The little-known but spectacular Aradena Gorge is located in western Crete. Its wild beauty is revealed by a view from the 138m high Aradena Bridge or on a challenging hike through the Aradena Gorge.
The rugged Aradena Gorge in western Crete runs from the peak of Thodoris in the White Mountains to the sea and, at 138 metres, is the deepest gorge in the Chania region.
With a length of 15 kilometres, the Aradena Gorge is even slightly longer than the famous Samaria Gorge, which is walked through by tens of thousands of Cretan holidaymakers in the high season. The Sfakians called it "Faragas", "Huge Gorge", which is not surprising when looking at the impressive steep cliffs.
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PICTURES: Aradena Gorge and Aradena Bridge on Crete
Not as well known as the Samaria Gorge, which is often wrongly called Europe's longest gorge, the Aradena Gorge is well worth a visit - especially because there are far fewer tourists marching through it!
Best time to visit the Aradena Gorge
The Aradena Gorge is open all year round. Weather-wise, the best time to visit the Aradena Gorge is April to October. Hiking through the Aradena Gorge during or shortly after rainfall is not recommended and is even dangerous due to possible falling rocks. If you hike through the Aradena Gorge in May or June, you will enjoy the countless oleander bushes in bloom.
Getting to the Aradena Gorge
The Aradena Gorge is located in the west of the island of Crete on its southern coast. From Chora Sfakion, a well-maintained road runs via the mountain village of Anapoli to the Aradena Gorge. The gorge can thus be easily reached by rental car.
From Anapoli, a good 3-kilometre-long footpath leads to the abandoned Aradena village right on the edge of the gorge. It was depopulated after the last vendetta of the Sfakians in the 1950s. The dilapidated houses still display the typical Cretan island architecture. The snow-white church of St. Michael the Archangel is still well preserved and offers a picturesque photo motif right on the edge of the gorge.
Aradena Bridge - 138m Bungee Jumping
If you drive to the Aradena Gorge, you will discover another sight in western Crete: the spectacular Aradena Bridge over the gorge, which connects Anapolis and Aradena. It is one of the most beautiful bridges in Crete and is located at the highest point of the gorge. From May to October, the 138-metre drop is used by bungee jumpers for their daring jumps - which are among the highest bungee jumps in Europe.
The steel girder bridge built in 1986 offers a wonderful view of the Aradena Gorge. But of course, its full splendour is best revealed on a hike through the Aradena Gorge.
Hike through the Aradena Gorge
Directly in front of the Aradena Bridge next to the Astratigos Chapel, a hiking trail leads to the bottom of the Aradena Gorge. From here, the hike to the end of the gorge at the Libyan Sea takes about 2.5 hours. In the past, the descent was via a steep ladder, but now a gravel path leads down to the riverbed at the bottom of the gorge.
Just like the famous Samaria Gorge in the northwest of Crete, the Aradena Gorge is also located on the legendary European long-distance hiking trail E4. A hike through the Aradena Gorge, with an altitude difference of 700 metres and many a tricky spot, is only recommended for experienced hikers and not an alternative for Crete holidays with children!
Tip: If you have knee problems, you should hike through the gorge from the coast to the top. The ascent is manageable and walking uphill is much healthier for the joints - assuming trained thighs.
Start at Aradena
Most hikers start at the Aradena Bridge, which is located about in the middle of the gorge. Thus, the rumour persists that the Aradena Gorge is only 7 kilometres long.
The hiking trail through the Aradena Gorge is marked with cairns and coloured blobs and leads past spectacular steep cliffs that rise more than a hundred metres into the sky. The most impressive spot is directly below Aradena, where the cliffs are only 8 metres apart at the bottom and 25 metres apart at the top, reaching 138 metres into the sky.
Two abandoned villages, Azogyres and Sterni, can also be found at the bottom of the gorge. Some passages require some concentration and very good surefootedness, especially when walking downwards through the gorge.
Attention! There are wild goats living in the gorge, and they keep kicking up stones. If goats appear above you, wait and see.
Destination in Marmara Bay
At its end, the Aradena Gorge opens up to the dreamlike Marmara Beach with its colourful sea caves. A stop for a swim in the crystal-clear sea is recommended there before continuing for an hour on foot (along an unsecured coastal path next to which the cliff drops quite steeply into the sea) or by boat to Loutro. Boats leave from this picturesque coastal village back to Chora Sfakion (or you can get a lift from locals in a car).