There are so many opportunities to celebrate summer in Crete it is no wonder this is the most popular period to visit the island. Good music, endless dances and festival culture under the full moon, next to the sea, within vineyards and on the top of the mountains.
We made a list with some of the most important summer festivals and events of the island (according to our subjective opinion), but we advise you to also explore the numerous ‘unlisted’ traditional feasts that take place in the picturesque villages of Crete, as well as the Municipal summer festivals of the island’s main cities featuring a variety of cultural events in Venetian monuments and other historical venues (such as Fortezza in Rethymno, the Venetian walls in Heraklion and Chania).
Keep your ears open for words of mouth information, ask the locals and don’t forget to check out our agenda to find out ‘what’s on now’.
Enjoy a cretan-cultural summer!
Matala Beach Festival (20 - 22 June, Matala)
This is probably the biggest beach festival on the island, organized for the past 4 years right next to the legendary caves of Matala that used to be a hippy habitat during the 60s and 70s. This fact alone should be enough to make you wear your most hippy clothes and head towards the Cretan south. You will dance on the sand, chill in the sea, walk through the narrow lanes of the settlement to discover other parties in local bars, buy your souvenirs in the open air market set for the occasion, and at the end of the day, sleep in the camping next to the beach (if you remembered to reserve a place)! The live music shows will attempt to revive the hippy rock years, featuring many tribute bands. The maskot of Matala Beach Festival is Toni Sfinos who causes 'delirium' to his fans. The program also presents groups from the international music scene, and this year the big star will be Shantel and his 'Bucovina Club Orkestar'. The program is constantly updated, so stay tuned in our agenda!
En Oiko Festival (26 -29 June, Georgiadis Park, Heraklion)
A unique four-day meeting is organized for the past few years at Georgiadis Park, right in the center of Heraklion, inviting us to explore alternative lifestyles. ‘En Oiko’ is probably the most popular and most interesting summer event of Heraklion. The park is filled with life: tents and benches with handmade products, open seminars and workshops, screenings and discussions, everything centered on a common theme and vision: ecology, autonomy, self-organization and self-sufficiency, an alternative approach of life. The Summer Eco-meeting invites people to try and buy ecological products and handmade creations directly from their producers and craftsmen. Focusing on eco-handicrafts and eco-farming and using materials that are friendly to humans and the environment, the people that participate in the meeting actively promote the values and pleasures of personal creation and a healthy diet. Those who make up the meeting “En Oiko” are not members of an established association, but individuals who work collectively and share the idea of a self-organized society.
This year the meeting will focus on transmitting practical knowledge, so all participants are invited to give and/or attend thematic workshops on subjects such as how to grow your own vegetables or make your own soap. Thematic ‘villages’ will be created, including a therapeutic village where you will learn how to take care of your own body. Each day concludes with a musical feast and you will also find good food and wine at the self-organized kitchen.
Classical Music Festival ‘Casa Dei Mezzo’ (26 – 30 June, Makrigialos)
Classical music festivals are rare in this country anyway (not to mention on an island) but this is only one of the facts that makes this festival special. How often do you have the chance to listen to high quality classical music under the summer sky, in a beautiful house set within vineyards and a view to the sea and the fishing village of Makrigialos. Soloists, baritones, sopranos, small music groups that come here every year from all over Europe to accompany the ‘other’ native soloists (cicadas and crickets). The experience is magical, even if you are not a fan of classical music. We owe this initiative to Gunnar Strømsholm, inspirer and organizer of this unique summer event, supported by the local community. Those who want to enjoy classical music mixed with the refreshing summer winds in an open air concert are many, so make sure you make reservations early.
Wine Festival (3 -13 July, Dafnes)
The village of Dafnes is one of the most important wine-making centers of the island, and this alone is a reason to celebrate. Wine Festival is organized here every summer since 1976 with traditional feasts, music and dances. You will also find cheap treats and most importantly: abundant wine for free. Yes, for free! What more do you want?
