The Sanmaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe, it winds from north to south 17 kilometers from 1200m down to the sea. We hiked with a guide in one day.
Since we go hiking a lot in the Alps, we thought it would not be too difficult a hike. But it is the enormous heat that makes you get over the day. So you should cream yourself well, wearing a headgear and airy clothes. High hiking boots are appropriate as you climb over thousands of stones. The entire area covers 4850 hectares and was declared a National Park in 1962. Sanmaria Gorge is located in the heart of this park.
We started early from the north into the landscape of the "LefkaOri", The White Mountains. You drive to the Omalos plateauwhere there is a new information center at the entrance of the gorge. Here you can find out about the enormous biodiversity of the Sanmaria National Park. The so-called Cretan "Agrimi Wild Goat" is only available in this national park, otherwise it was hunted. At the resting places in the gorge one has the luck to see one from time to time. At the entrance of the gorge you pay 2 € entrance and get a ticket. This is collected at the end of the ravine to make sure that no hiker is lost! The trail through the gorge has a length of 13km. Roof you walk another 3,2km to the fishing village of Agia Roumeli, where you get on the ferry to the east.
At the entrance to the gorge you can look directly at the Gigilos, the 1980m high, sacred mountain. You stand directly in front of this impressive wild and rugged mountain wall. We were impressed by this mountain massif in Crete, because you can see the mountains down by the sea, but it hardly imagines so spectacular and high. Now we descend 900m on about 7km pure downhill over stone steps into the interior of the mountains. Already at the beginning you can see many wild herbs and small flowers along the way, which defy the heat and the dry soil. Here, the path through pine trees and ancient cypress trees is still mostly pleasantly shaded. We cross several river beds and see tantalizing turquoise blue pools. In the heat you would like to swim in the river, but you should avoid that. Because the sunscreen on the skin gets so into the water and harms the animals. It is fortunate that the entire gorge has many sources of drinking water. Also for this reason one should not dive his sweaty feet in the streams. The springs are located after about every three quarters of an hour at the rest areas and you can refuel your bottles with cold water. A little tip: wet your cap under the cold water, which prevents overheating and prevents a sunstroke.
After 7.5km we reach the lonely Village Sanmaria, The park rangers now have their station here. If a hiker is in trouble and can not even walk out of the gorge, the rangers come with a donkey and bring you to the next town. In the past, families still lived in the old stone houses of Sanmaria. It was not until 1965 that they were relocated, as they turned their homeland into a national park. Actually a very sad idea, just so we can walk through this gorge today ... ..
On the other hand, the rangers today ensure that the special flora and fauna preserved here and thus preserved. For other goat species, for example, access is prohibited because they would eradicate particular plants. After the village of Sanmaria, we will go to the most impressive part of the gorge, namely through the cliff walls rising up to 60 meters. Here you feel really small. The walls glow orange to coppery red in the sunlight. The rocks are crossed by several rocks in a marbled wavy pattern.
Here we walk completely through the river bed, which is dry, because it continues underground at this point. Now we reach the so-called "Iron Gate", the narrowest point of the entire gorge. Here, the space measures only 3 meters and the rock walls taper upwards.
Then comes the River "Tarraios " again partly upwards and we walk over old wooden bridges, which actually correspond to simple, slightly wider wooden ladders. You keep climbing over many riverbeds, so you have to concentrate almost permanently on the way. Sticks can also be very helpful here. The path meanders directly along the rock face and we finally reach the end of the gorge through oleander bushes. Here expected and an idyllic, simple tavern, which actually consists only of a beautiful terrace. Here you sit relaxed in the shade and must absolutely enjoy a cold, freshly squeezed orange juice. It is offered here in Crete in many places, as the oranges are just infinitely sweet and juicy. We could not imagine a refreshing drink at the end of this hike.
Now you have the last part to the fishing village in front of you. Anyone who can not here, has the opportunity for € 1.50 to take the bus down to the village. We walk, because the sea is soon in sight and you walk down an uncomplicated, roughly tarred way. Along the way, the goats lie in the shade of the trees and look after us curiously. We see old ruined stone houses and caves in the lateral rock walls. As soon as you see the sea behind the village, you just want to jump in. Here on the south coast of Crete it is mostly still very untouched, because here the mountains steeply fall directly into the sea. Fortunately there is not much room for hotels and development.
The Mediterranean is so wonderful turquoise to dark blue and we cool our tired legs in the refreshing cold water. For swimming it has in Agia Roumeli almost too much surf and sharp rocks. Tired and satisfied, we travel by ferry to the east, where you get back to the bus from the mountains.
tip: also the moufflons of alsnuff.de were there hiking and have a worth reading Blog post about it written!