The Cretan Experience
When: Year round, except national celebrations and Greek official holidays
Languages: Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Finnish, Swedish, Turkish,
Duration: Two days
Meeting Point: Heraklion: Liberty Square; or, upon request, pick up and drop off at your hotel
Dress Code: Casual; comfortable walking shoes; sunblock.
Including: Transportation back and forth from Heraklion; full services of an officially qualified tourist guide; one overnight hotel; one breakfast and two full meals; bottled water; and admission fees to Gortyn, Festos, Vori Museum and winery
Food: One breakfast and two full meals
Walking difficulty: Moderate: mostly flat surfaces and pathways; some uneven terraces and a few stairs
Rest rooms/WC: Yes
This tour provides an exclusive opportunity to visit two major archaeological sites ( and ), and an awarded by the E.U. folk and popular art museum, spend an overnight in the traditional village of nestled in the foothills of Mt. Ida, enjoy the gastronomic wizardry of Vivi Kalaitzaki and her Mama Irini at Taverna Vegera and of Mama Katerina Papadovasilaki at the Keramos Hotel, and visit a local organic farm and a nearby winery.
This tour starts from Heraklion and continues south toward the Messara Plain. Our first stop is Gortyn, an early Greek colony and later capital of Roman Crete. It was also the site of the still extant, first bishopric church of Crete, built in the 6th century AD) in honor of St. Titus, a companion and disciple of St. Paul. Gortyn is famous in myth as the place where Europa, pregnant by Zeus, gave birth to the famous king Minos, the ruler of Knossos; a centuries-old plane tree marks the spot. Also located in Gortyn is the earliest comprehensive Greek law code that dates to the 6th century BC; this lengthy document is inscribed on many stones and is preserved in its original state.
Then we continue to the near by village of Vori, well known for its unique Museum, which displays old professions gone nowadays, Folk art and crafts of Crete, and many more, been awarded by the E.U. From Vori, we visit the ruins of Festos, the second largest Minoan palace bordering the fertile plain of Messara. Festos produced the famous Kamares-ware pottery and a unique, still undeciphered disk of hieroglyphs, one of the earliest examples of Bronze Age writing. Lunch and swimming await us at , located on a beautiful bay of the Libyan Sea; hippies from all over the world used to dwell in nearby caves.
By late afternoon, we arrive at Zaros, where village hospitality is famous. Katerina will greet us at the Keramos Hotel (where we overnight), and Vivi and her Mother will prepare a delicious dinner at Vegera. The menu uses only locally produced organic ingredients and has won the acclaim of the Cretan Academy of Taste and Flavors (Crete is the only place in the Mediterranean that has such a culinary Academy). If you want to lend a hand in the kitchen and learn techniques from master chefs, you will be most welcome. Keep in mind that local musicians often stop by Vivi’s tavern to add to an evening’s enjoyment. The village is also a craft center featuring a renowned weaver and one of the very few master makers of traditional musical instruments.
Day 2 begins at Keramos Hotel with a delectable breakfast feast of Katerina’s freshly baked pastries, at least eight to ten different kinds. We then travel to a local organic farm that produces goat’s milk, cheese, bread, eggs, and meat, and grows fruit and olives for local distribution. Such farms have become mainstays of village existence on Crete. The local winery Domain Zacharioudakis in Plouti is also on the day’s itinerary.
We return to Heraklion later that afternoon.