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Aradena Gorge: A Breathtaking Hiking Trail in Crete

The Aradena Gorge is a magnificent natural wonder located in the region of Sfakia, Crete. It is one of the most popular gorges in West Crete and is a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure seekers. It is a perfect destination for those who prefer a peaceful walk in a serene environment, away from the crowds.

The Aradena Gorge is a deep cut that runs from the southern slopes of the White Mountains to the small beach of Marmara. The walk is a real experience, offering incredible views of the canyon. Most people start the hike from the abandoned village of Aradena and the imposing bungee jumping bridge with a great view. From Aradena village, visitors descend along a well-preserved “kalderimi” – that is, a stone-paved road – into the gorge.

The Aradena Gorge is not particularly exhausting length-wise, but still not the best idea for people without any walking experience. Many passages require a good deal of surefootedness, and visitors should be prepared for some steep climbs. However, the amazing sights and stunning natural beauty of the gorge make it all worthwhile. Visitors can also enjoy refreshments, including delicious Sfakian pies, at a wooden hut by the bridge.

Location

Aradena is one of the most impressive gorges in Crete and is located in the southwestern part of the island. Its entrance is located at the Aradena village, at the western end of the plateau of Anopoli, below the imposing, high peaks of the White Mountains.

Access Points

There are two main access points to the Aradena Gorge: one from the abandoned village Aradena and another from Marmara.

The entrance to the gorge from Aradena village is located at the end of a steep, winding road that can be challenging to navigate. Visitors can park their vehicles at the entrance and then hike down into the gorge.

The entrance to the gorge from Marmara Beach is located near the Aradena iron Bridge, which is the highest bridge for bungee jumping in Greece. There as well, visitors can park their vehicles near the bridge and then hike up into the gorge.

While not considered difficult to hike for the most part, the Aradena is a huge gorge that can prove quite challenging at times, with steep inclines and rugged terrain. Visitors should be prepared with appropriate footwear, clothing, and equipment. It is also recommended to visit the gorge with a guide or experienced hiker.

It's History

The Aradena Gorge has a rich and fascinating history, spanning thousands of years. It is located close to the old settlement of Aradin, which was once an important ancient city. The city flourished during Hellenistic to Venetian times, alongside the neighboring settlement of Anopoli.

During the Ottoman occupation of Crete, the Aradena Gorge became a battlefield, and the village of Aradena was destroyed by the Ottomans. The surviving small village was eventually abandoned in the mid-20th century due to a bloody vendetta, and today it stands as a ghost town, an attraction on its own with its old buildings and the church of Michael Archangel.

Despite or perhaps in addition to its tumultuous past, the Aradena Gorge has remained a popular destination for hikers and adventure-seekers. Today, it is recognized as one of the most significant canyons in Crete.

Features

Physical Features

The Aradena Gorge is 140 meters deep and a very exciting walk, making it one of the most popular hiking destinations in the area. It is surrounded by steep cliffs and its walls are made of limestone and dolomite, which have been eroded over time by the water and the wind.

The gorge features a narrow path that winds through the cliffs, and hikers can enjoy breathtaking vistas of the surrounding landscape. The path can be challenging at times, with steep drops and rocky terrain.

Flora and Fauna

The Aradena Gorge is home to a variety of plant and animal species, some unique to the area. It is covered in lush vegetation, including pine trees, wildflowers, and herbs. Hikers can also spot a variety of birds, including eagles, vultures, and owls, as well as reptiles such as lizards and snakes.

One of the most notable features of the Aradena Gorge is the presence of the Cretan wild goat, also known as the kri-kri. These goats are indigenous to Crete and can be found in very few places. The kri-kri are a protected species, and it is illegal to hunt or harm them.

Activities

Hiking

Aradena Gorge is a popular destination for hiking enthusiasts and offers a variety of hiking trails that cater to different skill levels. The path is challenging, but the reward is well worth the effort. Hikers can expect to see stunning rock formations, lush vegetation, and plenty of wildlife along the way.

Bungee Jumping

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, bungee jumping is a popular activity in Aradena Gorge. The jump takes place from a height of 138 meters, making it one of the highest jumps in Europe. It is operated by a professional team, ensuring a safe and thrilling experience for all participants.

Tip for visitors

If you’re planning to hike the Aradena Gorge, here are some tips and recommendations to make the most of your experience:

  • Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes with good traction. The terrain can be rocky and uneven, and you will be walking for several hours.

  • Bring plenty of water and snacks. There are no facilities along the way, so you’ll need to carry everything you need with you.

  • Start early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. The gorge can get very hot, especially during the summer months.

  • Check the weather forecast before you go. The gorge can be dangerous during heavy rain or thunderstorms.

  • Take your time and enjoy the scenery. The Aradena Gorge is a beautiful and unique natural wonder, so make sure you take the time to appreciate it.

  • Consider hiring a guide if you’re not an experienced hiker. A guide can provide valuable information about the area and ensure your safety.

Safety Precautions

While the hike through the Gorge is not too difficult, it is important to take safety precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Stay on the marked trail, follow all posted signs, and be aware of your surroundings, as the terrain can get uneven and rocky.

Our thoughts

The Aradena Gorge is a truly unique natural wonder that is worth exploring for any nature lover or adventure seeker. The gorge offers an unforgettable experience with its magnificent views, rugged terrain, and rich history.

Whether you choose to hike the entire length of the gorge or just explore a portion of it, you will end the day happier and with a sense of accomplishment.

If you are planning a trip to Crete, be sure to include Aradena Gorge on your list. It is an adventure that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

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