Flora and Fauna are at their best inside the National Park of Samaria gorge. There are unique species of animals and plants and they are all protected by law; in fact you are not allowed to remove anything from the gorge, not even cut a flower.
Very famous is the Cretan wild goat ( Kri-Kri). You may meet some of them in the village of Samaria inside the gorge; sometimes a few of them come close to the last houses of the village.
“Lefka Ori” or White Mountains Range
The White Mountains or (Lefka Ori in Greek) is the major mountain range in west Crete, just south of Chania; there are 58 summits higher than 2,000 metres (6500 ft) in it. The highest summit is Mt Pachnes (2453 m, 8048 ft), just 9 ft lower than Mt Idi. Trekking in Lefka Ori is not easy. Serious mountaineering experience and equipment are necessary in winter. In summer the main problem are high temperatures and the lack of any shadow.
Mt Melidaou – trekking
A pleasant trekking route is Mt Melidaou (2133 m, 6998 ft). From Omalos Plateau follow the signs to Kallergi’s shelter. There is a dirt track leading there in about 1.5 hrs. The shelter is located at 1780 m, high above Samaria Gorge, and the views are spectacular.
If you want to spend the night in Kallergi’s shelter, you have to call the Mountaineering Club of Chania (tel. 28210-44647). The shelter is open from May to October.
Mt Kastro – trekking
A different trekking route is from Askifou Plateau (on the road from Vrysses to Sfakia) to Mt Kastro summit. As soon as you get to Askifou village ask for the dirt road leading to Tavri shelter. This shelter is located at 1200 m high, 60 persons can be accomodated in it and you also have to call the Chania Mountaineering Club, if you want to stay there.
Keep walking past the shelter up to Niato plateau. The road leading from Askyfou village to Niato plateau is going through a pine-tree forest and it is a scenic route. At the end of the dirt road try to locate the E4 signs. Move along it for the next 1 hour up to the mountain’s crest. As long as you notice that the E4path is going down to the right, leave it and keep moving along the crest of the mountain following the red dots. In a short time you will be on a summit and right above it you will see the Mt Kastro summit. You have to go slightly down (about 100 m) and then up again. In 30 minutes you will be on the summit and enjoy the spectacular view.
The time needed is 5-6 hours to the summit and 4 hours back. This time applies to summer, as fog and ice may greatly increase it in winter.
Of course, there are literally thousands of much easier walking routes around Chania, to beaches, around the only fresh water lake on Crete – Lake Kournas – around the town, and all over the countryside, and most are easy and a delight, with many tavernas en route when a stop is needed. Just ask Lena for advice and ideas, as always.