Botanical Park of Crete, a utopia of flowers, fruit, and food

Α Decrease font Enlarge font
Botanical Park of Crete, a utopia of flowers, fruit, and foodThe Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete offers natural beauty, walking paths, information, and tasty food in a restaurant featuring its own produce and olive oil. (Photo by Lisa Radinovsky)

By Lisa Radinovsky

Surrounded by olive groves in the foothills of the White Mountains, the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete offers natural beauty, exercise, information, and healthy, tasty food. Overflowing with tropical and Mediterranean flowers, herbs, and fruits, the park surrounds an acclaimed restaurant featuring its own organically grown produce and olive oil.

According to its website, “The theme of the whole park is ‘Return to the Cretan soil and, at the same time, return to Cretan Tradition and Diet.’” For the Marinakis brothers, this return was also a rebirth from the ashes of a great wildfire that destroyed the 60,000 olive trees and many orange groves that provided the basis for the economy of the nearby village of Skordalou until 2003. Open to the public since April 2009, the park offers more than 40 acres for walking, enjoyment of natural beauty, education about food origins and the Cretan diet, relaxation, and entertainment.

The Marinakis family has successfully linked the alternative tourism venture of their beautiful park, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually, with the spacious indoor/outdoor hilltop restaurant where both traditional and innovative dishes are enjoyed along with the panoramic view. Popular with locals as well as tourists, the Botanical Park’s restaurant has been awarded the Quality Label of Cretan Cuisine by the Region of Crete, which recognizes its use of local ingredients, extra virgin olive oil, and Cretan wines and dishes as well as adherence to high standards of quality and hygiene.

The multilingual menu with its background of flower photos features a variety of seasonal salads, some quite unusual. It also includes potatoes fried in olive oil, kalitsounia (small pies) with greens and cheese, and excellent bread with olives and the family’s own olive oil, which is produced in a nearby village. There are typical Cretan foods such as boureki (zucchini, potato, and cheese casserole), sausages, grilled meats, artichokes with broad beans, and rooster with tomato sauce, herbs, and noodles. There are also more unusual entrees, such as the exquisite chicken with orange, lime, and lemon grass sauce and the pork fillet with figs, honey, vinegar, and brandy–a sweet, rich dish artistically presented with baked potato, sweet yogurt and bergamot sauce, and dabs of a pink sauce containing beets.

Walk through the park and gardens in the cool morning before you eat, or else after you’ve fully digested in the late afternoon (at least one hour before sunset). Walk among banana trees that tower above the path. Walk through the sweetness of jasmine flowers, past cherry trees, fragrant rosemary and lavender, orange trees always laden with balls of fruit as if decorated for a festive Christmas, to a pond with ducks and geese. Continue past Cretan wild goats and deer, up the hill through the perfume of glorious rose bushes with five colors of enormous blossoms, into the shady tunnel of a grape arbor, past strikingly geometric artichokes prospering across from brilliant pink and red geraniums, near silvery green clumps of waving herbs backlit in the orchards, up past a wooden loom and a tree hung with farming tools, around and up the hill.

One day on that carefully planned hillside and valley, a turkey and a peacock took turns posing until some undisciplined boys chased them away and provoked the geese to wild honks of protest. Tourists and students talked and joked as they took turns photographing friends in prime photo spots next to exotic flowers, burnt olive tree trunks, and an antique wagon in the orange grove near the duck pond. Bees paused to buzz among blossoms as butterflies flitted between flowers. Brilliant red-orange flowers with frilly white edges mixed with baby pomegranate fruits against the bright blue sky.

Nestled in the foothills of the White Mountains, foothills partly wild and partly covered with neat rows of olive trees, there are enough plants and prospects to admire that the exertion of the climb back up the hillside merely provides the physically fit with an exhilarating excuse to stop and appreciate a flower, a view, or an informative sign. For the physically challenged, there is a shorter route available, although it does not avoid a climb, and there are plenty of rustic wooden benches and seats that invite everyone to take a break. An old-fashioned bed resting among dozens of varieties of fruit trees emphasizes the peacefulness of the setting.

See the Botanical Park’s lovely new website for more information about its location, opening hours, and admission fees. Traditional Cretan dances are presented in the amphitheater after dinner on Monday evenings, while the philosophy of the Cretan diet, a way of life with a basis in olive oil, wild greens, herbs, and fresh locally grown produce, is presented on Saturday mornings. Groups can also arrange presentations on the health benefits and general principles of the Cretan diet or cooking lessons focused on typical Cretan foods, using herbs and vegetables gathered in the park.

Originally published on Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (greekliquidgold.com). See that site for recipes with olive oil, photos from Greece, and olive oil news and information.

