Green tree covered hills at the Botanical Park of Crete

Trivago claims Chania, Crete is Greek tourists’ favorite domestic vacation spot this summer, while Trip Advisor ranks Crete as the 2nd most popular Greek island overall, with 1215 things to do here. Remember that this includes far more than the island’s scenic beaches and fascinating archaeological sites and museums. Don’t forget the olive groves!

Actually, they are hard to miss. You can appreciate the beauty of olive trees as you gaze at the sea and visit the ancient sites, since olive groves are almost everywhere in Crete.

Ancient Aptera's Roman theater with olive groves behind it

We should not be surprised to find Ancient Aptera surrounded and inhabited by olive trees, given the length of The History of Olive Oil in Greece.

Ancient Aptera stones and olive trees, blue sky

Their silvery green contrasts beautifully with the ancient stones, clear blue sky, and dry summer soil.

Dramatic white clouds in blue sky above olive groves in Crete

Summer tourists often miss the dramatic cloudscapes that are far more common in other seasons, for example at the end of November on the Akrotiri peninsula.

City of Chania viewed from a hill above it, with olive groves in front right and sea on the right

On the way down the main road from the Akrotiri peninsula and the Kounoupidiana area toward the city of Chania, there is a stopping point with benches and a striking view where a road heads off to the right. Notice the olive groves at the edge of Chania, which spreads out toward the White Mountains.

Hills full of olive groves around the Botanical Park with a bit of its orange tiled restaurant roof in lower right corner

Heading inland toward those mountains, follow signs for the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete, where foothills covered with olive groves herald your arrival at a park and restaurant well worth visiting.

Hills full of olive groves near the Botanical Park in the evening light

Late afternoon is a lovely time to walk through the Botanical Park, with the warm light bathing the surrounding hills and the summer heat dying down, especially in the shadows of the hills and trees.

German World War Two cemetery at Maleme, with olive trees, sea, mountain view

For another sea view, head back to the coast and look for Maleme, west of Chania and Platanias on the way to Kolymbari (also written, and pronounced, Kolymvari). I did not expect the German World War II cemetery there to be such a well-tended, peaceful, scenic place to visit, let alone home of so many olive trees.

Olive groves in the valley below Vouves, inland from Kolymvari

Although I live in Crete, I missed some of the most picturesque landscapes here for 12 years. Finally, on a rainy day spring in 2015, I discovered the natural beauty of the rolling hills and valleys covered with olive groves while driving inland from the coastal town of Kolymvari.

Olive groves between Astrikas and Vouves on a cloudy day

Now I encourage visitors to seek out that protected designation of origin (PDO) area for olive oil, where they can see the silvery green leaves shimmering in the sunlight or drinking in the rain water and undulating in the breeze.

Valley full of olive groves next to Biolea’s driveway, with hills fading off into fog in the background

On the dramatically dark day of my first visit, I was absolutely enchanted by the scenery. This is the view from the driveway of Biolea in Astrikas.

Biolea's olive groves leading up to dramatic view of hills, cliffs, sea, and sky

And this is the view from Biolea’s olive mill on a sunny day. If you can, visit the area in all seasons, at different times of day, for changing lighting and variations on the theme of the natural beauty of Cretan olive groves.

Olive trees in late afternoon light climbing hill near Deliana Gorge

Chloe Dimitriadis, director of Biolea, recommended a visit to Deliana Gorge, which is visible from Biolea’s driveway and accessible farther down the main road. These olive groves are near the gorge, where a pleasant walk that scares away a few goats leads between towering cliff walls to a little church. Don’t restrict yourself to the coast and the ancient sites; visit the olive groves that thrive in the heart of Crete!

An incomplete, introductory sample of noteworthy sites to visit

Summer 2020: If you are planning for this year, please contact the businesses that interest you to check on their current schedule, which may differ from other years. Some are open as usual, while others are offering tastings but not tours, and a few may not be able to welcome visitors.

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