ARRIVAL AT HERACLION-SHOPPING TRIP-OPTIONAL CRETE BY NIGHT-OVERNAIGHT IN HERACLION
Arrival at Heraclion airport, collection of the group and transfer to the hotel. Check-in, welcome cocktail and information. Shopping trip and afterwards traditional Cretan lunch. We will get to know Cretan food and wine along with music and dance better in the afternoon, with a visit to the Cretan town, where in a large tavern with music and a dance-group with exquisite traditional woolen costumes we may taste local wine. Transfer to our hotel. Overnight.
CITY TOUR IN HERACLION-KNOSSOS
For a foreign visitor, spending their holiday in Crete, Heraclion is mostly the first station in the island. Heraclion is the largest city of Crete as well as the economic and political center of Crete. After breakfast, we are going to visit the cathedral of Agios Minas. Heraclion is getting more and more like a large Greek city, like Athens in the mainland. Later, we are going to the Knossos Palace -10 km. south of Heraclion- full of famous monuments of minoan era and culture. The site was bought for excavations by Heinrich Schliemann, who died though before carrying out the project. The excavation was carried out later by Arthur Evans. The place is famous for its ceramics, vases and frescoes, made with superior mastery.
In the morning, we will visit the Arkadi Monastery, about 23 km southeast from the city of Rethymnon, lying on a plateau 500 m over the sea level in the middle of a hilly area among mountains, always remembered and honored for the bloody tragedy that took place on the 9th of November 1866, when at least 800 besieged Cretans along with Ottoman soldiers died by exploding it during their struggle against the Ottoman rule; becoming then on a symbol for the whole island. In addition, a national holiday is held there. Later, we will return to our hotel. Dinner and overnight.
OPTION I: BOAT TRIP TO SPINALONGA ISLAND-AFTERNOON VISIT TO AGIOS NICOLAOS-OVERNIGHT IN RETHYMNON
In the morning, boat trip to Spinalonga island, which had been a leper colony. It had also been an old Venetian and Ottoman sea fortress. Returning in the afternoon, we will visit the small harbor of Agios Nicolaos. Return to the hotel in Rethymnon.
OPTION II: OMALOS PLATEAU-SAMARIA GORGE-AGIA ROUMELI-CHORA SFAKION-RETHYMNON
Early in the morning, we will head to Omalos plateau at 1050 m., with the magnificent view of the Samaria Gorge 43 km. away from Chania. The “Farangi Samarias” is a 18 km. long european gorge of breath-taking beauty. The Samaria Gorge belongs to those locations in Crete that have shaped for millenia the Cretan character. In the Samaria Gorge there are hundreds of endemic plant species. Towards Chania, where lies the entrance of the gorge, we will enjoy the beauty of the countryside and the picturesque villages of the valley and the plateau. We will have lunch and then we will return to our hotel in Rethymnon. Dinner and overnight.
In the morning, we will head towards Chania, where we will find renaissance-style built Venetian houses, lasting during the Ottoman rule. The sights include the 16th century church of San Salvatore, the church of Agios Nicolaos at the Splantzia Ring or the old janissary mosque. Chania has one of the most fertile and green grounds of Crete, being the wettest region of Crete. Later, we will go to Agios Nicolaos. Dinner and overnight.
LASITHI-AGIOS NICOLAOS-PANAGIA I KERA-OVERNIGHT IN AGIOS NICOLAOS
All-day-long trip to the 800 m tall plateau of Lasithti surrounded by the Dikti Mountain, which is especially known for its 10000 picturesque white-roofed windmills. Along with Psychro village, we will visit the Diktaion Andron (grotto), where Zeus was born. Continuing our journey, we will visit Agios Nicolaos founded in 1870 (coffee-break). Then, we will go to Kritsa village, rich due to its special weaving mills. We will visit the church of “Panagia i Kera” of Kritsa, with its beautiful 13th-14th century byzantine frescoes. Afterwards, we will return to our hotel in Agios Nicolaos. Dinner and overnight.
ZAKROS-PALM TREE FOREST OF VAI-TOPLOU MONASTERY-AGIOS NICOLAOS
All-day-long guided tour at the minoan Zakros Palace, which covers an area of 7000-8000 sm, exceeding other similar palaces. Later, we will visit Vai -a bay of unique beauty with white sand beach and hundreds of palm trees. The palm tree forest is declared as nature reserve, so camping and fire lighting are strictly forbidden. Continuing our journey, we will visit the Toplou Monastery (the monastery with the cannon), one of the most important in Crete. The monastery was built close to Cape Sidero in the northeastern end of the island. The monastery owes its name to the Ottomans. In the 17th century it acquired a cannon for defense, which is called top in Turkish. After that, we will return to our hotel. Dinner and overnight in Agios Nicolaos.
In the morning Transfer to the airport of Crete. Departure.