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Zaros: The Cretan Village that Became World Famous for its Water

Zaros Lake, Crete. Credit: Roberto Strauss/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

The beautiful village of Zaros on the Greek island of Crete, sits at the foot of Psiloritis Mountain at an altitude of about 400 meters (1,312 feet) alongside a picturesque artificial lake fed by a spring called Votomos.

The village had become fairly well-known as a tourist attraction since 1987, but became world famous because of the exceptional qualities of its natural mineral water bubbling up from the Votomi spring.

Located 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Heraklion, Zaros belongs to the municipality of Phaistos and has 2,150 residents. It became popular by word of mouth after its wetlands were turned into an artificial lake in 1987, and its beautiful natural surroundings added to its appeal.

Psiloritis Mountain in Crete. Credit:User:Nikater /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, there is one more reason for visitors to flock to Zaros, since the village has become world famous for its water, with people visiting to see its extraordinary spring.

Zaros water is now exported to more than 20 countries, from Canada to China and from South Africa to Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Zaros SA is a grassroots company which was established by village residents in 1980. Built on the “socialist” model, 44 percent of the company belongs to the municipality of Phaistos, while the remaining 56 percent belongs to 1,050 stockholders, who are all residents of the village or the surrounding areas.

The company’s production facilities are located outside Zaros, in the prefecture of Heraklion, on a plot of 19,000 square meters. Most of the company’s 70 employees are Zaros natives, while the board of directors is comprised of the Phaistos deputy mayor and local shareholders.

The water comes from a spring called Amati, located at the foot of Mount Psiloritis, at an altitude of 400 meters (1,312 feet). Its waters descend by natural flow from the spring – a distance of 800 meters – and follows a path through carbonate rocks, ending in the basin.

From there, and from a depth of 180 meters via pipelines, the water is taken to the bottling plant of Zaros SA, where it is packaged to travel to destinations in Greece and abroad.

Throughout the process, from pumping to bottling, there is no human contact or any kind of treatment to the water.

clean waters rushing through fountains located at the Vrontisiou Monastery in Zaros. Credit: Jerzy Strzelecki /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Zaros water considered “Best in the World”

Zaros brand natural mineral water was awarded the title of the “Best Bottled Water in the World” for 2017, and this recognition has understandably led to rapid growth in the last two years.

That competition, the 27th Annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, involved a total of more than 600 bottled waters from all over the world.

The products were evaluated by a panel of twelve judges, including internationally-renowned water tasters who took into account criteria such as odor, appearance, taste, aftertaste and texture.

The evaluation process took two days and four separate tests were performed for each of the bottled waters. Zaros’s water is characterized by excellent physicochemical and microbiological quality, with a high PH and balanced calcium and magnesium ratio.

The Cretan water won the Gold Award in the “Bottled Water” category, leaving the famous Artesia from the Crystal Waterfalls of Michigan, USA second, and the Norwegian Svalbaroi Polar Iceberg Water in third place.

In 2016, Zaros’s earned the top European Best Taste Award, awarded by the Brussels Institute of Taste and Quality, or iTQi. In this competition, the Cretan water was evaluated by 30 judges, all members of prestigious catering companies in Europe.

The high demand experienced for Zaros’s water in the past two years has the company’s board searching for ways to increase production, which currently runs at a rate of 35,700 bottles per hour.

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