AGIA IRINI GORGE
Agia Irini Gorge, Crete, is one of the best gorges in southwest Crete, especially for non experienced hikers.
Agia Irini Gorge, Crete, is one of the most well known gorges in southwest Crete, and a very good - and easier - alternative to Samaria Gorge.
Agia Irini Gorge is located about 45 kilometers from Chania city. The gorge starts at Agia Irini village, where you can go by public bus, if you don’t have a car.
Agia Irini Gorge is one of the best gorges in Crete for the not experienced hiker - although the beauty of the gorge makes it an excellent walk for the experienced, too. The reason for this is its relatively short length (about 7 kilometers, or 2.5 hours of walking), the very good preservation of the trail, and the accessibility of the gorge.
Regarding accessibility, it is a noteworthy fact that, unlike Samaria Gorge, Agia Irini Gorge is open during autumn and winter, too. However, you should avoid crossing the gorge during, or after a heavy rain, as the river inside the gorge gets bigger and it may make the hike difficult or even dangerous at times. If you are not sure about the gorge’s accessibility, the safest bet is to ask the guards of the gorge, or a local.
Hiking through Agia Irini Gorge, Crete
Before you start hiking through Agia Irini Gorge, you should make sure that you have a good pair of hiking shoes, water and a hat and sunscreen for protection from the sun.
The entrance of Agia Irini Gorge is in the outskirts of the homonymous Agia Irini village in Southwest Crete. Most of the times, especially during summer, there are guards of the gorge in the entrance to help you with any question you might have.
The gorge descends from Agia Irini village towards Sougia village, starting at an elevation of about 550 meters. A pleasant surprise for the visitors is that a good part of the gorge is covered by trees, which provide ample shade for the hikers all year round.
Another pleasant fact that you cannot fail to observe is the low number of visitors. It is estimated that in Agia Irini Gorge there are about 10% of the visitors of the famous Samaria Gorge, which means that you will avoid the crowd of thousands of visitors that flock to Samaria Gorge in a daily basis during the summertime.
About 45 minutes after entering the gorge you will find a small “oasis” inside the gorge: a shaded place with toilets, drinking water and benches, which was made to cater especially for the visitors’ needs.
Further down the trail the hike is generally easy, as the path is well preserved. The only thing that might make things a little bit difficult is a couple of spots where you might need to use your hands to get over some big rocks inside the gorge – but it is relatively easy to do so. In fact, Agia Irini Gorge is one of the most easily accessible gorges in Crete and Greece.
After about walking for 2.5 hours in the gorge, the gorge widens dramatically and you reach the road that leads to Sougia village. There, you can find a tavern - which is open 6 months a year during the summer holiday period - where you can rest.
From this point on, you can keep walking until you reach Sougia village, which is in a distance of about 5 kilometers, or about 1.5 hours. It is not advised to keep walking in the river bed inside the gorge, as the trail gets difficult enough after this point. The best thing to do is walk on the road that leads to Sougia, as it is more accessible and with little traffic.
The wonderful flora and fauna of Agia Irini Gorge, Crete
A description of the wonderful Agia Irini Gorge would be incomplete if we didn’t mention the impressive flora and fauna of the area.
If you are lucky enough to walk through the gorge in spring, you can find a great collection of the beautiful Cretan wildflowers. During summer the wildflowers dry out, but there are many oleanders with their characteristic pink flowers to admire.
Most of the trail is shaded due to the rich vegetation in the area. In Agia Irini Gorge you will find pine trees, plane trees, carob trees, cypresses, and a large variety of other kinds of trees.
Regarding its fauna, the gorge has one of the richest ecosystems in Crete. Possibly the most known - and rare - species that live in the area are big birds like the Golden Eagle and the Bearded Vulture. Observing them is not easy, and you have to be lucky, but, after all, everything can happen in Crete!
Agia Irini Gorge is one of the best gorges in Crete to see and experience. Its rich, full of trees, vegetation, its accessibility and its overall beauty, make Agia Irini Gorge one of the best places to visit during your vacation in Crete - and a must-see if you stay in Sougia.