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Olive Press Museums of Thassos

Waterwheels once powered the olive presses

Olive presses give a glimpse of traditional village life on Thassos

Thassos island is famous for its honey, its marble and its olive oil. The first thing the visitor sees on the ferry approach to the capital port at Limenas is the olive tree plantation cascading down the hillsides.

Wheels at work at the Panagia mill
Olive groves fill the Thassos hillsides
Inside the Olive Oil Museum at Skala Prinos

Families across Thassos have harvested their family-owned olive trees for generations with the first of the annual pickings in September when the olives are green, right through to the end of November when the olives have turned black.

Long ago every village had its olive press but now there are far fewer, and private small-scale factories have been started up to process the island's annual olive crop.

One is in the hill village of Panagia, on the east of the island, where an old olive press was once powered by mountain streams. Another is at the west coast village of Skala Prinos which has a small museum of ancient olive presses.

Both of these Thassos island olive oil factories offer a warm welcome to visitors and invite tours of the works, displays of old machinery and the chance to buy some of the best olive oil to be found in the Greek islands.

Sotirelis Olive Oil Mill at Panagia

Olive oil has been produced at this family-owned factory for four generations. When it opened in 1915, the press was driven by water power. The waterwheels were turned by a trio of mountain streams that had been diverted to run through the mill.

The main factory is now powered by electricity, but the watermill is still working and the only one functional in Greece that can be seen in operation.

The old traditional factory produced olive oil until 2007 when modern production methods were introduced to meet European standards. The Sotirelis family, which still runs the mill, insists that its cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is of the very highest quality.

Visitors are led through the traditional process of producing olive oil before electricity was available on the island. There are many old photographs on display, and the mill offers an excellent opportunity for visitors to learn about every stage of the process, from olive harvesting all the way to bottling the oil.

Tirologos Olive Oil Museum at Skala Prinos

On the opposite side of the island is the Olive Oil museum of the Tirologos family, located next door to its modern organic olive oil factory mill near the port resort of Skala Prinos.

Here visitors get a chance to learn about olive oil production old and new as well as its long history. Museum exhibits show how olives have been pressed down the ages and explain how olive oil has become such an integrated part of Greek culture.

Photographs and videos show the many varieties of olives, the varied methods of extracting oil, the influence of olives on Greek culture and the importance of olive oil production to the economy of Greece.

An outdoor exhibition boasts 40 types of olive tree and shows many ancient storage jars unearthed during construction work on the museum's courtyard.

Olive oil is produced here under the brand Vieltha and claims a better taste due to the old stone mills used in production. The olives here are the Throuma Thassos variety that gives the oil a distinct golden colour.

Olive trees can be seen spreading the length and the breadth of the fertile plain around Skala Prinos with a maze of small country roads threading through the olive groves often leading to small coves with beautiful sandy beaches.

Some of the oldest olive trees can be seen around Prinos and Rachoni, and locals will tell you that some of them are more than 900 years old.