Forests & Ecosystems of Crete

The range of spectacles Nature puts on in Crete – from mountains through plains to seashores, as revealed by the constantly changing landscapes – guarantees many surprises for the traveller.

The rugged massifs, the gorges with their wildlife, pristine islets with sand-dunes and cedar trees, wetlands and forests – all and more go to produce unusual ecosystems all across the island: gifts to those on the nature trail.

Explore with us some of these rarities – learn about the flora and fauna – discover the stories and legends they inspire.


One of the most extensive forests on Crete, is the Simi pine forest with the dominant species being the Calabrian pine (Pinus brutia) with large stands of oak, and cypress and other species like maple, holm oak and holly. 

  • Region South West Dikte, Viannos, Heraklio
  • protected area Natura 2000
  • type Forest

Gigilos peak of White Mountains range is considered as one of the most enchanting mountain summits of Crete. Rearing up from the depths of the gorge below Xyloskalo, it rises defiantly and rockily barren (ashen in colour), as its old name would suggest. Gigilos is from a pre-Greek word – girgiros – a pile of rocks.

  • Region White Mountains range, Sfakia, Chania
  • protected area -
  • type Summit

Vai plam forest lies in a beautiful valley and by a sandy beach, just north of ancient Itanos: 28 km from Siteia, 8 from Palaikastro and 6 from Toplou by their respective roads. Covering 200 stremmata (50 acres), it is made up of the native Theophrastus palms – the largest colony not only in Greece but also in all Europe...

  • Region Vai (Itanos), Sitia, Lasithi
  • protected area Natura 2000
  • type Palm Forest

As well as the main island Koufonisi, the region includes smaller islets – Stronguli, Makrouli and Marmara to the north, with only Trachilos to the south. The sea comprises 60% of the designated territory. Koufionisi itself is a small island with a hot and dry climate. It has both sandy and pebbly shorelines. 

  • Region Koufonisi, Sitia, Lasithi
  • protected area -
  • type Ecosystem, Marine Ecosystem

The forest of Trigiodo-Vroulidia is an important ecosystem centred on an oak forest, this occupies the inner valley of a mountain massif at Anogeia, which borders the Zominthos area. The trees growing here have attained a great age: the trunk diameters are more than a metre wide, and they grow to 15 m high. They grow so tall that they form a proper bio-system of a forest with many shrubby types to fill out the ranks of vegetation. 

  • Region Zominthos (Psiloritis), Anogia, Rethymno
  • protected area Natura 2000
  • type Forest

Rouvas Forest is a key ecosystem, based on an oak forest – it is of national importance. Covering the inland slopes of Psiloritis, it is defined by the peaks of Ambelakia and Samari to the south, Chalazokephala to the west, Skinaka and Koudouni to the north and Gyristi to the east. The forest covers some 30,000 stremmata (7400 acres)

  • Region Zaros (Psiloritis), Phaistos, Heraklio
  • protected area Natura 2000
  • type Forest
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