Crete is Europe’s gorge-hiking central. Its south-west coast is riven with deep gashes into the glorious 2,000-plus metre White Mountains. During the second world war such places were hiding spots for allied troops and resistance fighters.
The Samariá gorge is the most famous of these but don’t ignore the Imbros (near Chora Sfakia) and Kourtaliotiko.
Organised trips to the Samariá gorge leave from every major tourist centre on the island, but its remoteness means there’s a lot of travel involved: a bus journey to the head of the gorge near Omalos, and on completion of the walk, a ferry trip from Agia Roumeli to the nearest ports linked to the road network, where the bus will be waiting.
The 16km-walk is intoxicating: visitors descend down steps from near-Alpine altitudes to the bottom of the gorge in pine forest.
Halfway along is the ghost village of Samariá, a great place for a rest before the final stretches, when the gorge narrows to pass through the two-metre wide “Iron Gates”.
• The gorge is closed from October to April when rain makes sections too dangerous to traverse.