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Vikos Gorge and the High Trails of Pindos 65

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

Click to view map

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 | 10 km

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

Day 3: Paleochora to Sougia | 15 km

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, ↑­­­­375 m ↓375 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Syia

Day 4: Sougia to Omalos Plateau | 17 km

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 on 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 ↑­­­­1200 m ↓100 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Neos Omalos

Day 5: Samaria Gorge | 17 km

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, 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 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 ↑­­­­50 m ↓1200 m
  • Accommodation: Pachnes Pension

Day 6: Agia Roumeli to Loutro | 15 km

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 ↑­­­­275 m ↓275 m
  • Accommodation: Kyma Hotel

Day 7: Loutro Circular Walk and Aradhena Gorge | 16 km

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 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 ↑­­­­840 m ↓840 m
  • 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.

What to Expect

Accommodation

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.

Click to view default hotels

  • 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 200 m from the sea and offer a comfortable stay.
  • On the Omalos plain, you spend the night in Hotel Neos Omalos at 1.100 m. 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 200 m 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 hotel’s restaurant offers good local dishes.

Difficulty & terrain

This holiday is appropriate for experienced walkers and requires a very good level of fitness, sure-footedness and a head for heights. The trip includes strenuous day walks or trekking in mountainous areas: 5-7 hours walking per day; elevation gains between 500 and 1.000 m per day. Some coastal sections go along exposed cliffs and can be challenging for people afraid of heights (read more about difficulty grades). We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never 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.

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 from Elafonissos to Paleochora. Crete has a Mediterranean climate, with mild and rainy winters, and hot and sunny summers. 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. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Chania (CHQ). An alternative airport is Heraklion (HER).

By train or bus
  • 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 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.
  • For more detailed information, use the Omio planner above.

Inclusions

Included

  • 7 nights en-suite accommodation
  • 7 breakfasts
  • Luggage transfers on walking days
  • Ferry ticket Paleochora-Elafonissi
  • Transfers on day 2, 4 and 5
  • 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
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare, public transportation and other ferry tickets
  • Airport arrival and departure transfers
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • Single room supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights at any of the accommodations along the way as well as in Chania and Heraklion
  • Private transfers from/to the airport

Gallery

Reviews

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Rating

     

Stephen B.

My wife and I have just returned from an excellent trip to walk the gorges of West Crete. We have never used a company for this sort of holiday before as we prefer to book our own accommodation and luggage transfers, but with the threat of Covid still around at the time we booked, we thought that it would be prudent to just have one call to Natural Adventures if we were forced to cancel.
The information that came in ahead of the trip was really detailed and clear plus the digital maps for our phone were really helpful. We had a couple of queries before we left the UK and these were answered in good time.
Accommodation in all of the locations was of a very good standard all were very clean, we particularly liked the Hotel Aris in Paleochora where we were given a really warm welcome and the breakfast at Pachnes Pension in Agia Roumeli was top notch. All the hotel owners were very helpful and supportive of the walkers staying with them.
The walks themselves were great. A taxi ride was included to the start of the walk through the Anidri Gorge, we found this was the most difficult one to route find as in a few places it was possible to stray off the path. Sougia to Omalos was a spectacular walk with a really tough start, manoeuvring round and over the boulders at the bottom of the gorge, however, as the walk progressed it got much easier and ever more impressive. We didn't take the shorter route up the Figou Gorge and regretted it as the alternative path we took was longer without any shade. The Samaria Gorge was spectacular and lived up to all expectations, we started our walk at 8.30 and finished just after 3.15 and it was quite busy especially once the bus trips from Chania started to arrive and caught us up. We were lucky though, because two days after we did our walk the gorge was closed due to high winds. The walk Agia Roumeli was billed an easier day with an opportunity to stop and relax on Marmara beach before reaching Loutro, we did this and swam in the sea only to find the walk onwards from Marmara beach a bit challenging with a rocky scramble high above the sea. We regretted spending quite so much time on the beach but were glad that we had not stopped at the taverna for a beer as that could have been dangerous.
The luggage transfer and all included taxi transfers worked perfectly, we liked the fact that Natural Adventure uses local firms and smaller hotels to support us walkers. We didn't need to call the company back up services but we were confident that support would have been there if we needed it. This was a well organised and most enjoyable trip. We are both 62 and reasonably fit, with have no replacement parts thus far, we found the walks strenuous at times but really enjoyable with the ever changing landscapes and spectacular gorges. We walked in early/mid May and the biggest problem was getting out early enough to avoid walking in the hottest part of the day.
Our experience with Natural Adventures was 100% positive and we would most certainly book with them again in the future.

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