How to visit Samaria Gorge? The definitive guide!
You’re planning to visit Samaria Gorge, one of the most beautiful natural sites in Crete?
You will for sure love hiking in the longest gorge in Europe.
In this guide, I will tell you everything you need to know to plan your visit: how to get to Samaria Gorge, the best hiking route, where to park your car or how to get there by bus, hike stats such as distance, elevation, walking time and how to plan your trip (return by boat etc..).
You will see, with all my best tips and practical information, you will be able to organise your day at Samaria Gorge very easily!
So, let’s plan your visit to the Samaria Gorge!
- How to visit Samaria Gorge? The definitive guide!
- Samaria Gorge – The most famous hike in Crete
- How to get to the Samaria Gorge – The options
- Tips and practical information for your hike in the Samaria Gorge
- Map of Samaria Gorge
- Opening days and timings for the Samaria Gorge
- The Samaria Gorge hiking trail – Full description
- Organising the return after hiking in Samaria National Park
- What are the things to take with you for your hike in the Samaria Gorge?
- What to are the things to do around the Samaria Gorge?
- Where to stay when visiting the Samaria Gorge?
- My experience and my opinion on the Samaria Gorge
- FAQ – I’ll answer your questions about the Samaria Gorge
- You’re traveling to Crete? These articles will help you!
Samaria Gorge – The most famous hike in Crete
The path that crosses the Samaria National Park and allows you to go down to the bottom of the Gorge is the best known hike to make during your itinerary in Crete.
On a map, the Samaria Gorge is located in the south-west of Crete, in the White Mountains range, on the Omalos plateau.
Between the path in the pine and cypress forest and the impressive walls of the Gorge, you will have the opportunity to traverse beautiful landscapes.
If you keep your eyes open, you might even spot a species endemic to Crete: the Cretan goat “Agrimi”, also called “Kri-Kri”, which lives in the wild in the park.
How to get to the Samaria Gorge – The options
The main access to the Samaria Gorge hike is by car or bus.
If you are in a hurry and just want to book your bus round-trip without reading the entire guide, I have listed the 4 best bus trips to the Samaria Gorge.
Just click on the orange links to book:
- Visit to the Samaria Gorge from Chania : Pick up and drop off at your hotel in Chania included.
- Bus transport from Georgioupolis
- Bus trip to the Samaria Gorge from Rethymnon
- Visit to the Samaria Gorge from Heraklion.
I’ll now explain all the ways to reach the Samaria Gorge.
How to get to the Samaria Gorge by car?
To reach Samaria Gorge by car, you will first have to go to the place called “Xyloskalo”, where you will find the entrance to the national park and the beginning of the trail.
To get from Chania to Xyloskalo, which is 40 km away, it takes about an hour by car.
You can then park your vehicle either:
- At one of the 2 paid car parks – € 5 a day, to be paid to the person who guides you to your spot
- On the roadside, before reaching the car parks – Free parking.
At the car park, you will find a small tavern where you can use the toilet (50 cts). This will be your last chance to enjoy “real” toilets as the toilets in the park are Turkish style toilets and are not super clean (but with so many people passing through, it’s not surprising).
Finally, you should know that the trail is very long and does not loop back on itself, so the return to the Xyloskalo car park after the hike won’t be on foot (unless you are an ultra trail enthusiast and walk back!).
You will need to take 2 different means of transport to return to the car park: boat and bus. I’ll explain where to buy tickets for boats and buses in the section “Organise your return from Samaria Gorge”.
Visit the Samaria Gorge by bus
If you have chosen not to rent a car during your tour of Crete, you will have to go to the Gorge by bus. The best thing is that there are bus trips to the Samaria Gorge from the major Cretan cities.
1. Trip to Samaria Gorge from Chania
To reach Samaria Gorge by bus from Chania, you have 2 solutions:
1) Take the public bus from the Chania Bus Station.
It will take you to Xyloskalo where the Samaria hike trail begins. You can check the timetables and the fares for the buses to Samaria on the official public transport website in Crete: KTEL .
