F. Individual geotopes
Psiloritis can be regarded as a huge geotope itself. All geotopes presented earlier are sum parts of the whole that the mountain constitutes and each one of them forms a small page of its history. The sub-areas that were presented earlier, can thus be regarded as respective chapters of the mountain’s complicated history.
Like many others geotopes of minor importance which have not been presented here, as well as others that might have not been recognized yet, there are some individual geotopes, which are either isolated, or their importance is so unique that they have to be presented in order to complete the last page of the history of Psiloritis mountains.
The hills over Gonies village can be regarded as a miniature of the geological structure of Crete. Most of the rock groups of the island appear in a small outcrop, one over the other in the form of geological nappes. The best observation of these rocks occurs along the small (1,5 kilometers long) dirt road which starts from the road to Anogia passing through Gonies and heads up into to the mountainous area.
The hill standing over Gonies is built of the Ophiolitic rocks which are painted by the characteristic green and purple colors of the atmospheric erosion of the rocks called serpendinites. The alkaline soil hosts special plants like Alyssum baldaccii.
Below the ophiolites exist some argillaceous sediments of the upper most nappes of Crete and just next to the old windmill commence the outcrops of the “Pindos” group. First appears the sandy and argillaceous flysch, below it occur the platy limestone and deeper in the sequence the reddish radiolarites. A very prominent fault which vertically displaces the rocks is separating the rocks of “Pindos” from those of the “Tripolitsa” group. The flysch of this group continues till the first neck of the hilltop from where a marvelous view of the Sklavokampos valley and surrounding area awaits the visitors.
Starting from that point and for a long distance the only rocks present are the carbonates of the “Tripolitsa” group. The road continues either towards the Migias gorge or to the Evdomos plateau, a small but picturesque doline formed by fault activity within the “Tripolitsa” rocks.
Probably the most impressive place where the activity of rain water has created “works of art” is in the area of Chonos village. The limestone conglomerate of the Miocene period (13 million years ago) is rapidly being dissolved by water creating a great variety of forms and shapes. The separation of rock into different layers increases the activity of water.
Thus, different kind of towers with sharp edges, weird “drops” and torches, small and large grooves and many other surface depressions are formed. The visitor can walk within this stone forest and the wild vegetation that has developed with plenty of shrubs and wild flowers. Additionally, the nearby “Tripolitsa” gray limestone and dolomites expose large folds, which is not common for these rocks.
Margarites is a village, well known for its marvelous architecture and the traditional pottery. However, in the wider area of the villages of Margarites, Orthe and Eleftherna appear a series of small, parallel gorges. Small streams such as Margaritianos flow towards the north and are tributaries of the Geropotamos River. The gorges are developed in white-yellow marly limestone of the Upper Miocene period (8-10 million years ago) as a result of the uplift of the whole area and the erosion by water.
The most impressive characteristics of the gorges are the rich flora and the unique surroundings. Small tufts and /or copses of the horizontal branched cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens var horizontalis) are mixed with low shrubs, wild flowers and aromatic plants.Small paths have been developed by the Local Authorities that introduce visitors to the beauty of the area.
The Cretan Detachment fault also appears along the area of Damasta and Marathos villages to the north of the Park. The difference there is that the fault brings the carbonate rocks of “Tripolitsa” into contact with the under lying rocks of the “Phyllite-Quartzite” group. Thus, several smaller faults have been formed within the phyllitic rocks together with folds and other structures. A detail of this fault zone can be seen at a small and abandoned quarry at the side of the road just after Marathos, presenting data about the orientation and the direction of the displacement along the fault.
A similar case to the “Sculptures of Nature”, again in the same conglomerate rock, is to be found in the nearby area of Aidonochori village. A large limestone rock dominates the pastureland of the area, covered by holes and cracks like a cheese.
Small cavities and cracks at the sides of the rock facilitate entrance to the inner and fascinating part of the rock. A weird and visionary scene appears like a miniature of a large gorge with many different shapes formed by the dissolution of the limestone. Lateral caves, horizontal and narrow galleries, vertically sharp cliffs, small towers, deep fractures and rounded holes that can host rain water appear everywhere. A large variety of plants, invertebrates and reptiles can also be recognized inside this rock.
The small and elongated plateau of Strouboulas is to be found just south of this elongated mountain range, which resembles a volcanic cone when seen from Heraklion. The elongated plateau is formed on the carbonate rocks of the “Tripolitsa” group and it lacks tree vegetation except for some Kermes Oaks (Quercus coccifera).
In the vicinity of the plateau there are many potholes and caves as well as smaller, lateral plateaus. In one of those, that is to be found at the western side of the plateau, the karstic erosion has shaped a large limestone rock in such a way that huge and numerous lances point up to the sky and are separated by narrow and deep cavities. The rock surface is shaped by numerous small and large grooves.
Starting from Strouboula’s plateau one can climb until the summit of Strouboulas and the chapel of Timios Stavros to gaze in wonder at the marvelous panorama of the Heraklion gulf.
Timios Stavros is the summit of Psiloritis Mountain, and it is the roof of Crete. Located 2456 meters above sea level in the middle of Mediterranean, it is a challenge for every visitor and inhabitant of the island, a debt that should be fulfilled.
From its peak, this narrow and elongated mountain chain permits a panoramic view over the whole island. The steep cliffs at the south and west bring the Mesara and the Amari right in front of the visitor’s feet. The Kedros and Kouloukonas mountains look just like small twin brothers, while the Lefka Ori and Lassithi mountains rise just like walls both to the west and to the east respectively.
It is possible to ascend to the peak from every side of the mountain. It can be done either from the Nida plateau, from the Fourfouras and Kouroutes villages following the E4 hiking trails, through the Zoniana and Livadia villages from the north, and from the Arkadi area in the west.
On the peak, the chapel of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) is a replica of a mitato and a refuge for the climbers to protect themselves from the cold winds or the very strong chill of the night, but most definitely their favorite destination all year long.