Knosano Gorge extends south of Archanes (Agios Mamas), goes through the hamlet of Archanes at Kato Mylos Location, Myristis Location and the aqueduct at Karydaki, up to the aqueduct of Agia Eirini Spilia; the total length of the gorge is around 5.7km; it goes on to the north, through Knossos. The Kairatos or Katsambas stream runs through it, which leads through Agia Eirini and Knossos and flows into the sea at Katsambas location. The gorge area, which is called ‘Paradeisos’ (Paradise), has been listed as a ‘Landscape of Exceptional Natural Beauty’ and is included in the Natura 2000 Network.
The Flora of the Gorge
Floral biodiversity in the gorge is limited, due to the shade cast by the prevailing species, i.e. plane trees and blackberry bushes. In total 120 species have been recorded so far in the gorge, of which 40 are encountered in river beds and the rest on the embankments. Endemic species only grow on the embankments, and there are 11 species, 2 of which are rare and 9 common endemic ones to Crete.
The rare ones are: ‘kampanula’, Campanula tubulosa, in West Crete and ‘nepeta’, Nepeta melissifolia, which is endemic to Crete and the island of Melos, is found in small populations. An important feature of the gorge flora is the presence of a significant population of an arctic type of Elm, namely Ulmus minor ssp. Canescens.
There are a few individuals of this species in the area of Chania, where it is considered an foreign species. The fact that there is a significant population in Knosano Gorge indicates that it is indigenous to Crete, a relic of a past cold period, when there were still glaciers in continental Europe.
The Fauna of the Gorge
Two migratory bird species are found in the gorge, namely the spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa Striata) and the hoopoe (Upupa epops epops). There are also jackdaws (Corvus monedula) and some rock-living birds, such as the blue-rock thrush (Monticola solitarius), while the rest of the species are typical for bushy vegetation.
Where there are fresh-water wetlands and riparian trees, there is a wide variety of passerines, such as finches and the great tit. The gorge is also habitat of the Balkan pond turtle (Mauremys rivulata) and the apmphibians green toad (Bufo viridis) and tree frog (Hyla arborea).