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 shelter Kallergis is located at an altitude of 1680m, 5km (1:30 hour walk along a dirt road) east of the Plateau Omalos and is the most popular shelter of Crete. It is built on a amazing site with breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and the seas of both North and South Crete. The place is very important because from here one can continue climbing to the peaks Psari, Mavri and Melidaou or to cross the White Mountains by walking to the other shelter at Svourichti.
Tripiti is the second large gorge parallel to Samaria gorge and, like Klados, the trail heading to its entrance also starts at Linosseli spring. In order to approach its entrance there is a dangerous passage where you risk getting stuck, so that you can neither walk on nor turn around and go back. Therefore, you should never attempt to cross this place it without the escort of an experienced hiker.
Plateau of Anopolis is located in the area of Sfakia and more specifically 13km west of Hora Sfakion. It is a small plateau formed in the wild mountains of Sfakia, the most inaccessible province of Europe.
Gorge Klados is one of the most dangerous and inaccessible gorges of Crete. The top (starting point) of the canyon is located at position Kokkinovari in a steep slope, 90-100 meters high. The very loose and steep terrain makes access impossible even with technical equipment.
Plateau of Askifou is located 50km south of Chania, in one of the nicest and most authentic areas of Crete. The wild mountains around and the serenity of the valley, form a magnificent landscape all year round.
The gorge of Eligia is wild, long and impressive. The trail to reach the gorge's bed starts in Agios Ioannis village in Sfakia (780m altitude, 92km from Chania). After hiking for 3.5 hours in the gorge ou reach Agios Pavlos beach, which is full of pine trees, and then you need 1 more hour to the west to reach Agia Roumeli.
The proposed trekking route in the canyon starts from Niato plateau (near Askifou Plateau) and runs along the European trail E4. You initially meet the abandoned village of Kali Lakki. From here starts the canyon, which is one of the greenest gorges in Crete, with incredibly interesting flora. Oaks, cypresses and pines are the main trees in Sfakiano Gorge.
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.