Kourtaliotiko Gorge, Crete: Complete Guide by a Local!

Kourtaliotiko Gorge Crete

Are you up for an adventure that will leave you breathless? Look no further than the Kourtaliotiko Gorge in Crete! This natural wonder is a must-visit for any traveler seeking stunning views, exciting hikes, and refreshing dips in waterfalls. In this guide, you’ll read everything you need to know for a trip to Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

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Kourtaliotiko, Crete

Kourtaliotiko gorge in Crete
View of Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

The largest of the Greek islands features several beautiful gorges formed by Crete’s rugged terrain. These gorges are popular destinations for hikers, nature enthusiasts, and tourists. Some of the most notable gorges in Crete include Samaria, Imbros, Agia Irini, and—of course—the fantastic Kourtaliotiko!

Get Ready to Be Blown Away: Exploring the Jaw-Dropping Kourtaliotiko Gorge in Crete!

Why Kourtaliotiko is a Must-Visit in Crete

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Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

Kourtaliotiko Gorge is a true natural marvel. Its expansively deep and narrow shape sets it apart as it stretches from the Kouroupa and Xiron mountains in the southwest of Crete.

Once in the canyon, you’ll instantly notice towering cliffs rising on either side, some reaching as high as 600 meters.

kourtaliotiko gorge
Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

Just outside the gorge, the valley is also home to the Kourtaliotiko River, which winds through the canyon and creates superb waterfalls. Let’s see some essential details to help you explore the gorge better!

How to Get to Kourtaliotiko Gorge

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Getting to Kourtaliotiko Gorge is simple by car or bus. If you’re driving, you can park at one of the three Kourtaliotiko Gorge parking lots, just off the main road.

From there, it’s a short walk to the bottom of the gorge. 

kourtaliotiko gorge
Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

If you’re taking public transport, it can be a bit trickier. After catching a public bus from Rethymno or Plakias to the village of Koxare, you can take a short-drive taxi to Kourtaliotiko Gorge. There are also two direct bus routes from Rethymno to the gorge from Monday to Saturday.

Best Time to Visit

kourtaliotiko gorge
Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

The best time to visit is in the spring or fall when the weather is mild and there are fewer visitors. During summer, temperatures are pretty high, and the gorge gets too crowded. If you visit in the high season, try to come as early or as late in the day as possible. That’s the best way to avoid the crowds.

Kourtaliotiko Waterfall

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Waterfall, Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

One of the canyon’s highlights is the Kourtaliotiko Waterfall. This supreme location is at the end of a short hike from the first parking lot you’ll see on your way from Rethymno.

Google Maps shows the place as Kantina, and a vendor often sells snacks and drinks there.  

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Waterfall, Kourtaliotiko.

Once you find a free parking spot around the vendor, prepare to descend into the gorge and find the main waterfall. The hike is easy and takes about 15 minutes. However, decide beforehand whether you want to see the waterfall from above or swim into it.

To admire the unique waterfall from above, turn left once you see the path splitting into two. If you prefer to swim in the cold freshwater, go right and follow the steps.

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Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

In the end, you’ll need to climb a wooden stair to reach the swimming area, but other than that, getting to the bottom is easy.

Remember, the first parking lot is small, so you might not always find space. Don’t worry, though. If you drive further down the road, you’ll see another parking space. From there, a dirt path leads you to the waterfall if you go left or to the hike if you turn right.

Hiking the Kourtaliotiko Gorge

kourtaliotiko gorge
Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

I promise Kourtaliotiko Gorge is a dream come true for any hiker. Several hiking trails start at the canyon, offering thrilling views and challenging terrain. Just open AllTrails, and you’ll be surprised by the various hiking options.

However, the most popular trail is the Kourtaliotiko Gorge Hike, which starts at the parking lot and takes about three hours to complete.

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Local flora.

Along the way, you’ll pass several viewpoints with stunning views of the gorge and the surrounding mountains. Because most people get confused about the whereabouts of the starting point, remember to reach the base of the gorge.

You’ll see a building on your left and lush vegetation with a river on your right. That’s where you want to be. 

