The plateaux of Crete are the ornaments of the mountain landscape, a gift of the island’s geomorphology. Sometimes inhabited and at others devoted only to livestock rearing, each has its own character, nature and form. Most have supported communities since antiquity. Many play important, if often tragic, roles in the story of the struggles for liberty, becoming rebel bases of operations.
In these isolated areas, the visitor (all unawares) comes face to face with the essence of Crete.
The peaks of Afendi Christou (2025 m) and Psaris Madaras and Koupas cluster around a number of enclosed basin-like plains of various sizes, of which the largest is Omalos. This, at a height of 1350 m, has a length of 4.5 km and a width of only 600 m at best...
Omalos Plateau at White Mountains range is one of the great plateaux of Crete. An irregular circle, a polje (a large, flat plain found in limestone karst regions), of some 6 sq km, it is surrounded by peaks – Koukoule (1640 m) to the east, Gigilos (2005 m), Volakia (2117 m), and Psilafi (1936 m) to the south, with Trouli (1455 m) west and Katrinari (1318 m) to the north. The north region, called Lakkiotikos Gyros, is part of Lakkoi, whilst to the south the Seliniotikos Gyros goes with Aghia Irini.
Nida Plateau lies at the heart of the Psiloritis or Ida range. Its name comes from a contraction of the words στην Ιδα(stin Ida .. to Ida). In shape it is roughly triangular, with its shortest side at the south, the so-called Passage of Milias, through which the southern foothills towards the Mesara can be accessed. East of the plain is the peak of Skinakas: here at a height of 1750 m is the only Astronomical Observatory on Crete.
At an altitude of 850 m, the Lasithi Plateau is the largest mountain plain in Crete – and the only one occupied all the year round. Roughly ovoid, it runs some 11 km east-west by 6 north-south. Surrounding it are the peaks Selena (1559 m) at the north, Afendi (1588 m) and Louloudaki (1163 m) west, Spathi (2148 m) to the south and Katharo (1564 m) and Varsami (1545 m) to the east.
Askifou Plateau is located in the west part of the White Mountains – on the road from Sfakia towards Apokoronas and Chania. It resembles a cup, and is surrounded by the peaks of Kastro (2218 m) at the west, Trypali (1493 m) at the east and Angathes (1511 m) at the south. Around the edges of the plain are the villages of Ammoudari, Kares, Kosto, Petres, Mesa and Exo Goni and Stavorachi.
Limnakaro is a small but lovely plateau, at an altitude of 1150 m – best known in climbing circles. Here begin several of the climbing routes on the Lassithi mountains: the main and most frequneted ones lead to the tops of Afendi, Spathi and Lazaro. As well as the beautiful scenery, you can visit the small church of Aghios Pneumatos (from the Second Byzantine period), and admire the architectural skills of the mitata that belong to the herders.