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Gorges of West Crete 11

Walking the Gorges of West Crete

Overview

The island of Crete offers a rare mix of splendid beaches, amazing mountain landscapes, vibrant towns and cosy villages inhabited by warm-hearted locals, all this spiced with genuine local cuisine, excellent wine, and perhaps a shot of raki! The south-west part of the island is characterized by a unique landscape of scenic gorges and a coast full of secluded beaches and deep blue waters.

In the beginning, this walking holiday will take you through the imposing Anydri Gorge and then the Irini Gorge, full of flowering oleander bushes, up to the scenic plateau of Omalos. The next highlight is walking down the world-famous Samaria Gorge to the seashore after which you head further east along the coast to the most romantic village on Crete: the idyllic Loutro, accessible only by boat or on foot. During the last walk of the trip, you explore the impressive Aradhena Gorge, a challenging but rewarding walk you’ll never forget.

  • Some of the most impressive coastal paths of Europe
  • Omalos and the White Mountains
  • Gorges of Samaria, Irini, Figou, Anydri and Aradhena
  • Car-free village Loutro on the coast
  • Idyllic beaches

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Paleochora

Arrival in Paleochora on your own (by taxi or by public transport from Chania or Heraklion Airport). Depending on your arrival time, you can go for a stroll to the cosy seaside town of Paleochora and explore the nearby Venetian fortress and several sandy and rocky beaches.

Day 2: Walk through the Anydri Gorge

Note that this walk is not possible from June to September, when there is an alternative route going from Elafonissos to Paleochora.

After breakfast, a transfer takes you to the village of Azogires where your walk starts along the ‘Monastery of the 99 Monks’-trail. The walk for the day will take you through olive groves, the quiet hilltop village of Anidri with its Byzantine church and the popular schoolhouse tavern, the small gorge of Anidri and the tranquil beach of Gialiskari. The final part goes through a coastal stretch taking you back to Paleochora, as you may go for a swim before going back to your hotel.

From June to September you should go on an alternative walk, including a relaxing ferry journey from Paleochora to the beautiful Elafonissi Lagoon, from where you walk back towards Paleochora along the coast (the ferry runs daily except Sundays from June to September). En route, you will pass beautiful, remote sandy beaches – ideal spots to enjoy a refreshing dip. The walk ends at Kryos Beach, where a taxi will pick you up for the transfer back to your hotel. In case the ferry is not running, you can have a taxi transfer to Azogires and walk down to Paleochora.

  • Walking for the day (option 1): 10.5 km, approx. 3 hrs, ↑­­­­75m ↓450m
  • Walking for the day (option 2): 10 km, approx. 4 hrs, ↑­­­­200m ↓200m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Aris

Day 3: Paleochora to Sougia

Starting in Paleochora, you follow a dirt track into a quiet natural wilderness, continuing along a stunning coastal path overlooking the sea. Along the way, you will pass the ancient Lissos, an important harbour for the Dorian city of Elyros, which boasted a population of 30,000 at its peak. You can enjoy a picnic lunch on this historic spot and swim in the pristine waters before heading further east to Sougia through a beautiful narrow gorge.

  • Walking for the day: 15 km, approx. 5 hrs, ↑­­­­375m ↓375m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Syia

Day 4: Sougia to Omalos Plateau

Today you will explore two impressive gorges, from sea level up to 1,000m. First, you walk through the impressive Irini Gorge on a well-made path. The ascent is long but not too steep. Leaving the Irini Gorge behind, you walk into the steeper Figou Gorge. You will enjoy stunning views at some points. The walk ends at a chapel, ‘Agios Theodoros’, where the hotel’s minibus will pick you up. Today’s day is located on the Omalos plain surrounded by the spectacular summits of the White Mountains.

  • Walking for the day: approx. 17 km, approx. 7 hrs, max ↑­­­­1200m ↓100m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Neos Omalos

Day 5: Samaria Gorge

Note that the Samaria gorge is open from 1st May until the autumn rains start (usually end of October). It is also possible for the gorge to be closed at any time by authorities in case of flash flood alerts, in such case an alternative route will be provided. You can find some useful info here.

