Samaria in seven of Europe’s most extraordinary gorges

samariaGot a head for heights? John Wilmott offers a guide to the most magnificent gorges and canyons across Europe.

Over the past decade, I’ve been slowly ticking off the canyons of Europe, marvelling at their natural theatre, their rarity and – rather geekily, I admit – checking out their vital statistics. Below is a round-up of some of the continent’s greatest splits.

Samaria, Crete

Width: 10ft to 1,000ft
Depth: up to 1,000ft
Length: 8 miles

For a hugely satisfying – if exhausting – day out, the hike down the Samaria is hard to beat. There are two problems: one, you’ll share the route with up to 2,000 fellow wanderers in summer, and two, it’s a long way back to the start from where you end up at Agia Roumeli on the coast. Starting in the remote White Mountains, the canyon walk is downhill all the way, with the sheer sides squashing a narrow gap at a point known as The Gates. Best tackled as a day trip using a local tour operator.

Get there: fly to Chania, about an hour by bus from the start and three hours (including boat ride) from the finish.