Escape Mass Tourism in the Traditional Cretan Village of Mochos
The vast Cretan landscape offers a colorful palette of opportunities for those looking to relax and enjoy authentic experiences. Other than stunning beaches and cities rich in culture, Crete is also home to delicious and unspoiled inland villages. One of them is Mochos, and it will let you escape from the coastal crowds and mass tourism while enjoying a unique atmosphere, discovering another of the many authentic faces of the island.
Mochos is one of the four most important settlements of the municipality of Malia, in the prefecture of Heraklion. The village can be reached departing from Stalida, and going up through a series of hairpin turns that lead to the main square of the village. Along this nine-kilometer long road, magnificent sights alternate between the blue sea of Crete and the imposing mountains. Once past the village square, the road continues to the Lassithi plateau.
Traditional houses from the 16th century dot the picturesque alleys of Mochos. Courtyards are filled with flowers and the hospitality of the villagers is legendary.
Old Byzantine icons decorate the different churches of the town. The main one located in the central square is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin and to Agia Paraskevi. This temple is home to an iconostasis of the Virgin which dates back to 1820. Here it is also possible to admire a small icon made of copper together with different wall paintings.
A visit around the square presents visitors with the hard task of choosing a taverna among the many in town. In summer, they arrange their little tables on the streets, under big trees and colorful lights. Locals mingle with visitors to enjoy tables full of inexpensive and delicious local specialties.
One of the many famous shops in town is known for selling local herbs and spices. As a matter of fact, being that Mochos is located among olive groves and grapevines, most of the residents are farmers.
This typical mountain settlement dates back to the second Byzantine period and had Stalida (or Stalis) as its harbor town. A survey from 2001 counted less than 1000 inhabitants permanently living in the community.
Mochos is a village which already existed back in the 8th century. According to different research, the first inhabitants would have probably been monks. Ancient records demonstrate that the village was called Mogho in the Middle Ages and back in 1583 only 451 people lived there. Apparently not much has changed from those times.
Celebrations in Mochos
It is a good idea to pay a visit to Mochos on August 15, when major Greek celebration honoring the Virgin is held. The village welcomes visitors from all over Crete who seek to enjoy good Cretan music and dancing, as well as some of the local wine and food. The celebrations usually continue into the early hours of the next day.
During the summer season, the village also hosts a traditional Cretan night, usually every Wednesday, in which local dishes, wine, dance, and music are available in every taverna. This way, the community of Mochos gives foreign visitors the opportunity to live an unforgettable experience of Cretan traditions and hospitality. Cretan nights also count with the presence of professional dancers dressed in the traditional costumes of Crete.
Mochos hosts one of the remaining traditional carnivals, held one week before the actual carnival day. The village square is filled with people dancing and singing. Drinks are free and a legacy carnival soup is made in massive cauldrons. As usual in Mochos, the feast does not end before 5 or 6 am.