The village of Kournas is located 4 kilometres north of Lake Kournas and 7 kilometres from Georgioupolis.
Under the name "Mandali, local products and more," Barbara sends the best olive oil, thyme honey, and much more from Crete directly from the farmer to your home. Barbara is also happy to provide you with information about the local products, their origin, quality, and production.
Read here more about the healthy and delicious products from Crete.
The rural surroundings of Kournas invite you to explore the beautiful nature through walking, and we make the walk even more enjoyable for you. Together with Arno and our 4 donkeys, you can embark on a journey of discovery in the backyard of Kournas.
With Barbara, you can go on an adventure in the forest or take a village walk. In every season, we see the most beautiful flowers, herbs, and fruits. In winter, we pick wild greens and enjoy strawberries from the strawberry tree.
Read here more about the botanical walks with or without our donkeys.
We are happy to provide you with information about Crete and the mountain village of Kournas, the surrounding area, or activities and events near Kournas.
If you want to know more about the various holiday homes in Kournas, nearby excursions, or interesting places to visit, write us your questions.
Barbara will be happy to help make your holiday in Crete unforgettable.
Read here more about Kournas and Crete.
I, Barbara (Baukje), have enjoyed working in my shop with local products. From 2016 to 2022, I made many customers happy with the tastiest olive oil, healthy thyme honey, fragrant herbs, delicious sea salt, and much more.
This year, 2023, I'm doing things a little differently. My shop, named "Mandali, local products and more," will remain located in the village of Kournas, on the island of Crete, but the doors of the shop will close, and I will now sell the best local products from Crete online.
You can now easily order the tastiest olive oil, honey, herbs, and more from home via the order form or through email, phone call (0030-6951337205), or a message.
Selling the best local products, good quality, beautifully packaged...how can you go wrong?
Run by a Dutch couple, who have the best philosophy in mind, wanting to support local initiatives and see the Cretans do well.
This is a wonderful shop where you can taste local produce and buy great souvenirs. The olive oil is delicious, and we bought some fantastic homemade olive oil and beeswax lotion that soothed my son's irritated skin.
The staff are so friendly and the views are stunning.
Love visiting this store and doing the Walk with the Donkeys. Don't miss this village or the people.
Or the donkeys!!!
TY, for all you do to keep Crete alive.
Due to the transition to an online shop, my husband Arno and I have more time and opportunity to organize other activities with guests and friends, such as herb picking and distilling, foraging for wild greens and cooking with them, making olive oil soap, and going on herbal hikes with or without donkeys.
If you want to know more about the delicious and healthy local products we sell or the activities we organize, or if you'd like to join us for a hike, please continue reading on the following pages.
What does Mandali mean?
Looking for a name for my (online) shop, I chose "Mandali." This word is derived from Mandala, which in the ancient Sanskrit language means: circle, connection, community. "Mandali" refers to a circle of people dancing together. The logo, the circle of life, seemed to fit well with it.
And... I love drawing and colouring mandalas.
My name is Barbara (Baukje), and I come from the Netherlands. Since 2010, together with my Dutch husband Arno, I have been living on the largest Greek island, Crete. I feel completely at home in the traditional mountain village of Kournas, where I have been working with great pleasure in and on my shop "Mandali, local products and more..." since 2016.
From store to online shop
The sale of fair local products such as olive oil and thyme honey directly from the farmers and producers is one part of Mandali. Providing information about Kournas, the surroundings, and holiday opportunities in the village is another pillar of Mandali. And finally, Arno and I organize various activities in Kournas.
Every year, the customer base grew, and more and more people discovered our shop with local products. Activities such as botanical walks were booked more frequently. And let's not forget our lovely, popular donkeys.
With the arrival of Mandali in recent years, Kournas came back to life, and that was my main goal.
In the past 2 years, an increasing number of customers from different European countries have been ordering their olive oil, honey, etc., from Mandali via the internet, and it has been going very well. After much consideration, Arno and I have decided to change the concept of Mandali into an online shop. This allows us more time and opportunity to engage in the other activities that we love to organize.
Without a "brick-and-mortar shop," we are more flexible and can also enjoy the beautiful nature that Crete has to offer. We now have more freedom and time to organize "customized activities" for people who want to experience something different during their holiday in Crete. We're thinking, for example, of "cooking with friends," "village walks with a donkey," "olive oil soap making," "two-day hikes with donkeys," and "drawing and colouring mandalas."
If you want to know more about my husband Arno and me, our life in Crete, our adventures, and experiences?
who are we?
Arno and I were both born in the Netherlands and grew up in and around the city of Groningen. We got married in 1979, and we have 2 adult children and 2 grandsons. We both love people and animals. Not only that, but we are helpful, naturally curious, adventurous, hospitable, and creative. "There's a first time for everything" and "I've never done it before, so I think I can" are sayings that resonate with us.
In the Netherlands, we gained work experience in nursing, sales, and natural therapies (phytotherapy, homeopathy, Bach flower remedies). Add to that editorial work for various newspapers (Barbara) and providing training sessions (Arno). In our free time, we were active in the local theatre association. We even made it to television with "the golden acorn."
We are also active in sports: hiking, trekking, cycling, stunt kite flying, and motorcycle riding (both riding and pillion). Furthermore, we also have a few hobbies, such as playing the guitar, DIY projects, reading, cooking, drawing mandalas, and handicrafts. So, we never get bored.
We enjoy life in Crete and everything this beautiful island has to offer, and we want to share it with others. Through our work as guides and through the shop, we have been able to do that. We have excited many people, surprised nature lovers with our hikes, and explained a lot about local products such as olive oil and honey.
Even with just the online shop, this remains our passion, and the "brick-and-mortar shop" will shift to this website, our Facebook page, and the monthly Mandali Mail newsletter. Luckily, we live around the corner, and we will often be near the village square. That's where the herbal hikes and walks with our donkeys start.
The local products that you can order from Mandali originate from the village of Kournas or the municipality of Apokoronas, which falls under Kournas.
I purchase the products directly from the farmers or producers, and some products are picked or made by ourselves. This allows me to guarantee good quality, pay a fair price to the supplier, and keep the price affordable for you as a customer.
On this page, you will find information about the products available at Mandali. If you would like to place an order, you can use the order list, or you can write me an email or a message via phone or social media.
Mandali offers three types of olive oil this year, and all three are "extra virgin" and pressed at the end of 2022. The "koroneiki" olive oil is a mild olive oil, pressed in Kournas, from the small, fruity "koroneiki" olives. The "tsounato" olive oil is an olive oil with a more robust flavour, also pressed in Kournas from the larger "tsounato" olives. We named the "traditional koroneiki" olive oil as such because it is pressed in the traditional olive oil factory in Vafes, where they use mats to press the olives. This oil is also pressed from the small "koroneiki" olives and has the mildest flavour.
Honey with Thyme, Flowers, and Herbs
The honey sold at Mandali comes from the backyard of Kournas, where thyme, herbs, heather, cypresses, and various flowers grow. Once the thyme in the vicinity has finished flowering in the summer, the beekeepers move the beehives to the Askifou plateau, where it is cooler at over 700 meters and the thyme is still in bloom.
The honey is unfiltered and not mixed with sugar water. Since we cannot force the bees to collect only thyme nectar, this honey is a combination of various flowers, herbs, and thyme.
Tsikoudia or Raki
The traditional drink raki is called "tsikoudia" in Crete, and it is distilled from the grape skins left after pressing the grapes. These skins are stored for six weeks in large barrels to ferment. Afterward, the skins are distilled in a "kazani" (distillery).
Almost every village has a family with a permit for distillation. Nowadays, there are different rules to follow: distilling is not allowed every day, only from 8 am to 12 pm, and the raki must be filtered with activated carbon. In remote villages, illegal raki is still sometimes produced, often in very old stills, and filtered using a cloth or cotton.
