Day 1: Arrival in Heraklion city
Welcome to Crete! When you arrive at the airport of Heraklion city you can pick up your hire car and head to the city center and your hotel. After you settle into you room you will have enough time to get a feel of this seaside city, which is full of life and history. The historic Candia, the city of Heraklion with its Venetian port is a modern capital with dozens of options in culture, dining and entertainment. It is a city where you can enjoy the pleasures of today and the beauty of yesterday. You can have a walk and enjoy the sights, like the impressive church of Agios Titos in the square, originally built by Byzantine emperor Nikephorus Phocas in 961. You can also admire the Armeria (armory) next to St Titus, and the Loggia (City Hall) with its 82 metopes and beautiful arcades. Directly across it you’ll find the lively Morosini (Leondaria) square with its lions’ head fountain.
Day 2: Explore the Palace of Knossos and the Αrchaeological museum of Heraklion
Today you might want to visit ‘mythical’ Knossos, the most important centre of the Minoan civilisation and one of the most popular archaeological sites in Greece, which is just 5km from Heraklion. The Palace of Knossos flourished during the Minoan period (2000-1350 BC) and was the most important socioeconomic and religious centre of Crete. Thanks to Sir Arthur Evans’ restoration (the archaeologist who excavated Knossos) it is now one of the most fascinating sites in Greece, where you can experience exactly what life was like inside the palace. Your next stop could be the Archaeological Museum: a 'panorama' of Minoan Crete. This famous museum is considered one of the most important museums in Europe. The exhibits include representative samples from all periods of Cretan history, covering a span of 5,500 years. There you will admire the impressive frescoes of "the Bull Leaper", the "Prince with the Lilies", the “Monkey saffron collector", the "Blue Ladies", and especially “La Parisienne’’. In the afternoon you might also want to visit a local winery in a village close to Heraklion city, where you can enjoy a tour to the vineyards and the cellar where wines are aged and then taste local wines produced in the wine estate.
Day 3: Relaxing day at the beach or historical tour about The abduction of General Kreipe
Today you might want to spend your day relaxing at one of the beaches near the city of Heraklion. There are many choises: Ammoudara, a big beautiful beach just west of the city, completely organised with dozens of resorts. Tobruk, in the east, has lots of restaurants, hotels, and cafes. The Arena or Red Hani, a beach enjoyed by a young crowd, features hotels, shops, restaurants and beach bars playing music. Optionally, you can have a private historical tour with a local historian guide about the abduction of General Kreipe. On this tour you will visit the places where in April of '44, the British travel writer, scholar and soldier, Patrick Leigh Fermor, along with Captain Bill Stanley Moss and Cretan resistance fighters led the kidnapping of German commander, General Heinrich Kreipe. You will depart in the morning from your hotel to visit the town of Archanes where the German General had his administrative office. There you will visit the point where Fermor and his team abducted Kreipe and from there you will follow the route the kidnappers took heading towards Anogia and Psiloritis mountain. At the imposing Psiloritis mountain you will have the chance to see some of the places that were used by resistance groups as hideaways. Reaching the Nida plateau at 1,300 meters altitude you will visit the Ideon Andron, the cave where, according to Greek mythology, Zeus, the Greek god, was born and raised. From this plateau the group of Kreipe's kidnappers started climbing the mountain of Psiloritis with the aim to reach the southern coast and board on a boat to escape to the Middle East. Continuing your tour you will visit various places where the kidnappers were hiding the German General and you will explore the historic village of Anogia which was completely destroyed by the Germans in August 1944. There you will also have some free time to enjoy authentic Cretan food.
Day 4: Eleutherna, Moni Arkadiou and Rethymno
Today you will leave Heraklion city and drive west towards the city of Rethymno. On your way to reach the city you might want to visit the Archeological Museum of Ancient Eleutherna, an ancient city-state that was founded by the Dorians around the 9th century BC and was inhabited up to the early Byzantine years. Located at the heart of the island, the settlement is nestled in a slope of Mount Ida, overlooking the sea. The state-of-the-art museum takes visitors back to the dawn of Greek culture and the world of Homer, to give them an opportunity to admire the many finds that came to light during long excavations at the site. Secrets of the city from 3,000 BC up until the 14th century give visitors a chance to appreciate the layers of history surrounded by an unspoilt landscape of natural beauty. Just a few kilometres from Eleutherna, you can also visit the historical Monastery of Arkadi, that dates back to the 16th century and is marked by the influence of the Renaissance. As early as the 16th century, the monastery was a place for science and art and had a school and a rich library. The monastery played an active role in the Cretan resistance of Ottoman rule during the Cretan revolt of 1866. 943 Greeks, mostly women and children, sought refuge in the monastery. After three days of battle, the Cretans blew up barrels of gunpowder, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender. Thus the monastery became a national sanctuary in honor of the Cretan resistance and is one of the most important monuments of Crete. After your visit to Arkadi you can head to the nearby traditional village of Kapsaliana, where you can taste authentic Cretan food and wine, in the restaurant of a restored traditional settlement of the 17th century. Later you can drive to your hotel in Rethymno city.