Today you walk through one of Europe’s longest and most spectacular canyons: the Samaria Gorge. We recommend you to start your walk either very early or rather late, in order to avoid the crowds of people walking through the gorge as a day trip. During the quieter hours, you’ll enjoy the true beauty of this spectacular gorge. You spend the night in the seaside village of Agia Roumeli at the end of the gorge leaving you plenty of time for the walk. As you finish with the walking you can go for a relaxing swim in the crystal clear Lybian sea before you set off for dinner at one of the local taverns in Agia Roumeli.

  • Walking for the day: approx. 17 km, approx. 6 hrs, max ↑­­­­50m ↓1200m
  • Accommodation: Pachnes Pansion

Day 6: Agia Roumeli to Loutro

  • A splendid coastal walk with lots of variety. The walk today starts along the beach to the Byzantine church of Agios Pavlos, from where you start ascending through a fir forest reaching the beach at Marmara. On the way, you will enjoy great views of the massive mountains at your left and the sea to your right. As you reach the beach, you can enjoy the local tavern or go for a swim. From Marmara, you’ll need another hour along the coast to reach the car-free village of Loutro.
  • Walking for the day: approx. 15 km, approx. 6 hrs, max ↑­­­­275m ↓275m
  • Accommodation: Kyma Hotel 

Day 7: Loutro Circular Walk and Aradhena Gorge

You take a steep serpentine path up to the village of Anopolis, from where you walk to ancient Aradhena, situated at the edge of the impressive Aradhena Gorge. A scenic path takes you down into the Aradhena Gorge all the way to the coast. The last part of today’s walk takes you along the coast back to Loutro. A shorter route today is possible as well, via the tiny village of Livaniana and then descending through the Aradhena Gorge to the sea. Depending on your flight time on the following day, you may need to travel back to Chora Sfakion by ferry today, and on to Chania or Heraklion.

  • Walking for the day: approx. 16 km, approx. 4 hrs, max ↑­­­­840m ↓840m
  • Accommodation: Kyma Hotel 

Day 8: Departure

Today you travel back to Chora Sfakion by ferry in the morning from where you catch public transport or pre-booked transfer to Chania or Heraklion Airport.

Hotels

The accommodations we have chosen are optimum choices having in mind the atmosphere, comfort and hospitality. All rooms have private facilities and almost always a balcony or terrace. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

  • Hotel Aris offers clean rooms with balcony or terrace and is near the sea. The friendly owner Aris guarantees a pleasant stay.
  • The small seaside resort Sougia is at the end of the Irini gorge. There is a huge beach and you will enjoy a laid-back atmosphere. The apartments & studios of Hotel Syia are located 200m from the sea and offer a comfortable stay.
  • On the Omalos plain, you spend the night in Hotel Neos Omalos at 1,100m. Rooms are basic but comfortable.
  • Agia Roumeli is the small village at the end of the famous Samaria gorge. No organized trips through the gorge include an overnight in Agia Roumeli, so it is nice and quiet at night. The Pachnes Pension is new and pleasantly furnished. It is 200m from the beach and the port of Agia Roumeli.
  • In Loutro you stay in the Kyma Hotel with well-maintained rooms with a balcony overlooking the deep blue sea, the white-washed houses or the mountains.

Note that hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

The overnights are on bed & breakfast basis. Products for lunch are available in the local shops; at Omalos you may ask for a packed lunch at the accommodation. In the evening you have a wide choice of seaside taverns at all locations. In Omalos there is a limited choice, but the restaurant of the hotel itself offers good local dishes.

Travel

Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Chania. An alternative airport is Heraklion. Please insert your preferred airport in the “To” field below to see the available flights from your location.

Please note that flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.

Transfers to/from Airports

You can take a public bus from Chania Airport to Paleochora. The last bus departs at 4 pm. Duration of the trip is 1.5 hours.

