Get to know the way of life on Crete, in the island's far west region of Chania. With the 8-day version of this itinerary, you'll experience culture, scenery, and cuisine within the island's historic villages. Enjoy historical walking tours, Greek cooking lessons, and guided day trips to the surrounding countryside.

Highlights

  • Tour Halepa and Tabakaria, Chania's historic waterfront districts 
  • Take a guided village-to-village trek on Vamos
  • Make (and eat) an authentic Cretan feast with a cooking class
  • Learn and lunch at Crete's Botanical Park and Gardens

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Chania Chania
Day 2 Cooking Class at Vamos Village Vamos
Day 3 Vamos Village Hike Vamos
Day 4 Botanical Park Tour & Tasting Chania
Day 5 Ancient Aptera Chania
Day 6 Old Town of Chania Tour Chania
Day 7 Knossos and Rethymno Day Trip Chania
Day 8 Depart Chania  

Detailed overview

Day 1: Arrive in Chania

Chania's old town harbor
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 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, take a stroll 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: Cooking Class at Vamos Village

One of the traditional dishes you may prepare
One of the traditional dishes you may prepare

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. A resident cook will teach you all about Cretan culinary tradition and some of the island's secret recipes. You'll then put her advice into action, creating a full Cretan feast for you to enjoy at the end of your class.

After class is over and you've had your fill, relax into the rhythm of traditional village life. You can also take an afternoon drive over to beautiful Kournas Lake. This shallow freshwater lake is the ideal place to experience the natural life on the island, fed by two natural springs. Cap off your day with a stay in a traditional guesthouse in the village.

Day 3: Vamos Village Hike

Don't forget about the trails themselves
Don't forget about the trails themselves

After breakfast, you'll keep up the leisurely pace with a stroll around the village of Vamos. You'll then spend roughly four hours exploring and sampling Cretan hospitality—with emphasis on the sampling, as you'll enjoy tastes of local food and drink along the way. This is also an opportunity to trek between the charming stone architecture of nearby villages while your guide teaches you about their history and everyday life through the ages. Cap it off with a glass of tsikoudia, a grape-based brandy.

Head back to your village lodging to relax for the afternoon before a traditional dinner. Don't miss the dakos salad, a traditional dish consisting of fresh tomatoes and creamy sheep or goat cheese served atop crunchy barley rusks and topped with olive oil and spices.

Day 4: Botanical Park Tour & Tasting

Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete
Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete

Today, you'll surround yourself with the bright tropical gardens and the shade of avocado trees at the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete. Your trail will lead you under citrus trees and other Mediterranean flora. Learn about the different climates around the island and the produce that grows there before you enjoy a lunch in a restaurant overlooking the sweeping garden view. 

Spend the evening enjoying your return to Chania town. Head to Kikbar, located in the former 16th century Monastery of Karolos. This converted building is now home to an art gallery, theater space, and open-air bar.

Day 5: Ancient Aptera

Aptera
Aptera

Travel back in time after breakfast with a trip to the archaeological site at ancient Aptera. The ruins of this once-powerful city are filled with traces of the past, from the times when archers used to inhabit the city for centuries before it was destroyed by an earthquake. Find out more from your guide or just indulge in the extraordinary views towards the Souda Gulf.

Your free afternoon and evening back in Chania will leave you plenty of time for souvenir shopping and exploration. Sample some of the area's Turkish influence with mezzes at Tamam, a taverna located inside a former Turkish bath in the old quarter, or opt for a creative modern twist on Cretan cuisine at Portes.

Day 6: Old Town of Chania Tour

Watch the city life go by
Watch the city life go by

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 7: Knossos and Rethymno Day Trip

Palace at Knossos
Palace at Knossos

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 Chania for the night.

Day 8: Depart Chania

Trot off into the sunset
Trot off into the sunset

It's time to say farewell to Crete with one final breakfast in Chania. Take a sunrise stroll along the harbor or perhaps indulge in one more scoop of graviera cheese before you're transferred to the airport for your departure.

For a shorter version of this itinerary, check out our 7-day tour that offers many of the same Cretan highlights.

Map

Map of Local Life on Crete - 8 Days
Map of Local Life on Crete - 8 Days