Local Life on Crete - 9 Days
- Explore Crete's colorful architecture from the Egyptian and Ottoman empires
- Sunbathe and swim at Chania's spectacular beaches (or hike to deserted coves)
- Take day-trips to archaeological sites, ancient ruins, and converted monasteries
- Sip coffee in leafy squares and dine on Greek mezzes facing a sunset view
|Day 1||Arrive in Chania||Chania|
|Day 2||Cooking Class at Vamos Village||Vamos|
|Day 3||Vamos Village Walk||Vamos|
|Day 4||Botanical Park Tour & Tasting||Chania|
|Day 5||Ancient Aptera||Chania|
|Day 6||Old Town of Chania||Chania|
|Day 7||Halepa and Tabakaria Walking Tour||Chania|
|Day 8||Knossos and Rethymno||Chania|
|Day 9||Depart Crete|
Day 1: Arrive in Chania
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 west coast of the island, you'll be transferred to your hotel and provided with a guidebook to help you catch the highlights of this stunning region.
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: Cooking Class at Vamos Village
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 Walk
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.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Botanical Park Tour & Tasting
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 swoon-worthy open-air bar.
Day 5: Ancient 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
There are streets, buildings, high spots, neighborhoods, monuments that only locals know. Walk the stone paths where the Venetians, the Ottomans and older generations of Cretans used to live and work, admiring the flower-decorated neighborhoods. With this guided old town tour, you'll learn about Cretan history, the Cretan mythology and traditions, meet the locals, and eat like locals.
Visit the neighborhoods of Topanas, Splantzia, Kolombo and Kasteli, high spots to admire the panoramic view of the harbor, 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.
Once you've worked up an appetite, 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: Halepa and Tabakaria Walking Tour
Today, you'll check out Chania's waterfront districts of Halepa and Tabakaria. Wander among converted tanneries and factories in these off-the-beaten-track parts of town, just past the end of the main ocean promenade. You'll see the historic Venizelos House, palace, and Agia Magdalini Church with your guide, and seaside Tabakaria is now one of the most aristocratic neighborhoods in town. Dine at Thalassino Ageri, one of the top seafood tavernas in town, and enjoy both a meal and a view straight from the sea.
You're reaching the end of your time in Crete, so spend the afternoon picking up your newly discovered favorite foods and souvenirs in Chania. Don't miss the special graviera cheese, the older the better, or local herbs and olive oil. Cretan wine varietals such as vidiano and liatiko also make excellent gifts, particularly the vineyards of Manousakis and Douloufakis.
For a more permanent reminder of your visit, seek out an engraved Cretan knife to take some history home with you, or scope out Kyrvan Shoes for handmade espadrilles decorated with traditional patterns.
Day 8: Knossos and Rethymno
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 9: Depart Crete
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.