Founded only in October 2004 after a fire decimated the olive groves and orchards in the area, the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete emerged like a phoenix from the ashes of a natural disaster. They are the Marinakis family’s gift to the island - “a botanical park for trekking, education, and recreation” - but also a popular tourist attraction.
The park opened its gates officially in 2009, and it quickly ascended to the top of the world’s best botanical destinations, according to The Guardian.
There is no other botanical garden like this in Europe: winding paths take you from a mountain top on a steep hike down to a charming little lake. There you’ll find the donkeys and Cretan wild goats. Peacocks roam freely all over the park - peaceful birds with stunning plumage that add a plus of magic to your hike.
Birdwatchers will appreciate the park too - several species found an ideal habitat in the Mediterranean and Tropical sections of the garden. Observe the butterflies and other insects while you stroll along.
Be advised to wear hiking footwear and to have plenty of water with you. While not long, the hike can be strenuous under the scorching summer sun, for the elderly, people suffering from challenging illnesses, and toddlers. The park is not wheelchair accessible.
At the end of your visit, reward yourself with a meal at the restaurant of the gardens. They serve proper Cretan mountain fare. There’s also a shop selling all kinds of products made with herbs and fruit gathered from the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete.