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Hidden gems of eastern Crete
Heading east from the island's capital, Heraklion, a glorious panorama unfolds as you approach the spectacular bay of Mirabello, a stunning location situated on Crete's north east coast. The gulf sits beneath the dramatically soaring Thripti Mountains that cast the most glorious pink glow across the bay in the evening light. Highlights of this lovely area include the pretty bay of Elounda, the attractive harbour town of Agios Nikolaos and the fascinating island of Spinalonga. Connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway the island of Kolokythi, attached to Elounda creates a sheltered bay within a bay, which stretches to the fascinating island of Spinalonga (immortalised in Victoria Hislops' best-selling novel, 'The Island'). Spinalonga has a story all of its own, one that we will discover during our days out.
At Agios Nikalaos the gulf opens up and stretches to the dramatically soaring mountains of Sitia that glow the most glorious pink in the evening light. Heading just a little inland from this delightful bay we find the 14th century Byzantine church of Panagia Kera with its well-preserved frescos and the atmospheric traditional village of Krista. During our tour we will discover this area close at hand as well as the wild rugged beauty of the far east of the island, known locally as the 'hidden Crete', we also get a touch of the south when we visit the site of Gortys, one of the most important ancient cities in Crete. As well as visiting some of the islands historical sites we will also have the opportunaity to enjoy some of its spectacular scenic highlights. You will be introduced to the island's vibrant, colourful and ancient history by our local guide, the knowledgeable Constantine Kakoudakis, who will accompany you throughout the week. He will help you uncover the rich culture and local traditions that are as strong as ever on this fantastic island.
- Return charter flights from London Gatwick to Heraklion (regional flights may be available, a supplement will apply) including all payable taxes
- Seven nights accommodation in standard room on dinner, bed and buffet breakfast basis at four star Hermes hotel, Agios Nikolaos
- Two lunches
- Transfers and excursions as detailed in the itinerary
- Tour manager and local guide throughout
- Single room supplement
- Sea view 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
Fly from London Gatwick (or regional airports) to Heraklion. On arrival in Heraklion transfer by coach to Agios Nikolaos (approx. one hour) and the Hermes hotel.
Full day tour to Panagia Kera, Krista, Gournia and Mochlos. The holiday begins with a leisurely first day starting with a visit to the 13th century Byzantine church of Panagia Kera. Dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, this church has some of the best-preserved Byzantine frescoes in Crete. The hill village of Krista is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the traditional Cretan way of life whilst the Minoan village of Gournia is one of only a few Minoan settlements to have been fully excavated. We finish the day in the seaside village of Mochlos where we will have lunch (included) by the sea.
Full day tour to the Palace of Malia, the Monastery of Kera and the plateau of Lassithi. Malia is one of four major Minoan Palaces on Crete, set beside the sea on the north coast. It is likely that a first palace occupied the site around 1900BC and subsequently razed in 1700BC. The second palace built not long after was destroyed at the same time as the other Minoan palaces in 1450BC. The beautiful and historic stone-built monastery and church of Kera is in a tranquil wooded area en route to Lassithi, one of the high points of Crete. The plateau is a lush, green carpet hemmed in on all sides by the Díktean mountains that has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
Half day scenic tour to the south coast of Crete. Climbing high into the hills we will enjoy spectacular views over both the north and south coasts. We will visit the typical rural hill village of Kalamafka before finishing the morning on the coast at the seaside resort of Myrtos.
Full day to relax and explore at your leisure. There is an optional tour available (payable locally and dependent on minimum numbers) to the Minoan palace of Knossos and the Heraklion Archaeological museum that has been recently reopened with many exhibits never displayed before.
Full day tour to the archaeological site of Gortyn, the 13th century church of Agia Deka and Vrondisi monastery. The main focus of our visit today is the site of Roman Gortyn, one of the most important ancient cities in Crete with an unbroken history of around 6000 years. It is an extensive site although only a small area has been properly excavated and yet ruins lie all around. Close by is the Byzantine church of Agia Deka (10 saints), which is also the name of the village, both of which were named after 10 Christians who were martyred in 250AD for their opposition to the Roman Emperor of Gortyn, Decius. The church is built on the spot where they were martyred. After enjoying lunch (included) in a local taverna we visit the simple and peaceful Vrondisi monastery, which has views to the Plain below.
The island of Spinalonga and Elounda. There will be time for shopping and a coffee in Elounda before we take a private boat to the island of Spinalonga. Fortified by the Venetians in the late 16th century this small island rests quietly in the middle of the beautiful bay of Elounda. In 1903 a leper colony was founded here, which was inhabited until 1957 (immortalised in Victoria Hislops book ‘The Island). The 17th century Venetian fortress is well preserved as are the ruins of the village which provide a fantastic insight into a past way of life on the island.
Transfer to Heraklion airport for your return flight to London Gatwick.
NB: Exact order of excursions may vary according to local conditions and tour managers discretion.
Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 45 passengers.
Situated a short distance from the centre of Agios Nikolaos, the four star Hermes hotel is a well-established hotel that has a convenient position right on the sea front, which means it is very easy to walk out in the evening to enjoy dinner or a drink in one of the many tavernas and cafes scattered throughout Agios Nikolaos and which can be reached in five minutes on foot.
The hotel, renovated in 2007/8, offers comfortbale rooms with town or sea view, balcony, air-conditioning (centrally controlled), TV and bathroom with bath/shower, pool towels, safe box and minibar. The 'elevated' pool overlooks the sea. Relaxing on a sunbed here almost makes you feel you are on a boat, as all you can see is the sea. Facilities at the hotel include: The Phaethon restaurant, the hotels main restaurant where breakfast and dinner are served, buffet style, combining a selection of Greek and international cuisine; the Bay View pool bar, located on the terrace next to the swimming pool; the cafe Del Mar Blue, open throughout the day for drinks and snacks, and the Hermes bar, open in the evening. A small beach can be accessed via a tunnel direct from the hotel and other beaches in the area can be accessed easily on foot.
Rooms included on the tour are standard town or sea view. If you want to ensure a sea view these are available at a supplement and on request.
Single rooms are standard twin/double rooms for sole use with a balcony and town view. It is possible to upgrade to a sea view, prices and availability on request.
This holiday is booked by phone. Click 'book now' to make a reservation request to our travel partner who will call you back to confirm your booking details and take payment. To speak to a representative now please call 0330 333 6761.
The archaeologist Constantinos was outstanding. He was so enthusiastic and interesting and able to impart his knowledge in such a way that although we were not historians we were able to understand and visualise information and his stories. You must keep him!
Most enjoyable holiday. Best points - Guide & Tour Manager, Hotel accommodation, Excursions excellent.
Mr P Lusher
Very pleasant break and really interesting and knowledgeable local guide.