Seven nights from £935 per person. Departing 22 May & 2 October 2012
You'll love this tour if you like:
- Natural beauty
- Spectacular scenery
- Mediterranean sunshine
Crete is known for its wonderful scenery and its fantastic climate but it is also a fascinating destination for a cultural and historic tour, offering a wealth of sites that reflect its ancient Minoan culture, which dates back some 4,500 years or more!
This ancient history is a prominent focus of our tour but the island has seen numerous invaders in its long history so we will also discover some more recent historic periods, particularly the Byzantine and Venetian eras, which led to two of the islands most beautiful towns, Chania in the west and, our base for the week, Rethymnon, both of which are situated right next to the sea. We also visit the spectacular island of Santorini, where a volcanic eruption is believed to have contributed greatly to the demise of the Minoan Civilisation in Crete some 3600 years ago.
Our visits include the two most prominent of the Minoan Palaces found on Crete, Knossos and Phaestos, and the late Minoan Cemetery of Armeni. We will explore on foot the exceptionally charming towns of Rethymnon and Chania, where narrow cobbled lanes, lined with quaint and beautifully preserved Turkish, Venetian & Byzantine buildings, enticing tavernas, cafes and small shops, meander picturesquely behind glorious harbours. We spend time at the Roman and Hellenistic site of Aptera, a sprawling site in a beautiful rural location, which houses some exceptionally well-preserved Roman water cisterns. And, of course, we visit, by boat, ‘stunning Santorini’, one of the most spectacular islands in Greece, with its white-washed houses, string of picturesque villages and stunning views!
DAY TO DAY ITINERARY
Day 1: Fly to Heraklion from London Gatwick, (or from a regional airport subject to availability and supplement). Transfer to Rethymnon for 7 night stay at Bio Suites on bed and breakfast basis.
Day 2: Half day guided walking tour of the ‘old city’ of Rethymnon. Free time in the afternoon with the opportunity to visit some of Rethymnons museums and its ancient fort or to enjoy a leisurely lunch and a swim!
Day 3: Full day tour to the Minoan cemetery of Armeni and the palace of Phaestos; the second in importance of Crete's four Minoan palaces.
Day 4: Full day tour to the Roman & Hellenistic site of Ancient Aptera and a stroll through the atmospheric Venetian harbour town of Chania.
Day 5: Full day visit by boat to the spectacular volcanic island of Santorini.
Day 6: Day free.
Day 7: Full day tour to the Minaon Palace of Knossos and 'The Archaeological Collection' taken from the Heraklion Archaeological musuem. The musuem displays some of the promient finds from all of the sites in Crete.
Day 8: Transfer back to Heraklion Airport for return flight home.
NB: Exact order of itinerary may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion.
- Return charter flights from Gatwick to Heraklion including all payable taxes.
- 7 nights' accommodation in standard room on bed and buffet breakfast basis at 4-star Bio Suites Hotel in Rethymnon.
- Transfers and excursions as detailed
- Entrance fees
- Tour manager and local guide throughout
- Single room supplement
- Holiday insurance
- Regional flight supplement - regional flights are available from a number of UK airports including Manchester, Leeds Bradford, East Midlands, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and Bristol. These are subject to availability and supplement. Please contact us for a quote.
- Meals other than those stated
- Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls etc
- Porterage and gratuities.
PLACES OF INTEREST VISITED ON THE TOUR
Rethymnon is a fascinating and pretty town, with a colourful and historical past and owes its character to periods of rule under the Venetians and Turks from the 16th century onwards that has left a legacy of marvellous old buildings that line its narrow, pedestrianised streets. Perfect for strolling, sights here include the imposing battlements of the 16th century Venetian fortress, a picturesque harbour with a 13th century lighthouse, and the delightful old town full of cafes, restaurants and small shops selling local crafts and foods. Easily accessed on foot from your hotel the quaintness of this atmospheric old town will be sure to entice you again and again.
One of the four great palaces of the Minoan 'Golden Age' Phaestos, inhabited since around 4000BC, was excavated at the beginning of the century, with reconstruction kept to a minimum; it is a magnificent site with a commanding view of the Messara plain and Mount Ida (the highest mountain in Crete) in the distance.
Little was known about the ancient Minoan civilisation until 1894 with the discovery, by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, of the palace at Knossos. Excavations began in 1900 AD which revealed the remains of an extensive palace and surrounding town. Dating from 1900 BC, the Palace was destroyed by an earthquake in 1700 BC, rebuilt and then finally destroyed in 1375 BC by fire. Controversially restored by Evans, a visit here gives a fascinating insight into this ancient and highly-developed civilization. Highlights include the Royal Apartments, Throne Room, giant “pithoi” storage jars and the Priest-King fresco.
The Archaeological Collection
This collection represents a selection of the most prominent finds on Crete. It includes some of the most famous and well known objects found including the Phaestos Disc, the ring of King Minos, Bull's head Rhyton, double axes, frescoes from Knossos, peak sanctuary figurines and the exquisite gold bee pendant.
Set against a spectacular backdrop of majestic mountains and aquamarine seas, Chania is one of Crete’s most alluring towns. Its troubled history of occupation by Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Turks and Egyptians has left a rich architectural heritage, particularly in the old Venetian quarter around the harbour. Highlights of this charming and quaint district include the magnificent harbour, Naval Museum, Mosque of the Janissaries and the covered market that sells an excellent variety of local produce.
This is one of the most extensive archaeological sites in western Crete, thought to have been part of a prominent city in the area. Founded in the Geometric period this city reached a commercial peak in the Hellenistic period and later developed as a rural town in the Roman period. It has a lovely rural position with some spectacular views of the bay of Souda, the largest natural harbour in Europe.
The world famous island of Santorini, located 63 nautical miles north of Crete, was inhabited from around 3200 BC. The influence of the Minoan culture on the island was obvious when excavations started on the Akrotiri and whole villages with houses decorated with wall paintings, similar to those discovered in the Minoan palace of Knossos, were found. The present day Santorini evolved from a series of volcanic eruptions around 1500 BC, one of which was so huge it is thought to have been the main cause of the destruction of the great Minaon civilization on Crete. The Caldera, atop which modern Santorini sits today, is what remained after the volcano caused the submergence of the central part of the island. The historical sites of the island are not accessible today but its beauty it, attracting thousands of visitors every year.