It is a strong spirit, 40% alcohol, and its quality can be recognized by the aroma and taste of the grapes.
Mandali organizes excursions to the kazani in Kournas during the months of October and November. You can see how raki is distilled and, of course, you can taste it.
Many people find raki too strong, but when combined with fruit, herbs, or honey, it becomes a delicious sweet liqueur with a lower alcohol content.
Mandali offers raki liqueurs with honey, lemon, and coffee.
During the cold winter months, we enjoy drinking raki with honey slightly warmed, similar to Glühwein. The coffee raki is also excellent over vanilla ice cream, and some people add a splash to their coffee. The lemon raki is reminiscent of Italian Limoncello.
Herbs for kitchen and tea
The most well-known herb from Crete is thyme, but there are many more healthy and flavourful herbs growing here.
They are suitable not only for use in the kitchen, but also for making a healthy tea. The "Diktamos" and "Malotira," Cretan mountain teas, are well-known and beneficial.
At Mandali, we also have oregano, savoury, lavender, bay laurel, sage, lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, and a custom herbal tea blend using herbs and flowers from the backyard of Kournas.
This dark brown pod is a sweet and healthy substitute for chocolate. It contains high fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and no sugar. If you are in Crete during your holiday, you can also eat the pods fresh, but they are also available dried.
You can eat the ground, dried pods with yogurt or snack on a few pods. You can also make tea from it: boil 1 tablespoon of carob in 150 ml of water for 3 minutes. If you make the tea stronger, it becomes a delightful iced tea in the summer, optionally with a little lemon juice.
Carob balsamic vinegar and carob syrup are also available at Mandali.
Essential oils are the volatile aromatic compounds extracted from aromatic plants. The volatile oil is usually obtained through steam distillation from these fragrant and beneficial plants. The result is an essential oil that can be used in various ways, such as aromatherapy, massage, cosmetics, and therapeutic purposes in healthcare.
We distil various plants in our distillation kettle, which can hold approximately 5 kilograms of plant material. If we are fortunate, we can obtain 40 ml of essential oil per distillation. This is the result of many hours of labour, including picking plant material, possibly chopping it into smaller pieces, collecting spring water, distilling, and cleaning the equipment.
The distillation process alone takes over 3 hours, but the quality is superb.
After distilling herbs, we obtain not only the essential oil but also a water-soluble part called the hydrosol. It contains a small percentage (0.2%) of aromatic molecules from the herb. A hydrosol is a natural product in itself, and due to its numerous constituents, it has strong therapeutic properties that cannot be synthetically reproduced in a laboratory. Hydrosols can be obtained from every steam-distilled plant.
Mandali's hydrosols are recognizable by their strong aroma.
Hydrosols can be used as a diffuser and as a facial toner to cleanse the skin, as skincare for wounds, scars, and oily skin, and as a compress, among other applications. They can also be used internally for throat and gastrointestinal issues.
Olive oil soap
Cretan olive oil is an excellent base for soap. There are still a few companies on Crete that produce olive oil soap. Making olive oil soap is not difficult, and after trying out different types, we were very enthusiastic, and so were our customers.
Olive oil soap is rich in vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin A. It is very mild, long-lasting, and can be used for all skin types to maintain elasticity and prevent dryness. This soap softens and nourishes the skin, utilizing the natural moisturizing properties of olive oil.
We also add herbs (thyme, rosemary, etc.) and use hydrosol instead of water. Some soaps also contain coconut oil (for more lather) or beeswax (for additional care). Olive oil soap is also suitable for washing hair. It strengthens the hair and promotes growth.
Bees protect their beehives with propolis, a mixture of tree resins, pollen, and beeswax. Propolis provides protection against fungi and bacteria. Raw, pure propolis is hardly absorbed by our bodies. Therefore, we dissolve propolis in alcohol to create a tincture, which makes it more absorbable. Our propolis tincture has a strength of 30%.
Due to its antibacterial properties, propolis is often recommended for hay fever, inflammation, stomach problems, infections, wound care, and much more.
A delightful apéritif without sugar. Cretan Ouzo, a 100% natural distillate, is made by adding aromatic plants, seeds (such as anise), and Cretan herbs. The sweet taste is a result of the distillation process and comes exclusively from the seeds and herbs it contains.
The unique natural aromas will surprise you. This ouzo complements any meal.
For the farmer and his family, the quality of the olive oil is very important. They ensure that the trees and fruit remain healthy naturally, without the use of chemicals.
Almost all herbs we pick in the wild. That means they are not planted and grow in the hills and mountains among other plants and herbs. There is no spraying here, there is less risk of disease and the herbs also tend to have a stronger smell and taste.
During the hot summer months, sea salt is collected at various locations along the coast. We also know a few rocks where we collect sea salt every year. We dry it in the sun and clean it, removing seaweed fragments, among other things.
Furthermore, we use this coarse sea salt to preserve black olives. The remaining sea salt is finely ground and mixed with herbs and lemon.
At Mandali, you can order 3 different types of sea salt: lemon sea salt, chilli pepper and smoked paprika sea salt, and herb sea salt (parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, laurel, sage, and black pepper).
Everyone is familiar with herbal tea, but herb-infused oil, or herbal oil, is not as well known. For a herbal oil or macerate, you let herbs steep in oil. Well-known herbal oils are St. John's Wort oil and marigold oil.
We create macerates based on olive oil, and in our online store Mandali, we currently offer 4 different types: bay laurel oil, rosemary oil, lavender oil, and marigold oil (calendula).
You can use herbal oil as massage oil, hair oil, or medicinal oil for wounds or muscle pain. You can also add the herbal oil to a nourishing cream, or use it in the kitchen for extra flavour and aroma.
Tagua, the eco-ivory
In our shop, we sold the special jewellery from I-Cor: necklaces made from Tagua nuts.
Several customers asked about these necklaces and that's why I put them on this page.
I have 2 types: the coloured and the cut natural tagua nuts.
Read here more about the Tagua nuts
Every year we try to pickle the smaller Koroneiki olives. Sometimes things go well, and we find beautiful olives, and they taste good after a few months. Sometimes things don't go well, and the olives are affected by the olive fly or the taste is disappointing.
Last year I pickled olives and put them away in large 10 litter water bottles. After tasting them a few times, I still didn't think they were tasty enough. Then summer came and I completely forgot about olives. I have now tasted them again and they are so delicious! I have packaged them for enthusiasts in 500 ml bottles, in water with vinegar, herbs and oil.
Making olive oil soap
Last year, we made and sold several varieties of olive oil soap. That they turned out well was evident from the fact that they sold out very quickly. This summer I am going to make soap again and if you want, you can be part of it.
Check out the Facebook page or here on the website when I will be doing this.
The natural environment of the mountain village of Kournas is ideal for hiking. In the backyard, south of the village, we have marked three hiking routes with red, blue, and green dots. A longer, adventurous hiking trail called the "Azilakas trail" is marked with red and white stripes.
On the north side of the village, we have marked two hiking routes, one leading to Kavros and one to Lake Kournas.
Of course, you can also create your own hike with a good, detailed map or by using Google Maps.
A map with the different hikes is available on the village square. The "Azilakas trail" starts here on the square. Information about this hike can be found on the maps near the beach statue on the square.
In addition to these sporting activities, you can also participate in other activities with us, such as herb picking and making olive oil soap. More information about these activities can be found further on this page.
Village walk in Kournas
The village of Kournas also invites you to take a short village walk, where you can get an impression of everyday life in a mountain village.
This walk is also indicated on the map in the village square.
You can also do this walk together with Barbara and our donkey, Popy.
more information about the village walk.
Herb picking and distilling
During the summer months, Arno and I pick herbs for personal use, for sale, and for distillation. We enjoy doing this in good company and can use extra hands. We depend on the weather for this activity, and we don't know exactly when the herbs should be harvested.
