The White Mountains, or Lefka Ori, is the largest massif on the island and its highest summit is Pahnes (2.453 m). 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 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.
The highest mountain areas are covered by snow till late June. 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 White Mountains are home to the deepest caves in Greece. These include the dark sinkholes of Gourgouthakas and Leon. The most well-known plateaus include Omalos, Anopolis, Askyfou, Tavri and Niato.
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.
The cave Drakolaki is a long underground river located on the southern slopes of Peak Thodoris at White Mountains, at the upper part of the canyon Aradena. It is actually the starting point of one of the basic ravines that merge and form Aradena Gorge.
The Gorge of Tromarissa is located near the village Zourva and it is said that it gets its name after the myths about fairies and goblins that scared passersby at the position where we meet the spring of Tromarissa (tromazo means get scared in Greek).
The canyon Kavis is one of the longest and wildest of Sfakia area and despite located next to Chora Sfakion, it remains unknown to many people who usually just enjoy swimming at Iligas. The riverbed is dry almost always, except after several hours of rain. Apart from the main stream, in Kavis fall other 5 sub-gorges, extremely wild.
The shelter Volikas is located at an altitude of 1450m near the village Kambi, Keramia, at northern White Mountains. It can be accessed by 3 hours hiking from Kambi, while the nearest point where a dirt road reaches (starts from the village Madaro) requires 10 minutes course. From this refuge someone can walk to the nearest peaks, towards all directions.
The small shelter named Christos Chouliopoulos is located at an altitude of 1980m, at the small plateau Katsiveli at the outskirts of Svourichti peak, in the center of the White Mountains. It can be accessed by hiking 7 hours north from Anopolis, Sfakia district, and the nearest dirt road is 2:30 hours away. The shelter hosts the hikers who cross the White Mountains to/from the shelter Kallergis (6 hours) or climb to their highest peak, Pachnes (2:30).
The spring and the cave of Kormokopos is located northwest of Agios Ioannis, on the east side of the canyon Eligia. The path from Agios Ioannis needs about 1.5 hour. It starts as a beautiful walk through the forest of old pine and cypress trees, and ends, almost suddenly in a wild and imposing landscape.
In Niatos the beauty is indescribable, as the views to the peak Kastri (2215m) of the White Mountains causes awe. If you ever drive to Sfakia via Askifou, do not forget to visit the two plateaus, as they are totally unknown and are awesome.
The shelter of Tavri is located at an altitude of 1200m at the plateau of Tavri, by Askyfou. It can be access by walking 1:30 hours in the cypresswooded trail starting from village Ammoudari (or dricing a 7.5km long dirt track). From this refuge you can walk to Kastro peak, cross Sfakiano or Kavi Gorges.