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EXPLORING CRETE
NATURE
Exploring Crete

The geography of Crete is beautiful and diverse, as well as unique, making it a
truly stunning place to visit and explore. With 260km in length and an area of
8,336 sq km, this island is the largest and most populated in Greece, and its
landscapes are characterised by mountains, caves, gorges, rivers and lakes.
Crete’s geographical location in the south part of the Aegean Sea is where
the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia meet, which has allowed the history
of the island to be majorly influenced by these civilizations. If you wish to
explore the rich nature, culture and history of the island, there are many
villas
in Crete which you can stay in and use as a base for exploring.



Fauna and Flora
IWhen exploring the island, you’ll be able to find species of plants and animals
that are indigenous to Crete. This extraordinary biodiversity is partly due to
the relative isolation of the island, which created rich fauna and flora specific
to the area and impossible to find anywhere else.
Crete doesn’t have animals that are harmful to humans, which the ancient
Greeks attributed to Hercules and his mission to remove all dangerous
animals from the island, the birthplace of his father Zeus. Cretan animals
include the
kri kri (mountain goat), the bearded vulture and the Cretan wildcat
As for the Cretan flora, the unique climate and geography of the island gave
birth to an outstanding number of endemic species: 302, out of the 2,108
plants that grow on Crete are indigenous to the island, such as the Cretan
dittany and the scilla nana, a blue flower that grows in mountain ranges.


Mountains

No matter which time of year you choose to visit Crete, you’ll be able to hike
and explore the island. There are several mountainous areas in Crete, which
includes the highest point, Mt Ida, or Psiloritis, at 2,456m, an exceptional and
challenging hike.
You can also explore the White Mountains, or Lefka Ori, which got their name
from the perpetual white, or off white, colour of their more than fifty peaks
(although you may hear that the range is named after their snow-capped
appearance – the high altitude means that snow generally covers the peaks
between November and May). Hiking in this imposing range requires great
levels of fitness and experience, but it’s worth it just for a chance of
exploring such an extraordinary geological formation – unique to the northern
hemisphere.
Adding to the striking beauty of the dramatic mountainous scenery is the
multitude of caves and gorges that make their home in the mountains.


Caves
Crete’s underground is just as rich as its surface. There are more than 3,000
caves in the island, most of which are of high ecological and speleological
importance. They’re also connected to Greek mythology, as is the case with
one of the most famous caves in Crete, the
Dikteon Cave According to
legend, this cave is where Zeus was born, and has also been used for the
worship of other gods over time.

Gorges
In the White Mountains in west Crete lies the Samariá gorge, it’s the most
famous gorge in Crete and also the longest in Europe with a length of 16km.  
The stunning natural beauty makes this long hike well worth the effort.  You
may also be lucky enough to spot a  kri kri, the wild goats of Crete which are
a protected species.
Samaria is certainly not the only gorge on the island, however.  The nearby
Imbros Gorge is around 7km long and  perfect for family walks.  A little
further east, near Plakias, is  the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, where the wind is
funnelled through the caves of the gorge and create a ‘clapping’ sound heard
only in a specific location in the canyon.  The Ha Gorge in eastern Crete is
about 1.5km long and 1km deep and, due to its inaccessibility, there are
many endemic species of flora and fauna there, but this gorge is only suitable
for experienced rope climbers.

Islands
There are many small islands surrounding Crete, most of which can be visited
by tourists – others only by archaeologists and researchers,    such as
biologists. Some of these islands are even environmentally protected,
meaning the government restrains activities that can cause environmental
degradation. This protection intends to benefit both the environment and the
inhabitants of Crete.

Crete has a rich ecosystem and a diverse landscape unmatched by any other,
which makes this island a true gem in the Mediterranean Sea.    Its strong
cultural and historic heritage, as well as its stunning locations and endemic
species of animals, flowers and plants, make it a one-of-a-kind destination for
nature lovers!


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