Psiloritis or Ida was regarded as a legendary and sacred mountain in ancient times. It is the highest mountain in Crete (2,456 m) and one of the highest in Greece. The name Psiloritis is newer and was first mentioned in a Cretan distributional letter to twelve nobles in 1184 as “the high mountain”.The ancient name “Idi” or in Doric dialect “Ida” derives from the superb view offered by the top of the mountain. From there you can view large areas of the island (almost all of Crete). The ancient Cretan people used to say that the mountain has the privilege of seeing the sun before its rise. The most precise etymology of the word “Idi” and “Ida” means a wooded mountain, sacred forest, which indicates that in ancient times, the tree covered large parts of the area and vegetation was generally much richer than that seen today.
Besides its wealth of forests, according to Homer, Idi was rich in water. Herodotus also mentioned that there was dense vegetation. Pharaoh Touthmosis (1501 -1447 BC) purchased from the forests of Crete timber for shipbuilding, which confirms the status of vegetation mentioned by Herodotus. Remnants of vegetation are now in Rouvas, Trygiodo, Gorge Voriza etc. Plenty of maples, oaks, cypresses and arbutus cover the lower slopes of the mountain.
The geophysical feature of the region is the richest in Crete with high diversity, characterized by a variety of natural formations such as small canyons, mountain valleys and hilly complexes in the north.
In the southern part the Psiloritis mountain emerges round the plateau of Nida.
The southern slopes are steep and most of the area is karst and includes canyons polges, hundreds of doline karst caves and potholes. The region is characterized by diverse landscapes, high biodiversity, presence of many endemic species of plants and animals, rare plant formations, rare and endangered species. In a large part of Psiloritis there are 18 distinct habitat types (in accordance with Directive 92/43/EEC), two of which are priority habitats.
According to a study by the Natural History Museum of Crete, the wider mountainous area hosts significant populations of rare plants and birds. There are approximately 70 species of rare or endemic plants, three of which are protected by international conventions. The area is also an important nesting and migration station for 45 bird species . The scree, cliffs and canyons are vital habitats for biodiversity in the region. For all these reasons, the Greek Government declared Psiloritis as a Natural Park. The mountain belongs to the network Natura 2000 and to the Network of European and Global Geopark.
Ideon Andron, the cave where Zeus grew up, is at an altitude of 1499m. According to mythology, Zeus’ mother Rea brought him there to protect him from Saturn who wanted to eat him. Kouretes and Nymphs protected him and the goat Amalthea gave him her milk in order to survive. Homer, Strabo and Plato Many wrote about the mythology of the Ideon Andron. The archaeological excavations showed that it was one of the most important sacred cave of antiquity. The excavations in 1885 and two hundred years later from 1982 to 1985 by archaeologist John Sakellaraki, revealed rich finds, special features, such as the famous bronze shields, offerings of precious materials, gold, silver, ivory, figurines, vases, coins, seals, etc.
At an altitude of 1200m, there is the Minoan settlement of Zominthos with the Minoan Palace of Zominthos. This was a two-storey building, decorated with frescoes. One of the rooms was a pottery workshop, where the archaeological excavations are continued . Close to this settlement there are a Venetian cheese factory and another building which is under reconstruction. The program of the Psiloritis archeological park development is in progress.