Though it still belongs to the Greek archipelago, Crete has a distinct character all its own (and the size to prove it). Explore the island's western Chania region on this 9-day itinerary from its craggy gorges to bright blue lakes and seafront. You'll also visit historic villages, learn about olive oil production, relax on Mediterranean beaches, ride horses, and sample fresh food along the way as you see what sets Crete apart from the pack.

Highlights

  • Trek five hours to the Samaria Gorge and then cool off with a swim
  • Take part in a Graviera cheese and olive oil experience among local goats 
  • Walk through the seven villages of Apokoronos, home to an Ottoman fort
  • Spend evenings in the traditional town of Chania, with a 14th-century harbor

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Chania Chania
Day 2 Trek Samaria Gorge Chania
Day 3 Explore Local Delicacies Vamos
Day 4 Horseback Riding at Kournas Lake Vamos
Day 5 Botanical Park & Gardens, Cooking Class Chania
Day 6 Explore the Villages of Apokoronas Chania
Day 7 Douliana & Almyrida Nature Walk and Beach Visit Chania
Day 8 Seasonal Agricultural Traditions in Chania Chania
Day 9 Depart Crete  

Day 1: Arrive in Chania

Chania's old town harbor

Welcome to Greece! Your journey 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 and provided with a guidebook to help you catch every corner of this stunning island. 

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 2: Trek Samaria Gorge

Under the towering rock faces

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 to Samaria Gorge. The trek takes approximately five hours (almost entirely downhill), 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 a coach will be waiting to return you to Chania.

Day 3: Explore Local Delicacies

Relax under the trees of Vamos

Today, you'll head to traditional Vamos village, where the lush greenery and natural scenery will set the stage for your discovery of local food production. Here, you can choose between two different tours.

Your first option is a cheese and olive oil experience, complete with the company of the kri-kri goats running wild. Crete is known for its Graviera cheese, a slightly sweet, hard sheep cheese. Sample the Graviera along with fresh-pressed olive oil. You'll also learn how goat and sheep bells are made for the farm's residents, a craft that is only known to a few people today. 

If you're more of a wine enthusiast than cheesehead, option two is an olive oil and wine tasting experience. You'll begin with an introduction to the olive-oil-making process in a local facility. Then visit a winery, where the experts will give you a tour followed by a tasting accompanied by traditional mezze.

Walk off all those samples with an afternoon stroll around Vamos, surrounded by local history and hospitality.

Day 4: Horseback Riding at Kournas Lake

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 the aristocratic seaside town of Rethymno—the island’s intellectual and cultural capital. Wander around the town's lively Venetian harbor, check out the 19th-century lighthouse, or take a stroll along the sandy Rethymno beach. You'll return to Vamos in the evening to rest up and have dinner in town. 

Day 5: Botanical Park & Gardens, Cooking Class

Create a local dish with fresh produce

Experience Cretan cuisine hands-on with today's excursion. You'll first pick the ingredients straight from the orchards and fields of Crete's Botanical Park & Gardens. Then, you'll put that fresh produce to use in a cooking class led by a local, where you'll learn all about Cretan products and nutrition. Enjoy the flavorful fruits of your labors at its conclusion!

Spend the afternoon wandering Chania's main town, stopping at any spots you've had your eye on over your previous days. Its colorful streets encompass centuries of history, so there should be plenty for you to keep discovering.

Day 6: Explore the Villages of Apokoronas

Stone arches at a former olive oil press

Today, you'll have a chance to hear some of the island's history firsthand as you walk through the 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.   

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 7: Douliana & Almyrida Nature Walk and Beach Visit

This trail winds along the seaside

Today, you'll get back to nature with a guided walking tour through the Cretan landscape. The trek passes abandoned historic villages in Douliana and then travels 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 beach.

You'll also have earned some room for dessert. Head to the Venizelos Graves next to the Venetian church of Prophet Elias with 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.

Day 8: Seasonal Agricultural Traditions in Chania

Pick oranges in the sunshine

After breakfast in Chania, you'll take part in an agricultural activity around Crete depending on the time of year. Cretan society moves with its seasons and there's always a tradition worth visiting. Take your pick from some of these potential options:

  • Orange picking (December - May): Stroll through fragrant orchards as you pick oranges straight from the trees. Utilize the fruits of your labor by learning some recipes from the orchard's resident cook.
  • Herb gathering (December - May): Learn how to both identify and gather the many wild herbs growing on the island, then create salads, pies, or lamb and potatoes cooked in wine with your findings.
  • Olive harvesting (November - December): The most classic of Greek products, olives are harvested from late November through the end of December. You'll greet the day early in the olive fields, picking from the trees until it's time to enjoy a light meal with the locals in the shade.
  • Grape harvesting (August - September): Toast to the changing seasons with freshly picked grapes. You'll go from the vines to the wine press, seeing every part of the process and enjoying traditional wine and fresh grape dishes along the way.
  • Raki distillation (October): October is the month of raki, Crete's famous local liquor, which is distilled in a specific 10-day period within the month. The exact dates vary, but it takes place roughly 40 days after the grapes have been harvested and follows a specific local procedure that you will learn. Join the event at the rakokazana distillery to partake in the creation and consumption of the seasonal feast.

In the afternoon, head back to the area around Chania for your last dinner on the town. A few recommended local spots include: 

  • Oinoa: a wine bar and  bistro in Chania town
  • Mylos tou Kerata: a traditional Cretan restaurant with a garden view in the Platanias neighborhood
  • Ntounias: a family-run spot close to the  botanical park & gardens

Day 9: Depart Crete

One more stroll through the streets

It's time to say goodbye to Greece! After your final breakfast in Chania, you'll be picked up and transferred to the airport for your return trip home.

Map

Map of Best of Western Crete - 9 Days
Map of Best of Western Crete - 9 Days