One of my favorite hikes on Crete was hiking the Samaria Gorge at 7AM. There are many reasons for this and while a big one is the lack of the large backpack I had on most other hikes, the primary reason was the sheer calm and quiet beauty of the gorge when you have the trail to yourself. After much research, I found that most people typically start the hike from the northern entrance at Xyloskalo trailhead and they usually are picked up via tours to start the hike sometime between 8-10AM. This option did not seem appealing as we did not want to hike with a group of people nor start that late. The heat of July in Greece is no joke (~30C) and we wanted to complete the hike before noon.
Our plan was to start the trail from the trailhead at the Agia Roumeli side and make our way up to Samaria village before turning around for a there and back hike. There was no way to do a looped hike and it did not make sense for us to hike up to the Xyloskalo trailhead as we did not plan on arranging for a car service.
Andrew and I started early before 6AM to get up, get ready, and head on our way from the hotel (Tarra) where we were staying. From town, we walked through a well-paved area to the opening of the trail and go there around 6:30 AM. To our dismay, we did not realize that we would not be let in until 7AM but it was a short wait after we figured this out through some sign language with the man at the entrance.
Note: The fee to enter is 5 Euros and you need to retain your ticket to show to the entrance / exit to leave.
On our way up from town to the trailhead, we passed through hordes of lamb and goats.
The water was wonderfully clear and beautiful as it runs over rocks. Much of this water goes to towns as their main water supply and it's easy to see why. Walking through the gorge and over rivers was simple - there were often wooden bridges such as the one above to avoid contaminating the water and to avoid getting yourself wet. This is all while taking in the incredible beauty of the gorge!
Certain areas only had rocky paths above the water but they were easy to navigate as well. I had a walking stick that I picked up conveniently by the trailhead but one could go without it.
The flowing streams of water ended and we encountered a mainly rocky stretch of the trail that looked like it used to have water flowing through it but not anymore. We were a bit nervous about this stretch of the trail when thinking about the walk back to where we started. As you can see, there will be minimal shade in the middle of the gorge by mid-day when the sun is overhead so Andrew urged me to pace a bit faster. I suppose this is one of those short people problems when you are walking with a tall person. I think I'm pacing perfectly fine with my 5'3" legs but need to go at a light jog if my 6'4" boyfriend starts to speed walk.
We're almost to the Samaria Village as the sun starts to rise over the mountain tops. At this point, we've encountered perhaps 2 other hikers which makes for a pretty private experience.
Across the bridge from Samaria Village.
From the map, you can see that we are a bit more than half the way to the Xyloskalo trailhead but for us, this was the turning point to go back down to Agia Roumeli and take a dip in the sea.
Here is a returning shot from the first section of the hike. The sun has risen a lot more but we made it back before noon!
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