This interesting and attractive gorge has so much to offer. It’s almost secretive entrance gives you the feeling that you have stumbled upon a newly discovered treasure and in so many ways it matches these expectations. Unlike the more famous Samaria Gorge trek, this walk is less intensive but still very rewarding, with the bonus of historic, ancient ruins and a charming unspoiled cove to be discovered at the end of your trek.
You might also consider the very much simpler walk at Agio Farago just south of Matala (some 45 minutes away) and there is a full review of this walk to be found here.
From the happy, relaxed, south Crete coast town of Sougia you will head towards Palaiochora but you will not go this far because the hike will take you to Lissos and then you would then have to embark upon another longer trek to get to Palaiochora if you wanted this longer hike. It is possible and we did meet an older lady who had started early in the morning from Palaiochora and crossed us on the side of the Gorge but you do need to coordinate your trip to tie in with the ferry from Palaiochora to Sougia or visa versa if you go in the opposite direction. Being less adventurous we decided early on that we were quite content enough to take in the sights on the way to Lissos and would relax on the charming little cobble strewn cove when we got there….Palaiochora can wait for another day!
Remember there is a phone number you simply MUST have
Why? Well..see the end of this article and you will realise why.
The entrance to the gorge is at the far western extreme of Sougia where you will find a small harbour for pleasure boats. You should make your way to were the main ferry comes in bringing returning walkers from the Samaria Gorge to catch their tour buses back to Reythemon, Chania and Iraklio and take the narrow road around the back of the harbour. Here you will see a religious icon/small church and see a gap in the rocks with some well worn rocks indicating the entrance way…sounds complicated but so long as you know it is in the furthest corner from the town then you cannot go wrong. (You might also be aware that even though this is a small harbour there is a mini beach area tucked away out of the madding crowd…not beautiful… but quiet if you just need a little peace)
Heading into the Gorge you wander gradually along a fairly flat incline and because much of the wlak will be in welcomed shade, you will have the pleasure of abundant greenery; make the most of it because when you break up out of the Gorge and over the top you will be at the mercy of the blazing sun…did I say take a hat?
At one point you pass through a rock chicane which you can picture the sculpturing process to get to this point in millions of years.
After about 30 minutes or so you will be challenged to head straight onwards along the dry riverbed but you should look for and find the path that leads to the left and will start to climb. If you don’t find the path to the left you will be taken on up the riverbed and eventually meet with a rough but fairly well defined track. This can be followed back down to the south…follow the sun, and you will eventually end up back in Lissos. This might sound like an easy solution but it is actually a fairly long way around.
Heading up the Gorge side there are times when you may feel you are going back on yourself and this is indeed the case but so long as you are still going upwards too then you are on the correct trail. Zigzag upwards and you will come to a point when you can gaze down into the gorge where you have just walked and look beyond to the sea,,,still on the correct trail but you may be puffing a little here!! Take time to relish the beauty of this and smell the pine scent around you.
Carry on up through trees but the route is fairly wide as you push up to the top so there will be a number of minor routes…my partner thought she had the best route and was adamant as she strode out…there wasn’t much in it but I think I did pip her sticking to my choice of route. No point falling out though because you will be wheezing and sweating once you exit the wooded area and hit the barren hilltop. There are red and yellow painted markings on some of the rocks to indicate that you are on the correct path but of course you know that you will be more or less following the coastline; but at height.
Once on top (the hill between two valleys) of the gorge the landscape adjusts to accommodate the windswept conditions and so there are fewer trees at this point…just carry on heading west and you will eventually work your way slightly downhill over a rugged rocky terrain and you will soon see the Lissos cove and a little further on you will see the welcoming outlines of the ruins down almost at sea level but back from the coast by a few hundred metres.
From here it is a case of carefully picking your footing because you are going to scramble down what my partner thought was a cliff but was actually fairly easy if you just take your time and stop often to admire the view. At this point I will reiterate the need to ensure you have decent shoes or boots to make this trek. As you descend you will come to a point where you can see the ruins of the settlement which was here long enough to fall down! the hoardings will give you all the historical detail you need.
It was at this point on our way down and really hot that we met this lady, probably in her 60s, who had walked from Palaiochora and was absolutely flying!! Made us feel pretty weak I can tell you…but there was also a young family encountered so you should not be put off by my melodramatic narration On the level you meander your way down to the cove but of course there are a number of interesting ruins to consider before hitting the beautiful bay. Most of these have printed hoardings describing the ancient ruins in detail.
Now we had arrived at the cove and we just could hardly wait to get into the gorgeous clear water but before you throw yourself headlong into the water, you might want to find somewhere to relax once you come out of the H2O so look over to the right and you will see that the cliffs afford some well needed shelter…failing that you will find there are small trees just back from the rocky/pebbly beach so perhaps this is a good place to string up a sarong to get the shelter…either that or you are going to be in the water a lot of the time!!
You need to consider what you need to complete this day outing. This is not a stroll up the high street so ensure that you are well prepared and this will be a fantastic day out. You must have good walking shoes or boots. Make sure you take a backpack with enough food and snacks to do you for the day, water is unavailable once you leave Sougia so make sure you take plenty. We absolutely relished the snacks we took with us so load up. A sarong or two might be very useful because you can use these to make a shelter from the sun and they are really light to carry…remember a ball of string cos it makes things really much easier….sounding like the real boy scout here I know but it is easy to be a little more comfortable. Sarongs are also great as towels because they dry out so quickly.
The cove is fab for a bit of really clear water snorkelling so make sure you take yours with you or you will be missing a real treat…there are even a number of small underwater cut always and caves to explore which simply can’t be done without snorkelling gear.
In the surrounding area of the cove there is a little to explore with a really quaint church which lets you imagine how it must have been here in the past…but it is still in use at times so do respect this.
On the left hand side of the cove there is a platform on the rocks which is perfect for diving from with a really deep entry to the water.
So why the number?
Well…we sat for a while thinking how much we did not really wish to walk all the way back and we could see some folks gradually making their way back up the steep sides of the gorge …did we really have to go through it all again after the pleasure of swimming, snorkelling and relaxing?
There is a water taxi from Sougia which you can book by honing the number at the top of this post!!! for 15 euro per trip this is just the business!! we spoke with two other couples on the beach and we all piled onto the boat for a swift, exhilarating and very very pleasant ride back to Sougia without a grunt and groan n the way back up the gorge!!! Pleasure at the end of a lovely day is just the best ever. So before you head out make a note of the number but even if you forget….the number is on a notice on the cliff!!! just make sure you have a few bob to pay cash for the trip and you will be smiling all the way home.
This is a great short day out…it isnt heavily advertised and this makes it just the deal for me. If you have had an experience either in this gorge or others in Crete and would like to catalogue them then please feel free to make comments below and even contact me through the contact area on this site and I will look to add your content.