Agia Irini gorge is located in the southwest part of the island of Crete. It starts near Agia Irini village and ends 4.5km away from Sougia, is 7km long and it usually takes up to 2.5 to 3 hours to walk.
Although it is the second most visited gorge after the gorge of Samaria, it remains very beautiful and less crowded.
Agia Irini gorge is part of Nature 2000 area, and the Ministry of Agriculture has also designated it as a wildlife refuge. The gorge is part of the habitat of the Cretan wild goat and contains a variety of microenvironments which are refuge and habitat for many species of fauna. Another characteristic is the wealth of forest vegetation in terms of trees, shrubs, brushwood and herbs.
The importance of Agia Irini gorge is not only limited to its high biodiversity or aesthetic value, but also the historical and cultural identity. During the Ottoman era, rebels had their dens at the location of “Polla Spitakia” and, in 1866, 1000 women and children escaped from the Turks through this gorge.
Description of the path
Agia Irini gorge starts near Agia Irini village. Throughout the journey, you will be accompanied by the smell of sage and the sounds of cicadas. Moreover, Agia Irini gorge is full of various plants, pine trees, oak trees, cypresses etc.
In many places, you will find places for recreation with toilet, water and benches. Due to the fact that water in the gorge is not guaranteed, it would be suggested to carry a bottle of water with you.
The only hard part is at the end of the gorge since you need to walk around 4.5km on asphalt so as to get to Sougia. A suggestion would be to have some rest in the cafeteria, where you can find at the end of the gorge, and call a taxi so as to come and pick you up in order to avoid the asphalt part.
Although Agia Irini gorge is considered easy and suitable also for children, you should not neglect to use proper shoes, such as sneakers or hiking boots. It is downhill, without particularly steep areas.
Last but not least, during the tourist season, there is a small fee, which is used to pay for the maintenance of the path.
Some Advantages of Agia Irini Gorge over Samaria Gorge
It is less crowded.
It is much shorter.
The amount of descending areas is around 500m instead of 1250m, hence it is better for your knees.
It is open almost all the year round compared to the Samaria Gorge which only opens from May to October. It is not advised to visit it during rainy days.
Most of the walk is in the shade so it could be said that it is ideal for walking during the summer.
How to visit Agia Irini Gorge from Sougia
During spring, summer, and autumn months there is a coach from the square of Sougia, leaving at 07:00 am, which will take you to Agia Irini Village and the start of Agia Irini’s gorge.
You should ask the coach driver to drop you at the entrance of Agia Irini’s Gorge.
If you need a taxi, please click here.
By Rental Car
If you have a rental car you will be able to drive to the entrance of Agia Irini’s gorge, where you will easily find a parking spot and can start walking the gorge.
When you return to Sougia at the end of the walk, you could get the coach which leaves at 18:00 pm - 18:30 pm (after the arrival of the ferry from Agia Roumeli) or take a taxi to Agia Irini Village and collect your rental car.