The Samariá Gorge is a national park in the island of Crete, one of the major touristic attractions of the island.
The gorge is in the prefecture of Chania in the South West of Crete. It was created by a small river running between the White Mountains (Lefká Óri) and Mount Volakias. There are a number of other gorges in the White Mountains. The gorge is 18km long and is often claimed to be the longest in Europe, although this is disputed. The most famous part of the gorge is the section known as the 'Iron Gates', where the sides of the gorge close in and reach up to 1,000 ft high. The northern entrance to the gorge is 1,250m above sea level. It descends practically to sea level, opening out a couple of kilometres above the village of Agia Roumeli.
The gorge became a national park in 1962, particularly as a refuge for the rare Kri-kri (Cretan goat), which is largely restricted to the park and a few small islands just off-shore. There are several other endemic species in the gorge and surrounding area, as well as many other species of flower, bird, etc.
The village of Samariá lies just inside the gorge. It was finally abandoned by the last remaining inhabitants in 1962 to make way for the park. The village and the gorge take their name from the village's ancient church Óssia María (St Mary).
One of the "musts" for a tourist to the island is to complete the walk down the gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea, at which point tourists sail to the nearby village of Hora Sfakion and catch a coach back to Chania. The walk takes between four and seven hours and can be strenuous, especially in high summer.
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