The most beautiful attraction located in the west part of Crete is the largest massif on the island Lefka Ori, also called the White Mountains. The highest summit is Pachnes with an altitude 2,453 m. The mountains are made of limestone. The highest mountain areas are covered by snow till late June.
The heart of this imposing range includes the Mountain Desert, where more than fifty peaks named Sori (piles), reminding of cones, exceed the altitude of 2.000 m. Dolines, reminding of upturned cones are formed at the foot of Sori peaks. This part of the Lefka Ori lying at an altitude of 1,800 m (5,906 ft) and above resembles a “moon landscape”. This is technically called a high desert. This creepy and haunting landscape is a unique geological formation in the entire northern hemisphere.
Hiking in the White Mountains requires fitness, experience and a good sense of orientation. There are several mountain shelters where mountaineers can spend their night.
There are numerous caves, precipices, sinkholes and canyons. The most famous gorge is Samaria in the White Mountains National Reserve, but there are many more: to the south, the gorges of Aradena, Tripiti, Klados, Agia Irini, Imbros and Kallikratis, and to the north, the gorge of Vrissi, Therisso, Cyclamen, Boriano, Dittany, Kidoni and more.
The Lefka Ori are home to both of Greece’s caves with depths greater than one kilometer. The Lefka Ori mountain range are spectacular but one of their most valued characteristic is that they are a natural ‘reservoir’ and provider of water throughout Spring and most importantly the hot long Summers.
The White Mountains host a great variety of flora and fauna species, which are exclusively endemic (stenoendemic), not to be found anywhere else – not even in other parts of Crete. The areas on the southern side of the mountain range are covered with cypress, oak and pine trees, whereas humid areas favour the development of chestnuts, planes and other aquatic plants.
Late spring and early autumn are the best for few crowds and pleasant weather. If you are going to travel there during spring you will have the chance to see snowcaps on Lefka Ori. Besides, May is the peak of wildflower season!
In winter, locals enjoy visiting the White Mountains. Snow for the inhabitants of Crete is exotic.