Such was the case with Crete’s Samaria Gorge. Our first views of the Gorge were of its end, at Agia Roumeli, a small village on Crete’s southern coast.
|Approaching Agia Roumeli, Crete, from the Libyan Sea|
Since our first visit to Crete five years ago, we’ve:
*vowed to hike the Gorge, and
* visit this small town -- with a population of less than 150 people - that welcomes hikers as they emerge from the Gorge's 18 km (11.8 mile) route.
The gorge, by the way, is said to be the longest in Europe.
|Streets are lined with cafes in Agia Roumeli|
Much to our surprise, Agia Roumeli, with paved roads and sidewalks that lead visitors to a large selection of restaurants and tourist accommodations, is more spread out than Loutro.
(And until we arrived in Agia Roumeli,we hadn’t seen ads for fish pedicures since we’d left the big city, Heraklion, on Crete’s northern coast a week before.)
And the Gorgeous Gorge. . .
Guidebooks say the Samaria (sah-mah-rih-ah) Gorge is carpeted with spring wild flowers and is home to a number of endangered species, including the Kri-Kri, a wild Cretan goat.
|Samaria Gorge from Agia Roumeli|
|The Scout sets out to see the Gorge|
The 1.2 km stretch we walked is described as ‘uninteresting’ in Lonely Planet’s guidebook.
‘Uninteresting’ ?!?! That must mean the gorge is pretty spectacular or the reviewer was tuckered out by the time he/she got to this leg of the hike.
We heartily disagree with that description! Here are just four reasons why:
|This beautifully maintained church and cemetery we passed along the way|
|One of the many buildings that make up the abandoned Old Town|
|This minuscule chapel built into the rock wall high above us|
|And scenes like this along the way|
|Remains of the Turkish fortress that towers over Agia Roumeli Crete|
If You Go:
There are excursions to Samaria Gorge from every sizable town in Crete.
* The full one way hikes leave from Omalos to the north (not pictured on the map) and end in Agia Roumeli; shorter round-trip hikes loop from Agia Roumeli taking you the narrowest part of the Gorge, its Iron Gates.
* Locals have said it is more fun to hike the gorge on your own and not keep pace with an organized group. Note: It also means you are on your own for transportation arrangements to and from the gorge.
* Starting before 8 a.m. will help beat the bus-loads of hikers that have purchased the package hikes.
* The gorge opens late in the spring. It had been open only a couple of days when we visited in early May 2013. So, if hiking the Gorge is in your plans, make sure it is open.
Thanks to Lonely Planet for the map above.
That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday, but to continue your armchair travels head to Budget Travelers Sandbox.