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With camera like a tourist

Hiking with camera in the Samaria Gorge

By October 18, 2015 No Comments

It seems like every body need to do the hike through the Samaria Gorge when on Crete. And it’s worth it. Definitely. You can either go there with a arranged bus tour or public transport. The public transport is cheap. But you need to figure out the timetable and connections yourself. Not hard though. It’s all kinda online. I decided to take the tour with arranged transport. Because I was hiking alone. Any accident happening I got a solid backdoor back.

What is cost and how to get there?

The public transport is €7.5 one way. The Ferry is €11. The entrance fee is €5. So I guess the backpacker on a budget would prefer this with a final cost at €31.

I decided to travel a bit more safe and bought a travel package to Samaria gorge at Diana’s travel in Chania. That ended op in €28 plus ferry plus entrance fee. All in all €44.

Getting there and getting back

Samaria-Gorge-route

You can click on the map to see a larger version. Use the back button in the browser afterwards.

Red: The busdrive to Omalos.

Fat grey: The Samaria Gorge Walk

Blue: Ferry line to Hora Sfakion

Yellow: Ferry to Sougia

Green: Busdrive back to Chania.

Purple: Busdrive back to Chania.

There is two ferry lines. So you either go Sougia or Hora Sfakion. The boat ride is really nice.

Guide or not?

The tour guide is passive. He is not walking and pacing you. He usually enters 1 hours later than the last. And encourages you to find your own pace and enjoying the Samaria Gorge big time. The guide I had, Marcos, offered his customer’s to borrow a walking stick for free, if they had any knee problems, or just not as fit as they thought they were. The guide is not making this to a group walk. I didn’t see him at all in the gorge. And I took my time.

What to bring?

It’s not a extreme hike. It’s classified as easy and that’s right. There is plenty of water to drink inside the gorge. So, bring your lunch and energy supplies.And maybe sun blocker, unless you like to get toasted. The end stretch is rather sunny.

I would recommend very good walking shoes. And socks. unless you are one of those running around like a happy do,g in those five finger shoes. It’s a tour going down for 14km in rocky and flat downhill terrain. And 4 more on road. If you need to do something the day after, you will be happy with a good choice of trekking shoes. People use 3-8 hours to hike through. I did it on 6-7 hours. And did a lot of time setting up tripod and finding scenic views (also a tad off the foot paved track).

Get to the Samaria gorge as early as possible

Samaria-Gorge-1I stayed in Chania so my pick up was 6 o’clock in the morning. Early. Very early. But why?

The Samaria Gorge is very popular. My mom did it some years ago. And everybody is talking about it, when speaking of Crete. There is a loads of people wanting to experience the hike. Families, kids, teenagers, fitness people, photographers, and grannies.

So, in reality you will meet a lot of people in the gorge. I did the hike on a Wednesday 14th October. I would estimate 8-900 hikers being there through the day.

Since the Samaria gorge is 16km there is plenty of space. But also a lot of bottlenecks. So if you like hiking on solitary, you need to be there before the rest of the bus’ arrive.

When I arrived we were the second bus to come. And we were there 10 min before they opened the gorge for hiking. They open at sunrise.

The route and planning stops

Samaria-Gorge-32Your entrance ticket is your friend. The back has a map where all the water refill stations are marked. Awesome!

There is a Cafe at the Omalos plateau. Great opportunity to empty kidneys and kickstart the hike with a banana and double espresso.

The advantage? the fitness hikers are all gone while you kill the espresso.

Then you easily pass the family hikers.

And get your own walking more solitude that the duck line walking.

My tactics proved right. Some of the way.

The first part is through many stairs. You walk from the top of a mountain to sea level. A descent of approx. 1200m.

After 200-300m you walk in mountain forest. I decided to speed up to pass all the family hikers here according to my plan of the day. I did refills of water and just looked out for photo opportunities.

While beginning the Samaria hike you have great views towards mountains. Then you end in forest terrain. Not many big views here. Then you end in the gorge bottom. With plenty of scenic views. So spend you time wise here!

Due to my purpose to find scenic spots, and just enjoy the spectacularly nature, my tactical walking plan failed. During the day I was passed by many other people. And the later it became, the more people cluttered up on the route.

Hey! It’s beautiful. If you like landscape photography this is just so gorgeous. So use the other hikers as scale models! Then the Samaria gorge just look way bigger and more impressive!

The Church

Yes, it can be entered. And it’s in use!

The Samaria Village Settlement

This is the halfway stop. Good place to eat lunch and enjoy the gardens. Rangers are having a station here where they grow different interesting herbs. The local superstar goat species Kri-Kri might best be spotted here.

The gates (highlight)

The spot where the gorge is around 4 meters wide and 300 meters high. Absolutely nice nature.

The end stretch

The gorge gets narrow and more stony and more scenic. Here I spent plenty of time to look at the nature and hiked rather slow. Also remember to look back. It all looks a tad different from the other side!

The last waterhole

You are supposed to show your ticket here. It’s a count so the rangers know if any people are forgotten in the gorge. You are not allowed to camp in there either. The last stop was under renovation. No water refill possible there. But the ticket officer recommended a newly build cafe just 100m outside the exit … maybe that free source of water refill will take some more time to fix …

The not so boring last 4km

Just after the cafe you will get offered a small buss ride down to Agia.

Don’t.

You will miss the last ruins and history scattered up to the gate.

The Agia Roumeli village

A small settlement with a few taverns. The beer tastes delicious after a hike. Did not try the food. Some people have brought beach gear with them. To pass time waiting for the ferry. So the faster you walk the more waiting time you get … Or beach time.

Tip. The first sea you see is the stone beach. Pass the ferries pier and you will get the sandy beach. This guy either hate sand or didn’t have the strength to walk 300 meters more …

The ferry back to civilization

The ferry is a carriers for people and vehicles. Quite open. So you will have great views of the southern Crete coastline. Do not pack away camera here!

Is Samaria Gorge worth it?

Yes. I’ve seen a lot of nature around the world. This is a good Gorge to spend a day in. I would prefer it to be less crowded, but hey! I just had free scale models in my pictures!

Anything on “secret places to see” or “lonely planet” or “rough guide” well you meet all the other ones who buy those travel bestsellers. The world is getting smaller and smaller. And we want to see highlights. Not explore random areas where our holiday days just disappear in not so scenic views.

Camera Recommendation

I did bring a heavy DSLR and one lens. A 24-105 on a full frame sensor.

You will need wide angle to get the scenic views. If you zoom to much in you loose the landscape.

I considered to bring a 70-300 lens to. But walking a rather narrow gorge might not have the need to take a photo of whats on the top in frog eye perspective.

So, I ended with only bringing the most flexible lens I have. The 24-105. It turned out to be a nice choice.

Then I brought a tripod. Not exactly wildly necessary.

But I had in mind to capture the water calm through the gorge with a ND filter. But there was not a lot of water there in October.

Remember to look back when you walk down.

Gear list:

  • Tripod.
  • Canon 5D.
  • 24-105 lens.
  • Lee ND filter.
  • Comfy strap from.
  • Camera backpack to contain the above and lunch (sandwich, apple and 2 banana’s).

And take your time. The ferry sail at half past five. Plenty of hiking time.

 

If you would like to see more photo’s and details from my hike to Samaria Gorge, you can explore them here on flickr.