Rouvas Forest is a vital ecosystem, primarily based on an oak forest, and one of the most important and treasured oak forests remaining on the island of Crete. Covering the inland slopes of Psiloritis, it is defined by the peaks of Ambelakia and Samari to the south, Chalazokephala to the west, Skinaka and Koudouni to the north and Gyristi to the east. The forest covers some 30,000 stremmata (7400 acres).
Nestled between the mountain ranges, it is relatively easy to access from the south and the village of Gergeri nearby Zaros. The E4 European long-distance path crosses through the forest. The route towards the Mountain Shelter and village of Asites is a beautiful uphill trail with stunning views of the valley below.
The trees growing here have attained a great age: the trunk diameters are more than a metre wide, and they grow to more than 15 m high. They grow thickly and are part of a complex bio-system with many other species typical for such an environment – holm oak, mock-privet, maple, cypress, pine, plane, pear and others. The importance of the forest is due to the fact that the oaks have grown beyond their usual body shape and size, acquiring characteristics and a mass different from what we are used to seeing in Greece. It is likely that at some time in the past the normal adverse factors (people, goats etc) were removed – so that the oak bush managed to develop in the manner we see today. On the slopes around and about the forest, you will find scattered mitata, that are for the most part abandoned.
Two especial spots within the forest are the ‘Two Oaks’ on the west flanks, from which vantage point the entire Rouvas forest can be seen, and again at Samari, on the southern peak of that name, where panoramic views open up of the whole Zaros region and down to the Mesara Plain. Here is where the mountain shelter of Zaros is also found. Lower down at the south part of the forest, near the north entrance/exit of the Agios Nikolaos gorge there is an area designated for recreational purposes within the forest; it is called Agios Ioannis after the church there and is perfect for picnics and family outings.