Kourtaliotis is a river that flows out at an altitude of 500 meters in Rethymno prefecture, near the village Koksare, and forms Preveli Lake just before it flows into the Libyan Sea on the south coastline of the prefecture. The length of Kourtaliotis reaches 7 kilometers forming the homonymous gorge with steep and huge rocky slopes, while its waters irrigate about 11,500 acres of land.
Kourtaliotis, whose name comes from the rattle sounds (kourtala) that strong winds make when passing through the gorge, is an area of particular aesthetic and environmental significance, as it includes clusters of Theophrastus palms (Phoenix theophrastii), while part of the river is a Zone of Special Protection and a site of Community Interest of the European Network Natura 2000. Within the project LIFE NATURE 1998 «Conservation and protection of Bearded Vulture (gypaetus barbatus) in Crete”, a part of the area has also been designated as a wildlife refuge.
At the head of Kourtaliotis, a visitor will find the church of Agios Nikolaos, which, according to a legend, was created by the Saint touching the rock.
At its last part and after exiting the gorge, Kourtaliotis joins other streams of the region altogether forming the Megalo (Big) River until it flows into the sea. At this spot, you can see the amothines (small sandy hills that create an ecosystem) and Posidonia formations (Posidonia oceanica), which are among the most protected species. Close to the beach, the coastline is overgrown with palm trees creating an exotic landscape. West of the estuary of Kourtaliotis, in a lush landscape, the lower Preveli monastery is located.