Pottery Festival in Thrapsano (16-19 July, Thrapsano village)
The village of Thrapsano has been one of the most important pottery centers of Crete for centuries. Potters from Thrapsano travelled all around the island every year to make the huge vessels and pots that made them famous. This centuries-old pottery tradition continues and is celebrated every summer in its place of origin on a day around the 17th of July (when St. Marina is celebrated) in a three day festival. Apart from the usual music and dances, you will see pottery making on the spot as local artists make their creations on clay. In some occasions you may also test your pottery skills. The feast is set at the yard of the historical school of the village, where you can see the inscriptions and drawings of German Nazis, a leftover of the occupation, as well as the clay creations of the students. Don't forget to try the delicius Cretan dishes, slowly cooked in clay pots! A centuries-old tradition, we repeat.
Mediterranean Radio Festival of Sitia (25 - 27 July, Sitia)
Let's go east! This unique festival is organized for the second time this year in the picturesque city of Sitia, transmitting radio signals and mediterranean vibes! Improvised concerts, theatrical performances and various art events take place in a 24-hour-a-day basis, featuring artists from Sitia, Crete, and the Mediterranean in general. There will also be an open air market with local products, arts and crafts. All concerts will be broadcasted by independent radio stations in the Mediterranean, but nothing feels like the live experience... and by the way, what a perfect opportunity to explore the beauties of eastern Crete!
Xanthoudidia Festival (July- September, Avdou village)
The always active cultural association of Avdou organizes the ‘xanthoudidia’ Festival every summer and gives you an extra reason to visit this semi-mountainous village, which is lovely and scenic anyway. Traditional feasts and concerts are set on the village squares, tables with traditional treats prepared by village women, theatres and much more. The greatest thing about this festival though is the friendly atmosphere created by the young people of the village and a good time is guaranteed.
Yakinthia (25-26 July, Anogia village)
The ‘Orthodox saint of love’ Agios Yakinthos was the source of inspiration for the annual festival of “Yakinthia”, one of the most popular summer festivals of Crete that attracts visitors and artists from around the island, country and the Mediterranean. The three day festival takes place at the last week of July every year at the same place: the picturesque stone-made amphitheatre up the mountain of Psiloritis, a few kilometers from the village of Anogia, with the wild Cretan landscape and the starry sky as its background. In the same area the small chapel of Agios Yakinthos was built in the shape of a traditional Cretan shepherd’s hut, called mitato: a circular building with a dome made of flat stones whose design was inspired by Late Minoan architecture. The festival has a different theme every year and focuses on the traditions and culture of Crete and other Mediterranean cultures, including tributes to great Greek artists, with the participation of Greek and foreign groups and artists. Your experience will be completed with the raki, cheese, olives and traditional sweets sold in the exhibition area at the entrance. Not to be missed!
Houdetsi Festival (7 - 10 August, Houdetsi village)
Houdetsi Festival is organized every year by Ross Daly’s ‘Labyrinth Musical Workshop’ and is evolving to one of the best music festivals of the island. For four days the village squares are filled with music from Crete, Middle East and the Mediterranean, traditional feasts, open bazaars with high quality local products and much more. An open air music scene with many stages varying from traditional music to experimental (for example, here you can listen to a medieval instrument that you’ve probably never seen before, combined with the sound of lyra, resulting in a magical effect) improvised feasts and dances, a multinational audience and a multicultural atmosphere. We had a great time last year and we can’t wait for this year’s organization!
Festivalaki (10 August, Chania)
One of the new city festivals that focuses on Cretan culture of the past and present, organized for the third time this summer at the San Salvatore bastion in the Venetian port of Chania. Concerts and dances, art exhibitions, screenings, workshops and much more, all focused on the island of Crete. This year the festival presents a tribute to the music of western Crete and the important artists that represent it. Music and dances under the moonlight and the lovely setting of the venetian port. Highly recommended!