The Lasithi Plateau in the east of Crete is a nearly circular plain, surrounded by mountains. While the highest mountains are located in the south and reach more than 2000m (Dikti, Afentis Christos, Lazaros) the remainder of the surrounding mountains reach heights of around 1500m. To the east of the plateau there is a triplet of karst-like limestone mountains, Sarakinas (1588m), Afentis (1578m) and Moutsounas Toumba (1538m). The last of the three, due to its lower altitude, is a rarely climbed mountain, which requires good route finding skills on one of its two routes and very steep scrambling o obtain the boroad summit ridge.
Like most of Crete Moutsounas Toumba is made up from white limestone rock. In its vicinity karst formations dominate with deep cracks and crevices as well as caves and dolines (collapsed crater-like depressions). The summit is broad with an west-to-east running ridge which drops steeply towards the north and south. The top itself is almost a plateau, also showing karst formations everywhere.
Moutsounas Toumba is a good lookout peak, thanks to its eastern location in the Dikti range. In good weather all three 2000er ranges of Crete are visible with Levka Ori in the distance, Psiloritis across the Heraklion plain and the Dikti 2000ers up close to the south. One of the main attractions, however is the circular shaped Lasithi Plateau to the east.
The area south of Moutsounas Toumba is heavily used for goat and sheep grazing, which attracts large schools of griffon vultures. It is a wild experience to see two groups of altogether 30 birds circle above a moving sheep herd with many lambs.
There are two international airports on Crete, both in the north of the island. One is at Chania in the west, the other is at Heraklion in the centre.
There are myriads of ferries in Greece, which connect the many islands of the country. Consequently there are many ferry harbours and Crete is no exception. However, most of the smaller harbours only cater for transportation to the other islands while the major lines to the mainland are reserved to two harbours, Souda near Chania and Heraklion. Both serve connections to Peiraias and Thessaloniki.
Moutsounas Toumba can be reached from two neighbouring villages in the south-west of the Lasithi plateau, Magoulas and Kaminaki. The two routes from the villages can be connected into a loop trail.
- To reach the trailheads you need to follow highway no 90 east from Heraklion.
- For the Lasithi Plateau leave the highway near Chersonisos and follow the signs for the Plateau.
- On the plateau turn west until you reach a 90° bend where the road turns south to Magoulas and Kaminaki.
There are two routes to Moutsounas Toumba, which connect in a wide saddle to the south of the summit.
- The most reasonable route starts at Magoulas and follows a dirt road all the way up to the saddle. Here you head up the south-east slopes of the main summit avoiding the south-eastern fore summit. The topmost part of the route is an extremely steep scramble towards the broad summit ridge.
- A second route starts either at Magoulas, where you start on the same dirt road which forks after about 1.5 km. Take the left hand road, which heads into a shallow valley, which is used for sheep grazing. Alternatively you can start at Kaminaki, head out of the village towards the west along a dirt road into the same valley.
On this route difficulties start right at the start. You need to scramble through a creek bed, climb over fences and scramble steeply up the west slopes of the valley. Once you leave the pastures behind you'll reach the ruins of a large farmstead. From here head into the upper narrow part of the valley by following the steep slopes. Once back inside the valley, scramble across the boulders in the creek bed until you reach the aforementioned saddle south-east of Moutsounas Toumba.
Red TapeMoutsounas Toumba is open to be climbed without any restrictions. I'm not sure whether the scramble through the fenced sheep pastures should be recommended. We found it in our guidebbook, though.
You can quite easily find hotel rooms and apartments everywhere on the coasts. All European travel companies offer accommodation so a visit to your nearest travel office will find you some. In the mountain villages there always are inns and if everything fails you can pitch a tent.
There are abundant campgrounds along the coast and on many of the beaches you can pitch your tent. The touristic beaches in the north and the beaches in the vicinity of tourist towns are mostly off-limits but there is many a cove which you can use. In the mountains you will often find cattle (goat and sheep) fences which you should respect. There is many a green meadow in one of the plains but you should be aware that you’ll be woken up by goats. Again, in the vicinity of villages, rather ask the locals if you can use their land.
Maps & BooksThere are quite a number of maps and books out there, which deal with the island of Crete and naturally I don’t know them all. This is the list of maps and books which I used and I appreciate it very much if you can add to it
Unfortunately there are no decent topographic maps of Crete. The best maps I could find are scaled 1:100000 and contain the main hiking routes on the island. In one case the map showed wrong paths and roads (exchanged them) but in general they were quite useful. In any case they were better than the Anvasi Maps, also scaled 1:100000, which claim to be topographic maps but miss routes and even mountains
- Kreta / Crete / ΚΡΗΤΗ Western Part
- Kreta / Crete / ΚΡΗΤΗ Eastern Part
Since there are no good topographical maps of Crete you should take care to get a good guidebook. The ones I used have good tour suggestions though the descriptions often are somewhat shortish and can be misleading. The books are available in German and English.
- Kreta Ost / Crete East
Gert Hirner / Jakob Murböck (translation: Gill Round)