Today you can spend your day exploring the picturesque and romantic old town of Rethymno, a rare combination of history and modern-day luxury, with its Venetian-era Fortezza, the old mosques and minarets, the beautiful Venetian harbour and its exquisite Cretan cuisine. Explore one of the best preserved medieval cities in Greece, and search for your fairy-tale romance in Rethymno. Venetian fortification works mingle harmonically with orthodox and catholic churches, mosques, majestic mansions of Venetian architecture, arches and cobbled paths which create a magical atmosphere, reminiscence of the city’s turbulent –yet glorious– past. On your tour you can visit the Fortezza, a 16th century fortress , with Venetian mansions and Ottoman mosques and a magnificent view to the whole city. You can also explore the Venetian harbour, the archaeological museum of the city, the Neratzi Mosque, the Catholic Church of St Francis and the famous Rimondi Fountain, constructed in 1626. You might also want to visit a traditional local bakery where the baker will be happy to show you how he makes the traditional "fyllo" pastry leaves and syroup sweets. In Rethymno, you’ll enjoy culinary treats inspired by Crete’s flavourful cuisine and traditions. Restaurants in Venetian buildings with beautiful gardens, rakadika where you’ll pair meze with the local schnapps-like drink raki, and quaint little tavernas: all serve Cretan dishes made using fresh, local produce.
Day 6: From Rethymno to Chania
Today you will leave Rethymno with a final destination the picturesque city of Chania. Before reaching the city you might want to explore the wild and fascinating beaches on the south coast of Rethymno region, some of the most beautiful and secluded sandy shores of the island: Agios Pavlos beach with the magic sand dunes, the long and sandy beaches of Triopetra, Ligres, Agia Fotia or alternatively you can visit Preveli palm beach, also known as Limni of Preveli (Preveli Lake) . It is located at the exit of an imposing gorge, crossed by the Great River. It is certainly the most famous beach of southern Crete. On the banks of the Great River is a large colony of palm trees, which gives the area a sense of African landscape. The river forms a large lake before it flows into the sea and has water all year round. You can walk along the river, under the shade of palm trees and other trees, and begin to ascend the beautiful gorge. You might also want to visit the nearby monastery of Preveli, created in the 17th century on a rocky mountain with magnificent views to the Lybian sea. In the evening you can start your drive to reach the city of Chania where you will spend the night.
Today you have a full day to explore the magnificent old town of Chania, a city that has kept its special Venetian character, unique in the Mediterranean. Chania will steal your heart. Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Venetians, Ottomans… all came through here, creating a multicultural corner of Crete. Wandering around the port, you’ll encounter the Venetian lighthouse, the Grand Arsenal, Kum Kapi and Halepa. The alleys are full of surprises and every stroll is an experience. Stand next to the picture-perfect lighthouse at the port, a 16th-century Venetian construction. Walk among the impressive buildings and attractions: the Küçük Hasan mosque, the renovated Grand Arsenal, the Splanzia ruins and the Kum Kapi at Miaouli Beach. Get lost in the ambience of the aristocratic suburb of Halepa, with its neoclassical buildings that once hosted the consulates of the Great Powers. You’ll feel as if you’re in a different era: the school of “San Joseph”, the Russian church of Saint Mary Magdelene, the Palace of Prince George… Chania’s old town will sweep you off your feet. The city has also many interesting museums to explore: the Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection, the Nautical Museum of Crete (the second oldest in Greece), the Typography Museum in the Park of Local Industries, and the Arts & Crafts village in Souda with its ceramic, mosaic, silversmith and glass-blowing workshops.
Day 8: Relax at the beach
Today you will leave Chania city and drive west to the famous beach of Platanias where you will spend two days enjoying the sea and the sun in a beachfront resort located right next to the sea. You can relax at the beach of Platanias or explore the nearby beaches.
Day 9: Relax at the beach
Today you might want to relax at the beach resort hotel in Platanias or decide to make two nearby excursions that will take you to exotic destinations: Excursion 1:Falasarna beach, just a few kilometers and you’re in paradise. White sand between your toes, emerald water and magical sunsets. Endless beauty at one of the most stunning beaches in the Mediterranean, 3km long, north of which is ancient Falarsana. Excursion 2: Balos beach. To reach the beach you can drive to Kissamos and then take a caique – small boat and you will find yourself in one of the most photographed beaches in Crete, the heavenly saltwater Balos lagoon. Relax in its shallow blue-green water, sink your feet into the luminescent sand made up of thousands of broken seashells. Across the way, two islets, Gramvousa and Agria Gramvousa, form a protective perimeter.
Day 10: Return to Heraklion and flight back home
An amazing journey exploring the cultural and natural treasures of Crete island has come to an end. Today you will drive back to Heraklion airport to take your flight back home.