Agia Irini Gorge
The Agia Irini Gorge is in the southwest of Crete. The beginning of the hike through the gorge is near the tiny village of Agia Irini on the road from Chania to Sougia. The walking time through the Agia Irini Gorge is about 3 hours. From the exit of the gorge it is at least another hour walk to the sea to the holiday village of Sougia. It is a rather easy hiking trail. But in summer it is often very hot in the gorge of Agia Irini.
For many tourists, hiking through the Irini Gorge is an easier alternative to the nearby world-famous Samarina Gorge. With a length of almost 20 kilometres, the Samaria Gorge is only recommended for fit people. The Agia Irini Gorge is a bit easier. But you should also bring some fitness and hiking equipment.
Dangers in the gorge include rockfall, lack of water and heat. There are some water points in the Agia Irini gorge, but they are not always in use. The way is, contrary to many other claims, at some times mostly in the sun. This is especially true for the midday and early afternoon from May to August. It is essential to take enough water with you.
Walking time: There are hikers who run at a very high speed through the Irini Gorge in 100 minutes. A normal hiker needs about 3 to 4 hours with small breaks.
Starting point of the hike (village Agia Irini): A tiny village along the road. This is the only petrol station in the area. From Sougia the locals have to drive up more than 20 kilometers to Agia Irini to refuel.
The entrance of the Irini Gorge is seen from Sougia just before the village of Agia Irini, seen from Chania behind the village. Around the entrance of the gorge there are some cafes and snack bars for the hungry and thirsty hikers.
At the entrance to the gorge of St. Irini there are some information boards and maps. There are many places in the area where you can park for free. If you don't want to do the whole hike, you can just go into the valley and turn around. This is of course possible at the end of the hike. Also here there is a tavern and a large parking lot.
Hike through the gorge: A wide path leads down into the narrow gorge. A few metres after the entrance comes the last refreshment point, the tavern / bar Kri-Kri. Here you have breakfast, lunch and drinks, the last chance to buy water. The hike starts at an altitude of about 600 meters above sea level. To the end of the actual gorge one goes down 500 meters of altitude. The way through the Agia Irini gorge has a length of approximately 8 kilometres. After heavy rain there is a lot of water in the narrow valley. Then the hiking through the Agia Irini Gorge is more difficult or not possible at all. Several times you have to cross the stream in the valley. After one hour you reach a resting place. The Agia Irini hike is very nice in spring, when many colourful flowers bloom. In the lower part, one has to climb over some bigger rocks. This is not a big problem for average hikers, especially if you use your hands to help. At the end of the hike there is another tavern.
How do I get to Agia Irini to start the hike?
You can take a taxi from Sougia (about 25 km), have a friend drive you up or take a public bus. The bus leaves at 7am (April 2017, only on weekdays), which is not a bad time in the hot summer on Crete. One ends the hike before the big midday heat.
From Chania buses leave at 5 o'clock in the morning and at 13:45, so very early and very late for a hike. The 5 o'clock bus only runs Monday to Friday. In high season there are more buses, also from Paleochora.
How do I get from the end of the hike?
After 3 hours of hiking you reach the exit of the gorge. From here there is a road to the villiage Sougia. You can call a taxi or book in advance or walk, a good hour on a paved road.
Does the Agia Irini Gorge cost admission?
Since the state in Greece has little money, the preservation of the ways and bridges in the gorge is financed with an entrance fee of 2 euros. There is a cash box both above and below..
Is it possible to go from bottom to top?
This is of course possible, but very exhausting. From the sea in Sougia you have to climb 600 meters. If one drives down to the starting point by car or taxi, there are still 500 metres of altitude difference. The advantage is that one can take the bus on Agia Irini back to Sougia. The bus leaves, coming from Chania, at approximately 15 o'clock through the village Agia Irini (status April 2017).