Canyoning in Crete

Ha
Gorge

Lassithi

Ha Gorge
(20 votes)

The imposing Gorge of Ha is considered the most beautiful technical gorge in Crete. It is formed on the western side of Mount Thrypti and transports the waters from the plateau of Thripti to the isthmus of Ierapetra, which are then moved on the beach of Pachia Ammos. The entrance of the gorge is located below the Byzantine church of Saint Anne (Agia Anna) at an altitude of about 800m, next to the European footpath E4 that connects the Minoan settlement of Vasiliki with Thripti. Its exit, reminiscent of a knife that has cut the mountain in two, is located at an altitude of 100m, next to the village Monastiraki.

The gorge is technical, as it forms waterfalls and crossing requires canyoneering equipment and special training. The first descent took place in 1987 by Stavros Lazaridis, Vlasis Hatzipanagiotou and Chronis Amatzidis. The gorge is bolted with a relay by the speleological clubs of Crete. It has 33 descents, with the largest being 35m high. In winter there are many ponds and several natural slides. Its width in many places is only thirty centimeters, but it does not exceed three meters. On the right and left, perpendicular cliffs raise at a height of 200 to 400 meters, excluding any possibility of escaping from the sides. In the last one-third of the gorge, the waterfall Mastoras falls in the gorge from a height 215m, which is one of the highest known free falls in Greece and increases the amount of water in Ha stream. It is quite common for the gorge to be dry up to that point and to have large amounts of water from there on.

One can get a small taste of the magic of the place without technical equipment, by trekking in the gorge from its exit at Monastiraki. With a little care, you can walk along the north side and reach a beautiful pond is formed at the base of the last waterfall. The rocks with the parallel layers and the intense colors are very impressive. Just below the exit, we meet the ruined watermills that were used to grind grain in the past.

The name (C)ha comes etymologically from the Greek verb "hasko", which means to form a gap, an opening, and is also met in other gorges (Havgas, Havgoudi etc). An interesting folk tradition connects the name of Ha with the name of the village "Gra", the current adjacent settlement of Agios Stefanos. According to local tradition, the Saracens once tried to occupy the fortress of Agios Stefanos. In order to conquer it, they arrested an old woman and asked her to show them the secret entrance to the fortress. The old woman led them deep into an abyss and came down first with the Saracens following. When they came down to a point, where there was no way to return, he told them: "Get out of here now," and the panicked Saracens fell into the dark abyss. They also dragged the old woman down, who started to laugh as she watched her purpose come true. This abyss communicated with Ha's ravine, so the people of the area heard the old woman laughing "Ha, ha, ha", giving the name Ha. According to a second tradition, the name comes from the story of a shepherd at the exit of the gorge who shouted "Ha ha" to his animals to get up and the sound echoed through the ravine.

A legend says that in the abyss, in the heart of Ha, a golden chariot is buried, which is dragged by golden horses. And the ropes are golden as well, and diamonds adorn it. They shine so brightly in the sun that Crete will be dazzled when a brave Cretan finds the golden chariot. To get there, he has to get tied with ropes and slide in the rock.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Lassithi Prefecture
  • Type: Canyoneering equipment needed
  • Water: Water till spring
  • Length (km): 1
  • Altitude difference (m): 220
  • Difficulty (0-10): 8
  • Hiking Hours: 5
  • Accessibility: Dirt track
  • Maximum Rapel Height (m): 35

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