In the National Park of Samaria the homonymous gorge is the main attraction. The Gorge of Samaria is now well known in Europe, as it is the largest and the most beautiful gorge in Europe. The local people also call it “Farangas”.Its length is 16km and its width at certain points does not exceed 3m, with vertical walls that are up to 500 meters high.
Its formation is probably due to intense geological changes and the corrosion from the waters. Entrance to the gorge is allowed from May to October, which may change depending on the weather conditions, from 6.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. from both entrances, Ksiloskalo and Agia Roumeli. The national park of Samaria was recognized by the State in 1962, by a royal decree. Since then the park has won many prizes and is internationally established:
- National Certificate of the Protection of nature, 1971
- Place of particular natural beauty, 1973
- Shelter of wildlife
- Certificate of the Council of Europe CoE, 1979
- Reserve of Biosphere, 1981 ΜΑΒ
- Biogenetic Reserve CoE
- Area of the Barcelona Treaty
- Important area for birds
- NATURA area 2004
Crossing it requires good physical condition and suitable mountaineering shoes, as the route in a stone path and at the river bed lasts 5-6 hours. It is prohibited to cross it out of the path. Special attention is required at the points with warning signs of fall of rocks. It is also prohibited to use fire, to hunt, to fish, to collect plants, to smoke, to swin in the river or to throw rubbish or stones, to make noise or consume alcohol.
The main entrance of the gorge is at Ksiloskalo, at an altitude of 1225 m., at the end of the Plateau of Omalos and the route begins betweeb the highest summits of the Lefka Ori. Over us stands Mount Gingilos, Mount Volakias, Mount Melidaou and opposit the summits of Pachnon with altitude 2453m. At the exit is the old and now deserted village of Agia Roumeli, which is about 2 kilometers away from the sea and the new settlement. In all the route there are many springs with water of excellent quality and places where one can rest. The waters of the river next to the route sometimes disappear suddenly, to reappear suddenly again after quite a long distance. At the sides of the national part there are many rare and endangered species of plants, which are protected by the greek and the international legislation. Recorded species:
- 136 endemic species of Greece
- 100 valuable endemic of Crete
- 30 endemic of the Lefka Ori
- 20 endangered species
The aromatic and pharmaceutic herbs are particularly important like dittany (Origanum dictamnus), thyme, sages, mountain tea (malotira) and the only endemic tree, ambelitsia (Zelkova abelicea). The park also has many forests, consisting mainly of cypresses (Cupressus Sempervirens) and pine trees (Pinus brutia), but also maple-trees (Acer sempervirens) and holm-oaks (Quercus coccifera).
Animals living here:
50 different species of vertebrates, 30 endemic species, 5 species of the Red Data Book. The most famous of all are the cretan goat (Capra aegagrus cretica) and the wild cat. In the gorge nestle 40 species of birds, of which particularly rare is the harrier eagle (Gypaetus barbatus). Other species are the Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus), the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the Vulture (Gyps fulvus) and the golden hawk (falco biarmicus). Human intervention is visible however. The place was inhabited for thousands of years. Proof of this are the archeological finds and the Venetian and Turkish castles. The churches also have rare beauty, while some of them also have wall-paintings. The best-known churches are St. Nikolaos, St. George, the Christ, Santa Maria (Osia Maria) – from who the name of the gorge originates, and Christ the Master (Afendis Christos).
In the gorge, at the 7th km, in the deserted settlement Samaria – a sample of the unique simplicity of the folk architecture –, there is a small museum with photographs and folk objects. Here there is also a forest guard, toilets and a first aid station. So take your time to see all the beauties and enjoy with all your senses an unforgettable route in nature and culture.
Information materials: Forest service of Chania