Samaria (White Mountains) National Park is located on the West part of island of Crete and was declared as a National Park via a Royal Decree in 1962. It is a muli-designated area and specifically a National Park, Landscape of Outstanding Beauty, Natura 2000 site coded GR 4340008 and GR4340014 and Biosphere Reserve in the framework of the “Man and Biosphere” Programme of UNESCO.

It has been awarded with the European Diploma of Protected Areas of the Council of Europe. Also a hotspot for biodiversity and a place with a strong and important anthropogenic environment (history, special songs, traditions, etc.). It contains one of the largest gorges in the Balkans, Samaria Gorge, with a total length of 13 km while nine main gorges are located within the area of the White Mountains.

These specific landscape configuration schemes sustain unique abiotic and biotic environmental characteristics, most of them unknown, because of the site’s wilderness and difficultness for direct scientific filed work. The specificity of the area can be easily identified in numbers: 58.454 ha, altitude ranging from 0-2.454m, more than 50 summits higher than 2000 meters a.s.l., 14 different types of habitats, approximately 40% of the entire extent of the county of Chania. Mean Annual Rainfall is between 600mm to 2000mm depending on the elevation. The entire area comprises one of the two main environmental lungs of Crete and a configuration leading to the current meteorological and hydrological conditions set in the western part of the island.


Fig. 1: Map of the Samaria National Park.


President of the National Park is Dr. Petros Lymperakis, researcher from the Natural History Museum of Crete (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The National Park is characterized by a rich biodiversity, a high degree of endemism in fauna and flora, distinctive geological configurations and specific landscape features. Distinctive species of fauna found in the area are: the Cretan wild goat (Capra aegagrus cretica), the largest mammal of the island, the Cretan wildcat (Felis sylvestris cretensis) and a species of mouse (Acomys minous) which is considered to be rare. The rich avifauna of the area includes 69 species, with Gypaetus barbatus among others. The area houses 172 endemic species and subspecies, while 97 of them are endemic to Crete and 24 are specifically endemic (steno-endemic) to smaller areas. Some of the most distinctive species are: Cephalanthera cucullata, Nepeta sphaciotica, Bupleurum kakiskalae and Zelkova abelicea.

The past 2 years a complete survey has begun in order to identify the Park’s central environmental characteristics. Nowadays, the monitoring system is comprised by:

  • Monitoring and surveillance of 15 terrestrial habitats and 34 species of flora.
  • Monitoring and surveillance of 256 species of avifauna.
  • Monitoring and surveillance of all possible species of fauna, including coastal and marine species.
  • Monitoring and surveillance of two marine habitats.
  • Recording of meteorological and hydrological conditions via four (4) meteo-stations located in the vicinity of the National Park and transmittance of data through the internet.

The monitoring system is comprised by both field work and modeling and designed to operate until the end of 2015.

The basic threats and pressures characterizing the site can be cumulated in:

  • landscape fragmentation
  • desertification induced by overgrazing and uncontrolled fires
  • modifications in water and groundwater regime induced by large scale infrastructures
  • poaching and uncontrolled abstraction of endemic species of flora
  • massive touristic flow and
  • relative medium and large-scale touristic infrastructures.


Table of ecosystem services/functions and available data


Click here to download a poster of the protected area.