Crete was once covered with dense forests, thus its mountains were called "Idea", i.e. wooded. Unfortunately these forests have almost disappeared due to logging, overgrazing and fires. Even so, the few remaining forests are some of the most beautiful landscapes in Crete and a typical sample of the Mediterranean vegetation that once covered the entire island.
Each area of Crete has its own characteristic trees. The provinces Apokoronas and Sfakia are covered with cypresses, Thrypti has mainly pines, the lowlands of central Crete host arbutus, the humid areas of Kissamos are covered with chestnuts, while the Diktaean and the White Mountains are home to oaks.
The most important cypress woods are met at the National Reserve of the White Mountains, Kroustas, the lowlands of Apokoronas and the mountainous province of Kydonia. The greatest oak wood is located at Rouvas at Psiloritis and it is home to rare animals and plants, including the endemic Cretan wildcat and the orchid Cephalanthera cuculata. Extensive pine woods are formed at the mountain of Thripti, at eastern Dikti, Sfakia, Asterousia Range and southern Psiloritis. More specifically, the pine woods of Selakano, Vorizia and Kato Symi are the largest beekeeping areas in Crete.
Woods of special tree species are also formed in various parts of the island, such as the famous groves of the Cretan Date Palm at Vai and Preveli beach. Also, Azilakodasos near Malia is the largest forest of holm oaks in Crete, while the area of Tris Ekklisies hosts the largest native forest of carob trees in Europe.
It is certainly the most famous beach in southern Crete, accepting thousands of visitors every summer. During the 60s and 70s, it was a favorite destination for hippies. On the banks of the Grand River there is a large colony of Theophrastus palm trees, which give the region a sense of an African landscape.
Vai was totally unknown until the early 1970s, when a popular commercial for the Bounty chocolate with coconut was filmed here, using the magical background of palm trees. In the advert, coconuts were falling from trees, however Vai palms produce dates. Consequently coconuts had to be falsely hung to create the right impression. The ad made this unknown earthly paradise renowned throughout the world.
The Samaria Gorge is the longest trekking gorge in Europe and also the most famous of all. Thousands of tourists flock here daily in the summer season to walk from the top to the bottom. For many visitors, it is the sole purpose of their visit to Crete. The length of the gorge reaches 18km and takes almost 4-7 hours to hike from Omalos to Agia Roumeli, depending on trekking speed.
The gorge of Agios Nikolaos, Gafaris or Rouvas is bounded by the peaks of Ambelakia from east and Samari from west. This is the most important gorge of Psiloritis and central Crete and took its name from the homonymous Byzantine church in the south entrance. This is an ecosystem with rich flora and fauna, smaller canyons and interesting geological formations and cliffs of rare beauty.
The cypress wood of Kritsa is located about 10km west of Kritsa village, very close to the asphalt road that heads to the plateau of Katharo. It is formed across a deep ravine, at the southern foot of Mount Tsiva. The forest is in the middle of the ancient path that led Minoans to the plateau of Katharo, with many Minoan pottery remains found here.
Sirikari is located 55km west of Chania and 17km south of Kissamos, in a lush green area with canyons and water streams. The road to Sirikari is paved and runs through the dense vegetation, indicating the beauty of the area at the very first moment. From here begins the beautiful canyon of Sirikari leading to the settlement of Polirinia, where the ancient town of Polirinia was built.
The wider area of Agios Ioannis at Sfakia province hosts one of the most beautiful pine forests of Crete. The most famous trail in the area is the ancient stone paved path that connects Agios Ioannis with Agia Roumeli, after reaching the beach with the church of St. Paul at position Selouda.
Fourni is a large lush hill next to the picturesque Arhanes village, about 12km south of Heraklion. It takes its name after the local homonym preminoan cemetery, next to Knossano Gorge. Fourni can be accessed through Kato Arhanes, where you’ll meet signs leading there.
The forest Selakano is located 35km north of Ierapetra, in the southeastern part of the Dikti massif, surrounded by the four highest peaks (Lazaros 2085 m, Spathi 2148 m, Afendis Christos 2141 m, Psari Madara 2090 m). The area can be accessed via asphalted road that runs through a magical route till the village Selakano and starts either in Ierapetra or Kalamafka.
One of the nicest villages in Crete is the forested village of Kato Simi by Viannos in Heraklion Prefecture. Together with the ruined village of Pano Simi, they lie in the heart of the largest pine forest of Crete, with the neighboring Selakano and Malles woods included. The whole area is full of water springs gathering water from the slopes of Dikti Range, that waters plane trees, walnut, cherry and many other species of trees. In autumn they give the area colorful scenery mostly reminiscent of parts of northern Greece.
The forest village of Agios Ioannis at Sfakia province is the starting point of one of the most beautiful and best marked trails of Chania prefecture, the trail of Kormokopos. The word Kormokopos means place where trees are cut, due to the dense forest of the area.
The Plateau of Vromonero or Lakkos Limas is located at an altitude of 1300m, 10km west of the village Kroussonas, in an amazing location east of the summit Skinakas of Psiloritis Mt, where the homonym observatory of the University of Crete is located. It can be accessed via a dirt track running through the gorge of Halasia, which starts from Livadi plateau and ends in Krousonas.
The small palm grove of Saint Anthony is located next to the Monastery of St. Nikitas, in one of the most inaccessible places in Crete. An oasis in the middle of nowhere, the palm grove is now protected by goats and is studied under scientific research.
Keri grove is located at an altitude of 300 meters, 9km west of Heraklion, near Voulismeno Aloni and south of the gorge Almyros. It can be accessed via a short dirt road that starts about 300m after Voulismeno Aloni.
Chamoprina wood is a wood with low oak trees, located 4km south of Malia town. It can be accessed very easily from Malia, because it is located on the road connecting the old village of Malia with Krasi village.
The Gorge of St. Savvas is the natural continuation of the canyon Trypiti, in the wild and imposing Asterousia mountains. In the arid landscape of Asteroussia Mts, the dense forest of the wild olive and carob trees looks like an oasis in the desert.
Paschaligo is a small grove located 1.5 km southwest of Neapolis town, on the northern slopes of Mt Kavalaras. The existence of the forest is related to the history of the region, which was named after the Venetian feudal lord Fillipo Pasqualigo, who lived in a tower that was built here.
The Forest Pardi is one of the finest remaining holly woods of Crete, near the village Kouroutes, 53km southeast of Rethymno. Here the steep western slopes of Psiloritis meet with the plain of Amari, creating a magical and unknown majestic landscape.
The carob wood of Tris Ekklisies is located 64km south of Heraklion, next to the village of Tris Ekklisies. The area, one of the most secluded in Europe, is very difficult to reach, as a very rough dirt road 10km long starts from the village Paranymi, runs across the wild Asterousia Mountains and ends at the beach level.
Prina Village is located 24 km SE of Agios Nikolaos and 14 km N of Ierapetra. The hills of Prina are covered by a very important pine forest, which sadly has been burnt several times recently.