- Hear the myths of the Acropolis
- Lounge on the pink sands of Balos Bay
- Trek the Samaria Gorge
- Experience a hands-on cooking class in the Botanic Garden
- Tour the archaeological site of the Minoan Palace at Knossos
|Day 1||Arrive in Athens, Welcome Dinner||Athens|
|Day 2||Acropolis and Ancient Greek Mythology Tour||Athens|
|Day 3||Athens to Chania||Chania|
|Day 4||Old Town of Chania Tour||Chania|
|Day 5||Trek Samaria Gorge||Chania|
|Day 6||Chania Beach Day||Chania|
|Day 7||Explore the Villages of Apokoronas||Chania|
|Day 8||Gramvousa and Balos Beaches||Chania|
|Day 9||Family Cooking in the Botanical Park||Chania|
|Day 10||Douliana & Almyrida Nature Walk and Beach Visit, Travel to Vamos||Vamos|
|Day 11||Cretan Delicacies Vamos Tour||Vamos|
|Day 12||Knossos, Heraklion, and Rethymno Day Trip||Vamos|
|Day 13||Horseback Riding at Kournas Lake||Vamos|
|Day 14||Return to Athens, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Athens, Welcome Dinner
Welcome to Greece! You'll begin your trip in Athens, home to both the iconic Acropolis and so much more. The mythology of this spectacular city precedes it, with towering temples to Classical deities and the ruins of ancient marketplaces rubbing shoulders with lively nightlife, crowded flea markets, and contemporary cuisine. Make the most of your time in the city at some of these spots:
- Check out the views of the can't-miss Parthenon. (Pro tip: The Parthenon is the temple, the Acropolis is the hill.) This temple to Athena has enchanted visitors since its construction was completed in 438 BC. It's probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of ancient Greece and is visible from many of the city's high points.
- Stop at the sprawling National Museum for a crash course in ancient iconography. Be sure to seek out the room housing the Antikythera mechanism, essentially an ancient astronomical computer.
- Visit a smaller archaeological site at the Tower of the Winds, then stroll down neighboring pedestrian Aiolou Street to stop at shops and cafes.
- Find your perfect souvenir or sun hat in the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market.
In the evening, you'll sit down to enjoy either a welcome dinner with views of the Acropolis or wine tasting in a bar in downtown Athens.
Day 2: Acropolis and Ancient Greek Mythology Tour
Experience the ancient stories surrounding you with today's guided mythology tour. You'll meet your guide and storyteller at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, then head to landmarks around the city including the Acropolis, ancient cemetery at Kerameikos, and the Agora. The myths that founded the city and are featured in its retellings for generations will accompany as you go, with stories of Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Dionysus, and more. Hear both the stories themselves and the historic facts behind them, adding resonance to the archaeological ruins you will visit during this four-hour tour.
Make your way over to explore the Acropolis Museum on your own after your tour (or join a guide if you'd prefer). Named one of the ten best museums in the world by National Geographic, this modern museum houses a multitude of artifacts removed from the hill of the Acropolis for safekeeping to provide insight into ancient religious practices and daily life. Linger for lunch in the museum's cafe, with views of the artifacts' former hilltop home.
As night falls, you may be able to visit the Athens Observatory to learn about the constellations overhead and take a look through the telescope. Its hours vary seasonally and by day of the week.
Day 3: Athens to Chania
Your short flight today will take you to Crete, the largest and most populous of the 230 inhabited Greek islands. Upon arrival to Chania, a city (and region) on the northwest coast, you'll be transferred to your hotel as you get ready to explore this stunning island, equipped with tips from your local specialist.
Chania itself will be the main base of your operations during your trip. It's the second largest city in Crete and one of the most scenic spots on an island with stiff competition for that title. Life in this former Venetian city revolves around its charming 14th-century harbor, narrow streets with winding alleys, and colorful architecture influenced by past Ottoman and Egyptian eras.
Depending on what time you arrive, wander around town or head for one of the western region's spectacular beaches such as Falassarna and Elafonissi. There are also plenty of deserted coves and quiet bays to enjoy total privacy.
For dinner, wander around Chania's harbor and check out a slew of waterfront restaurants with a sunset view.
