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February 28, 2024

Experience Apokries: Celebrating Crete’s Carnival Tradition

As winter loosens its grip and the first hints of spring appear, the island of Crete comes alive with vibrant colors, captivating melodies, and jubilant celebrations. At the heart of this lively atmosphere lies Apokries, the traditional carnival of Crete, where locals and visitors alike partake in a whirlwind of festivities, folklore, and feasting. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the rich traditions of Apokries, its significance, and where you can experience the magic firsthand.


What is Apokries?

Apokries, also known as the Greek Carnival, marks the period of indulgence and revelry before the solemn season of Lent. Derived from the Greek word “apokreo,” meaning “to abstain from meat,” this carnival is a time for feasting, merrymaking, and letting loose before the onset of fasting and repentance.

When and Where do we celebrate Apokries?

Apokries typically takes place in February, preceding the start of Lent and Easter. The exact dates vary each year based on the Orthodox Christian calendar. The carnival lasts for several weeks, with the peak of festivities occurring in the final week leading up to Clean Monday, the beginning of Lent.

When it comes to experiencing Apokries in Crete, several towns and villages across the island offer unique celebrations that capture the essence of Cretan culture. Here are a few notable destinations:

  1. Rethymno: This charming coastal town hosts one of the most vibrant Apokries celebrations in Crete. Expect lively parades, elaborate costumes, and spirited street parties that illuminate the historic streets of the Old Town.

  2. Chania: With its picturesque Venetian harbor and narrow alleyways, Chania provides a picturesque backdrop for Apokries festivities. Join the locals as they dance to traditional Cretan music, savor local delicacies, and engage in age-old customs passed down through generations.

  3. Heraklion: As the capital of Crete, Heraklion offers a dynamic Apokries experience infused with modern flair. From colorful masquerade balls to theatrical performances and gastronomic delights, there’s no shortage of excitement in this bustling city.

  4. Agios Nikolaos: Nestled along the tranquil shores of Mirabello Bay, Agios Nikolaos hosts a more laid-back yet equally enchanting Apokries celebration. Immerse yourself in the local culture as you witness traditional folk dances, sample regional wines, and marvel at the creativity of carnival floats adorned with vibrant decorations.

carnaval-apokries-crete-greece-agios-nikolaosCarnival in Agios Nikolaos © Dante32

Embracing Tradition:

At the heart of Apokries lies a tapestry of age-old traditions that reflect the rich heritage of Crete. One such tradition is the donning of elaborate costumes and masks, allowing participants to assume different identities and momentarily escape reality. Whether dressed as mythical creatures, historical figures, or whimsical characters, carnival-goers embrace the spirit of disguise and revel in the freedom of expression.

Music and dance play a central role in Apokries festivities, with traditional Cretan tunes filling the air and igniting spontaneous moments of joyous celebration. From spirited syrtos dances to the rhythmic beats of Cretan lyres, the sounds of the carnival resonate throughout the island, inviting all to join in the revelry.

No Apokries celebration would be complete without indulging in the culinary delights of Crete. From savory mezedes (appetizers) to mouthwatering desserts like loukoumades (honey-drenched doughnuts), the carnival offers a feast for the senses, showcasing the island’s rich gastronomic heritage.


As Apokries sweeps across the island of Crete, it beckons travelers to immerse themselves in a world of timeless traditions, joyous festivities, and warm Cretan hospitality. Whether you find yourself wandering through the cobbled streets of Rethymno or savoring local delicacies in Agios Nikolaos, the spirit of Apokries is sure to captivate your heart and leave you with cherished memories of this magical celebration. So, don your mask, join the parade, and experience the enchantment of Apokries in the embrace of Greece’s largest island. Opa!


Experience Carnival in Crete and take part in this festive celebration!

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Category: Travel Blog
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