You can check our Facebook page to find out when we plan a herb picking session and sign up. I will also mention it on this website.
more information about distillation, essential oils and hydrosols.
Our 4 donkeys love company and enjoy walking at a leisurely pace in and around Kournas. Of course, donkeyman Arno is there to tell you about the donkeys. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature, and Arno is happy to give you information about the various plants, trees, and herbs that grow there.
Arno leads this walk throughout the year, from Monday to Friday, and if you'd like to join him and the donkeys, you can reserve a walk.
more information about the donkey walks.
Botanical walk and Adventurous botanical walk
There are plenty of herbs growing around the village of Kournas. Oregano, savoury, lemon balm, and peppermint, to name a few. There are also special shrubs, colourful flowers, and ancient trees to discover in our backyard.
Would you like to enjoy nature around Kournas? Do you fancy an exciting botanical walk? Sign up with Barbara.
more information about the botanical walks.
Cooking with friends
We have organized cooking classes several times in collaboration with Eleni from the Taverna "Souhlis." This year, we would like to do it again. We will also explore the possibility of organizing something on our terrace.
More information about the cooking classes will be available soon.
In October, approximately 6 weeks after pressing the grapes, the "kazani" (distillery) starts operating again. Farmer Stelios has a permit for distillation, and we have been his guests several times to witness the process of making raki (tsikoudia). Mandali organizes these evenings starting from 7:15 PM, and they last approximately 2.5 hours. Of course, we will also taste the freshly made raki.
Check our online photo album to see how the grapes are pressed and how tsikoudia is distilled in Kournas.
Drawing and colouring Mandalas
I have taken several courses on mandalas in the Netherlands, learning how to draw and colour them. Do they have a deeper meaning, and how do you get started? I find it incredibly relaxing to do. It's a kind of meditation, but different. I enjoy designing my own mandalas, but it's also delightful to occasionally colour a pre-made drawing. Would you like to try drawing or colouring a mandala and experience it for yourself? Barbara invites you to join her at the "story table" for a morning of drawing and colouring. You are welcome from 10:00 AM. This activity lasts approximately 3 hours. You can sign up via e-mail, Facebook or give me a call at 0030-6951337205.
We uphold the Dutch tradition of baking "oliebollen" (doughnuts) every year. On the last day of the year, Arno bakes the most delicious raisin-filled oliebollen in the centre of Kournas. Not only the Dutch residents of Crete love them, but also the villagers, who start asking weeks in advance if Arno will be baking oliebollen again. In terms of taste, they are somewhat similar to the smaller Greek loukoumades, which are eaten with honey. We share oliebollen with neighbours and everyone who stops by.
Together with Barbara and our oldest donkey, Popy, we go on a discovery tour in the village of Kournas. We start at the village square and walk through the centre of the village, passing various churches, old water sources, and traditional Cretan houses.
Barbara tells you about the history of Kournas, and along the way, we enjoy the beautiful views and the tranquillity and simplicity of everyday life in a small mountain village. We visit the old kafenion with a wine cellar and take a look inside the smallest church in Kournas.
Barbara leads the walk in the morning at 10:30 AM and in the afternoon at 4:00 PM, from Monday to Friday. We start at the village square in Kournas, and the walk lasts approximately 1.5 hours. We walk at a leisurely pace on asphalt and concrete streets. Sometimes we have to go uphill and downhill, but we take it slowly, "siga, siga."
How to sign up
If you want to join the village walk in the mountain village of Kournas, please contact Barbara.
You can reach her by phone at 0030-6951337205 (also via WhatsApp or Viber), or send an e-mail or a message via Facebook.
The mountain villages in Crete have mostly preserved their authentic character. Here, you can still find the tranquillity and simplicity of the past. Typical Cretan houses, old Venetian arches, sheltered courtyards, water sources, and ancient stairs give us an impression of how people used to live in a mountain village.
Of course, you can also go for a walk on your own. In a small village, it's impossible to get lost.
In recent years, we have occasionally taken people on a village walk, and they were so enthusiastic about it. That's why we decided to organize village walks this year, accompanied by our donkey Popy.
Donkeys are special animals; they are sensitive, affectionate, lovely, beautiful, curious, loyal, sociable, strong, and frugal, but above all, they are smart. They have unique personalities. Unfortunately, many people consider donkeys lazy, stubborn, headstrong, less graceful than horses, and most of all, incredibly dumb.
However, donkeys have been found to have a therapeutic effect due to their appearance and character. You can cuddle, stroke, groom them, and walk with them peacefully. Nothing happens quickly with a donkey; it is the ultimate mindfulness experience.
Walking with donkeys is a unique adventure
Walking with donkeys is more than just exercising. It is a unique experience, an adventure. It is a remarkable experience where you create unforgettable moments with extraordinary animals. Furthermore, it is calming and challenging at the same time. Connecting with the donkey, hearing the sound of hooves, taking a pause, getting to know yourself, enjoying the companionship—walking with donkeys is all of this and more.
By walking at the slow pace of the donkey, you become more aware of your surroundings. Donkeys radiate an undisturbed tranquillity, and usually, this is contagious.
Walking alongside the donkey, your head gradually empties, and you find complete peace. How do they do it? No idea, but it's a wonderful experience!
'Meet, greet and feed"
Sometimes we receive inquiries from people who want to meet the donkeys. They have young children who cannot participate in the walk, or they have limited mobility, or they simply want to come and cuddle. That's why we have created a "Meet, Greet, and Feed" moment in the afternoon around 5:00 PM.
The donkeys are then in the field near their overnight field and are happy to receive hugs, attention, or some treats. Arno will tell you about our four donkeys, and you can help him take the donkeys to the other field. There, they will receive their dinner (straw) and fresh water.
If you want to meet our four donkeys, let us know when you're coming, and we'll pick you up from the village square in Kournas.
For inquiries and reservations, you can call us at 0030-6951337205 (also available on WhatsApp and Viber) or send us a message via Facebook, or e-mail.
We can accommodate special requests
Together with donkey man Arno and our donkeys Eos, Popy, Cleo, and her foal Zoë, you will wander through the backyard of Kournas. Arno will tell you about the donkeys, nature, and show you, smell, and sometimes taste the herbs that grow there. The donkeys have extensive experience with people and behave well. Sometimes, they can be a bit mischievous, preferring to play and test the boundaries.
Each of the four ladies has her own character, making each walk a surprise.
Do you want to know more about our 4 donkeys? They introduce themselves to you on this page.
To build trust
Donkeys are herd animals. They are willing to walk with a human, but they want to feel trusted and also be able to trust the person leading them. Building this trust takes time. That's why Arno always starts the walk with introductions. He tells you about the donkeys, their names, and their key characteristics.
A donkey wants to know what kind of person you are, and they quickly sense whether you are an animal lover or not. They also immediately know if you are relaxed and what mood you're in. If you're having an off day, the donkey wants nothing to do with you. This is called stubbornness, but it's just honesty.
We don't ride the donkeys; we walk alongside them, keeping them company. Donkeys are strong and enjoy working. We provide baskets, bags, and pack saddles for the donkeys, so they can help us carry our backpacks, water bottles, and the herbs we find along the way.
We walk in the surroundings of the village of Kournas, and especially the "backyard" offers plenty of opportunities. Likewise, we traverse narrow and wider paths, forests, and fields with unique trees and plants.
Likewise, we regularly stop to take photos, gather herbs, and enjoy the beautiful views.
Arno organizes donkey walks throughout the year, from Monday to Friday, starting at 9:30 AM at the village square in Kournas. Even during the colder winter months, such a walk is a special experience. In July and August, the walks can start earlier when the temperature is very high. The walks last approximately 2 hours, and we walk in small groups.
If you love animals, nature, and physical activity, and if you want to experience walking with one of our donkeys, reserve a donkey walk with us. All you need are sturdy (hiking) shoes and a bit of fitness.
Take a step back in time and discover the real Crete at a donkey's pace. Experience a peaceful and easy walk with our long-eared companions and discover the scents of herbs, beautiful sea views, mountains, and the village of Kournas.
Donkeys are gentle, patient, and kind animals that walk at a leisurely pace. You walk with the donkeys for relaxation, enjoyment, pleasant company, and to appreciate the beautiful nature.
During the walk, you will discover how intelligent donkeys are and get to know their wisdom.
A donkey walk is a fun and enjoyable experience for the whole family.
Theme walk with donkeys
Once a month we organize a theme walk (a Midwinter walk, an Easter walk) with our donkeys. Everyone is welcome on this walk in the area of Kournas. Especially the foreigners and sometimes also the local inhabitants of Kournas like to walk with us. This walk is free, but a treat (banana, apple, carrot or a donation in the piggy bank of the donkeys is always welcome.
This walk is usually on a Saturday and starts at 10:00 am at the village square in Kournas. We walk in the vicinity of the village on field roads and uphill and downhill. Sturdy shoes or hiking sandals, a bottle of water and a bit of fitness is all you need.
We organize the next walk on Thursday December 21-st, the "Midwinter Walk". We will start at 10:30 a.m. at the square, near tavern Kournas. Afterwards, we can have a drink and/or eat something at one of the taverns in Kournas.
For questions, you can call us on 0030-6951337205 (also WhatsApp and Viber) or send us a message via Facebook, or e-mail.
Would you like to get to know the herbs of Crete? Do you want to see what grows and blooms and learn more about the various herbs, plants, trees, and flowers? You can do that.
I, Barbara, have always been interested in herbs, and that interest has only grown here in Crete. I would be happy to take you on a botanical walk in the surroundings of Kournas. The best period for this walk is from April to August.
The walk starts at 8:30 AM and 3:30 PM, from Monday to Friday. We start at the Village Square in Kournas, and the walk lasts about 2 hours.
We regularly stop at beautiful and unique plants, fragrant flowers, ancient trees, and flavourful herbs.
Each season, each month, even each week, nature changes its colours and scents. That's what makes this walk so fascinating: we never know what nature will show us.
We walk at a leisurely pace along field paths and asphalt, and you can easily cover this route with regular sturdy shoes. The distance is a maximum of 4 kilometres and takes about 2 hours. Don't forget your camera and/or binoculars, and a water bottle is also recommended. If you like walking with a walking stick, feel free to bring one. It can be handy in some places. If you don't have a walking stick, you can use one from Mandali.
If you want to walk in the fragrant backyard of Kournas, please contact Barbara.
You can reach us by phone at 0030-6951337205 (also via WhatsApp or Viber) or send an e-mail or a message via Facebook.
Crete is known not only for its olive oil, but also for the many aromatic herbs that grow on this island.
Oregano, basil, sage, and thyme are particularly popular. There are so many herbs to be found on this largest Greek island.
We live here in a paradise of scents and colours.
What about savoury, peppermint, lemon verbena, fennel, pennyroyal, anise, and mustard plant? And we also have plants and shrubs that are mainly used for tea, distilling essential oils, making medicinal extracts, herbal oils, or dyeing wool.
Would you like to go on a challenging hike where you can also learn about different herbs, beautiful flowers, unique plants, and ancient trees? You can do that too.
This adventurous botanical walk takes place on field paths as well as narrow trails through the "Azilakas forest."
This hike requires sturdy hiking shoes, optionally a walking stick, a water bottle, and a reasonable level of fitness.
Where are we going?
We descend into the forest on a narrow path with ropes stretched along it to make it slightly easier. We cross the narrow river and find ourselves in the forest, surrounded by centuries-old trees. Here, we mainly see plane trees and holm oaks. There is very little growth on the forest floor because the leaves on the trees block a lot of sunlight.
In autumn, we can observe various mushrooms here, and the Cretan white clematis thrives abundantly.
In the forest, we walk high above and along the "Sfakas" river. We can still see a few small waterfalls until June. The narrow path takes us uphill and downhill, passing an old lime kiln. At the end of the forest, we are surrounded by strawberry trees.
After a final ascent, we reach an altitude of approximately 300 meters and enjoy a beautiful view of the sea and coastal villages. After the challenging hike through the forest, we return to Kournas easily downhill on wide field paths. Here, we can still encounter various herbs such as oregano, peppermint, and thyme.
Barbara organizes this adventurous walk from Monday to Friday, at 8:30 AM and 3:30 PM. The distance of this hike is approximately 7 kilometres and takes about 3 hours. You can register with Barbara by phone at 0030-6951337205 (also via WhatsApp or Viber) or send an e-mail or a message via Facebook.
Herbs for "Mandali"
For the online shop "Mandali," we harvest oregano, sage, bay leaf, Cretan rose, rosemary, lavender, lemongrass, and summer savoury every year. We ensure that the places where these herbs grow are clean and free from spraying. These herbs grow in the wild and are not cultivated. This makes the harvesting more labor-intensive, but on the other hand, we know that the herbs have fewer diseases and often have a stronger aroma.
Herbs for Essential Oil
For distillation, we also gather other herbs and plants such as cypress, myrrh, lemongrass, rose petals, nettle, and plantain. From these, we obtain the essential oil and hydrosol.
We have a small distillation apparatus that can hold approximately 1 kilogram of plant material and a larger one for 5 kilograms. This means we need to collect larger quantities of plant material. Fortunately, we know several places in the surroundings of Kournas where good, potent, and healthy plants grow.
We are always amazed by the distillation process. It remains a wonder when you see the first drops of hydrosol with essential oil flowing from the still.
We have had visitors during distillation who were curious about the process. We also had a few helping hands for harvesting last year. That inspired us to continue with this approach this year.
Do you also want to know how we distil the herbs and how fresh essential oil and hydrosol smell? Do you want to help us search for and harvest herbs? Do you want to learn more about different herbs? You can!
Crete is famous for its many aromatic herbs. The most well-known ones are oregano, basil, and sage. These herbs are not only used in the kitchen but also as herbal tea and medicine for illness or physical injuries. The older generation, in particular, has extensive knowledge of the healing properties of various herbs. Much of this knowledge was passed down from mothers, grandmothers, or wise aunts.
What I notice in our village is that many men also have a deep knowledge of herbs and sometimes share exceptional recipes with me.
Due to our work in healthcare and with phytotherapeutic and homeopathic medicines, we were already familiar with plants and herbs. Our interest in them has only grown stronger on Crete. We have delved deeper into herbalism and spent many hours in nature searching for herbs and medicinal plants. The local population has also shared their knowledge with us, and we continue to learn.
Almost every month, and sometimes more frequently, we go out to harvest herbs. If you'd like, you can join us. The timing depends on nature and weather. The herbs need to be ready for harvest, there should have been at least 4 dry days, and the wind shouldn't be too strong. We cannot provide exact dates, but I will write them on this website and on the Facebook page. You can then register via email, Facebook, or by calling or writing to me at 0030-6951337205.
What will we do?
We depart around 9:00 AM, harvest the herbs, and return to Kournas around 12:00 PM. We let the herbs rest in the shade so that any insects can crawl out, and in the meantime, we prepare the distillation apparatus. Furthermore, we fetch fresh spring water and set up all the necessary equipment for collecting the essential oil and hydrosol. Once everything is ready, we put the herbs in the still, ignite the gas, and then the waiting begins. We take a break for a snack and a drink, and after about an hour, we see the first drops of hydrosol falling into the measuring container.
Soon after, we observe the first layer of essential oil floating on top of the hydrosol.
When the aroma of the hydrosol and oil diminishes, we turn off the gas and stop the process. This usually takes about 3 to 4 hours. It is always exciting to see how much essential oil we have and what the aroma is like. The scent of the hydrosol is often different from the essential oil, which is quite surprising.
