Hiking the 16km-long Samaria Gorge is considered one of Crete's must-do experiences, which is why you'll rarely be without company. Nevertheless, there’s an undeniable raw beauty to Samaria, where vertical walls soar up to 500m and are just 3.5m apart at the narrowest point (150m at the broadest).
The hike begins at 1230m at Xyloskalo just south of Omalos and ends in the coastal village of Agia Roumeli. It’s especially scenic in April and May, when wildflowers brighten the trail. There are rest stops along the way with basic toilet facilities, and springs where you can fill up your water bottle. The gorge is 13km long in the national park, and then the last 3km is the walk to the end point in Agia Roumeli. In peak season up to 3000 people a day tackle the stony trail, and even in spring and autumn there are rarely fewer than 1000 hikers. The vast majority arrive on organised coach excursions from the big northern resorts and Hania. You’ll encounter a mix of serious trekkers and less-experienced types.
The first 6km or 7km isn't particularly scenic and can be a bit of a letdown. After 7km you'll reach the abandoned village of Samaria, where the trail becomes more interesting; its narrowest part is around the 11km mark. If you're short on time or don't want to tackle the entire hike, you can do it the 'lazy way' by starting in Agia Roumeli and walking for as long as you like before doubling back.
Samaria is home to the kri-kri, a rarely seen endangered wild goat. The gorge was made a national park in 1962 to save the kri-kri from extinction. You are unlikely to see these shy animals, which show a marked aversion to hikers, but you might spot golden eagles overhead.