Imbros Gorge, close to Chora Sfakia, is
the second most popular gorge on Crete after Samaria. During the high season
hundreds of walkers visit daily to make the trek through the valley. The walk is
not particularly strenuous and can be completed in 2-3 hours. The scenery is
beautiful and the relative easiness of the hike makes it an ideal walk for
families with children.
The walk begins at the small
village of Imbros, 700m above sea level. If you take the walk in spring or
autumn, warm clothes are recommended to combat the cooler weather.
After a few hundred metres you
reach the entrance to the gorge, where there is a small hut where you must pay
the entrance fee (Ä2 in 2008).
The first half hour of walking is downhill, with the gorge getting narrower
along the way. After 75 minutes or so youíll find yourself in the narrowest,
most spectacular spot of the gorge.
The walls of the gorge are less than 2m
apart and tower 300m above; this area is signposted (see image below). Fifteen
minutes more down the gorge is a pleasant resting place.
Some travel books say
drinks are sold here, but donít rely on this information - Last time I visited
was in July 2008 there were no vendors here and not even a water tap. So be sure
to take enough water with you. On a hot day this should be no less than three
litres per person.
Another highlight of the gorge is the so-called Ďgate rockí, a further ten
minutes walk on from the resting place. You can take some really nice photos
here. Walking through the gate, the gorge widens out again and after one more
hour youíll find yourself at the end of the gorge, where two tavernas are
waiting for thirsty, hungry walkers.
If you walk a little further youíll arrive in
the village of Komitades on the main road to Plakias. You can also go to Chora
Sfakia which has plenty of restaurants and a small supermarket.
The village of Imbros is a charming mountain village with some good tavernas,
and home to the starting point of the eponymous gorge. You can reach it by
taking the buses going between Chania and Chora Sfakia; there are three daily in
the summer. The morning connections are usually packed with hikers.
Komitades, situated at the end of the Imbros Gorge, used to be a quiet village,
but has in latter years thrown itself into servicing the walkers of the gorge.
This has led to a situation where rip-offs are quite a problem. Signs leading
you to the bus stop instead direct you towards an expensive taverna. All of the
ten or so restaurants here have high prices, and the quality of the food is
certainly not good enough. Itís far better to walk on the main road (take the
right turn) for ten minutes Ė youíll find yourself in the centre of the old
village of Komitades. Most the tavernas here are cheaper and serve better
quality food than the ones at the mouth of the gorge.
Komitades is on the bus route between Plakias and Chora Sfakia. In summer 2008
there was a bus to Plakias around 5.40pm. If you want to go by bus to
Sfakia, Imbros (where many hikers leave their car) or
Chania, youíll need to
walk 1.5km out of Komitades to the main road. Be sure to check the timetable
first Ė there arenít many buses. You could also walk from here to Chora Sfakia
on the (busy!) main road. Itís only 4-5km, which most should make in an hour.
There are also taxis from the end of the gorge and from the village of
Komitades, but prices can be high Ė itís best to haggle over the price and try
and find fellow walkers to group up with.
Almost all the major tourist resorts in Crete have tour operators offering day
trips to Imbros gorge. The big advantage of these is that you get dropped off at
the beginning and picked up at the end of the hike. Prices vary depending on the
distance of your resort to Imbros, but most will charge Ä25-40.
Warnings: Always take a lot of water. Imbros Gorge is one of the hottest places
on Crete, and the river that flows through it in winter dries up completely in
summer - there is nowhere to fill up your water bottle, whatever your books may
Use good shoes. Imbros Gorge has many big stones - some as big as footballs Ė I
slipped and fell twice in my trainers.
Imbros Gorge is open all year round, but I donít recommend trying to do it in
winter or spring, after the heavy rain. Landslides, tumbling rocks, big stones
and lots of water make this a very challenging - not to mention dangerous Ė
walk. If you are not sure, itís better to ask the locals in the village of
Imbros (which sees snow in winter).
Imbros Gorge has some fascinating
flora; the higher areas at the beginning of
the gorge has a forest (with oaks, fig trees, almond tress and cypresses),
petering out to a few bushes at the very bottom.
Itís possible to walk uphill rather than down, but itís exhausting. On the other
hand, youíll end up in the very attractive village of Imbros with its good
tavernas and kafenion, and the bus connections are much better here.