The "Samaria Experience" is a unique 4 day program of activities created and run by a prominent family from the villages of Samaria and Agia Roumeli.
For many years Roussos Viglis has been dreaming of conveying his intimate knowledge and deep love of one of the most remote and wildest places in Europe.
Finally the time is ripe and the "Samaria Experience" is running in order to provide a great experience to all of you.
In 4 days of activities centered around the village of Agia Roumeli and the gorge of Samaria you will get an understanding of what it was like to live in this beautiful but harsh place: how people lived and how they survived in almost complete isolation, what they ate, how they cooked.
You will also discover the gorge of Samaria as very few see it: away from crowds and through the eyes of people who were born and grew up there.
The Programme - 4 days of discovery
The Samaria Experience is a very personal endeavour by Roussos family to show you the life and the natural environment of one of the most remote and traditional regions of Crete. Passing through the gorge of Samaria on a day trip may be spectacular but being in a stream of tourists on a sightseeing walk will not give you any opportunity to learn and experience what life in such a place was - and to some extent still can be.
This compact 4 days program can give you a taste of local's life, an insight into history and roots as well as an appreciation of the wilderness surrounding it.
If you are a keen photographer you will also have plenty of great opportunities to take photos.
Morning - We will visit the old village of Agia Roumeli as well as a few local chapels. Then a walk up to the Turkish castle which sits on a ridge above Agia Roumeli will help give you a good idea of the settings of the place and why people have lived here for so long. It is also an occasion to explore the history of the place and maybe do a little bit of herbs gathering.
Afternoon - Traditional bread and paximadi baking in our wood oven. We will do this in time to be able to sample it with our dinner.
Whole day - Your private visit of the gorge of Samaria is probably the highlight of this program. We will leave very early in the morning and slowly make our way up through the narrow canyon-like section of the gorge up to the village of Samaria. It is unlikely that we will meet anyone on our way because the day trip walkers come from the top and even the fast ones won't get as far down so quickly. It will also be a good time to show you some of the herbs (and in the spring time the flowers) that grow in the gorge.
Once we arrive in the village we will show you our ancestral home, the olive factory and will of course be able to tell you many stories about how life was for the people who lived here - one of the remotest places in Europe - until 50 years ago.
By that time the village will start to get a little busy with walkers who come here for a break before proceeding down to Agia Roumeli so we'll find a nice quiet place a little away from the village to take a long lunch break, maybe take a little nap, keep an eye out for the shy Cretan wild goat, do a little bit of bird watching, or simply enjoy being in wild nature. Eventually, by around 15.00 almost all the walkers will have passed through and we can return back to Agia Roumeli, again enjoying the peace of the place and the cool shade because the sun will now be hiding behing the tall cliffs of the gorge. We get back to Agia Roumeli in the evening, in time for a short refreshing swim in the sea before dinner.
Morning - Cooking a local dish or two - an informal introduction to local cooking, the ways of cooking and the ingredients we use.
Afternoon - Roussos Viglis is also a beekeeper. This is something that he learned from his father and grandfather. Besides being work that provides an income it is also a passion and his bees, his 'girls' as he says, are very much part of his family.
In the later part of the afternoon we will go and visit a few beehives for an introduction to Cretan beekeeping, an activity that is probably over 4000 years old on this island. The more questions you ask him about his bees the happier he will be.
Morning - We will take a walk towards the East to visit the lower part of the little known gorge of Elygias which runs parallel to the gorge of Samaria. Here again you will find beautiful trees and undisturbed nature. It will also be a good occasion to collect some more wild herbs. This can be a short walk (a couple of hours) or quite a long one depending on your mood.
Afternoon - The afternoon will be free until the evening where we gather again for a barbecue on a local beach. We'll look for a place that is a little away from any village lights so that we can have a good look at the fantastic night sky that can generally be seen from Agia Roumeli.
Please note that it might sometimes change the program because of the weather or other circumstances. But then it could provide different programs (for example with more challenging walks) to suit specific groups.
Minimum and maximum numbers of participants
At the moment there is not a minimum or participants. On the other hand the maximum is 15 people.
Where to stay
You will be staying in the spacious Artemis Studios, located at the western edge of the village and less than 100m away from the long beach that runs to the West of the village.
