The island of Crete is most definitely mountainous! As a result it is also characterized by the hundreds of gorges that cut through the towering crags and end in beautiful valleys or beaches.
The gorges are an integral part of the personality of the island of Crete.
In every corner where there are mountains, there gorges gape: with their orange and gray-green walls, they act as reserves to some amazing wildlife.
The combination of mountains, valleys and the sea, especially in southern Crete, creates a landscape that is constantly changing. This is especially so in Sfakia, the "land of the gorges", where in a distance of some 30 km are clustered over 15 majestic canyons, among them the famous Samaria Gorge. Derived from this landscape for the most part is the wealth of traditions and behavioral patterns of the people.
At each and every step, the visitor to a Cretan gorge will appreciate the presence of this largess of Nature, especially in spring and summer when the environment with wonderful colours and fragrances.
The Gorges of Crete were, even in Minoan times, deemed to be treasure-troves of aromatic and medicinal plants. Apart from this floral abundance, the gorges host many species of fauna. On the steep slopes are encountered significant communities of unusual members of the animal kingdom such as wild goats, vultures and hawks. The Cretan Aegagrus (wild goat, agrimi as the locals call it) roam free in their natural environment in the National Park of the Samaria Gorge. A striking species of vulture, Gyps Fulvius, reserves for itself the tops and slopes of the gorges of Crete, one of the largest colonies in the world. The Golden Eagles are also much in evidence.
The major canyons are found on the southern slopes of the mountains. Apart from the Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains of Chania Prefecture we can admire the equally impressive gorges of Agia Irini, Aradaina and Imbros. To the south in the Rethymnon Prefecture, one will meet the charming canyons of Kourtaliotis and Kotsifos. To the north of Psiloriti stretches the Gorge of Zoniana, while in the south, the gorge of Agios Nikolaos runs through the Rouvas forest, the largest oak forest in Greece. In the far east at Lassithi, south of Dikte, lies the beautiful gorge of Saracena; the Thrypti range has the impressive, inaccessible and somewhat hostile gorge of Ha. At the very eastern shore of Crete, the gorge of Zakros remains an unforgettable experience to traverse.
The appreciation of the canyons of Crete is at one and the same time a way in to understanding the nature, culture and history of the island.
The Gorge - Psarantonis
The physical expression of this constantly in flux. The landscape alters so rapidly – from wild and naked to forested and back to wilderness again. Monasteries, churches and buildings exist through which you can discern the history of the place. Forests of cypress, pines, cedars and oaks; verdant slopes that are flooded in perfumes. With every sense you can absorb the all-surrounding joy of Cretan nature.
For all these reasons, it could be argued without fear of contradiction that the gorges of Crete are the paths that reveal the many faces of the island.