Samaria gorge visitors trends

The National Park of Samaria has just closed for the season 2015 and visitors statistics are out. It seems that the recovery in the number of visitors to the gorge of Samaria suffered a small setback this year. The visitors statistics covering the last 35 years make for some interesting reading:

Samaria gorge yearly visitors between 1981 and 2015

The main thing that you notice is that there are even less visitors today as there were in 1981, even though there were far fewer people visiting Crete (there are 5 to 6 times more tourists  visiting Crete now than there were in 1981)

Note the steady increase over a period of 10 years to reach the peaks of the early 1990s:  that’s easily explained because visitors to Crete also increased substantially. But then follows a long drop of over 50% even though numbers of tourists keep increasing (maybe not every single year but over the period it definitely increases).

Essentially it means that walking in the gorge of Samaria has become FAR less attractive to today’s average tourist than it was 20 or 30 years ago.  Why is that? Here are a few thoughts that may explain why a walk through the gorge of Samaria has lost so much in popularity.

  • High cost: the entrance fee of the national park has remained at 5 Euro for over 10 years but if you add it to the cost of ferry tickets needed to get back to the road head (which have gone up a lot recently) and the cost of the bus journeys involved, a trip to the gorge of Samaria can easily cost 30 to 50 Euro per person depending on where you are starting from. Tourists possibly have less disposable income than they did 10 or 20 years ago.
  • Too busy: despite visitors numbers having dropped so much Samaria has maintained its old reputation for being very overcrowded which is off putting for many people.
  • Less interest in organized tours: far more people rent cars than they did 20 years ago. If you have a car you might lose interest in organized tours – and ‘doing’ Samaria with a rented car can present logistical problems.
  • Less interest in walking: could tourists coming to Crete have less interest in walking than before? I don’t think so but maybe a lot more people who come to Crete are not at all interested in visiting Crete but instead just want to go to some resort in the sun where they can spend their holiday by the beach.
  • Been there done it: many people who keep returning to Crete have done the walk through the gorge and are not interested in doing it again.

If you can think of some other reasons please note them in the comments.

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22 Responses to Samaria gorge visitors trends

  1. Robinakis says:

    Agree now more expensive pro rata and holiday companies charge higher also. Car hire is also a greater temptation you can hire a car for 2 or 3 days for the same cost of the Gorge

    • Ria says:

      Nowadays there are a lot of alternative walks through smaller gorges offered. So tourists think they can experience the ” samaria gorge” idea with lesser effort, much easier/ accessable, cheaper and in just lesser time.

      • Ria says:

        Men moet het als de ultieme ” gorge” ervaring verkopen. Al de andere gorges benaderen het bij lange na niet.

  2. George says:

    Arrival numbers and trends may need to be looked more closely. Do they include cruise ship arrivals that are there only for a few hours, what has been the trend in all inclusive packages, etc.
    Certainly car hire has affected adversely the Samaria option but not because of cost but because of its one way characteristic.
    Maybe there is a need for more promotion of the “Samaria, the easy way” from the south entrance?
    Whatever are the answers, it is a pity to see this slide in numbers in one of the most attractive nature walks in Crete.

    • Jean says:

      Cruise ship arrivals are only a tiny proportion of the 3 millions+ yearly visitors to Crete.

      The tend in AI packages is up and up but I don’t really see how it would affect the percentage of gorge visitors that much unless all AI punters are really into not spending any money outside of their resorts.

      “Samaria the easy way” excursion is a bit of a waste of time in my opinion so probably hard to make it very attractive. And it will cost (at least) the same and take a day as well so not a terribly attractive alternative unless you are determined to have seen the “Gates” of Samaria.

  3. Ray Dodd says:

    This period roughly coincides with a significant amount of foreigners buying holiday homes in Crete. A good proportion of the increase in visitor numbers will therefore be these people visiting their homes. It seems unlikely that they would visit the gorge with the same regularity that they visit their homes.

    • Jean says:

      I think that foreign home owners make only a small percentage of the 3.000.000 yearly visitors to Crete. But yes, that will be a small contributing factor to the trend.

  4. Peter Ward says:

    It would be interesting to overlay a graph of first-time visitors to Crete onto the Samaria visitors graph, as Jean suggests it seems likely that the decline in Samaria visitors in part reflects the large number of returning visitors in the overall visitor numbers. Imbros Gorge also seems to attract more organised and independent walkers which may also contribute to reduced visitors for Samaria. The question of decline in Samaria visitors should perhaps be posed to the Island’s tour operators – it’s their marketing activity that is likely to have the most significant impact on Samaria walkers

  5. Theys André says:

    I have another question, at what time opens the Samariagorge in May. some say 06.00 others 07.00

  6. Marianna says:


    Do you have any idea when the gorge will open this year? I have already planned a trip last week of April having read somewhere that it usually opens mid April (should have read their official website) but I am now realizing it won’t be before 1/5. Any chance it will open sooner?

