22 km south of Rethymno you will discover one of the most spectacular natural beauties of Rethymno region. It is Kourtaliotiko gorge and river with a total length of 3 km.
Kourtaliotiko Gorge, also known as the Asomatos Gorge, is a gorge on the southern side of the western part of Crete island. It is situated where the Kourtaliotiko River flows southwards between the mountains of Kouroupa and Xiron.
It starts at village Koxare and flows between the mountains of Kouroupa and Koules of the range Xiro Oros. The tall canyon cliffs reaching a height of 600 metres are covered with cracks and caves where rare fauna species live. Kourtaliotis river flows through the canyon and meets with Frati gorge where it changes name to Megalos River (Big River) before flowing into Lake Preveli.
The village of Koxare is at the northern end of the gorge. A road runs north to south through the gorge joining Koxare to Asomatos; it then leads west, on to the town of Plakias on the southern coast of Crete.
South Crete 4×4 Adventure
PREVELI PALM BEACH & KOURTALIOTIKO GORGE
Sights and activities in Kourtaliotiko gorge
Kourtaliotiko gorge is crossed by a public road. If you follow the steps at the side of the road Koxare – Asomatos you will reach the bottom of the canyon, where the church of Nikolaos (local saint) Kourtaliotis is to be found. Near the church you will discover the springs of Kourtaliotiko and the amazing waterfall with a constant flow of water in this very narrow and dark part of the canyon. You can reach this point by swimming up the river. Reaching the waterfall, you can hike in the river all the way to the bridge of Megalos River and Preveli palm beach.
A small ruined church (Agios Nikolaos) sits within the gorge. There is also a 40 metre high waterfall.
“Kourtala” or “clapping hands”
There is a specific point on the gorge, about 20 metres from the northern entrance, where you can hear some “claps”, like hands coming together. These “claps” are the “kourtala”, that give the name to the gorge. They are the consequence of the wind being funnelled through the high caves of the gorge and breaking the sound barrier. The point near the northern entrance is the main point to hear that sound.
Palm Forest and protected species
Kourtaliotiko is a beautiful gorge with rare and protected species – as such it has a great biological as well as ecological value. Here you will see the second largest palm forest in Crete – the Cretan Date Palm trees (Phoenix Theophrastii). On the canyon slopes you will find a rich vegetation and where the river runs into the sea there are sand dunes and formations of Posidonia Oceania, some most protected marine plants. On the riverbanks you might get a glimpse of the important tortoise (Auremys Capsica) or the local fresh-water snake (Elaphe situla).
PRIVATE RIVER & GORGE TREKKING ADVENTURE
Birdwatching in Kourtaliotiko gorge
The south-central coast of Crete plays a vital role in the conservation of endangered birds of prey like the Lammergeier vulture, the Griffon vultures, the Golden Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle. Kourtaliotiko gorge is an important site for breeding raptures, montane and scrub species. Birds of prey use the gorge as a link between the White Mountains and the Psiloritis and Asterousia in central Crete. The cliffs on the side of the gorge provide a roosting site for the Lammergeier vulture.