Crete's UNESCO Sites

The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has four ENUESCO sites, which are Sitia, Psiloritis, Asterousia, and the Gorge of Samaria.

The Psiloritis Mountain Range, one of Crete's UNESCO SitesThe Psiloritis Mountain Range
One of Crete's UNESCO Sites

It's not surprising that Crete has four UNESCO sites, being the largest of the Greek islands with a total area of 8,450 sq kms (3,260 sq miles). The four sites all involve mountain ranges:

·         Sitia and the Zakros Mountains in the northeast.

·         Psiloritis and Mt Ida in the centre.

·         Asterousia in the south.

·         Samaria and the Samaria Gorge in the southwest.

The Area around Sitia, one of Crete's UNESCO SitesThe Area around Sitia
One of Crete's UNESCO Sites

Sitia

The lovely port town of Sitia is in the Lasithi regional unit of Crete, the most easterly of Crete's regions. It's not only the town which has been recognised by UNESCO, but the area around it too. In 2015 UNESCO declared it a Global Geopark because of the Zakros Mountains, the cave systems, the discovery of fossils, and the encouragement of ecotourism and geotourism, benefitting the local communities.

The Psiloritis Mountain Range, one of Crete's UNESCO SitesThe Psiloritis Mountain Range
One of Crete's UNESCO Sites

Psiloritis

Psiloritis was also declared a Global Geopark in 2015, although it had been part of the European Geoparks Network since 2001. Psiloriitis is the name of the mountain range, and the park extends from the mountains down to the Libyan Sea, an area of 1,159 sq kms (447 sq miles). The park also encompasses the Talaia Ori Mountains, and these extend all the way to Crete's north coast.

The highest peak in the Psiloritis range is Mt Ida at 2,456 metres (8,058 ft). UNESCO recognised the area, amongst other things, for its geodiversity, with its many caves and deep gorges, for its plant and animal life, including wild cats, and for the way its attractions help sustain local communities by bringing in visitors.

Google map showing Crete's UNESCO sitesCrete's UNESCO Sites
Map (c) Google Maps

Asterousia

In 2020 UNESCO designated this area, the most southerly mountain range in Europe, as the Asterousia Mountain Range Biosphere Reserve. It's not only for its dramatic beauty, but also for its rich archaeological heritage: people have lived here since Neolithic times. It's also home to 55% of the animal and plant species that are found on Crete, including the Bearded Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, and Bonelli’s Eagle.

Golden EagleGolden Eagle

Samaria Gorge

The Gorge of Samaria, and surrounding area, is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, created in 1981. This makes it the oldest of Crete's UNESCO sites. It's also a National Park, and the only one of these four areas to be uninhabited. It does, however, have ancient ruins, including churches and castles, from the days when people did once live here.

For more information, see our pages on the Samaria Gorge and Hiking the Samaria Gorge.

A couple hiking in the Samaria Gorge, one of Crete's UNESCO sitesSamaria Gorge
One of Crete's UNESCO Sites

Our Pick of the Crete Guides

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Some other Crete pages

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  • The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.

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  • This Rouvas Gorge walk starts and ends in Zaros in southern Crete and should take three to four hours with a distance of eight kilometres or five miles.

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  • How to make Petimezi, the sweet Cretan syrup made from wine must, is explained to Greece Travel Secrets.

    How to Make Petimezi

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  • This tour around central Crete lists some of the area’s highlights such as the traditional village of Arolithos, Minoan remains at Tilisos, and Agioi Deka.

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  • Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.

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  • Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

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  • The best Crete hotels include 5-star luxury hotels, historic and romantic Venetian palaces, and several hotels in Hania and Iraklion.

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  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.

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    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.

  • Greece Travel Secrets visits Visual Arts Crete who offer accommodation and run art courses at their home and studio in the village of Kastellos near Rethymnon.

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  • How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.

    Eastern Crete in Five Days

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  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in western Crete, including both luxury and inexpensive hotels in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

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  • Ancient Gournia is a Minoan archaeological site between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia in Eastern Crete where the visitor can see evidence of a maze of back streets.

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  • Greece Travel Secrets discovers Sitia, the main town in eastern Crete, with its relaxing waterfront, inexpensive hotels, good food, and nearby ancient sites.

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