (loose gravel on a steep slope) and a nine-hundred-metre precipice.

Crossing the gorge requires descending by rope in three different places (70, 25 and 15 metres deep), and when the snow melts in the spring there are cascades in these places too. Needless to say, before attempting to cross the gorge you should get a detailed weather forecast, because the sudden rainstorms create sweeping torrents, which in the narrow parts of the gorge may be as deep as fifteen metres! (Incidentally, almost the entire gorge is very narrow...) On the other end of the gorge there is a beautiful beach called Tripiti, where you can find water to drink by digging in the sand. To return to civilisation, take the coast path that goes east and leads to Agia Roumeli (a five to six hour walk). The shores are very steep and the path climbs the mountain to a height of seven hundred metres. From Agia Roumeli you can take the boat to Chora Sfakion.

The Tripiti gorge is the second one to the west of Samaria and, as with the Klados gorge, the path leading to its north entrance also starts at Linosseli. A little before the entrance there is a very dangerous passage where you risk getting stuck (so that you can neither walk on nor turn around and go back).

Eligia gorge

Two people were killed at this point and many others were in serious danger, so do not attempt to pass it without an experienced guide. The gorge is truly amazing with its high steep walls and its rich flora and fauna.

The Eligia gorge is the first one to the east of Samaria. The path leading to its north entrance starts from the Katsiveli refuge, but it can also be reached from the refuge of Kallergi. It’s fairly walkable and marked with small “domes,” but you must have very specific instructions or be accompanied by an experienced guide, because there are also many secondary paths in the area and they all lead to sheepfolds. The gorge is very narrow and very deep from one end to the other, and even its exit is too narrow to distinguish from the sea. Its special characteristic is that it descends very sharply and has lush vegetation. In the winter the torrent coming down the gorge sweeps away large tree trunks, which block certain narrow passages and make the gorge as forbidding as a jungle! To return to civilisation, take the coast path to Agia Roumeli. It is a fairly easy one-hour walk.


THE ROUTES THE ROUTES

Routes starting from Hania

Hania
1. Hania - Akrotiri
2. Hania - Paleochora
3. Hania - Sameria
4. Hania - Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
5. Hania - Kissamos (Kasteli)

Routes starting from Kissamos
Kissamos (Kasteli)
6. Kissamos - Gramvoussa
7. Kissamos - Elafonissos
8. Kissamos - Paleochora (through the Topolian Gorge)
9. Kissamos - Paleochora (through Episkopi)
10. Kissamos - Sirikari

Routes starting from Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
11. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (travelling inland)
12. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (following the coast)

Routes starting from Rethimno (Rethymnon)
Rethimno (Rethymnon)
13. Rethimno - Ierapetra (following the south coast)
14. Rethimno - Ierapetra (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Ierapetra
Ierapetra
15. Ierapetra - Zakros (coastal road)
16. Ierapetra - Zakros (inland route)

Routes starting from Iraklio (Heraklion)
Iraklio (Heraklion)
17. Heraklion - Rethymnon (coastal road)
18. Heraklion - Rethymnon (travelling inland)
19.Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (coastal road)
20. Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos
21. Agios Nikolaos - Zakros


Source of the information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”, Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.

 


 

 

 

Tip of the day

Agios Nikolaos.  Crete, Greece
A kilometre to the north of the present town, at the spot where the luxury hotel, the Minos Palace, now stands, a small, protected harbour is formed which was used by experienced seamen to tie up their ships as far back as Minoan times. When the Byzantines threw the Arabs out of Crete and the second Byzantine Period (961-1204) began, this small harbour became the centre for commercial traffic in east Crete.
In today’s world of laws and statutes and means of protecting citizens’ lives and property, it is difficult for us
to realise the anxiety and insecurity that tormented the people in that not so remote period. Constantinople was a two month journey away, and the Byzantine fleet travelled at a snail-like pace. Who would protect their lives and their property if pirates suddenly appeared at that small isolated harbour? Their only comfort and hope was God and his saints, and especially St. Nicholas, the patron saint of seamen. So the pious Cretans built a humble church at the entrance to their harbour which was dedicated to St. Nicholas and which they decorated as well as their limited finances would allow.
Unfortunately, when you are attacked by enraged pirates, your faith operates more as a comfort after the destruction than as a protection against it. The Venetians, who knew this very well, preferred to strengthen their defences with castles rather than with churches when they conquered Crete. In order to protect the Porto di San Nicolo, as they called this small harbour, after the church which stood at its entrance, they reinforced the castle that the Genoan pirate Enrico Pescatore had had time to build (but not to enjoy for very long) in 1204 on the hill between the lake of Agios Nikolaos and today’s marina. The small, insignificant Doric town of Lato Pros Kamara was built on the same spot, of which very few traces are left..

 

 

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