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 precipice Gourgouthakas is the deepest precipice of Greece and the second in the Balkans. Access is almost impossible by anyone and can only be achieved by experienced cavers. The second largest precipice of Greece is also in Crete and is known as Tafkoura. It is located on the site "Atzines" of the White Mountains (Chania) and east of the peak of the Holy Spirit in Melidoni area.
The plateaus of Tavri and Niatos are located 2km and 3km west of Askifou Plateau, 51km south of Chania, at an altitude of 1200m. They can be accessed via a road starting from Askifou, crossing Tavri and then ending up in Niato.
Leon Cave was officially discovered on 11 August 2008 by a French-Greek team of speleologists, exploring the White Mountains of Chania (area Atzinolakos, near Melidoni of Fre municipality). However, its existence was known 15 years ago, during a French mission of the Catamaran Club. The area of Atzines has high speleological interest which has attracted mainly French, exploratory missions.
In the central point of the massif of White Mountains we meet the peak Sternes with a maximum altitude of 2335 meters. This is the eighth highest peak of the White Mountains. The importance of Sternes is that it is located right in the center of the range, between a sea of peaks and thus from the top you can enjoy almost all the major peaks of the White Mountains.
On the path that heads from the Amoutsera to the plateau of Katsiveli and peak Pachnes we meet the Rusies. This is a small plateau at an altitude of 2000 meters in the heart of the White Mountains and in the past years it was very important point for the people of the mountain, the Sfakians shepherds. The main reason for this was the cistern that gathered water and the small stone-built accommodation that served as a refuge in emergency times. The Plateau of Russies is located exactly between the peaks of Bournelos and Sternes.
Mega Oros (ie. big mountain) by Askyfou is one of the peaks of the eastern part of the White Mountains in the cluster of Agathes. It has an altitude of 1181 meters and is located near the location Akones, above Imbros. Mega Oros offers a unique view of the plateau Askyfou and the central core of the White Mountains on the west.