Winter Samaria In unique solitude

A sk anyone to name a gorge in Crete and the most probable answer you’ll get is Samaria Gorge. Being that well-known, means one thing: you can only hike it with a crowd. So when a friend suggested that we hiked the gorge at the end of November, an incredible opportunity presented before me. Not only would we be able to enjoy the grandness of the gorge in solitude, but we would have the rare luck to do it during winter time, when the gorge is typically closed to the public (*).

We arrived at the entrance of the gorge around noon. At the Omalos plateau the clouds were heavy upon our heads forming a mist and an impressive scenery around us. I can see us hiking in rain, I kept on thinking but strangely without any worry; it was more excitement that was building up than anything else. I took out my camera, strapped my shoes and followed my other three trek-mates to the descent towards the heart of the gorge.

The unique view towards mountain Gigilos covered with clouds made me fall behind my friends, as I just could not ignore the surrounding views and I would stop at every opportunity to stare at the fierce huge rocks. One word kept on popping to my mind… greatness. It had been a couple of years since I last visited Samaria and I had forgotten how majestic and imposing this gorge is.

As we moved deeper in the gorge, the weather got better and clearer. By that time we were inside the forest and close to the river bank. Images started to change.

After almost two and a half hours, we reached our destination. The old settlement of Samaria, now the outpost of the national park rangers. This was the place where we would camp for the night. In perfect solitude.

It feels kinda weird to find yourself in the wild with no phones, no internet, no cars – basically no other people in a range of miles. The only sounds we could hear were that of the wind, the water and our own voices. We prepared dinner and settled around the table talking and drinking wine. No choice but to clear up your mind and relax.

We woke up to find a great weather for hiking. The sun was up along with some clouds making a perfect mix. We started our ascent towards the tower of Samaria; an old watchtower made to overlook the gorge. Although, I had been to Samaria several times in the past, this was my first time to hike off the main path towards unknown (for me) routes in the mountains.

Being able to overlook the gorge from the tower was amazing. I was rediscovering a place I already knew and at the same time I was re-appreciating its beauty. Carried out by our excitement, we continued our hike towards the water spring that feeds the Samaria settlement with fresh water. We decided that this should be as far as we would go and returned back to the village.

The hardest part of the hike just started. Instead of hiking down the trail to the exit of the gorge in Agia Roumeli, we headed back and started hiking uphill to reach again the Omalos plateau. What started with excitement, evolved to fatigue and almost exhaustion for me. I was almost prepared to give up until I heard the voices from the others that had already reached the end of the trail. It was salvation. (No wonder there are no photos from the return…).

The moment I started the engine of my car though, I had already forgotten my exhaustion. I was happy and I smiled in the thought of what we had done. I felt determined to try to strengthen myself so that I could do something similar again.

Andreas,
Samaria Gorge, Crete, 2016.

 

 

(*) we entered the Samaria Gorge under special permit from the national park authorities. [Continue reading the story]

2 comments

  • How did you get the special permit from the national park authority? We are experienced backpackers and would love to be bale to hike down the gorge this Christmas time. Thanks!

    • Hi there!!
      We went there under the permit of the Forestry Department for a specific assignment. They arranged for everything. Hikers, mountaineers and everyone else that may require a permit, I think that you should ask at the Samaria National Park management body. The service’s site is this one: http://www.samaria.gr/en/home-2/ . However, I should stress that during the time that you want to go, it is very probable that there will be a lot of snow in the mountains and rain. As such, the gorge is risky (slippery and in many crosses there could be a lot of water coming down making them hard to cross) and it is not really recommended to go. The gorge closes for security reasons during winter time. So maybe a permit will be hard to get and for good reason. We went there during last November (2016), before any snow in the mountains and as you can see in the photos, during generally good weather days.

      If you cant make it this time, I would recommend to hike the gorge in May, during the first days it officially opens (this is not fixed and depends on the weather and the level of water in the gorge). During spring time it is really nice. Also as a hint: the local mountaineering club of Chania (ΕΟΣ Χανίων – https://www.eoshanion.gr/) usually organises a two day hike at the gorge every year, just before the gorge officially opens to the public. There are limited people who can go, but you can contact them early in advance to check if you can secure a place. It is a great experience. 🙂

      Hope I helped!

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