Dates and Prices - 2019 & 2020
The program normally start on Monday morning and run until Thursday evening
Please find below your most convenient dates
4-7 May, 11-14 May, 18-21 May, 25-28 May, 2-5 June, 8-11 June, 15-18 June, 22-25 June, 29 June - 2 July
24-27 August, 31 August-3 September, 07-19 September, 14-17 September, 21-24 September, 28 Sept. - 01 October
The fully inclusive price for the 4 days program is 420.00 Euros per person (on a shared double room basis). This includes 4 nights in the spacious Artemis Studios , 4 breakfasts and 4 dinners (including house wine) as well as a light lunch or a picnic every day.
Single supplement is Euro 50 for 4 nights.
If you want to stay longer either before or after the 4 days program could provide accommodation with breakfast and dinner for Euro 43.00 per person per day (2 people sharing) or Euro 55 (single).
Please contact us for enquiries and reservations.
The village of Agia Roumeli is not connected to the road network so your only options to get there are on foot or by boat.
Walking : You can walk to Agia Roumeli through the gorge of Samaria (4-5 hours of walking time) or along the South coast (5 hours from Loutro, 7 hours from Hora Sfakion, 3 hours from Agios Ioannis, over 12 hours from Sougia)
Ferryboat : A more common way to get to us (if you have luggage) is to come by boat from one of the South coast ports. You can check timetables and prices here.
Taxi boat : We can arrange a private taxi boat from/to Hora Sfakion for 70.00 Euros per trip.
Public buses : Crete has a reliable network of public buses. The nearest road heads to Agia Roumeli are Sougia and Hora Sfakion. Both are connected by buses to Chania. You can see their timetables at their web site. If you come by public bus from Heraklion you will need to change in Vrysses in order to catch a bus to Hora Sfakion. Make sure that the bus you take is marked as stopping in Vrysses in the timetable.
Taxis : It is very easy to pick up a taxi at both airports (and in any city) but if you want to pre-book a taxi transfer to Hora Sfakion we recommend a local company Amiradakis Taxis. They are friendly, efficient and generally a little cheaper than most non-Sfakian taxis.
Hire cars : Hiring a car is cheap in Crete and there is a huge choice of good local companies easily found on the internet. But note that Agia Roumeli is not accessible by road so if you have a car you will either need to leave it in Hora Sfakion (or Sougia / Paleochora) or you will need to put it on the ferryboat which will cost you more than coming as a passenger only (you can book your car here).
Airports in Crete : Crete has two airports. The airport of Chania is located closer (75km) to Hora Sfakion (where you may pick up the ferry to Agia Roumeli) than the airport of Heraklion (150km) so if you have a choice of flights it makes more sense to fly to Chania.
Useful things to take with you
Hiking shoes (or good quality trainers if you are comfortable walking with those), Sandals, Socks, Trekking trousers / pants, Shorts, Beach towel, Swimwear, Lightweight waterproofs (in April, early May and October rain is possible), Underwear, T-shirts and/or casual shirts, Fleece jacket (for cool evenings in early spring and autumn) , Sunhat, Eyewear - sunglasses, Small rucksack 25 to 30 litres capacity, Sun protection (including for lips), Water bottle, Headtorch / headlamp (in case of power cuts), Basic First Aid Kit including: Antiseptic cream, painkillers, plasters (band-aids) and blister treatment, insect repellent, Any medicines that you might need: there is no pharmacy in Agia Roumeli, Camera and batteries
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time of the year to come?
All the dates we offer are set at a good time for this program. The 'best time' will depend on your personal preferences. The weather is cooler in April and early May, nature is greener and flowers are more abundant but the sea is colder. June is warmer but things start to dry out. In the autumn the sea is at its best but after the long dry summer, there are very few flowers. Here is a good link to explain the weather in Crete.
I am not a good walker. Can I still come?
If you don't walk at all you will miss a lot of what we offer but we can find you some alternatives. Most of the walks are reasonably short but the walk to the village of Samaria (and return of course) on the second day is quite long (about 5 hours walking time). The terrain is stony and some basic fitness is necessary.
I am a vegetarian. Will this be a problem?
Nowadays we like our meat (and occasional fish) because we are not as poor as in the past and can afford to eat it. But traditionally meat was a luxury and most of what was cooked were vegetarian. So don't worry, we'll have no problem cooking vegetarian dishes that you can enjoy. Please note that if you need a gluten-free diet it might be a good idea to bring something to eat for your breakfast as we may not have the alternatives you need. If in doubt ask us.
If you are so remote do you have internet connections? I need them for work
The cell phone system is not very good in Agia Roumeli so if you are using cell-based internet don't expect a fast connection. We also have free WiFi in our restaurant. It's not very fast but it does the job.
Please contact us for enquiries and reservations.