In the area of Sidonia – Psari Forada, there are not only beautiful beaches with crystal blue waters. There are also many other options to make your stay a truly unique experience. Read down about the wonderful landscapes suitable for walks and excursions. Explore the wonderful Cretan nature, the forests, plateaus and canyons.
Plateau of Omalos
Omalos Plateau of Lassithi is located at the southern foot of Mount Dikti, next to Kato Simi and Viannos, 28km northeast of Psari Forada. It can be accessed more easily from Kato Simi, but there are also alternative routes that are worth driving in dirt track.
This small plateau is almost unknown to all Cretans, who confuse it with the famous Omalos Plateau, in Chania Prefecture. The plateau is smaller than Omalos in Chania, thus it is also called Small Omalos.
The plateau is a wonderful place worth visiting, combined with trips to the nearby mountains, gorges and picturesque villages. Here you will experience the wild beauty of the authentic Crete, away from any human urban activity. In Omalos there is nothing, except from the small chapel dedicated to the Holly Spirit. The plateau is only used by local shepherds during the summer months. On every winter the plateau is dressed in white, making the landscape very beautiful. When the snow melts in the center of the plateau a small lake is formed, which is still there till early summer.
Kato Simi Viannos is located at the south-east of the island of Crete, in the south of the mountainous chain of Dikti.
Τhe area presents an astonishing geological diversity. A flora and wildlife exceptional by its diversity and its richness, made up of the plane trees, walnut trees, cherry trees, almond trees.
The village of Kato Simi is in the middle of the famous pine forest of Viannos. Three brooks, throats, and the many springs, get to the village freshness in the hot summer months.
The presence of predatory animals and birds as vultures, the rare plants make a privileged site, integred to the Europeans parks NATURA 2000. The occupation of the inhabitants is agriculture, the breeding of the goats and the sheep's, the bee-keeping.
Sykologos is a traditional village and a community in the southeastern part of the Heraklion regional unit, in Crete, Greece. Its population in 2001 was 359 for the village, and 439 for the community, which includes the villages Ano Vigla and Tertsa. It is 81.5 km from Heraklion, 16 km from Ano Viannos, 28 km from Ierapetra and 7.5 km from the coastline of the Libyan Sea at Tertsa and Sidonia – Psari Forada. Today it is a part of Municipality of Viannos. Olives and bananas are the main crops. The name Sykologos stems from an ancient word for "fig collector". It's an unspoiled lovely traditional village with 2 mini markets and one tavern.
The area of Viannos covers the southern side of mountain Dikti from the small plateau of Omalos to the beautiful coastline. The capital and seat of the municipality is the village of Ano Viannos located 560m above sea level, 65 km away from Iraklion and 40km from Ierapetra (to the east).
All the mountainous area with the villages Loutraki, Kato Viannos, Hondros, Vahos, Amiras, Agios Vassilios, Kefalovrissi, Pefkos, Kalami, Sykologos, Ano Symi and Kato Symi, is of outstanding natural beauty. Most villages still keep the old traditional architectural style while a good number of old churches - some with well preserved frescoes - can be found. Small ravines with running water and rich vegetation is another characteristic of the area.
The main product of Viannos is its unique and famous olive oil. Recent years, Arvi, Psari Forada, Keratokambos and Kastri, the small settlements of the coastal part have prospered due to the cultivation of early vegetables and bananas. They also attract many visitors during the summer time. There are quite few rooms and apartments for rent, hotels, taverns with fresh fish, shops etc.
The coastal area does not fall short in natural beauty. The gorge of Arvi with its 454m high walls, the 200m long cave "Vigla" with stalagmites and stalactites located at the top of the hill "Kerato", long sandy beaches, small secluded coves are some of the many attractions.
Viannos history goes back in the mythical ages. Its name is supposed to come from "Viennos" one of the "Kourites" (men who, in ancient times, lived in Crete and used to bang their arms and their shields together in order to cover Zeus cry - the Greek word "krousis" implies this). Other believe that the name comes from the fight (via = violence) of two of the Kourites, "Otos" and "Efialtis" - sons of Poseidon - against Aris, the god of war. Many findings prove that Viannos was a strong city during the antiquity, with its own coins and allies.
During both the Turkish and German occupation the people of Viannos added golden pages in Crete's struggle against the invaders. A nice - one of a kind - memorial stands at Amiras to remind the sacrifice of "Viannites" and the holocaust of September 14 1943, when 358 men, women and children were executed and many villages were burnt after the strict order of the German commander.
