Old Hersonissos - 'Crete's Best Kept Secret'

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Old Hersonissos, also know as Ano Hersonissos, is one of the oldest and most picturesque villages on Crete. The Venetians called Old Hersonissos ‘Bene Veto’ - ‘nice view’. With breathtaking vistas to the coast, bays and villages below, calling the view 'nice' is an understatement of note!

 

 

This hospitable, historic, village with its unique neoclassical and Venetian architecture is set high on the mountain and spreads down the slope. Framed by the silver-green olive groves and with an abundance of flowering plants it truly is a lovely location with great climate.

 

 

 

The village was declared ‘traditional’ in 1978. The central village square was named ‘the most beautiful square on Crete’ and it is easy to see why it attracts so many visitors during the tourist season. Surrounded by traditional tavernas, cafes and an assortment of shops, it is simply delightful. Local products such as honey, herbs, wine and raki (local spirit) are sold in the village as well as  jewelry, ceramics, hand embroidered items and weavings.

 

 

 

The Assumption of Virgin Mary takes place on 14th and 15th of August. Festivities take place on the square, with live Cretan music and traditional cuisine.

The Museum of Ecclesiastical History (part of the Venetian castle), the Byzantine monastery of Saint John and the churches of Panagia and Agios Dimitrios are also worth a visit, as are the neighbouring old villages of Koutouloufari and Piskopiano.

 

 

Tavernas are abundant and there are delicious Cretan specialties to be had. Try the mouthwatering Ntákos, a traditional Cretan meze or starter. A barley rusk forms the base and is topped with tomato and Cretan cream cheese “myzíthra”, olive oil, salt, oregano and olives.

 

Another island specific dish is stamnankáthi which is made with herbs that only grow on Crete. The herbs, which have a distinctive, slightly bitter flavour, are boiled then coated with olive oil and lemon, sometimes eggs or meat are added.

 

Get adventurous and savour snails prepared the traditional Cretan way. They are coated in flour, fried in olive oil and seasoned with rosemary and vinegar.

 

Pop into one of the bakeries and treat yourself to marathópita, a delicious, vegetarian, fried pie filled with fresh fennel, spinach, sorrel and fresh onion.

 

Accompany the flavoursome, Cretan delicacies with a glass of Cretan wine or rakí, the traditional local drink which is the Cretan version of grappa!

 

 

For those who want to experience authentic food and genuine village life Old Hersonissos is an ideal location. Away from the hustle and bustle it is within spitting distance of some lovely beaches and tourist attractions including the Minoan palace of Knossos and the plateau of Lasithi. 

 

 

Postscript: - We visited Old Hersonissos in May which was off-peak season. Unlike some of the other villages, it stays open all year round. 

Text and Photography by Adelia Cook for MyKerkyra.com

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