Richtis Gorge Φαράγγι του Ρίχτη (Eastern Crete) – Easy???
My friend Agent Q and I decided to walk the Richtis Gorge trail during her recent holidays in Greece because we wanted to visit the waterfall. We read up some online information as well as reviews in order to prepare ourselves. We got quite confused by what we read, particularly because this trail is considered to be Easy in some official looking websites, while some reviews on TripAdvisor said absolutely not. We also were a bit indecisive about the options given by Wiki. Hopefully this post would give you some insights to help you plan your trip.
Whether something is easy or not really depends on who’s doing it. So let me begin by introducing my small group of hikers –
Myself – reasonably fit, do some yoga and dance. Definitely not a hiker and I whinged throughout the walk.
Agent Q – my ex dance classmate and now best friend and secret intelligence support. Reasonably fit, swimming is her preferred exercise. Occasionally joins her friends to some hiking trips in Hong Kong.
Photoman – my darling husband who’s also our driver and interpreter. He did marathon twice and walked the Himalayas. He could carry me up the mountains if need be and is the reason I thought the hiking trip would be alright regardless of the difficulty level.
StrongWoman – local friend #1 who earns this new nickname after finishing the Richtis trail in 4 inches platform heels. Exercises sparingly due to her busy work commitments.
SAS – local friend #2 who runs courses teaching people how to survive in the wild and knows the Cretan mountains very well. Difficult to get information out of him because no speak English much.
Agent Q and I were a bit indecisive about which option to take because we didn’t understand what these sites were talking about at the beginning. Maybe we were a bit thick. Now let me describe the Richtis Gorge trail to you in case you are a bit thick like us.
The starting point of Richtis Gorge is right next to the National Road. It’s about 20 minutes’s drive from Sitia. According to the information board, it is 4670 meters from the starting point till the Richtis Beach which is the end of the trail. The beach is small and rocky and was quite rough when we were there. There are some picnic tables nearby.
If you drive a bit further from the starting point, you will see a sign that says ‘Richtis Beach’. Here you can drive all the way down the mountain on a narrow road to the beach. It is 5750 meters long. The road is newly paved but very winding and narrow so please only do the drive if you are an experienced driver. Both Photoman and SAS found it easy to drive but only because they are used to this kind of road.
If you want to walk all the way without using the same path twice, you can walk down the trail and walk up the mountain road, or the other way round. I would not suggest this because although the road is not that busy, it is very narrow and wouldn’t be so pleasant when you have to watch out for cars. There is also no shade at all. The view can be rather nice but for me, it’s not worth the trouble. This whole walk up and down via different route is 10420 meters according to the information board.
Now, back to the starting point of Richtis Gorge. Actually you don’t have to start your walk from here because you can drive down an okay dirt road to Lahanas Bridge (please refer to the photos) and park there. If you do this, you will walk 1380 meters less.
From Lahanas Bridge to the waterfall is 1780 meters. One option is to walk from either the starting point or the bridge to the waterfall and then back up again. We met many people doing that. I guess it is very good exercise.
Another option is to drive down to the beach and park there. Walk up to the waterfall and then back to the beach the same way. Each way is 1510 meters. Originally we were going to take this option which seems to be the easiest as it is the shortest. However, a surprise visit of our friends StrongWoman and SAS enabled us to take what I considered the best option – the Two Car Option.
When Agent Q and I first saw this option on Wiki, we laughed for a long time but honestly I don’t really know why we were laughing. I guess it’s because it’s so perfect yet it requires extra resources that we didn’t imagine we could have. Rich people option! But then we became Rich for the Richtis Gorge thanks to our friends from Heraklion.
Unaware that we were visiting the waterfall on that day, StrongWoman arrived in her usual platform heels. After a bit of discussion in Greek, she and SAS decided to join us for the walk. So we drove to the beach with two cars, parked one of them and all of us went back to the starting point, then drove down again via the dirt road till the Lahanas Bridge and there we began our walk.
