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White Mountains of Crete: 2 Unique Features

White Mountains of Crete- Samaria Gorge - Inside the Gorge -Lapplaender, Samaria Gorge 19, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

    White Mountains  are the jewel of Crete. A huge mountain range covering most of the prefecture of Chania and a good part of Rethymnon area.  More tourists are coming to Crete in order to discover and hike  on the White Mountains as well as explore other mountain settlements in Crete .

    Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete is situated on the foothills of the White Mountains of Crete and in this post from our blog  we will uncover 2 of the unique features that make them a top destination for visitors when coming to Crete.

White Mountains of Crete: Trivia

   White mountains is the second biggest mountain range in Crete, and only 2 meters lower than Psiloritis mountain. With an altitude of 2453 meters they are amongst the biggest mountains in Greece. White Mountains took their name primarily from the snow, which is evident always in the winter months up until late spring. Simultaneously, they took its name from the greyscale and white limestone which they primarily have and it is visible in the summer months, interchanging with the snow of the winter. 

Mount Ida- Psiloritis-Rethimnon Area- Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete
Mount Ida- Psiloritis – Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete- Jerzy StrzeleckiPsiloritis3(js)CC BY-SA 3.0


  Samaria Gorge is a big part of the White mountains of Crete . The samaria gorge is the second biggest gorge in Europe and a top destination for tourists and especially hikers. You can pass through the 16 kilometers of the Samaria Gorge during the spring and summer months, as it is closed in the winter due to safety reasons. A big part of the E4 European Long Distance Path is also part of the White Mountains of Crete which extend to over 60 kilometers in length and 35 kilometers in width.


White Mountains of Crete- Entrance of the Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains- Xyloskalo Entrance at Omalos Plateau
White Mountains of Crete- Entrance of the Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains- Xyloskalo Entrance at Omalos Plateau- ZdeXiloskalo (Xyloskalo), Crete, 076238CC BY-SA 4.0


  White Mountains is the wonder of Crete, as it is not common for an island to have such a huge mountain range with over 50 peaks above the 2000m mark. During the winter months, the white mountains receive large amounts of snow and rainwater in their peaks which makes them a hostile environment, at least on the higher mountain tops. This scenery changes in the summer and becomes a more deserted landscape, but capable of welcoming visitors to its many caves, hills, gorges, passages and hiker’s shelters


  White Mountains of Crete feature 1: Gorges

  An area so vast as the White Mountains in Crete has a lot of small passages, caves, creeks and gorges. Chania area of the White Mountains is very lucky on the latter, as it happens to be home to many gorges of impeccable beauty and above all, the Samaria Gorge. 

  We will focus on the primary gorges which are well designated in this list, as there are much more that can be found on local maps but depending on the season, they might be impassable to most visitors. Famous gorges of the White Mountains in Crete are: The gorge of Aradaina, the Gorge of Tripiti, Agia Irini Gorge, the Gorge of Imbros , the Gorge of Eligia and the Gorge of Kladou.  

  Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete is also insisting on combining a passage through one of the numerous gorges we have in Crete with a visit to one out of the 4 refugees we have in the White Mountains. We already talked about the Kallergi Refuge shelter, and the other 3 are Tavris Refuge, Svourichti Refuge  and Volikas Refuge. Depending on the route and the gorge you decide to pass, one out of 4 refuge shelters might be nearby!

White Mountains of Crete- Imbros Gorge - Entrance of Gorge in Chania
White Mountains of Crete- Imbros Gorge – Entrance of Gorge in Chania- Marc Ryckaert (MJJR), Crete Imbros Gorge R01CC BY 3.0

White Mountains of Crete feature 2: Human Presence and History.

   You might believe that because  of the information stated above, that the White Mountains of Crete is an inhospitable and hostile place. Although this might be the case in some areas, especially in the winter months, apparently this mountain range had a severe human presence from ancient years.

These “Cretan Highlands” as many describe them is a very famous place amongst shepherds, and is a place very common for Mitato’s  the temporary shepherds shelters. Crete is home to numerous herds, mainly goats and sheep and the White Mountains provides them with useful nutrients such as malotira   which makes their meat and their milk of unique taste.

Mitato- Cretan Dairy Products Production- Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete
Mitato- Cretan Dairy Products Production- Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete- FrenteMitatoCC BY-SA 3.0 DE

  White mountains are also unique because of Mitatos, the shelters of shepherds ideal for when they have their herds in those areas. Those stone establishments protect them from the wind gusts, as well as cold and rain during the cold and rainy seasons.

  A more crucial usage of mitato’s is the fact that they are also used for cheese making . A series of tasty organic and authentic cretan Cheeses are made in mitatos, right after the milking process that also takes place in this area. Most Mitatos also have a cold room with thick walls that can take snow inside ( i.e. primitive refrigerator) in order to store, protect and mature the precious cheese products that Crete and the White Mountains are providing us. We recommend that you try our island’s special cheeses, many of them can also be found in Cretan traditional restaurants  and in our Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete Restaurant

Graviera Cheese of Crete- Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete
Graviera Cheese of Crete- Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete

   The  pinnacle of Cretan dairy products are the famous Graviera Cheese, Anthotiro, Tiromalama or Malaka and the famous soft and fresh white light cheese, Mizhtrhra. Nutritional and tasty, they will make you crave for more !