Samaria Overview

Samaria National Park, located on the island of Crete in Greece, is a stunning natural reserve renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and rich biodiversity. Established in 1962 to protect the area’s unique flora and fauna, the park spans an area of approximately 48.5 square kilometers (18.7 square miles), centered around the Samaria Gorge. This gorge, one of the longest and most famous in Europe, stretches over 16 kilometers (about 10 miles) from the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) down to the Libyan Sea.

The park’s rugged terrain is characterized by steep mountainsides, ancient forests, and the winding path of the gorge itself, which offers visitors a challenging and rewarding trek through its dramatic scenery. The trek through Samaria Gorge is a highlight for many visitors, providing an opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Crete up close, from towering cliffs to the Iron Gates, the gorge’s narrowest point.

Samaria National Park is a haven for endemic species, including the rare kri-kri (Cretan ibex), which finds refuge in the park’s remote and inaccessible areas. The gorge also supports a diverse array of plant life, with hundreds of species of flowers and herbs, many of which are endemic to Crete, adding color and fragrance to the landscape.

In addition to its natural wonders, the park has cultural significance, with several abandoned settlements and Byzantine chapels dotting the route, reminding visitors of the human history intertwined with the gorge. The village of Samaria, located within the gorge, was evacuated in the 1960s to create the national park but remains an interesting site for exploration.

Samaria National Park is not only a destination for adventure and nature enthusiasts but also a crucial area for conservation efforts, ensuring the preservation of Crete’s unique natural heritage. Its combination of natural beauty, biodiversity, and cultural history makes it a must-visit location for anyone traveling to Crete, offering an unforgettable experience of the island’s wild and unspoiled landscapes.

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Park Map
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Samaria National Park Pictures

Samaria National Park Trails

Samaria Gorge Trail

Rating: Moderate to Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: 10 miles (16 km) one way, descent of 4,100 feet (1,250 meters)

Description: This trail takes you through the heart of the famous Samaria Gorge, Europe’s longest gorge.

Starting from Xyloskalo at the Omalos plateau, it winds down to the Libyan Sea at Agia Roumeli.

Hikers can admire the towering cliffs, ancient forests, and the rare kri-kri (Cretan goat). The route is mostly downhill and can be challenging due to its length and rocky terrain.

Agia Roumeli to Agios Pavlos

Rating: Easy to Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 2 miles (3.2 km) one way, minimal elevation gain

Description: This coastal trail offers a more leisurely hike from Agia Roumeli, where the Samaria Gorge trail ends, to the Byzantine chapel of Agios Pavlos.

It’s a beautiful walk along the Libyan Sea, with opportunities to swim in crystal-clear waters and relax on secluded beaches.

Omalos Plateau to Kallergi Refuge

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 3 miles (5 km) one way, 1,640 feet (500 meters)

Description: Starting from the Omalos plateau, this trail ascends to the Kallergi Refuge on the Lefka Ori (White Mountains).

The path offers stunning panoramic views of the plateau, Samaria Gorge, and on clear days, the Libyan Sea.

The refuge is a popular rest stop for hikers and mountaineers exploring the high peaks.

Imbros Gorge Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 5 miles (8 km) one way, descent of 1,968 feet (600 meters)

Description: Although not directly in Samaria National Park, the Imbros Gorge is a popular alternative for those seeking a shorter gorge experience.

The trail runs from the village of Imbros to Komitades, offering spectacular rock formations and narrow passages.

Samaria Village Exploration

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: Varies within the abandoned village

Description: Within the Samaria Gorge, the abandoned village of Samaria offers an easy, exploratory trail for visitors interested in the cultural aspect.

Walk among the ruins of this historic village, visit the small church of Osia Maria, and learn about the life of the residents before the area became a national park.

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  • Samaria National Park, Official Site,, retrieved April 2024.
  • UNESCO, Gorge of Samaria National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Visit Greece, Samaria Gorge,, retrieved April 2024.
  • West Crete, Samaria Gorge,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Wikipedia, Kri-kri,, retrieved April 2024.