Lefka Ori, Chania
Lefka Ori, Chania: A mountain range of unique natural environment, with numerous high summits and spectacular gorges
In West Crete, Lefka Ori is the mountain range that dominates the skyline. Lefka Ori, or White Mountains, extend in a large area – they are 50 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide. They take over a large part of the prefecture of Chania.
For Crete, Lefka Ori is its natural treasure. With a flora and fauna unique in the Mediterranean Sea, and featuring numerous gorges, they form a landscape that must be seen to be believed!
Lefka Ori, Chania – the mountains, the summits and the gorges
In Crete, Lefka Ori, together with Psiloritis, are the highest mountains in the island, having almost equal maximum height. The highest summit of Lefka Ori is Pachnes, with an altitude of 2.453 metres.
In Lefka Ori, the number of the high summits is impressive: With more than 30 summits with an altitude of 2.000 metres or more, they are considered one of the highest mountains in Greece.
Characteristic of the Lefka Ori are also the high plateaus of Omalos and Askyfou in its centre. They are both in an altitude of more than 1.000 metres.
From Omalos plateau, the famous Samaria Gorge starts descending. Samaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe. In total, there are more than 50 gorges in Lefka Ori. Apart from Samaria Gorge, the most known of them are Agia Irini Gorge, Imbros Gorge, Eliyias Gorge, Klados Gorge and Tripiti Gorge.
Due to the height of the mountains, rains are frequent during autumn, winter and spring. In winter the mountains are covered with snow, until late March – this is the reason they are called “white” mountains. But in the summer, as there is no water in the altitudes above 1.800 metres, in Lefka Ori a landscape unique all over Europe is formed: the so-called “high desert”.
Lefka Ori – a paradise for hikers
Lefka Ori seems like it was made for hikers. Many people from all over the world come to Chania, Crete and Lefka Ori every year, in order to experience the excellent walking paths and the especial nature of the mountains. Apart from individual walks, there are also different kinds of organized hikes and walks, like the ones with botanists who show you the unique flora of the area.
In the mountains there are four mountain shelters especially for hikers. There is also a national park, the Samaria Gorge National Park, established in 1962 in order to protect the unique flora and fauna of the area. Regarding the fauna of Lefka Ori, rare species of birds, like the Bearded Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Peregrine Falcon and Bonelli’s Eagle live here.
The E4 European hiking footpath passes through Crete and Lefka Ori. One of the best walks is the one to Melidaou summit, with an altitude of 2.133 metres. To get there, you pass from Kallergi shelter. The path offers magnificent view to the sea and the island.
When hiking, please keep in mind that most shelters are open from May to October. If you want to stay in a shelter during the night, you should first contact the local Mountaineering Club of Chania. Generally, during the winter dangerous torrents descend through Lefka Ori and its gorges, so you should avoid hiking at that time of the year.
Lefka Ori is a known mountain range and a great sight in Chania. Although most visitors to the island want to experience, among others, the splendid beaches of Crete, Lefka Ori is a very interesting location worth a visit, and a place ideal for hikers and people who enjoy walking.