If you are not driving, you can check out some prices with local car services. I found one randomly on the internet and phoned him up to get a quote. For the drive from anywhere in Sitia town to the starting point of Richtis Gorge, Yianni the driver quoted me 20 euro. From Richtis Beach back to Sitia is 40 euro. He said it is the same price for any time of the year.
If I ever visit this place again without the two car option, I would start from the bridge to the waterfall instead of choosing the shortest route from the beach because my favourite part of the walk was the descent into the gorge with the help of a long and steep wooden staircase. I do not know how to describe to you the beauty of it and I don’t think any photos can give you the overwhelming feeling I experienced while looking down into the gorge. I am so very grateful for the people who built this staircase as well as the road and trail in order that so many people can enjoy this wonder of nature.
Apart from the Lahanas Bridge which looks very old, the staircase descend and the waterfall, during the section from the starting point till the waterfall, we also walked past an old abandoned house with a small mill inside, and of course many many trees and plants. My local friends picked some berries along the way. We walked next to a stream during almost the entire trail and with so much shade, the walk was pleasant and enjoyable.
From the waterfall to the beach, we encountered a large well of water. The shade continued for a while and after we came out of all the trees, there were a lot of sage and other herbs.
The challenging part throughout the trail is that there are many large rocks which are all quite slippery. One need to slowly climb down and up and it is potentially very dangerous. On the day of our visit, a woman fell and we drove past two emergency vehicles as we drove back up to the starting point at the beginning and later saw a group of paramedics carrying her up the hill on a stretcher. We thought she probably fell while trying to climb down one of these rocks.
The paramedics walked past StrongWoman. They all stared at her shoes and one said to her, ‘Where do you think you are going?
We encountered three women standing on top of some rocks being hesitant. After waiting for a while, Photoman asked if they wanted him to go first. They said yes and so he observed for a little while and decided to give some support for each of them and Agent Q and myself in order that we could cross over to another rock without the danger of falling down the rocks. Photoman climbed down himself without much drama so it is possible if you are good at doing this sort of things. Otherwise, please make sure you have some help from either your companions or wait for someone able to come along for assistance. You will encounter these large rocks whichever route option you take.
If you want to visit Richtis Gorge with your children, please make sure that you are able to assist them with these large rocks and be prepared to carry them. We saw a man pulling a little girl up the long staircase by force while yelling at her and we didn’t understand why he didn’t either carry her (he looked strong and able) or wait for her slow pace patiently. Please remember that your children didn’t decide to take the walk. Or if they did, they didn’t know what is involved. Same if you are bringing your dogs. I really enjoyed reading the post by Travel Crete with Your Dog and how they assisted their dogs. Their post also offers a detailed account of their walk from the beach to the waterfall.
Is it worth it?
‘Is it worth it?’ I like asking other visitors their opinions before I pay for entrance for tourist sites or before doing any sort of walking. My own answer for the Richtis Gorge is a definite ‘Yes!’. None of the photos I saw of the waterfall can capture that special feeling I think we all had. Even though when we got there, there were about 15 people in a relatively small enclosure, the tranquility of this magical place was cleansing and healing. The water was very cold and I thought I would suffer a bit so as to get a shampoo style photograph of myself. Curiously I didn’t feel cold at all after the initial shock. If we had started the walk earlier, I would have stayed in the water much longer than I had. I felt completely revitalized and refreshed after the little dip. The well of water was deep enough for diving in from top of a large rock. Everyone was super cooperative to let each other have their photo opportunities. In fact, everyone we encountered apart from the yelling man was in great mood.
Another issue of perspective appeared just before we started the walk. Photoman asked how big the waterfall was. He had no idea at all about the places Agent Q and I chose because he had work to do before and during our trip. StrongWoman said ‘very big’ at the same moment when I said ‘small’. StrongWoman insisted that it was very big so I told them that the only waterfall I visited was the Niagara Falls. Now after our visit, I still think it is small but a good size for a shampoo advert. But then again it depends on which shampoo advert you have seen. Photoman estimated that the waterfall is about 20 meters long and the well of water is about 15 meters wide.
