In the westernmost portion of Crete, you will find the majestic and picturesque Samaria Gorge. It is perhaps the most popular geological site within the island. The gorge itself is located within the White Mountains and is considered to be one of the longest in all of Europe. From one end to the other, the Samaria Gorge is 18 kilometers long; starting at the village of Xyloskalo, 1227 meters above sea level, and rain all the way down to the coastal village of Agia Roumeli.
Samaria Gorge, Crete, Greece by Simon
The Samaria Gorge is located entirely within the Samaria National Park, which was developed in order to protect the beauty of the region as well as the plant and animal life that color home. There are actually a number of unique species of flora and fauna that can be found within the gorge itself that are in danger. In all, there are more than 450 different plant species that can be found within the Samaria Gorge.
When it comes to the animals that call the Samaria Gorge home, the most popularly seen inhabitants of the region is that of the wild goats that are most commonly referred to as agrimia locally. These wild goats are endemic to the island of Crete and it is not uncommon to see them throughout the region and even in the villages.
It was back in 1962 when the Samaria Gorge region was established as a national park. When the park was established, certain rules were put into place in order to protect the flora and fauna for future generations. One of these rules is that you are not allowed to pick any flowers or plants from within the park boundaries. At the same time, no one was allowed to live within the park boundaries, so the inhabitants of the Samaria Village were relocated. The village is still visible today within the park, and stand as the residence of the guards and other park staff.
Samaria Gorge, Crete, Greece by James Preston
For anyone who chooses to walk the distance, you will need to start at the village of Xyloskalo and purchase a ticket. A map of the walking path is illustrated on the backside the ticket, but it is not really needed on account of the steady stream of tourist that are making their way down to the coast. Just make sure that you bring a very good pair of hiking boots because it is a long journey to the other end of the gorge.
When you finally reach the end of the Samaria Gorge, you will need to present your ticket once again. Park officials do this to make sure that nobody gets left inside the park overnight. And while this is done for the safety of all people visiting the region, it does tend to slow down the last three kilometers of the hike to the beach.
You will need to make sure that you have plenty of sunscreen because there is no shade from the early afternoon sun. But it is all worthwhile as you step out of Samaria Gorge into the seaside village of Agia Roumeli; and soon you will be resting along the white sand beaches of the shoreline.