Natural treasure and cultural heritage
The Asterousia Mountain Range is the southernmost mountainous area of Europe. The total area covers 367 square kilometres. It stretches from the Lithino Cape south of Matala nearly to the village of Keratokampos to the east and northwards, forms a natural border with the Messara Plain. The highest mountain peak is the Kofinas with its 1231 meters, followed by the Madara, the Chousakas, the Bolakas, the Sfentylia and others. According to mythology, the name Asterousia comes from the ancient King Asterion of Crete, who married the Phoenician princess Europa at the command of Zeus.
In modern times, the circa 6,000 inhabitants of the region are hospitable and hardworking. Their main income sources are agriculture and livestock farming, and increasingly from the tourism sector.
The Asterousia is characterized by its unique, rugged beauty: steep slopes on the south side of the mountain range with a significant change in altitude moving up from sea level, impressive gorges that lead down to beautiful beaches, caves and large rocky areas partially covered in scrub.
Humans have been continuously present here since the Neolithic Age. Subsequently, there is a rich archaeological heritage of scattered settlements set in a mountainous landscape of natural and semi-natural habitats. Natural areas of great ecological value host more than 55% of the island’s animal and plant species.
With all these treasures, the mountain range was included in the global network of biosphere reserves of the UNESCO program “Man and the Biosphere”.