If you are not the first time in Crete and have already managed to see the main attractions of the island’s southeastern part, welcome to the Kroustas Forest Historical Landscape Park. It is located high in the mountains, as if hiding away from the tourist bustle. Here you will find the little-known beauty of Crete, beautiful pine forest, clean mountain air, hiking trails leading for many miles.
The forest area is quite large, and there is a great opportunity to wander the mountains for several hours without much preparation. The paths laid now in the park are considered not difficult to pass, since the elevation difference is insignificant. Anyway, for a walk in the park, we recommend wearing comfortable shoes, taking care of sun protection and a supply of water.
The Kroustas Forest Park is located about 19 km south-west of the resort town of Agios Nikolaos, 9 km south of Krista village and 5 km south-west of Kroustas village. There is an information stand at the entrance to the park with designation of trails and places of interest. The Google maps coordinates of the entrance are 35.117145, 25.631964.
Many points of the park, including the observation deck, offer truly fantastic views of the Mirabello Bay. This is a unique corner of Eastern Crete of exceptional beauty and richest nature, but the Kroustas forest is famous not only for this …
The fact is that the archeological finds made here, dating from 1900-1650 BC, indicate that the Kroustas forest was inhabited and actively used during the Minoan civilization: there are 77 archeological sites in the park where you can see the remains of an ancient Minoan farm, a granary, a Minoan cistern and the ruins of a castle. Most of local archeologically important buildings are just ruins but two dozen of them are quite noticeably, since they are 1.5 m or more high.
It was the long-term archaeological research of the forest territory and the desire to preserve and protect the valuable finds discovered here, as well as the forest itself, that became the prerequisites for the creation of the park. The initiative belonged to archaeologist Dr. Sabine Beckmann. The park began operating in 2012 (kroustas-park.gr). Despite the fact that it is young, a titanic work has been done here in a short time, thanks to which a unique opportunity has appeared not only to touch the history of thousand years but also to merge with pristine nature of Eastern Crete, to become a part of it when walking in an area of century-old trees filling the purest mountain air with delicate aromas of foliage and needles.
The traditional Cretan village of Krоustas
After a walk through the park, you can explore the traditional Cretan villages of Kroustas and Krista. In the area of the village of Krista, there is a three-nave church Panagia Kera, famous for its well-preserved frescoes applied to the vaults as well as the ruins of the ancient Dorian city-state of Lato.
The small village of Kroustas is on a hill 520 m above sea level. Now no more than four hundred inhabitants live in it permanently. The population, as elsewhere in rural areas, is gradually decreasing. Even 30 years ago, in 1981, about 700 people lived here. In the past, the inhabitants of Kroustas were shepherds and farmers. However, at present many villagers work in the nearby resorts of Agios Nikolaos and Elounda due to growth of the tourism industry in eastern Crete: Agios Nikolaos is just a 20-minute leisurely drive away.
Beekeeping is well developed in this area. While walking through the park, apiaries will meet with enviable regularity along all the trails. In the village itself there is a shop and production of local farmed honey under the EUMELON brand (eumelon.com/en/).
The village of Kroustas is known for its traditional cuisine and festive atmosphere. Be sure to try the local myzithropites (special cheese pies), ftazymo bread and aiga vrasti (boiled goat). There are holidays held every year here that are worth visiting: the almond festival on the first or second weekend of July and the day of eftazyma breads on the first weekend after August 15.
The Kroustas Forest Park and the village of Kroustas are not essential places for organized tourists, therefore they remain unknown to most visitors to East Crete. Travel actively and explore new places.
A short video about the park:
Lyrical video. A winter walk through the beautiful village of Kroustas:
Prepared by Victor Dubrovskiy, February 2021