When I travel somewhere, I like to visit the most popular places. And that’s for two particular reasons. The first one is that I want to know if the place is worth seeing for real or if the people just overhype it—so I can criticize them. The second reason is that they mostly don’t.
Usually, there is a pretty good reason why the place is so popular. And that’s what I need to see it with my own eyes. And Samaria Gorge is exactly the case.
This place is probably one of the most famous in Crete and I can’t argue with that. It’s just so goddamn stunning compared to other popular places on the island—except Zakros and Balos, those are also high in my rankings. Samaria is 11/10, I mean the level of Yosemite or Zion National Park and that’s a strong comparison!
So, if you are already convinced—as you should be right about now—keep reading and find out my tips what are the best ways to visit Samaria Gorge to enjoy its beauty to the fullest.
Can I visit Samaria Gorge on my own?
There is a straight and easy answer for this question. Yes, you can. The trip does not require much plan if you know your way around. And that’s why I’m here for!
After reading this article you will be the most ready you can be to endure this wonderful hike. And you know me, I won’t drag you through some tourist trap bullshit on the way, that want you to buy local rocks or something worse. Nah, screw that.
Stay tuned for the complete guide to Samaria Gorge hike!
Guide to Samaria Gorge
So now it’s time for me to guide you through the hike itself. In that case you can visit Samaria Gorge—or sometimes also being called Samaria Canyon—on your own and won’t have to undergo the suffering of group guiding. You are welcome!
Samaria Gorge hike is long but totally worth it. I rank it high, it’s probably one of the 10 best hikes I have ever trekked, and certainly THE top place to visit on Crete—if you want to know more about my other favorite places on the island, I dedicated the whole article to it.
The hike is a one way, leads you for 14.5 km (9 miles) along the gorge in National Park and then another 3 km (1.2 miles) outside the park. Around 4th km the hike starts to descend a lot so get your knees ready for this adventure!
The hike starts in Xyloskalo Omalos where the bus stop is and also a big parking lot. So, you can choose if you get to Samaria Gorge by car or bus… But you know me, I will always recommend travelling by car everywhere as I thoroughly explained to you a few paragraphs back.
If you want to avoid the crowds, get there in the morning, the hike is very popular and it shows! We got there around 10 am and it was already full of hyped tourists waiting to hit the road with their trekking poles. Before you enter you pay a €5 entrance fee which is basically nothing based on what you will experience.
The first kilometer of the hike you get some spectacular views and I guarantee you’ll just walk with your mouth wide open.
Then you enter a forest for another 5 kilometers with no views. But don’t worry there you can enjoy more than 450 types of flora with 70 endemic species—that means they only occur there and you won’t see them anywhere else in the wild the whole world! But unless you are botanist or plant enthusiast, it’s pretty boring.
And then, breathtaking views of mountains covered in cypresses and pine trees. Oh my God just imagine the air scented by the trees. It simply drives away all your worries.
Of course, only until the point you stumble across slow walkers on your way. Yeah, we get it, you’re enjoying the views. But would it kill you to let faster people pass in front of you? It surely can kill us when we try to pass around you. Please be responsible guys!
The National Park ends 2 kilometers (1.4 miles) from the Agia Roumeli, where you can walk to like we did or take the bus.
In Agia Roumeli there is a stunning black beach where you can dip your feet after this long hike. And that’s exactly what we did. You can’t imagine how rewarding it is to relax at a nice clean beach after a bit more challenging hike!
Have you ever heard about black beaches? It seems to be black thanks to the small dark grey puddles covering the ground. The beach stretches for 3 kilometers (1.1 mile) and is very spacious so you won’t be drowning in an ocean of towels with sweaty, hairy tourists on them.
If you don’t want to just lie around and have time until you have to head back, you can walk around a bit and enjoy nice views of the cliffs. Agia Roumeli is quite a small town but there are few local taverns and bars that you can explore.
My top tips for Samaria Gorge: 🚗 Go on your own: having your own car and beating at least some of the crowds is totally worth it 🏨 If you can spare a night after you hike, stay at the coziest hotel in Crete in Loutr, The Authentic Village Boutique Hotel 🌅 Don’t lose motivation during the 5 km of no views and just trees, once you’re out of the woods, you’ll be glad you did the Samaria Gorge hike!
1. Samaria Gorge by car
If you are not on this blog for the first time, you probably already know that this would be my most preferable option. The comfort of having the possibility of planning your trips on your own terms is just irreplaceable. And a huge benefit is visiting Samaria George without a tour group.
For me the most convenient way to travel is to rent a car—which is basically the easiest thing in Crete. You can do so straight at the airport or in every bigger city you will find a car rental with cars to rent for at least one day.
If you decide to drive there by car, leave it in Xyloskalo. There is a parking lot for €5 per day which is fair, but it can get too crowded during the main season.
As I already mentioned, you will get back by bus or you can take a taxi as we did. And I think we took the best possible way, but I will explain that to you in detail later. It is probably also the cheapest way if you are not a solo traveler. The rental is between €50 and €100 per day and the taxi or going with an organized tour would cost you more than that if there are at least two of you.
Tip: If you also like to travel by car on your vacations, check my articles about road trip possibilities in Scotland or this one about driving in Peru. If you prefer someone else to do the work, Belgium is perfect for traveling by train.