Tornos
  1. 22/01 21:52

    Eurogroup president Mario Centeno: No more programmes for Greece

  2. 22/01 21:45

    Arrivals to Greece by FYROM citizens fall since record-breaking year in 2015

  3. 22/01 21:41

    4th Delphi Economic Forum to take place between February 28 and March 3

  4. 22/01 21:34

    Stefanos Tsitsipas: I very much want to beat Nadal and I feel I can do it

  5. 22/01 21:25

    Ten Oscar nominations for Greek director Lanthimos' film 'The Favourite'

  6. 22/01 21:08

    Greek tennis star Tsitsipas qualifies for the Australian Open semifinals

  7. 22/01 20:21

    Greek start-up purchased by Chinese giant Alibaba for €90 million

  8. 22/01 20:17

    IATA: Current flights protected but future growth at risk from No Deal Brexit

  9. 22/01 20:11

    UNWTO αctivities at 39th International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid FITUR 2019

  10. 22/01 20:07

    Scoot expands Athens service with more flights in summer 2019

  11. 22/01 19:44

    Standards and Poor’s upgrades Greek ratings from B to B+

  12. 22/01 19:26

    Infographic: Greece has among highest rates of overqualified foreign workers

  13. 22/01 18:35

    Ancient Greek sculptures thesis clinches U.S. National Archaeological Award

  14. 22/01 18:30

    Alexandroupolis and Kavala ports top priorities for partial privatization

  15. 22/01 17:18

    Major restructuring plan for Greek Post under examination

  16. 22/01 16:04

    “Photos of Drama and its wonderful world” at Pireos Benaki Museum

  17. 22/01 14:50

    Video installation of Parthenon of Books among exhibits at LA Art Show

  18. 22/01 13:41

    Eurogroup be rule over return €600 million in bond yields to Greece

  19. 22/01 12:20

    Greece's first vertical garden on public building in Thessaloniki (video)

  20. 22/01 11:53

    Labor Ministry: 14,000 more jobs created in Greece during 2018

  21. 22/01 10:36

    “Voyage of Hellenism to Japan” show at Byzantine Museum in Athens

  22. 22/01 01:25

    Economist report: Turkey ranks first in the world in jailed journalists

  23. 22/01 01:10

    UNWTO: International tourist arrivals reach 1.4 billion two years ahead of forecasts

  24. 22/01 00:25

    The Telegraph: Four Greek hotels among 50 best boutique hotels in Europe

  25. 22/01 00:09

    ONCE and UNWTO promote employment of persons with disabilities in tourism

  26. 22/01 00:04

    Rita Wilson to perform concert in Athens, Greece during summer of 2019

  27. 21/01 23:17

    Tesla’s powerpacks could update Greece’s electric grid and reach islands

  28. 21/01 22:15

    Creditors arrive in Athens for post-programme evaluation

  29. 21/01 20:02

    Greek President visits 'Crete. Emerging Cities' show at Cycladic Art Museum

  30. 21/01 19:43

    Air France connects Cretan port of Heraklion in Greece with Paris first time

  31. 21/01 18:54

    Top 10-year challenge as 10-year-old Tsitsipas talks about his idol Federer (video)

  32. 21/01 15:54

    Stunning images of ice-covered forest in northern Greece (photos)

  33. 21/01 15:48

    Piraeus port expects increase in cruise ship arrivals and home porting in 2019

  34. 21/01 14:42

    Reuters: EU reports crime risks from Malta and Cyprus schemes to sell passports

  35. 21/01 14:35

    Greece’s winter resorts record high occupancy in Christmas holiday season

  36. 21/01 13:25

    Cypriot director wins Emerging Greeks Competition award at Hellas Filmbox Berlin

  37. 21/01 12:07

    GNTO Benelux head: Greece has good prospects to attract more tourists

  38. 21/01 11:49

    Emirates launches entertainment playlist syncing ahead of travel

  39. 21/01 10:57

    7,7% growth in tourist arrivals to Cyprus during December 2018

  40. 20/01 22:56

    Tennis Tourism: Greek star Tsitsipas beats Federer at Australian Open

  41. 20/01 22:40

    Greek shipping interests to recruit more young people from Greece

  42. 20/01 22:33

    Young Greek doctor climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity

  43. 20/01 22:04

    Greek merchant shipping fleet grows during November 2018

  44. 20/01 20:48

    Wellness Tourism to reach $1 trillion turnover by 2020 - Five top trends for 2019

  45. 20/01 19:18

    Hellenic Society of Constantinople honors UCLA Hellenic Studies Director

  46. 20/01 17:11

    Greece exhumes decades-old ship graveyard near Piraeus port (video)

  47. 20/01 17:01

    Survey: Investment in Greek industry expected to keep growing

  48. 20/01 15:55

    Cypriot and Jewish community organizations cultural event in Astoria (video)

  49. 20/01 13:49

    Spinalonga: Countdown to inscription on UNESCO World Heritage List

  50. 20/01 11:13

    Leadership 100 to mark 35 years of service in USA in February

  51. 19/01 20:50

    Berlin Travel Festival: Globetrotters meet travel industry trendsetters at ITB 2019

