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Agia Irini Gorge : The Alternative of Samaria
Like people, every Cretan gorge has its own personality, look and character so it will be a new experience. The gorge of Agia Irini even though it is not as well-known as the neighboring gorge of Samaria, it is equally beautiful. Its vegetation is very rich, and one can visit several spots of historical interest along the way until the end of the walk that you will be rewarded by a refreshed swimming in the deep blue sea of Sougia village.
It is easy to get there as it is located only 40 minutes away from the villa driving your car. The gorge of Agia Irini situated 25Km from ArchonVilla and it is an excellent alternative to the gorge of Samaria because:
It is far less crowded: At busy times maybe a hundred people a day.
It is much shorter: 7.5 km to the exit of the gorge instead of 16 km for the walk through Samaria.
The amount of descent is only around 500m instead of 1230m so it is easier on the knees.
It is open all year around instead of Samaria that is only open from May to October.
Most of the walk is in the shade so it is also suitable for walking on hot days.
The gorge area has been listed as a Wildlife Refuge, it is part of the European path E4, and is a habitat of the Cretan wild goat. Rare birds, such as the Bearded Vulture (one of the rarest bird species in Europe), Golden Eagles and Bonelli’s Eagles, as well as numerous little mammals, such as badgers, weasels, martens etc., live in the gorge.
Also typical of the area is the richness in forest flora. The slopes of the gorge are thick with clumps of beautiful Cypressesand Pines, while tall Plane trees cast their shade on the watercourse.
Smaller plants and bushes add to the beauty of the scenery: thyme, sage, lavender, as also the wild and unique Cretan dittany (Origanum dictamnus), which is known for its therapeutic properties.
The path into the gorge of Agia Irini starts at the exit of the village of Agia Irini at an altitude of 590m.
After around 30 minutes from the beginning of the walk you will reach a large cistern and around 15 minutes later a shaded rest area with toilets, benches and water.
The path is always clear to follow and is shaded most of the time by plane and pine trees.
There are a few other rest areas with water.
A little further down the gorge there are a couple of spots where you might need to use your hands to get over some boulders but on the whole the path is easy and after around 2 hours 30 minutes (7.5km) the gorge widens, you start seeing olive trees and terraces and a sign points out to the exit on the left hand side where you reach the road.
At that point to the end there is a small tavern which should be open from April to October and serves drinks as well as good food.
This tavern is the meeting point with the taxi if you have already arrange it.
If you choose to go down to Sougia by foot it is best to stick to the road as the walk in the river bed is a little stony and uncomfortable.
Sougia village in the exit of the gorge, is one of the quietest and most relaxing places on Crete, with a friendly and laid back atmosphere.
Don’t lose a swimming there in the very inviting clear deep blue sea, or even an above average launch, in the numerous restaurants and cafés.
Useful Tips !!
TAXI is a frequent option for those who come to Agia Irini gorge with their own car either if you go to Sougia by foot or want to get back to your car just after the exit of the gorge. This is the most convenience way but a little bit more expensive. Please make sure that you book it in advance as there are only two taxis based in Sougia and they may be busy. You can contact them at www.taxi-selino.com or www.taxi-sougia.com and remember do not forget to ask for the price.
There are some alternatives instead of get a Taxi like:
You could start at the bottom of the gorge, walk up to the northern exit and catch the bus that goes down to Sougia and exit to the point you left your car.
You could start from Agia Irini village go down the gorge, and then come back with the bus that goes back to Chania from Sougia in order to get your car.