Omalos Plateau - Οροπέδιο Ομαλου is in the centre of the Cretan mountains named Lefka Ori, or The White Mountains, a large mountain range in the west of the island. The highest mountain in the range is Pachnes at an altitute of 2452m.
The village of Ομαλός is 39 km from the town of Chania. It is a very small village but the hotel Νέος Ομαλός is open all year round.
The mountains are wild and rocky, steep and difficult for hiking. Walking here is for experienced hikers only, tough Cretan shepherds and goats. In the highest parts of the White Mountains it is known as 'high desert' due to the lack of vegetation. This means there is no cover, no shade and no water. Hikers must be well prepared for long walks.
It is best to take a walk with an experienced guide and a small group - Anne Deckel of Aori Walks provides experience and local knowledge of the White Mountains.
One green oasis amongst this harsh terrain is the small Omalós Plateau, a flat piece of land ringed by high peaks at an altitude of 1200 m. A walk around the Omalós Plateau is 5-6 km which is an easy flat walk that takes around two hours.
Flora in the gorges and lower mountains is abundant and includes the native herb known as dittany of Crete, wild oregano and thyme. Cretan mountain tea, an ironwort Sideritis syriaca is a very common drink in the villages and may be proudly offered to visitors as tsai tou vounou. In spring the plateau bursts into life with thousands of flowers including asphodels and native tulips.
The village is 10 km from the entrance to Samaria Gorge, at the edge of the plateau, at a point known as Xyloskalo or wooden stair. This is where the buses drop walkers for the Gorge of Samaria, and from where the gorge walk starts, which is 16 km south through the gorge to the seaside village of Agia Roumeli.
Because of the one-way nature of the walk, most travellers elect to take an organised day tour to complete the walk, take the ferry in the afternoon from Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion, then a bus back to their town of origin, be it Chania or Rethymnon or to their hotel. This makes for a long but enjoyable day.
Independent travellers can park their cars at the entrance to the gorge, then take a ferry from Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion and take a taxi back to Omalos, but it is a roundabout way to achieve the same walk.
Better to take the local bus to the entrance of Samaria Gorge - check timetables because it differs at different times of the year - and then take the bus back from Chora Sfakion in the afternoon. Be aware of the last bus of the day, to ensure you leave enough time to complete your walk, take the ferry and make it onto the bus.
Other fitter, more experienced walkers might leave their cars at the Omalos carpark and walk down and back in one day, but this is very rare and should not be attempted by inexperienced hikers.
Please see our page about Samaria Gorge for more detailed explanations...
Take a virtual bus ride on the curvy mountain roads to Omalos, on the way to Samaria Gorge. Enjoy the views on this beautiful sunny days and the Cretan music on the bus sound system (all over the island you will hear this music on the buses!).
Neos Omalos Hotel is open all year round and has a great location for hikers at the start of the trails located all around the plateau. The hotel staff will drop you at the start of your hike in the morning. Experience local food and culture in the authentic surroundings, and enjoy the convenience of the restaurant on the premises. Wholesome mountain fare and hospitality. Note that there is still 7.2 km to get to the entrance to Samaria Gorge from this location, but that there is a shuttle bus service from the hotel.
Here are more beautiful images of the valley with local farmers' goats and sheep...
And here is the plateau covered in snow...
Here are some breathtaking images of the White Mountains, taken by Aori Walks: