Rethymnon Natural Environment

the variety of contrasts - rethymnon prefecture

The Prefecture of Rethymnon, Crete is characterised by a variety of contrasts.

Flourishing valleys succeed harsh, mountainous areas with impressive gorges and caves, and imposing, rocky shores follow endless sandy beaches. Each area has its own, distinct kind of flora and fauna.

In the coastal area, humidity and the salty air of the sea favour plants such as the sea lily (Pancratium maritimum) the tamarisks (Tamarix cretica) and the famous Cretan palm (Phoenix theofrastii).

The rocky shores of the coastal area also foster the famous sea gull nests, as well as the falcon (Falco eleonore) which comes from Africa to Crete during the summer months.

Furthermore, the well-known sea turtle Caretta caretta lays its eggs on the sandy beaches.

Phoenix TheofrastiiTurtle HatchlingPistacia LentiscusNerium OleanderChamomilla RecutitaMentha Spicata

The area of the flat land, which goes up to a height of 300 m, gives home to the Mediterranean macchie, lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus), holm-oak (Quercus coccifera), oleander (Nerium oleander), Vitex agnus-castus, camomile (Chamomilla recutita), mint (Mentha spicata), myrtle (Myrtus communis), heather (Erica), Daucus carota, wild celery (Smyrnium), hollyhock (Alcea pallida cretica), the common poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Cistus incanus-creticus, as well as Cretan ebony (Ebenus cretica).

In the valleys and on low hills, you can find hares, weasels, badgers, hedgehogs, voles (Apodeus sylvaticus-creticus), bats and birds such as sparrows (Passer domesticus), goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), swallows (Delichon urbica), carrion crows (Corvus corone), linnets (Fringila coelebs), and many more.

Myrtus CommunisDaucus CarotaSmyrniumHollyhockPapaver RhoeasCistus Incanus
Ebenus CreticaPasser DomesticusCarduelis CarduelisDelichon UrbicaCorvus CoroneFringila Coelebs

The semi-mountainous area goes up to a height of approximately 800 m and includes shrubbery such as the holm-oak (Quercus coccifera), the lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus), thyme (Thymus capitatus), the Arbutus unedo, the Phlomis cretica, the maple-tree (Acer sempervirens), the bryony (Bryonia cretica), the Spartium junceum, the Styrax officinalis, and many others. Wild flowers include Cretan cyclamen (Cyclamen creticum), iris (Iris cretica), Dracungulus, gladiola (Gladiolus italicus), tulips (Tulipa orphanidea), hyacinth (Muscari commosum), various species of Cretan orchids as well as locust-trees (Ceratonia siliqua) and oak-trees (Quercus).

The same species of animals and birds as in the flat land can also be found in the semi-mountainous area, as well as certain species of predatory birds such as the crow (Corvus corax) and the blackbird (Turbus merula).

Thymus CapitatusArbutus UnedoPhlomis CreticaBryonia CreticaSpartium JunceumStyrax Officinalis
Gladiolus ItalicusMuscari CommosumCeratonia SiliquaCorvus CoraxErysimum CreticumOphrys Cretica

The area between 800 and 1800 m is known as the mountainous area.

Here we see holm-oaks (Quercus coccifera), the Cretan maple-tree (Acer sempervirens) as well as shrubs and wildflowers such as yellow violets (Erysimum creticum), tulips (Tulipa cretica), wild Cretan wormwood (Achillia cretica), wild violets (Viola cretica), crocuses (Crocus oreocreticus), and many others.

The mountainous area is also the realm of all predatory birds such as the harrier eagle and all the other above-mentioned species as well as the endangered species of the Cretan wild goat Kri-kri (Capra aegagrus) and the Cretan wild cat (Felix silvestris).


Crocus Oreocreticus

Of particular interest is the flora of the gorges, which reveals a splendid array of wild flowers and shrubs, many of which are rare species and endemic to the island.

They have been preserved from human intervention, because access to these areas is difficult and therefore the environment has maintained its original wildness.

Here you can see the entire spectrum of species referred to in the above-mentioned areas, since the gorges start in the mountainous and semi-mountainous area and end up at sea level.

Furthermore, if you are lucky, you might also come across the famous Cretan Diktamo (Origanum dictamus).


Finally, in marshy areas, which develop in the coastal zones where rivers empty into the sea as for example at the Lagoon of Preveli, you can find the Cretan palm-tree (Phoenix theophrastii), which is also endemic to Crete.


The prefecture of Rethymnon boasts an abundance of olive groves and the production of olive oil is one of the inhabitant's main activities.

The sorts of olives that are cultivated are mainly "chondrolies", some "koroneikes" and a few "tsounates". These varieties produce olive oil as well as edible olives of excellent quality.

Olive Grove

The famous olive grove near Adele in the Municipality of Arkadi, which stretches in a vast flat and semi-mountainous area, is considered one of the largest olive groves in the Mediterranean.