Samaria Gorge is one of the National Parks of Greece and one of the major touristic attractions of Crete which is located to 42 km to south from Chania. It was created by a small river running between the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) and Mount Volakias. There are a number of other gorges in the White Mountains. The gorge is 18km long and is often claimed to be the longest in Europe, although this is disputed. The gorge starts at an altitude of 1227 m. at Xyloskalo near the village of Omalos(70 Km. from Chania) and ends after an 18 km walk to the beach at the village of Agia Roumeli on the south coast of Crete.
The entire area of the gorge has been declared a National Park both because of its natural beauty and for the exceptional and rare flora and fauna living there. Every one species are protected by the Greek State and picking flowers, making excess noise, or hunting is strictly forbidden. The most representative species of the gorge is the wild goat of Crete, the popular kri-kri; you may observe it as you walk, far away on the mountainsides of the White mountains, bordering on the craggy rocks; or, if you are lucky enough and there is not a lot of people around, you may observe it near the village of Samaria, which is situated inside the gorge approximately at the middle of the whole distance. The village is not inhabited since the early 60s, when the place was declared a National Park. On the other hand, it is well preserved and, as it is at the middle of the whole distance it is an ideal relaxing stop for the walkers, who may find here fresh water and possibly a toilet.
The most prominent part of the gorge is the sector known as the 'Iron Gates', where the sides of the gorge close to about 4 meters in and reach up to 500 meters high. The northern entrance to the gorge is 1,250m above sea level. It descends practically to sea level, opening out a couple of kilometres above the village of Agia Roumeli.
If you want to walk through the gorge you have to take one of the early busses that leave from the town of Chania to Omalos. Then, you walk for 5 hours approximately through spots of great beauty and you finally reach the beach of Agia Roumeli, from where you can take a little boat and head to Chora Sfakion or Paleochora, from where you can take the bus back to Chania.
The Gorge is open to visitors from May to October. Closures can happen during this period in case of rains or any other danger. This is generally for safety reasons, since the footpath follows the river bed, which overflows quite often during winter. The best time is probably early May and late September. At these times, there are less people visiting the gorge.