2. Samaria Gorge tour
Another option how to visit Samaria Gorge is with organized tours. The cost differs depending on the services you get.
It starts at €35 with only driving you from your hotel and back not including the entrance fee and ferry ticket. The most expensive ones can be up to €100 that already contain even the ticket to Samaria Gorge and the boat ticket. Most of them offer a guided tour. But if you were into that, you probably won’t be reading this article.
You can buy the ticket to organized tours online at Viator or basically in any tourist location in Crete.
It pays off more if you are traveling solo as you buy a single ticket. But still imagine walking this 18 km (11.3 mile) long hike with a bunch of strangers with probably half of them never hiking before. Not for me, thank you!
3. Samaria Gorge by bus
The last and for me the worst option of all—traveling by public transport.
I mean, being packed like sardines in a full bus of all sweaty—and smelly—people in the middle of summer in flaming hot Crete being driven by a crazy driver in all curvy and twisted roads. That’s a perception of hell for me!
Who would willingly suffer through that? Not me. And if you want to get some tips for this, find some hippie backpacker’s blog for it. I’m not going to help you endure that madness!
But if you insist on going by public bus, there is a bus stop in Omalos—not far from Xyloskalo—where you can drive from Chania. Cretan public bus company is called KTEL and its buses are not the worst I’ve seen so far. Anyways, still at your own risk!
Ferry from Agia Roumeli to Sougia
From Agia Roumeli we took a ferry to Sougia which leaves around 6 pm and you shouldn’t forget to book your tickets in advance, it can be filled with people.
Or if you want to risk it, you can buy them in the boat ticket office in the port. But if the ferry is full, hate to say I told you so—not really, you should already know my advice is worth following.
There is another ferry that takes you to Loutro, but if you are not about to spend the night there, I wouldn’t recommend taking this one. It is further from Xyloskalo, so if you leave your car there, the journey back will be longer and more expensive.
Hotel tip: If you are not in a rush to head back, why not stay a night around Loutr? I happen to have a perfect tip for a place few kilometers away from the city.
The Authentic Village Boutique Hotel is in a small village close to Loutr and for me, it was one of the coziest places we stayed in Crete.
Big clean rooms with clean bathrooms and beds, not even talking about that terrace. You know I like my comfort and in The Authentic Village Boutique Hotel I was on cloud nine.
They don’t serve breakfast—which is a huge deal for me—but at least there is a bakery/café close to the hotel, which you get a coupon to buy the food yourselves. Not much, but I got over it eventually.
The prices start at €100 for the larger rooms.
Getting from Sougia to Xyloskalo
From Sougia there’s a bus back to Xyloskalo, or you can take a taxi.
You can also go with an organized tour from there. They drive you from Chania to the start of the hike and then from Sougia back to Chania. It can be convenient for solo travelers and it’s not much money either but if you mind many tourists travelling along with you like I do, you will definitely prefer going on your own. And so do I, that’s why we took a taxi.
The taxi company in Sougia is called Meletis and will take you back to Xyloskalo. Our driver was very nice and spoke English and you would be surprised how rare is that in Crete. I’m not saying that nobody will understand you there unless you speak Greek but get ready to explain a bit more with your body language.
The drive with taxi was smooth which can be a bit challenging in the mountains, but our driver was a pro! And for €50 it was a true bargain compared to other options considering the comfort.
Anyways if we compare the costs if you drive by car, you pay €5 for parking, €5 for an entrance, €13 for the ferry and then the €50 taxi, if you are traveling with a buddy or beloved one, you pay less than traveling with the tour. So, it really pays off and it is way more comfortable.
Tip: If you like hiking, you will love Scotland! See the best hikes in Scotland, and, since there are so many of them throughout the small country, I even have an article just about the hikes on the Isle of Skye.
Hotel tips in Chania
The base for the trip to Samaria Gorge we chose the city of Chania—learn more about the place in my other article—and it is probably the best decision you can make.
Therefore, we stayed there a few nights and because it can be quite tricky to find a hotel in Crete and not an apartment. In general, the hotels can be more expensive than in the other parts of Crete, so here are the hotels we were happy about and didn’t cost us a fortune.
Hotel tip: The night before visiting Knossos we stayed in Mossa Well Being Hotel and we had a great time there! It surely lives up to its name.
The staff was so friendly and gave us many useful tips about the city. Our room was very spacious and clean but oh my god the beds. I had the sleep of my life. Maybe it was also thanks to the high ceiling of the room, ergo it was full of fresh air.
The breakfast was continental and à la carte style with many delicious options so I think even picky eaters can find something nice to start their day with there. Personally, I really enjoyed the breakfast options that Mossa offers.
Hyperion City Hotel & Spa offers a lot of facilities you can use during your stay such as an outdoor pool and a bar. Every room has a balcony and you can see that the hotel is not open for so long—everything is new, clean and in perfect shape.
And let me tell you about breakfast guys— it was exceptional. It was buffet style and everything served was top-notch quality. Fresh fruit and pastries so delicious that I dare to say it was one of the best breakfast options any hotel offered to us.
The prices start at €120—that divine breakfast included.
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