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Die Samaria-Schlucht auf Kreta, Bild: Kalman / shutterstock

Crete’s gorges – unique testimonies to enormous forces of nature


If you are planning a holiday in Crete, you will not first think of mountains and their gorges. And yet the largest Greek island has the most gorges in the entire country.

So far, the hikes through these natural spectacles, with a few exceptions, are still an insider tip and in most cases untouched by mass tourism. Nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts will find unspoilt nature and incredibly impressive insights into impressive forces of nature here.

The most famous gorges of Crete

With more than 400 gorges, the Greek island truly has a lot to offer and so there is something for every taste and every level of difficulty.

Samaria Gorge

Probably the most famous and at the same time most visited is the Samaria Gorge in western Crete. It is also often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Europe and, with its length of 16 kilometers, is truly a unique and impressive nature experience.

Visitors hike between rock walls that stretch up to 100 meters on both sides and over mighty stones that shape the landscape in the dried up riverbed. In addition to the fact that this crevice can be walked on without equipment, it can be mastered in a time of between 4 and 7 hours and is therefore easy to do for any hobby hiker.

Imbros Gorge

Imbros Gorge Crete
Imbros Gorge, Image: Zoblinski / shutterstock

With about 3 hours of hiking time, the Imbros Gorge is significantly shorter, which can also be entered in spring, when the Samaria Gorge is still closed to visitors. Due to the relatively easy route, this hike is also well suited for families with children. And here, too, visitors can expect dreamlike landscapes and impressive mountain massifs that show what nature is capable of.

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Agia Irini Gorge

The Agia Irini Gorge is also one of the most visited gorges in Crete and, like Samaria, is located in the southwest of the island. On a 7.5-kilometre-long hiking trail, visitors walk through the middle of the white mountains, which were divided here by this natural spectacle.

It is considered a good alternative to the Samaria Gorge, as it is not so crowded, can be walked on all year round and is usually shaded. Therefore, it can be hiked through even on hot days and still offers enough shade and cooling from the Greek sun.

How were the gorges of Crete formed?

The carbonate rock of the Cretan mountains consists mainly of limestone and marble. When in the period from 5 to 10 million years ago the ground uplift in the area of today’s Crete was immensely active, these unique natural formations were formed in interaction with the erosion caused by the water of the rivers. Crete is still characterized by high mountains and deep gorges, which are not found in this form on the entire European continent.

Hiking, adrenaline and swimming 3 in 1!

Probably the most spectacular, because at the same time the deepest gorge in Crete is the Aradena Gorge. The most beautiful bridge on the island also leads over the 138-metre-deep and 15-kilometre-long crevasse, from which the ultimate adrenaline kick can be experienced in the form of a bungee jump.

And if that’s not enough, you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete at the end of the hike. The stage ends at Marmara, a magical pebble beach with its crystal clear waters that invites you to dive into the waters of the Libyan Sea and enjoy the wonderful surroundings.

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Three insider tips for different gorges in Crete

Kritsa Gorge, Crete
Kritsa Gorge, Image: Volker Rauch / shutterstock

Kritsa Gorge, Gorge of the Dead and Gorges of Theriso are three of the gorges that are still considered not quite as crowded. While the Kritsa Gorge requires quite a bit of climbing, the Gorge of the Dead is quite easy to hike.

The Gorges of Theriso, on the other hand, can be reached by car or scooter and can therefore also be reached by holidaymakers who do not like to walk.
Since all three are rather remote, contact with native animals such as goats or sheep cannot be prevented here from time to time.

Therefore, it is especially appropriate to drive very slowly by car, which has the additional advantage that the breathtaking landscape can be better admired.

The variety of gorges in Crete is as diverse as nature itself. Therefore, families with children will find their hiking trails here as well as daredevil climbing professionals who dare to climb the gorges with long waterfalls and which can only be walked with special equipment.

In any case, these unique natural phenomena should not be ignored during a holiday in Crete, but one or the other gorge should be visited. In order to be able to devote the attention they deserve to these natural phenomena, it is worthwhile for most of them to plan a day trip, because then the gorge can be enjoyed and savoured in all its beauty and with full peace and quiet.