Sarakina Gorge is a canyon of spectacular slot narrows and challenging boulder climbs in southeastern Crete located near Ierapetra. Difficulties encountered on the hike include finding the parking area for the canyon, climbing lots of boulder jams which are medium difficulty, and route finding if you wish to continue hiking past the end of the 2nd Narrows. A Google Earth map of the hiking route (turned to the east for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 35° 2.863'N, 25° 34.748'E. GPS coordinates for the upper gorge impassable dry fall are 35° 3.246'N, 25° 34.464'E. GPS coordinates for the bamboo valley waterfalls hike are 35° 3.343'N, 25° 34.551'E. GPS coordinates for the dirt road portion of the loop route back are 35° 3.196'N, 25° 34.652'E.
For our second day on Crete, we woke up and drove the coastal road to the south from Ammoudara. After enjoying some stunning views of sea cliffs, we turned inland and drove to Ierapetra. It was an interesting road because in a very short amount of time we went from the northern shore to the southern shore of Crete. Once in Ierapetra, we followed the road to the west until we reached the villages of Myrtos and Mythi. The parking area for Sarakina Gorge is off to the left just before crossing the main bridge down the hill from Mythi. There are plenty of parking spots situated near a private residence with hanging grapevines. Upon starting our hike, we first checked out the small dam and water collection system, which probably diverts the water of the gorge for either residential or agricultural use. As our hike was carried out at the beginning of September, the lower gorge was completely dry, but water was still being piped into the collection system from upstream. I've heard that at some times of year, Sarakina Gorge has quite a bit of water and may even require swimming when safely passable. The hike begins by climbing a concrete staircase which bypasses some heavy brush. A walkway then leads into the mouth of the canyon, which is immediately narrow and dramatic right from the start. In the 1st Narrows, we saw a few other hiking groups who were taking pictures and enjoying the area. The 1st Narrows have the most photographed spot of Sarakina Gorge, which is essentially the first view into the canyon. In between the 1st and 2nd Narrows, there are some steep boulder climbs to contend with. If it's hot outside, expect to burn some energy and drink lots of water. The 2nd Narrows were also spectacular. My favorite pictures came from this section of the canyon with the towering walls of smooth polished rock. Near the end of the 2nd Narrows, we passed a spot which I had recognized from pictures online as being a potential swimming obstacle with a deep pool of water. However, since the canyon was dry, we simply climbed the steps cut into the rock on the right side to bypass the area. Sometimes in canyons back home (such as in Utah), there are man-made steps which are cut into the rock called Moki Steps (usually created by Native Americans long ago). Moki Steps allow hikers to bypass dry falls or other obstacles which would otherwise require ropes to get past. In Sarakina Gorge, the man-made steps served the same purpose and sometimes seemed to be created simply to make progress up canyon easier. These steps do take away a bit of the natural beauty of the canyon but many hiking groups probably appreciate having them. Once we exited the 2nd Narrows, the canyon walls soon disappeared and we found ourselves hiking through a valley of bamboo and overgrown brush. At this spot, we reached what I call the "3-way Split". The 3-way Split is where there are three options to continue the hike. Taking a left turn leads canyoneers into the upper portion of Sarakina Gorge. Continuing straight leads deeper into the valley with increasingly beautiful pools of water and waterfalls. And turning right allows hikers to take the loop route back to the parking area. We decided to try all three options. We first turned left and attempted to get into Upper Sarakina Gorge. There wasn't much information on the upper gorge available online, so we were hiking into unknown territory. The hike in the wash immediately became very steep and challenging as we dealt with dry falls, boulder blockades, and several minor bypasses. After a while, we walked into a slot that looked like it had great potential from a distance. Unfortunately, it ended quickly at a dramatic huge dry fall which was impassable. Not wanting to be deterred so easily, we scrambled up the steep hillside to the right along with some Cretan goats. But after spending an hour on very difficult terrain, we realized that our efforts in getting into the upper canyon using this route were pointless, so we returned back to the wash below and hiked back down to the junction. Next, we tried the middle option, which led us straight ahead deeper into the valley. This option proved to be spectacular. We began hiking in the midst of flowing water for the first time on the hike. The farther we hiked upstream, the greater the water flow kept on increasing. Eventually, it was impossible to continue without getting our feet wet by walking directly through the water. But on a hot day, it was very refreshing to cool off in that manner. As we continued, there were some beautiful waterfalls and deep pools of water which looked very inviting. Eventually, we reached a spot where we decided to turn around for the day. That's when I decided to take a dip and cool off in one of the pools of water. After that, we began hiking downstream toward the main junction. On the way, we passed by some bunches of wild grapes that looked too delicious to resist eating. So we each grabbed a couple of bunches and the grapes tasted incredible. The grapes gave both of us an instant burst of energy and refreshment inside. It was just what we needed to take the right option at the junction (which was now the left option hiking in the direction we were currently going). The loop route took us high above the canyon rim on some dirt roads which eventually led back to pavement. It was longer and less impressive than the loop route we had done the day before in Kritsa Gorge. But it was still interesting and we had fun taking it. About an hour later, we ended up back at the parking lot and drove back to Ammoudara. One thing I should mention is that while it may look like Sarakina Gorge is a shorter hike based on distance alone, you have to factor in the steepness of the canyon and countless boulder obstacles which must be contended with. If you're planning this hike, allow at least a half day to complete it properly and see everything. Sarakina Gorge proved to be an incredible adventure and a great second hike on our trip. Our hike took place on September 1, 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.
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