Aradena Gorge

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Situated in the perfecture of Chania, Aradena gorge, with its steep surrounding cliffs and scenic views of the Libyan Sea, is only 5,5 km long and a perfect destination for non-demanding hikes. The gorge's fauna includes bearded vultures and other rare bird species, while lucky visitors may also come across the local wild goat called “aegagrus”.

Springtime, when the climate is milder and the wildflowers are in bloom, is the best season to be in the gorge, which can be crossed either from its lower entrance, at Marmara beach, or from above, beginning at Aradena village. In the first case, a small boat will take you from Sfakia to Loutro village, from where you will need to walk to Marmara beach. Alternatively, you may drive to Aradena village, built at an altitude of 520 m and look for the small paved path leading to the gorge.

The settlement's old building remains reveal the skill of local craftsmen, as well as Crete's uglier side: The houses are believed to have been abandoned in mid-20th century, after a bloody feud between families (also known as “vendeta”) killed several residents and virtually wiped off the village from the map. It is said that at the heart of the argument was the disputed ownership of an animal bell. The names of those who were killed in the fight have been recorded in the village's two churches.

Recommended route
Marmara beach – Aradena village: The entrance to the gorge can be found next to the tavern, which has been built on a rock. The first section of the path is quite wide, but it soon becomes narrower and steeper, while at some points you may need to climb over fallen rocks.

The track divides and becomes narrower approximately at mid-way. One branch, marked with spraypaint, leads to Livaniana village. It is advisable to fill your canteens at the spring located just after the path's entrance, since it is the only one to be found in the gorge. Then return to the fork and take the other branch, which becomes steeper and then wider again until the most tricky part of the route: A wall made of fallen stones, which can either be crossed by climbing the metal ladders placed on the rocks, or by taking the left branch, which ascends before leading back to the dry riverbed- this is by far the safest route, especially after rainfall.

You will soon walk under Aradena bridge and in a few minutes you should find the paved path leading left to Aradena or right to Aghios Dimitrios village. The whole route takes aboutt two hours and is relatively easy to complete. Be aware of stones which are sometimes dropped by goats grazing on the slopes above.

Nearby sights
The path linking the gorge with Livaniana village goes trough the settlement of Azogyres, with its ruined houses, the old church of Aghios Athanasios and the panoramic view of the Lybian Sea. The low stone fences were once used to cultivate the land. Here, you may rest and enjoy a refreshment at Germano's cafe- a haven for tired hikers. Aradena village, with its abandoned stone houses, is equally appealing.

Upon leaving the gorge on the way to Aradena village, you should see a church on your left, where it is possible to spend the night. There is no spring in the area, but you may ask for some water at the two houses nearby. Alternatively, you may camp at abandoned Azogyres village. The view of the gorge is breath taking, although the absence of shade is a hazard during the hot summer months.

Food and water
Several taverns and cafes, also serving local specialities, operate at Marmara beach and Livaniana village, but none at the end of the gorge, near Aradena village.

Getting to Crete
The ferry linking Pereus to Chania departs daily at 9p.m. and arrives at 5.30 in the morning. Tickets start from 35 euros. The ship will leave you at Souda port, from where you can take a taxi or a local bus (1,5 euros). You should get off at the end of the route; Chania regional bus station is a five minutes walk away.