Hiking Samaria Gorge

As you may know, the Samaria Gorge on the stunning island of Crete, near the picturesque town of Chania, is one of the longest and most striking gorges in Greece and Europe. Hiking through its rugged terrain is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding experiences available on the island. The route involves overcoming an altitude difference of more than 1,200 metres across a distance of approximately 16-20 kilometres (we discuss the trail’s length in more detail in a separate post). A notable challenge is that there is no road access from the endpoint of the route, the village of Agios Roumeli.

In this post, we will provide tips on planning your journey to and from the hike, ensuring a pleasant and efficient experience despite the route’s difficulties. Additionally, if you require a guide, we offer our mobile guide to Crete, which includes an audio guide to the Samaria Gorge, complete with a map that functions without web access.


A few words about the trail

The trail through Samaria Gorge begins at an altitude of approximately 1,200 metres at Xyloskalo, equipped with a small car park, ticket offices, and a bar—though it’s not ideal for a leisurely coffee breakfast. From here, hikers descend to sea level over the course of the day, ending at a quaint port in the isolated village of Agios Roumeli, accessible only by ferry or on foot, either through the gorge or along a coastal trail.

Starting from the End of the Gorge … or about Ferries to Agios Romouli

You can also enter the Samaria Gorge from below, starting at Agios Roumeli, which connects by ferry to various smaller ports along Crete’s south coast, including Sougia, Paleochora, Chora Sfakion, and Loutra. For ferry schedules, visit the carrier’s website (https://anendyk.gr/), but be cautious of third-party brokers. Unless you intend to trek back uphill to Xyloskalo, using this ferry service is likely.

To organise your trip to the starting point and your return from one of the ports, we have detailed each option below.

Tour with a travel agency (Chania-Samaria)

This option is ideal for those preferring convenience. Local travel agencies offer packages that include transfers to Xyloskalo, a ferry ticket from Agios Roumeli, and a return transfer from a coastal town back to your hotel. This option is the easiest but also the most costly and is suitable if you are visiting Crete with a travel operator. We recommend carrying our mobile guide to Crete, featuring an audio guide to the gorge, to enhance your experience.

Bus (from Chania)

KTEL, the local bus operator, provides a shuttle from Chania to Xyloskalo and picks up passengers from the port post-ferry in high season. Tickets for the ferry must be purchased independently. This service starts early in the morning, making it a practical choice for those staying near Chania. Check the bus schedule at https://www.e-ktel.com/en/.

Own transport

If you have two cars, use one to drive to the start of the trail at Xyloskalo and leave the other at your destination port for the return journey. This provides freedom and flexibility, allowing you to enjoy quieter evening dining options in southern coastal towns like Paleochora or Chora Sfakion. The downside of this variant: an evening return along narrow and winding roads to Xyloskalo to pick up the first of the cars.

Own transport – one-car version

Some local agencies offer a one-way transfer from one of the coastal ports serviced by the ferry to the trail’s start. You drive to the port, park near the agency, and then take a shuttle to Xyloskalo. This affordable option also requires an early start, as the shuttle departs around 7 AM. For example, Sabine Travel in Paleochora offers this service, including a return ferry ticket (https://sabinetravel.gr/).

An uphill hike

Most visitors walk down from Xyloskalo to Agios Roumeli. It is understandable given the significant altitude difference of over 1,200 metres between the start and end of the trail. The reverse hike is also possible, though challenging. And there are some hikers who opt for this more strenuous journey. These individuals, often heavily laden with backpacks, undertake the challenging climb towards Xyloskalo. Choosing this route requires an overnight stay in Agios Roumeli to start early the next morning, enabling hikers to traverse the lower section of the gorge before the heat intensifies and the area becomes crowded with descending tourists.

From Agios Romouli to the village of Samaria and back

For a less strenuous option for exploring the Samaria Gorge involves a relatively straightforward day trip from Agios Roumeli to the village of Samaria and back. Many tourists choose this route due to its accessibility. You can reach Agios Roumeli by ferry, and if you prefer not to rush, consider staying overnight in the village where small hotels and tavernas are available.

The trail from Agios Roumeli to Samaria is manageable and winds through the gorge’s most scenic sections. The hike is approximately three hours each way, covering about 6 kilometres one way and over 300 metres of elevation gain. You should allocate around 5-6 hours for the entire round trip, allowing time for rests and to enjoy the views.

Our mobile audio guide can enhance your journey, providing location-aware commentary without needing mobile range.

Overnight at Agios Romouli

Unlike the gorge, Agios Romouli by day is not a very interesting place. Apart from Samaria and the ruins of the castle on the hill, there is little to see or do there. A few tavernas and hotels, and two beaches that are not very charming (although the southern exposure has its advantages). All occupied in the afternoon by crowds of tourists waiting for the return ferries. However, after their departure in the evening, the area empties out and takes on a completely different atmosphere.

Agios Roumeli, unlike the gorge itself, does not offer much to see or do during the day. Aside from visiting Samaria and the ruins of a castle on the hill, the village features only a few tavernas and hotels. It also has two beaches that are not particularly attractive despite benefiting from a southern exposure. In the afternoon, these spots are typically crowded with tourists awaiting their return ferries. The ambiance of Agios Roumeli transforms dramatically in the evening once the tourists have departed. As a results, it offers a quieter and more serene environment to enjoy.

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