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Experiencing the Beauty of Omalos Plateau, Chania, Crete

Many tourists who find the hike down the magnificent Gorge of Samaria too challenging may want to consider staying at a lodge in Omalos, the starting point for entering the gorge.  

Your hosts will offer traditional, Cretan hospitality, plus the experience of being in one of the most dramatically beautiful natural settings on Crete.  

Two lodges that come highly recommended by hikers are the Kallergi Lodge, about two hours on foot from the gorge, and Neo Omalos, closer to the gorge’s entrance.

The White Mountains comprise the most famous and spectacular mountain range in Crete.  Pachnes is the highest peak at 2452 meters.  Omalos is the only village in the White Mountains and is sparsely populated with ten homes.  

In these mountains there are no lifts or other man-made structures to transport people, and you will be surrounded by nature in all her wild, rustic beauty.  It is an area of outstanding natural splendor that some find breathtaking.

The Kallergi Lodge is for those seeking basic but comfortable accommodation.  It has approximately fifty beds, dormitory style, a fully equipped kitchen, (good food!), a lodge with fireplace and wood burning stoves, toilets (indoors and outdoors), showers, and a camping area.  Electricity is supplied by a generator. The lodge was renovated a few years ago.  Its views of the mountains are magnificent and the warden who manages the lodge is equipped to provide information on local walks and the history and culture of the area.

The Neo Omalos is modern, has more to offer, including a reception lounge, restaurant and bar, warm breakfast, and relaxing nights by a roaring fireplace; it is only four kilometers from the entrance to the gorge.  Similar in appearance to an alpine lodge, Neo Omalos is situated on the edge of a plateau and surrounded by fields of soft, pink tulips and brilliant, scarlet anemones.  Twenty-six rooms will accommodate single and double occupancies.  Open year-round, all rooms are heated, have a phone, television, bath, and hot water. The rooms are cleaned daily.

Travelers who have stayed in these loges offer these words of caution: it can be very cold at night, even in the summer, and the weather can change, suddenly, so dress in layers; mobile phones will not work here; it is very easy to get lost, so if you are doing “local hikes,” the best advice is walk with others and chart your path carefully.  Finally, take plenty of water because there are no natural springs and no place to purchase water.

Aurelia is the author of Labyrinthine Ways, a novel set primarily in Sfakia in modern times; it tells stories of life and love in the mountain villages of Crete

Article was published in The National Herald

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