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.


The only freshwater lake on the island, Kournas Lake, is located at the north edge of the White Mountains, barely 4 km from Georgioupolis, on the borders of Apokoronas

  • Region Kournas (Georgioupoli), Apokoronas, Chania
  • protected area -
  • type Lake

Defined by the peaks at Skinaka to the east and Mavro Kouro to the west, Psakofaraggo is essentially a fissure in the ground that, after crossing through the Rouvas forest as a river, becomes transformed into a proper gorge – that of Aghios Nikolaos Zaros, the most important one on the Psiloritis massif and in central Crete. It takes its name from the Byzantine church at its southern end.

  • Region Psiloritis, Phaistos, Heraklio
  • protected area Natura 2000
  • type Forest, Gorge

At Zaros-Vorizia region there is an extensive forest complex on the south flank of Psiloritis, running from the Aghios Ioannis gorge on the east to the Vorizia gorge on the west. 

  • Region Zaros, Vorizia (South Psiloritis), Phaistos, Heraklio
  • protected area -
  • type Forest

Selakano Forest is one of wild beauty, one of the most important ecosystems on the island and so included in the Natura 2000 network. A pine forest, in a mountain setting, it begins some 35 km to the northwest of Ierapetra and runs on up the slopes below the summit of Afendi Christos peak of the Dicte massif.

  • Region South East Dikte, Ierapetra, Lasithi
  • protected area -
  • type Forest

Up to the end of the 1980s, north of the village of Zaros and right at the feet of the mountain there existed a small wetland centred on the spring of Votomos. A natural depression at the spring had allowed the wetland to develop. In 1987, with the assistance of the Ministry of Forests a small artificial lake was created around the spring – which has become one of the most chief areas for woodland recreation in Crete.

  • Region Zaros, Phaistos, Heraklio
  • protected area -
  • type Wetland, Lake, River

The area of Preveli is without doubt one of the most striking in Crete: it combines the impressive geomorphology of the Kourtalioti gorge with an ecosystem of significance and a beach of rare beauty.

  • Region Preveli Monastery, Aghios Vasilios, Rethymno
  • protected area -
  • type Wetland, Lake, River, Palm Forest
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