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Hiking Samaria Gorge

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After one night’s sleep in the port city of Heraklion, Crete, we took the morning bus to Hania (also seen spelled Chania) where we would stay to explore and hike the Samaria Gorge.  Our two hour bus ride was well worth it for this charming old style town.  Narrow, winding pedestrian streets are aplenty filled with shops, hotels and restaurants.  We had a fabulous time just meandering the streets taking in the character of the town, and talking to local shop owners while slowly making our way towards the harbor.

Waves crashed into the wall dousing us with spray as we walked along the water out to the lighthouse.  Hania’s lighthouse connects to the harbor with a wall, dividing the rough open ocean from the calm waters of the dock where colorful boats adorn the shore.  Unfortunately, you cannot go into or up on top of the lighthouse, but it was worth the visit nonetheless.  Next, it was off to the bus station to buy our bus tickets for tomorrow’s trek through the Samaria Gorge.

We found the bus station easy enough, but the question soon became whether the gorge would be open tomorrow and what times the buses actually would be departing.  Apparently, they close the gorge due to inclement weather, and since today’s forecast was threatening rain, they were not sure what the decision would be about tomorrow.  Round and round we went with the eventual conclusion of, “Come back at 7:00 tomorrow morning”.  Ok.

Being incredibly optimistic, well, let me rephrase, Justin, being incredibly optimistic and dragging me along for the ride, we decided to get to the bus station at 6:15 in the morning, hoping to catch, what the bus schedule said, was the first bus scheduled to make the hour long journey to the gorge.  Good news, the gorge is open and buses are running, the bad news, as this was the off season, the first bus was not leaving until 7:20.  As with all things in life there was an upside, they serve gelato and pastries in the bus station – have I mentioned how much I love Greece yet?  Needless to say I helped myself to gelato for breakfast.

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We arrived at Samaria Gorge around 8:30, bought our tickets, and started our ever downward hike towards the beach.  It turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day, leaving all uncertainty about the weather to be completed unfounded.  The trail was gorgeous, although very touristy, as we were hiking with about 50 of our bus-mates, and obviously well traveled (it is said to be the most walked path in all of Greece) as you can tell by the stone paths, which have been polished completely smooth in most places (making it exceedingly slippery I might add).  The hike is deceivingly easy as it is completely downhill, but, as avid hikers well know, hiking downhill for 16km takes its toll on the body, so good shoes are definitely a must (hint, hint, Chinese tourists!).  All in all the hike took us about 5 hours from start to finish including lots of Kodak moments and a snack break.  It is a stunning trail walking between two gorgeous mountains, often with just two sheer cliffs rising up on either side of you.  The gorge itself is about 13km long, then once out we had another 3km to walk to get to the town of Agia Roumeli, where we had our choice of restaurants and the opportunity to lie on the beach until it was time to head back.  It was a little too cool that day for either of us to want to swim, so we enjoyed a nice two hour rest napping and reading in the sunshine.  To get back to Hania requires first a ferry followed by a bus ride, ultimately landing you back in Hania, which for us ended up being about 8:30-9:00 at night.

As much as we enjoyed hiking Samaria, I have to warn that it is a bit of a hassle to get there, and Hania is about the town with the closest proximity to the gorge.  We definitely got caught up in the touristy hype with this one as I think with only really 2 full days in Hania itself it wasn’t quite worth the travel time.  Oh well, we certainly learned for the next time we plan a big trip.  As always we had a ton of fun, and lots of great pictures to prove it!

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