What to bring/wear and When
What to bring – some snacks/lunch, water (some people filled up their water bottles in the water fall), bathing suit and a towel in case you want to go inside the waterfall, camera, hat and sunscreen if you are walking the mountain paved road and the section from the beach where there is no shade.
A charged phone in case you run into emergency situation. The European Emergency number is 112, the Greek Police is 100 and Ambulance service is 166.
Insect spray could be helpful too. We didn’t get bitten by mosquitoes at all but I was stung by a wasp on my bottom! This happened when I was procrastinating just before climbing over a large rock with Photoman’s help. The wasp hovered for a while around my shorts and gave me a big sting as if to say ‘get on with it!’ So I did after letting out a small cry and from then on I whinged a little bit less.
What to wear – comfortable non-slip shoes. Actually, anything you feel comfortable in will do. I offered my good quality flip flops to StrongWoman but she declined because her platform heels were comfortable for her. I also witnessed Photoman walked some mountains barefoot. There were people wearing flip flops too. As long as you are an able person or have an able person as companion, anything would do for this trail.
When to go – I read that it’s not advisable to go there in winter as there would be extra amount of water which makes the walk more difficult as everywhere become more slippery. We went on the last Sunday in September and saw in total around 80 people walking back up before we reached the waterfall. If you want some peace and quiet, pick a weekday during May, early June, late September till before winter comes. I think most logical people would start the walk early so we got lucky to have a relatively non-crowded time at the waterfall because we started our walk at 2pm. We finished by 6pm with many brief photo stops, about half an hour at the waterfall and in a slowish pace.
For dinner after the walk, we originally went to a very cute looking restaurant on top of a cliff near the starting point of the trail. StrongWoman spotted it when they were driving through the National Road. We changed our minds after the owner/worker told her off for sitting at a table without checking with him. We then drove to a nearby village called Tourloti and settled in a simple taverna called Terma. They offered very few dishes but Agent Q thought it was the best meal she had during her three-week visit. We had very yummy pork chops and lamb chops. The pork souvlakis were okay. Nice bread and very nice warm pita breads. Even my local friends thought the salad was very fresh. The village itself is very pretty with many flowers planted everywhere.
Is it Easy?
And now finally the verdict whether we thought the walk was easy or not –
Myself – The large rocks were challenging for me but with Photoman’s help and Agent Q’s support, we did the whole walk without drama. Without those rocks I would say easy because I didn’t sweat and wasn’t tired since we only walked downhill.
Agent Q – “Moderate. The trail is not difficult but the big rocks are tricky. Difficult for people who don’t exercise much.”
Photoman – finds it easy for him. “Would be challenging for some people. Moderate level.”
StrongWoman – “It isn’t easy.” But she finished the whole trail in 4 inches platform heels. Her makeup was completely intact apart from a tiny mascara smudge.
SAS – “It is easy for me but no, it is not easy.”
How to say it
One last bit of information – the name Richtis Gorge in Greek it is Φαράγγι του Ρίχτη (Gorge of Richti, the final ‘s’ is missing because of some grammar). The ‘ch’ is not same as ‘chair’ but in ‘Bach’, or like the ‘h’ in health with more a bit more emphasis and a bit more air coming out from your throat than normal. If you ever hear a Greek person say ‘health’, you would understand what I mean. So Richtis sounds more like REE-h-tis with the stress in the first syllable and with some air coming out before ‘tis’. You will also come across the name Exo Mouliana when you look for information online because the start of the gorge is near this village. I had to use Exo Mouliana for the Instagram location as Richtis Gorge is not available.
All photos by Photoman except the Map (information board) which is by Agent Q.