Mountains of Crete

Crete is a one of the most mountainous islands of Europe with high mountain ranges crossing the island from West to East. They are composed of limestone. The geological upheavals which created basins and plateaus also formed a large number of impressive caves, many of which were used for religious purposes during antiquity. The mountains of Crete make up a section of the Dinaric -Taurus chain, which starts in the Dinaric Alps and comprises the mountains of Albania, Pindus, the Peloponnese, Kythira - Antikythira, Crete, Karpathos and Rhodos, and ends in Taurus in Asia Minor.
 
On Crete these massifs form three large mountain complexes and in between some lower mountains and semi-mountainous zones. The biggest mountain range is in Western Crete, the White Mountains or "Lefka Ori” with the Pachnes (2453m) as its highest peak. In the middle of the island Mount Ida, a single elongated mountain mass whose highest peak is Timios Stavros (2456 m.), the highest point in Crete. In eastern Crete there are the Dikti Mountains with the highest peak of 2148m.
View on the White Mountains from Vamos during winter
 
The mountains in Crete are the best to explore on foot. You can do beautiful daytrips in these mountains; make long hikes for several days or make a long trekking; for example along the long distance path the E4. If you like to do mountain walks on your own the best guide book is of Loraine Wilson, High Mountains of Crete (see Walking guidebooks of Crete). Many day walks and several suggestions for trekking tours are described in this book.
 
View from Mt Kastro over the Lefka Ori
Kreta is één van de meest bergachtige eilanden van Europa met bergketens die van oost naar west over het eiland lopen. Het gebergte bestaat vrijwel geheel uit kalksteen waardoor er ook vele hoogvlakten en grotten zijn gevormd. Veel van deze imposante grotten werden in de oudheid gebruikt voor religieuze doeleinden. De bergen van Kreta maken deel uit van een sectie van de Dinarische –Taurus keten. Deze begint in de Dinarische Alpen waar de bergen in Albanië, Pindus, de Peloponnesos, Kythira, Antikythira, Kreta, Karpathos en Rhodos, en eindigt in Taurus in klein Azië.
 
Op Kreta zijn drie grote bergmassieven en daartussen bevinden zich nog lagere bergketens en semibergachtig terrein. De grootste bergketen is de Witte Bergen of "Lefka Ori” en bevindt zich in west Kreta in de provincie Chania. De hoogste berg is de Pachnes met 2453m. In midden het midden van het eiland bevindt zich het Ida-gebergte. Dit massief bestaat eigenlijk uit één bergmassa met de hoogste piek van Kreta, de Timios Stavros (2456m). In oost Kreta ligt het Dikti-gebergte waarbij de hoogste piek tot 2148m reikt.

De Bergen van Kreta zijn het best te voet te ontdekken. Je kunt prachtige dagtochten in deze bergen maken; langere wandeltochten van meerder dagen maken of zelfs een lange trektocht, bijvoorbeeld langs het langeafstandspad van De E4. Wanneer je zelfstandig op pad wilt gaan in de bergen dan is de wandelgids van Loraine Wilson, "High Mountains of Crete”( zie Walking guidebooks of Crete) onmisbaar. Vele dagtochten en suggesties voor een aantal trektochten worden in deze gids beschreven.


The White Mountains
 
 The White Mountains or Lefka Ori dominates the landscape of West Crete. They are made of limestone and called White Mountains because they are covered in snow until late in the spring. In the summer, the sun reflected on the limestone summits makes them appear white as well. The highest summit is Pachnes (2453m) and there are over 30 summits higher than 2000m. Known are the many gorges in this Mountain Range with the Samarie Gorge being the most famous one. Another characteristic of the mountains are the high plateaux in the centre of the mountains. The best known is the plateau of Omalos which is a round plain surrounded by mountains, at an altitude of 1100m. There are only a few roads leading into the mountains so the best way to experience the White Mountains is by walking! There are three detailed walking maps of the White Mountains which are essential when you go up there! It is a rough area with few water and few people up there so experience with mountain walking is advisable! There several walking guidebooks of Crete that have descriptions of several routes. A very good guidebook is "High Mountains of Crete” by Loraine Wilson.
 
Below you find descriptions of several mountain peaks and some plateaus in the White Mountains.
 

PACHNES (2453m)
The Pachnes is the highest peak in the White Mountains, only 3 metres lower than the Psiloritis, or Ida (the highest peak of Crete). The easiest way to reach the top is to set off by jeep or pickup from Anopolis (ask Nikos in his kafenion to bring you up) until the end of the dirt track. It is a very spectacular ride that will bring you through the 'Madares', a moon landscape with many potholes! From here starts a path (now well marked with E4 signs) that leads you to "Rousies" (1900m). Here the E4 continues and you follow the signs up towards the top of the Pachnes. Technically it is not a difficult route. Good information and other route possibilities are well described in "High Mountains of Crete by Loraine Wilson.
 
Mt. Pachnes. View from the North side

Gingelos (1964m)
 
GINGELOS (1964m)
At the entrance of the Samaria Gorge you can't ignore "the guard" of the Gorge, the Gingelos. Just under 2000m (at many maps and signs it is still written 2080m) this is a very impressive mountain and one of the most beautiful hikes in the White Mountains. The vertical north face is very impressive and in this steep wall many Kri Kri's (wild goats) are living. The route to the summit is well marked. Until the saddle (1700m) there is clear path. From there you need some easy scrambling and there is no clear path. It is well marked with yellow paint. The views over the Omalos Plateau and the White Mountains are breathtaking!

MT. KASTRO (2219m)
under construction...... 
 
Mt. Kastro from Niato Plateau

 
Mount Ida
 
 

In the middle of the island you find Mount Ida, or Psiloritis, a single elongated mountain mass whose highest peak is Timios Stavros (2456 m.), the highest point in Crete.  The Ida mountains are located in the prefecture of Rethymnon. On its slopes lies the cave Idaion Andron, in which, according to legend, Zeus was born. On the south side of the mountain massive is the green Amari valley. Interesting features are the plateau of Nida and the forest of Ruva on the east side. The observatory of the University of Crete is located on the secondary peak Skinakas at 1750m.

 

TIMIOS STAVROS (2456m)
From the Nida plateau starts the easiest route of ascent to the summit of the Timios Stavros, or Psilorits. Other routes start from the south side from Kamares and the west side from Arkadi Monastery. From the summit you have great views in all directions! A small, open stone chapel of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross), site of an annual pilgrimage on September 14, is located on the summit. Especially the route starting from the Nida plateau is well marked with E4 signs. To get to the summit it takes about 4 - 5 hours and 3,5 - 4 hours to return. This walk is descripted in many guide books and it is very wise to take the detailed walking map of Anavasi 11.14 Psiloritis, 1:25.000 with you! (see Maps of Crete).
 
Summit of Timios Stavros, a few metres under the summit

 
Dikti Mountains
 

under construction.....

 
Mount Dikti from Lassithi plateau