Viannos has also a long tradition in literature and science. Ioannis Kondilakis (1862-1920) a famous journalist and novelist was born in Viannos and its novels "Patouhas" and "when I was a teacher" are still among the most interesting in New Greek literature.
The gorge of Arvi
The gorge of Arvi is located north of the village (south of Heraklion near Keratokambos) and are formed in limestone of Mount mazodi Dikti. Flows into the Libyan Sea, but the water never reaches there because of its use for irrigation. Unfortunately, all the way through the gorge one encounters tubes and tires. It is an internationally known as the canyon gorge of Ha. Its length is nearly two kilometers (2km) and elevation input-output two hundred fifty feet (250m). It has thirteen (13) descents with a waterfall greater eighty meters (80m). The others range from four to eighteen feet (4-18m). The descent is greater in the latter part of the gorge. Here is a dark part because of the narrowness of the wall length one hundred and fifty meters (150m) where there are three abseil. Such dark parts are rarely encountered in canyons and underground rivers reminiscent.
Selakano is a forested valley and a hamlet in the municipality of Ierapetra on the island of Crete. Selakano forms one of the most important ecosystems on Crete. The forest core of wild pine is also important on the Mediterranean level. It is located in the northwestern territories of Ierapetra in the southeastern part of the Dikti massif, surrounded by the four highest peaks (Lazaros 2085 m, Spathi 2148 m, Afendis Christos 2141 m, Psari Madara 2090 m). In the east, there is a panoramic view of the Libyan Sea, at a distance of 15 km.
In the forest Pinus brutia is a prevalent drought-tolerant species that can withstand six-month droughts and grow in various rocks and soils. There are also kermes oaks (Quercus coccifera), planes (Platanus orientalis), Cretan maples (Acer sempervirens), cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens) and several other plant species. In the basin, where the settlements of Selakano and Mathokastana are located, there are many walnut and pear trees, vineyards and, patches of fields where vegetables are cultivated.
The forest is the nesting and hunting ground of many predatory birds like the hawk. It is the most productive apiculture spot in Crete while in the past wood and resins were harvested.
Chrisi or Gaidouronisi
Chrisi or Gaidouronisi (donkey island) lies 8 miles south of Ierapetra. The residents of Ierapetra simply call it "the island", as there is a special relationship between them, lost in the depths of time.
For five months -from the middle of May to the end of September- there are daily cruises by boats to Chrisi, departing from the port of Ierapetra.
In the wonder of the Libyan sea, the journey is usually in the company of herring seagulls, while occasionally dolphins play within sight. After almost an hour's sailing, the boats approach the southern coast of the island, which is normally more sheltered. Passengers disembark at "Vougiou Mati" where there is a small wharf and the reception area. Within the day trip the visitor has enough time to walk around Chrisi, bathe in its crystal clear green-blue waters and have lunch at the municipal taverna.
The vegetation is quite diverse in view of the island's size. There are mainly cedars, junipers, lentisc, thyme, heath and rockroses and sandy shore vegetation.
The Cedar forest of Chrisi is very rare in its expanse and structure. It covers almost 35 hectares and its density is approximately 28 trees per hectare. Their average height is 3 to 7m tall and their average age is at least 300 years old. Cedars have a root system that spreads across an area which is more than double the height of the tree. Apart from the big roots, a huge amount of tiny roots forms a complex web that keeps the sand in place.
The number of plant species of Chrisi is relatively high compared to its size, comprising 1/20 of the Cretan flora. Many species are rare and endemic, therefore protected by international directives and laws. In the sea around Chrisi the variety and abundance of the marine species are impressive, as the water is shallow. The sea bed around the island up to a depth of 20m covers about 30km2 (area six times the size of the island).
Most of the island's animal species have a Mediterranean distribution. None of them pose any threat to humans. The sea turtle Caretta-caretta has been observed many times on the island, but without any records of nesting. Up to now more than 120 species of birds have been reported, the vast majority of which are migrant species that find in Chrisi a place to rest and feed themselves for their long journey. In recent years the residents of Ierapetra transferred partridges, hares and rabbits. Hares have now become extinct and there is a systematic attempt to remove the rabbits.
Some decades ago, when the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus Monachus) was not threatened by man, it could be seen coming out of the water and basking in the sun, on the island's beaches. Today it rarely appears and mostly the name Fokiospilo (seal cave) on the northwestern coast reminds us of its once common presence.