We separate the oil from the hydrosol in a separating funnel and label the bottles. We empty the still and clean everything for the next time. Usually we finish the distillation around 4:00 PM.
Then sign up with Barbara: phone:0030-6951337205 (also Whatsapp and Viber) or write via firstname.lastname@example.org
You see them in many souvenir shops: olive oil soaps. In different sizes, with different scents and colours. For centuries, olive oil soaps have been made and used in the Mediterranean region.
The main ingredient is olive oil, which is abundant here.
For generations, women have been making soap, passing down the recipe from grandmothers to daughters and then to their daughters. Until the industry took over production for the most part.
People forgot the recipes and lost the art of soap making.
On Crete, there are still a few companies that make olive oil soap. Making olive oil soap is not difficult, and after making various types of soap, we became very enthusiastic.
And so did our customers.
Olive oil soap with herbs
We have made different types of soap and added various ingredients to achieve even better quality. We add herbs like thyme, lavender, or rosemary for their properties or fragrance. We use hydrosol instead of water to make the soap even more nourishing. Some soaps also contain coconut oil (for more foam), beeswax (for dry skin), or coffee (as an additional antioxidant).
We only make olive oil soap in the summer period because it is too cold and damp in winter to allow the soap to harden properly.
Our assortment consists of soap bars weighing approximately 100 grams, individually packaged. You can check the current stock on the order list.
If you want to make olive oil soap yourself, please contact Barbara.
You can call her at 0030-6951337205 (also WhatsApp and Viber) or send a message via e-mail or Facebook.
When I still lived in the Netherlands, I took a course in Mandala drawing once. I cannot draw at all (the animals I draw are almost unrecognizable), but I loved this course. The technique, the underlying meaning, and the relaxation during the drawing process made a big impression on me.
After this first course, I drew and coloured a lot, especially with coloured pencils. I took other courses and gained more experience with different techniques and types of paper.
During quiet moments, I often sat at the Mandali store's story table and made mandala cards or small thank-you cards with a mandala for orders.
Even the name of the store comes from the word "mandala."
My experience with drawing and colouring mandalas is that it is an activity that brings relaxation. Your mind becomes clearer, you become more creative, calmer, and it enhances concentration.
Sometimes, it's also a journey of discovery, and you don't know what the end result will be.
Getting to know a mandala
Would you like to experience what it's like to draw and colour a mandala during your holiday in Crete? You can do so at Mandali in Kournas. Barbara invites you to join her on the terrace for a morning of drawing and colouring.
You can call her at 0030-6951337205, also via WhatsApp and Viber, or send a message via e-mail or Facebook.
This introduction to mandala takes place from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM.
A few years ago, we organized a small cooking course together with Eleni, and it was a success. We cooked simple, small Cretan dishes.
Not too difficult, so that you can easily cook them again when you're back home after your holiday.
Many people have asked us if we could organize such a cooking course again. And we will.
We are in discussions with Eleni, and as soon as we have more information, you will find it on this page.
See you soon!
You have probably seen them, the beautiful postcards with donkeys in Greece. And maybe you have seen a real donkey during your holiday on one of the Greek islands, carrying branches or a pack saddle with an elderly woman or man on their way home.
During our holidays on Crete, we also met donkeys a few times, and we found them so special. One of the most frequently asked questions by tourists in Crete during our work in tourism was: where are the donkeys?
The answer to this question is not difficult. The donkeys have been replaced by cars. In 1950, Greece had 508,000 donkeys, in 1995, there were only 95,000, and in 2008, there were fewer than 15,000. In 2008, there were only 1,676 donkeys left on Crete, and at present, there are even fewer.
One of our wishes was to have a few donkeys that would accompany us on walks and help us carry herbs and water. Wouldn't it be nice to see donkeys in Kournas again? We searched for donkeys for over a year. We wanted to have 2 donkeys because a donkey is a social animal and doesn't like being alone. In 2018, we succeeded, and Arno and I became the proud owners of 2 donkeys, Eos and Cleo. In 2019, Popy and Zoë completed the herd.
We have gathered information about these special animals, and Arno, in particular, has raised and trained our donkeys with patience and love so that they can easily walk with us and others.
If you want to know more about our donkeys, they would be happy to introduce themselves to you. Click on the names of the donkeys for a brief introduction.
If you want to see more about our donkeys, check out their Instagram-account, with lots of photos and videos.
Over 30 years ago, donkeys could be seen in all the streets and fields of Kournas. They transported branches, raw materials, water, and even people.
At that time, Kavros did not exist, and the coastal area was called "Paralia Kournas" (Kournas beach). In this agricultural area, the farmers from Kournas grew potatoes, watermelons, zucchinis, and a lot of peanuts. During the peanut harvest, the donkeys were loaded with peanuts, given a tap on their backsides, and walked uphill to Kournas, where someone would unload them. Then, the donkey received another tap and walked downhill to Kavros. They knew the way.
In 2012, there were still 3 donkeys in Kournas. Their owners used them as pack animals for transporting firewood and tools. One man also used his donkey as a means of transportation. He couldn't walk so well any more, but thanks to his donkey, he could still go to his plot of land to work it.
Unfortunately, these last 3 donkeys have also passed away.
Where is Kournas located?
Kournas is located on the western side of Crete, on the north coast, 5 kilometres from the beach of Kavros (Georgioupoli) and 4 kilometres from Lake Kournas.
At the foot of Mount Dafnomadaras (1,680 meters), the village is safely situated at an altitude of nearly 250 meters.
How can I drive to Kournas?
You can read here the route from Rethymnon to Kournas and you can see the route from Chania here.
It seems like time has stood still in Kournas: the men of the village discuss the day's news in the kafenion, the women ask each other what they will cook today, and the children play safely in the street.
Taking a stroll through the village, you'll see many old and renovated traditional houses. The narrow streets are just wide enough for a donkey to pass through. Cars drive on the new, wider roads. Outside the village, you can still see women gathering herbs and wild vegetables for their daily meals.
In 1583, Kournas was already mentioned as a village with numerous activities, and the village played an important role during the Ottoman occupation. In 1866, Kournas was the centre of the Revolutionary government of Crete, and in 1897, it was the seat of the Cretan General Assembly.
It is a small village that has preserved its traditional Cretan character: a small village square with a beautiful view. Like many other villages in the Apokoronas municipality, there is a statue of a local hero in the square.
The mulberry trees and the large plane tree in the square provide delightful shade during the hot summer months. There are beautiful views from various places in the village. You can see the Almyros bay, with the villages of Georgioupolis and Kavros, and over the rolling landscape, you can see the villages of Kastellos, Dramia, and Episkopi in the direction of Rethymnon. The first mountains of the imposing Lefka Ori (White Mountains) are also visible from Kournas. In winter and spring, the white snow on the mountain peaks and the bluest sky create a spectacular panorama.
Approximately 550 people live in Kournas. Most residents were born here, and many elderly people originally come from the province of Sfakia in southern Crete. Kournas is also popular among foreigners. There are approximately 60 people from different European countries living here, including Germany, Belgium, England, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Romania, and Russia. In the centre, you will find a kafenion, a bakery, an ouzeri, a ceramics shop, and three restaurants. Donkey rides and herb walks also start in the village square.
There is also a primary school that is attended by more than 120 children from Kournas and the surrounding area. Just before the centre of the village, you will see the community house with a large square and a stage where weddings, baptism parties, play, and parties are celebrated in the summer. This community centre has a large kitchen for preparing meals for the festivities.
Dance and music lessons are also offered, and there is an extensive library with Greek and foreign books. Next to this community centre is the football field and a children's playground with various play equipment. Opposite the playground, you will see the olive oil factory, where olives are pressed almost daily from November.
In the small villages of Crete, you will find friendly hospitality and the proud tradition of receiving guests. The Cretans are known for their generosity and warm welcome to travellers, guests, and visitors. In Kournas, you can experience the simple village life, the real Crete, smell the fresh herbs, get lost in the olive groves, and taste the local products, from olives and olive oil to fresh fruit, wine, and raki.
