Seriously Now: The Gorge of Ha

Updated: Feb 13

Want to Instagram it? Sorry, wrong canyon!

In a recent piece for Euronews which posited that Crete may be Europe's last wild frontier, I mentioned what is perhaps the most jarring geological vision in Europe other than the Sicily's marvelously ominous Mount Etna: Crete's Gorge of Ha.

The first time I saw Ha—and this is no joke—I did a double take and very nearly swerved off the Ierapetra road, finally pulling over for a better look even though doing so risked making me late for lunch at the renowned Dikti Taverna in the Lassithi plateau, where I intended to confirm a rumor involving Jennifer Lopez, two of her friends and a pork chop. Whether you view Ha's frankly forboding cleft entrance the first or thousandth time you'll understand why Greek myths point to Crete as the birthplace of the brawniest of all the gods, Zeus, because it looks like after creating the perfect mountain he tried smashing it in two, just for the hell of it (wait—hell, that's another god) -- in reality of course it was tectonic activity that created the kilometer-long gorge (as for the name Ha, it comes from chasko, meaning "to form a gap" in Greek), waterfalls plunging into hidden pools from heights of up to 240 meters included. So you might even say the place isn't made for mere mortals—unless they have the proper training, that is. Which brings me to Yiannis Bromirakis of the Cretan Canyoning Association. He spoke to me about the daunting challenges that face anyone who wishes to take on a "technical" canyon such as Ha because, as he put it, with a gorge like this "if you make one mistake, maybe it's your last mistake.

But it sure does look like a lot of fun, right? Here's to falling into the gap...

...and some more pictures that didn't make it into my Euronews story

Ha is hardcore rustic—there are no glass viewing platforms or other such sillinesses, and forget about Instagram because you either go with an experienced guide like Yiannis or you don't go at all. If you like waterfalls bear in mind that they are at their most forceful in winter. And again, never go inside on your own—even goats that have wandered in tend to lose their way and turn into a pile of goat bones. Unless a guide happens to be on hand, spots one and spirits it out.

Video and photos courtesy Yiannis Bromirakis

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