Crete is the largest of the Greek islands. You’ll discover beautiful beaches and authentic towns, incredible history and stunning scenery. But food travellers will find plenty of tasty reasons to visit too.
Read on to discover unique and authentic food experiences to tempt your taste buds during your holiday in Crete.
Top food experiences in Crete
I’ve already written about the many fabulous things to do in and around Heraklion and a guide to food in Crete but these very special food experiences deserved a post of their own. Prepare to indulge…
Go Olive Oil Tasting in an olive grove
Where better to have an olive oil tasting than in a shady Cretan olive grove on a warm sunny afternoon?
We had a dreamy experience learning how to taste olive oil at Kokolakis Family olive mill near the village of Limnes. After learning about the harvesting and milling process we stepped outside into the ancient olive grove.
Our table was set amid gnarled olive trees between cobalt skies and the rich Cretan soil. Olive oil sommelier and chef Michalis from Cretan Ark led us through a guided olive oil tasting.
We sampled some award winning olive oils, learning how to warm the oil before tasting and what flavours and nuances to look for. These ranged from herbs, cut grass and tomato to unripe bananas, citrus fruits and artichoke. We identified the different flavours, bitterness and pungency coming through.
Afterwards we enjoyed some amazing dishes prepared by Michalis, all perfectly matched with the profiles of the olive oils we’d tasted.
We started with zucchini, leek and potato soup, followed by deconstructed Dakos bread with fennel, leek, onion and cream cheese. I loved the take on hortopitakia; instead of small pies the horta was sandwiched between light, crisp filo discs and drizzled with olive oil.
We finished with dense monastery bread laden with smoked ham, caramelised onions, sun dried tomatoes and wild thyme. A perfect introduction into the complexities of olive oil.
Learn about beekeeping in the Cretan Countryside
Getting out into the Cretan countryside to experience rural life is a unique way to experience the island and sample Crete’s home grown flavours.
A wonderful way to do this is with Fourni Horses, a family business run by Eugenia and George in the tiny village of Fourni.
A warm breeze whispered through the leaves as we made our way on horseback through Fourni’s lush olive groves. I was fortunate that my horse, Estrapi, which means ‘lightning’ in Greek didn’t live up to its name as we ambled gently along ancient pathways. You’ll be matched to your horse according to experience.
The aroma of trampled thyme scented the air as we stopped in a clearing full of colourful bee hives to meet Yiannis the beekeeper.
After tethering the horses and donning our beekeeping outfits we were able to check out the buzz and learn about life in the hive.
It was fascinating to learn how the Queen is chosen by the worker bees and fed royal jelly as larvae. We learnt that all male bees are drones and only live for about two weeks and that bees use their sense of smell to find their way back to the hive.
We tasted rich, sweet chunks of honeycomb dripping with honey. The flavour varies according to where pollen is gathered and we identified hints of pine and carob. Delectable.
We rode our horses back through the olive groves as the sun set behind the mountains. A truly magical Cretan foodie experience.
Eat home made Cretan food in an authentic tavern
If you do one thing on your visit to Crete then make sure you eat traditional food at an authentic Cretan tavern. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did. Platanos Tavern in Fourni village square is a gastronomic gem and just a few minutes from Fourni Horses (see beekeeping below). A visit for a traditional Cretan meal, either lunch or dinner will make your day.
We had the warmest welcome, sat under a giant sycamore tree festooned with twinkling lights and feasted on classic home-cooked Cretan dishes prepared by Maria.
Recipes and cooking techniques had been passed down the generations and the food tasted amazing. Traditional Cretan food is uncomplicated and made from fresh ingredients, bursting with intense Mediterranean flavours. It’s grown in Crete’s rich fertile soil using ‘earth-friendly’ methods and this is reflected in the flavour.
We started with mezes and dips; tzatziki, Greek salad, creamy aubergine dip followed by apaki (smoked pork), lamb, pork and vegetables both roasted and stewed. Dessert was halva and ice cream followed by a shot of raki.
The hamlet of Fourni is about an hour’s drive from Heraklion city centre and 30 minutes from Elounda in Lasithi prefecture. Don’t miss it!
Visit a Cretan Vineyard
Wine production in Crete goes back over 2000 years and with over 36 wineries, 22 of which are PDOs, it’d be rude not to visit for a wine tasting. Or two.
We stopped off at Agelakis Winery in Thrapsano after our visit to Cretan pottery. The village potters have been making amphorae for thousands of years and it was good to see this family-run winery still using the large clay pots to ferment some of its wines.
We tasted a variety of medal-winning wines in the tasting room. Agelaki produce red, rosé and white wines which were all good but my favourite was the red Cornelia.
This deep red, fruity wine is made with syrah, liatiko and merlot varieties and has won multi awards. But it was the story behind the wine that left a lasting impression.
The wine is named after Cornelia Agelaki, the family’s great-grandmother. Born in 1908, she married John Agelakis in 1930 and they had a son, Konstantinos.
In 1934 her husband died and Corneila was left a widow with a 4-year old son just before the beginning of WWII. She worked hard and created the beginnings of a family business that is now Agelakis winery. That’s her on the label.
Of course, I bought a bottle of Cornelia to enjoy at home and I’ll be raising a glass to all the amazing food experiences we enjoyed in Crete. Yamas!
More Cretan food experiences
These are the food experiences I enjoyed on my most recent visit to Crete but I’m tempted to return to experience guided truffle hunting and a Creten cookery class. I’d love to create some of the traditional dishes we enjoyed in the local taverns. Until that happens I bought a Cretan cookery book that I’ll be dipping into.