These are activities that do not necessarily contribute to the protection of the natural environment, but include all those activities organized in the natural environment. The rich natural environment of Crete is suitable for a variety of activities.
Cretan NATURA 2000 regions find the link here
Areas with special protection status
WESTERN ASTEROUSIA (FROM AGIOFARAGO TO KOKKINOS PYRGOS)
The area consists of two main parts. The first is rocky, with cliffs and gorges. The second includes a sandy beach (where the sea turtle caretta-caretta lays its eggs), as well as the estuary of Geropotamos River. The area extends until the Kokkinos Pyrgos beach (“Kokkinos Pyrgos” means “Red Tower”) including the two thirds of the Gulf of Messara coastline. The gorges present continuous alternations of landscape, particularly the gorge of Agiofarago. There’s a large variety of plant communities. Among them there are clusters with Nerium Oleander, a small cluster of Phoenix theophrastii in the region of Martsalo, a mixed forest with Jumiperus Phoenica, Oleo-Ceratonion macquis (matorral) and phrygana (garrigue).
ASTEROUSIA MOUNTAINS (KOFINAS)
The region includes the eastern area of the Asterousia massif in northern Crete. The sea area covers less than 1% of the region. The importance of the region consists in the endemic and protected plant species, the nest sites provided by Mount Kofinas, the large predatory birds, the presence of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) the sea caves and in the interesting endemic snails, nine of which being endemic species of Crete, and Albinaria tenebra being endemic in Asterousia Mountains. The region has a great archaeological value as there are very interesting caves with prehistoric remains, archaeological findings and temples, Byzantine monasteries etc. Its aesthetic value is also great due to its morphology.
MOUNT DIKTI: OMALOS, VIANNOS (SYMI-OMALOS)
The region is mountainous, located in south-central Crete and covers a part of the massif of south Dikti in Heraklion. It is defined by the Omalos plateau and the Erganas stream in an altitude of 700-800 meters, including the southeastern peaks and slopes (Tourlou, Kunigou, Grapiasmata etc) of Mount Dikti, the area of Ano Viannos in the south and Symi in the southeast. The region has a great ecological and aesthetic value because of the existence of a range of habitat types, with vegetation in a good condition, for the most part. The flora and fauna of these habitats includes typical endemic and also local endemic species of Crete.
THE PART OF KRASI OF MOUNT DIKTI
The region is located in the eastern part of central Crete. It is characterized by a mountain range consisting of Dikti (2.148 m), Selekano, Katharo and Selena, which surround Lasithi, the biggest plateau of Crete (800 m). The dolines are particularly interesting. The region’s ecological value and importance are due to the large variety of habitats, with most of them being well preserved, and to its flora, which is particularly rich in common species and in rare and vulnerable endemic species.
THE OAK TREE OF MADALENIS IN KORFES
It is located near the village Korfes of the province of Malevizi. This is a centenarian oak with peculiar botanical value and it is associated with historical events of the region.
THE CRETAN CEPHALANTHRERA, KAMARES
It is found at the location known as “Mana Nerou” at an altitude of 1.400 meters, close to the villages Kamares and Voriza of the region of Heraklion.
The protected area is the habitat of the rare and endangered species of orchid, which is named Cephalanthera (Cephalanthera cucullata). It is one of the five species of this genus found in Greece and is endemic in the Mount Psiloritis (Ida).
VAI PALM FOREST
Visit the only palmforest in Europe with its clean waters and beautiful beach. It is situated on the northern edge of the region on the headland of Sidero. Its beauty is unique in Crete. The palm trees grow naturally here and their fronds cover the banks of the small stream that leads to the sea, and its surrounding area. Quite apart from its beauty, Vai is also of significant ecological worth. The wetlands created between the edge of the palmforest and the beach are home to a wide variety of birdlife and the ocean is teaming with sea creatures.
