Kourtaliotis Gorge

The Kourtaliotis gorge is located in the southern part of the prefecture of Rethymno, approximately 22 km from the homonymous city, and is one of the most magnificent natural attractions of Crete. Up to three kilometers in length and with lush vegetation, Kourtaliotis gorge takes its beginning from the Koksare village and goes between the mountains of Kouroupa (984 m) and the Dry Mountain (904 m) to end up at Preveli washed by the Libyan Sea.

Along its length, huge cliffs of limestone, reaching 500 meters in height, are full of caves, where many species of birds are nesting, especially raptors, making the Kourtaliotis gorge an important biotope, not only of domestic, but also of international importance.  There are also clusters of Theophrastus palms (Phoenix theophrastii) in the canyon, making it the second largest palm forest of Crete.

The Kourtaliotis gorge or Kourtaliotiko canyon takes its name from the air whistling that sounds like Kourtala (=castanets) when northern winds are blowing going past the cavities in the rocks and it can be reached by car to a point, but also on foot.

In the middle of the route and deep inside the canyon, when following the steps along the Koksare – Asomatos road, the visitor will find the church of Agios Nikolaos and the springs of Kourtaliotis River with plenty of water, following the order and proportions of the fingers of one hand and according to a legend being created by the Saint himself. There is also the chapel of Agios Georgios nearby, decorated with a fresco of Holy Trinity, where the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove flying from the lips of the Father, unique throughout Greece.

Along the Kourtaliotis gorge, the visitor will come across an arched stone bridge over a lake, which was built because it rains a lot in winter, Kourtaliotis River overflows and cannot be easily crossed. The river runs through a part of the gorge and reaches its exit, flowing out into the Preveli Lake, after having joined the Frati gorge.