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Top 10 (Sustainable) Things To Do in Crete

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Top 10 (Sustainable) Things To Do in Crete

Travel

With sunny skies, clear waters and divine food - it can be hard to decide what to do when in Crete. Here are pebble’s top picks.

Caitlin Neaves

Thu 21 Jul 2022

South of mainland Greece, is the wonderfully diverse island of Crete.

Priding itself on being the largest and most populous of all the Greek islands. It is incredibly varied with a dramatically changing landscape and the climate to go with it!.

From picturesque beaches to bustling harbour towns and scenic mountainscapes, each traveller will find themselves enamoured by Crete and its endless hidden gems to explore.

pebble has put together our top 10 sustainable things to do when in Crete.

buildings in chania

1. Chania

Commonly referred to as ‘Venice of The East’, you might be fooled into thinking that you’ve by some miracle taken a wrong turn and ended up in Italy. The second largest city in Crete, Chania is a colourful feast for the eyes.

Chania’s winding back streets are filled with hidden stalls, shops and cafes that lead towards the waterfront. A labyrinth of smells, sounds and sights, you won’t find yourself short of things to explore.

The harbour is gorgeous, peppered with restaurants at the water's edge which makes dinner itself an experience.

From tender lamb shanks to gemista, vegetables stuffed with rice and aromatic herbs, you won’t find yourself going hungry. Don’t forget the tasty baklava for after dinner too!

The mid to late afternoons are the hottest and busiest times to stroll Chania.

If you can, wait till the early evening to explore. You’ll be greeted by a cooler breeze, the romantic lighting along the waterfront and all of the shops will still be open.

women in vineyard against mountain backdrop

2. Dourakis Winery

A trip to Crete would be wasted without exploring the wines the island has to offer.

It’s difficult to come across many wines that are sourced from outside of Crete at shops and restaurants.

Families pride themselves on their home wines and distribute them across the island.

Not only does this give a sense of Cretan pride but also helps their wine industry to be more sustainable. Why fly in other wines when you have a whole selection to try on your doorstep?

Dourakis Winery in Alikampos is a must-see! Family-run and sustainably focused, you are invited to tour their wine cellars and learn about the processes involved.

They focus on how to keep their grapes growing well in an ever-changing climate and moving the vineyard over to renewable electricity.

Within the next five years, they hope to be completely renewable.

Atop the wine cellars is a beautiful, homely restaurant with delicious foods and perfectly paired wines. You can’t go wrong spending an afternoon here.

guesthouse amongst greenery

3. Alonia Guesthouse in Sfakia

When was the last time you went ‘off grid’? The Alonia Guesthouse in Sfakia, is a stay unlike any other.

You’ll have to fight to stay there and for good reason. Booked up almost all year round, the Alonia Guesthouse comprises seven cabins.

The rooms are notably quite simple, nothing but the bare necessities here.

Allow yourself to be digitally detoxed. That’s right - no wifi and barely any signal. You won’t find yourself too fussed about this though, not with the unimaginable view from your windows.

You are at the foot of the Lefka Ori also known as the White Mountains. Push open your shutters or relax in the seating areas outside your cabin to be greeted by a towering mountainscape.

Anna and Antonis are wonderful and welcoming hosts. Divine home-cooked Cretan meals and traditional Cretan folk music await you. A real detox from real life, you can expect full relaxation and the sound of goats to wake you up.

Don’t worry, there is limited wifi at the restaurant but with those views, who's going to be worried if you don’t answer that email right away?

ruins of buildings against mountain backdrop

4. Aradena Gorge & Abandoned Village

Tucked away in the winding valleys and villages of the White Mountains is the Aradena Gorge.

Carved over thousands of years by water flowing down from the White Mountains, the Ardena Gorge is an impressive sight.

You might be lucky enough to witness one of the few brave souls who take on the 100 metre drop bungee drop towards the rocks below.

There is something breathtaking about the sheer size of the valley, the patterned rocks and incredibly gutsy goats that hang on to the edge of the gorge.

Just along from the bridge is Aradena’s abandoned village. Houses long forgotten, a white church with its small graveyard and many stories we’ll never know. This village is a time capsule which carries an eerie feel. Its human residents have been replaced by goats and cats.

It is difficult to imagine a small village with families when exploring these buildings. Yet, there is an overwhelming feeling that there is history in the remains of these walls. In fact, there is a story widely known throughout Crete of this village and its feud between two families that claimed a few lives.

A hidden gem unbeknownst to the average tourist, the Aradena Gorge and Village is not something to be missed.

women in the sea

There are two heads bobbing in the sea here, not that you can see them very well!

5. Charter a boat in Crete

The car journey toward Chora Sfakion is like something from a film. Prepare yourself for impressive mountain views, winding roads along the coast and the occasional rogue goat in the middle of the road.

When you arrive in the town, charter one of the many boats to take you from Chora Sfakion to Sougia. There are options to stop at some of the populated beaches along the coastline such as Marmara beach.

A small beach with crystal clear waters and enveloping caves to explore, the Marmara beach is a treat.

As you continue along, you’ll find yourself in view of the Calogeros beach.

Only accessible by jumping from the boat and swimming to shore, it’s a prime example of a beach barely touched by humans. Completely cut off from the rest of the island, marvel at an entirely secluded stretch of coast just for you.

Arriving in Sougia by boat, take time to enjoy the local caught fish at a taverna and sunbathe on the beach. The towering cliffs either side of you will make you feel completely hidden from your day-to-day life.

woman preparing food on white table

6. Kalitsounia Workshops

Nothing can introduce you better into a country's culture than preparing some of their iconic dishes.

The wonderful ladies of Soul Cooking Workshops can introduce you to the delectable food staples of Cretan culture.

Sheltered by a sun-dappled patio, you’ll find yourself hands-deep in the mixing bowl.

You’ll find yourself mixing cheese, cutting the herbs and rolling out pastry - with an incredibly tasty end result.

Kalitsounia are traditional Greek cheese pies, typically made with filo pastry and a combination of cheeses.

Learn about Kalitsounia’s origins and its habit of bringing communities together. It is common for lots of women in their community to come together and make many Kalitsounia over an entire day as their way to get together.

Delve into the history of Cretan food, get your hands dirty and feel like a true local with a cooking workshop. There isn’t anything quite like it.

old brick building surrounded by greenery

7. Speak to Chania’s artisans

In Chania, many of the locals and tradespeople speak English well. Don’t deprive yourself of the many wonderful stories local artisans have to share with you.

Most businesses have been passed down through generations.

Flakatoras Ceramics is a wonderful place to start!

Greeted by endless rows of delicate and intricate ceramics, it’s hard to miss the almost identical-looking brothers working the shop front. Take a tour of the ceramics studio upstairs and stumble across the ceramics matriarch, the family’s mother. Perched in front of a large window, she paints every ceramic by hand each with its own unique design.

Downstairs you can see a young woman piecing together jewellery, she is the only sister in the family. Each family member has their own part to play which is exactly the charm of Crete.

Listen along as they demonstrate the pottery methods used over time and talk about the family history surrounding the magnificent building. When travelling it can be difficult to engage with locals but something magical can be gained from delving into the history and the people who built Crete. All you have to do is ask.

women eating food

8. Visit Salis

If you fancy a culinary adventure, you would be foolish not to book a table at Salis in Chania.

Growing almost all of their own produce and embodying ‘waste not want not’ chef Afshin Molavi is a force to be reckoned with.

Initially a trained sommelier, he has now found himself running a restaurant, a roastery and a food truck.

Unlike many chefs, you will find him flitting throughout the tables with a warm smile explaining his dishes, which are innovative and feature unusual flavour combinations.

Priding himself on only using what is in season, you can rest assured that he too cares about supporting his local economy and being as sustainable as possible.

He even incorporates the food waste from his other businesses, working the used coffee grounds of his roastery into the menu.

With a gorgeous waterfront view, many roaming cats and a variety of warm hosts, Salis is an experience to be had. What trip abroad would be complete without an unforgettable meal?

girl in beekeeping suit

Try your hand at beekeeping, as long as you can handle the hot suit!

9. Tour a honey farm

A travelling nomad, Antonis Papagiannakis invites all to his beekeeping farm. Upon arrival, the hilltop views of the Lefka Ori and Chania in the distance are enough to stop you in your tracks.

You’ll have to slip into something a little more bee-friendly but the added layers will be worth it.

Listen as he explains his honey farming process, its origins and why the largest manufacturers of honey are damaging our bee populations.

Getting up close and personal with a whole hive of bees might set you on edge but you’ll be mesmerised by Antonis’ calm demeanour, he’s unphased by them and jokes that his bees know who he is.

He is excited to take everybody’s picture by the hives and asks for emails so that he can send pictures of you in your funny (and rather hot) beekeeping attire.

Back up at the house, a table is laid out with some of the products of his honey.

He explains the benefits of honey and encourages you to try everything. Sat back overlooking the mountains with honey-coated walnuts is a hard experience to pass up. If you enjoy getting closer to nature, then this is the experience for you.

woman touring olive oil factory

10. Tour an artisan olive oil factory

Did you know that Crete is responsible for 5% of the world’s olive oil production?

It’s befuddling to think an island the size of Crete could sustain production of that magnitude.

Yet, the olive oil merchants and factories of the island are a hidden power.

Biolea, in Astrikas, is a family-run business that produces artisanal olive oil. With endless rows of olive trees and mountains towering either side of you, there is a sense of complete serenity.

Holding themselves environmentally accountable, a tour of Biolea will show how this production differs from the rest. One of the only organic, cold-pressed stone milled olive oil producers in Crete, they are passionate about quality and sustainability.

Marvel at the comically large granite stone mill that was built by the family's father - one of the few of its kind. Settle down in the vineyard to try some of the wonderful hand-prepared Cretan meals.

With its produce sourced as close to home as possible you can feel the care taken to ensure the meals are as tasty and sustainable as possible. When in Crete, you’d be silly not to take full advantage of pure olive oils they have to offer as well as a calming retreat tucked away in the mountains.

With something for every traveller, Crete is a wave of colour, culture and the warm Cretan people. Full of incredible experiences and breathtaking views, you’ll find yourself drawn to Crete for years to come.

Caitlin Neaves travelled to Crete with Intrepid Travel's 'Highlights of Crete' trip from £1,095. Visit Intrepid Travel to view this tour and other sustainable trips available to you.

Also don't miss our newest feature - 5 Ways To Ensure Your Next Travel Tour Is Sustainable

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