Crete has a very rich and varied natural environment. Although its small area, it has rarely geomorphology with intensive contrasts and many areas of high ecological value.
On the bas-relief of the island strongly imprints the geological rearrangements of millions of years. The water of the rivers continued its corrosive course into the limestone soils, creating the present «country of canyons», the island of Crete. It gathers the largest number of canyons from all over rest of Greece totally, with more than 400.
So there are canyons all over the island. You can cross some, or go there with a rented car. But the most gorges, you have to walk, to enjoy the nature and the beauty of the island.
Prefecture of Chania
The prefecture of Chania is the “place of gorges”. Many of them, large or small, traverse the surface of the earth in direction mainly from North to South.
The most important gorges or the area are:
The “Samaria Gorge” is 18 km long. It is Europe’s largest. It was designated a national park in 1982 to protect rare flora and fauna.
Towering mountains, tall trees, water springs, churches and huge rocks surround the canyon.
You are not allow the hunting, the lighting of fire, the collecting of flowers and herbs, as well as overnight stay.
You can pass the canyon from early May until the end of October. The route lasts 6 to 8 hours. So, you must wear comfortable shoes and has light food.
The impressive Aradaina Canyon starts from White Mountains and ends south at Marmara Beach.
The canyon reaches 138 meters. It is ideal not only for hiking but also for bungee jumping.
You want about 3.5 to 4 hours to pass it. The route is of medium difficulty. You should take care for food and plenty of water, and wear proper hiking shoes. The canyonis accessible all year round, if the weather is good.
The canyon is part of the European E4 Trail. Its length is 7.5 kilometers and its duration to traverse is 3 hours. It ends at the beautiful seaside village of Sougia.
The gorge is a wildlife refuge, and has rich forest vegetation, with many trees, shrubs, and aromatic plants.
Imbros Gorge is located near Chora Sfakion. It is the second most popular canyon in the county. It is about 8 kilometers long.
Its sides are very tall and steep and in some places are narrow. The route is enchanting as you see pines, cypresses and shrubs on its slopes.
The Therissos Canyon is 6 km long. You can cross it by car. The route is impressive. You will find the homonymous hamlet with traditional taverns.
Prefecture of Rethymno
There are several accessible beautiful canyons in Rethymno:
It starts from the village of Koxare and follows the riverbed of Kourtaliotis River, which empties into Preveli lagoon with the dreamy palm tree.
The canyon is narrow and has wild beauty. Several species animals and birds meet in the canyon.
It is in a magnificent gorge, 8 km southwest of the Monastery of Arkadi. You will be fascinated by the dense and lush vegetation, the gushing springs, the endemic plants, the cave chapel of Agios Antonios, and the unparalleled natural beauty.
It is an easy green canyon, which you can walk in about 1.5 hours, located near Rethymnon. The canyon starts from the settlement of “Chromonastiri” and ends at the village of “Xiro Chorio”. A small river flows through the canyon, while there is the homonymous abandoned village.
Prefecture of Heraklion
There are many canyons in Heraklion. Most of them cross the massifs of Psiloritis and the Asterousian Mountains.
It is located near Phaistos. You can easily walk it, starting 3 kilometers south of Odigitria Monastery.
The reason for the creation of the gorge was the existence of the beds of two streams, which start one from north and the other from northeast.
The canyon ends on a beautiful small beach with limestone rocks, in which is ideal for climbing.
It is a majestic ecosystem with rich flora and fauna, ravines, interesting geological formations and slopes of rare beauty.
Its length is about 4 kilometers. It is ideal for hiking, mountaineering and climbing. You can also reach the beautiful forest of Rouva through it
It starts from the village of Vorizi, at the foot of Psiloritis, and leads to the plateau of Nida and to the cave of Idaion Andron. It is an anhydrous and wooded gorges with bushes.
Initially the canyon is quite steep with small waterfalls and vertical slopes at the fragmented limestone, but it soon opens.It has rich flora, in which you can meet many endemic plants Crete, such as dictamos and petromarulapinnata.
Prefecture of Lassithi
The most important gorges of the region are:
The route of the gorge, just outside the village of Exo Mouliana towards the beach of Richti, is amazing. It has many waters, which in some places form waterfalls, lush vegetation and unparalleled beauty landscape. It ends on a fantastic little beach.
The entrance of the gorge is outside the village of Pano Zakros. Its length is 5.5 kilometers. The route is exciting. There are many caves on its tall walls. Minoan tombs of great archaeological value have been found in these caves, hence the name “Canyon of the Dead”.
The Sarakina Gorge starts from the village Mythoi in southern Crete, very close to the town of Ierapetra. It is one of the most beautiful canyons in Crete, with rich vegetation and waters all year round. The route is short and offers a pleasant getaway in nature.