In the warm and dry area of East Crete, most gorges dry up during the summer, however there are a few green oases, such as the canyon Richtis with the impressive waterfall. The Dikti Mountain Range is home to some very impressive canyons, with the most popular being Sarakina by Mythi, Kritsa, Adrianos, Havgas by Kalamafka and Havgas at Lassithi Plateau. Some more impressive gorges, surrounded mainly by pinewood, are located on Mount Thrypti. Among them, the canyons of Pefki, Orino, Ahlia and Mylonas are the most popular. The area of Zakros is dominated by the eerie canyon of the Dead, which takes its name after the Minoan graves found in its cavernous walls. Other local gorges are the dry canyons Katsounaki, Lamnoni, Saint Irene and Pervolakia. North Mirabello district area also hosts some less known canyons, ideal for easy hiking, such as Kouroukoulos, Havgas by Plaka and Skotini. Apart from hiking, Lassithi also hosts some imposing technical canyons (crossed only with equipment) with the most famous being the wild canyon of Ha by Ierapetra.
The amazing gorge of Richtis is located in Lasithi Prefecture, on the north side, between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia. It starts just outside the village Exo Mouliana and ends at the Richtis beach, east of the village of Kalabro. The total length of the route is approximately 3 kilometers and the elevation difference between the starting point and the beach is about 350 meters. The gorge, even in summer, has enough water, which is used by locals.
Kritsa Gorge starts near the picturesque village of Kritsa, 9.5km southwest of Agios Nikolaos and ends at the village Tapes. It’s 4km long, reaching a width of only 1.5m in some places. It is easily accessible with a few points that need attention, where you have to climb over some big rocks (not too hard). The only time you should not visit the gorge, is when it has rained previously and there are ponds in the gorge, which block the passages.
The Gorge of Mylonas or Saint John is located 18km east of Ierapetra. It starts near the village of St. John, at an altitude of 500m, and ends at the beach of Kakia Skala. Descending the gorge from Saint John is impossible, as it is stopped by a high waterfall, and canyoning equipment is necessary.
One dominant feature of the area of Ierapetra, in front of the beautiful village and the minoan settlement of Vassiliki is the Gorge Ha. It is considered one of the wildest gorges in Crete, a rare morphological phenomenon of nature, probably caused by tectonic earthquake.
16km west of the Ierapetra is the traditional village of Mythi. In a short distance from the village, the small Sarakina Gorge starts, which ends near the Mirtos. The length of the canyon reaches 1.5km and its width ranges from 3 to 10 meters, with only a few points exceeding that.
The Gorge of Pefki (Pefki means Pines) is one of the most beautiful small gorges of Crete, with amazing rock formations shaped by the natural forces and with lush vegetation. The length of the gorge is 4.5 km and the elevation difference of the entering point and the exit reaches 300 meters.The gorge starts south of the village Pefki and ends in Aspros Potamos dorp, 2km north of Makrigialos.
The wild and imposing gorge of Kapsas is located 8-9km east of Makrigialos and 33km east of Ierapetra. The gorge is also called Pervolakia, because its northern entrance is near the secluded and picturesque village of Pervolakia. When in the village, you should walk in the nearby traditional village of Pezoulas, with the amazing houses.
The beautiful Gorge of Kato Zakros (or the gorge of the Dead) starts in a short distance from Ano Zakros, nearly 100km southeast of St. Nicholas, and ends at Kato Zakros. The beauty of the landscape, the historical importance of the gorge and its accessibility, attract many visitors every year.
Nearby the lush green and full of water springs Orino village we meet one of the most steep rivers of Crete. Its springs are located high on the plateau Abelia on the slopes of Thripti and Papouri mounts. They shortly form a river which crosses the village square and enters the rugged canyon of Orino.
Through the gorge passes Havgas river that carries water from the plateau of Katharo to Lassithi. Then the water reaches Chonos (the hole from which waters of the Lassithi Plateau escape the plateau), comes out from Fleves and reaches Aposelemis dam. The river has water for several months a year. Thus, make sure you get properly informed about the weather because the canyon carries a lot of water during periods of rainfall.
The Gorge of Chochlakies or Karoumes is located in one of the most isolated areas of the island, near Kato Zakros. Easy hiking in the snakelike canyon with the sparse vegetation and the bare rocks, ends in the amazing beach of Karoumes, where being totally alone is the rule.
The Gorge of Havgas is located very close to the village Kalamafka, just 12km north of the city of Ierapetra. Note that there are several other gorges with the same name around Crete, such as the Havgas Gorge in Lassithi Plateau.
Mesonas gorge is located on the northern slopes of the mountains of Thripti, near villages Kavoussi and Avgos. It is a short imposing gorge (4km long), that needs technical equipment for crossing it along its bed. The canyon connects the Plateau of Thripti to the plain of Kavoussi.
Throughout its short length its hides two key surprises. First, it hosts a small colony of Cretan date palm trees (Theophrastus palm trees), while at the end of it, by the sea, some ponds with fresh water are formed. Especially these springs are an unexpected view in the hot and dry East Crete.
The Gorge Selinari is located about 45km east of Heraklion and 21km west of Agios Nikolaos, on the eastern slopes of Selena Mount. It is well known to all Cretans, because the National Road from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos runs along the gorge.
A very short gorge with the small wonderful beach of Agriomandra formed at its exit. To find that you should follow the dirt road that crosses the green meadows west of Kavoussi, known as Lakos Ambelion position, till the entrance to the gorge.
The canyon of Koudoumis is located about 27km west of Sitia, near the village Tourloti. The canyon is accessible on foot, but it has six small steep rappels that require little attention. The canyon is also called Tourloti Gorge as its exit is located close to Tourloti and its entrance is located at the small plateau of Monokaras, a few kilometers further south. The impressive rock formations and the blooming nature of spring make trekking in Koudoumis gorge very interesting.
Agii Pantes Gorge is located next to Skopi of Sitia province, near Faneromeni Monastery, and is one of the easiest places to walk in Crete. The very well signed trail runs along the riverbed of the gorge, below the shade of hundreds platan trees. There are two fresh water springs in the canyon, one is called Koutsounari and the other one, located inside a cave, is called Hosto Nero. The exit of the gorge is the beach of Agii Pantes (by Platani beach). The area floods in winter turns to an important wetland. Near its exit, you will admire the white limestock formations, reminding of huge pleurotus mushrooms.
The exit of the gorge Tsigounis is located 1km west of the village Sfaka, Sitia district, on a turn of the main road connecting central Crete to Sitia. The river flowing through the gorge gets its water from the plateau Monokara and is "stingy" (tsigounis means stingy) as it has small quantities of water only in winter.
The gorge of Adrianos starts from the village Adrianos. In some places there are high rocks that impede the free course through the canyon, making walking difficult, but not impossible (the course needs about 3 hours). The river flowing in its bed is Skoulikaris that starts near village Potami and it empties in the town of Agios Nikolaos.