Discovering “Handcrafted Crete,” a New Coffee Table Book

A new coffee table book by travel writer Isabella Zambetaki presents the enormous variety and wealth of Crete's handicrafts, past and present.

Isabella Zambetaki, travel journalist and creator of the Tourism Awards, wanted to write a special book about Crete. She chose as a theme the many aspects of Cretan handicrafts and created a coffee table book that looks at traditional arts from a modern perspective.

In its pages, we discover a multifaceted variety of age-old crafts from across the plains and mountains of Crete: from textiles, ceramics and knife making, to olive oil, wine and cheesemaking.

“Handcrafted Crete” centers on the notion of authenticity, presenting 26 individual crafts and four travel routes to places on the island where one can explore handmade crafts in the flesh. The bilingual travel volume also features the images of photographer Giorgos Anastasakis. 

Among the crafts, the book presents us with the board games hand-carved by Venetian soldiers centuries ago on the rocks of Spinalonga, and the unique Renaissance Garden in the Kambos of Chania. We travel to wineries that produce wine in clay amphorae and to shepherds’ farmsteads, where they still make cheese as their grandparents did in century-old copper cauldrons.

“Handcrafted Crete” is a journey to the most beautiful, authentic elements of the island and the philosophy of its people. The author is frugal with her text, leaving room for the atmospheric photographs to speak, so that the entire experience created by the book infuses the reader with generous and substantial “doses” of Crete.

It’s impossible to flip through the book’s pages without longing to visit and taste its products. Most importantly, though, ” Handcrafted Crete” brings you face to face with a philosophy and way of life that has something truly substantial to reveal to you. 

Read an excerpt from the book as exclusively presented in Greece Is:

The Honey of Samaria

Theodoris’ apiary is located on a steep, rocky slope of the Samaria gorge. To get there, one needs to walk for three hours. The bees enjoy direct access to the rich vegetation of the National Park and “work on” herbs such as sage, thoruba, marjoram, malotira and white thyme of the White Mountains. As for Thodoris, he enjoys his connection to his father’s birthplace. The annual honey cycle begins in February, a time when bee populations are breeding, and ends with the August harvest. The infrastructure is absolutely basic: three honey centrifuges, electricity from a generator and a pulley to transport the materials along the steep slope.


Whatever cannot be loaded onto the winch is carried on people’s backs. On harvest days, Theodoris and the friends who come to help him spend the night in a cave on the rock. At the same spot, overlooking the vertical slopes on the opposite side of the canyon, they cook together and – if the occasion arises – celebrate the harvest with music and song.

While the bees sleep, a small “beehive” of men works non-stop, using scrapers to remove the wax seal from the honeycombs, which are then placed in the honey extractors. As these rotate at a speed, the night is perfumed with a sweet smell of herbs, while the honey flows thickly from the cannula at the bottom of the machine. The ‘milking’ stops at first light, followed by the long journey of the honey on mules to the seaside village of Agia Roumeli.

Transport of the honey is carried out with respect for the animals’ stamina, so it takes around three days to complete. Time and effort do not trouble Theodoris. The only thing clouding his mind is the future of his art and the prolonged drought of recent years.


“Handcrafted Crete” was created with the support of the Region of Crete. The first official presentation of the book took place on June 30 at the Chania Book Festival. The first edition is aimed at tourism professionals, with the aim of reinforcing the shift towards experiential and authentic experiences in the hinterland of the island. Visit the Incredible Crete page on Facebook  and Instagram and type #handcraftedcrete to discover the “secrets” of “Handcrafted Crete.”

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