The mountain of Psiloritis offers various hiking routes. More than 20 signposted paths give the opportunity to explore the different aspects of the mountainous areas.
Most paths cross the southeast of the massif and are moderately difficult. To the northwest and northeast, the relief is milder, and the paths have a lower degree of difficulty.
The paths that lead to the peak of Timios Stavros start from Kamares, the Nida plateau or Lakos Migerou, and follow parts of the European E4 path. The routes are captivating with a rocky landscape and an impressive view from above.
With routes starting from Rethymno or within the Geopark, bikers can enjoy landscapes overlooking the sea or the mountain. The dense network of roads takes cyclists to villages, monasteries, churches, valleys, gorges, and beaches, with distances ranging from 27 to 72km.
The proposed routes include both asphalt and dirt roads. There are different degrees of difficulty, with stopping points for resting and points with a view. You can plan the route you want, choosing destinations like Anogia, Nida Plateau, Gonies, Vossako Monastery, Amari, Arkadi Monastery, Eleftherna, Melidoni, Margarites, Bali etc.
The impressive geological formation of Voulismeno Aloni is an organised climbing destination. This field is both for beginners, under the guidance of experienced instructors, and for those familiar with the sport. There are routes of varying degrees of difficulty around the rock, that attract climbers from around the world.
For mountain running athletes, Psiloritis offers a unique experience as it includes routes of ranging difficulty, rare landscapes, and mythical tales.
The Psiloritis Race, with the slogan “Run in the footsteps of Zeus”, takes place every year with over 200 participants. The most important prize for the athletes is the natural beauty they experience and the view over the whole of Crete.
As an endurance sport, mountain running includes different routes: 50km for a duration of seven hours, starting and finishing in Anogia with an intermediate stop at the peak of Timios Stavros; 14km from Nida plateau to Kouroutes; 8,5km of race walking, crossing centuries-old olive groves and vineyards from Platania to Kouroutes; and finally, the children’s race from Kalotas to Kouroutes on a gentle, downhill route.
Ski Mountaineering in Crete is a sport with more and more fans. The Pierra Creta race started in 2014 and is held every two years.
In March 2022, the 5th Pierra Creta race was held, with 60 athletes from 11 countries that skied on the northern slopes of Psiloritis. Crete is a well-known destination, mainly connected with summer activities. But it now offers an excellent opportunity for skiing in spring. Without the use of a lift, on open slopes and with good quality snow, you can enjoy one of the 100 best descents in the world, according to a recent entry by National Geographic.
Numerous gorges cross the mountainous hinterland of Psiloritis, delineating areas and offering access to the lowlands. The topography of the gorges favours the development of unique ecosystems with intense vegetation and running waters, steep arid slopes, and impressive cliffs. The area has more than ten gorges, many of which are accessible to the public, while others require special equipment and expertise.
The gorges of Patsos, Platania, Vorizia and Rouvas are considered relatively accessible and stand out for their landscape, waters and rich flora and fauna. Gorges like Smiliano and Kamaraiko require equipment and experience as they have many technical descents.
Countless caves, sinkholes and precipices are the results of the geomorphology and the erosive action of the water in the area. Their form and dimensions vary, and many of them are inaccessible.
The caves of the Psiloritis Geopark are considered important because of their scientific, historical, and aesthetic value. Various species, like bats, arthropods, isopods, and snails have adapted to the special conditions of the caves and are part of sensitive and rare ecosystems. Through the centuries the caves became a refuge for both animals and people in different historical periods. Many were used as residences, places of worship, warehouses, and hideouts.
The caves of Sfendoni (Zoniana), Melidoni (Gerontospilios), Hainospilios and Ideon Antron accept all visitors. The caves of Mougri, Honos of Sarhos and Tafkoura in Petradolakia are accessible only to trained members of caving groups.
Psiloritis Geopark covers an area of 1272km2 that includes rock formations, fossils, caves, sinkholes, gorges, landforms, relief formations, folds, and rock faults.
These features narrate the geological history and evolution of the mountain and the whole island. They give a complete picture of the landscape that existed millions of years ago, when the topography was created by powerful geological forces.
The design of geo-corridors is for both visitors with special interests and the public. The routes are designed to interpret the geological phenomena within the wider natural and human environment. In this way, they highlight both the history of humans and the topography of Psiloritis. Recommended areas: Geo-route of Gonies, section of Talaion Mountains, the trail of “Mygia”, Doxaro – Vossakos folds, Platania gorge and Pites tis Grias – Charakas
The diversity of the topography in Psiloritis has contributed to the biodiversity of the region’s flora. Botany enthusiasts can observe rare and endemic species, mainly within gorges, plateaus, and forests.
In the forest of Rouvas and the gorge of Gafaris you can find clusters of cypresses and kermes oak trees, endemic species like abelicaea zelkova, the Cretan cyclamen and the orchids cefalanthera and lypitero (epipactis cretica).
Chasmophytes like petromarula, Zeus’s hypericum and the famous dittany grow in the rocky gorges of Vorizia and Kamares. In the gorge of Patsos you can see huge plane trees, tiny solenopsis, evergreen oaks and endemic mulleins, whereas in the Goniano gorge you can find staehelina, centaureas, the endemic Ebenus Creticus or Plumi and cyclamens in autumn.
In Gious Kambos plateau, the red tulip is endemic along with more than 20 different species of orchid, while in Nida plateau you can find the Sieber’s crocus or snow crocus and the polygonum idaeum. In Skinakas grows one of the rarest and most endangered plants, called horstrissea.
In the south of Psiloritis there are forests of cypresses, East Meditteranean pines, oaks, hawthorns, and almond-leaved pears.
Autumn, spring, and summer are good periods for observing the abundance of herbs and other plants on the low slopes of the mountain.
Numerous species like birds of prey, amphibians and bats are protected by the eight wildlife refuges of the area. One of the most impressive birds of prey that lives in Psiloritis is the griffon vulture or kokalas, as the locals call it. The griffon vulture is a critically endangered species, and Crete is its last refuge in Greece and the Balkans.
Other mountainous species are the vultures that nest on steep slopes, gorges and craggy rocks in Amari and Pano Rizia. Their survival is directly related to the livestock activities, as they feed exclusively on the carcasses of goats and sheep.
Golden eagles, peregrine falcons, Bonelli’s eagles, common buzzards and common kestrels are also found in the area.
Psiloritis is ideal for birdwatching all year round. Other places for bird watching are the forest of Rouvas, the gorge of Platania and Skinakas peak (except in the winter).