On Foot Across Greek’s Mythical Island

Overview

Mythology and legend have bestowed on Crete the privilege of being the birthplace of Zeus, father of the gods. This extraordinary Greek island is also home to Europe’s earliest civilization and a Minoan culture that flourished for more than 2,000 years. But history does not stop here. The island’s numerous conquerors (from Roman to Ottoman) left their ever present mark on Crete’s culture, architecture and—our personal favorite—cuisine!  On this adventure with WT’s own inimitable Greek god, Kostas Vasileiou, you'll explore the many treasures of Crete's coastline and little-visited interior. We’ll hike in deep ravines and up to high mountain tops, explore ruins and ancient villages, and swim in the azure waters of the Aegean and Libyan Seas. Ours is a culinary odyssey as well, and in the restaurants, tavernas, local farmhouses, and vineyards of this mythical isle, we’ll discover the secrets of Cretan cuisine, an exquisitely healthy blend of herders’ cheeses, delicious fish right from the sea, fresh breads and savory pies, seasonal greens harvested in the fertile fields, fabulous wines, and of course olive oil, Crete’s liquid gold. Join us for a very special adventure in a truly blessed land!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Heraklion

In the bustling harbor metropolis of Heraklion, you’ll discover a history that dates back 3,000 years as we explore the Archaeological Museum, the 10th century Church of Saint Titus,  and formidable Koules, the imposing fortress at the edge of the city’s harbor walls. Our special wine-tasting and lunch at Douloufakis winery is a fabulous introduction to the local varieties.

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Days 3-5
Kapetaniana / Ancient Ruins / Mt. Kofina Hike / Beaches of Elygia and Tripiti

We head across the wildly beautiful Messara valley to the ancient mountain village of Kapetaniana, with a stop at the Minoan city of Gortyn to see its Roman-era ruins and Byzantine Basilica. You’ll explore the hilltop ruins of ancient Rizenia and learn about Crete’s legendary battles. Our hikes in the Asterousia mountains and southern Cretan coastline bring us to the top of Mt Kofinas (4,038’) for sunrise, to a seaside monastery at Koudoumas, through tranquil hamlets, and to the sparkling waters of Elygia and Tripiti beaches.

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Days 6-7
Phaistos / Mt. Psiloritas / Zeus’ Cave / Mountain Villages

At the Minoan Palace of Phaistos, ruling over the fertile olive plains, we’ll learn about the "Puzzle of Crete," a clay disc unearthed here whose ancient alphabet has yet to be decoded to this day. Mt. Psiloritus is Crete’s highest peak at 8,058 feet, and its unique caves, gorges, and plateaus have earned it a place on UNESCO’s list of European Geoparks. You’ll hike right from Ideon Andron cave, the mythical birthplace of Zeus, to the summit of Psiloritus, where the views to the sea are absolutely breathtaking. Our nights here are spent in beautiful cottages in a farm "eco-village" where we are welcomed like family for a taste of traditional life in the countryside.

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Days 8-11
Chania / White Mountains / Mt Giglio Hike / Depart

From the architectural gem of Arkadi Monastery, symbol of Cretan heroism in the struggle for Greek independence from the Turks, we head west to the harbor city of Chania on the Sea of Crete, where our hotel is set on the waterfront amid monuments from Venetian and Turkish times. This picturesque city is our base for wine-tasting adventures, memorable meals of fresh seafood and seasonal greens, and a mystical summit hike amid the limestone peaks of Crete’s wild and rocky Lefka Ori (White Mountains). Depart on Day 12 via Athens.

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Highlights

Highlights

Explore age-old villages, a seaside monastery, and Zeus' legendary birthplace cave
Hike in deep gorges, to the summit of Crete's highest peak, and along the tranquil beaches of the southern coast
Meet the award-winning winemakers (and sample their very best) in Crete's countryside vineyards
Explore Minoan Palaces, Byzantine ruins, and bustling Venetian harbors
Experience Cretan cuisine—and the philosophy behind it—with the fresh seasonal bounty of the fields and sea

Details

Length: 11 days
Cost From: $4695  
Arrive: Heraklion, Greece
Depart: Chania, Greece
Lodging: 5 nights in city hotels, 2 nights in a heritage inn, and 3 nights in a comfortable farm lodge
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

City and village exploration on foot; 4 days with 6 hour hikes on steep terrain, elevation gains and losses of 3,300'