Buses generally leave from Chania between 6am and 9am.
2) Choose an organised trip.
This is for me the most practical and least stressful solution, since the bus will pick you up from your hotel in Chania (or at a nearby meeting point).
You will then ride in the bus for a little more than 1 hour before being dropped off at the entrance of the Gorge to begin your hike.
During the bus ride and during the walk, a guide is present to make sure everything is going well. But everyone hikes at their own pace, you won’t have to wait for people slower than you.
At the end of the journey, you will take the boat back to reach your bus and return to Chania in the evening.
To book this trip by bus from Chania to the Samaria Gorge, just click on the button below:
2. Hiking in the Samaria Gorge from Georgioupoulis
This option of a bus trip to the Samaria Gorge is also available with a pick-up from hotels in Georgioupoulis.
Georgioupoulis is a small town located on the road between Chania and Rethymnon.
Book by clicking here:
3. Bus from Rethymnon to Samaria Park
If you want to go to the Samaria Gorge by bus, you can also take the trip from Rethymnon.
It operates on the same principle, with a round-trip pick-up and drop-off at your hotel and the a guide who hikes with the slowest walkers.
Click on the green button below to book your round-trip in a bus to Samaria:
4. From Heraklion – Bus trip to the Gorge
Finally, the last option to go to the Samaria Gorge by bus is the day trip from Heraklion.
But, beware, it’ll be a really long day since the time taken to reach Xyloskalo is very long. The departure time is very early, around 6 am.
Book your Heraklion-Samaria Gorge bus trip by clicking on the button:
Visit the Samaria Gorge by boat
You can go to the Samaria Gorge by boat but you will need a car or take the bus to reach the boat boarding point.
Boats depart to Samaria from 2 towns: Sougia (West of the Gorge) and Hora Sfakion (East).
There are only 1 or 2 departures in the morning so you really must check the schedules beforehand on the official website of the ferry company: Anendik . You can also book your tickets online directly to make sure you get a spot.
The boat will drop you off at Agia Roumeli, at the end of the hike, meaning that you will have to take the path in the other direction than most walkers.
You can then go up the Gorge for 5 kilometres to reach the most spectacular passage of the Iron Gates. You can decide if you want to continue a bit or you want to turn around.
You will probably have to wait for a long time in Agia Roumeli since the ferry to Sougia or Hora Sfakion leaves only around 5.30pm.
Tips and practical information for your hike in the Samaria Gorge
I’ll now give you all the practical information to visit the Samaria Gorge and my advice to tackle the longest hike in Crete during your stay there!
Map of Samaria Gorge
You can view the hiking map for the Samaria Gorge with all the points of interest to see on the path and the distance by clicking on the image below:
Opening days and timings for the Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge Park is open every day from 1st May to 15th October.
Timings: from 6am to 4pm.
It is closed for the rest of the year, so you won’t be able to visit the Samaria Gorge in winter and early spring.
The Samaria Gorge hiking trail – Full description
Start of the hike in the Samaria Gorge: Xyloskalo, altitude of 1,230 metres.
Entrance fee for the Samaria National Park: €5 per person. Pay at the shack before the trail starts.
Don’t lose your ticket because you will be asked for it at the end of the hike in the Gorge, when they tally tickets to ensure that no one is left behind. Camping is prohibited in the Gorge.
Total walking distance: 16 km.
Arrival at the Samaria Gorge hike: Agia Roumeli, seaside resort
Here’s how the route can be broken down:
- 4 km downhill with a great altitude difference at the very beginning of the trail – The path descends through the forest, this part is therefore shaded.
- Several rest areas all along the way, with drinking water, benches and toilets
- Km 7: Old Samaria village with main rest area. Ideal for a lunch break.
- From there, you arrive at the bottom of the Gorge – essentially a flat route through the huge rocks but without any cover from the sun. There are several spots where you must be aware of falling rocks.
