Into the steep and sacred gorges

The Asterousia mountain range is the southernmost in Europe. It is a semi – mountainous and mountainous zone of moderate altitude, reaching 1231m at its peak, Kofinas.

The Asterousia mountains occupy an area of 367 km2. They joined the world network of Biosphere Reserves (MAB: Man and Biosphere) in 2020, because they are home to a distinct human and natural environment.

The topography in the southern part of the mountains is fierce, with steep rocks that make up gorges and cliffs, ending in small beaches and secluded coves. Vegetation is scarce and low, except for some groves of pines, cypresses, carob trees, wild olive trees, and a characteristic cluster of Cretan date palms in Agios Nikitas and Martsalo. Despite the scarcity of vegetation, there are 30 endemic plants species. There are also three wildlife refuges and an observatory, with a feeder for birds of prey. Asterousia is a good birdwatching spot, with 192 different species of birds.

Stockbreeding has been a key economic activity for inhabitants here from prehistoric times to today. The locals’ heritage is the contact with land, and the centuries-long tradition in producing goods. Visitors today can find small-scale agricultural units and experience traditional production practices.

Prehistoric settlements and century-old villages are scattered throughout the area, together with places of worship, small churches, and monasteries to explore. The remote and unreachable landscape was from the first Christian times an ideal place for hermits, who sought to isolate and relate to nature and God. A typical example of this is the unique natural beauty of Agiofarago, where you can find caves of hermits as well as a gorge with a magnificent beach at its end.

The monastic tradition here led to the creation of hermitages and monasteries that are pilgrimage sites to this day. The peak of Kofinas was considered a sacred place for centuries, as countless findings reveal. The religious tradition continues with an annual festival in the chapel of the Timios Stavros, on the peak.

Asterousia is a must for lovers of the outdoors, with a multitude of gorges of unique wild beauty that end in magnificent beaches. Many gorges attract adventure enthusiasts, as crossing them is a challenge requiring technical equipment and experience. Climbing fields, paragliding routes and horse riding complete the wide range of activities available.

Finally, beaches of rare beauty are facing the Libyan Sea; some of them are accessible only on foot or by boat.  

The project is implemented through the Regional Development Fund of Crete
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