Nature's monuments


For more than 4,000 years, olives and olive oil has been represented in Cretan mythology, history, religion and art, and has been a major factor in Crete's social and economic life. Today, a quarter of the cultivable areas is covered by olive groves, and almost every Cretan family has its own trees. Among the many olive trees (more than 40 million) there are a few who have survived forest fires and other damages for millennia. As a matter of fact, they have been cared for by their owners, generation after generation, so they still produce olives.



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After having registered the ancient olive trees for some years The Association of Cretan Olive Municipalities (Sedik, Syndesmos Elaiokomikon Dimon Kritis) in 2008 set up signs to make it easier for visitors to find the trees.

Furthermore at almost all the trees there has been placed information boards in Greek and English.

The age of the trees has been determined by dr. Nikos Michelakis, who today is scientific advisor at Sedik and former director of The Olives Institute of Chania. He explains: "Since you obviously can not fell the old trees in order to count the growth rings, the age is determined from the trunk's diameter and radius. We know that olive trees - depending on its kind and climatic conditions - grow 0.5-1.5 mm per year, but due to the olive tree's gnarled and often hollow stem it is nevertheless a complicated affair to judge its age."


From the west to the east the following trees have been registered so far:



The village of Anisaraki is situated a little northeast of Kandanos. In the area two trees are registered:


The olive of Agios Georgios (N 35o 20.128', EO 23o 45.408'), 3.000 years old, is named after the nearby chuch. It belonged to the so-called 'dekaochtoures' (trees that produce 18 mistata oil a year. 1 mistato is equivalent to 12 kg.) Now in its high age the tree produces "only" 80-100 kg. Unfortunately the signs to the tree are deficient.




In the immediate vicinity you find a crowd of other old and intereting trees, which are called the "Femal Dancers" (Horéftries).




Grambela (N 35o 19.058', EO 23o 45.368'), 2.200 years old. The large hollow (koufala) in the tree's trunk was in the past a hidding-place for hunted Cretans. The tree is not signposted.





Vouves and Ano Vouves are situated about 5 kilometres south of Kolymbari:


Ano Vouves (N 35o 29.212', EO 23o 47.217'), 2.500 years old. This tree is the first one to be registered in 2002, when it was reserved.




The tree delivered the branches for the victory crown (cotinos) for the winner of the Marathon at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004. After the cut the branches were sailed to Athens in a copy of a Minoan ship.





Palia Roumata is situated approx. 6 kilometres south of Voukolies:


Palia Roumata (N 35o 24.110', EO 23o 46.740'), 2.400 years old. Both during the Turkish period and the German occupation in World War 2 resistance fighters hid their weapons in the hollow tree.




Next to the tree there are several other ancient olive trees.





Samonas is situated on the western slopes of the Apokoronas peninsula, southwest of Stylos. The tree is placed in the southern outskirts of the village in an area called Lakkos:


Samonas (N 35o 25.565', EO 24o 06.274'), 3.000 years old.




In the area there are several very old trees.





Kato Tripodo is situated southwest of Perama:


Gre Ele (N 35o 20.118', EO 24o 40.118'), 2.300 years old. The name Gre Ele is Cretan dialect for gria elia (= old olive tree).




Behind the tree is a grove with several quite old trees, where it is nice to take a nap in the shade for an hour or two.



North of the Gre Ele-tree at the settlement of Vergiana grow some other impressive trees on both side of the road.







Genna is situated south of Agia Fotini in the nothern part of the Amari valley:


Genna (N 35o 15.139', EO 24o 38.607'), 2.300 years old. Although the tree today appears as four trees close to one another, it is in fact one tree with four main branches (there are traces of two more).






The now abandoned village of Paliama is located south of Zaros:


Paliama (N 35o 06.377', EO 24o 55.277'), 3.000 years old.




There are also a couple of other old trees close to the Paliama-tree.





Gortyna is situated on the plain of Messara, and directly across from the archaelogical site you find this tree:


Gortyna (N 35o 03.36.18', EO 24o 56.05'), 1.600 years old. The interesting thing about this tree is perhaps not so much its age, as the fact that the tree has grown around a Roman pillar remnant, which may have fallen from a building under the very violent earthquake that hit Crete in 365.





Panasos is situated between Gergeri and Agia Varvara:


Panasos (N 35o 07.668', EO 24o 59.174'), 3.000 years old.




In addition to the tree, it is also worth visiting the nearby, small church of Agia Paraskevi, from where there is an excellent view to the tree.



Next to the small road leading to the tree you also find a few other old trees.





Kavousi is situated a few kilometres east of Crete's narrowest point, north of Ierapetra. The tree is situated southeast of the village:


Kavousi (N 35o 06.915', EO 25o 51.643'), 3.250 years old. Probably this tree is the oldest in Crete. In 2004 the City Council of Ierapetra decided that the female winner of the Maraton at the Olympic Games should be crowned with a "cotinos" made of branches from the tree. In short distance from the tree are located the Late Minoan cities of Vronda, Azoria and Kastro, so it might be people from these cities, who planted the tree in ancient time.år gammelt. 






Lastros is situated approximately 8 kilometres east of Kavousi. The tree is not signmarked and it is a little difficult to find. But with help from the locals, you will be able to find it.


Mathaina's olive, as the tree is called, grows next to a wall in the outskirts of the village.


The tree is perhaps not the most impressive in terms of size, but the hollow is large and can easily contain several people. The village's inhabitants believe that persons who have not sinned, are able to see saints in the foliage, and previously they used to cut branches of the tree for Palm Sunday.




The village's children are quite indifferent about the tree's religious significance, but love to play hide and seek inside its trunk. So did Michalis as a child. He had the kindness to take me to the tree. Here he is seen with the café owner's mother.


I can recommend to park the car in the square at the entrance to the village and walk through the picturesque narrows streets and visit the small café, whose walls are adorned with old photographies.





South of Sitia is a tree that goes by the name Fourkolia, next to the road a few kilometers north of Piskokefalo. The tree was a few years ago badly damaged by a car crash, however the driver had a worse end, because he lost his life in the collision.



Some hundred metres further on are two trees that are also worth looking at.



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