Samaria Gorge National Park#5 in Best Things To Do in Crete
Stretching for about 10 miles through southern Chania Prefecture's White Mountains, Samaria Gorge is thought to be one of the longest canyons in Europe. The gorge trail begins on the Omalos plateau at Xyloskalo, perched high among the mountains. It then winds its way 10 miles between some 1,600-foot vertical walls to Agia Roumeli, a small seaside village. Speedy hikers can usually make the journey in four and a half hours, while more leisurely paced walkers can spend up to eight hours in the gorge. Fast or slow, you're going to want to get an early start to beat the heat and the crowds (about 1,000 people make the hike every day during high season).
Recent visitors strongly advise bringing plenty of water and sunscreen, wearing sturdy shoes and really assessing your fitness level before embarking on this long walk. Although not a hike, travelers reported very few areas where the surface is completely flat. Since it is a gorge, rocks are everywhere and traversing them for hours may be too much for those who aren't regularly active. Despite the challenge, many fawned over the beauty of the gorge. Make sure to observe the greenery, as there are hundreds of different plant species that populate the park. Also keep an eye out for the rare and endangered kri-kri, Crete's native goat.
Park entrance costs €5 EUR. Visitors are welcome from May through October 15th each year between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily. You can drive yourself to the gorge, but that means you'll need to retrieve your car at the trailhead at Omalos — a daunting prospect after a long hike. Another option is taking a public bus (KTEL) from Chania to the trail; after your hike, you can catch a ferry from Agia Roumeli to Hora Sfakion, where you can take the bus back to Chania. For more information about ferry pricing and timetables, visit the ANENDYK website. Perhaps the easiest way to see the gorge is to take a guided tour, which will provide transportation to and from your hotel. You can book tours through Magical Journeys or Tourline.
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#1 Rethymno Old Town
If you're in Rethymno, then you shouldn't miss the opportunity to wander the narrow alleys of Old Town, a seaside neighborhood that dates back to the 11th century. Here, you'll find prime examples of Venetian Renaissance architecture along with splashes of Turkish influence spread throughout the city.
The food and shopping options in Old Town are seemingly endless, but the maze-like streets can be perplexing. If you do get turned around, don't despair: The area isn't huge, and once you see the Venetian Fortezza or the harbor, you can easily regain your bearings. Recent travelers have actually embraced getting lost in Old Town because the streets are so charming, the locals are so kind and the food is so good. Case in point, Old Town Rethymno is simply beautiful.
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