  7. Ron Macdonald says:

    Hi Jean,
    Interesting that there is a downward trend on visitor numbers against an overall increase in tourist numbers. Your suggestions as to why seem sensible.
    Hopefully the national park authority commission a questionnaire survey to look in more detail at the issue. They’ll be a range of factors that determine whether people will undertake the walk including cost, concern over their fitness, the time it takes, transport links etc.
    Personally I think Samaria could be better marketed by the Park authority-they seem to have a very hands off approach. Their website should provide much better information to inform the potential visitor, not only in basic facts about how to get to the Park but also how to enjoy the whole experience.
    However, this doesn’t explain the trend in numbers which a well designed questionnaire survey would provide. You can then use the information to design a targeted campaign to better sell the Samaria experience to visitors.

    • Jean says:

      Unfortunately almost everything marketed by anyone related to the Greek state is poorly marketed, not only Samaria.

  8. John says:

    I think that the Samaria Gorge is one of the attraction that suffer from “Death by mass tourism”. When a tourist attraction get too attractive, the following things tend to happen:
    1. The prices go up
    2. The quality go down
    3. Tourist traps and scammers emerge
    3. The crowds start to annoy people
    4. The infrastructure get overloaded (have you seen the bus chaos in Chora Sfakion?)
    5. The attraction become less attractive (have you visited Agia Roumeli recently?)
    6. The attraction fall out of fashion.

    Some of the attractions suffering from, or with immediate risk of, Death By Tourism are:
    The Samaria Gorge (already happening)
    The Venetian port in Rethymnon (already happening)
    The Venetian port in Chania (already happening in the West part)
    Knossos (immediate risk)
    The Agora in Chania (immediate risk)

    • Jean says:

      What you write makes sense but it doesn’t really apply to Samaria. Let’s take your points one by one:
      1. The prices go up
      Entrance fee has been 5 Euro since the introduction of the Euro in 2002
      2. The quality go down
      The Samaria gorge has not changed (except for the fire fighting infrastructure and the water pipes and fire extinguishers are not especially pretty)
      3. Tourist traps and scammers emerge
      No tourist traps inside the gorge, there is nothing to buy. And certainly no scammers
      3. The crowds start to annoy people
      Yes, I agree with this point: people would wish that they were alone. That applies to all famous tourist sights in the world.
      4. The infrastructure get overloaded (have you seen the bus chaos in Chora Sfakion?)
      I personally think that it’s all very well organized in Chora Sfakion. Catching the buses back for the return journey is a daily and well rehearsed routine
      5. The attraction become less attractive (have you visited Agia Roumeli recently?)
      Yes, I go to Agia Roumeli very often and the village has become a lot more attractive in the last 10-15 years than it used to be.
      6. The attraction fall out of fashion.
      If anything walking has become more in fashion since the heydays of the Samaria gorge (mid 1990s)

  9. Jeff says:

    As an avid hiker from the US, I’ll state the gorge hike will be a one and done for me. I’ll go back up tomorrow morning and hope I have the gorge to myself for a few hours. This is not even close to the wilderness experiences I seek out in National Parks. The trail is in poor condition too. It’s far easier to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon than the Samaria Gorge.
    The Gorge is a cash cow for many locals. It’s all about bringing in people despite the reduction of a quality outdoor experience. A shame.

  10. Jo says:

    Part of the reason the numbers may be down is because people visiting do not have the knees/hips to do the hike. For myself, I love hiking but unfortunately, I am not sure I would be able to do the entire walk, due to the descent and rocks; therefore I pick easier routes. I climbed Croagh Patrick in County Mayo Ireland several years ago and loved it! The description of this walk reminds me of that. My heart is there, but my body is not so much. If more seniors are traveling, maybe that is why numbers are down. The people visiting are no longer capable of doing it, or at least the entire walk.

  11. Derek says:

    1981 was when the statistics for the Gorge started and the the figures of people doing it went higher to the early nineties and then started dropping.
    From a UK point of view in 1981 it was the first year of the London Marathon and the craze for fitness began perhaps the ‘I must do the Gorge’ craze for fitness has curtailed. The lesser number of people doing it now are just doing it to see the Gorge.

    • Jean says:

      You have a point though I don’t think that people walk the gorge as a fitness exercise. Generally speaking I don’t think that there is one reason for the drop but probably lots of small factors and this might be one of them.

  12. Derek says:

    Hi Jean,
    I don’t think they do so much now but a number of people were itching to get passed us right from the start and clearly not interested in the views.
    Perhaps others in the past may have noted it on their downward descent. I read that marathon runners are not entering races in such big numbers as previously, although China and Japan still are so, perhaps a fitness thing dropping off

    • Jean says:

      There have always been people who wanted to get the gorge “done” as quickly as possible….which is kind of idiotic unless you have a good reason to go from A to B in the shortest possible time (i.e. working in the gorge)

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