October 11, 2002
The gorge of Samaria on the island of Crete, said to be the second longest in Europe after the gorges du Verdon in southern France, is about 16 km long, starting at an altitude of 1,250 meters and descending to the Mediterranean Sea. The gorge extends from the White Mountains of western Crete to the southern coast. Its narrowest portion, referred to as the "iron gate," was an imposing barrier to invading armies. For scale, note the size of the hikers at the bottom of the "iron gate."
The gorge was created during the Quaternary period by a combination of erosional and tectonic processes. Most all of the rock formations in the Samaria Gorge area consist of dolomite. It is now one of the last remaining shelters of the mountain goat of Crete, known as the “kri-kri”. In addition, it is home to dittany (scientific name Origanum dictamus or Dictamus creticus), a Cretan endemic plant reputed to have therapeutic properties in healing wounds.