In the traditional mountain village of Kournas, you will see few tourist activities: there is no travel agency with organized trips, no car or bicycle rentals, no souvenir shops, and not even a hotel.
"What should I do there?" you. "Then what am I supposed to do there?" you might be thinking. Well, nothing. You don't have to "do" anything in Kournas, just enjoy village life. Experience the tranquillity, the open space, the sound of the crowing rooster, the singing birds, and the music of goat bells. Listen to the greengrocer announcing his arrival with his car radio, and observe the villagers going about their everyday lives.
During the summer months, daily life in the mountain villages like Kournas mostly takes place outdoors: around the house, in the garden, on the balcony, on the street, or on the doorstep. The village square, the terraces of taverns, and the kafenions (village cafés) always have visitors exchanging the latest news and gossip. You are also welcome to visit the restaurants, cafés, or sit on a bench in the square to discover the essence of village life.
Kournas is a lively village throughout the year. In the summer and even in winter, there is live music in the taverns. In spring, the cultural association organizes a "treasure hunt," and there are music and dance performances. There is even a theatre group that performs a comedy play every year. In September, grapes are pressed at various locations in the village, and in October, the distillation of "tsikoudia" (Cretan raki) begins in the two "Kazani" stills.
On August 16th, the Cultural Community of Kournas holds its annual village festival on the square of the community centre, featuring a performance by the popular musician-singer Nikos Zoiidakis. On August 29th, the villagers celebrate the feast of St. John the Baptist, along with friends, family, and tourists. At the terraces of various taverns, you can enjoy live music and dance until the early hours.
The Greek Orthodox faith holds a significant place in the lives of the Cretans. The church, along with the many small churches and chapels, is well-maintained by the local population.
There are 11 churches in and around Kournas, and the most remarkable among them, as well as two of the oldest Byzantine churches in Crete, are Agia Irini and Agios Georgios, built in 1200 AD. On April 23rd, the name day of Agios Georgios is celebrated, and on May 4th, the name day of Agia Irini is celebrated.
Unfortunately, these two ancient churches are not open for visits. They are only open in the early morning during the service on their respective name days.
April 23rd, name day of Georgios
The first celebration takes place on April 23rd, when the name day of Saint Georgios is celebrated at the church bearing his name in Kournas. Since the village priest is also named Georgios, you can imagine that this festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm. After the church service in one of the oldest churches in Crete, everyone is welcome at the small square next to the church, where tables and chairs are set up with blessed bread, pilaf rice, meat, and wine.
Village Festival on August 16th
On August 16th, the annual village festival will be celebrated with a live performance by the famous musician and singer Nikos Zoiidakis. There is plenty of space on the square near the community centre for the hundreds of guests who will celebrate this festival until the early hours. Of course, there will be abundant food, drinks, and dancing.
Augustus 29th, name day of St. John
On August 29th, the villagers and many tourists will celebrate the name day of Saint John. This festive day begins with a church service at the St. John's Church in the "backyard" of Kournas, and in the evening, the main street of the village is transformed into a large festive square with plenty of food, drinks, music, and dancing.
Throughout the year, there are several other festive events, such as a treasure hunt, live music at various taverns, the setting up of the Christmas tree and nativity scene, and on December 31st, Arno bakes traditional Dutch "oliebollen". (doughnuts)
In Kournas there are three restaurants, where the delicious, traditional Cretan dishes are still cooked.
Especially on Sundays, the local population also knows where to find these taverns: it is quite busy then, because usually the "kokoretsi" or the "Kontosouvla" are on the menu. There is also an ouzerie and a kafenion, where you get a small snack served with your drink.
Music and dance
In the summer months, exuberant village festivals are organized in almost all villages and there are also regular celebrations in Kournas.
Not only the villagers, but also tourists from the area like to come to the parties. So if you are in the area? Come to Kournas and celebrate with us!!!
On the village square, you will find the tavern "Kournas," owned by Nikos and Maria Kokolakis. Just past the square, on the right side, you will see the tavern "Kali Kardia," run by Andreas Anagnostakis. Across from it, you are welcome at Babis Kouratoras' tavern, called "Babis."
Next to tavern "Kournas" is the café Αραξοβόλι and beyond the village square, next to the baker Polenta, you will find the ouzeri "Aetofolia." Further up the street, on the right side, is the kafenion owned by the Piperakis family. So, you won't go hungry, and your thirst can be quenched in many places.
So, you won't go hungry, and your thirst can be quenched in many places.
For over 25 years, Maria and Nikos Kokolakis have been running the tavern "Kournas," also known as "Kanarina." Every summer, tourists from various countries come to Kournas to say hello to the family and enjoy Maria's traditional Cretan cooking and Nikos' grilled dishes. The terrace is sometimes spontaneously used as a dance floor for the famous Cretan dances during the summer months. You can find more information about this family tavern on their Facebook page .
An ouzeri is a cafe where you can have a drink accompanied by small bites. You may already be familiar with them: rolled grape leaves, olives, small cheese pastries, pieces of loukaniko (sausage), etc. The ouzeri in Kournas is run by the Dramilaris family and is named "Aetofolia" (eagle's nest). Like in the kafenion, this is where the latest news is shared, daily matters are discussed, and experiences are shared.
The tavern "Kali Kardia" (the good heart) is a well-known place in Kournas. In 1959, Kosta Anagnostakis and his wife Evangelia opened the tavern, attracting guests from far and wide who came to enjoy traditional Cretan dishes and homemade specialties such as "galaktoboureko" and "kokoretsi." In recent years, "Kali Kardia" has been run by Andreas Anagnostakis, who, along with family members and a large group of friends, revives old times in Kournas. The menu offers delicious and healthy Cretan dishes, including "Kokoretsi" (only on Sundays), the famous "Kali Kardia" salad, and "galaktoboureko." The weekends are dedicated to music, with local and regional musicians performing on the terrace during the summer and inside the tavern during the winter. The performances usually start after 9:00 PM, so you have plenty of time to enjoy a meal with musical accompaniment. And, of course, Cretan dancing takes place on these evenings. You can find more information about this renowned tavern on their Facebookpage.
"Tavern Babis" has been established opposite "Kali Kardia" for several years, and it is the perfect place for lovers of traditional Cretan cuisine. The delicious "Babis" salad and specialities such as "Antichristo" and "kokoretsi" on Sundays are just a few examples. At the entrance of the tavern, Babis has set up a small museum with unique old utensils, including the authentic Cretan flag, an extensive family tree, and various other objects. In summer, "Tavern Babis" regularly organizes live music events, which often last until the early hours.
You can find more information about this extraordinary tavern on their Facebookpage.
Over 35 years ago, Kournas had as many as 11 kafenions! In recent years, many residents have left Kournas, and the kafenion owned by the Piperakis family is the only one that remains. And it's not just an ordinary kafenion. It has a wine cellar, a small mini-market for essential daily needs, it serves as the village's "post office," and thousands of kilograms of grapes are pressed here in September. Piperakis' wine is beloved and served in many Cretan restaurants, and it is even exported. In recent years, two white wine varieties have been added alongside the red wine.
The owner, Dimitri Piperakis, passed away in 2021 at the age of 92. He used to be the mayor of Kournas and knew almost everything and everyone. His brother, Spiros, and other family members now ensure that everything runs smoothly at the kafenion.
However, Dimitri is still missed by many. In summer, you are welcome to the cosy terrace for a cup of Greek coffee, a beer, or a delightful glass of house wine.
In winter, a wood stove is placed in the middle of the kafenion, and all the news and experiences are exchanged around the warm stove.
