The natural environment of the prefecture of Chania
The Cretan civilization has been closely connected to nature from time immemorial and the respect of the Cretan people towards the world which surrounds them is mirrored not only in their way of life but also in their art and religion.
The modern Cretan still feels that primeval bond and without much effort he succeeds a harmonious coexistence with the environment.
The natural environment of the prefecture of Chania, as in all of Crete, is preserved in very good condition. The beaches are clean and large areas of untamed nature on the inner part of the island remain unspoilt.
The rich geomorphology and the temperate climate favour the growth of more than 2100 indigenous plants, 300 of which are endemic, while endemic animals complete the mosaic of Cretan nature.
In the prefecture of Chania one will come across eight zones: coastal, lowland, sub -mountainous, mountainous, sub - alpine, alpine, wetlands and gorges - ravines each one with its unique flora and fauna.
Many of these biotopes are now protected (the shores of Platanias - Gerani - Pyrgos Psilonerou - Maleme, lake of Agia, lake of Kournas, Gavdos, Gavdopoula, Elafonissi, the promontories of Gramvousa and Agia Irene etc-Natura 2000) or have been characterized as national parks (gorge of Samaria).
A much-loved decorative motif of Minoan art, the lily of the sea (Pancratium maritimum) and the violet of the sea (Matthiola tricuspidata) grow in the coastal regions where the sea turtles (Careta careta) lay eggs.
The cistus (Cistus villosus-creticus), the Cretan ebony tree or "ploumi" (Ebenus cretica), the olive tree, citrus trees and dozens of wildflowers make up the habitat in which the Cretan wild rat (Apodemus sylvaticus creticus), along with the badger (Meles meles-arcalus), the marten (Martes foinabunites), the weasel (Mustela nivalisgalinthias), the hare and the hedgehog live.
In the semi mountainous zone the cyclamen (Cyclamen creticum), the prinos (Quercus coccifera) and the aspalathos (Calicotome villosa) thrive, while at a little higher altitude, in the mountainous region, one will come across the Cretan acer (Acer sempervirens) and the Cretan tulip (Tulipa cretica) which grow among the chestnut trees (Castanea sativa) in Kisamos and the cypress trees (Cypresus sempervirens) of the White Mountains.
At such an altitude is also where one will find the Cretan wild goat or "kri- kri" (Carpa aegagrus- cretica), the one of a kind "agathopontikas" (Acomys minus), the wild cat or "fourokatos" (Felix silvestris-agrius), as well as predatory birds such as the golden eagle (Aquila crhysaetus), the rare bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) and the vulture (Gyps fulvus).
In the gorges one will find, apart from all of the aforementioned, almost the entire family of fragrant plants and herbs of Crete, the most renowned of which is the "eronda" or Cretan dittany (Origanum dictamnus).
Every spring the prefecture of Chania is ornamented with a feast of colours from the plethora of blossoming trees, bushes and flowers, while the intoxicating aromas from the herbs infuse the air.
The animal kingdom, rejuvenated from the wintry respite, swarms the countryside without seeming to be annoyed in the slightest by the presence of man.