Gorge of the Dead in Zakros: Where the Minoans buried their dead
Eastern Crete, a special place, relatively isolated and definitely more peaceful than other places on the island. Here you find everything you need if you want to avoid the crowds. Just be ready for a little more driving and not so good roads. But we love road trips and driving, so we are always ready to pay this price in order to get to beautiful and almost deserted beaches, to traditional villages and monasteries, and, most importantly, to gorges of all kinds.
We could not start hiking in that part of the island from anywhere other than the Gorge of the Dead. Probably the most famous and easy hike in the area. From the village of Ano Zakros, its steep sides lead to Kato Zakros, a calm and nice place with the Minoan palace and the crystal clear waters. A fairly easy hike, enjoyable even with a small child or a baby.
- Let’s start with the name. The Gorge of the Dead should not bring to your mind something scary, the gorge is the same safe as any other accessible gorge in Crete. Its name is due to the discovery of tombs and archaeological finds of the Minoan era in the large caves on its walls. We found this burial tradition extremely difficult, seeing very steep vertical rocks!
- There are two entrances to the gorge. The first is right next to Ano Zakros village, while the second somewhere in the middle of the distance, thus shortening the crossing time. If you are not a fan of hiking, you can start at the second one and win about 40 minutes of walking.
- Make sure you get water and snacks with you, as well as everything you need. No matter how easy it is to cross a gorge, nature never allows complacency. There is no drinking water on the route.
- What to do with a car. You can arrive at Kato Zakros village the previous day and take a taxi in the morning to the Gorge Entrance (around 10 euro). Make arrangements in the evening, because there are only one or two taxi cars in the village. Don’t worry, even if a taxi won’t be available, for sure some local guy will take you there, but let the people know that you want to go to the gorge in the early morning.
The second option is to arrive/to stay in Ano Zakros, follow the gorge, and then take a taxi to get back to your car/hotel in the evening. Then make sure you take everything you need for the beach.
With a toddler, we needed about 2,5 hours to arrive at the village at a very relaxing pace (starting from the second entrance). We made stops for photos, snacks, so I believe this hike can be easily done in 1,5 hours.
- It is ideal to start in the early morning. Even though it is a rule of thumb for almost all hikes in Greece in the summer, do not forget that you need some time for a visit to the archeological site of Kato Zakros before the heat gets unbearable. Then you can relax in one of the local taverns (say “hi” to our friend Christophoros in the tavern “Nostos“, the best food you can ever imagine). Take a dip in the crystal clear waters while waiting for your meal!
Hiking with our little explorer – For family travelers
We started with a strong wind that day, which cut short as we descended to the bottom of the gorge. Since we had other plans in mind and were a bit late to start hiking, we entered from the second entrance. Ektoras was already impatient to walk and did not want to sit in his backpack!
The plane trees and the laurels dominate the flora of the gorge, while we sometimes had to cross the river, which holds some water in June. On the way we explained to our little one everything we saw, we are glad that he learns nature near us and that he loves such activities.
- Ektoras was wearing very light but long pants and we did not regret it, there are many thorns all around the path. Sometimes it gets a little bit rocky, so I would suggest wearing very good steady sandals or sneakers for your little ones.
Arrival in Kato Zakros, the best reward
At noon we were slowly leaving the gorge. Shortly after the exit, the palace is definitely worth a visit. Afterward, we walked towards the coastal road, enjoyed our lunch, and just relaxed next to the sea. What a peaceful atmosphere! More info about this little village is coming in our next article.
Enjoy the beauty and wild spirit of South Crete!
P.S. An old dirt road, inaccessible to small cars leads from Ano to Kato Zakros, moving parallel to the gorge. You can see this road on Google maps, but do not enter it in case you do not have 4WD car. We took this road by a mistake, and it was too late to go back after we entered. But we were pretty concerned about getting stuck there with some flat tire, the road is in really bad condition (we have a Dacia Duster). At least we were rewarded with a beautiful view from above!