CHRISI ISLAND (GAIDOURONISI)
Chrisi or Gaidouronisi (donkey island) lies 8 miles south of Ierapetra. The residents of Ierapetra simply call it “the island”, as there is a special relationship between them, lost in the depths of time. For five months -from the middle of May to the end of September- there are daily cruises by boats to Chrisi, departing from the port of Ierapetra. In the wonder of the Libyan sea, the journey is usually in the company of herring seagulls, while occasionally dolphins play within sight. After almost an hour’s sailing, the boats approach the southern coast of the island, which is normally more sheltered. Passengers disembark at “Vougiou Mati” where there is a small wharf and the reception area. Within the day trip the visitor has enough time to walk around Chrisi, bathe in its crystal clear green-blue waters and have lunch at the municipal taverna.
Chrisi is almost flat, with an average height of 10m. From a distance it seems like a thin line of land in the middle of the sea. Its greatest length is 5km, it has an average width of 1km and covers almost 5km2. The highest spot is to the east on “Kefala” (the head) and is 31m high. On that spot there is the forest lookout, with a view of the whole island. About 700m east of Chrisi is Mikronisi, a rocky islet which covers 11,7 hectares. The waters around the islands are shallow. Up to 1km to the north and 500m to the south the depth does not exceed 10m, while the 5m depth contour encompasses both the islands.
Rocks and soil
The basic rocks of Chrisi were created by the solidification of lava, ejected by an underwater volcano millions of years ago. While walking around the island, visitors will be impressed by the colors of the rocks (reddish brown, greenish gray and black). The larger part of the island is covered by sand. On the flat areas the ground is relatively solid and consists of fine reddish sand, mainly covered by moss and lichens. At the areas where there are sand dunes, the sand is yellow and course. The sand is mainly supported by the complex underground roots of the cedars and their leaves, which actually touch the ground.
All the fossils (49 different species) found on the island are marine. They are set on the volcanic rocks 350.000 to 70.000 years ago, while Chrisi was still covered in water. The northern coasts are full of shells. Especially along the eastside of the northern beach, the number of shells is huge, making it one of the most spectacular attributes of the island.
The vegetation is quite diverse in view of the island’s size. There are mainly cedars, junipers, lentisc, thyme, heath and rockroses and sandy shore vegetation.
The Cedar forest of Chrisi is very rare in its expanse and structure. It covers almost 35 hectares and its density is approximately 28 trees per hectare. Their average height is 3 to 7m tall and their average age is at least 300 years old. Cedars have a root system that spreads across an area which is more than double the height of the tree.
Apart from the big roots, a huge amount of tiny roots forms a complex web that keeps the sand in place. The number of plant species of Chrisi is relatively high compared to its size, comprising 1/20 of the Cretan flora. Many species are rare and endemic, therefore protected by international directives and laws. In the sea around Chrisi the variety and abundance of the marine species are impressive, as the water is shallow. The sea bed around the island up to a depth of 20m covers about 30km2 (area six times the size of the island).
Most of the island’s animal species have a Mediterranean distribution. None of them pose any threat to humans. The sea turtle Caretta caretta has been observed many times on the island, but without any records of nesting. Up to now more than 120 species of birds have been reported, the vast majority of which are migrant species that find in Chrisi a place to rest and feed themselves for their long journey. In recent years the residents of Ierapetra transferred partridges, hares and rabbits. Hares have now become extinct and there is a systematic attempt to remove the rabbits. Some decades ago, when the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus Monachus) was not threatened by man, it could be seen coming out of the water and basking in the sun, on the island’s beaches. Today it rarely appears and mostly the name Fokiospilo (seal cave) on the northwestern coast reminds us of its once common presence.
For the last centuries Chrisi was practically deserted, while much earlier there were small settlements. On the western and eastern part, broken pieces of pottery have been found, which shows activity during the Minoan times. In the northwest there is a chapel of Agios Nikolaos, possibly built in the 13th century. Northeast of the chapel and near the shore there is an even older salt pan and the only house on the island, which is built on ancient ruins that include a small building and a small port. South and southwest of Agios Nikolaos there are some wells and a few carved graves. The largest one dates from the Roman times.
