White Mountains – Lefka Ori
The White Mountains, or Haniotika Madares as the locals call them, is the most extensive mountain range of the island, with estuaries to the areas of Selinos, Kissamos, Apokoronas and the Municipality of Agios Vassilios (Rethymno), while occupying the entire area of Sfakia.
They extend, from west to east, at a length of 40-45 km, and width, from north to south, of 35 km. They have a large number (57) of peaks over 2,000 meters and almost as many (54) from 1500 to 2000 meters.
The most important of these are Pachnes (2452 m.), Trocharis (2401 m.), Mesa Soros (2397 m.), Bournelos (2342 m.), Soros tis Grias (2331 m.), Svourichti (2317 m.), Ornio (2153 m.), Mavri or Venizelos (2069 m.), Zaranokefala (2140 m.), Kakovoli (2214 m.). One of the most impressive peaks of the mountain range is Gigilos (2005 m.); naked and eroded by the elements, which is also called Sapimenos by the locals, it rises on the west side of the gorge of Samaria, with wild ravines, and most often full of snow.
The mountain range of the White Mountains is characterized by the richness of the geomorphological formations consisting of extensive plateaus and it’s impressive size, morphological characteristics and natural wealth of gorges. The largest and most impressive of them are located on the southern, steep slopes of the mountain range, mainly from the west to the east of Agkathopi, Agia Irini, Tripiti, Agia Roumeli or Samaria, Aradena, Anopolis, and Asfentos. Of these, the largest gorge is the famous gorge of Samaria, whose maximum depth reaches 1500 meters and its length is 18 kilometres. Impressive in formations is also the gorge of Aradena and in natural wealth those of Agia Irini and Imbros.
The main plateaus of the White Mountains are those of Askifos, at an altitude of 730 m., Kallikratis (750 m.), Anopolis (600 m.), and of course the famous plateau of Omalos, at an altitude of 1080 m. The plateau of Omalos is where the gorge of Samaria begins and is well-known to most visitors. The southern slopes of the White Mountains, where the most important gorges are located, have large slopes in contact with the sea while on the north side the slopes are smoother with plenty of water springs that irrigate the plain of Chania and the rest of the valleys, mainly Kydonia and Apokoronas.
In addition to the impressive gorges, the southern slopes of the White Mountains, form beautiful, lonely beaches, while on their slopes, extensive forests with pines, prinos and cypresses grow. This section runs through the E4 European long-distance trail. For lovers of hiking, mountaineering and freeskiing, the White Mountains offer many routes, of varying difficulty and with plenty of diversity in the natural landscape. The mountain range of the White Mountains extends further east to the south of the Prefecture of Rethymno, creating a small mountain range – parallel to the coastal zone of the Prefecture – which includes the main peaks of Kryoneriti and Kouroupa.