The Greek island of Crete presents a rich tapestry of archaeological treasures, sleepy villages and lively towns, all set in a Homeric landscape of mountains, gorges and flower-strewn pastures. Crete was home to one of the earliest European civilizations, the Minoans, who roamed these hills some 4000 years ago. Their legacy can be seen all over the island, in particular at the legendary Palace of Knossos.
From this distant starting point we journey through time, from the Hellenic-Roman era to the periods of Turkish and Venetian domination, as illustrated by archaeological remains and buildings which remain in use to this day. We also explore the countryside, which in the spring is carpeted with flowers, driving high into the mountains to visit labyrinthine caves and along the coast where we will see sparkling seascapes and picturesque fishing villages.
Optional excursion to Margaritas, Elefterna Museum and Arkadi Monastery with lunch included $130.00
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Day 1 -
We arrive in Heraklion in Crete and on arrival we will proceed by coach to our comfortable hotel, the 3-star Hotel Atrion, conveniently located in the centre of Heraklion, a few yards from the promenade. All rooms have private bathrooms, air-conditioning and a balcony. Dinner is served in the hotel this evening.
|Hotel||Atrion Hotel, Heraklion|
Day 2 -
Following breakfast this morning we visit the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, which brings together archaeological finds from all over Crete, covering over 5500 years of the island’s history.
We then travel five kilometres out of town and 4000 years back in time, as we visit a famous relic of the oldest known civilization in Europe. The Palace of Knossos, center of the Minoan Civilization, will leave us breathless as we wonder over the technology and facilities of that period.
We will enjoy some sightseeing and, time permitting, a relaxed walk in Heraklion, the capital city of Crete, before we return to the hotel. The evening is at leisure.
|Hotel||Atrion Hotel, Heraklion|
Day 3 -
Today we travel via the national road and through the spectacular ravine of Saint George, to the beautiful village of Elounda, a quiet fishing village sheltered within the Gulf of Mirabello. Here we will board our small boat that will take us to Spinalonga, the island that became famous as the setting of Victoria Hislop’s novel, “The Island”. The island was a former leper colony years ago. It houses a Venetian fortress and many of the buildings are awe-inspiring. In a walking tour of approximately one hour through the narrow main street we will have the opportunity to admire ruins and renovated houses.
Returning to the main island, this afternoon we will enjoy some free time in the picturesque harbor town of Agios Nikolaos (St Nicholas), with its small lake known as “Voulismeni” located in the center of the town, at the foot of the cliffs. Walk around and take delight in the panoramic view on the lake and the harbor and take a stroll in the narrow streets with a lot of shops and stores offering a large assortment from typical goods to fine jewellery.
Later we return to the hotel where the evening is once again at leisure.
|Hotel||Atrion Hotel, Heraklion|
Day 4 -
After breakfast we check out of the hotel. Passing through some of the most beautiful areas of Crete, full of vineyards and olive trees, we will travel via the Aghia Varvara Pass to Southern Crete.
The first stop is at Gortyn, an old Greek-Roman town with its famous law stones, Roman amphitheatre and the ruins of the Saint Titus Church - the first Christian Church on the island.
Then we visit Phaistos, one of the most important centers of Minoan civilization, and the most wealthy and powerful city in southern Crete. It was inhabited from the Neolithic period until the foundation and development of the Minoan palaces in the 15th century B.C. The exact location of the Palace of Phaistos was first determined in the middle of the 19th century by the British admiral Spratt, while the archaeological investigation of the palace started in 1884 by the Italians Halbherr and Taramelli.
We continue to Zaros, located on the south slope of Ida Mountain, and here we will have a stop at the small lake, home to trout and turtles. There used to be an aqueduct, which in ancient times supplied Gortys with water; nowadays the whole area of Messara is supplied with water from here.
We then continue to Rethymnon and the 4-star Bio Suites Hotel.
Day 5 -
After breakfast we depart on a guided walk through the old town of Rethymnon. The town still maintains its old aristocratic appearance, with buildings dating from the 16th century and Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains. Rethymnon is a mixture of Venetian and Turkish influences, dominated by a Venetian Fortress. Significant buildings have been renovated and today house the archaeological museum, municipality services offices and restaurants. A walk through the charming old quarter shows Venetian and Turkish architecture in the harbor, arched doorways and stone staircases. In the narrow streets shopkeepers sell a large variety of Cretan goods such as leather, honey, herbs, cheese, yoghurt, olives, oil etc.
After an opportunity for lunch (not included), we travel west to Chania. This city of exceptional beauty, full of colorful aromatic flowers and rich cultural heritage has a remarkable natural beauty. It is built on the ruins of ancient Kydonia and it has seen and survived many invaders, but has also tasted civilizations that left their mark on building faces, castles, walls, antiquities, monasteries and churches. We will have a short walking tour of the old center with its picturesque neighborhoods and day to day life, followed by free time to enjoy the atmosphere of the Venetian Harbor.
We return to our hotel where the evening is free.
Day 6 -
Following breakfast, the day is free to relax in the hotel or explore Rethymnon and the surrounding area on your own. Alternatively, join our optional excursion to the pottery village of Margaritas, surrounded by green rolling hills, and the Arkadi Monastery at an altitude of 500 metres above sea level. We also visit the Eleutherna Museum. Lunch in a local taverna is included in the excursion.
Day 7 -
Enjoy your breakfast. We have a relaxed day today, visiting the Minoan cemetery of Armeni and two of the many scenic Byzantine monuments found in the picturesque Amari Valley. The valley is surrounded by mountains, the great Psiloritis on one side and the Kedros range on the other.
We return to Rethymnon and this evening gather for a farewell dinner in a local taverna (wine included), an opportunity to reflect on the wonderful sights we have seen in this archaeological and historical treasure trove of an island.
|Hotel||Bio Suites Hotel, Rethymnon|
|Meals included||Breakfast, Dinner|
Day 8 -
Following breakfast today, we will check out of the hotel and transfer to Heraklion airport for our flight back to London, where the group will disperse or make onward connections.
Tour dates & prices
Included in your cost:
- Services of an archaeological expert as tour manager
- Comfortable coach travel throughout
- Meals - as per the itinerary
|Tour Departure||Tour ID||Departure date||Return Date||Guided by||Price||Deposit||Single Supp.||Offer||Availability|
|April 20 2021||BCRE210420||April 20 2021 (Tuesday)||April 27 2021 (Tuesday)||Peter Yeoman||$2,155
|October 14 2021||BCRE211014||October 14 2021 (Thursday)||October 21 2021 (Thursday)||$2,155