Lefka Ori or Madares Mountains

Lefka Ori (meaning White Mountains) or Madares cover the largest part of the prefecture of Chania and are the largest mountain range of Crete, 50km in length and 25km in width. With approximately 50 peaks with an altitude higher than 2000m, the White Mountains are generally the highest massif on the island. Most peaks are formed around an interior plateau with an altitude of 1800-2000. This mountainous topography has also kept away people, and there are very few villages and roads in the mountains.

Contrary to what someone would expect, the highest peak in Crete is not located in the White Mountains, but in Psiloritis. The peak of Timios Stavros is higher by only 3m (2456m) by the highest peak of the White Mountains, Pachnes (2453m).

The snow covers most peaks till June and the alpine areas above 2000m are bare of vegetation and water. The bare peaks consist mainly of large stones and gravel, which makes climbing on the steep slopes very difficult.

In the White Mountains, the geological morphology is very coarse and there are so many caves, gorges and precipices. The most famous gorge in Greece is the Samaria Gorge, the largest in Europe, which has been designated as a National Park since 1962.

There are many plateaus, with the largest being Omalos, from where the Samaria Gorge starts. Other smaller plateaus are those of Anopolis, Askifou, Tavri and Niato.

There are many species of flora and fauna, many of which are stenoendemic, which means that they are not found anywhere else, even in other regions of Crete. The areas near the southern slopes are covered with forests of cypress, oaks and pines, while the inland areas have more moisture (such as Syrikari) and are covered by forests of chestnut, plane and other hydrophilic trees.

White Mountains are home to rare species of animals, birds and reptiles, with the most famous being the endemic wild goat of Crete, Kri Kri.