Crete, the largest of the many
islands of the Aegean, is 256km long, between 11 and 56km in
width, with an area of about 8700 square km.
The main axis of the island lies east-west and is part of a
mountainous area which formed an
arc of land stretching from the Peloponnese to south-western Turkey
in mid-Tertiary times.
Today Crete and the islands of Kithira and Andikithira to the west,
and Kasos, Karpathos and
Rhodos to the east, are all that remains above sea-level.
The mountains of the island bear evidence of a complex geological
structure. In general they
are of limestone or dolomite and rest on older metamorphic rocks.
The hard limestones are
mostly of Jurassic, Cretaceous and Eocene origin. They weather very
slowly, particularly in
the low rainfall areas, and show many of the typical karstic
features of the Balkans, with
gorges, caves, polja and vast underground drainage systems. The
mountain summits are
generally of grey eroded crags standing above stony deserts of
fragmented limestone flakes.
The highest mountains are Idi, with Mt Psiloritis at 2456m in the
centre of Crete, the
White Mountains or Lefka Ori, with Mt Pakhnes at 2452m in the west
of Crete. And the
Dikti Mountains with Afendi Khristos at 2148m to the east of the
Isolated Mt Khedros(1776m), situated south of the Idi Mts, is of
interest because of the
rare endemic plants which grow here.
The Cretan climate is typically Mediterranean. Summers are hot and
dry with very little rain
from May to October. The wettest months are December and January.
proximity of relatively high mountains close to the sea causes wide
local variations in climate.
There can be heavy snowfalls in the mountains, and snow may
continue to lie on the summits till
the end of May or even later. Strong winds are common.
The special interest of the Cretan flora lies in the very
considerable number of species which
are endemic or have an eastern Mediterranean or Anatolian
They are predominantly plants of the mountains and of the dry
phrygana of the hills and
lowlands. Also the numerous gorges have a large number of endemics,
These are plants that grow in gorges, on cliffs or rock-faces. The
old gorges of Crete act as a
refuge for these species, each rock-face, ledge or crevice, whether
in sun or shade, creates its
own special micro habitat. Many species have distinctive habitat
preferences, while each gorge
has its own selection of species.
Crete Photo Album Updated
29-03-2010 View in Google