Every time I look for new volunteer experiences, excitement kicks in. I never know what exciting things I will find and where I will finally end up. So, here I am with the second edition of my travel volunteer experience, which brings me to the land of the Greek Gods and the golden elixir, a.k.a. olive oil, on the beautiful island of Crete—enjoying holiday villas, sun, and olives in Crete.

My trips are so spontaneous that when I feel it is time to change location, I go online to look for other places to explore. And by going online, I mean that I will check for new hosts on the sites that I mentioned in this post. I go with what catches my attention and seems interesting enough to explore. There’s growth from absolutely every single experience. So far, I have met amazing people, learned about traditional natural products, uncovered new travel destinations, and swam in December in the Mediterranean. My life is now complete.

This time, my crazy work and travel adventures have brought me to Crete, the most significant Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea. Among exploring the island, enjoying holiday villas, sun, and olives in Crete were on the list. Contrary to what it might seem, the exploration is happening outwards and inwards, exploring the unknown, breaking limitations, doing the unthinkable, and dissolving behavioral and thought patterns. This is what 2020 has been for me and will continue to be well into 2021. A total shift in existence, thought, and behavior is happening.

The Best Villa Experience

I spent over a month with the best host helping with the olive harvest in Chania, Crete. The cool thing is that other volunteers came from Germany, France, and Austria shortly after I arrived. We had a great time learning, cooking, exploring around, laughing, and playing cards together. We lived in a beautiful villa surrounded by mandarin trees, oranges, bananas, pomegranates, lemons, and avocados. It was fantastic to pick our fruits in the morning. The villa is conveniently located just 10 min walk to the beach. There are supermarkets on the way to the beach, and the walk along the coast is lovely. You can check their website to book a stay in one of their villas.

From Olives to Olive Oil

Holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete. Holding olives between the hands.

Before this, I didn’t know how the olives were harvested or the oil-making process. I learned many things that I am going to share with you here. Olive trees have a long history in the Mediterranean area, particularly Crete, dating back to 4000 B.C., during the Minoan civilization. The land is inherited from generation to generation, and the children growing alongside the trees have learned to appreciate and respect the land. I was in the Chania and Platanias regions collecting the olives. Everywhere you look, you only see olive trees. Practically, every local has some olive fields inherited from their ancestors. I love so much the abundance that this island can offer. You can also find fields from the citrus family (oranges, lemons, mandarins, grapefruit, lime) among the olive trees. People have begun to plant avocado and banana trees for the past few years.

The harvesting season for the olives starts in November and can last till January. However, the idea is to harvest the olives as fast as possible because the quality of the oil depends on it. So working from dawn till dusk is expected, as collecting the olives during rainy days is impossible.

Holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete. Olive fields in the mountains.
This is the right color and maturity for the olives to be harvested
Olive fields
A vibrant olive tree

They ensure every olive gets collected; first, we spread nets around the trees. After, use a machine like the one in the picture below to remove the olives from the branches with minimal damage to the tree.

We remove as many branches and leaves as possible before putting them into baskets.
Olives ready for the factory

As you probably have guessed, this golden elixir has many health qualities. But that doesn’t mean that every olive oil is good for you. Only the organic extra virgin olive oil is the one that you should be consuming. Olive oil is known to be high in phenolic antioxidants. It is a healthy monounsaturated fat containing vitamins E and K. If you buy an olive oil that is not an organic extra virgin, you risk getting an oil depleted of every beneficial property.

The taste of good olive oil has a fruity solid bitter aftertaste that you feel in your throat. And the color is an intense light green. This is present primarily in freshly cold-pressed olive oil. I use olive oil for salads or put it on top of food after it is cooked and cooled, and I use coconut oil to fry with as it is resistant to high heat.

The full bottle is freshly pressed organic extra virgin olive oil; the other is from a later production.

The most common variety of olives in Crete is Koroneiki which produces an excellent, fruity, green, aromatic olive oil. Other types of olives which are more prominent are collected by hand and preserved as table olives. The process is straightforward. Put the olives in water, leave them for 2,3 days, and change the water after. Repeat. Add salt and water to it, and let it sit for a month or a bit more until it is ready to be consumed.

Handpicked olives by me

High-Quality Olive Oil

Distinguishing between high-quality and low-quality olive oil is super important. It would be best to learn to differentiate to stop promoting the spread of low-quality oil on the market. Many factors determine the quality and production of the olive oil.

  • Weather

The weather can be unpredictable and destroy a year’s work quickly. Hail, heavy rainy or very windy days can damage the olives and drastically reduce the production.

  • Insect bites

The number one predator is the flies that can destroy a healthy crop by biting the olive and making a hole inside to lay eggs. The hole will oxidize the olive and affect its quality. To combat this problem without using chemicals, farmers hang a bottle on the tree with ammonium which attracts the flies and drowns them in the liquid. Another method is to add sticky paper.

It doesn’t look pretty, but it is efficient. Using chemicals is a no-no
  • Temperature

After harvesting the olives, the processing is as important as the maintenance and cultivation. To maintain the beneficial properties, the oil has to be processed at a maximum temperature of 27°C/ 80.6°F.

  • Harvest

Whether the olives are harvested too early or too late can also affect the quality and production of the oil as it can increase its acidity. A 0.2 acidity is considered a perfect oil; from 0.5 above, it loses its quality. The unripe green olives produce less oil, have a green and spicy taste, and are higher in phenolic antioxidants. However, the purple and black olives produce more oil.

  • Time

And, of course, time plays a significant role too. After harvesting the olives, they should be processed on the same day or earlier the next day. As time passes, the degradation and acidity of the olives increase, leading to a lower quality olive oil.

  • Mill

To have good production all year round, pruning, watering, and protecting the olives from bites is necessary. However, in the last stage of processing, everything can be ruined. Using a factory that does not use water to crush the olives is crucial. Quality olive oil is obtained just from olives. Nothing else. Equally important is how clean the factory is. That should be obvious, but unfortunately, it is not. Any remains of other oils will influence the quality of potentially excellent olive oil.

There are several factories in Crete. We took the olives at the most famous factory in northwest Crete in the Chania region, which goes by the name of Terra Creta. They can process organic olives without mixing them with other oils. But anyway, there’s always a risk of oils getting mixed.


I hope you learned something from my experience, and the next time you buy olive oil, you know what to choose. Say no to chemicals and buy organic. And remember, holiday villas, sun, and olives will be waiting for you in Crete to enjoy.

Holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete. The beauty of Crete. Olive fields, mountains and sun.
Olive fields deep into the heart of Crete
Holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete. Getting the area ready to harvest the olives
Setting the stage
Holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete. Having lunch after working for many hours
Lunch break with nature
Holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete. Sheep love to eat olives and the leaves of the olives
The sheep love to eat the olives and the leaves
Holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete. Fields and fields of olive trees.
Holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete. Big olive tree
This plant is so invasive. We cut it off to let the olive tree breathe
Holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete. A flock of sheeps looking for food
Lots of sheep herds roaming around

Holiday villas, sun, and olives for you to enjoy in Crete. Check out my other volunteer experience in Portugal: I slept in a yurt for two months.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Carlos Carrion

    Excellent article . Very intering and useful. Keep up your great job and , please, continue, posting your amazing photos..

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