A nature Lover’s paradise, the flora and fauna on the Greek Island of Crete is abundant and will fascinate and inspire those who want to explore it’s treasures. Crete is a fabulous place if you want to have a wonderful walking holiday to remember.
Many choose the island as the perfect destination for mountain climbing, trekking, hiking or biking too.
Visitors who come to this fabulous Greek Island for a bird watching holiday, painting holiday or scuba diving holiday will not be disappointed.
The largest of the Greek Islands, Crete has a rich and varied flora and fauna. Its geographical location, climate, and variety of altitude and terrain, have given this wondrous Island an amazing diversity of flowers, plants, trees, rare bird species, wildlife and marine life.
Dittany of Crete
Among these are dictamo (Origanum dictamnus), the herb made famous by Hippocrates for its medicinal properties and is used by the locals today to make Dittany of Crete tea. Native only to the mountains of Crete it is considered a highly therapeutic plant and is reputed to be an aphrodisiac.
It was named after the mountain Dikti, the reputed birthplace of Zeus where it grows wild. Other herbs are found growing wild throughout Crete and are used both in the Cretan Diet and for therapeutic reasons.
Cretan Plane Tree
Another unusual and unique plant endemic to Crete is the evergreen Cretan Plane Tree (platanus orientalis, var. cretica). This large tree is often found in the village squares, offering shade to the locals.
Although most plane trees are deciduous, this rare subspecies is evergreen and around 50 examples of its kind have been recorded on Crete. The most famous example of which, and highlighted in the Myths and Legends of Greek mythology, is the Plane Tree of Gortys.
Zeus was said to have made love to Europa under this plane tree, which has kept its leaves green all through the winter ever since. The plane tree can be found at the rear of Gortys archaeological site.
Flowers of Crete
The flowers of Crete are amazing in variety and grow abundantly throughout the Island. Wild Cretan flowers, among them rare orchids, many of which are endemic, add colour and sweet smelling scent all year round to this beautiful Greek Island.
See more about the Wild Flowers of Crete Springtime is the best time to see a massive array of beautiful flowers of Crete when the mountains, plains, woods and even seashores are covered with flowers.
Words alone cannot describe the beauty of the flowers of Crete so we’ve included a few pictures for your enjoyment. To delve deeper into this fabulous subject To find out lots more about the wonderful wild flowers of Crete we can highly recommend the excellent, well written and informative hand book named Wild Flowers of Crete. It is expertly written and photographed by Vangelis Papiomitoglou. The text and images are a real boon to the explorer wanting to easily identify the many wild flowers of Crete. A crucial and affordable handbook for all nature lovers of the flora and fauna of Crete.
The fauna of Crete is as equally diverse as the flora of Crete with many endemic and rare species of bird, animal and marine life to be found.
For Scuba Divers…
In the seas around Crete - the Mediterranean, Aegean, Ionian and Libyan, all teem with a wide array of marine life. If you take a scuba diving holiday on Crete you can discover groupers, octopus, moray eels, salemas, banded bream, stingrays, sea rabbits, red and black scorpion fish, schools of barracudas and sea horses. Sponges, seashells and a variety of sea anemones can also be found. Check out our Guide to resorts where Scuba Diving and snorkeling are available.
Minoan frescoes at Knossos depict dolphins (delfinia) and have a long association with Crete. It is possible on the south coast of Crete, from Paleohora, to take Dolphin spotting trips. Occasional sightings of whales have also been reported around this area of the Libyan sea, and whale watching tours are possible.
On certain beaches on Crete you can see the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (caretta caretta). The sea turtle, their nests, eggs and hatchlings are protected by Greek and International law so great care should be taken during its reproduction period. Leatherback turtles (dermochelys coriacea) and Green turtles (chelonia mydas) are also endangered species found in Crete.
A bird watching holiday on Crete offers a wonderful opportunity to see some of the rarest European birds of prey with ease. The magnificent Cretan Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetus) and the Lammergeyer (Gypaetus barbatus), a subspecies unique to Crete, stand out among the birds to be spotted here. While birding on Crete you should also be able to spot Griffon Vultures and Buzzards.
Sardinian and Cetti's Warblers, Crested Larks, Swallows, Kingfishers, Hoopoes, Goldfinches and Chaffinches are common on Crete. So don't forget to pack your binoculars when taking your holiday in Crete!
For those of you are planning a walking holiday in Crete, or even a climbing, trekking or biking holiday, we guarantee that you will find many areas of unique and natural beauty to explore and admire. The mountains and gorges of Crete, (including the famous Samaria Gorge), the caves, fertile valleys, isolated plains, peninsulas and seashores and beaches, all offer the visitor a spectacular and varied landscape full of fascinating flora and fauna. On your walks you might be lucky and catch a glimpse of shy and unique Cretan inhabitant!
The most famed and unique Cretan wild goat (Capra aegagrus-cretica) known as the Agrimi or Kri Kri was depicted in Minoan art and inhabits the White Mountains, the Samaria National Forest and is also found on the islets of Dia, Aghioi Pantes and Thodoros. Many people have spotted this shy animal on their walks through the Samaria Gorge. Other interesting mammals on the island are the Cretan Shrew (Crocidura zimmermanni), the Cretan Spiny Mouse (Acomys minous), the Cretan marten (Martes foina-bunites), the Cretan badger (Melesmeles-arcalus) and the very rare Cretan wildcat (Felis silvestris agrius).
A great way to experience the full range of Crete flora and fauna is by walking the famous E4 European Walking Path (or maybe just part of it as it is 320km). From Kastelli in the west of Crete it begins and crosses along the whole island reaching Zakros in the east where it ends. The E4 path covers the White Mountains (Lefki Ori), Mount Psiloritis (Mount Ida) and the mountain Dikti.
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