The gorge of Samaria is situated in the southern part of Chania prefecture in western Crete and mostly in Sfakia municipality. It separates the bulk of the mountain range of the Leyka Ory, to the mountain of the west peak Volaki. It has two natural entrances from the north (42 km from Chania) to Omalos plateau at an altitude of 1,227 meters, took its name “Xiloskalo” in manufacturing of logs that previously were used for the initial steep descent. These days, this is facilitated by scalar stone tiles on sloping ground and safety rails. The gorge leads south to extended dry valley approximately at sea level, before the village of Sfakia, near the sea side, Agia Roumeli. The route through the basic path is nearly 13 kilometers to the south entrance, 14.3 outpost of the Forest Service (National Forest boundary) and 16.7 shore. Allegedly it is the second in Europe in length, then comes the Verdon Gorge in France. In terms of the island, at least, residents of Sfakia however, believe that “Only one is the ‘Grant canyon… Samaria’! The other are just canyons”. At the imposing doors (or Sideroportes) we find the narrowest point with a width of 3 meters, where there just the height of the walls is more than 100, somewhat close to 300 and farther to 700 meters. The passage is considered the most impressive element of the route, but the dangerous early morning and evening hours in summer (all not in winter) with landslides due to sudden temperature change and ibex crossing the rocks in search of food. It sets the course Xiloskalo. To the end of the geological phenomenon and often the stream running through the canyon covers the entire width of the passage. Its name comes from the abandoned village of Samaria, which took its name to the church of Saint Mary. During the Ottoman rule local people and rebels were hiding there.
It was proclaimed in 1962, being one of the first time National Parks in the country. The core of 2008 occupied an area of 48,480 acres, with dominant element in the gorge itself. “The purpose of the foundation is to protect the important and peculiar elements that make up the character of natural and cultural heritage of the region.”
Home too many endemic species of birds and animals, the most famous of which is the Cretan goat, known as the ibex or the Cretan wild goat. Since 1981 it has been included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (MAB: Man & Biosphere) of UNESCO, to promote and protect valuable sites for humans and the rest of the biosphere. The gorge is one of the main attractions of Crete drawing many thousands of tourists who want to cross on foot the route of 16.7 km from Omalos to Agia Roumeli.