Posted by: travelrat | September 24, 2007

Irini Gorge

The author in Irini Gorge Irini Gorge, Crete. 13th May 2007

On a coach tour of the White Mountains of Crete, we took a short walk down the Irini Gorge. But, this was no substitute for a complete traverse I did a couple of days later.

Starting at the village of Ayia Irini, I walked some distance down the gorge, before coming to a ranger station, where they relieved me of €1.50 entrance fee. I entered a wooded gorge, with almost sheer walls rising on both sides.

People used to live down here! A fading sign marked the place where there was once a settlement, abandoned two hundred years ago. There’s little sign of it now, and if it wasn’t for the notice, it wouldn’t be obvious that it was there.

By a rock on the wayside, there’s a little altar, on which are holy pictures and a little bowl containing one or two euro-cents. There’s a signboard close by, saying treat this as a holy place but it’s so weather-beaten, it’s almost indecipherable. Maybe this is a shrine to St. Irene, to which the villagers of Ayia Irini make their annual pilgrimage on her name day?

Many wild flowers grew on the floor of the gorge… the gorges create a ‘micro-climate’ and some species can thrive nowhere else. Occasionally, a lizard scurried across the path … and goats were often seen, probably to the detriment of a lot of the flora.

It’s about 7½ km. long, which doesn’t sound very far; even less when you translate it into miles, but ‘it says here’ (in a sadly outdated guidebook) that the transit will take 3 hours. It took me four, but that included a lot of stopping, staring and taking pictures time.

The going became rougher and stonier, but the path was still easily followed. At one point, a house-sized boulder diverted the waters through a gap only three feet wide. And, although there was no water in the river, the large, bone-white, rounded boulders gave a good idea of what it could be like in spate.

‘At the end’ says the guidebook, ‘there is a beautiful traditional tourist kiosk’. There’s still a sign indicating the way there, but it was abandoned, dilapidated, and firmly locked! For good, or because the season hadn’t started yet, I don’t know.All there was at the end was a car park, and a notice giving a telephone number from which a taxi might be summoned. And, guess who left his mobile phone in the car, back at Ayia Irini?

One thing the guidebook was right about was the 45-minute walk into Souyia, from where it might be possible to find a taxi to take me back to Ayia Irini. But, I’d only walked along that road a short time, when a nice Cretan couple stopped and offered me a lift.

And, in Souyia, they told me that the only bus to Ayia Irini that day was leaving in an hour’s time! Talk about luck! I wonder if the few coins I put into St. Irene’s bowl on the way past had anything to do with it?


  1. St. Irene obviously was looking after you – talk about happenstance!

  2. I am sitting in my Chania hotel room, recuperating from my walk through the St. Irini Gorge. My friends and I (a group of 31) had plans to walk Samaria, but the hot temperatures closed that gorge today. So, our tour guide suggested we try St. Irini which we did.

    It was a tough hike, made more so by the heat which was mitigated by the shade during the early part of the walk. The last part was, as you said, mostly without shade, so the going was tougher.

    The hardest part of the walk was the difficulty navigating the non-ending rocks and the up and down terrain. By the time we finished, all of us were uttering how fortunate we were that Samaria (which is twice as long and double the time to walk) was not available to us. But also the beauty of St. Irini would be hard to duplicate by its more famous neighbor.

    By the way, the ranger at the station collects 2 Euros but allows children in our group who were under 18 to enter free.

    • Thank you for the report and the update!

      If you have any more time in Crete, you might find the Imbros Gorge ( )
      less strenuous, especially in the present heat. There’s video of both gorges somewhere on this site, too

      Keith (Travelrat)

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