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.
Vatolakki is located near the village of Kissos, 33km southeast of Rethymno city, close to the exit of Kissano Gorge. The forest covers an area of 600 acres and is an important green “lung” in the area of Kedros Mount.
The holm oak wood (Azilakodasos) is located 11km west of Vrachasi and 9km south of Malia, in the foothills of Mount Selena. The small forest can be accessed either by walking the smooth path from Krassi village or by following the trail from Malia that runs uphill. There is also a small network of forest dirt roads in the area.
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.
The pine grove of Pefkias is the densest wood in Psiloritis Mount (denser than the forest of Rouvas) and apart from the great pines that dominate the area, you will also meet cypress and oak trees. In Pefkias, you will meet many bee hives as it is one of the most important areas in the prefecture of Heraklion for apiaries after the forests of the province of Viannos.
Thripti pine wood is located at an altitude of 850m, near Pahia Ammos in Lassithi Prefecture. The scenic village of Thripti, the green landscapes and the unique pine forest in the mountains of Sitia, are some of the things that you will never forget when you come here.
The monastery of Koudoumas is located 74km south of Heraklion, on the western side of Cape Martelos and south of Kofinas Peak (the highest peak of Asterousia Mountains). The whole area is full of cavities where hermits used to live. To reach the monastery, you have to drive in a passable dirt road of 20km, starting from the village Sternes, which descends from an altitude of 1000m to the sea level. The views during the descent are shocking and could cause vertigo! The route passes between pine and cypress trees, many of which are bent by the wind..
Almost all villages of central Rethymnon have an oak grove around. The oak trees are inherent in the landscape of central Rethymno and consist a very important green lung in the heart of the island. One of these forests is met at position Sochores by village Fotinos.
The area aroung the village Zourva by Chania hosts the most impressive wood of West Crete. The name of it is Paradisos (paradise) and stretches from Pises Gorge and Aliakes. The tree that dominates the area is the cypress tree, the most typical tree in the forests that cover the White Mountains. Through the forest of Paradise comes the old trail that climbs steeply from Zourva to springs of Tromarissa and continues up to the peaks of Madara.
Near Alikambos we come across a forest with maquis vegetation comprising many of wild almonds and bushes. The wood is the largest in Crete wood of wild almonds trees (prunus webbii), which very rarely form woods. The trees grow among other shrubs and reach a height of 2-3 meters. In spring the whole area offers a truly unusual sight as the almond blossom and the slopes of the region look like snow.
On the hill above the village Lefkochori (Voutoufou) at Heraklion we meet the wood of Lefkochori. it covers an area of 72 acres and is a green oasis in the center of Heraklion prefecture. The artificial wood mainly consists of pines and cypress trees. The place can be reached through the road that starts from the village.