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The Cretan Mountains - images and video, adventures all over this magnificent Greek island.
Here we feature mountains, plateaux and gorges, from west to east.
The Cretan mountains stay in our hearts, with their unpredictable beauty and sudden changes of mood. Kriti's character is created by her mountains and gorges with fertile plateaux.
In the west are the Lefka Ori or White Mountains, Omalos Plateau and a range full of high peaks including Pachnes at 2453m above sea level. In these inaccessible areas are many rare species and a unique mountain ecology protected by conservation.
This range is named for its white snow-topped peaks in winter and its white limestone which shines in summer.
Bearded Vultures, Griffon Vultures and Peregrine Falcons (see below) are amongst the birds found here. The summits of the Lefka Ori peaks are very bare and known as a 'high desert'.
In the west is Agia Irini Gorge a 7 km gorge starting at the village of Agia Irini and ending close to the seaside town of Sougia, on the south coast of Crete. This rocky terrain of the Cretan mountains makes for wonderful hiking and walking.
Also in Chania is Samaria Gorge. The Samaria National Park boasts stunning mountain country, unique flora and fauna and one of the longest gorges in Europe. This is one of the most visited attractions on the island and can be very busy in summer. It is a striking deep gorge with cyprus pines, sage, marjoram, thyme, wild orchids and lillies, and rocks, rocks and more rocks.
The trek to Agia Roumeli takes all day, with a boat the only way out. This is the wild mountain region known as Sfakia; heartland of Crete.
In the centre proud Mount Ida or Psiloritis sits looking down over all of Crete. The highest mountain on the island at 2456m, this mountain is the great overseer of Kriti, abode to heroic adartes, and inspiration to many mantinades and songs.
Amongst the Psiloritis range are caves, gorges and plateaux including Nida Plateau and the intriguing Ideon Andron or Zeus Cave. What is it that touches this cave with magic?
The mountain villages such as Zaros retain the traditional Cretan way of life. It is here that you may discover peace and the real essence of Kriti.
In the east are the Dikti Mountains. The highest peak, Mt Spathi is 2,148 metres above sea level. Located in the Lasithi prefecture, these mountains abound with history, agriculture in lush plateaus, striking scenery in the gorges, and beautiful churches. Hiking, rockclimbing and caving are popular here.
The E4 European Walking Path passes through the Cretan mountains, taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in Kriti.
A total of 320 km, it runs from
Kastelli-Kissamos in the west to Kato Zakros in the east.
These wild areas abound with nature and the unique ecology of the island of Crete.
Cretan Ebony Ebenus creticus , Cretan Rock Rose Cistus creticus (pictured left) and Cretan Crocus are amongst species only found here. The alpine biotopes are delicate and full of flora.
The Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus (pictured left) is one of the rarest birds in Europe, with breeding pairs identified in the high mountains of Crete.
Visit our nature pages for more on the flora and fauna of Crete.
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Gorge walks, hiking, caving and natural history tours are all popular in Kriti. One of the most unusual gorges in eastern Crete, known as the Valley of the Dead, is Zakros Gorge.
The White Mountains of Crete Λευκά Όρη - explore with trekking guide Dromolatis.
Samaria Gorge Φαράγγι Σαμαριάς entrance is breathtaking and the first 3 km of the trek take you down the steep sides of this mountain to the gorge floor below. The walk is a total of 16 km across rocky paths, not for the inexperienced or for the unfit.
During peak season of July and August hundreds of walkers take this path through Samaria. If you would like to be somewhere else, with a little more room to breathe, try one of the other equally beautiful gorges in Crete, such as Agia Irini Gorge.
Perhaps you would enjoy the relative peace and quiet of Agia Irini Gorge Φαράγγι Αγίας Ειρήνης (pictured above)? This is a 7 km walk that can be extended to 12 km, ending at the seaside village of Sougia.
Aradaina Gorge Φαράγγι Αράδαινας is steep sided with dramatic sharp drop offs. Bungee jump from this bridge or start your walk to the south coast from here. The walk is 8.5 km passing by the white rocky coves of Marmara Beach and along the scenic coastal path to the white washed village of Loutro.
Just 12 km from the town of Agios Nikolaos in the east of Crete is the picturesque village of Kritsa Κριτσά. Behind the village is this dramatic gorge, which you can easily walk in 4 km.
Ha Gorge Φαράγγι Χά is a stunning landscape accessible only by experienced climbers. Take a walk to the bottom of the gorge or view it from Pahia Ammos beach. This entrance is 27 km east of Agios Nikolaos in Lasithi.
Richtis Gorge Φαράγγι του Ρίχτη is short and easy to walk through, the reward is this shady green waterfall and rockpool. Located in the east of Crete, 20 km west of Sitia town.
33 km east of Sitia town lies the Gorge of Zakros Φαράγγι Ζάκρου, near the town of Epano Zakros and leading towards the village and beach of Kato Zakros. The ancient Minoan palace of Zakros is also located here.
Take a 1 hour flight from Athens to Heraklion with Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air, with many flights available per day.
Or take a 9.5 hour overnight ferry from Pireaus port of Athens to Heraklion port.
More on flights and ferries below.
Car hire in Crete is a really good idea as it is a large island 60 km by 260 km. There is so much to explore.
When you book with our car rental partners - Rental Centre Crete - you are supporting a local company with excellent service and an easy online booking procedure. We are sure you will be well looked after by the team. Choose from hybrid or non-hybrid vehicles.
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