The White Mountains or Madares mountain range is located in western Crete, covering the largest part of the prefecture of Chania and part of the prefecture of Rethymnon. The highest peak is Pachnes at 2,454 meters.
The sculpture forms the plateau of Omalos, Askifou and a number of gorges, with Samaria’s most famous. There are also some plateaus, but also countless ravines, caves, cliffs, and fissures. At the heart of the mountain range is the Mountain Desert, a lunar mountain with more than fifty bare peaks over 2000 meters of cone-like so-called heaps. It is the most mysterious and unusual landscape that one can encounter in Greece and unique in the entire Northern Hemisphere.
The White Mountains host many species of flora and fauna, many of which are stenoendemic, that is, they are not found anywhere else, nor in other areas of Crete. The areas near the southern slopes are covered by cypress, holm and pine forests, while areas with more moisture are covered by forests with chestnut trees, plane trees, and other hydrophilic plants.
The yearly mountain range is high in the rain. In the summer there is a complete drought and the visitor is supplied with water. Hiking in the White Mountains requires very good physical condition, experience, and very good orientation.
- Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge is one of Europe’s most famous and impressive gorges and is part of the European E4 Path. It starts from the Omalos plateau in the White Mountains and ends at Agia Roumeli
- Aradena Gorge
Aradena is one of the deepest and steepest gorges of the Prefecture of Chania. The height of the gorge exceeds 150 meters. It is ideal for hikers as well as for bungee jumping lovers from the Aradena Bridge.
- Imbros Gorge
The Gorge of Imvros is close to the country of Sfakia and is part of the European Path E4. It is 11 km long and the route takes 3-4 hours. The route starts from the small village of Imvros, at an altitude of 700 meters.
- Therissos Gorge
The village of Therissos is at the foot of the White Mountains and 16 km from the city of Chania. To get there, cross the beautiful and green Therisos Gorge, 6 km long. The road that connects Chania with the village of Therisus crosses the gorge, offering magical images of wildlife.
- Omalos Plateau
The Omalos Plateau is located 38 km south of the city of Chania at an altitude of 1,040 to 1,250 meters, surrounded by the high peaks of the White Mountains.
- Kallergis Shelter
Kallergis Mountain Shelter is located at an altitude of 1680m, 5km east of the Omalos Plateau. It is one of the most well-known and organized mountain shelters. It was built in 1970 and can accommodate 50 people.
- Askifou Plateau
The plateau is located 50 km from Chania and at an altitude of 1,200 meters. Looking from above, he feels like he sees a huge lake, a reason for his shape. From the plateau passes the main road that connects Sfakia with the north coast of Crete.
It is one of the largest gorges in Crete and it usually takes two days to cross it, as there is no way to approach one’s entrance. At the exit of the Tripiti gorge, there is the chapel of Agios Nikolaos that is built on the rock. The beach of Trypiti is located 5km east of Sougia and 68km south of the city of Chania, at the exit of the homonymous gorge.
- Vrisi Gorge
Beautiful hiking in the wild and enchanting landscapes of the White Mountains. Inside the gorge are created exceptional beauty waterfalls.
- Eligias Gorge
The gorge of Elygias is large and impressive with wild beauty, which passes alongside the Samaria Gorge. They have two routes to cross that particular gorge. You are crossing the entire gorge starting from the Omalos Plateau. You will need 2 days of rest with rest stops in the shelters you will meet during your journey. Either, making the smoothest route, which starts in the village of Agios Ioannis Sfakion, near Anopoli.
In the area of Agios Ioannis in Sfakia, there is one of the most beautiful pine forests of Crete. Through this, it passes the path used by the inhabitants of Agios Ioannis to descend to Agia Roumeli in the past. The highest point of the route, in the Kutelo of Seloudas, is one of the most beautiful spots in Crete on the edge of the cliff. An immense view of the South Cretan Sea and the exit of the Samaria Gorge.
- Klados Gorge
The Gorge of Klados is located in Sfakia and is one of the most difficult and inundated gorges of Crete. Climbing requires experience and special climbing equipment as the waterfalls that exist there fall from a height of up to 70 meters.
- Volikas Shelter
The shelter at an altitude of 1,450 meters and was created in 1958 at Volikas location above the village Kambi Keramies. It can accommodate 30-40 people.
