With its variable terrain, from soaring mountains and peaceful valleys to rocky gorges, fast-flowing rivers and never-ending plains, Crete hosts an eclectic range of wildlife just waiting to be discovered.
The largest mammal on Crete is the Cretan wild goat, also known as the kri-kri. Now a protected species, you will recognise this goat by the males’ distinctive curved horns. They are mostly found in the mountains and gorges around Samaria, Agia Irini and Eligas, although they are shy of humans and can be hard to spot.
If you are incredibly lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the elusive Cretan Wildcat, an extremely rare animal found in Mount Ida and Rouvas. Shepherds of the Samaria Gorge had long reported the ghostly howling of an identified creature but, unfortunately, the wildcat is highly endangered due to the extensive use of outdoor poisons.
Bearded vultures are sometimes spotted in the Cretan mountains, as well as golden eagles, Bonelli eagles, Eleonora falcons and ospreys. However, the most common bird of prey is the buzzard, which can often be seen circling and drifting high in the sky.
Spending a day at the beach? Watch out for nesting sea turtles! Now a highly protected species, the green and loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs on the island’s sandy beaches, and it is important not to drive umbrellas into the sand or build sandcastles close to their nests. Ecological associations such as Archelon and Medasset work to protect the sea turtles — if you locate a nest please make sure to contact them and place a temporary marker by the nest to stop people walking on it.
Hiking enthusiasts might spot a snake slithering across their path — don’t be afraid, however, as none of the four species of snake on the island pose any threat to people. More common in urban areas is the Cretan Wall Lizard, which you will spot scurrying around the outside walls of many buildings. Conversely, the Balkan Green Lizard is more lazy in nature and can easily to found sunbathing on hot stones or tarmac.
Explore the Cretan countryside from your base at Minos Palace hotel & suites, Crete’s best adults-only, 360 degree sea-view hotel. Speak to hotel concierge or reception for more details on hiking and other natural excursions.