Hiking on Lefka Ori

Lefka Ori (or Madhares, as called by the locals, from the ancient Greek word ‘madharos’=bare) is a fairly extended mountainous complex, with an almost rectangular shape of 25 x 40 km in size, covering the entire SE part of the former Prefecture of Chania. The mountain range has numerous peaks, with almost 60 of them exceeding 2,000 m. The highest peak is Pachnes, at 2454 m.

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The whole complex is a vast karstic field, with hundreds of dolines, chasms, sinkholes, caves, gorges and poljes. The largest poljes of Omalos and Askyfou define the western and eastern side of the complex respectively, while among the summits several smaller basins spread, with no clear hydrographic net, such as the Livadha, the Katsiveli and the Niato. Several gorges groove the southern part of the mountain and reach the sea, with the one of Samaria being the longest and most famous. Other large gorges are that of Aradaina, Eligias, Kladhos, Flokos, Tripiti, Imbros, Sapounas and Sfakiano gorge.

Lefka Ori is of the most significant hiking heavens of Greece: dozens of trails, most of them clear and well-trodden from livestock or by frequent use, traverse the complex of the high peaks, while the majority of the gorges are feasible to walk. The most well-known route is the crossing of Samaria gorge, which in its downhill version from Xyloskalo to Agia Roumeli is the most crowded walking route in Greece. The E4 trail is divided in two branches, competing in beauty and wilderness. The mountainous branch passes from the Kallergis refuge, the Katsiveli pasture and the ‘alpine desert’ up to the Kastro peak, to descend afterwards the Imbros gorge. The southern branch follows the path from Sougia up to Sfakia.