In case you arrive at Heraklion airport you can catch a bus from the city bus station to Chania and then take another bus to Paleochora. The total duration of the trip is 4.5 hours. In case of arrival after 12 noon, an extra night in Heraklion or Chania might be necessary.

You also may travel via Athens Airport and take the night ferry from Piraeus to Chania, leaving daily around 9 pm and arriving in Chania at 6 am the next morning.

From Loutro you travel take a ferry to Chora Sfakion for 20 mins and continue by public bus to Chania or Heraklion. In case your flight departs in the morning you have to either book an extra night in Chania or Heraklion or book a private taxi transfer from Chora Sfakion to the airport as to be on time.

Baggage Transfers

Baggage transfers during all walks are included and your bags will be transferred by your current hotel (or by private transfer) to your next hotel.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance WorldNomads

We strongly recommend protecting the cost of your trip and other non-refundable travel expenses with travel insurance. Our Signature Travel Insurance allows you to insure all of your expenses. While a Signature Travel Insurance policy can be purchased at any time, purchasing a policy within 20 days of making your initial trip deposit gives you the widest range of policy options, including a Cancel for Any Reason coverage. For complete peace of mind, we also recommend enrolling with Global Rescue, the worldwide leader in field rescue, evacuation and security extraction services.

Read more and get a quote online

Country Info

Timezone: GMT +2

Language: Greek. In big cities, many people speak English, but in remote areas, this might not be the case. However, most of the hotel personnel where we stay speak English and are ready to help you. Road signs/markers are normally in both Greek and Latin alphabet – and you can always call our 24/7 helpline if there are any problems.

Electric supply and plugs: 220V, 50Hz, two-pin round plugs.

Currency: Euro (€). We strongly advise taking adequate cash for your daily requirements. Banks and ATMs are not available outside of big towns but credit/debit card payments are accepted in most places.

Cost of living: in Greece it is cheaper than in the UK. Some sample prices follow:

  • A 3-course meal in a standard restaurant: 12€
  • A litre of mineral water from a street shop: 1€
  • A cup of coffee: 2.5€

Up-to-date travel advice on Greece is available here. Detailed up-to-date travel information and hints will be provided in your holiday information pack.

Trip Info

Difficulty Grade: Moderate to Strenuous

This holiday is appropriate for experienced walkers and requires a very good level of fitness, sure-footedness and a head for heights (read more about difficulty grades).

The trip includes strenuous day walks or trekking in mountainous areas: 5-7 hours walking per day; elevation gains between 500 and 1,000m per day. Some coastal sections go along exposed cliffs and can be challenging for people afraid of heights.

Route Navigation

We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to Go

This trip is available between April and October. The best period to visit is between June and the beginning of October. In April and end of October, the Samaria gorge is closed and guests will travel with the luggage van to Sougia, take a ferry to Agia Roumeli and make a 10 km walk to the ‘Kastro’. The Anidri Gorge walk is not possible from June to September, when there is an alternative route going from Elafonissos to Paleochora.

Weather

Crete has a Mediterranean climate, with mild and rainy winters, and hot and sunny summers. The bulk of the rain falls from October to March; in summer it almost never rains. During winter, but also in spring, it can snow in the mountains. In the fine season, from mid-May to mid-September, the Meltemi (or Etesian) blows from the northwest. The southern coasts are more sheltered from this wind, especially in the coastal stretches that are located south of the mountains. The Meltemi, together with the lighter breezes which in any case blow on summer afternoons, has the merit of making the heat more bearable.

During summer, heat waves from Africa can occasionally occur, with peaks of 35 °C on the coast, and 40 °C in the interior. The hottest areas in these cases are the hills of the interior. The sea is warm enough for swimming from July to September, while it is a bit cool, but still acceptable, in June and October.  Spring and autumn are preferable to avoid the summer heat, especially April and May, and from mid-September to mid-October; spring is preferable because it is milder and nature is in bloom, although in the mountains it can still be cool.

What to Bring

We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing no more than 20 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.

