“Psiloritis' karstic landscape”
Celebrating Earth Heritage
Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the island of Crete, Greece, extending over an area of about 1200 km2. It covers the central part of the island including the entire area of Mountain Idi (Psiloritis) which is the highest in Crete, reaching up to 2456 m. Psiloritis Mts. rose up through the sea a few million years ago when the African continent encroached on Europe. The surrounding Talaia Ori Mountains that extend till the northern coast and the valleys of Mylopotamos, Messara and Amari are all included within its boundaries.
Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark is characterized by its superb geodiversity. This is reflected by a great variety of volcanic, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks aging from Permian to Pleistocene (300 to 1 million year ago), outstanding folds and faults, fascinating caves and deep gorges with rich biodiversity. These are exposed in a number of excellent outcrops and cross–sections which provide an insight into Earth’s mountain-building processes. Some of its spectacular natural monuments include the Permian fossilized corals and bivalves, the impressive “Vossakos” folds, the “Chonos” karstic formations, the breath-taking caves and the deep gorges of the mountainous area, as well as the ophiolites, the remains of the ancient Tethys Ocean. The combination of rocks with hundreds of plants and animals, such as wild cats, orchids and tulips which live exclusively in these mountains, explains Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark great biodiversity.
Sustaining local Communities
The UNESCO Global Geopark is administratively allocated in two Regional Units (former prefectures), that of Rethimnon and Heraklion, and within the limits of six municipalities.
Both the outstanding scenery and the wonderful climate are embedded in the cultures of all the civilizations that lived there. Shepherds’ houses, called "mitata" are landmarks of Psiloritis Mountains, made by local, platy, dry-stone material. Totally weatherproof and fully adapted to the landscape, they are still used for cheese production. Many antiquities can be found within the Geopark, such as the Minoan settlement of Zominthos (that was a laboratory closely connected to Knossos palace), the Idaion Andro cave (where, according to Greek mythology, Zeus grew up) and the classical city of Eleytherna.
Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark provides excellent opportunities for both recreation and education. The visitor has an extensive choice of activities ranging from sports (such as swimming, hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing) to getting associated with the breathtaking science of geology, to observe birds, animals and plants, to visiting the archaeological sites of Zominthos, Idaion Andro and Eleytherna, and to flavoring the traditional Cretan cuisine, renowned worldwide as among the healthies and tastiest in the world.
A great variety of educational activities are offered daily at Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of the University of Crete and the Environmental Education Centre of Anogia. Projects are addressed to all ages, from youngsters to elder people and to special target groups like the tourist guides and university students.
Further synergies have been developed with local enterprises of the UNESCO Global Geopark resulting in a local quality label, the “Psiloritis Land” that characterises products and services of the territory. A plan for sustainable development is under implementation by the Management Committee supporting initiatives that focus on geotourism, local art and culture promotion, as well as strengthening local economy.