Mountain Ida or Psiloritis in Crete

Hiking on Mountain Idi or Ida or Psiloritis in Crete

map of Crete showing Mt Ida or Psiloritis

Mt Ida is the highest mountain of Crete: 2456 m (8058ft), just 3 m higher than Pachnes, the higher summit of Lefka Ori. There are 5 summits in Psiloritis: Timios Stavros (Holy Cross): 2456m, Agathias: 2424m, Stolistra: 2325m, Voulomenou: 2267m and Koussakas: 2209m.

Mt Ida, history and mythology

the summit of Mountain Ida, Crete, Kreta
on the summit of Mt Ida

Mt Ida used to be a holy mountain in Minoan Crete and many myths were strongly attached to it. In Idaion Antron (a big cave at 1495 m, 15min walk from Nida Plateau) Zeus was brought up by Kourites and the nymph Amaltheia. In the woods of Psiloritis also lived Daktyloi, a group of good demons.

In Christian years there was a stone-made church built on top of Psiloritis, the church of the Holy Cross. On September 14th, the day of the Holy Cross, there is a celebration on the summit of Timios Stavros (Ida). On the previous day people from all over Crete walk all the way to the top together with a priest and spend the night there; next morning (September 14th) they join the ceremony inside the little church.

inside the stone-built chapel on Mt Ida, Kreta, Crete
inside the chapel of Holy Cross (Timios Stavros) on Mt Ida
repairing shelters on Ida, Crete
repairing shelters for over-night stay on the summit of Mt Ida

Mt Ida, the landscape

Minoan Crete used to be a wooded place, so was Mt Ida. Today small parts of these woods still exist close to Kouroutes, Kamares, Vorizia and Zaros villages on the south flanks of Ida.

The main part of the mountain is a rocky place with no trees at all and there are no plants above 2000m. There is no water either. As a result, trekking on Ida in summer time is an exhausting experience due to the high temperatures and the lack of any shadow and water.

Mt ida, trekking route

There are 4-5 different routes to the summit of Mt Ida, the easier one being from Nida Plateau (1412 m).

E4 paneuropean path at akollita plateau, Mt Ida, Crete, Kreta

You must drive to Anogia village and then to Nida plateau (1hr 30 min from Heraklion) and park your car at the restaurant. There is only this building on the plateau so you can’t miss it. Walking starts here, along the dirt track leading to Idaion antron.

Five minutes before the cave you will notice a yellow post at your left; it is one of the posts which mark the E4-Paneuropean path. There are such posts all the way to the top, as well as red dots painted on rocks and a few piles of small stones on top of rocks. The path is easy to see and it is really difficult to get lost.

For the first couple of hours you walk upwards but then you have to descend to Akollita Plateau and finally ascend the rest of the way up. In May or early June there is still going to be snow on the summit.

Mt Ida trekking, tips and equipment

resting on Mt Ida, Crete, Kreta

A hat and sun-lotion are absolutely necessary as well as 2-3 litres of water.

Good trekking boots are essential together with 2 pairs of socks, as the ground is covered with sharp stones and blistered feet are very usual.

The time you will need depends on how fit you are; it varies from 3-6 hours to the top and 2-4 hours back.

It’s better to start walking early in the morning so that you have plenty of time if something happens; it also is less hot at that time.

The view from the top of Ida is really magnificent (if there are no clouds); you are able to see Heraklion and Aegean Sea to the north, Lefka Ori to the west and the plain of Messara and Libyan Sea to the south.

There is no view to the east, as the summit of Agathias stands in the way.

If you plan to spend a night on top then you are going to need some warm clothes and a good sleeping-bag; the temperature at night is low and, if there is a strong wind, then it is probably going to be freezing.

Psiloritis in Winter

In summer the snow melts completely after May, but in winter the mountain is covered with a thick layer of snow, which on very cold days of the year reaches as far as Anogia or even lower. At weekends, the road to the Nida plateau is filled with people playing in the snow and enjoying the spectacle. See Psiloritis covered in snow in the video below:

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