- Km 11: the most famous place in the Samaria Gorge hike, called “The Iron Gates”. The Gorge is at its narrowest here, just 3.50 metres separate the walls that are more than 300 metres tall.
- Km 13: end of the trail in the Gorge (but not the hike). There are 2 bars/taverns where you can eat and drink.
- Km 14: If you don’t want to walk the 2 km to the village of Agia Roumeli, you can take a minibus. The journey costs € 2, and takes just 5 minutes.
- Km 16: Arrival at Agia Roumeli.
Hiking time in the Samaria Gorge: on average, the walk takes between 5 and 7 hours.
With a few mini rest breaks and a lot of photo breaks, it took us 5 hours and 20 minutes to reach km 14.
You have to decide whether to take the shuttle bus or keep a little extra time to finish the 2 km walk.
Organising the return after hiking in Samaria National Park
Once you reach Agia Roumeli, you are wondering how to get back to Xyloskalo, where you left your car or where the bus dropped you off that morning.
Rest assured, you won’t have to hike back! 😅
To reach Xyloskalo from Agia Roumeli, you will have to take the boat and then the bus.
1. Boat from Agia Roumeli in Sougia or Hora Sfakion
Starting from Agia Roumeli, you can take the boat back to Sougia (on one side) and Hora Sfakion* on the other.
* There’s no point in choosing Hora Sfakion, except if you have already arrived by boat from there in the morning, so I won’t dwell on it – (Also read “Reaching the Samaria Gorge by boat”).
There are 2 boats that make the Agia Roumeli – Sougia trip:
- The Anendyk ferry company, whose boat leaves at 5:30pm. You can book your ticket online by clicking here or buy it directly at Agia Roumeli.
- Another boat leaves at 5pm. The ticket is sold at the inn at the Xyloskalo car park. Be careful as this boat leaves from the very end of the village, so you have to walk about 10 minutes to get there. Keep this in mind so you won’t miss it!
The ticket costs around €11 and the journey takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
2. Sougia – Xyloskalo – Chania Bus
Once in Sougia, you will still have to take the bus to Xyloskalo or Chania.
Buses always wait for the boat to arrive before they leave, they don’t really have any schedules.
The same bus goes to both places: It stops just before the car park so that people who have arrived by car can retrieve it, and then leaves for Chania:
- Travel time between Sougia – Xyloskalo: 1 hour.
- Travel time between Xyloskalo – Chania: 1 hour.
You can book your bus ticket in advance on the official KTEL website (click here), or directly at the inn at the Xyloskalo car park or in Sougia. There are shacks at the point where you get off the boat.
For those who have chosen an organised trip with bus transport included, you don’t need to do anything. You will have an official bus for your group that will wait for you in Sougia.
What are the things to take with you for your hike in the Samaria Gorge?
This is the most important thing to have during your hike in Samaria: a good pair of shoes! It is forbidden to enter the national park in flip-flops or barefoot and avoid wearing Converse shoes or urban sneakers with smooth soles.
The best option is to wear hiking shoes.
The trail is full of large stones and it slips easily under your feet, especially downhill.
It’s actually the first four kilometres where most accidents occur, so be really careful. Especially since some steps have been smoothed by use, you can fall without warning.
Ask my friend about her leg after her small, improvised forward roll on the rocks: 15 days of magnificent bruises that ran the gamut of colours 😅(and she had hiking shoes, which certainly helped avoid a sprain!).
You should also take the following when visiting the Samaria Gorge:
- A bottle of water – You can fill it all along the way at the drinking water points, so you don’t need to overburden yourself at the start
- A snack or a light picnic
- Sun screen
- A hat, cap, or head cover of any kind. At the bottom of the Gorge, the sun is harsh.
- Your bathing suit if you want to swim at Agia Roumeli beach while waiting for the boat.
What to are the things to do around the Samaria Gorge?
Here is my list of things to do around the Samaria Gorge.
The village of Agia Roumeli
At the end of your hike, you can take a little stroll in Agia Roumeli, waiting for the boat till 5 pm or 5.30 pm.
