A winding path of nature, people, and culture
Psiloritis is in the heart of Crete and has five peaks that rise above 2000m. The highest is called Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) at 2456m. On its northern and western foothills, there are villages and cultivations, whereas its south and east are bounded by steep slopes and cliffs.
Psiloritis Geopark has been part of the network of European Geoparks since 2001. In 2015 it was registered as a Unesco Global Geopark, and it occupies an area of 1272km.
The geomorphology of the area creates landscapes with strong alternations and diverse environments, like plateaus, gorges, caves, forests, and rivers. A wealth of species like birds of prey, amphibians and bats are protected by eight wildlife refuges. The rich flora offers botany enthusiasts the chance to observe rare and endemic species like horstrissea and the red tulip on Gious Kambos plateau.
The coexistence of landscape and man in Psiloritis is unique. Man transforms the stone into the so-called mitata (traditional stone buildings), threshing floors and dry-stone walls, in a sustainable relationship that has lasted from antiquity to the present day. The mitata are monuments of livestock culture and they serve as resting and traditional cheese making places for the shepherds of the area. You can find many of them on the Nida plateau, which is of rare beauty.
Mythology is strong in Psiloritis, the Ida of antiquity, and conveys to the visitor the message of the continuous presence of humans in the mountainous areas of the island. The cave of Ideon Antron, where Zeus was born, has been considered for centuries a sacred place. Within the Geopark there are many important archaeological sites and monuments, dating from the Minoan period to modern times, like Zominthos, Tylisos, ancient Eleftherna and the Arkadi Monastery.
With the help of signposted hiking, mountaineering and geological routes including the E4 European path, you can plan a visit that combines the natural environment with the monuments and cultural sites. The area is also ideal for activities like mountain skiing, mountain running, canyoning and caving.
In the villages of Psiloritis there are workshops of traditional arts like weaving in Anogia, wood carving in Axos and pottery in Margarites. The numerous festivals and local celebrations are an opportunity to get to know the inhabitants, with events like the shearing of the sheep, accompanied with music and dance.
Places you must visit
5 peaks above 2.000m
2.456m Timios Stavros, the highest peak of Crete
8 Wildlife Refuges
Over 500 mitata (round stone constructions)
Over 2000 varathra and caves