Day 4: Old Town of Chania Tour
Today, you'll experience the streets, buildings, high spots, neighborhoods, and monuments that only locals know with a guided tour. Walk the stone paths where the Venetians, the Ottomans, and older generations of Cretans used to live and work, admiring the flower-decorated neighborhoods. You'll learn about Cretan history, the Cretan mythology and traditions, meet the locals, and eat like the locals.
Visit the neighborhoods of Topanas, Splantzia, Kolombo and Kasteli, along with high spots to admire the panoramic view of the harbor, as well as traditional Cretan taverns and magnificent buildings. You'll also see the ruins of the great Minoan city of Kydonia and high walls of former Venetian moats now integrated into the city.
When hunger strikes, visit the Municipal Market of Chania and neighboring Municipal Garden to enjoy a coffee amid the shade of the trees or garden clocktower. Then, top it off with a sunset drink on the rooftop at trendy Pallas.
Day 5: Trek Samaria Gorge
After breakfast, you'll be picked up at your hotel nice and early to explore one of Crete's natural wonders. Set amidst the scenery of the White Mountains is the popular hike through Samaria Gorge. The trek takes approximately five hours to cover the gorge's approximately 11 miles (18 km), most of which are downhill and during which you'll spot flora and fauna of all kinds. As your trail nears its end, you'll descend a gentle slope down to the peaceful beach at Agia Roumeli on the turquoise Libyan Sea where you can take a dip and wash off the trail dust.
There will be time to linger on the sand and relax before you wrap up the outing with a boat trip to Chora Sfakion, where your coach will be waiting to return you to your hotel in Chania.
Day 6: Chania Beach Day
Spend a free day exploring the beaches around Chania. Some of your options include:
- Make a full day of it and head to the western shore of Crete to visit Falassarna and Elafonissi, along with deserted coves and quiet bays for a more solitary experience.
- Stay closer to the city at petite Seitan Limania or on the expansive sands of Kiani.
- Head south to where the water is warmest and visit Agia Roumeli or Loutro Sfakion, coastal villages only accessible by foot or boat.
- Take the whole family to Almyrida, with clear, shallow waters and plenty of facilities to fulfill your needs.
Day 7: Explore the Villages of Apokoronas
Today, you'll have a chance to hear some of the island's history firsthand during a guided tour through nearby Apokoronas. The region's villages—seven of them—are home to a number of sites including an Ottoman fort, historic churches, and a folklore museum. But most interesting will be the conversations you and your guide will have with the local residents of the area.
Some potential highlights include:
- The hillside ruins at ancient Aptera, one of the largest city-states in Crete until it was destroyed by an earthquake in the seventh century, including a Minoan tomb believed to date back to roughly the 13th century BCE.
- Two-aisled churches in Stilos village from the 13th and 15th centuries, along with a limestone fossil once believed to be a fossilized sea siren and a walk along the Kiliaris river to a Venetian watermill.
- A glassblowing factory in Kokkino Chorio.
- The old square of Gavolochori, where you can visit the women's cooperative and see hand-knit lace created using a Byzantine technique or the neighboring Folklore Museum of Gavalochori.
In the evening, check out Chania's waterfront districts of Halepa and Tabakaria. Wander among former tanneries and factories in these off-the-beaten-track parts of town, just past the end of the main promenade.
Day 8: Gramvousa and Balos Beaches
Spend your day on the pink sands of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You'll be transported by boat to Balos and Gramvousa beaches, where crystal-clear turquoise waters are home to stellar swimming, sunshine, and protected animal and plant species. If you're lucky, you may even spot a Mediterranean seal.
In Gramvousa, you can also choose to hike up to a former Venetian castle or a shipwreck along the beach. Nearby Balos is a shallow, more protected lagoon, home to placid waters.
After you've sunned and swum to your heart's content, you'll return to Chania for a night on the town. Visit the graves of the Eleftherios Venizelos family, one of Greece's most notable political figures, for spectacular panoramic views.
Day 9: Family Cooking in the Botanical Park
Experience Cretan cuisine hands-on with today's excursion. You'll surround yourself with the bright tropical gardens and the shade of avocado trees at the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete, where you'll be welcomed with fruit and herbal tea. Follow the walking trail under citrus trees and other Mediterranean flora and learn about the different climates around the island and the produce that grows there.