  52. 19/01 20:43

    Spectacular snow-covered scenery in Greece (video)

  53. 19/01 20:39

    Trips abroad by Cyprus residents grow by 10.2% in December 2018

  54. 19/01 20:27

    Europarliament report: Overtourism hurts iconic Greek island of Santorini

  55. 19/01 20:16

    Thematic Tourism: Hike and mountainbike in Greece with Alexander the Great

  56. 19/01 11:43

    'Cyprus model' studied by Greek government for residence protection

  57. 18/01 20:01

    EBRD financing in Greece rises to €846 million during 2018

  58. 18/01 14:07

    Tax incentives for hiring young or long-term unemployed people in Greece

  59. 18/01 01:25

    Rafael Nadal set to open Tennis Centre in Greece

  60. 18/01 01:13

    Researchers decipher 'DNA' code of iconic Greek feta cheese

  61. 17/01 23:25

    Beer sales attain new record in Cyprus thanks to tourism

  62. 17/01 23:00

    Fitch expects stagnation in real estate property prices in Greece until 2020

  63. 17/01 20:35

    Spokesperson: IMF's presence in Greece next week 'purely advisory'

  64. 17/01 20:05

    Cyprus tourist arrivals hit new high in 2018

  65. 17/01 18:21

    Full length documentary to feature "symbol of Greek immigration" Astoria

  66. 17/01 14:10

    Flashback: When Princess Diana flew to Greece for “dear friend” (video)

  67. 17/01 12:19

    OECD: High taxes in Greece an obstacle to economic growth

  68. 17/01 11:53

    Greek tennis star Tsitsipas honored with souvlaki named after him

  69. 17/01 10:14

    Supermarket sales grow by 2.2% in Greece during 2018

  70. 17/01 03:13

    EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici visits Athens

  71. 17/01 03:08

    Expedia: A Greek island became top trend for Americans in 2018

  72. 17/01 01:02

    Visitors to museums and ancient sites in Greece rise in January-September

  73. 16/01 23:05

    Cyprus government satisfied with Paralimni Marina project progress

  74. 16/01 22:57

    Nearly 100 million Google searches for tourism in Cyprus annually

  75. 16/01 22:54

    Bank of Greece chief calls for rapid implementation of plan to reduce NPLs

  76. 16/01 21:33

    Public Power Corporation to raise electricity bills in Greece

  77. 16/01 20:45

    Emirates adds second daily Athens-Dubai flight after March 31, 2019

  78. 16/01 20:41

    Ryanair cancels direct flights from Athens to Chania, Rhodes and Mykonos

  79. 16/01 20:33

    First Athens Fashion Film Festival to take place at Megaron Concert Hall in February

  80. 16/01 20:04

    Culture Tourism: Calabrian Greek, a language on the brink of extinction (video)

  81. 16/01 19:10

    Promotion of Greek-Indian commercial relations discussed in Athens meeting

  82. 16/01 19:03

    Hellas Filmbox Berlin festival on January 16-20 for 4th consecutive year

  83. 16/01 18:06

    Greek artist Dimitris Papaioannou’s "The Great Tamer" makes U.S. debut in L.A.

  84. 16/01 16:45

    Health Tourism: Why Greek coffee holds the key to longevity

  85. 16/01 15:50

    Ferry services returned back to normal in Greece on Wednesday

  86. 16/01 14:41

    International Summer School Cavafy 2019 in Athens: The poet's orientations

  87. 16/01 12:19

    TEE and OBI invite inventors to new electronic platform in Greece

  88. 16/01 10:15

    Construction figures head higher in Greece during October

  89. 16/01 03:17

    South Australia hosts largest-ever Delphi Bank Semaphore Greek Festival

  90. 16/01 03:14

    Greece and Expertise France in outstanding cooperation over modernization

  91. 16/01 02:44

    Labor unions call strike in Greek public sector on Thursday

  92. 15/01 23:33

    Six contracts for Patra - Pyrgos Motorway to be passed soon by Greek Parliament

  93. 15/01 22:10

    Cyprus Tourism Minister ooffers support for Famagusta district coastal resorts

  94. 15/01 21:54

    “Natural Gas Forum in the Eastern Mediterranean” promotes ties in the region

  95. 15/01 20:04

    Sports Tourism: Karditsa, one of Greece’s most bike-friendly cities

  96. 15/01 20:00

    Series of events in the USA to further promote Greek tourism

  97. 15/01 19:50

    US study unveils reversal of decades of anti-Americanism in Greece

  98. 15/01 18:56

    Minister: Cyprus needs to diversify its tourist product

  99. 15/01 16:50

    Cluventure Travel organizes special trips to destinations including Greece

  100. 15/01 14:41

    SNF announces upcoming Summer Nostos Festival in Athens on June 23-30