As you may not know, 14 of Crete’s 30 million olive trees are considered sacred. Their sacrality is the result of millennia of yearning for the divine, justice, liberty, and forgiveness. Each year, thousands of travelers from all over the world come to see these magnificent trees. It is said that their strength and beauty will leave you feeling humbled and inspired. Visiting one of these trees is a great idea if you want to skip the crowds at traditional tourist destinations and connect with the island’s history and culture.
The Association of Cretan Olive Municipalities is in charge of identifying olive trees (ACOM). The association has identified and registered more than a thousand of trees on the island of Crete. All of these trees have unique characteristics that make them stand out from other olive trees. However, the sacred olive trees are the ones that have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years.
The oldest and sacred olive trees in Crete island are: The mother Olive in Kamilari, the monumental Olive Tree of Gortyn, the elevated Olive tree in Vatolakkos, the Monumental Olive Trees of Amari, the Sacred terebinth of Saint Fanourios, the Small Apples Of Kofinas and the Sacred Plane Tree Keramota.
The Mother Olive in Kamilari
The huge olive tree of Kamilari in the municipality of Phaistos, in south-central Crete, gets a lot of attention. It is a Thrombolia varietal, locally known as Hontrolia, that was grafted on a wild olive tree. If you visit the area’s archeological sites, you should also take a few minutes to see this natural wonder.
The Kamilari Tholos Tomb and the Minoan Palace of Phaistos (1400 meters) are also close to the tree (1000 meters). It dates back to the Roman era (67 BC – 330 AD) and is 2800 years old. The tree’s trunk, which has a perimeter of roughly 9.5 meters at the base, is surrounded by 12 big rocks, which are part of a community effort to safeguard the natural monument.
The Monumental Olive Tree of Gortyn
Gortyn is known for its sacred olive tree, as well as an ancient plane tree and archeological findings indicating it was among the most important town during the Roman colonization of Crete. It is located between Agioi Deka and Mitropoli amid an old olive grove of breathtaking beauty. You can tour the grove to observe archeological artifacts such as destroyed buildings and fallen pillars.
Here, you may also witness the Gortyn Monumental Olive Tree, which is about 1600 years old and has a Roman column encased in its trunk. The tree is an hontroelia variety grafted onto a wild olive tree rootstock.
The Elevated Olive Tree of Vatolakkos
The massive Elevated Olive Tree of Vatolakkos is one of three sacred threes discovered in the municipality of Platanias. The religious act of lifting the blessed bread and wine during the Eucharist liturgy is associated with its “elevated” denomination.
Looking at its deformed trunk, it is believed that a priest once bore holes in the tree’s trunk, stuffed them with incense, and covered them to protect the village from plague and other ailments. The tree is unique since it is 2000 years old and the only Mastoeidis – or Tsounati – varietal on the island.
The Monumental Olive Trees of Amari
An historic grove of olive trees stretches over 500 acres of land in the Amari municipality of the Rethymno regional unit, not far from the Minoan village of Monastiraki. Despite the fact that over 1000 grove trees were removed due to low production, two trees that are over 3000 years old and date back to the sub-Minoan period have survived (1100-1000 BC).
Their base perimeters are 18.80 and 19.40 meters, respectively. The Monastiraki Minoan Palace, around 1000 meters from the forest, is a must-see in the neighborhood.
The Monumental Olive Tree of Kavousi
The Monumental Olive Tree of Kavousi is the oldest on Crete, with an estimated age of 3250 years. The tree is located in Azorias, about one kilometer from Kavousi, and is known as the Azorias Olive Tree. It’s planted on a wild olive tree and is a mastoeidis or mouratoelia variety.
The tree has a diameter of four to more than seven meters and a circumference of more than 22 meters at the base. The archaeological site of Azorias and Vrontas, as well as Kastro’s ancient towns, are both close to the Monumental Olive Tree of Kavousi so paying a visit to all three is a great option.
The Sacred terebinth of Saint Fanourios
The church of Saint Fanourios is built on the hill of Grivila near the village Ahlade. A particular tree, located about 100 meters from the church, is linked to a religious custom that dates back to Crete’s ancient tree-worship traditions. The tree is known as Evresi (Finding) since the miraculous icon of St. Fanourios is said to have been discovered here.
