It is no secret that the highlight of my visit to Crete was the amazing hike through the Samaria Gorge. It is no secret either that I am not a very experienced hiker, and that I learned something from this trip. That is why I would like to share 5 tips with those of you, who do not have a lot of hiking experience either, but still want to go enjoy this beautiful route.
1: Go off season if possible
Samaria Gorge is not open all year round. It usually opens for the public in the beginning of May and closes again at some point in October. On a rainy day it can be a dangerous place to stay because of slippery pathways and the risk of rocks falling down, so the park might also be closed during the season if the weather isn’t behaving. That is why the gorge is a very popular site during the summer months, when there is a greater chance for fine weather.
We did the hike in October, and we were a little worried that the gorge would be closed down for the winter. Luckily, this was not the case. Even though we visited in October, it was actually quite a warm experience from time to time. There are a lot of places where you can walk in the shadow, but since you are at the bottom of a gorge, there isn’t much wind. I can only imagine what it must be like here on a warm and sunny day in July! I would recommend for you to either visit in the off-peak season, where the temperature is a bit lower, or for you to take extra precautions and think through if you are able to handle the extra pressure occurring when the temperature rises above 40-50 degrees.
2: Join an organized tour
Even though you usually prefer to go on excursions on your own, this is not a thing I will recommend for a trip to Samaria Gorge. The route starts high up in the mountains, and then you walk 16 kilometers down to a small harbor village. Here it is impossible to go any further unless you either take a ferry – or walk the entire way back up the mountains again! It is not easy to take public transport to the start of the route, and if you rent a car and leave there, it is not easy to come back to that. It is doable, but if you do not have more than the typical 1-week-vacation on Crete, I would use my time for something more fun than getting back and forth.
We joined an organized tour, and I must admit that I was nervous that we would walk all 16 kilometers in one big group. This was not the case at all. Already on the first part of the route, people began to find their own pace, and most of the time we actually walked on our own. Of course you meet people along the way, especially at the designated resting-areas, but it did not feel crowded at all.
3: Wear the right clothes
The buzzword must be: layers! The hike starts at an altitude of 1.200 meters, and here it can be both windy and cold. We started our hike in drizzle and windy weather, and at that point, I really appreciated my windbreaker and scarf. As you walk down the gorge, the temperature rises, and during the last part of the hike, I was just wearing a t-shirt.
Footwear is another thing that has to be in order. If you happen to have a pair of hiking boots, wear them. If not, make sure that you wear something with a good sole. I did the hike in my faithful running shoes. They have a good fit, and the sole is absorbing shocks. If you do the hike in a normal pair of sneakers, I think your feet will complain a lot the next day…
Even though a great part of the trip takes place in the shadow, it might also be a good idea to bring a hat, cap or sunglasses so that you can protect your face and eyes those places where you cannot avoid walking in the sun.
4: Pack your backpack wisely
An army marches on its stomach – and so do you on a 16 kilometer hike. It is (luckily) a very natural and untouched landscape you are about to hike in, so you do not have the possibility to buy anything along the way. Bring a packed lunch, and also some snacks to give you some quick energy. Along the route you will find places where you can refill your water bottle with clean water from the mountains. Bring at least 1 bottle of water that you can refill along the way. I brought 2, and I was happy about that. There is some way between the refill-stations.
Besides water-refilling-stations, you will also find toilets along the way. Or toilets is maybe to big of a word. They are better describes as toilet booths where you can work out your already sore legs as you are squatting to pee in a hole in the ground (at least if you are a woman). Sometimes you will find toilet paper in these booths – sometimes you will not. I therefore recommend for you to bring your own just in case.
It wasn’t necessary for me, but better safe than sorry: Bring something for blisters! It is a veeery long way to go if all you can think about is the blister growing larger and larger in your shoe.
One thing that was very necessary for me was my camera. Wow – there is a lot of beautiful places to photograph along the way! Make sure that it is fully charged and that there is room for a large number of photos on it.
Last but not least we brought a small guidebook of the hike that we found on the library at home. We did not look at it that much though – it is easy to find your way in the gorge, and since we were joining an organized tour, our guide had already told us about the distances between the resting-areas and toilets. If you do not feel like finding a guidebook, you can just go without it.
5: Remember pills for motion sickness
Motion sickness? On a hike? Yes, I am actually serious. Not because you get motion sickness from hiking, but because the gorge is located where it is. You have to do some transportation both before and after the hike. If you have a tendency to get motion sickness, the drive up the winding (!) mountain roads, or the ferry ride on open sea can be quite a challenge. So do yourself a favor and bring the extra pills. They do not weight that much in your backpack anyway 😉
Visited in October 2016
Read more about our visit to the beautiful Samaria Gorge right here!
Looking for more inspiration to your holiday on Crete? Then read all my blog posts about Crete right here! 🙂
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