One of the most extensive forests on Crete is the Simi pine forest with the dominant species being the Calabrian pine (Pinus brutia) with large stands of oak, cypress and other species like maple, holm oak and holly trees also in abundance.
At the higher altitudes, in particular, you find mountain phrygana – made up of boxthorn, low examples of oak and dwarf cherry. Lower down are very thick areas of maquis – carob, lentisk, broom, Spanish broom, and of phrygana with many aromatic herbs (marjoram, prickly burnet, thyme, pygmy Jerusalem sage, wall germander etc) and pine thickets.
The forest of Simi is located on the southern end of Crete island, near the village of Viannos. To the north, it is framed by one of the most important and wild ecosystems on the island, the forest of Selakano, located 35 km from Ierapetra on the slopes of the Dikti mountains. Valleys full of cherry and pear trees, surround the villages, and local bees work tirelessly to produce Cretan honey. There are many valleys and plateaus to explore in the area, including the Plateau of Katharo (meaning clean) an important agricultural region with no permanent residents. The local produce, and especially the cheeses are worth trying in one of the village tavernas if you get the chance. The E4 European long distance path crosses through this area with multiple trails and routes to pick.
The highest peak of Mount Dikti is Afentis Christos (at 2,141m) that gives you a chance to explore the plateau of Limnakaro (1120 m) and Lasithi (840 m) as well if you chose to venture to the top. One of the most impressive plateaus is that of Omalos (1,350) which translates to “even”. The most well known “Omalos” is that close to Samaria Gorge, in Chania. The mountains of Dikti are also one of the locations where the Greek Olympian god, Zeus was thought to have been born.
As you drive or hike through the abandoned village of Ano Simi, towards Kato Simi, crossing through the lush pine forest and swiftly changing landscape, you might also choose to wander towards the ancient sanctuary of Hermes and Aphrodite.
Prepare for a mystical and enchanting landscape that few people visit.