One dominant feature of the area of Ierapetra, in front of the beautiful village and the minoan remains of Vassiliki is the Ha Gorge. It is considered one of the wildest gorges in Crete, a rare morphological phenomenon of nature, probably caused by tectonic earthquake.
It remains a virgin environment, untouched by man, who still finds its formation prohibitive for exploration or development.
Very few experienced climbers have crossed it. Any attempt without the experience or the equipment could prove fatal, as it happened in the past.
It has about 33 rappels, the largest is 35 meters high. At some points the walls come very close, just a few centimeters, which makes the gorge special. In the last third of the gorge, a waterfall of 215 meters height is poured, which increases the amount of water in the gorge. This is often the problem up to that point for canyoneers: the Ha is dry up to there, but from there it has large amounts of water. The waterfall is the largest in Crete and is located at the end of Mastoras sub-gorge.
The entrance of the gorge is very narrow, about 3m and opens on the top. Its width in many parts is only 30cm and in others no more than 3m. To the left and right stand huge stone walls 200m to 400m high. Its length is about 1km. Right before the entrance there is a pont, created by a small waterfall , that comes from another lake above. This is not visible from the root of the mountain but you can marvell at it once you climb a few rocks carefully. The intense parallel colours on the rocks are impressive, too.
As you reach the inside you can see many such small ponts and waterfalls, especially in the wintertime, which is the best time to visit the gorge.
As you proceed inside you are filled with awe, as huge rocks, cut in square or rectangle blocks shadow the small valley, you just left behind. The highest waterfall in Crete, is located in Ha, having 215 m height.
Near Ha, there are some ruins of old stone watermills, monuments of a bygone era.
Flora and Fauna
A few years ago, the mountain of Thrypti was overgrown with pine trees, a true ornament to all Crete. The largest part of the forest was burned down in 1984 and 1987. However the ability of the certain species (pinus Brutia) to regenerate fast and endure drought would very quickly offer full restoration, if it wasn't for the illegal herding of sheep and goats.
Apart from pine trees, there are also many other species, trees and bushes, aromatic plants and flowers. Many rare and endangered plant species are sheltered in the gorge.
The area inside and around the gorge is a very important wildlife habitat. The small ponts draw many migrant birds, but also endemic birds and mammals, insects and serpents offering them food and shelter.
The cretan hare, the cretan weasel (kalogynaikari) and the cretan badger are quite common. A rodent of the african fauna has been observed and has not been seen anywhere else in Europe : the spiny mouse, that looks like a common mouse, with brown fur, white on the belly and with spikes on its back and sides like the hedgehog. The hedgehog is also quite common and is portected by national law. In the gorge many species of bat are also hosted.
Several predatory birds and vultures live in the area of Thrypti, as well as smaller birds, like the duckhawk, the partridge, the quail, woodcocks, red nightingales and crows.
The number of species is significant, but the numbers of the individuals are decreasing, due to the gradual domination of man on their natural habitat. Illegal hunting, passing cars and poisoning from pesticide pose a serious threat to all of them.