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Operates from Monday to Friday
Duration: 5 days / 4 nights
DAY 1 Monday: Heraklion – Diktaion Adron – Lasithi Plateau – Agios Nikolaos – Sitia
Meeting with the guide and departure to visit the Archaeological Museum of Heraklio, one of the greatest museums of Greece and the best in the world for Minoan art as it contains the most notable and complete collection of artefacts of the Minoan civilization of Crete. After visiting the museum, we continue our tour by driving up the Dikti mountain 900m. above the sea level, where the Diktaion Adron, the cave where according to the legend Zeus was born, is situated. After visiting the Diktaion Adron, we continue to the Lasithi Plateau, the largest and most beautiful of Crete and then down to the port city of Agios Nikolaos. Following Lunch at Agios Nikolaos we depart to visit we continue to the seaside city of Sitia, an attractive town built amphitheatrically on the side of a hill with a big open harbour backed by a wide promenade lined with taverns and cafes. It is a friendly place enjoying an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, where tourism is fairly low-key and the farming of wine and olives are the mainstays. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Sitia.
DAY 2 Tuesday: Sitia – Toplou Monastery – Vai – Ierapetra – Gortyna – Zaros
We depart from Sitia to meet the 15th century Toplou Monastery and we visit the museum with its priceless collection of icons. The monastery has a long history which played a significant role in the struggle of the Cretan people for freedom. Following next, at the Eastern tip of the island is the beach of Vai, which belongs to Toplou Monastery and is famous for its white sand and the palm tree forest, the largest palm tree forest in Europe. There we have free time for swimming and relaxing on the beach. We continue our tour southbound through many traditional villages, overlooking the Libyan Sea and having lunch at a traditional taverna at Schoinokapsala beach before visiting the town of Ierapetra, which is an old city with rich history. In 66BC was conquered after putting up a fight, by the Romans who realized the importance of the city’s location and reconstructed it, giving it the push needed to flourish and reach its peak, financially and culturally. During the Byzantine Empire, Ierapetra continued being a flourishing city. It was destroyed 3 times, one by the Arabs in the 9th century AD, then by the Venetians in the 13th century and by the Turks in the 17th century. In the afternoon we depart from Ierapetra and drive parallel to the beaches of the Libyan Sea and arriving towards Myrtos, we reach the villages of Heraklion and the Asterousia Mountains, we pass by Viano and come across the huge olive grove of Messara, finally reaching the archaeological site of Gortyna. Gortyna was the Roman capital of Crete and Cyrenaica and was first inhabited around 3200 BC. Overnight at the Hotel in Zaros, famed for its spring waters which are now bottled and sold all over Greece. Dinner at the hotel.
DAY 3 Wednesday: Zaros – Phaistos – Lampini – Vatos – Spili – Arkadi – Rethimno
Breakfast at the hotel. Starting from Zaros at the valley of Mesara we visit the archaeological site of Phaistos and its palace, the most important center of the Minoan civilization, and the most wealthy and powerful city in southern Crete. We continue on the road to Rethymnon and stop at the traditional Cretan village of Lampini, to visit the church and the museum of Panagia. The church is inscribed with a cupola, and depicts frescoes of the 12th and 14th century. It was an Episcopal church, since the village of Lampini once accommodated the seat of the famous Episcopate of Lampis, which had existed since 431. We continue to the village of Vatos, a small village hidden in the green where we find all the elements of its tradition. Walking down the alleys we visit the old school and its fountain as well as the museum with the farming tools and utensils of earlier times and end up having lunch at a traditional village house , where dishes of genuine pure Cretan products are served, such as olive oil, vegetables, cheese, meat, wine and of course all the ingredients are fresh, local and cooked by our Cretan hostess. We finish at a cauldron of the village where you make Raki (the famous alcoholic beverage of Crete). Spili is our next stop known for its Venetian snake with a long line of 25 stone lion heads that run cool water from their mouths. Crossing the lush villages of Amarios we reach the Arkadi Monastery, which constitutes a landmark of architecture and civilization considering the magnificent facade of the church, the highly developed spiritual tradition as well as the flourishing development of fine arts. However, the holocaust, which took place in 1866, gave the monastery an eminent place in history, elevating it to an eternal symbol of freedom and heroism, recognized worldwide. We continue to Rethymnon in the afternoon and as we cross it we get an look at the city we can visit for a dinner walk after our arrival at the hotel. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Rethymnon.
DAY 4 Thursday: Rethimno – Imbros Gorge* – Chora Sfakion – Komitades – Fragokastelo – Rodakino – Agouseliana – Preveli Monastery – Fortetza – Rethimno
Breakfast at the hotel. Departure for Chora Sfakion. Arrival at Imbros Gorge**. Imbros Gorge is the second most known gorge in Crete after Samaria Gorge. Its length is about 8km of spectacular views and takes no longer than 3 hours. The path is not particularly difficult to walk. The gorge is fairly narrow with plenty of trees, so you will have shade most of the time. After a 3 hour walk you will end up at the village of Komitades where you will meet the bus to continue the tour to Fragokastelo, Rodakino and the village of Agouseliana for lunch. After lunch we continue to Preveli where you will visit the famous Byzantine Monastery of Preveli (10th Century) near the southern coast of Crete. The Monastery has a glorious history due to the active and leading involvement of its fellow monks in all national endeavours for freedom and education of our people. Thus, it merits specific recognition and respect throughout the island of Crete. After our visit to Preveli we return to Rethymnon to visit Fortezza. Fortezza is the citadel of the city of Rethymnon. It was built by the Venetians in the 16th century (1573) to protect the city and was occupied by the Ottomans in 1646. In the early 20th century many houses were built inside the citadel. Finally, we return to Rethimno for leisure time, to visit the city, dinner and overnight.
*sturdy walking shoes are necessary
**In case you do not wish to walk through the Gorge, while other members of the group are hiking, you can continue with the bus to visit Chora Sfakion (Sfakia) for a few hours of relaxing, shopping and a swim at “Vrissi” (the Spring), a well organized sandy beach with crystal-clear waters, sunbeds and umbrellas, at the western end of Sfakia.
DAY 5 Friday: Rethimno – Chania – Rethimno – Knossos – Heraklion
Breakfast at the hotel. We start our tour driving along the north coastal road, passing the resort city of Georgioupolis, popular for its fine beaches, to the city of Souda, port of Chania, to visit the principal Allied War Cemetery designed by architect Louis de Soissons and next, to visit the Venizelos Graves at the historical location of Profitis Ilias in Akrotiri where the tomb of Eleftherios Venizelos lays, one of the long-standing prime Ministers of Greece. We continue to the city of Chania for a visit to the small market, where local products can be found, such as the famous honey, cheeses, souvenir shops etc, before descending to the famous Venetian harbor of the city with the LighthouseFaros and then returning to Rethymno for lunch. We continue driving across the north side of the island along the Cretan Sea and crossing the coastal villages of Bali, Fodele and Agia Pelagia, and reach the city of Heraklion, where we visit the archaeological site of Knossos and its palace sited 5kms southeast of the city of Heraklio. The first Minoan palace (1900 BC) was built on the ruins of the Neolithic settlement where the Minoan dynasty ruled. The site was discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos. The excavations in Knossos began in 1900 A.D. by the English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans and his team and they continued for 35 years. After the visit of the site we return to Heraklio.