A walled enclosure featuring the “holy tree”, a terebinth, may be seen at Evresi (Pistacia terebinthus). There is also a hollow rock and a St Fanourios icon shrine. According to legend, believers walk through the opening of the rock and then hang their garments and personal belongings on the tree to ward off disease and evil.
Taking some time to see this unique tree is a great way to learn about the island’s religious traditions. It’s a fun activity for those who are interested in history and culture.
The Small Apples Of Kofinas
The church of the Holy Cross, perched atop Asterousia’s tallest hill, Kofinas, can be reached through a rocky walk. On September 14 as the Feast of the Holy Cross takes place, dozens of people climb up there to take part in a tradition that dates back to the Minoan era, where people used to worship nature and trees..
Three perennial whitebeams (Sorbus umbellata) grow on the north side of the mountain, which the natives refer to as “militses” (small apple trees). The natives pick the fruits that look like little apples the day before the event (in cherry dimensions). They put the “apples” in a basket on top of Kofinas and present them in front of the priest in the morning.
After the doxology, the priest places the basket 3 times on his head and then blesses the fruits. He then distributes them to the attendees as “holy bread.” Many of them drain the apples and utilize them for medicine and other purposes.
The Sacred Plane Tree Keramota
We meet one of Crete’s many monumental trees in the charming village of Keramota in the region of Mylopotamos. At the village’s eastern edge, there is a perennial plane tree. The tree of Keramota is from the Platanus orientalis species, and its age is estimated to be around 2000 years. It is the province of Mylopotamos’ oldest tree to be ever recorded.
Inside the trunk, the tree creates a very large cavity. The first temple in Crete was built within this tree trunk by a local. He positioned the hollow tree near the Panagia (Virgin Mary) and Saint Anne temples. While the trail to the trunk was being built, the floor was paved and icons were placed.
Which tree is the oldest in Crete?
The oldest tree in Crete is the Monumental Olive Tree of Kavousi. The estimated age of which is 3250 years old. It is located in Azorias, which is just one kilometer away of Kavousi. It is also known as the “Azorias Olive Tree”.
Olive Harvesting in Crete
The olive harvest is one of the most labor intensive and yet warmly anticipated. Many people take a holiday from their jobs in towns or cities to participate in their family s olive harvest. Most olives in Crete are harvested by hand, using the hand rakes. The season of olive harvesting in Crete begins in late October. It can continue through December, and even into January.
Can you rent a car and visit the sacred trees of Crete?
Yes, renting a car is important to get around Crete, especially when visiting the sacred trees of Crete, which are scattered around the island. Hiring a car when visiting Crete is an advantage to go around the island and maximise time. There are tourist destinations in Crete that public transportation is not supported. Busses sometimes only stop at the nearest big town near to these attractions, so tourists need an alternative transportation, like a taxi to take them to the attraction they initially want to go. Thus, Car Rental Crete should be considered when planning to visit the island, especially when planning to go around different sites such as the sacred trees of Crete.
How much does a car rental in Crete usually cost?
Crete Car Rental costs depend on how many days that car will be rented, the number of passengers, and the type of car that will be rented. Crete Car Rental for a week can cost around €250. Day trips and night trips in Crete will cost about €30 to €40. It can be used for a week with unlimited mileage and four-seaters. The rental cars are manual or automatic transmission, air-conditioned, and have four doors. The rented car should be returned to the company with the same amount of fuel as at the start of the trip to avoid charges.
Is car rental insurance required?
Yes, car rental insurance is required. You are liable for any damage up to the full cost of the rented car if you decide not to add insurance. The minimum liability insurance required by the car rental company is typically included with the cost of the rental. However, it does not cover damage to the vehicle that was caused by you. In actuality, whether it comes through the rental vehicle business, your car insurance, your credit card, or an independent insurer, you should have some sort of insurance on your rented car. Accidents do occur, and if you are uninsured or your insurance policy’s coverage limitations are exceeded, you may be stuck footing the price. Thus, Car rental insurance coverage in Crete is highly required. Car Rental Crete offers an easy way of renting a vehicle. One just needs to check out their website and follow the procedures. When renting a car in Crete, it is advisable to note the important factors.