One trekker described her experience hiking Oreino Gorge (sometimes “Orino”) saying she gasped with every football along the way. Often referred to as the “Butterfly Gorge“, the Eden-like gorge from the tiny mountain village of Oreino, to the magic of the Libyan Sea at Koutsouras is all that and more.
Although the butterflies only come during the Spring now, the ancient and ethereal beauty of this Cretan natural wonderland is present year-round still. This part of Lassithi Prefecture is seldom explored by outsiders compared with other more famous places. Sadly, a wildfire several years ago ravaged the gorge, and only now are some of the species of plants and animals returning.
The gorge, which begins at a point about 21 kilometers northeast of Ierapetra, begins and ends with secret upon secret. The trip up the road gives travelers the idea that the real Garden of Eden may lie just ahead. The trip up the mountain to Oreino Village is a time and mind portal, a literal passage to a place unimaginable.
It is about places like this, about butterflies like these, that Greece’s most famous poet, Kostas Karyotakis wrote about. The tiny mountain village sits 640 meters above sea level, and at the last count had less than 200 residents (not including sheep). In fact, there are three or four times as many sheep and goats as people here.
Sometimes called the “Scarlett Butterfly Gorge” because of the red wings of the butterflies frequenting the landscape, the 5-kilometer trek down the mountainside to the sea is too short. It’s a half-life journey through a genuine paradise when a full life is what every nature lover seeks. Descending into the heart of the gorge from the mysterious village, the hiker is embraced, literally, by the green overgrowth, and tantalized by the countless streams running down into the valley.
The locals call Oreino, Orno, because there are so many fig trees here. But there is so much diversity in this place. Be advised, descending the canyon along the riverbed requires canyoneering equipment, so this hike is not recommended for the inexperienced. The river has several incredible waterfalls with ponds and especially its last part is amazingly beautiful. Also, since the canyon has so many tentacles, it is fairly easy to get lost unless you stay close to the main riverbed.
At the exit to the gorge trekkers will discover Koutsouras and the pebbly beaches and aquamarine waters of the Libyan Sea. Oh, and some wonderful tavernas and overnight stays as well. We suggest Kaliotzína Taverna, one of the highest-rated eateries in the town, or Dasaki Taverna, which is a super taverna right at the end of the gorge.
Getting there – The most beautiful road to Oreino starts at Agios Koutsounari, close to Ierapetra, to Schinokapsala, and then up to the village. thee are other routes, but they are eight boring or too hazardous without 4×4 adventurist ideas. The best stays include Koutsounari Traditional Cottages in the hills overlooking Ierapetra, and Oleander’s Garden, in the hills over Ierapetra as well.
Feature image: Courtesy The Mysterious Crete travel