The flora and fauna of Greece is as unique as the country itself. With over 132 regions vitally important for their vegetation and almost 20 botanical ‘paradises’ with rare flora it is hard to narrow down one specific area to experience Greece’s special natural landscapes. One place that stands out is Chania on the island of Crete, which is known for its rare animals and plants.
Crete is a popular destination for nature lovers who want to experience the wonders of the island up-close and personal. There are a countless number of outdoor activities such as diving, trekking and exploring the island’s abundance of forests, caves, ravines, rivers and exotic plants and animals.
One of the most overlooked destinations for nature seeking holiday makers is the city of Chania, the former capital city of Crete (from 1847 until 1972). Now the second largest city on Crete after Heraklion, this region is known for its breathtaking flora and fauna and it is divided into eight zones, many of which are protected wildlife sanctuaries. Whether you are interested in coastal, sub-mountainous, mountainous, wetlands, alpine, sub-alpine, gorges or ravines, Chania has something for everyone.
In this region, abundant with majestic sea turtles, you will find plants that have inhabited the lands since the times of ancient Minoans who were inspired to incorporate them into their decorations. The lily of the sea and the violet of the sea are examples of two of the more popular wild flowers chosen by the Minoans, and they grow wildly in the coastal regions until this day.
The island is laced with exotic plants that provide habitats for unique wildlife. Many species of trees can be found on Crete including the Cretan ebony tree, or ‘ploumi’, citrus trees, fig trees, nut trees and some of the largest olive trees you will ever witness. Here flourishing in the groves you will find a plethora of animals such as the Cretan wild rat, badgers, weasels, wild rabbits and hedgehogs.
As you traverse the island from north to south you will cross mountains of rock with scarce vegetation, see wild mountain goats known as ‘kri-kri’ roaming the cliffs. As you venture further off the beaten path beautiful birds such as the golden eagle and the rare bearded vulture emerge.
Traditional fresh herbs are in abundance on Crete. You will find them growing wild along pathways and in the mountains. Also, back in Chania as well as all of the cities on the island, you can purchase them in shops that specialize in herbology, or botanical remedies.