Summer is the best moment to enjoy Crete’s local habits and traditions. It’s when villages gather in joyful panigiria, how the Greeks call their traditional festivals. These are amazing occasions to show the best of their products and skills, and the perfect excuse for visitors to get close to the Cretan culture. Food, music, dancing and local spirits have shaped the local identity for centuries, therefore, they are a key ingredient of the popular Summer Festivals of Crete. Let’s take a look at them.
Tzermiado and the Potato Festival
Tzermiado is a village in the Lassithi Plateau, located in the heart of the agricultural and farming community of eastern Crete. Surrounded by the mountains and enjoying a favorable climate all year round, cultivations and farming are a key element of the local economy.
It’s possible to reach the village with an hour’s drive from Heraklion. The destination is great to discover the ruins of the Lassithi Plateau windmills and learn about the different herbs growing in the plateau. A stop in any local café or taverna will be the perfect excuse to taste the savory local produce. If you visit in August, you cannot miss the unique Potato Festival of Tzermiado, and taste it in unique traditional dishes and preparations.
Every year, at the end of August, Tzermiado holds this festival for three days and it’s the perfect occasion to taste the food and drinks, but also to learn about Crete’s traditional music and dances. Tzermiado is a few kilometers away from the Dikteon Cave, which according to the legend was the birthplace of god Zeus.
There are more villages that should be added to your itinerary in the area. Don’t miss a stop in the nearby settlements of Avrakontes and Kaminaki too.
Activities common in the area include hiking, rock climbing, biking, and bird watching.
The Snail Festival of Agios Thomas
Every summer, the mystic village of Agios Thomas gathers in joy to celebrate one of the most characteristic Cretan products, the snail.
Villagers and visitors come together in celebration around chochlioi, the local name for snails.
Agios Thomas’ chochliovradia is a traditional snail night though is something unique and unlike any other local festival. There’s music, dances, and delicious dishes with snails coming from long-hold recipes.
Cretans know how to cook snails in more than 40 ways, there are in fact as many snails recipes as you can imagine. During the festival, it will be possible to try them cooked with vegetables, with cracked wheat, with wine, and rosemary.
Try to reach the village early and secure a place at the table if you want to taste this outstanding Cretan dish.
The Snail Festival of Agios Thomas is a big thing. One of its features is the stunning Cretan dances that take place during the night. Musicians also take the stage, so if you enjoy a good round of Cretan Lyra, don’t skip this summer appointment.
There’s more to see in the area as well. A day trip to Agios Thomas will allow you to discover the so-called city of stone. According to the local legend, the village hides a hole that takes you directly to the Hades. However, that remains a myth. What you can include during your visit is a stop at the site of Gria Mantra, where six tombs can be found carved in caves, very similar to the ones in Matala.
The village is also home to a weird stone formation known as The Rider, impressive due to its size and bizarre position. Several are the temples and sites that Agios Thomas reserves to its visitors, so do plan a trip to the area, you won’t regret it.
Agios Thomas can be easily reached from Heraklion with a half an hour drive from the city center, and very close to the better-known village of Agia Varvara.
Zoniana Village Shepherd and Cheese Festival
Why not stop for a wonderful Cretan cheese tasting experience in the nearby area of Rethymno? Greece is the first cheese consumer in the world. The Greeks consume more cheese annually than even the French do! That says a lot about the Cretan cheese quality. Galomizithra, gruyere, kefalotiri, mizithra, xinomizithra, xinogalo, pichtogalo, are only some of the tasteful types of Cretan cheeses.
In Zoniana, located in the mountains 47 kilometers from Heraklion, local farmers celebrate Rethymno’s dairy production once a year. They are preparing a giant cheese weighing more than a ton, that they distribute to the ones attending the celebration.
The Zoniana Shepherd and Cheese Festival, put under the lights the high cheese making skills of the villagers, the local culture and portray the remarkable activities of the local shepherds.
Thrapsano Pottery Festival
The village of Thrapsano is located in the heart of the Heraklion region and it is one of Crete’s most famous villages thanks to a long history of pottery making. Every summer for the last 34 years, Thrapsano’s community gathers in a pottery celebration that includes workshops in pottery and ceramics. The program also features exhibitions by local artisans and artists and there’s also a special agenda dedicated to kids.
If you are on holiday in Crete, the Thrapsano Pottery Festival is likely to interest the smaller members of the family. In fact, pottery is a local craft that has been around since the Minoan times. Combine the event with a visit to the archaeological museum or with a visit to Knossos Minoan Palace.
Visit Heraklion in Summer
So, if you are planning to visit Crete during August, do not miss these celebrations. You will discover the most authentic side of the local spirit, make new friends and have loads of fun!
To make your trip an ever-lasting memory, book a stay in one of the city’s best hotels. Go all green and sustainable staying at Olive Green Hotel. Pamper your senses and enjoy the most romantic views in town, choosing Lato Boutique Hotel. If you are a foodie at heart, play it safe choosing Legacy Gastro Suites. You will love the concept and adore the facilities.