Known for their therapeutic qualities and the special taste they give to local cuisine, Cretan herbs are definitely a ‘must-have’ souvenir. Even though they are sold almost everywhere, finding high quality herbs with their properties intact at the time of consumption, including their antioxidant action, can be a tricky business. Sometimes the herbs you find in the market are not packaged properly, they are of unknown origin or are already expired.
But rest assured, there are still some herbal shops that remain faithful to quality criteria and will satisfy the needs of any conscious lover of herbs. Here we propose some of them...our criteria? Good taste, quality, respect to Cretan tradition & nature, beautiful locations you have to see and owners that you have to meet!
‘Botano’ - Cretan Mountain Herbs
(Kouses village, Municipality of Phaistos, Heraklion Prefecture)
While on your way to some of Crete’s most touristic destinations, Matala or Phaistos, it is well worth to make a small detour and visit the picturesque village of Kouses and the herbal shop ‘Botano’. It might seem strange that someone would choose this little village to open a specialized herbal shop but the owner doesn’t think so. Away from the ideals of commercialism and ever-expanding businesses, 'Botano' follows a different philosophy of life and work. The owners had rejected the hectic rhythms of modern life when they first decided to move here from northern Greece.
They believe in nature, organic, biodynamic and environmentally friendly farming and offer cautiously selected, high quality herbs and and herbal products - not only from Crete but also from around the world- including their own production of biodynamic herbs. Plus, the views to the wider region are striking and the calming atmosphere of the village offers an ideal break from the summer heat and crowds.
- Opening hours: In summer the shop is open everyday (except Sunday) from 10am to 8pm. In the winter it follows the standard business hours schedule.
- Contact: Yiannis Yiannoutsos Mparkas, tel. 2892042295, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Something extra: you can buy 'Botano' products online in the e-shop
- How to get there: From Heraklion you take the road to Matala, and a few kilometers after the village of Petrokefali (or before the village of Sivas) you will see the sign to Kouses.
- What else to see: the village of Sivas, hippie Matala, the beach of Kommos, the palace of Phaistos and the villa of Agia Triada, the isolated beach of Agiofaraggo.
‘Little Cafe’ - Wild Herbs of Crete
(Kallikratis Plateau, Municipality of Sfakia, Chania Prefecture)
You drive up the hills of Lefka Ori on dusty roads, surrounded by the absolute absence of civilization. The road leads you next to steep cliffs that take your breath away in every turn. Then you arrive at a plateau that seems like it was copy-pasted from another country, or more appropriately, from another dimension. Scattered houses that look deserted (but are not), empty streets, perhaps a shepherd or a car every now and then...Kallikratis looks like a mountainous ghost town and at the moment you first see the ‘little cafe’ fenced with animal bones and skulls, it feels like you just completed a journey in the spirit-world.
The mystical landscape of Kallikratis inspired Babis Psaroudakis and Janina Sorensen to realize their dream to collect and distil Cretan herbs the traditional way and to offer high quality herbal products to their guests. From collection to processing -and even serving- Babis and Janina do the job themselves because they don’t trust any paid worker ‘who might be indifferent to the spirit of the plants or the ethics of collection’, as they write on their website. Herbal infusions are served with local honey, the food is great and the location is absolutely beautiful. Plus, they distil their own essential oils and make herbal soaps and other herbal cosmetics.
So, if you happen to be around make sure you don't miss it!
- Opening hours: 'Little Cafe' is open during the summer season from 11am to 8pm. If you want to visit it in the winter, we suggest you call first and ask if it's open!
- Contact: 6949092073 (Janina), 6974294787 (Babis), email@example.com,
- Something extra: You can also find the products of 'Little Cafe' online in the e-shop and we suggest you take a look at their blog
- How to get there: You can either drive there from the plateau of Askyfou, or from Fragkokastelo - which is a more difficult road but totally worth it!
- What else to see: The gorge of Kallikratis, the nearby gorge of Imbros and the beaches of Fragkokastelo and Rodakino.
Traditional Cafe & Herbs ‘Nivritos’– Tsakalakis
(Nivritos village, Municipality of Rouvas, Heraklion Prefecture)
The humble appearance of Mr. Tsakalakis’s cafe will not predispose you for the wonderful things you will find inside. Loyal to Cretan traditions and occupations, Tsakalakis family collect herbs, make their own honey and maintain a family-run village cafe. Actually it is hard to decide which is their strongest feature: their herbs, their honey or their cuisine.
Mrs. Tsakalakis is known for her great cooking using home-grown herbs in her dishes. Try omelet with marjoram, lamb with sage, broad beans with wild mountain greens, chicken with sage, ect. The family has recently put in use their traditional inherited knowledge on herbs to create a herbs’ garden and export herbs to other countries. Their herb production includes only traditional Cretan herbs, simple and clear. Every herb is collected by hand with respect to Cretan nature and the drying methods are all natural. As for the quality, it is guaranteed!
- Opening hours: The cafe and herbal shop is open everyday, from early in the morning to the evening, for coffee, herbal infusions or food!
- Contact: Katerina & Dimitris Tsakalakis, tel. 28940 31296, firstname.lastname@example.org
- How to get there: from the city of Heraklion you follow the road to Moires (Mires) until you reach the village of Agia Varvara where you take a right turn to the village of Gergeri. Nivritos is the next village you will meet.
- What to see: Votomos lake, the forest of Rouvas, the village of Zaros, ancient Gortyna, Vrontisi Monastery