Walking Tour: Samaria Gorge
- Start Xyloskalo
- End Agia Roumeli
- Length 16km; four to six hours
- Difficulty Moderate
The trail begins just south of Omalos at Xyloskalo, where there's a tavern if you want to have a drink, eat breakfast and use the toilet before beginning. From the start of the trailhead a steep, serpentine stone path descends some 600m into the canyon. In under an hour you'll come to the first rest stop, with water and toilets. Continue on to arrive at the simple, cypress-framed Chapel of Agios Nikolaos.
Beyond here the gorge is wide and open and not particularly scenic for the next 6km until you reach the abandoned settlement of Samaria, whose inhabitants were relocated when the gorge became a national park. This is the main rest stop, with toilets, water and benches for taking a breather and having something to eat. Just south of the village is a 14th-century chapel dedicated to St Maria of Egypt, after whom the gorge is named.
Further on, the gorge narrows and becomes more dramatic, and you'll see warning signs for falling rocks between the 9km and 11km marks. It's advisable to walk as quickly as you can, though safely, through here. At 11km along the walls are only 3.5m apart and you'll find the famous Sideroportes (Iron Gates), where a rickety wooden pathway leads hikers the 20m or so across the water.
The gorge in the national park ends at the 13km mark just north of the almost abandoned village of Palea (Old) Agia Roumeli. From here it’s a further 3km to the seaside village of Agia Roumeli, whose fine pebble beach and sparkling water are a most welcome sight. Few people miss taking a refreshing dip or at least bathing their aching feet before they fill up at one of the seaside tavernas.
The entire trek takes about four hours (for sprinters) to six hours (for strollers). This is a rocky trail and suitable footwear is essential.