- Tavris Shelter
It is located above the village of Ammoudari on the plateau Askyfou Sfakion at an altitude of 1,200 m. Up to the shelter reaches a rural road which is 7.5 km from Askifou. You can also go to the shelter from the path that starts from the village.
- Sfakian Gorge
The Sfakian Gorge begins at an altitude of 1200 meters and ends at the Caves of the South Cretan Sea. The gorge is 6.5 km long and the course in it is generally easy.
- Anopoli Plateau
The Anopoli Plateau is 13 km from Sfakia. It is a small plateau and very fertile. It is crossed by the Aradena Gorge, where there is the large iron bridge for Bungee Jumping enthusiasts.
- Drakolaki Cave
Cave Drakolaki or Drakoulaki is a large underground river located on the southern slopes of the White Mountains. The 1900-meter-long cave has a rich decoration of stalagmites and stalactites, while the immense amount of sand is impressed by it.
- Mountain Desert
The Mountain Desert is a more mysterious landscape in Greece. It is the area above the 2000m altitude in the heart of the White Mountains where a lunar altitude is created with dozens of peaks resembling cones.
- Krapis Plateau
On the northern side of the White Mountains, just at the end of Apokoronas and the beginning of Sfakia, is the small plateau of Krapis. In spring the plateau becomes impressive and is full of many wildflowers
From the village of Saint, Ioannis Sfakion begins one of the most beautiful and best-marked trails of Chania, where one part ends on the path of Kormokopos. It is continuously uphill through the dense forest for about 60, until it reaches the highest point of the route.
- Tzanis Cave
Cave Tzani is located on the Omalos Plateau and has a length of about 2,500 meters and is 280 meters deep. It is of particular ecological importance as it hosts many protected species and is a natural drainage project for the waters of the horizon.
- Kavis Gorge
The gorge of Kavis is located a few kilometers west of Hora Sfakion. It starts from Anopolis Sfakion and ends up on the beautiful beach of Iliga. In the gorge, there is one of the largest forests of Crete. The main part of the gorge is covered with virgin cypress forest and affluent, while as you approach the sea you see imposing cliffs of hundreds of meters of trees hanging everywhere.
- Great Mountain
The Great Mountain has an altitude of 1181 meters and is very close to the area of Akon over Imbros. It offers a unique view across the Plateau of Askifos and the central core of the White Mountains that extends westwards. The ascent to the top is not difficult despite the great slope that makes the mountain steep.
- Niato Plateau
The plateau of Niato is about 1200 meters high. Access is via a road that starts from the village of Ammoudari, passes first from the Plateau of Taurus with the beautiful Shepherd of Taurus and then ends at the Niato. From the plateau passes the European path E4 that connects the White Mountains with Askifou.
- Plateau Tavris
The Tavris Plateau has an altitude of 1200 meters. Access is via a road that starts from Ammoudari, while the old mountaineering path that climbs to Tauris through a dense cypress tree is also excellent.
- Svoutichtis Shelter
The shelter of Svourichtis is at an altitude of 1,980 meters. It is a 7-hour hike from Anopolis, and if a country car is used, the course is reduced to 2.30 hours. It can accommodate twenty people.
- Tromarissa Gorge
In the beautiful and picturesque village of Zourvas is the source of Tromarisas, as well as the homonymous gorge that starts from there. It is a technical gorge requiring knowledge of rope downhill.
- Gourgouthoukas Cave
The Gourmouthoukas Cave is the largest deep cave of Greece and the second in the Balkans. Access is almost impossible and is only done by experienced speleologists.
- Leon Cave
Leo’s cave is the second deepest in Greece and its coming is quite difficult
- Sternes Peak
The Sternes Peak has an altitude of 2,335 meters and is located right in the center of the mountain range among countless peaks. It is the point where one can enjoy almost all the major peaks of the White Mountains.
- Pachnes Peak
Pachnes peak is the second highest peak of Crete. The easiest way to conquer the highest peak of the White Mountains and the second one in Crete, Pashkes at an altitude of 2453m is to follow the Madara’s path starting from Anopoli and entering the Mountains desert of Sfakia crossing the odorous landscape of Ammoutserra and ends in Mavra Gremna. The ascent from Mavra Gremna to the top of Pachnes lasts about 1:30.