Kritsa Gorge is a pretty canyon which passes through narrows and olive trees in eastern Crete located near Agios Nikolaos. Difficulties encountered on the hike include finding the parking area for the canyon, climbing some small dry falls which should be easy for most people, and route finding if you wish to use the loop hike back. A Google Earth map of the hiking route (turned to the northeast for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 35° 9.830'N, 25° 38.892'E. GPS coordinates for the 1st Exit are 35° 10.198'N, 25° 38.440'E. GPS coordinates for the Tapes Exit are 35° 10.646'N, 25° 37.719'E. GPS coordinates for the hiking path portion of the loop route back are 35° 10.202'N, 25° 38.830'E.
As this is the first of six trip reports which I will be releasing on the canyons of Crete, let me start with a little bit of background information about our trip. When I found out that I would be taking my 12th trip to Europe in the summer of 2014, one of the destinations which was immediately included was Athens, Greece. Athens had been a home away from home for me during the years 2000-2006, when I visited there 4 different times and built up lasting friendships. During my time in Greece on this trip, I wanted to do some hiking for the first time ever. Canyon hiking happens to be my favorite type of hiking due to various reasons (such as ever-changing scenery and dramatic walls). Thus, I began searching out canyons to hike in mainland Greece. I did find a few canyons of note, but nothing which was absolutely stunning and seemed to be a must-do. During the course of my research, I found out that the island of Crete contains over 100 canyons (or gorges). In fact, my map of Crete lists 124 gorges, but I have read that the actual number is much higher. Since I had never visited any of the Greek islands before, this gave me the perfect reason to go. So we booked 7 days on Crete staying in three different areas of the large island. I then spent quite a bit of time trying to narrow down my hiking list from 124 gorges to the 6 which I wanted to see the most. That was not an easy task. But I put a lot of effort into it and feel that I made the right decisions now that my hikes have been successfully completed. The 6 gorges that I chose included what I call "The Big 4". You can read about those and why I assigned that name to them on the trip report for Agia Irini Gorge. In addition to "The Big 4", I chose two lesser-known gorges on the eastern side of the island -- Kritsa Gorge and Sarakina Gorge. This report covers our hike through Kritsa Gorge.
We arrived by overnight ferry onto Crete early in the morning on Sunday, August 31, 2014. After picking up our rental car in Chania, we spent the morning driving across to the other side of the island to Agios Nikolaos. Our first two nights would be spent in the nearby coastal town of Ammoudara across the street from Faedra Beach. It might seem silly to arrive on Crete in the city of Chania only to immediately drive all the way across the island, but there was a reason for this. Most of our time would be spent in the vicinity of Chania, but we came over to the eastern side in order to do our hikes of Kritsa Gorge and Sarakina Gorge. The nice thing about staying near Agios Nikolaos is that the village of Kritsa was only about 15 minutes drive away. After checking into our hotel, we headed to Kritsa. For the hikes on this trip, my long-time friend Gary Kennedy and I would be doing most of the hikes together while the girls (Daria and Alesya) and my son Stefan would be enjoying time at the beach. One thing I should mention is that in order to prepare for these gorge hikes, tremendous planning went into each one. At home before the trip, I had to print out maps, upload GPS coordinates, figure out driving directions, find parking areas, determine length of hikes, do extensive internet research to determine safety considerations, and gather as much information as I could find. Being that most of these canyons have not yet become commercialized (like many of the canyons in Utah and some in Death Valley are), helpful information was somewhat scarce. But there were some resources and I also made extensive use of satellite imagery.
Driving into the historic village of Kritsa was a neat experience. It is a small village of white buildings and houses spread throughout a hillside of the Dikti Mountains with Kritsa Gorge visible off to the right. We found the parking area, gathered up our packs, and headed down a set of stone stairs into the wash of the gorge. Kritsa Gorge started with some boulder climbs and navigation around small obstacles. I could immediately feel and see the difference between Kritsa Gorge and the canyons I was used to hiking back home. The wash, boulders, and dry falls might have seemed to be the same, but nothing else. The plants and trees were completely different, especially hiking in the midst of olive groves. Also, the sounds were different. Instead of the sound of either silence or small birds such as canyon wrens, there was the constant buzzing noise of insects that I had not heard before. Being the end of August, it was still very hot on Crete and as we headed up canyon, we were taking frequent rest breaks in shade to drink water. We soon entered the Kritsa Gorge narrows, which were shallow but spectacular. There was one tricky part where we had to get past a nest of wasps or hornets in the narrows without getting stung. After getting some nice pictures in the narrows, we continued up canyon past the first exit point of the gorge. The first exit point allows you to loop hike back to the car by way of old dirt roads and trails above the gorge. Through the middle portion of Kritsa Gorge, we passed by more olive groves and were introduced to the Cretan wild goats. The true Cretan wild goats (also known as Kri-kri or Agrimi) are found over in the White Mountains and Samaria Gorge area, and I got some nice pictures of them. The wild goats we saw in both Kritsa Gorge and Sarakina Gorge were more likely domestic runaways. While proceeding up Kritsa Gorge, it is actually necessary to open and close several gates which help control the grazing areas of these goats. As our hike continued, the canyon walls disappeared and we were hiking in a shallow wash with nice views of the surrounding hills. We then reached the turn-off point for the village of Tapes and turned around. Tapes is an extended hiking destination for those who want to see an interesting traditional Greek village. On the way back down Kritsa Gorge, we turned off and took the first exit point back to the car, which allowed us to have some nice views of Kritsa village and the surrounding area. Our hike of Kritsa Gorge had proved to be an outstanding introduction to gorge hiking on Crete. That evening, I picked up a bottle of Kritsa's award-winning olive oil to pour over our Greek salads after we finished swimming in the Cretan Sea at Faedra Beach. It was so good that we took some Kritsa olive oil with us to enjoy during the rest of our trip. Our hike took place on August 31, 2014.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT