CRETE

CRETE – Journey through the past

Crete, the cradle of European civilization, is the largest Greek island and an excellent destination to cover all tastes and expectations. Crete is an island of contradictions, set in the crossroads of seas, continents and civilizations; it is combining natural beauty, rich history, healthy cuisine, sun & sea, good standards of accommodation, as well as a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Thanks to its location, Crete is ideal for combined programs with the Greek mainland as well as with the other Greek islands. The 4 main cities are Heraklion – Chania – Rethymno and Agios Nikolaos, each with a different story and special in its own way. The island is characterized by outstanding architectural heritage, archaeological sites, Venetian fortresses & castles, Byzantine monasteries and traditional villages all of them in perfect harmony.

Geography

Anchored in the sea, in a varied but wonderful climate, on the crossroads of three continents - Europe to the North, Asia to the east and Africa to the south, Crete seems to spread its length like a barrier across the southern Aegean. It lies at a distance of approximately 100 km from the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese, 175 km from the shores of Asia Minor, and 800 km. from Africa. With an area of 8337 sq km, a length of 257 km and a width of between 12 and 60 km, Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, and fifth in size among the islands of the Mediterranean, after Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Cyprus. Its coasts are washed by the waters of the Cretan Sea on the northern side, by the Libyan Sea on the southern side, by the Karpathian Sea on the eastern side, and on the west by the Myrtoon Sea.

The opposing enchantment of this island is fascinating in its high, inaccessible mountains full of wild, deep gorges and 3922 caves. Four large mountain ranges mark the landscape: the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) in the west with the highest mountain at 2452 m, the Ida Mountains in the middle with the 2456 m high Psiloritis (highest mountain of all the Aegean Islands), the Dikti massive at 2148 m in the east and the Asterousia Mountains at 2131 m in the south. The 811m high Jouchtas, stone profile of the sleeping Zeus, watches over the lively town of Iraklion. Because of the mountain ranges, Crete has many gorges to offer, which are perfect for hiking. For the most part of the winter, the mountains in the high plateaux are covered with snow. Most rivers only flow for a few weeks - during the thaw. Between the mountain ranges of Crete lie more high plateau and plains.

Prefectures & main cities

Crete is divided into four prefectures from west to east: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lassithi.

Chania

Chania Prefecture, Crete's westernmost district, has an area of 2.376 km2 and a population of approx 140.000 residents. It is occupied by the "Lefka Ori" (White Mountain range), a mountain complex with very interesting formations like the Samaria Gorge. In the mountainous inner parts, it hosts villages that have been forgotten by time, scattered churches and monasteries, towers and castles. The whole area is a particularly interesting archaeological site and simultaneously a paradise for wandering, mountain climbing and sports. With its endless velvet beaches, steep gorges, caves, endemic plants and animals, vast olive and orange groves and a combination of wild landscapes and sea, it excites even the most hard-to-please visitors. Chania town is the former capital of the island and main town to the west. Built on the ruins of ancient Kydonia, a city of a unique charm, that strongly preserves the traces of its Venetian and Turkish past: narrow paved alleys and renovated traditional houses surround the “old town”. It is the most elegant town. The Turkish Minarets give it an oriental colour and the various nice examples of Venetian architecture a Venetian flavour.

Rethymno

Second from the left of the island Crete is the prefecture of Rethymno, a mountainous area with a long history and tradition, situated between two great mountain ranges Lefka Ori and Psiloritis (the highest peak of the island). The area of Rethymno prefecture is about 2.000 km2 and its population is 65.000 habitants. The capital of the prefecture, Rethymno town, is a beautiful seafront town standing on the north side of the island and is the third largest town in Crete counting 20.000 inhabitants. It’s the only town in Crete that retains its mediaeval appearance and is famous for its special character gained from the many civilizations that flourished in the area. It is part Venetian style with lots of Venetian stone work ruined fountains and great arches visible inside buildings. The town of Rethymno was a center of Arts and Letters, with an outburst of culture in the 16th and 17th centuries. Here traditional and modern architecture are blended in perfect harmony. Splendid monuments , reminders of its past (Venetian Fortezza Fortress from where one can have a nice view to the town which drowses under its walls ) ,fragile wooden balconies with delicate carving and mosques are traces of Turkish occupation, thrilling spots ( Arkadi Monastery -the national symbol of the Cretan struggle against the Turkish occupation ) ,outstanding surroundings, and an adequate tourist infrastructure and a 16km long sandy beach define the character of this area.

Heraklion

The largest prefecture of Crete is the one of Heraklion, located on the east part of the island. The population of Heraklion is 250.000 habitants and its area is 2.641 km2. A low mountain range rises in the middle of the prefecture and descends into the Mesara Plain. These fertile plains have been cultivated for thousands of years and have important Minoan, Greek, and Roman archaeological sites -- Festos, Agia Triada, and Gortyn are the major ones. The prefecture of Heraklion has many cultural and historical features to offer the visitor. The finest collection of Minoan artifacts in the world and the sites of one of history's greatest civilizations may be of interest as well as the numerous Byzantine churches and Venetian castles and fountains. The historical aspects combine with the scenic landscapes of mountains, valleys, and sea to make this a beautiful and fascinating area. The homonymous capital is the largest town in Crete, the main port and the economical center of the island. Heraklion is situated on the center of the north side of Crete it is connected by air and sea with the rest of Greece, with daily routes. Apart from being a busy commercial center, one can feel here maybe more than anywhere else on the island the glorious touch of the past: from Minoan Knossos and Labyrinth, to the impressive Walls and Koule Fortress (dated back to the Venetian period) that surround mainly the old quarters of the city! Its recently restored Venetian castle on the far side of the harbour is just the thing to draw the romantic imagination of the young. The best time to visit the town is late in the afternoon when it wakes up from its siesta. During the day it is noisy and busy, but one gets to like it after a while. The Venetian walls that encircle the old town seem like a crown that keeps it tied to the past. Its museum is regarded as the best in Greece and one of the best in the world. Among the semi modern buildings there are one or two nice Venetian remnants – the famous Morosini Fountains and a pretty restored Loggia.

Aghios Nikolaos - Lassithi

Lassithi is located on the east part of the island, covering an area of 1,818 sq.km and its population is 70.000 habitants. It is filled with long sandy beaches, small isles scattered around the blue waters and green valleys with small villages and warm colours. The highly contrasting landscape of the region, as well as its unequaled natural beauties (Palm Forest of Vai, with a dense forest of 5,000 palm trees & the beautiful Lassithi plateau, with hundreds of windmills) capture the visitor from the first moment. Agios Nikolaos, a small picturesque seaport town that lies on the shore of the blue waters of the Mirabello Bay is one of the major tourist destinations at the easternmost part of the island; its small lagoon connected with the harbour by a short channel gives a special charm, boasts an array of tavernas and traditional shops. The wonderful atmosphere of the harbour, with its fishing boats and traditional cafes, the developed tourism, the hospitable people and the vivid rhythm of the everyday events are all an indication of the varicolored texture of this special place. Other developed towns are the port of Sitia on the east part and the cosmopolitan Elounda with its luxury hotels and Spa centers. Lassithi prefecture bears a part of the long Cretan history. It is a place with many remarkable Venetian and Turkish monuments and with important archaeological sites. The most well-known is the ancient Minoan palace in Zakros. There are also many interesting ancient monasteries, superb buildings of the Venetian era, Turkish mosques and Byzantine churches in various harbours and villages of the prefecture. Here visitors discover that life has its own rhythm, the traditions are carefully followed and the people always take the time to enjoy their most precious possession, the wonderful landscape of Lassithi prefecture.

History

Tragic and sorely tried is the face of Crete; something ancient, holy, bitter and pride is in this face, like the faces of mothers whose proud sons have been torn away by death. For centuries pirates and conquerors, such as the Durians, Romans, Venetians and the Turks took Crete by storm until finally, in 1913, Crete was united with the motherland of Greece. The majority of the churches and monasteries gave shelter during the bloody and heroic fights for independence. Every stone of the preserved buildings can still tell a tragic story.

Due to its geographical position between Africa, Europe, and Asia Minor and due to its mild climate, Crete became a center of culture as early as Neolithic times. The first prehistoric settlements appeared in Crete around 6000 BC while in 2600 BC settlers who knew how to craft bronze arrived in Crete. It was then that the illustrious course of the mighty Minoan Civilization began, reaching its peak around 1950 BC with the erection of the imposing palaces in Knossos, Phaestos and Malia.

Mythology has it that it was in a cave of Crete where the goddess Rhea hid the newborn Zeus. In this cave, Zeus was brought up by the nymphs while the demonical Kouretes would strike their shields loudly so that Cronus may not hear the crying of the baby Zeus and eat it. It was also to Crete that Zeus, disguised as a bull, took Europa so that they may enjoy their love together. Their union produced a son, Minos, who ruled Crete and turned it into a mighty island empire of the seas. In Minoan times, even Attica would pay a tribute tax to Crete, until Theseus, the Athenian prince, killed the Minotaur. The truth behind the myth is the existence of a mighty and wealthy kingdom and of a civilization that is considered the most ancient one on the European continent.

In 1450 BC and again in 1400 BC the Minoan Civilization was successively devastated possibly due to the eruption of the volcano of Thera (Santorini) and was eventually led to its decline. In the wake of the devastation first the Mycenaean and then the Durians arrived to settle on the island. They were later followed by the Romans. The fall of the Roman Empire put Crete under the rule of the Byzantine Empire and Christianity was further established, until the arrival of the Arabs who occupied the island for an entire century (824-961 BC). During the Arab domination, Crete became the lair of pirates who were based out of Handakos, present day Heraklion. Next, Crete was taken back under Byzantine rule again and then eventually sold to the Venetians in the early 13th century, who occupied the island for approximately 5 centuries leaving their stamp on the island’s culture. After the fall of Handakos in 1669, the Turkish Occupation began marked by ferocious and bloody uprisings. At the end of the 19th century Turkish rule came to an end. The Cretan State was created with the King of Greece as the island’s High Commissioner. In 1913, Crete was finally joined officially with Greece.

Culture

Tradition and culture on Crete are very closely linked to another. Even today in some of the villages the traditional customs and way of life still exist, e.g. the man is the undisputable head of the family. The women have their freedom, but this doesn't include all rights by a long way. Most of the rights and duties of the women are restricted to bringing up the children and looking after the house. The men enjoy going to the kafenion where they spend hours. A kafenion is a bare, plain, simple room, in which the men read their newspapers, enjoy their coffee, play backgammon, discuss and of course during all this time they play with their Komboloi, a sort of rosary of beads. At every occasion the Cretans sing and dance. Particularly in the last years, the old folk dances are experiencing a comeback. Everything on this island is hotter. Words, songs, dances, love and hate as well as feelings and thinking. Most events and celebrations take place locally. Saints Days take place almost every day on Crete. They are celebrated by mass in the church or often at the village square the evening before. The most important celebration is Easter. Not only holy days but also public holidays are reasons for the Cretans to celebrate. Throughout the whole year in the various regions other festivals take place, such as ones for wine, raki, cheese, etc.

Cretan People

There is a lot to discover on Crete: the most exciting discovery, though, is the encounter with the Cretans... they are the proudest of Greeks; honest, self-assured - but at the same time warm and friendly and etched with a sense for the family and tradition. Their overwhelming hospitality and joy of living with the intense pleasure of the moment, their pleasure of games, socializing and heated political discussions, is proverbial. The Cretan lives peacefully, works hard, laughs a lot - just like the cloudless blue sky of his homeland; the words of the poets are as sweet as the fruit, which issue from the Cretan earth. Still the Cretan is frightening, wild and uncontrolled to all those who dare to threaten his freedom, which proudly reigns over the peaks of the mountains.

Gastronomy

When visiting Greece, you cannot ignore the extensive Greek menu; the perfect combination of Mediterranean flavors endowing people with longevity and sound health with Crete as its epicenter. The Cretan diet allows Cretans the highest life expectation in the whole of Europe, as doctors and scientists already discovered 15 years ago. A diet of nutrients containing vitamin E, which is to be found in poultry, seafood, wheat and raw or cooked green wild vegetables, protects against heart attacks, as published in a study by the American Heart Society. For Cretans, the secret of longevity is very simple. They eat anything that their rich soil produces! They consume a lot of fruit, vegetables, greens, fresh produce, legumes, cheese and bread. Cretans use herbs to add flavour to their meals; they make sweets/cakes with natural sweeteners, honey and grape juice syrup. But olive oil remains the main nutritional factor in Cretan cuisine and is held as the elixir of life. Cretan olive oil has a first class quality, which has continually improved over the last 17 years. An absolute must is the enjoyment of a glass of real, pure Cretan red wine, a naturally fermented wine, which ensures you a long and healthy life and which was delivered to all the royal courts of Europe in the Middle Ages by Venetian traders. For centuries, much mythological and historical information indicated that Crete is the homeland of wine. Archaeological excavations have brought to light the oldest wine preparation system. The long hours of sunshine, the temperatures, the earth and the sea are the best conditions for the vineyards on Crete. Wine producing areas are spread over the whole of the island, giving a large choice of local wines ranging from dry white to rose and liqueur wine.

Cretan specialties

Local Graviera cheese (a kind of gruyere).
Mizithra: creamy white cheese often served instead of feta.
Dako: a Cretan rusk topped with tomato, feta cheese, olives, oregano and olive oil.
Kalitsounia: sweet cheese pastries stuffed with mizithra cheese, cinnamon & sugar.
Traditional cheese pies (made of sweet mizithra, sour-myzithra, graviera and herbs), Chortopites: homemade pies stuffed with local greens (fried fennel pie or pies stuffed with leek, spiny chicory and spinach).
Many variations of fried pastries sprinkled with local cheese and honey are also a common delicacy in Crete.
Bourbouristoi Chochlioi ; rolled over snails fried with rosemary.
Dolmades: vine leaves or zucchini blossoms stuffed with rice, minced meat, onion, oregano, tomato, cloves and parsley.
Gamopilafo: a distinct wedding specialty made with boiled goat and rice.
Raki or Tsikoudia: the distilled alcoholic drink of Crete.
Antikristo: traditional roasted lamb or pork meat with sea salt cooked against the fire.
Xerotigana: honey dipped spiral pastries.

Highlights / Things to see

  • Knossos ancient site
  • Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
  • Samaria Gorge
  • Lassithi plateau
  • Rethymno and Chania old towns
  • Spinalonga island

Events

  • Chestnut festival in Elos Village – Chania
    Surrounded by the gracious thick boughs of many chestnut trees, Elos village in Crete becomes the host of a colourful chestnut festival every third Sunday of October, devoted to the delicacies of its fat, sweet and juicy chestnuts. At this small yet vibrant event, visitors can enjoy witnessing and participating in some traditional local entertainment, including drinking honey tsikoudia, eating local delicacies, music, traditional dancing and of course indulging the palate in the pleasures, both sweet and sour, produced by roasting the chestnuts. Spending an warm October weekend on the island of Crete, discovering the ancient wonderments of its rich culture and history, whilst experiencing one of the island’s most delightfully peculiar celebrations and tasting the wondrous savours produced by the chestnuts, sounds like quite an idyllic autumn break.
  • Renaissance festival in Rethymno town
    An inspired and spiritual art event During July, you’ll be able to wander around through time, dreams, colors and fairy tales. The figure of a knight on his horse, the transport of the Renaissance flame from the Doge’s Palace through the town’s streets, as well as playful harlequins and street musicians will accompany. Share the magic of this unique cultural event in Rethymno town that gets transformed into a medieval Venetian town and plays host to world-class renaissance musicians, gathering each summer in Rethymno to participate at the festival. The program includes theatrical plays from the Renaissance era, music and dance performances, art exhibitions etc… The event takes place all over the town; concert hall, on the streets, the squares and the Venetian port. A spectacular opening ceremony kicks off the festivities, and the festival finishes with a similar closing ceremony.
  • Cretan Wine festival – Rethymno
    A blend of tradition, present and future… The Rethymno Wine festival is one of the oldest festivals on the island of Crete, being organized for more than 70 years. It’s a great event that meets high aesthetic standards and exhibits high quality branded local products and branded bottled award winning Cretan wine. It’s a source of life, happiness and pride taking place each summer right in the middle of the town, in the coolness of the Municipal Garden. Since 2009 the city of Rethymno has decided to revive its longest running festival but with a completely new identity and content. Local producers will be presenting their quality products such as bottled wine, olive products, herbs, cheese etc. The 7day program will consist of many events, such as art exhibitions, traditional and modern music by local performers, educational and entertaining activities for children, distinguished speakers conducting seminars and lectures as well as the chance of wine and food tasting. You will find choices of wine from the largest wine producing companies of Crete, and you will be given the opportunity to try almost all the flavours and varieties of the famous Cretan wines. Cretan wines are for the most part table wines although the island does have some appellation wines. Mostly reds, there is Archanes, Daphnes and Siteia. They are exceptionally dry so those who prefer something a little more refreshing in the sweltering heat can choose the sweeter versions of these wines. The festival’s aim is to enhance a comprehensive, interactive communication between the residents and visitors with genuine products of the Cretan earth and to highlight the independence of tourism with culture, tradition and gastronomy, together with the traditions of Crete.

Excursion program

Knossos

Knossos & Heraklion City Tour

This is the tour that reveals the secrets and life of the Minoans. A flash – back to Crete’s ancient history and Minoan Civilization as well as the spiritual strength which made Crete famous all over the world. Visit Europe’s first Palace and enter the spirit of the myths. Walking round the narrow corridors of the labyrinth construction you’ll have the opportunity to see all the samples and symbols of the progress and culture developed in Crete 4000 years ago as well as feel the mystical evidence of the Minoan grandeur.

The myths come alive again after visiting the Palace of King Minos at Knossos. After Knossos Palace, we will take a guided tour of the beautiful city of Heraklion which is the capital of Crete. You may see many places of interest which will include the recently restored Venetian castle and some other nice Venetian remnants – the Famous Morosine Fountain and the pretty restored Loggia, along with many shops and sidewalk cafes.

Type of excursion: Civilization / city tour Full day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Knossos Guided tour 1½ hours
Heraklion Guided tour 40 minutes
Free time in Heraklion city 2 – 2½ hours
Back to Hotel 16:00 – 17:30
Oia

1 day cruise to Santorini island

A fabulous one day cruise to the legendary “Atlantis”. Santorini is a magical island, considered to be one of the most picturesque of whole Mediterranean, offering incomparable beauty with volcanic terrain. Enjoy the unique view to the endless blue of the Aegean Sea, offered from whitewashed villages, hanging on the lava rocks and discover the archeological sites of the island, buried under lava, the Aegean Pompeii. Enjoy a long day and offer yourself a unique chance to explore another Greek island!

Type of excursion: Boat / Landscape Full day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, camera, sun cream

Stops Approximate time of stay
Heraklion or Rethymno port to Santorini 2½ – 3½ hours
Santorini 5-6 hours
Back to Heraklion or Rethymno port 20:00 – 21:00
Back to Hotel 21:30 – 23:00
Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge (Long Way)

A spectacular trip for those who love walking and have the spirit for adventure. Visit Europe’s longest and most beautiful gorge (18 km long). After an impressive drive along the North coast of Chania through the White Mountains up to Omalos Plateau, you finally face the challenge: a guided walk through the extreme beauty and diverse landscape!

In this national forest you discover the Cretan fauna and flora! This hiking adventure ends at the Libyan Sea, in Ag.Roumeli: an un-spoilt fishing settlement, where you can have a refreshing swim and time for lunch before the ferry takes you along the coast to Chora Sfakion or Sougia. Return to resort by coach. A full day excursion, offering a unique exchange and contrast of landscapes, between the north and south coast, mountains and sea. It is an absolute Must when in Crete!

Type of excursion: Adventure / Full day
Should take: Comfortable walking shoes, sun protection (hat, sun cream), bathing suit, towel, bottle of water (you can refill in the gorge), and snacks.

Stops Approximate time of stay
Coffee stop near Rethymno 20 min.
Crossing of the gorge 5-6 hours
Free time in Agia Roumeli 1½ hours
Boat from Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion Boat leaves at 17:00 and arrives at 18:00
Coffee stop near Rethymno 20 min.
Back to Hotel 22:00 – 23:00
Spinalonga Crete

Spinalonga island

A mini-cruise inside the calm waters of the Mirabello Gulf, to the island of Spinalonga is one of the most popular trips. The remains of its Venetian fortification and ghostly leper barracks almost untouched through the centuries, lies silently opposite Elounda’s coast. Spinalonga’s Venetian castle is one of the main castles in Crete which was never conquered during the Turkish occupation.

A guided tour will conduct you to the sorrowful destiny of the islet. The boat sails after to Kolokytha Bay for swimming in the crystal waters and a barbeque lunch. In the early afternoon, you move on to the picturesque town of Agios Nikolaos, where you can enjoy your coffee in one of the many street cafes along the pretty lake in the town center before your return to your hotel.

Type of excursion: Boat / City tour - Full day
Should take: Bathing suit, Sun protection, Camera.

Stops Approximate time of stay
Departure from Agios Nikolaos port 10:00
From Agios Nikolaos to Spinalonga by boat 1 hour
Spinalonga guided tour 1½ hours
Barbeque at Kolokitha bay 2 – 2½ hours
Back to Agios Nikolaos - Hotel 16:00
Stay in Agios Nikolaos 1 hour
Back to Hotel 17:30 – 18:00
Cretan Evening

Cretan evening

An evening full of fun and excitement in a traditional village in the mountains. Experience the local cuisine (meal and unlimited barrel wine is served) and a show consisting of a variety of traditional music, dances and songs from all over Greece.

Dancers in colorful costumes and musicians playing the “lyre” and “bouzouki” perform a live show in front of you. Do not hesitate to try some of the dance steps on the stage! It is there and then that one gets to learn how to dance the Cretan dances. Feel and enjoy yourself as a real Cretan.

Type of excursion: Folklore - Half day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Arrival in Anopolis 19:00
Departure from Anopolis 22:30 – 23:00
Back to Hotel 23:30 – 24:30
Aqua Park

Aqua Park

Get wild wet in a “water world”! Visit one of the major Greek Aqua parks offering a variety of games and options, such as huge slides, lazy rivers, black hole, wave pools and many other, inviting everyone to a unique opportunity for excitement and real fun.

Relax under the hot sun and explore the playful surrounding area of the park. The best way to escape from the summer heat and get deep inside the holiday feeling.

Type of excursion: Entertainment Full day
Should take: Bathing suit, sun cream, hat, towel, camera

4X4 Safari

4 x 4 Safari

An ideal tour for outdoor adventurers , organized by experts in active tourism : discover the natural beauties and the hidden secrets of the Cretan mountains , canyons and crystal clear seas . Drive on asphalt and non asphalt roads, through mountainous areas with breathtaking views and deserted settlements and get acquaint with the local tradition and lifestyle.

Let us take you to secret spots that you won’t find on any map or in tourist guides. A combination of wild sceneries, dusty tracks, refreshing swim and lunch break (included) in a local tavern. Get a taste of the real Crete, approaching it the “alternative way”.

Type of excursion: Adventure Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, camera, bathing Suit, Camera

Meet Crete

Meet Crete

Our island offers much more than only sea and sunshine. This trip brings you to places far from the main tourist resorts of Crete, unspoiled from the effects of modern civilization. An introspective look on the real village life in the hidden mainland: get to know the people, their habits and surroundings! Admire the beauty of the mountains and valleys and feel the hospitality of the authentic villagers.

We pass through many small villages each one offering its own beauty. We visit old churches – ruins, caves and water spring and much more (depending on the part of the island visited).

During this trip nature offers so much beauty and a variety of herbs – flowers and plants. Lunch break takes place at a local tavern well-known for its Greek specialties. This tour gives you the chance to look a little beyond the touristy side of Crete. Taste, enjoy and understand it a little more the Cretan Way!

Type of excursion: Tradition, Folklore, Landscape - Full day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Arolithos 40 min
Anogia 1 hour
Axos 2 hours
Back to Hotel 18:00 - 19:30
Chrisi Island

Chrissi island

An unforgettable cruise from Ierapetra to Europe’s southernmost Mediterranean island. A pleasant boat trip in the Libyan Sea of approx. 45 minutes duration brings you to Chrissi Island, famous for its unique “wild lonely” beauty. After disembarkation, follow the path through the cedar forest to the “golden beach” with the white sand, turquoise waters, the purple shells and fossils.

An ideal place for relaxing, swimming and snorkeling! You can have lunch in one of the taverns. Respect this isolated fragile environment while enjoying its beauties!There is a charge for sun beds.

Type of excursion: Boat, relax - Full day
Should take: Swimming suit, Sun protection, Camera, Snacks.

Stops Approximate time of stay
Departure of the boat from Ierapetra 10:30
Duration of trip 1 hour
Departure from Chrissi 16:00 (17:00 back to Ierapetra port)
Back to Hotel 18:00 - 19:30
Arkadi Crete

West Crete (Arkadi – Rethymno – Chania)

This one day trip takes us to the Arkadi Monastery, located on a high plateau with a nice view of the sea below. One of the most tragic and heroic chapters in the history of the island was written here: the resistance against the Turkish occupation came to its peak in 1866 when approximately 1.000 Cretan took refuge here and instead of surrendering they dared a mass suicide by blowing-up the powder magazine .We will take a look round the monastery and the small museum where many impressive relics of the 1866 Holocaust and icons are kept.

Travelling along the north west coast we reach Chania , the former capital and the most attractive town of Crete : take a relaxing walk through the charming narrow streets in the old part of the city with the “oriental” market .Here you can find a big variety of leather goods and Cretan folk art items.

Break for lunch break here, in one of the nice taverns by the Venetian Harbour. On the way back we stop in Rethymno. Visit the Venetian part of the city with the curling narrow streets and the Venetian Fortress (“Fortezza”), the Turkish minarets and fountains and feel the local turbulent history. Enjoy your coffee in one of the sea front coffee shops.

Type of excursion: Civilization, City tour, Landscape Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Arkadi 1 hour
Chania guided city tour 40 min
Free Time in Chania 2 hours
Rethymno 1 hour
Back to Hotel 18:30 - 20:30
Phaestos

South Crete (Phaestos – Gortys – Matala)

A relaxing trip to “antiquity” and sunshine, south-west of Heraklion, beyond the mountains and through Crete's unique scenery! First stop at Phaestos, the second major Minoan archaeological site of the island, situated on a hill overlooking the fertile Messara plain and offering a wonderful view of the Ida and Asterousia mountains. The ruins of the palace complex here bring evidence of a glorious past destroyed by fire and earthquake and rebuilt shortly after.

Next stop, at Gortys, the capital of the island during the Roman occupation. Visit the ancient Forum and Amphitheatre, St. Titus Basilica (dating from 5th-6th cent. AD.), and admire the famous Doric Law Code carved into stone.

In the village of Matala - a modern holiday resort on the south coast , enjoy your swimming and lunch and explore the Neolithic Caves surrounding the bay (that during the sixties hosted the “hippie” colonies ).

Type of excursion: Civilization Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Phaestos 1 hour
Gortys 1 hour
Matala 2 hours
Back to Hotel 18:00 - 19:30
Gramvousa Chania Crete

Gramvousa – Balos cruise

A delightful trip for sun and nature lovers, along the Gramvoussa Peninsula, on the North West coast of Chania. This is a unique site of rocks and cliffs and a shelter for protected species .A challenging climbing (137 metres) to the Venetian fortress – built to protect the entrance of Kissamos Golf- on the islet of pirates (Gramvoussa) invites you to enjoy the panoramic view! Later on, explore the fabulous lagoon of Balos with the calm waters and the golden seashells.

Go for a walk in the ankle-deep, warm water or sit back and marvel at the breathtaking beauty of the place: the different shades of turquoise and blue contrasting vividly with the white, fine sand.

Do not hesitate to join this adventure and visit one of the most beautiful and most photographed locations of the island!

Type of excursion: Boat, relax Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, swimming suit, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Departure from Kastelli port 10:15
From Kastelli to Gramvoussa by boat 1 hour
Gramvoussa 3 hours
From Gramvoussa to Balos 15 min.
Balos 2½ hours
From Balos to Kastelli 45 min
Back to Hotel 19:00 – 20:00
Lasithi Plateu

Lassithi plateau – Scenery Tour

The first stop on this magnificent mountain route will be at the monastery of Kera, which is adorned with 14th century wall paintings. Originally named Kardiotissa, it was built in the 17th century and dedicated to the Virgin of Kera. You will have approximately 45 minutes here to tour the monastery and see the lovely Byzantine icons contained within the church. Continuing the ascent along a beautifully wooded route, you will arrive at the plateau of Lassithi. The view of the encircling mountains is absolutely breathtaking from here, as you drink in the fertile landscape below, which is irrigated by the power of windmills. The plateau of Lassithi is dotted with about twenty Greek villages, each more picturesque than the other.

Next stop will be at Psihro where Dicteon Antron is located. A short climb will bring you to the cave, where Zeus, father of all the Greek gods, was born. A guided tour will take you into the heart of the mountain to uncover mythological stories of the ancient stalagmites and stalactites and let your imagination run riot.

Next stop will be the village of Tzermiado before travelling through the plains' villages where time seems to have been standing still for the past 100 years. Crossing the villages of the Plateau we pay a short visit at a traditional potter's factory, this ancient ceramic art, which completes today more than 8000 years. Leaving the Plateau the views down to Pediada Plain are truly magnificent and a short photo-stop will complete the day.

Type of excursion: Culture, Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Kera Monastery 45min
Psychro (Zeus) Cave 1½ hours
Pottery 45min
Tzermiado 1½ hours
Back to Hotel 15:30-16:30
 

CRETE

CRETE – Journey through the past

Crete, the cradle of European civilization, is the largest Greek island and an excellent destination to cover all tastes and expectations. Crete is an island of contradictions, set in the crossroads of seas, continents and civilizations; it is combining natural beauty, rich history, healthy cuisine, sun & sea, good standards of accommodation, as well as a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Thanks to its location, Crete is ideal for combined programs with the Greek mainland as well as with the other Greek islands. The 4 main cities are Heraklion – Chania – Rethymno and Agios Nikolaos, each with a different story and special in its own way. The island is characterized by outstanding architectural heritage, archaeological sites, Venetian fortresses & castles, Byzantine monasteries and traditional villages all of them in perfect harmony.

Geography

Anchored in the sea, in a varied but wonderful climate, on the crossroads of three continents - Europe to the North, Asia to the east and Africa to the south, Crete seems to spread its length like a barrier across the southern Aegean. It lies at a distance of approximately 100 km from the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese, 175 km from the shores of Asia Minor, and 800 km. from Africa. With an area of 8337 sq km, a length of 257 km and a width of between 12 and 60 km, Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, and fifth in size among the islands of the Mediterranean, after Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Cyprus. Its coasts are washed by the waters of the Cretan Sea on the northern side, by the Libyan Sea on the southern side, by the Karpathian Sea on the eastern side, and on the west by the Myrtoon Sea.

The opposing enchantment of this island is fascinating in its high, inaccessible mountains full of wild, deep gorges and 3922 caves. Four large mountain ranges mark the landscape: the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) in the west with the highest mountain at 2452 m, the Ida Mountains in the middle with the 2456 m high Psiloritis (highest mountain of all the Aegean Islands), the Dikti massive at 2148 m in the east and the Asterousia Mountains at 2131 m in the south. The 811m high Jouchtas, stone profile of the sleeping Zeus, watches over the lively town of Iraklion. Because of the mountain ranges, Crete has many gorges to offer, which are perfect for hiking. For the most part of the winter, the mountains in the high plateaux are covered with snow. Most rivers only flow for a few weeks - during the thaw. Between the mountain ranges of Crete lie more high plateau and plains.

Prefectures & main cities

Crete is divided into four prefectures from west to east: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lassithi.

Chania

Chania Prefecture, Crete's westernmost district, has an area of 2.376 km2 and a population of approx 140.000 residents. It is occupied by the "Lefka Ori" (White Mountain range), a mountain complex with very interesting formations like the Samaria Gorge. In the mountainous inner parts, it hosts villages that have been forgotten by time, scattered churches and monasteries, towers and castles. The whole area is a particularly interesting archaeological site and simultaneously a paradise for wandering, mountain climbing and sports. With its endless velvet beaches, steep gorges, caves, endemic plants and animals, vast olive and orange groves and a combination of wild landscapes and sea, it excites even the most hard-to-please visitors. Chania town is the former capital of the island and main town to the west. Built on the ruins of ancient Kydonia, a city of a unique charm, that strongly preserves the traces of its Venetian and Turkish past: narrow paved alleys and renovated traditional houses surround the “old town”. It is the most elegant town. The Turkish Minarets give it an oriental colour and the various nice examples of Venetian architecture a Venetian flavour.

Rethymno

Second from the left of the island Crete is the prefecture of Rethymno, a mountainous area with a long history and tradition, situated between two great mountain ranges Lefka Ori and Psiloritis (the highest peak of the island). The area of Rethymno prefecture is about 2.000 km2 and its population is 65.000 habitants. The capital of the prefecture, Rethymno town, is a beautiful seafront town standing on the north side of the island and is the third largest town in Crete counting 20.000 inhabitants. It’s the only town in Crete that retains its mediaeval appearance and is famous for its special character gained from the many civilizations that flourished in the area. It is part Venetian style with lots of Venetian stone work ruined fountains and great arches visible inside buildings. The town of Rethymno was a center of Arts and Letters, with an outburst of culture in the 16th and 17th centuries. Here traditional and modern architecture are blended in perfect harmony. Splendid monuments , reminders of its past (Venetian Fortezza Fortress from where one can have a nice view to the town which drowses under its walls ) ,fragile wooden balconies with delicate carving and mosques are traces of Turkish occupation, thrilling spots ( Arkadi Monastery -the national symbol of the Cretan struggle against the Turkish occupation ) ,outstanding surroundings, and an adequate tourist infrastructure and a 16km long sandy beach define the character of this area.

Heraklion

The largest prefecture of Crete is the one of Heraklion, located on the east part of the island. The population of Heraklion is 250.000 habitants and its area is 2.641 km2. A low mountain range rises in the middle of the prefecture and descends into the Mesara Plain. These fertile plains have been cultivated for thousands of years and have important Minoan, Greek, and Roman archaeological sites -- Festos, Agia Triada, and Gortyn are the major ones. The prefecture of Heraklion has many cultural and historical features to offer the visitor. The finest collection of Minoan artifacts in the world and the sites of one of history's greatest civilizations may be of interest as well as the numerous Byzantine churches and Venetian castles and fountains. The historical aspects combine with the scenic landscapes of mountains, valleys, and sea to make this a beautiful and fascinating area. The homonymous capital is the largest town in Crete, the main port and the economical center of the island. Heraklion is situated on the center of the north side of Crete it is connected by air and sea with the rest of Greece, with daily routes. Apart from being a busy commercial center, one can feel here maybe more than anywhere else on the island the glorious touch of the past: from Minoan Knossos and Labyrinth, to the impressive Walls and Koule Fortress (dated back to the Venetian period) that surround mainly the old quarters of the city! Its recently restored Venetian castle on the far side of the harbour is just the thing to draw the romantic imagination of the young. The best time to visit the town is late in the afternoon when it wakes up from its siesta. During the day it is noisy and busy, but one gets to like it after a while. The Venetian walls that encircle the old town seem like a crown that keeps it tied to the past. Its museum is regarded as the best in Greece and one of the best in the world. Among the semi modern buildings there are one or two nice Venetian remnants – the famous Morosini Fountains and a pretty restored Loggia.

Aghios Nikolaos - Lassithi

Lassithi is located on the east part of the island, covering an area of 1,818 sq.km and its population is 70.000 habitants. It is filled with long sandy beaches, small isles scattered around the blue waters and green valleys with small villages and warm colours. The highly contrasting landscape of the region, as well as its unequaled natural beauties (Palm Forest of Vai, with a dense forest of 5,000 palm trees & the beautiful Lassithi plateau, with hundreds of windmills) capture the visitor from the first moment. Agios Nikolaos, a small picturesque seaport town that lies on the shore of the blue waters of the Mirabello Bay is one of the major tourist destinations at the easternmost part of the island; its small lagoon connected with the harbour by a short channel gives a special charm, boasts an array of tavernas and traditional shops. The wonderful atmosphere of the harbour, with its fishing boats and traditional cafes, the developed tourism, the hospitable people and the vivid rhythm of the everyday events are all an indication of the varicolored texture of this special place. Other developed towns are the port of Sitia on the east part and the cosmopolitan Elounda with its luxury hotels and Spa centers. Lassithi prefecture bears a part of the long Cretan history. It is a place with many remarkable Venetian and Turkish monuments and with important archaeological sites. The most well-known is the ancient Minoan palace in Zakros. There are also many interesting ancient monasteries, superb buildings of the Venetian era, Turkish mosques and Byzantine churches in various harbours and villages of the prefecture. Here visitors discover that life has its own rhythm, the traditions are carefully followed and the people always take the time to enjoy their most precious possession, the wonderful landscape of Lassithi prefecture.

History

Tragic and sorely tried is the face of Crete; something ancient, holy, bitter and pride is in this face, like the faces of mothers whose proud sons have been torn away by death. For centuries pirates and conquerors, such as the Durians, Romans, Venetians and the Turks took Crete by storm until finally, in 1913, Crete was united with the motherland of Greece. The majority of the churches and monasteries gave shelter during the bloody and heroic fights for independence. Every stone of the preserved buildings can still tell a tragic story.

Due to its geographical position between Africa, Europe, and Asia Minor and due to its mild climate, Crete became a center of culture as early as Neolithic times. The first prehistoric settlements appeared in Crete around 6000 BC while in 2600 BC settlers who knew how to craft bronze arrived in Crete. It was then that the illustrious course of the mighty Minoan Civilization began, reaching its peak around 1950 BC with the erection of the imposing palaces in Knossos, Phaestos and Malia.

Mythology has it that it was in a cave of Crete where the goddess Rhea hid the newborn Zeus. In this cave, Zeus was brought up by the nymphs while the demonical Kouretes would strike their shields loudly so that Cronus may not hear the crying of the baby Zeus and eat it. It was also to Crete that Zeus, disguised as a bull, took Europa so that they may enjoy their love together. Their union produced a son, Minos, who ruled Crete and turned it into a mighty island empire of the seas. In Minoan times, even Attica would pay a tribute tax to Crete, until Theseus, the Athenian prince, killed the Minotaur. The truth behind the myth is the existence of a mighty and wealthy kingdom and of a civilization that is considered the most ancient one on the European continent.

In 1450 BC and again in 1400 BC the Minoan Civilization was successively devastated possibly due to the eruption of the volcano of Thera (Santorini) and was eventually led to its decline. In the wake of the devastation first the Mycenaean and then the Durians arrived to settle on the island. They were later followed by the Romans. The fall of the Roman Empire put Crete under the rule of the Byzantine Empire and Christianity was further established, until the arrival of the Arabs who occupied the island for an entire century (824-961 BC). During the Arab domination, Crete became the lair of pirates who were based out of Handakos, present day Heraklion. Next, Crete was taken back under Byzantine rule again and then eventually sold to the Venetians in the early 13th century, who occupied the island for approximately 5 centuries leaving their stamp on the island’s culture. After the fall of Handakos in 1669, the Turkish Occupation began marked by ferocious and bloody uprisings. At the end of the 19th century Turkish rule came to an end. The Cretan State was created with the King of Greece as the island’s High Commissioner. In 1913, Crete was finally joined officially with Greece.

Culture

Tradition and culture on Crete are very closely linked to another. Even today in some of the villages the traditional customs and way of life still exist, e.g. the man is the undisputable head of the family. The women have their freedom, but this doesn't include all rights by a long way. Most of the rights and duties of the women are restricted to bringing up the children and looking after the house. The men enjoy going to the kafenion where they spend hours. A kafenion is a bare, plain, simple room, in which the men read their newspapers, enjoy their coffee, play backgammon, discuss and of course during all this time they play with their Komboloi, a sort of rosary of beads. At every occasion the Cretans sing and dance. Particularly in the last years, the old folk dances are experiencing a comeback. Everything on this island is hotter. Words, songs, dances, love and hate as well as feelings and thinking. Most events and celebrations take place locally. Saints Days take place almost every day on Crete. They are celebrated by mass in the church or often at the village square the evening before. The most important celebration is Easter. Not only holy days but also public holidays are reasons for the Cretans to celebrate. Throughout the whole year in the various regions other festivals take place, such as ones for wine, raki, cheese, etc.

Cretan People

There is a lot to discover on Crete: the most exciting discovery, though, is the encounter with the Cretans... they are the proudest of Greeks; honest, self-assured - but at the same time warm and friendly and etched with a sense for the family and tradition. Their overwhelming hospitality and joy of living with the intense pleasure of the moment, their pleasure of games, socializing and heated political discussions, is proverbial. The Cretan lives peacefully, works hard, laughs a lot - just like the cloudless blue sky of his homeland; the words of the poets are as sweet as the fruit, which issue from the Cretan earth. Still the Cretan is frightening, wild and uncontrolled to all those who dare to threaten his freedom, which proudly reigns over the peaks of the mountains.

Gastronomy

When visiting Greece, you cannot ignore the extensive Greek menu; the perfect combination of Mediterranean flavors endowing people with longevity and sound health with Crete as its epicenter. The Cretan diet allows Cretans the highest life expectation in the whole of Europe, as doctors and scientists already discovered 15 years ago. A diet of nutrients containing vitamin E, which is to be found in poultry, seafood, wheat and raw or cooked green wild vegetables, protects against heart attacks, as published in a study by the American Heart Society. For Cretans, the secret of longevity is very simple. They eat anything that their rich soil produces! They consume a lot of fruit, vegetables, greens, fresh produce, legumes, cheese and bread. Cretans use herbs to add flavour to their meals; they make sweets/cakes with natural sweeteners, honey and grape juice syrup. But olive oil remains the main nutritional factor in Cretan cuisine and is held as the elixir of life. Cretan olive oil has a first class quality, which has continually improved over the last 17 years. An absolute must is the enjoyment of a glass of real, pure Cretan red wine, a naturally fermented wine, which ensures you a long and healthy life and which was delivered to all the royal courts of Europe in the Middle Ages by Venetian traders. For centuries, much mythological and historical information indicated that Crete is the homeland of wine. Archaeological excavations have brought to light the oldest wine preparation system. The long hours of sunshine, the temperatures, the earth and the sea are the best conditions for the vineyards on Crete. Wine producing areas are spread over the whole of the island, giving a large choice of local wines ranging from dry white to rose and liqueur wine.

Cretan specialties

Local Graviera cheese (a kind of gruyere).
Mizithra: creamy white cheese often served instead of feta.
Dako: a Cretan rusk topped with tomato, feta cheese, olives, oregano and olive oil.
Kalitsounia: sweet cheese pastries stuffed with mizithra cheese, cinnamon & sugar.
Traditional cheese pies (made of sweet mizithra, sour-myzithra, graviera and herbs), Chortopites: homemade pies stuffed with local greens (fried fennel pie or pies stuffed with leek, spiny chicory and spinach).
Many variations of fried pastries sprinkled with local cheese and honey are also a common delicacy in Crete.
Bourbouristoi Chochlioi ; rolled over snails fried with rosemary.
Dolmades: vine leaves or zucchini blossoms stuffed with rice, minced meat, onion, oregano, tomato, cloves and parsley.
Gamopilafo: a distinct wedding specialty made with boiled goat and rice.
Raki or Tsikoudia: the distilled alcoholic drink of Crete.
Antikristo: traditional roasted lamb or pork meat with sea salt cooked against the fire.
Xerotigana: honey dipped spiral pastries.

Highlights / Things to see

  • Knossos ancient site
  • Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
  • Samaria Gorge
  • Lassithi plateau
  • Rethymno and Chania old towns
  • Spinalonga island

Events

  • Chestnut festival in Elos Village – Chania
    Surrounded by the gracious thick boughs of many chestnut trees, Elos village in Crete becomes the host of a colourful chestnut festival every third Sunday of October, devoted to the delicacies of its fat, sweet and juicy chestnuts. At this small yet vibrant event, visitors can enjoy witnessing and participating in some traditional local entertainment, including drinking honey tsikoudia, eating local delicacies, music, traditional dancing and of course indulging the palate in the pleasures, both sweet and sour, produced by roasting the chestnuts. Spending an warm October weekend on the island of Crete, discovering the ancient wonderments of its rich culture and history, whilst experiencing one of the island’s most delightfully peculiar celebrations and tasting the wondrous savours produced by the chestnuts, sounds like quite an idyllic autumn break.
  • Renaissance festival in Rethymno town
    An inspired and spiritual art event During July, you’ll be able to wander around through time, dreams, colors and fairy tales. The figure of a knight on his horse, the transport of the Renaissance flame from the Doge’s Palace through the town’s streets, as well as playful harlequins and street musicians will accompany. Share the magic of this unique cultural event in Rethymno town that gets transformed into a medieval Venetian town and plays host to world-class renaissance musicians, gathering each summer in Rethymno to participate at the festival. The program includes theatrical plays from the Renaissance era, music and dance performances, art exhibitions etc… The event takes place all over the town; concert hall, on the streets, the squares and the Venetian port. A spectacular opening ceremony kicks off the festivities, and the festival finishes with a similar closing ceremony.
  • Cretan Wine festival – Rethymno
    A blend of tradition, present and future… The Rethymno Wine festival is one of the oldest festivals on the island of Crete, being organized for more than 70 years. It’s a great event that meets high aesthetic standards and exhibits high quality branded local products and branded bottled award winning Cretan wine. It’s a source of life, happiness and pride taking place each summer right in the middle of the town, in the coolness of the Municipal Garden. Since 2009 the city of Rethymno has decided to revive its longest running festival but with a completely new identity and content. Local producers will be presenting their quality products such as bottled wine, olive products, herbs, cheese etc. The 7day program will consist of many events, such as art exhibitions, traditional and modern music by local performers, educational and entertaining activities for children, distinguished speakers conducting seminars and lectures as well as the chance of wine and food tasting. You will find choices of wine from the largest wine producing companies of Crete, and you will be given the opportunity to try almost all the flavours and varieties of the famous Cretan wines. Cretan wines are for the most part table wines although the island does have some appellation wines. Mostly reds, there is Archanes, Daphnes and Siteia. They are exceptionally dry so those who prefer something a little more refreshing in the sweltering heat can choose the sweeter versions of these wines. The festival’s aim is to enhance a comprehensive, interactive communication between the residents and visitors with genuine products of the Cretan earth and to highlight the independence of tourism with culture, tradition and gastronomy, together with the traditions of Crete.

Excursion program

Knossos

Knossos & Heraklion City Tour

This is the tour that reveals the secrets and life of the Minoans. A flash – back to Crete’s ancient history and Minoan Civilization as well as the spiritual strength which made Crete famous all over the world. Visit Europe’s first Palace and enter the spirit of the myths. Walking round the narrow corridors of the labyrinth construction you’ll have the opportunity to see all the samples and symbols of the progress and culture developed in Crete 4000 years ago as well as feel the mystical evidence of the Minoan grandeur.

The myths come alive again after visiting the Palace of King Minos at Knossos. After Knossos Palace, we will take a guided tour of the beautiful city of Heraklion which is the capital of Crete. You may see many places of interest which will include the recently restored Venetian castle and some other nice Venetian remnants – the Famous Morosine Fountain and the pretty restored Loggia, along with many shops and sidewalk cafes.

Type of excursion: Civilization / city tour Full day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Knossos Guided tour 1½ hours
Heraklion Guided tour 40 minutes
Free time in Heraklion city 2 – 2½ hours
Back to Hotel 16:00 – 17:30
Oia

1 day cruise to Santorini island

A fabulous one day cruise to the legendary “Atlantis”. Santorini is a magical island, considered to be one of the most picturesque of whole Mediterranean, offering incomparable beauty with volcanic terrain. Enjoy the unique view to the endless blue of the Aegean Sea, offered from whitewashed villages, hanging on the lava rocks and discover the archeological sites of the island, buried under lava, the Aegean Pompeii. Enjoy a long day and offer yourself a unique chance to explore another Greek island!

Type of excursion: Boat / Landscape Full day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, camera, sun cream

Stops Approximate time of stay
Heraklion or Rethymno port to Santorini 2½ – 3½ hours
Santorini 5-6 hours
Back to Heraklion or Rethymno port 20:00 – 21:00
Back to Hotel 21:30 – 23:00
Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge (Long Way)

A spectacular trip for those who love walking and have the spirit for adventure. Visit Europe’s longest and most beautiful gorge (18 km long). After an impressive drive along the North coast of Chania through the White Mountains up to Omalos Plateau, you finally face the challenge: a guided walk through the extreme beauty and diverse landscape!

In this national forest you discover the Cretan fauna and flora! This hiking adventure ends at the Libyan Sea, in Ag.Roumeli: an un-spoilt fishing settlement, where you can have a refreshing swim and time for lunch before the ferry takes you along the coast to Chora Sfakion or Sougia. Return to resort by coach. A full day excursion, offering a unique exchange and contrast of landscapes, between the north and south coast, mountains and sea. It is an absolute Must when in Crete!

Type of excursion: Adventure / Full day
Should take: Comfortable walking shoes, sun protection (hat, sun cream), bathing suit, towel, bottle of water (you can refill in the gorge), and snacks.

Stops Approximate time of stay
Coffee stop near Rethymno 20 min.
Crossing of the gorge 5-6 hours
Free time in Agia Roumeli 1½ hours
Boat from Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion Boat leaves at 17:00 and arrives at 18:00
Coffee stop near Rethymno 20 min.
Back to Hotel 22:00 – 23:00
Spinalonga Crete

Spinalonga island

A mini-cruise inside the calm waters of the Mirabello Gulf, to the island of Spinalonga is one of the most popular trips. The remains of its Venetian fortification and ghostly leper barracks almost untouched through the centuries, lies silently opposite Elounda’s coast. Spinalonga’s Venetian castle is one of the main castles in Crete which was never conquered during the Turkish occupation.

A guided tour will conduct you to the sorrowful destiny of the islet. The boat sails after to Kolokytha Bay for swimming in the crystal waters and a barbeque lunch. In the early afternoon, you move on to the picturesque town of Agios Nikolaos, where you can enjoy your coffee in one of the many street cafes along the pretty lake in the town center before your return to your hotel.

Type of excursion: Boat / City tour - Full day
Should take: Bathing suit, Sun protection, Camera.

Stops Approximate time of stay
Departure from Agios Nikolaos port 10:00
From Agios Nikolaos to Spinalonga by boat 1 hour
Spinalonga guided tour 1½ hours
Barbeque at Kolokitha bay 2 – 2½ hours
Back to Agios Nikolaos - Hotel 16:00
Stay in Agios Nikolaos 1 hour
Back to Hotel 17:30 – 18:00
Cretan Evening

Cretan evening

An evening full of fun and excitement in a traditional village in the mountains. Experience the local cuisine (meal and unlimited barrel wine is served) and a show consisting of a variety of traditional music, dances and songs from all over Greece.

Dancers in colorful costumes and musicians playing the “lyre” and “bouzouki” perform a live show in front of you. Do not hesitate to try some of the dance steps on the stage! It is there and then that one gets to learn how to dance the Cretan dances. Feel and enjoy yourself as a real Cretan.

Type of excursion: Folklore - Half day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Arrival in Anopolis 19:00
Departure from Anopolis 22:30 – 23:00
Back to Hotel 23:30 – 24:30
Aqua Park

Aqua Park

Get wild wet in a “water world”! Visit one of the major Greek Aqua parks offering a variety of games and options, such as huge slides, lazy rivers, black hole, wave pools and many other, inviting everyone to a unique opportunity for excitement and real fun.

Relax under the hot sun and explore the playful surrounding area of the park. The best way to escape from the summer heat and get deep inside the holiday feeling.

Type of excursion: Entertainment Full day
Should take: Bathing suit, sun cream, hat, towel, camera

4X4 Safari

4 x 4 Safari

An ideal tour for outdoor adventurers , organized by experts in active tourism : discover the natural beauties and the hidden secrets of the Cretan mountains , canyons and crystal clear seas . Drive on asphalt and non asphalt roads, through mountainous areas with breathtaking views and deserted settlements and get acquaint with the local tradition and lifestyle.

Let us take you to secret spots that you won’t find on any map or in tourist guides. A combination of wild sceneries, dusty tracks, refreshing swim and lunch break (included) in a local tavern. Get a taste of the real Crete, approaching it the “alternative way”.

Type of excursion: Adventure Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, camera, bathing Suit, Camera

Meet Crete

Meet Crete

Our island offers much more than only sea and sunshine. This trip brings you to places far from the main tourist resorts of Crete, unspoiled from the effects of modern civilization. An introspective look on the real village life in the hidden mainland: get to know the people, their habits and surroundings! Admire the beauty of the mountains and valleys and feel the hospitality of the authentic villagers.

We pass through many small villages each one offering its own beauty. We visit old churches – ruins, caves and water spring and much more (depending on the part of the island visited).

During this trip nature offers so much beauty and a variety of herbs – flowers and plants. Lunch break takes place at a local tavern well-known for its Greek specialties. This tour gives you the chance to look a little beyond the touristy side of Crete. Taste, enjoy and understand it a little more the Cretan Way!

Type of excursion: Tradition, Folklore, Landscape - Full day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Arolithos 40 min
Anogia 1 hour
Axos 2 hours
Back to Hotel 18:00 - 19:30
Chrisi Island

Chrissi island

An unforgettable cruise from Ierapetra to Europe’s southernmost Mediterranean island. A pleasant boat trip in the Libyan Sea of approx. 45 minutes duration brings you to Chrissi Island, famous for its unique “wild lonely” beauty. After disembarkation, follow the path through the cedar forest to the “golden beach” with the white sand, turquoise waters, the purple shells and fossils.

An ideal place for relaxing, swimming and snorkeling! You can have lunch in one of the taverns. Respect this isolated fragile environment while enjoying its beauties!There is a charge for sun beds.

Type of excursion: Boat, relax - Full day
Should take: Swimming suit, Sun protection, Camera, Snacks.

Stops Approximate time of stay
Departure of the boat from Ierapetra 10:30
Duration of trip 1 hour
Departure from Chrissi 16:00 (17:00 back to Ierapetra port)
Back to Hotel 18:00 - 19:30
Arkadi Crete

West Crete (Arkadi – Rethymno – Chania)

This one day trip takes us to the Arkadi Monastery, located on a high plateau with a nice view of the sea below. One of the most tragic and heroic chapters in the history of the island was written here: the resistance against the Turkish occupation came to its peak in 1866 when approximately 1.000 Cretan took refuge here and instead of surrendering they dared a mass suicide by blowing-up the powder magazine .We will take a look round the monastery and the small museum where many impressive relics of the 1866 Holocaust and icons are kept.

Travelling along the north west coast we reach Chania , the former capital and the most attractive town of Crete : take a relaxing walk through the charming narrow streets in the old part of the city with the “oriental” market .Here you can find a big variety of leather goods and Cretan folk art items.

Break for lunch break here, in one of the nice taverns by the Venetian Harbour. On the way back we stop in Rethymno. Visit the Venetian part of the city with the curling narrow streets and the Venetian Fortress (“Fortezza”), the Turkish minarets and fountains and feel the local turbulent history. Enjoy your coffee in one of the sea front coffee shops.

Type of excursion: Civilization, City tour, Landscape Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Arkadi 1 hour
Chania guided city tour 40 min
Free Time in Chania 2 hours
Rethymno 1 hour
Back to Hotel 18:30 - 20:30
Phaestos

South Crete (Phaestos – Gortys – Matala)

A relaxing trip to “antiquity” and sunshine, south-west of Heraklion, beyond the mountains and through Crete's unique scenery! First stop at Phaestos, the second major Minoan archaeological site of the island, situated on a hill overlooking the fertile Messara plain and offering a wonderful view of the Ida and Asterousia mountains. The ruins of the palace complex here bring evidence of a glorious past destroyed by fire and earthquake and rebuilt shortly after.

Next stop, at Gortys, the capital of the island during the Roman occupation. Visit the ancient Forum and Amphitheatre, St. Titus Basilica (dating from 5th-6th cent. AD.), and admire the famous Doric Law Code carved into stone.

In the village of Matala - a modern holiday resort on the south coast , enjoy your swimming and lunch and explore the Neolithic Caves surrounding the bay (that during the sixties hosted the “hippie” colonies ).

Type of excursion: Civilization Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Phaestos 1 hour
Gortys 1 hour
Matala 2 hours
Back to Hotel 18:00 - 19:30
Gramvousa Chania Crete

Gramvousa – Balos cruise

A delightful trip for sun and nature lovers, along the Gramvoussa Peninsula, on the North West coast of Chania. This is a unique site of rocks and cliffs and a shelter for protected species .A challenging climbing (137 metres) to the Venetian fortress – built to protect the entrance of Kissamos Golf- on the islet of pirates (Gramvoussa) invites you to enjoy the panoramic view! Later on, explore the fabulous lagoon of Balos with the calm waters and the golden seashells.

Go for a walk in the ankle-deep, warm water or sit back and marvel at the breathtaking beauty of the place: the different shades of turquoise and blue contrasting vividly with the white, fine sand.

Do not hesitate to join this adventure and visit one of the most beautiful and most photographed locations of the island!

Type of excursion: Boat, relax Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, swimming suit, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Departure from Kastelli port 10:15
From Kastelli to Gramvoussa by boat 1 hour
Gramvoussa 3 hours
From Gramvoussa to Balos 15 min.
Balos 2½ hours
From Balos to Kastelli 45 min
Back to Hotel 19:00 – 20:00
Lasithi Plateu

Lassithi plateau – Scenery Tour

The first stop on this magnificent mountain route will be at the monastery of Kera, which is adorned with 14th century wall paintings. Originally named Kardiotissa, it was built in the 17th century and dedicated to the Virgin of Kera. You will have approximately 45 minutes here to tour the monastery and see the lovely Byzantine icons contained within the church. Continuing the ascent along a beautifully wooded route, you will arrive at the plateau of Lassithi. The view of the encircling mountains is absolutely breathtaking from here, as you drink in the fertile landscape below, which is irrigated by the power of windmills. The plateau of Lassithi is dotted with about twenty Greek villages, each more picturesque than the other.

Next stop will be at Psihro where Dicteon Antron is located. A short climb will bring you to the cave, where Zeus, father of all the Greek gods, was born. A guided tour will take you into the heart of the mountain to uncover mythological stories of the ancient stalagmites and stalactites and let your imagination run riot.

Next stop will be the village of Tzermiado before travelling through the plains' villages where time seems to have been standing still for the past 100 years. Crossing the villages of the Plateau we pay a short visit at a traditional potter's factory, this ancient ceramic art, which completes today more than 8000 years. Leaving the Plateau the views down to Pediada Plain are truly magnificent and a short photo-stop will complete the day.

Type of excursion: Culture, Full day
Should take: Hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Kera Monastery 45min
Psychro (Zeus) Cave 1½ hours
Pottery 45min
Tzermiado 1½ hours
Back to Hotel 15:30-16:30