The most famous places for canyoning on the island are Kalami, Arvi and Tsutsuras, where tourists climb up imposing cliffs, overcome elevations and cross water streams. Very impressive is Ha gorge with its vertical walls: there are many ways to overcome it, but they are all quite difficult. Popular is Kourtaliotiko gorge, where water flows throughout the year. On Crete, several dozen gorges are available for study. There are popular ones where tourists come by whole sightseeing buses (Samaria gorge), and there are those that are known only to adrenaline types.
Some gorges are simple to pass and do not require special skills: you can go even with a child. So is Imbros—only 4,3 mi length: it takes you about 2.5 hours to pass through. Another simple one is Feriso: you may drive there along an asphalt road.
The most popular gorge of Crete, Samaria, can be attributed to the gorges of medium level of difficulty. Although it is massively visited by tourists, there are there natural springs with water, lifeguards work, and the path is well equipped. In many areas there is a noticeable height difference and the trail runs along the scree. On average, the trip will take 6-7 hours: so you should be well prepared.
To the third category of gorges in Crete belong difficult ones, accessible only to professionals and well-prepared tourists. The gorges of the highest level of difficulty on the island include Messona gorge and Arvi. It is better to visit them accompanied by an instructor, especially since there are enough companies on the island that are ready to provide their services. For example, there are representative offices of the Association of mountain tourism in Heraklion (eos-her.gr) and Chania (eoshanion.gr).
For such routes will require not only special clothes and shoes, but also good climbing equipment (ropes, strapping, perhaps hooks and hammers); and since in the mountains there is always a risk of getting lost, you need to carefully consider the route and navigation. Even when the route has been drawn up, it is worthwhile to consult with local instructors who can provide additional valuable information and warn of possible dangers. Before going through a difficult gorge of Crete, you should definitely tell about your plans and the estimated time of return to relatives or hotel employees.
If you want a walk through even the simplest Cretan gorges and avoid negative emotions, you should be prepared well: this is the main rule for success. You should wear comfortable shoes with a sole, which you can securely fix on the stones to do not slip: the best option would be special trekking boots or sneakers. Be sure to take care of the availability of sunscreen and hat. Many gorges are known for their lush vegetation, but still a part of the route in the summer will take place under the scorching sun.
Your clothing for passage should be strong enough so that it does not be torn against the branches of trees, but at the same time light and protecting against the sun. Weather in gorges varies depending on the month and time of day. It can be cool in the morning: the heat comes in the afternoon. Even in July in the morning, the temperature is + 10°C in gorges. Closer to the fall, the probability of precipitation increases: your windbreaker jacket in the backpack will not be superfluous. Well, if you are going to conquer Crete in spring or autumn, then you need a good membrane suit. By the way, a small backpack is also indispensable when passing through a gorge. Carrying things in a regular bag or plastic bag is not only inconvenient, but also dangerous. The protective helmet is a mandatory attribute during such passage. Without it, even the German pensioners, who for many years love to pass through gorges of Crete, cannot go on their way. In the mountains, rockfalls are often, and even a small stone thrown by the wind or a bird can have unpleasant consequences.
Special attention should be paid to the route, when passing difficult gorges. With any changes, you need to be sure of your level of training, since the surroundings of a gorge may differ significantly in difficulty from a usual route. Almost all trekking routes in Crete are marked, and if you move along the designated route, then problems do not arise usually. Moreover, in the summer months a relatively large number of tourists move along them.
Popular gorges of Crete
The most visited gorge of Crete is officially recognized as the largest in Europe. This National Park stretches for 18 km and since ancient times served the Cretans as a special hideout. Many ancient artifacts were discovered here. In difficult revolutionary and war years, Samaria played the role of shelter for rebels and partisans.
The nature of the gorge is impressive. It is inhabited by endemic kri-kri goats and dozens of bird species. Rare plants (Cretan cypress, dictamos) grow here. Along the way, there are purest natural springs, ancient Byzantine churches and the abandoned village of Samaria, thanks to which you can learn the traditional architecture of Crete.
It amazes everyone who comes here. First of all, its wild beauty and wind noise, for which it was nicknamed the Gorge of pops. You can see Kurtaliotiko from the height of a specially equipped viewing platform, and a well-organized descent leads to the gorge. On the trail you can get to the church of St. Nicholas. Then the path leads to the channel of the river Preveli, where you can admire the waterfalls and see the ancient bridge over the river.
In the south of Crete is Imbros gorge with a length of 4,35 mi. Its nature is amazing in its diversity: stony landscapes here are replaced by perennial pines and oaks. In the past, Imbros was the only road connecting Sfakia with the rest of Crete. Today, a road with equipped viewing platforms was laid nearby. Not far from the road begins the path to the gorge, which narrows significantly to its middle.
Boriana (or Karanou) is a picturesque gorge, immersed in greenery and located away from popular tourist routes. Boriana’s length is about 1 mi. The path is well-equipped, surrounded by a river and fabulous landscapes. The gorge is riddled with entrances to old mines, the visit of which is prohibited. In Boriana, there are preserved old buildings, long overgrown with shrubs and reeds: these are wells, bridges, and the remains of water mills.
The gorge attracts with its untouched nature, interesting sights and its neighborhood with picturesque villages. Tourists come here to see the Hagia Sophia located right in the cave, decorated with stalagmites—a small chapel inside.
A river flows through the Topoliano gorge, so the flora is quite interesting: there are perennial oaks and plane trees, some Cretan endemics. You can relax in the nearest village of Topolia and should buy traditional products there.
Quite a difficult route passes through the gorge of Aradena. 4,4 mi of the route are almost not suited for tourists, but there are a lot of people willing to explore it. The gorge begins at the village of the same name, which was deserted due to the hostility of local families. You can see the gorge from the height of the bridge, or go down to enjoy the power of its magnificent walls.
You should walk along the canyon carefully: there are sharp descents and ascents. You have two options for the passage of Aradena: from the village to the sea, or vice versa—from the sea to the village. The last way is more difficult, since you have only to go up. Aradena is popular with lovers of extreme relaxation. In the summer here, they jump from a bungee at a height of almost 460 feet.
The decoration of central Crete is the gorge of Rouvas, which cuts through the majestic Psiloritis Mountains. It stretches for 2,5 mi from the chapel of St. John to the monastery of St. Nicholas. The landscape of the gorge is interesting: it is formed by beautiful ravines and impressive cliffs. Along the way, you can even see a few old sights, including the remains of a Roman aqueduct.
Not far from Rethymnon is one of the most beautiful sights of this area—the gorge of Mili. The name translates as Mills’ Gorge: there are really many of them there. You can see them on the slopes along the whole route, as well as half-destroyed aqueducts. A river flows along the gorge. In combination with lush greenery, it makes the trip pleasant even on hot days. You can relax in the village of Mili, which was in desolation for a long time, but later they opened taverns in several restored houses.
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