Gigilos peak situated in the White Mountains range in the region of Sfakia is considered one of the most enchanting mountain summits of Crete. Rearing up from the depths of the gorge below Xyloskalo, it rises defiantly and barren, ashen in colour, but not in spirit, as its old name would suggest.
The etymology of name “Gigilos” is uncertain but most probably stems from the Greek word for “pile of rocks” – girgiros.
Getting to the Gigilos Peak – Sfakia
From Chania, you follow the route to Omalos that takes about an hour. Τhe path starts close to the entrance for Samaria gorge where you can leave your car. The altitude difference is 800m to the top and has a length of 4km. Estimate at least 4 hours. Some parts of the Gigilos route are part of the E4 walking trail.
Hiking the path
The path starts at Xyloskalo at an altitude of 1080 meters, named after the old wooden ladder that allowed access in previous years before the track was opened. This will be your entry to one of the longest scree slopes in Crete, a challenge to inexperienced hikers and one that should not be attempted lightly.
With several treacherous parts and sharp rocks setting the scenery, it is rightly considered one of the hardest peaks in Crete to ascend. Yet one’s enjoyment on reaching the amazing summit is indescribable. Upon arriving at the 1800m point, the spring of Zeus frames the scene on the west, whilst on the south, you get a glimpse of the famous Ellenoseli and its spring. The freezing water flows freely year-round and makes for a refreshing pitstop, especially during the summer months.
The inhospitable terrain and rough weather conditions were no deterrent to the locals that inhabited this area in previous years. The cave of Daimonspelio, or “demons cave” is also situated nearby, where legend has it women were dragged into by spirits. This is also the site of an ancient oracle built close to a city that was probably destroyed by the great earthquake of 360/365 AD. The infernal noises audible within the depths of the cave from underground rivers offer a much more likely explanation than spirits. The mountains carry more tales, however, like that of a cave on the northern edge where the sounds of a lyra can be heard – a shepherd ensnared by nymphs. Round and round they dance with their blond hair flying loose, singing all the while and holding in their arms babies as white as sea-foam. Or this is what the legend says anyway!
Heading further up, the path is well signposted, hugging the mountain, with stunning rock formations through narrow tracks and steep slopes. Depending on weather conditions, the last part slows down to a near crawl and you will need to climb for the last part to reach the top. On a clear day, the view towards the Libyan Sea and vast Cretan landscape are incredible.
Even though Gigilos is not the easiest, it is worth the effort of climbing the sharp peak. The harsh ascent, the joy of reaching the top, and the chance of seeing a nymph – all offer their own excitement!