Great Hikes and Cuisine of Crete

Island Trails and Culinary Traditions

Trip Level

This trip is Level 2, Easy to Moderate. It includes walking tours in cities and villages, and easy to moderate hikes of 2-4 hours. For your own enjoyment, we recommend you make a special effort to be in good physical condition for the trip. Daily walking and/or regular hiking (or using a stairclimbing machine at your gym) are excellent preparatory exercises. You should wear sturdy, well-broken-in hiking boots for maximum comfort on the trail.

We enjoy our lunches at small tavernas, and our dinners feature local food and a chance to sample traditional specialties of Crete. Some evenings we dine in our hotel and other nights at local restaurants. The delicious cuisine of this island comes straight from the land or the sea. Please note that in Greece, the dinner hour is considerably later than what it is in the US. We do our best to secure early reservations for our groups, but most often the evening meal will be at 8:00 pm.

Our accommodations in Crete include small boutique hotels in village environments. These are welcoming and unique properties chosen for their atmosphere and location. Although the rooms in our hotels may not always be of uniform size, your Trip Leader always tries his best to assign rooms in a fair way so that all participants experience an equal advantage throughout the trip as a whole.

CRETAN CUISINE
Cretan cuisine is one of the most distinctive in a country of renowned local dishes flavored by the sea breezes and mountain terrain. It doesn’t depend on fancy dishes but your plates will contain fresh, wild greens from the mountains, aromatic herbs, garden-fresh fruits and vegetables, virgin olive oil, and the pungent Cretan thyme honey. While on our journey, we stay in mountain villages that produce almost all the ingredients that we will taste in our dishes—you can’t get more local! At Kapetaniana (Thalori Retreat) and Mt. Psiloritis (Delina Mountain Resort), there are farmhouse cheeses, organic and hand-picked vegetables, and communal outdoor ovens to supply the restaurants.

Here’s a sample of Cretan dishes to whet your appetite. The serendipity of what is locally available will dictate actual menus!

Appetizers: Dakos (barley rusks) with fennel and olives, skordalia (potato and garlic spread), eggplant salad, hand-picked wild greens salad, anthotyro and myzithra cheeses (fresh and similar to ricotta), boureki (small pies with variations according to where you order it, prepared with vegetables, cheese, or meat).

Main courses: Cretan meat pie (a hearty staple), gamopilafo (Cretan wedding pilaf), lamb with hilopites (traditional hand-made egg noodles), snails in tomato or eggplant sauce, stuffed squid, cod with cauliflower, octopus cooked in wine.

Desserts: Olive oil cookies with wine, galaktoboureko (custard in pastry), kaltsounia and lychnarakia (savory pies that contain honey, lemon rind, and cinnamon), sfakiani pita (like a pancake and served with honey).

CRETAN WINE
Europe’s oldest known wine press—3,500 years old—was discovered in Crete, so it goes without saying that Greece has a strong wine-making tradition. It is not certain how they learned the art, but they may have learned the techniques from the Phoenicians or the Egyptians, with whom the Minoans had trade relations. Today, the wine-making focus is on the island’s small, high-quality indigenous varieties. Terroir-driven wines are thriving, not surprising given the island’s stunning range of soils and microclimate, and a new generation of young winemakers has entered the scene. Crete has six PDO (“Protected Designation of Origin”) districts: PDO Sitia, PDO Malvasia Sitia–Lasithi, PDO Peza–Heraklion, PDO Archanes–Heraklion, PDO Dafnes–Heraklion, PDO Handakas-Candia & Malvasia Handakas-Candia–Heraklion.

With that in mind, we will taste, learn, and become accustomed to the unique varieties of the Cretan wine:

Vilana: The island’s white star, Vilana, has minerality, aroma, light taste, and lemon-scented acidity.

Vidiano: Often compared with Viognier, the Vidiano grape offers floral notes, rich body, and creamy taste.

Dafni: With a name derived from the Greek word for laurel, Dafni does indeed have a bay-leaf scent and is not unlike some herbal white wines from the Rhone Valley. It pairs wonderfully with the wild herbs of Crete’s cuisine.

Liatiko: This garnet-colored wine can produce fine dry wines but is it is at its zenith as a dessert wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon: The sun and heat of Crete give Cabernet a Cretan flavor, whether in varietal wines or blended with international varieties.

Syrah: Syrah loves the warm Mediterranean climate and blends well with Crete’s indigenous red, Kotsifali, to produce a wine with a Cretan character.

Weather

Greece has a typical Mediterranean climate, with warm, sunny summers and mild, rainy winters. Daytime temperatures in the summer peak in the high 70sF, while the winter temperature rarely drops below 50F.

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.