Samaria Gorge

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It is the most famous of the canyons of Crete and the longest canyon in Europe, with a total length of nearly 18 kilometres. A unique monument of nature with rich flora and fauna, the “Farangas” (Great Canyon) - as the locals call it - has been declared a protected National Park and its passing is considered to be a life experience for nature lovers and hikers who flock in thousands from early May through late October. In normal gait and stops, the time one needs to cross it is 6 to 8 hours. The descent begins from Xyloskalo, in the plains of Omalos, and the first kilometres are made in a lush, cool scenery. At about half of the route one can see the deserted village of Samaria, which was abandoned in 1962 when the establishment of the National Park was announced. High in the cliffs, one can also see ibexes, the Cretan wild goats that are protected within the canyon. Further down starts a walk in the bed of the stream, along with running water. Half an hour before the exit, you will pass through Sideroportes (“Iron gates”), the narrowest - and most famous - point of the canyon, where the cliffs are only 3 meters apart. Leaving the National Park one reaches the village of Aghia Roumeli with the long beach inviting one to a refreshing swim in the crystal waters of the Libyan Sea. If you do not have the stamina for six hours of hiking, you can choose a much easier and shorter route starting backwards, from Aghia Roumeli to Sideroportes. The trail in Samaria is well marked throughout its length and there are guards and organized resting areas with toilets, running water and benches.

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