There are locally endemic species of plants which grow only in specific areas and nowhere else in Crete as well as plants found only in Asia and Africa. The forest of Selakanos with the pine trees, the Katharo plateau with the unique Arum Cretica, the cypress forest, Selena with the forest of “Azilakos”, the gorge of Ha, Thripti, the palm forest of Vai, Chrissi, Koufonissi, Dionysades, the coastal zone of the Epano Merabello (Milatos, Pharos Aphoresmenou) are indeed unique areas.

Dozens of canyons (almost 40), the 6 plateaus (Lassithi, Katharo, Omalos Viannos, Limnakarou, Nissimos, Chandra) and more than 1,300 caves welcome and provide a rich flora and fauna sanctuary.
The conclusion of the biologists that a large number of species exist in the drier areas is evident in Lassithi. Out of the 2,000 plant species in Crete, only a few do not appear in Lassithi.



Fossils of hippopotamus and elephants exist in coastal areas and plateaus. The existence of deer and wild goats is testified by their bones found in caves, but also by names of places found in ancient inscriptions. Capra aegagrous cretensis
Today, however, we can observe small and large mammals, a large number of invertebrates organisms, shellfish and insects with particular characteristics that classify them in endemic species and subspecies of Crete.
Some of the animals that distinguished are: The Cretan wildcat (Felis silvestris cretensis), the Cretan Georgian horse, the Cretan Tracer, the Cretan Spiny Mouse, the Cretan white-toothed shrew, the Nymph, the Ferret, the Badger, the mouse with fluffy tail and the Bat.

Compared with other cave-like beings (insects and invertebrates), distinguish the Cretan bee and Rosa Alpina.
Out of the 412 species of birds that exist or pass through Crete the most impressive are the bearded vulture and the hawks, such as Expaetus barbatus, Expaetus foulvus, Aquila chrysaetos, Falco peregrinus, Accipiter nisus, Accipiter brevipes, which nest in Crete.
Falco eleonorae, Aquila heliaca, Hieraaetus pennatus use the area during winter or summer for hunting.

From the migratory species that pass through the distinctive birds are: the Girgaetus gallicus, Circus aeruginosus, Circus cyaneus, the largest colony of Phyrocorax phyrocorax  in Crete is found in the Gorge of Ha, while Tyto (Tyto alba) exists in more than 1000 meters.
The seal Monachus monachus and the sea turtle Careta careta, as well as the majority of the 14 harmless reptiles of the island, are able to co-exist either easily or hardly at the marine and terrestrial environment of Lasithi prefecture.

Protected Areas of Lassithi Prefecture

  • Dikti: Plateau Lasithiou, Katharo, Selena, Krasi, Selakano, Omalos, Viannou
  • Chrysi Island
  • Kapsa Monastery (canyon and the area around)
  • Ορεινός όγκος Θρυπτής και γύρω περιοχή
  • Dionysades: Gianisada, Elasa and the peninsula
  • Cape Sidero, Vai palm tree forest and “Akra Plakos” area
  • Koufonisi
  • Lazaros Mountain peak
  • Almiro wetland
  • Agion Panton Island


Diktaion Antron


Among the most important and imposing caves in Crete is the famous cave of Psychro (the well-known Diktaion Antron, a place of ancient worship ) which lies on the northern slope of Dikti mountain range, at an altitude of 1025 m.

The discovery of the cave in 1883 attracted some of the most famous archaeologists of the time, who made occasional inspections. But the more systematic research so far has been made in 1899 by D.G.Hogarth, Director of the English School of Archeology in Athens. This research revealed a series of objects dating from the Minoan to the Archaic period,(from 1800 BC to the 7th century), with the exception of a few findings dating back to the medieval ages – and proved that the cave for a long period was one of the most important worship places in the Minoan and the later years.

Upper Cave. This is where the excavation began. Temenos was identified, which was formed by an irregular precinct and had a roughly paved floor in some sections. Next to it was discovered a rectangular altar built with clay and stone wall. Clay vases, figurines and sections of stone pots and bulls with inscriptions written in Linear A are the most important findings.

Lower Cave. Here were found the majority of the offerings from the pilgrims, animal figurines, bronze tools, knives, arrowheads, votive double stalks, razors, blades, seals and jewels, bronze figurines depicting men and women in worship positions, bronze plates with the image of the faithful who carried animals in order to offer to the deity.



Theriospilios is a small cave in the position Chyloftes – Therio, 40 minutes northwest of the village Kavoussi in Ierapetra. It is located in an altitude of 50 metres, on a steep slope above the sea called “Spathi tou Homata”where layers of phyllites, tile-like crystalline limestones and dolomites can be discerned. Dolomites from the Triassic make up the rocks in the area of the cave. Above the cave, there is a small amount of clay, which the locals call lepida or agolifa.

The Cave of Milatos

Milatos Cave, also known as Rapas cave, is located northeast of Milatos. A narrow road leads to the cave by small car. From there, if we follow a path for 15 minutes, we arrive at the entrance of the cave which lies at an altitude of 155 metres. The cave has 8 small and big entrances in 40 metres length, spread on three different horizontal levels.
Cave of Milatos is well known for the tragedy that took place here in February 1823. In winter of 1822-23, Hassan Pasha devastated and ravaged the Lassithi Plateau. Then his troops moved in the region of Mirabello. The residents of the area predicted his destructive mania found refuge in the local caves.

The residents Vrachasi took refuge in the cave of Peristera, near Sissi, while the residents of upper Mirabello villages fled to the cavern of Milatos. Hassan Pasha immediately sent his lieutenant, Hussein Vei, with 5000 soldiers to force the Greeks come out.150 Greeks chieftains kept away Hussein, causing several damages to his troops. However, the Turks succeeded to surround the cave entrance, but Greeks were resisting successfully. The horrible drama began on February 3rd to 15th 1823.  The besieged Greeks had to face thirst and hunger. Turks installed cannons on the opposite hills and began bombing the cave.


At the same time they were waiting for help. Indeed, 2500 soldiers arrived to assist. However the troops and the cannons were a lot more. Turks invited the besieged habitants to surrender, swearing that they will not touch them. Greeks did not trust them and refused to come out. Finally they were forced to exit the cave. The first that came out were the defenders. The first 30 warriors who came out were massacred by the Turks following by further slaughtering and chasing of women and children.

Turks captured the habitants, tied them with ropes and chains and moved them to Neapolis.
Elderly men were moved to the position “Grambelles”, where cavalry passed and trampled them. Turks cut their heads and created a pyramid with them. All infants were massacred and their mothers were sold as slaves. 18 parsons were either massacred or burnt alive. Thas was the end of the drama in the cavern of Milatos.

Cave of Pelekita or Cave of the Fig Tree

It lies to the North-Northeast of Kato Zakros village. We arrive at the cave either by foot (one-hour walking distance) from Kato Zakros or by a vessel (20-25 minutes) from the beach of the same settlement and after that we follow an ascending route (15 minutes walking distance). The altitude at the entrance is 105 metres. The name Pelekita which is known for the region comes from the quarry situated underneath the cave, near the seashore, from where people used to extract hewn stones. Another name of the cave is Sikias Spilios (“Cave of the Fig Tree), due to the big fig tree that exists on the right side of the entrance. Under the cave, the view to the sea is like being high above the ground.