  • Good hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Several t-shirts (cotton or preferably breathable/fast drying)
  • Packable waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
  • Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
  • Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside accommodation
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
  • Hat/Baseball cap
  • Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)

Included

  • Detailed digital holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions, road notes and maps. Please note that the info pack is emailed to you prior to departure and no printed documents are mailed or provided on-site
  • 7 nights en-suite accommodation on B&B basis
  • All luggage transfers on walking days
  • Ferry ticket Paleochora-Elafonissi
  • Transfers on day 2, 4 and 5
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Single Room & Solo Traveller Supplements

  • Where individual members of a group require a single room, a single room supplement is applicable.
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers. As costs are not shared, a supplement is payable on the standard trip cost.

Please click the CHECK AVAILABILITY button above to see the price of the holiday and the different options, extras and supplements for your desired dates.

Excluded

  • Flights, public transportation and other ferry tickets
  • Airport arrival and departure transfers
  • Travel insurance
  • Entrance fees for the sites along the way (7 Euro for Samaria and Irini gorge)
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Personal expenses such as meals, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers etc. Any items that have not been specifically mentioned in the program

Extensions and Optional Extras

  • Airport arrival and/or departure transfers
  • Additional night/s at any of the accommodations along the way as well as in Chania and Heraklion

Gallery

Reviews

Average rating:    from 3 reviews

LR

I had a great time on this adventure! The hikes were well designed, with plenty of landscape diversity, opportunity to stop for food or swimming, and options to walk a shorter or longer distance. Even though I walked in late June, the heat was quite bearable due to winds and shade on most days. The instructions were generally thorough and accurate, though a couple things couple be updated or added for clarity (for example, on the hike to Omalos, I expected to see E4 markers and was pretty worried when they disappeared for 8km!). The reason I only give four stars is because there was a significant range in the quality of accommodation - Paleochora and Sougia were lovely while Loutro was buggy and basic to the point if not having soap or a blanket. Of course, I understand that there are limited options in these villages, but I would consider charging a bit more and providing a higher standard of lodging. Still, it was a terrific adventure and I would certainly recommend it!

Dear LR, we are glad you enjoyed your holiday overall! With regard to the Loutro hotel, following your and other customers' feedback, as of 2020 we have stopped using Protopappas Hotel and replaced it with Kyma Hotel, which offers much better rooms and service.-Alex from The Natural Adventure Company

Helena U


We loved the whole thing but found the walks harder than we anticipated. This is a fact not a complaint. We loved walking from village to village and loved each place and every hotel you put us in. Take walking sticks and lots of water. Make sure you are fit enough to do this. Walking on rocks in the gorges is very hard.



We were amazed at how smoothly things went. Our luggage always made it to our hotel. Your directions were spot on so we never got lost. We would give you a 5 for everything you did for us. We think your company is extremely well organized and we would travel with you again. Thank you

Janice P

We had a wonderful holiday and would like to thank you for the detailed information and planning. We loved the hiking especially along the coast from one village to the next with beautiful beaches to swim at. Our favourite day was probably the hike from Agria Roumeli to Loutro.  Hiking poles were really helpful on the rocky trails ( we just had one pole each) The food in Crete in delicious and they always bring a little tasty surprise at the end of your meal. Everything went great. The last day we decided to walk to Skafion and send our bag on the ferry (taxi picked it up). The local people were very friendly and helpful. Yes they benefited from having tourists who loved the country . Hotels and restaurants and shops benefited. Rating of 5 for the trip. The info was great and maps and itinerary detailed . We enjoyed our accommodations especially hotel Aris. They were super friendly, helpful and provided a wonderful breakfast. The only hotel we weren't pleased with was in Loutro. The owner was not friendly ,kind of rude and not helpful at all. The breakfast was very skimpy as well. We would suggest you find an alternate place in Loutro.

We will definitely be recommending this trip to others.

Chester

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Delightful moderate walk building up slowly to an interesting climax over the days. Varied and friendly hotels. Kirchberger in Wildsteig deseerves... Read full review

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