At the place where the shop "Mandali" was located, Maria and Anna from Kournas opened their café "Αραξοβόλι" (anchor or harbour). Here you can enjoy different types of coffee, soft drinks, a beer or a raki. Small snacks, the so-called "mezedes" are also on the menu. Such as stuffed vine leaves, olives, "Sfakian pie", various vegetable and meat dishes and ice cream.
You are also welcome for breakfast on the terrace under the plane tree.
The café is open from 07:00 until the last customer leaves.
You won't find large stores for extensive shopping in Kournas. In fact, there isn't even a "mini-market" in Kournas at the moment. Fortunately, throughout the year, traders come to the village in their cars almost daily to sell their goods: vegetables and fruits, fresh fish, cheese and yogurt, chickens, clothing and shoes, plants, flower pots and potting soil, bread, rugs, garden chairs, carpets—everything is available.
For other groceries, we go to Kavros, Georgioupolis, or the cities of Rethymnon, only 25 kilometres away, or Chania, 48 kilometres away.
Bakery and mini market
Past the village square, on the right side of the street, Mimi Polentas had his artisan bakery for many years. His son Pantelis now runs the bakery, and every morning, fresh bread awaits you. Pantelis delivers bread to the village and the surrounding area every morning. Katerina, Mimi's wife, is responsible for the traditional cookies and the delicious, healthy "cookie sticks." Thyme honey, cookies, and other treats are also available here.
There is no longer a mini market in Kournas, but the bakery now sells some daily necessities, such as rice, pasta, flour, milk, butter etc. The range of products is gradually being expanded.
The bakery is open every day from 8:00 am to late evening. From 15:00 to 17:00, the bakery is closed.
Next to her parents' bakery, Vivian has opened her hair salon. Ladies, children, and gentlemen can come here for haircuts, styling, and colouring. Vivian also offers manicure, pedicure, and bridal makeup services.
The salon is open from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. It is closed on Sundays.
Next to the kafenion, you can discover a small shop. This dates back to a time when there were no shops in the village at all. People used to go to the kafenion for their necessities. The assortment is not as extensive as it used to be, but you can still buy some essential items here, such as matches, flour, sugar, and coffee.
They also sell their own house wine, raki, and olive oil.
The kafenion is open from 6:00 p.m. until around 10:00 p.m. or later.
To complete this page, I'll mention "Mandali," the online shop located in Kournas. Various local products, such as olive oil and thyme honey, can be ordered here. You can find the order form HERE.
The owner of Mandali, Barbara, along with her husband Arno, organizes various activities in the village of Kournas. You can find more information on this page.
If you want to explore more of the area around the beaches of Georgioupolis and Kavros and also enjoy village life, book your next holiday in Kournas. Beautiful holiday homes are available throughout the village for solo travellers, couples, groups of friends, or large and small families.
I have gathered information about several holiday homes in Kournas, but you can find many more on various booking websites.
Who knows, maybe we'll meet in the village this summer.
To get an impression of the village centre, click HERE for a map of Kournas.
This complex consists of a villa and 2 flats. The traditionally built villa has 5 bedrooms, a swimming pool, and a jacuzzi on the rooftop terrace. You'll have a beautiful view, and you'll stay in the centre of the mountain village of Kournas. There are 3 bathrooms, and the villa can accommodate up to 14 people.
The ground floor flat has a terrace and is fully furnished for 8 to 12 people.
The first-floor flat has a rooftop pool and can accommodate up to 12 people.
A beautifully renovated stone house with traditional elements and modern furnishings. From the terrace, you'll have a beautiful view of the village's "backyard." Here, too, you can enjoy the rooftop pool. The villa consists of several residential units.
This villa, renovated in Cretan style, was completely refurnished in 2014 and expanded with a heated pool. It offers stunning views of the sea and mountains. Privacy and the quiet location make your holiday unforgettable.
This is also a great place to stay during the winter months, as the underfloor heating provides a comfortable temperature when it's colder outside.
This villa is built in a valley on the outskirts of the village, with a beautiful, colourful garden featuring a pool and various sun terraces. Even on windy days, you can find a sheltered spot here. The villa has 3 bedrooms.
A villa beautifully furnished in Cretan style, offering stunning mountain views, a seasonal outdoor pool, a garden, air-conditioned accommodation, and free WiFi. There is a fully equipped kitchen and a private bathroom. A barbecue is available. It can accommodate 4 to 10 people.
This villa is suitable for a large family or a group of friends. Spread over 3 floors, it offers 5 bedrooms. The villa is built in Cretan style and provides all the luxury you desire. There is a large swimming pool, and in the beautiful garden, you can use various terraces. The villa is located on the outskirts of the village.
the Mandali Mail approximately once a month, and previous newsletters have covered topics such as Cretan mountain tea, oregano, olive harvesting and pressing, what is a komboloi, life in winter on Crete, how to choose a good olive oil, and how Christmas is celebrated in Crete.
I would be happy to keep you informed about news regarding Crete, the village of Kournas, and the surrounding areas (Georgioupolis, Lake Kournas, and Kavros), including nature, customs and traditions in Crete, day trip possibilities in the area, and much more.
Would you like to receive the Mandali Mail in your mailbox every month? Sign up via this LINK.
If you prefer to read the newsletters on this site, click below on the Mandali Mail of your choice.
Do you want to stay informed about our activities and the local products we offer in our online shop in the village of Kournas? Or do you want to know how we and our donkeys are doing?
Sign up for the Mandali Mail, a newsletter with news about Crete, Kournas, and us and our donkeys. It contains interesting facts, recipes, photos, information about herbs, and much more.
Many people who spend their holidays on Crete are often particularly surprised by the island's versatility: Crete has everything: beautiful, unspoilt nature, mountains and plateaus, sea and lakes with fresh water, picturesque villages and big cities, simple rooms for rent and luxurious hotels, many hours of sunshine and sometimes heavy rain and snow in winter.
Not to mention the friendly, hospitable people, delicious, healthy food, relaxed lifestyle and much more.... And this surprise also began our first introduction to Crete.
It started with a holiday in Crete
Since 2000, we came to Crete every year to enjoy a wonderful relaxing, but also sporty holiday. We came twice a year: in May and in September. And every time we arrived at the airport and breathed in the warm Cretan air, we felt like we were coming home. And also, every time we went back to the Netherlands, it was hard to say goodbye.
During one of our holidays in Crete, we wondered whether it would be possible to live (and work) on this beautiful island. We asked many Cretan friends and acquaintances for information, and also asked people who already lived and worked here for advice.
On this website about our online shop "Mandali" in Kournas, there is already a lot of information about us and our life here in Crete. But Arno and I have so much more to share about our experiences on this special island.
Through this BLOG, we want to share our adventures with you. You can also find useful tips and information about Crete here.
Immigrating to Crete
How exciting is it to move abroad? Leaving your family, friends, and dear acquaintances in the Netherlands behind? Should we do it or not? And what if things don't go well? These were all questions that haunted us in 2008 and 2009. In 2009, Arno worked in a hotel in Kavros (Georgioupolis) for three months to see how it would go. It was clearly very different from what we had imagined. Long working days, hard work, communication problems due to the foreign language, irregular payment of wages, a different work culture, different climate, etc. But none of this changed our decision: we are going to emigrate to Crete.
In 2010, we left with the most important things packed in our car, and on March 1st, we arrived in Crete.
Normal life in Crete
We have been living in Crete for 13 years now, and many people ask us if we like living in Crete and how it actually is. All we can say is that we absolutely have no regrets about our decision to live and work here. We're enjoying it, we feel at home in the village of Kournas, we have enough friends and acquaintances, we love our work with our online shop Mandali, we adore our 4 donkeys, we enjoy going on walks with nature lovers, and we happily share our knowledge about herbs with our guests.