Your guide will take you to a special section of the gardens where you can pick the ingredients for your cooking straight from the plants. Take your newfound bounty to participate in a cooking game designed for the whole family. Learn about Cretan gastronomy as you prepare salads and other simple dishes for your lunch, including seasonal vegetables and legumes, shareable dishes, and traditional spoon sweets, then enjoy shaded views of the garden while you eat. Accompany it with the local digestive herb malotira or go with the traditional tsikoudia brandy for the adults in the party.
Day 10: Douliana & Almyrida Nature Walk and Beach Visit, Travel to Vamos
Today, you'll get back to nature with a guided walking tour through the Cretan landscape. You'll walk through abandoned historic villages in Douliana and then travel toward the northern coast to the resort town of Almyrida. Here you'll have time for a well-earned swim and sunbathing session at the shallow beach, with plenty of facilities available for any post-hike needs.
You'll also have earned some room for dessert. Head to the Venizelos Graves next to the Venetian church of Prophet Elias. In addition to the panoramic views of Chania, behind the graves is a local favorite café called Koukouvagia, which boasts a variety of house-made sweets and pastries with outdoor seating.
You'll transfer to the village of Vamos in the afternoon and get settled into your traditional guesthouse. Soak in the slower pace of life in this peaceful corner of Crete.
Day 11: Cretan Delicacies Vamos Tour
Meet the farmers and food specialists of Crete on today's guided tour, exploring the traditional village of Vamos and the surrounding area to meet these creators and sample their products.
You'll start at the local olive oil factory, where you'll learn about its production process and sample some of the fresh oil, along with an explanation of what distinguishes Cretan virgin olive oil from other oils.
Next up, the local cheesemaker. Crete is known for its graviera cheese, a slightly sweet, hard sheep cheese. You may watch the expert on duty as he makes graviera and teaches you about the cheese-making process, with samples of different varieties including graviera, anthotyros, and myzithra. For the older participants, it's also time for your first raki of the day, a grape-based spirit that's also Crete's national drink.
Head to the 14th century Byzantine church of Saint Nicolas on your way to the next stop to take in its frescoes and architectural features. Afterward, you'll arrive in the village of Hiliomoudou, where one of the few hand producers of sheep and goat bells practices his craft. You can watch him work and learn how to distinguish between the sounds of sheep and goat bells while sipping your second raki.
End as you began at a second olive oil press, this time home to both the rarer organic olive oil and the elusive Cretan kri kri goats, a species only found on this island. See if you can spot them as you sit at the taverna and enjoy a traditional lunch with all the ingredients you've just observed.
Walk off all those samples with an afternoon stroll around Vamos, surrounded by local history and hospitality, before spending the night in your traditional guesthouse.
Day 12: Knossos, Heraklion, and Rethymno Day Trip
After breakfast at your hotel, you'll venture out to the city of Heraklion and archaeological site at Knossos, roughly two hours' drive away. Start by visiting Heraklion's Archaeological Museum, home to one of the largest collections of Minoan artifacts in the world. This is an excellent crash course for the next stop, located just outside of town: the 3,500-year-old Minoan palace of Knossos, a sprawling maze of royal chambers, grand staircases, storerooms, and workshops. This evocative Bronze Age site is believed to be Europe's oldest city, and you'll learn all about its history and mythology with your guide.
You'll then return to the western part of Crete, visiting the aristocratic seaside town of Rethymno—the island’s intellectual and cultural capital. Wander around the town's lively Venetian harbor, check out the town's 19th-century lighthouse, or take a sunset stroll along the sandy Rethymno beach, before heading back to Vamos for the night.
Day 13: Horseback Riding at Kournas Lake
Start off the day by making some new equine acquaintances with a horseback ride around beautiful Kournas Lake. This shallow freshwater lake is the ideal place to experience the natural life on the island, fed by two natural springs.
Have lunch near the lake and sample more local treats, including Antikrysto, the island's signature lamb preparation. Full lambs are salted and cooked over an open fire—a preparation style incepted by shepherds in their fields.
Spend the afternoon in charming Rethymno. Explore the Venetian harbor, check out the 19th-century lighthouse, or take a walk along the sandy beach. You'll return to Vamos in the evening to rest up and have dinner in town.
Day 14: Return to Athens, Depart
Time to say farewell to Greece. You'll head back to Athens after breakfast to catch your flight, either home or onward to your next adventure.