The village has a few taverns, hotels and small gift shops/grocery stores where you can get the famous “I survived to the Samaria Gorge” t-shirt.
Guests can also enjoy the beach and swim in the Libyan Sea. There’s nothing like soaking your feet (or taking a dip!) after walking for 16 km!
Other hiking trips in Samaria
Near Samaria Gorge, if you like hiking, you must:
- Hike in the Imbros Gorge: a 8 km path starting from Imbros that slopes gently down to the bottom of the Gorge.
- Hike in the Agia Irini Gorge: a 7.5 km path that starts from the village of Agia Irini and takes you along the river.
These 2 hikes are a great alternative to Samaria as they are shorter and less taxing, and they are also open all year round.
During your holiday in West Crete, you have surely planned on visiting Chania. In any case, it’s the nearest major city from where you can go to the Samaria Gorge by car or bus.
You can take a stroll around the picturesque old town and discover the Old Venetian Port surrounded by the façades of the colourful Venetian houses.
The city also has a few interesting museums including the Crete Maritime Museum and the Archaeological Museum.
For your visit to Chania, you must read my article right here: What are the best things to do in Chania?
Where to stay when visiting the Samaria Gorge?
To go hiking in the Samaria Gorge, you have 3 main options to stay in Samaria.
Stay in Omalos before the Samaria Gorge hike
If you have a car and don’t want to drive too far in the morning to reach the Samaria Gorge from Chania, you must book accommodation in the village of Omalos, which is located near Xyloskalo.
You can then reach the entrance of the Gorge to go hiking in the morning.
- Neos Omalos Hotel: Rustic but very clean and comfortable double room with mountain view from €55 per night, breakfast included. Strong points: authenticity of the hotel, home-cooked cuisine, hearty breakfast, free shuttle to the entrance of the Gorge.
- To Exari: Mountain-style double room with wooden furniture, a little basic, from €55 per night, breakfast included. Strong points: superb welcome, shuttle to the Gorge, excellent dinner.
- Omalos Village: the hotel has 3 stone buildings that can each accommodate up to 6 people, from €120 per night, including breakfast. Strong points: swimming pool, peaceful atmosphere, magnificent setting.
Stay in Agia Roumeli after the Samaria Gorge hike
If you don’t feel like taking the boat back right after your hike (or if you’ve missed it! 😅 ), you can spend the night in Agia Roumeli.
There are several hotels and B&Bs that offer simple but clean rooms and for the most part with a splendid sea view.
These are small family bed and breakfasts, run by adorable people. They serve excellent breakfast made of local products. Prices are around 40€ – 60€ per night.
Here is my list of the best places to stay in Agia Roumeli:
Stay in Chania
If you opt for a day-trip to go to the Samaria gorge or if you have a vehicle, Chania is also a great place to stay to do Samaria hike and vist the whole of West Crete:
- Cocoon City Hostel: Youth hostel located in the heart of Chania. Dormitory bed from 18€, breakfast at 5€. Strong points: cleanliness, ambience, warm welcome.
- Kedrissos Hotel: Located 2 km from the historical centre of Chania. Comfortable and warm double room with balcony from 70€, breakfast included. Strong points: swimming pool, cleanliness, friendly staff, excellent breakfast
- Irida Hotel: Located 20 minutes on foot from the historical centre. Double room with balcony and sea view from 80€, breakfast included. Strong points: friendly staff, close to the beach, ideal location to explore Chania on foot.
- Royal Sun: Located between Chania and the Akrotiri peninsula. Modern and comfortable double room with balcony/terrace and sea/pool or garden view from 90€, breakfast included. Strong points: quiet, beautiful pool area with views over Chania, private parking, variety of breakfast options, shuttle to the city centre. It’s my favorite for its setting and excellent value for money!
- Kydon The Heart City Hotel: Located close to the covered market. Spacious rooms with balcony and comfortable bedding from 130€, breakfast at 15€. Strong points: the location, the excellent breakfast, the warm welcome and the parking. This is my recommendation for an upscale stay in Chania!