13 years later
Looking back, we have experienced joy, triumphs, and laughter, but we have also cried and felt frustrated. We have been sad at times, but mostly very happy. Of course, we miss our family and friends who live in the Netherlands, and sometimes we wish we could spontaneously visit them on special occasions or offer comfort during difficult times. Unfortunately, that's not possible, but fortunately, we now have fast internet and can stay in touch with our loved ones through various social media channels. And during real visits here and in the Netherlands, we cherish quality time spent together.
Over the years, we have achieved a lot, solved various problems, and learned a great deal. We have adapted well, and things are going well for us. In short, we feel great here!
Experiences in Crete
If you want to read more about our experiences in Crete, our life here, or if you want to know more about Crete in general, I have already written about various topics in the blogs below, and there will be more to come.
In 2016, Arno and I were interviewed by the Dutch newspaper "De Stentor." You can see it HERE. The German "Griechenland Zeitung" also covered our activities in Kournas. Click HERE to read it.
On the YouTube channel of Kreta-TV, you can also find some videos (in German) with us. In this interview we answer 10 questions about our immigration to Crete, and in this interview we explain the changes to the Mandali shop and our future plans for this year.
The Kournas area has plenty to offer for an unforgettable holiday or a fun day trip. I have gathered the most interesting activities on this page for you.
You can also find more general and useful information about Crete on this page.
Hiking Guide for the area of Kato Poros, Petres, Embrosneros, and Mousellas River
If you enjoy hiking in the area surrounding Kournas, Victor Law's new hiking guide might be worth considering. Victor lives in Kastellos, a village next to Kournas, and in his guide, he describes many walks in the broader region around Kournas. It even includes a "coast to coast" hike.
You can read and download the hiking guide here for your own use.
Videos about Crete
Because film images can tell even more, I also give you a number of links of beautiful videos about Crete, which can help you make your holiday plans.
You can experience a spectacular day trip with "Georgioupolis Jeepsafari".
Stelios will help you explore the real Crete and make this day unforgettable.
If you want to spend a day on the water, diving into the cool water, catching fish, snorkeling, and visiting spectacular caves, you can join Captain Georgios on his yacht
"Aphrodite" for various boat-trips.
For a sporty day out, you can visit
"Nikos rent-a-bike" in Kavros. He will provide you with a bicycle with many gears or an e-bike, along with a handy route map, making it easy for you to cycle up and down the hills.
Have you always dreamed of galloping on a horse along the beach at sunset or swimming with a horse? Near Kavros, you will find the
"horse stable Zoraïda" , where you can book various horse riding tours.
Offers much more information than just beaches, and also has a handy travel app called "my Cretan guide."
A paradise-like environment where fruit trees, herbs, medicinal plants, and flowers grow.
flowers of Crete
Beautiful photos and lots of information about the unique and endemic flowers in Crete.
A page with lots of information to help you plan your vacation in Crete.
You don't have to travel for hours to discover the real Crete.
There are also opportunities for adventure trips in the Kournas area.
Here are some excellent websites with information about Crete and its beautiful nature:
You can find many videos about Crete, as well as the municipality of Apokoronas, on the You Tube-channel of Kreta TV
This beautiful video showcasing a part of Crete was made by Bert Christiaens.
Suggestions, additions, or interesting information you'd like to share are always welcome.
I hope you've found inspiration for your next holiday to Crete and wish you lots of excitement in your preparations.
Hiking in the municipality of Apokoronas
There are also plenty of opportunities for walking in other villages in the municipality of Apokoronas. Various hiking booklets can be ordered on the Discoveronfoot website. With short and longer walks.
Last year, several hiking trails were also marked with red and white stripes. You can find these Chania Trails on the Avenza website. With the app on your mobile phone, you can walk the routes (also offline).
Our first holiday to Crete was in 2000, and we stayed in Gouves, in a flat called "John and Mary" owned by Michalis and his family.
If you'd like to read about our first encounter with Crete, click here for a report with a few photos, captured on film rolls. Unfortunately, the photo quality isn't great.
While searching for holiday photos, I came across the travel stories of our trips to Crete. How delightful! The photos had to wait because I wanted to read them first. It felt like it was just yesterday, despite it being more than 20 years ago.
As many people frequently ask us how we ended up in Crete, I have revamped our holiday experiences and am excited to share them with you.
In 2001, Crete was our holiday destination again. This time, we went to the southeast coast and stayed in Mirtos, Achlia, and Agia Fotia. If you want to read about our experiences and what we saw during this holiday, click here for a report.
These photos were also taken with film rolls, so the quality isn't excellent.
Once again, we chose Crete as our holiday destination for this year. This time, we explored the "Wild West" of Crete and stayed in Paleochora, Loutro, and Georgioupolis on the other side of the island. You can read here more about our experiences and adventures. These (scanned) photos were also taken with film rolls, so the quality is not the best
In May, we returned to Crete to enjoy another wonderful holiday. This year, we started in Georgioupolis, but also visited Plakias and Loutro. Before returning to the Netherlands, we also revisited our first holiday spot in Gouves. We still used analogue cameras for photos. If you want to know where we were and what we experienced, continue reading here.
Once again, Crete was our holiday destination this year. For the first time, our son and daughter joined us for a week. We wanted them to experience the beauty that Crete has to offer. We stayed in Georgioupolis, Loutro, the cities of Chania and Rethymnon, and explored the surrounding area of Georgioupolis extensively.
You can read here more about our experiences and adventures.
This year, we not only went to Crete, but also spent a few days in Nafplion on the Greek mainland. On Crete, we stayed in Georgioupolis and Loutro, and we also explored the western part of the island. We visited Elafonissi, Elos, and on the northern coast, Skoutelonas and Afrata. We also hiked in several gorges. Read more HERE about our experiences.
During our summer vacations, we usually spent time in the Netherlands and France with our children. We loved camping, the more primitive, the better. We even brought our bikes on the roof of the car once.
When our children no longer joined us on holiday, and we were no longer bound by school holidays, we started looking for a different destination. We wanted to visit Greece, a country we had never been to before. Our choice then fell on the island of Crete, a large island with many opportunities for hikes, excursions, beautiful nature, delicious food, and plenty of sunshine.
We could never have anticipated that our vacations in Crete would have such a significant impact on our future lives. If you want to read about our experiences during these vacations, continue reading here.
Below, you can find where we stayed in Crete and what we experienced:
This year we organized a walking week in Loutro in May with a nice group of walkers, and after this we stayed for another 2 weeks in the west of the island. We were in Georgioupolis and again near Kolymbari. In Rodopos we were invited for a cup of coffee, which we did not drink. If you would like to read about our experiences during this holiday, read more HERE.
We would like to grow our online shop, Mandali, and the activities we organize in Kournas, and we would appreciate your help in gaining more visibility. We would be delighted if you could share special experiences, pleasant memories, exciting adventures, or fond memories through various social media platforms such as Facebook en Instagram. Writing a review on TripAdvisor or Google also greatly help us in improving our visibility.
We strive to provide you with the best possible information, and if you have any suggestions for improvements, we would love to hear them.
How to reach Kournas
If you are in the vicinity of Rethymnon or Chania on holiday and would like to visit Kournas, you can follow the National Road towards Georgioupolis or Lake Kournas. From there, follow the signs to Kournas.
Kournas is also accessible by regular bus service. The bus stops at the National Road in Kavros (Paralia Kournas), near the SILK petrol station. To reach Kournas from there, you can take a taxi in Kavros or walk. It's approximately 5 kilometres.
The taxi stand is located on the shopping street next to the train station, or you can ask the petrol station to call a taxi for you.
How to reach us:
Per telephone: 0030-6951337205 (also WhatsApp en Viber) and via e-mail, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
You can also call or write to us for orders. The order form can be found HERE.
We live in the village of Kournas, and below our house, we have our warehouse with our store inventory. If you would like to take an order with you in your suitcase, please call or write to us, and we will prepare it for you. You can pick up your order at our home, or we can deliver it to your holiday address.
We look forward to seeing you in Kournas.
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