Chania, Samaria Gorge: The longest gorge in Europe, with a unique, magnificent natural environment.
In the prefecture of Chania, Samaria Gorge is the most known natural phenomenon. It is located in the South of Chania prefecture, in Sfakia province, in a distance of about 45 kilometres from Chania city.
Apart from the most spectacular gorge in Chania, Samaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe, with a total length of 16 kilometres. Its width varies greatly, from about 150 metres to only 3 metres, and the height of its sides range between 300 and 600 metres.
The history of Samaria Gorge in Chania
Samaria Gorge was always an especial place in Chania region. It is the biggest between many spectacular gorges in the White Mountains of Crete, or Lefka Ori. The gorge features a really unique flora and fauna in Europe, with rare flowers and animals, like the rare wild goat of Crete, Kri Kri.
The Samaria Gorge in Chania was an area kept free during all the foreign occupations of Crete. This was especially true during the Ottoman occupation, when the Ottoman army suffered heavy casualties when it tried to take control of the gorge. The main reasons for this were the very difficult terrain, and especially the free spirit and ability in war of the local Sfakian people.
In 1962, the Gorge of Samaria was declared a National Park. In 1964, the inhabitants of the small village of Samaria inside the gorge, which gave its name to the gorge, had to leave their houses and relocate to other nearby villages of Chania. The name “Samaria” comes from the church of Saint Mary, or “Ossia Maria” in Greek, in the village, which was pronounced as one word: “Ossia Maria” – “Samaria”.