The starting point for hiking the gorge is right after you cross the river. It’s not straightforward how to get past the water, but it’s certainly lots of fun trying to figure it all out without getting your shoes wet. Still, you must be fit to attempt the crossing and begin trekking.


5-Hour Snorkel Trip to the Waterfalls: This excursion is perfect for divers and non-divers, getting close to the massive Waterfall in the Kourtaliotiko Gorge.


Day Trip to Sfakia, Plakias, and Kourtaliotiko Gorge: This day trip explores the rugged and remote mountainous region of Sfakia, fertile plateaus, beautiful beaches, and breathtaking vistas on a day trip with an expert guide that includes descending 200 steps into the impressive Kourtaliotiko Gorge.


Getting from Kourtaliotiko Gorge to Preveli Beach

kourtaliotiko gorge

You can go from Kourtaliotiko Gorge to Preveli Beach if you’re up for a long hike. If you come to the gorge by public transport, I recommend that route so that you can spend a night in Preveli Beach. 

This trek takes about six hours and is more challenging than the shorter Kourtaliotiko Gorge Hike. The beautiful landscapes and incredible flora and fauna will leave you breathless. I suggest sticking to the gorge if you come to Kourtaliotiko by car.

kourtaliotiko gorge
Venetian Bridge near Preveli.

Hike as far down as you feel comfortable and get back. As you do, embrace the beauty of this geological wonder formed over millions of years by the Kourtaliotiko River. 

Speaking of the river, I loved the small pools of water we came across on the trek. We even got to jump into one. Although the water was less cold than the waterfall, it was still refreshing.

What to Bring for the Hike and Tips for Visiting

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Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

When hiking the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, you’ll need sturdy hiking shoes, sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water. Also, bring a camera to save your memories and remember the experience. 

Something to remember: you must cross the river multiple times and get over several rocks, so make sure you are only bringing able hikers along for the day’s adventure.

On the other hand, if you only want to view the waterfall, the path there is well-maintained and reasonable for children.

Things to Do Near Kourtaliotiko – Attractions and Activities

kourtaliotiko gorge
Plakias Beach.

There are several attractions and activities that you can explore after you visit Kourtaliotiko Gorge. These include visiting the beaches of Preveli and Plakias, canyoning adventures in the area, and the region’s charming villages.

Remember that Plakias is one of the most famous centers in Crete for scuba diving. It features several diving clubs offering other water sports. Horse riding is also available near Kourtaliotiko.

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Triopetra Beach

Plakias is an important village, the right place to find everything for your daily needs. There are supermarkets, shops, numerous tavernas, an ATM, and doctors.

Plakias is also the starting point for many boat excursions to Preveli Palm Beach and Chora Sfakion.

Preveli Monastery
Preveli Monastery.

Other nearby beaches include Ammoudi, Schinaria, Damnoni, Souda, Rodakino, Triopetra, and Ligres, all on the southern coast of Rethymnon. You can also explore Preveli Monastery, one of the most impressive religious centers on the island.

Where to Stay Near Kourtaliotiko

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These are some of the nearby places to stay that I suggest you check out when booking accommodation near Kourtaliotiko Gorge in the Rethymnon region:

Why Kourtaliotiko Should Be on Your Travel Bucket List

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Agios Nikolaos Church inside the Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

Kourtaliotiko Gorge is one of our planet’s most breathtaking spots that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a hiker, an outdoor junkie, or simply looking for a refreshing swim, this gorge is a must-visit.

So pack your bags, grab your hiking shoes, and get ready to be blown away by the beauty of Kourtaliotiko Gorge in Crete!

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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

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Suggested accommodation in Rethymnon

More useful travel resources

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kourtaliotiko gorge

Written by Dimitrios Tsevremes
Passionate about travel, spirituality, and sports, Dimi divides his time between Chania (Crete) and other countries. Writing is a way for him to express himself and his creativity. You can find out more about him and his work here.

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A Local’s Guide to Explore Kourtaliotiko Gorge in Rethymnon, Crete!

Kourtaliotiko Gorge Crete
Kourtaliotiko Gorge Crete

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the island. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.