The forest of Selakano
Selakano is a mountainous area on the northwest boundaries of the Municipality of Ierapetra and it is one of the most beautiful and well preserved ecosystems in the island as well as an important pine tree forest for the whole Mediterranean.
A part of the area is covered by rough pine trees, a very resistant species that resists the six-month humidity and can also grow on a rocky ground. There are also other species such as the arboreal kermes oak, the cypress, the maple, the plane tree etc…
The visitor is immediately fascinated by the wild beauty of the landscape; beautiful gorges and streams, steep slopes that host raptors such as golden eagles and hawks. In the pan, where the settlements Selakano and Mathokostana are located, there are cultivations of walnut trees, pear trees, vines and gardens.
The forest is the biggest beekeeping area in Crete and in the past resin collection as well as lumbering used to take place there. You can reach the area through an asphalt-paved road that offers a wonderful trip up to Selakano settlement and a network of forest roads.
The area ends at the peak of Dikti mountain, Afendis Christos, at an altitude of 2.148 meters. There is not accommodation available but you can enjoy the exceptional Cretan cuisine at the taverns and the traditional coffeehouses of the village.
Ha gorge is a special terrain feature of the area. It is considered as one of the wildest gorges in Greece, a rare morphological phenomenon of nature that only an endogenous factor such as tectonics could have created. Its name most probably derives from the Greek verb “chasko” that means form a gap.
We could say that it is a virgin biotope untouched by human since its morphology does not allow everybody to exploit it or even traverse it. The first, and the only ones until today, that have traversed it are three experienced and venturous mountaineers from Thessaloniki, Stavros Lazaridis, Vlasis Chatzipanagiotou and Chronis Amatzidis. In order to traverse it they made an effort of 7 days, from September 17 to June 23 1987.
A similar effort by someone who is not an experienced mountaineer would be very dangerous. Besides, many have been those who tried to move deeper and they were endangered or even lost their lives. The area within as well as around the gorge is an important biotope with a rich flora and fauna. The small lakes are significant wetlands for many migratory birds, but for non-migratory birds and mammals also.
Some years ago, Thrypti Mountain was planted all over with dense rough pine tree forests and it was a jewel for Crete; however, its biggest part was destroyed in 1984 and 1987 because of two wildfires that took place. The ability of the rough pine trees to be easily reborn after a wildfire, would have ensured at least the partial redevelopment of the forest, if it weren’t for the illegal pasture.
Gournia, the ancient name of which remains unknown, is the most typical example of an excavated medium-sized settlement of the era of the Minoan prime (Late Minoan Period I: 1550-1450 B.C.). It is in a very good condition and this is why it was named “the Pompeii of Crete”. It is built at a low hillock, near the sea, at the Isthmus of Ierapetra.
The first inhabitants settled there during the early Minoan Period III (2300 BC). There are still some remains of the Middle Minoan Period (2000-1600 BC), while at the end of this period the palace was built, which was destroyed together with the surrounding city in 1450 BC, when the same thing happened to all the Minoan centers. Fifty years later, there was a period of “reoccupation” of the area. The settlement was abandoned for good in 1200 BC.
Ιslet of Chryssi
The islet of Chryssi (“the golden island” in greek), as its official name is or Gaidouronissi (“the island of the donkeys”) as it is most commonly called, is found at a distance of 8 nautical miles southern to Ierapetra, within the Libyan Sea. The island is not inhabited, but it has magnificent beaches and a long history. The island is almost flat; the highest point is some 31 meters (the site of “Kefala”). It is 5 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide.
You may divide the 4-6 hours you will spend on the island, both in swimming in a marvelous sea at the small sandy beaches and in visiting the most interest places of the islet.
It is worth going to the large cedar-tree wood, with more than 5.000 perennial trees; or you may choose to go to the beach of Belegrina at the northern part of the island, where apart from swimming you will have the chance to see the fossilized sea shells, that are dated to thousands of years ago.
At the western part of the island, the visitor can see the small church of Aghios Nicolaos , of the 13 th century, pick salt from the old salt-pans, see the Roman carved graves, the ancient breakwater and the old lighthouse.
Some hundreds of meters eastern to Chryssi, it is situated a tiny islet, of an extent of some more than 10 hectares, called Mikronissi (“the tiny island” in Greek); it is a rocky island, a refuge of thousands of seagulls.
As it has special ecological features and spots of environmental interest, Chryssi is has been included in the European Program for the Protection of places of natural beauty and importance (NATURA 2000).
Access to the island is possible from Ierapetra by excursion boats. The boats depart from the port of Ierapetra daily at 10.30 am and 12.30 p.m. and return from Chryssi at 17.00 and 18.00 in the afternoon. The trip lasts approximately one hour. The boats are available only in summer from May to October.
Artificial lake of Bramiana in Ierapetra
The artificial lake of Bramiana was created in order to satisfy the irrigation needs of the 30.000.000 cultivated square meters of the wider area of Ierapetra and it was completed in 1986. It is on the northwest of the city, at a distance of 5 km, on the road to Kalamafka. It is 1.050.000 square meters in area and its water capacity is 15.000.000 m3.
The 1.350.000 square meters belong to the State and the Local Organization for Land Reclamation of Ierapetra is charged with the exploitation of the water. Around the wetland there are pine trees, cypresses, poplars, plane trees and tamarisks. Its location is perfect for migratory birds and despite its few years of existence it has already become one of the most important wetlands in Greece.
Information from the Museum of Natural History of Crete mention 214 listed bird species. In the water as well as on the waterside we can find ducks, grebes, common moorhens, herons, charadriuses, gulls and common terns. All around, we can see many raptors such as eagles and hawks, and many other species, such as partridges, turtle doves, larks, swallows etc…