Psiloritis is a mountain range stretching in the center of Crete, covering a large part of the prefectures of Rethymno and Heraklio.
Being the highest massif of Crete, 2,456 meters high, it has five peaks that exceed 2,000 meters, the Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) (2456m), the Agathias (2424m), the Stolistra (2325m), the Voulomenou (2267m) and the Koussakas (2209m). Access to the peaks is achieved by several paths, with the most common and well-marked trail being the E4, which starts fromand after 5 hours’ hiking, you will reach your destination.
Sacred mountain of the Minoan era, Psiloritis has been connected, since ancient times, to many myths and beliefs throughout the centuries. InZeus was raised by the Curetes and Amalthea, hidden from his father Cronus, who swallowed his children considering them a threat to him. There lie the archaeological sites of and . In its forests the Dactyls lived, the good demons, who sprang from the fingers of Rhea, the mother of Zeus, when in order to endure the pains of childbirth, she sank her fingers into the earth. In Christian times, the Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) was built on top of Psiloritis, where, on the eve of the feast (September 14), pilgrims arrive from all over Crete and stay overnight to attend the morning service performed in the small stone church.
Psiloritis, also called Ida, is considered one of the most stunning landscapes of natural beauty with majestic caves like Koritsi ,, Melidoni , , deep canyons like , and other plateaus, forests and villages, such as , , and many more. Besides the natural attractions, in the area there also are the Skinakas Observatory at 1,750 meters altitude, the Arkadi Monastery and not only. Cultural events also take place on this sacred mountain of Crete. So, at present, the are organized in honor of Agios Yakinthos.
Of the many cedar forests covering the slopes of Psiloritis, today, only few parts remain. The biggest part of the mountain is rocky with little vegetation, which disappears at an altitude over 2,000 meters, as well as the springs, which do not exist at this altitude. In summer, the mountain climbing is very difficult because of the heat and the lack of shade, while in winter the snow that falls in this area is enough to make the operation of the ski resort possible. The gigantic massif that forms the highest peak of Crete, keeps huge amounts of water, mostly from the snow falling during winter and remaining on the peaks till May. Through underground rivers all this water flows down till the villages, such as. The fauna and flora of Psiloritis are rich and important for the island. Here is where rare raptors, such as bearded vultures, golden eagles and falcons, find shelter, while on the slopes you can witness endemic and rare species of plants and animals. 185 plants are endemic to Crete, of which on Psiloritis you will find 76 species and subspecies, as well as two out of four endemic genuses of Greece (Horstirssea and Petromarula).
Psiloritis that, according to a legend, has the privilege of seeing the sun before sunrise is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site of immense beauty, wrapped in a veil of timeless history and customs. Today the mountain range belongs to The European Geoparks Network and Global Geoparks Network of UNESCO.