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These Boots Were Made for Walking
In the National Park of Samaria, between Crete's White Mountains and Mt. Volakis, Samariá Gorge is a stony terrain dotted by riverbeds and dirt paths. You can catch a glimpse of local architecture when you stop at the old Samarian village, whose inhabitants were relocated when the National Park was established in 1962. These days, the old houses serve as the guards' vantage points.
You might also spot a Kri-Kri goat, characterised by its brown coat, long horns, and nimble gait. It loves to chew on the dittany plant, a shrub with heart-shaped leaves, white fuzz, and, according to early scholars, healing properties. Cypress trees, griffon vultures, and herbs such as thyme, sage, and marjoram are a common sight, too.
Expect to walk and hike a lot on a trail that begins at the rust-tinted Sideroportes (the so-called "Iron Gates"), and ends at the border of Agia Roumeli, where you’ll find tavernas to welcome you. Try the thyme honey; swim at the beach; or see the ruins of a Turkish fortress here.
Spring is the best time to visit Samariá Gorge, when the winds are cool and the foliage, lush. Set off early, to get a head start over the thousands of visitors that come in each day. Tour buses arrive from 7:30 to 11:00 in the morning.
A few tips: eat a lot before heading here. There are no restaurants or cafeterias, but you can get drinking water from the springs. Put on a hat and some sunscreen, and don a jumper to ward off the morning chill.
A fee of €5 is collected at the entrance, but students only pay €2.50, and kids under 15 get in free. Samariá Gorge is open from May to October, with exceptions on rainy days, when rock slides might occur.