- Chania Flair Deluxe Boutique Hotel: Located 10 minutes from the Old Venetian Port, this 5* hotel offers sumptuous rooms from 250€ per night, breakfast included. Strong points: Spa and wellness area, excellent location, exceptional breakfast, valet service, private beach. This is my recommendation for a luxury stay in Chania!
My experience and my opinion on the Samaria Gorge
I think anyone who is in good physical condition (no respiratory or cardiac problems) and who is used to walking a little can go hiking in the Samaria Gorge, provided they have a pair of suitable shoes!
It doesn’t matter if it takes you five or eight hours, the main thing is to go at your own pace. There is no point in rushing, as you will have to wait for the boats to leave from Agia Roumeli.
However, if you have problems with your ankle or knees, you shouldn’t go on this hike, because these joints will take a beating.
The hike is really worth it, because starting from the top of the Gorge, you can admire a superb panoramic view of the forest and the surrounding mountains.
Then, once you get to the bottom, the landscape changes completely and you will discover the huge rock walls that surround you.
The path is really well laid out, well maintained and the rest areas are very pleasant as they do not spoil the site at all. Note that the park is super clean, without any garbage or rubbish.
In short, it’s an unmissable hiking experience to have during your trip to Crete!
FAQ – I’ll answer your questions about the Samaria Gorge
Where is the Samaria Gorge?
The Samaria Gorge is located towards the Omalos plateau, in the White Mountains range, in the south-west of Crete.
It takes 1 hour by car from Chania to reach the entrance of Samaria National Park and the starting point of the hiking trail in Xyloskalo.
How do I know if the Samaria Gorge is open?
The Samaria Gorge is only open from May to Mid October.
In winter, the Gorge is closed due to the weather and the river bed, which swells up.
Samaria National Park may also be closed occasionally between May and October if the weather (fire risk, heavy rain) does not allow safe hiking.
You must check the day before your hike on the official Samaria website (click here).
Is hiking in the Samaria Gorge difficult?
The main difficulty lies in the length of the path (16 or 14 km if you take the shuttle for the last 2 km) and the fact that the path is full of stones. But if you have the correct shoes and like walking, you’ll complete the hike without any problems!
How long does the Samaria Gorge hike take?
It takes between 5 and 7 hours to walk the 16 km in Samaria Gorge.
So are you planning to hike in the Samaria Gorge during your stay in Crete?
🚗 Rent a car
🗽 Book entrance tickets and guided visits
🏄 Book your sports activities
🚤 Book your rental boat
🌍 Take a travel insurance
🙎 Book a tour
⛴️ Book your ferry tickets in Greece
🚅 Book your train tickets
✈️ Book your flight
You’re traveling to Crete? These articles will help you!
Discover all my articles about Crete: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Crete are listed there.
- 27 Best things to do in Crete: All the best places to visit and activities
- Itinerary: 4-5 days in Crete – Itinerary to prepare a short stay in East or West Crete
- Itinerary: One week in Crete – The perfect itinerary to visit Western Crete
- Itinerary: 7 days in Crete – The best itinerary to visit East Crete in 1 week
- Itinerary: 10 days in Crete – How to visit Crete in 10 days
- Itinerary: 2 weeks in Crete – The perfect itinerary for 14-15 days in Crete
- Road trip to Crete: The best itineraries for 5, 7, 10 and 15 days
- Chania: The 15 best places to discover
- Heraklion: TOP 13 places to visit
- Rethymnon: The 13 best things to do
- Balos Beach: All my best tips to visit Balos Lagoon!
- Elafonissi Beach: The definitive guide to discover Crete’s famous pink sand beach
- Palace of Knossos: The definitive guide to visit the most famous archaeological site of Crete
- Samaria Gorge: How to plan the best hike in Crete
- Where to stay in Crete? The guide to the best hotels, ordered by city and budget