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Samaria Gorge, , Crete

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Samaria National Park
Chania , Crete
Greece
Concierge.com's insider take:

Whether or not it is the longest gorge in Europe, this giant crack in the earth at the far west end of Crete is certainly, on many days, the most crowded. From May to the middle of October, the months the gorge is open to trekkers, as many as 2,000 people a day follow its steep, rocky trail from up in the White Mountains about ten miles down to the sea. A few hardy souls, tough enough to withstand almost 2,000 repetitions of being told they are going the wrong way, even hike up it. By starting early and pushing through the first popular rest stop or two, it's possible to have this remarkably beautiful slice of nature—with its towering rock walls, its forest of pine and cypress, its pebbly stream—mostly to yourself. The logistics of arranging transport, which requires two separate bus rides and a boat ride, almost demands that you go with a tour company. Among the better ones is Diktynna Travel, which limits itself to smaller groups than most (30-28210-41458; www.diktynna-travel.gr). Don't go on days when rain threatens (as the trail, which can get deadly slick, will be closed anyway). And don't go unless you are physically up to the challenge, because once you start there is no shortcut out.

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