The total length of the island’s pathways is 10km. With three hours of relaxed walking the visitor can obtain a good idea of the variety of the landscape. All you need is a pair of sports shoes, and of course hat, sunscreen and water during the summer months. One that doesn’t enjoy walking so much can relax by the blue sea either on the jetty or on the northern beach, which is 5 minutes walk. Even on a relaxed, short stay like that, Chrisi remains very impressive. Human presence on the island dates back to the Minoan times but only recently the natural environment has been disturbed. The preservation of such a special place, apart from the ethical element, is also imposed by strict national and European law.
Koufonissi is located in the southeast Xerokambos and takes the shape of the background of the sea. Here archaeologists have unearthed ruins of the Minoan and the Roman era. It seems that the island was densely populated from ancient times until the Late Roman period. This is evidenced by the great Greco-Roman theater of 1,000 seats which was excavated. According to the findings the island was a collection center and processing of the purple marine shell, living in the seas of the region.
Source: Municipality of Sitia
The most famous and most visited gorge of eastern Crete. A wonderful journey that begins at the south of the village of Ano Zakros, crosses the gorge and ends next to the Minoan palace in the bay of Kato Zakros. It is passable almost all year, has a total length of 2.5 kilometers and an altitude difference of approximately 100 meters (input – output). It is part of the European path E4 and you can cross it easily, within an hour.
With lifted bows the boats are heading for fishing on the opposite fishing spots located around Dionisades or Gianysades islets, as they are called in the language of the locals. The islands worth dedicating a boat trip. Here in the rugged coastline nestles the proud predator hawk known by the name Falco eleonorae. Small bright boats are dancing on the blackened sea water at night. If you are lucky enough, you might spot the dolphins frequenting here.
The area of Mount Thripti is characterized by high aesthetic value, especially on the southern slopes with pine forests and great biological diversity, both in terms of fauna (rare and vulnerable birds of prey, rare endemic and stenoendemic invertebrates etc.) and flora (stenoendemic plant species of Thripti). The ridges extending between the peaks Master (1.476m), Capsule (997m), Papoura (1.010m), hollow (912m) and the spectacular gorge of Ha with internal cliffs, ravines and cliffs make the terrain very rugged and create one the most important habitats in Crete for birds of prey and many other members of the indigenous fauna.
Picturesque village with wonderful views and green at the foot of Mount Master (1475 m.) 11 km. From South axis built at an altitude of 640m. It is the southwest village of Sitia province, bordering the province of Ierapetra. So named due to its mountainous location. Locals pronounce Ornos. The earliest mention of the settlement refers to document the Ducal Archive of Candia 1368.Sti hereinafter Sitia in 1577 by Barozzi, while in the Venetian census of 1583 written Orno and had 217 inhabitants.
Source: NATURE Eastern Crete 2000 Lassithi Prefecture Version & Natural History Museum of Crete University of Crete, Heraklion 2004
Located at the southern foot of Mount Anavlohos, Selinari gorge was from ancient years the natural passage from the north coast of central Crete to the Mirabello Bay. Here shelter many predatory birds. It once sheltered groups of Kri Kri, rare Cretan wild goats, which unfortunately disappeared. Also there are several sources of water, but the most famous attraction is the historical monastery of Agios Georgios.
The Dikti mountain is represented in the Natura 2000 network with the region Omalos – Viannos, the Selakano regions, wines and Selena and Lasithi plateaux and Clean. The main elements that make up the image of the natural vegetation in the massif of Dikti, are the forests of pine mainly on the southern slopes, the heaths with phrygana and maquis minimum throughout the massif and oak forest on the northern slopes. The shrublands cover about 65% of the total, while forests of pine and cypress trees account for 10% of coverage.
By today’s standards the pine populations in southern and eastern slopes and foothills of the mountain range of Dikti among the most important pine forests of Crete. It is stressed that all the remaining forests are of particular importance for the island because the area is the limited to 5% of the surface. In the relief of the entire massif intense rocky outcrops at all altitudes while the plateaus we vine crops and abandoned orchard crops and grain, an important element of intense human activity from the past.
KAPSA MONASTERY KAPSA GORGE AND SURROUNDING AREA
Located at the exit of the gorge of Pervolakia, an imposing landscape that looks to the Libyan sea is the monastery of Agios Ioannis Kapsa. The monastery belongs to the monastery of Toplou and it’s 9km away from the village of Makrigialos.