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Minoan Crete and Santorini
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.
As the largest of the Greek islands Crete is too big to be able to do justice to its wealth of fascinating sites and places of interest in one go, we have arranged two tours, this fantastic tour of Minoan Crete which focuses on the central and west of the island, and our Hidden Gems of Eastern Crete tour, which focuses completely on the east of the island and encompasses a diverse range of sites and scenery.
- Return charter flights from Gatwick to Heraklion including all payable taxes.
- Seven nights accommodation in standard room on bed and buffet breakfast basis at the four star Bio Suites hotel in Rethymnon.
- Transfers and excursions as detailed
- Welcome dinner on first night
- 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.
Fly to Heraklion from London Gatwick, (or from a regional airport subject to availability and supplement). Transfer to Rethymnon for a seven night stay at Bio Suites on bed and breakfast basis. Welcome dinner included.
Morning guided walking tour of Rethymnon’s old town with the afternoon free. A fascinating and attractive town, Rethymnon has a colourful history and owes its character to periods of rule under the Venetians and Turks. Buildings line narrow streets that are perfect for strolling and the old town is full of cafes, restaurants and small shops selling local crafts and food.
Full day tour to the Minoan cemetery of Armeni and the Palace of Phaestos. Excavation of the Minoan cemetery of Armeni has uncovered more than 200 graves and a wealth of Minoan artefacts. The vaulted tombs are hewn from rock and the numerous skeletons uncovered have given much information as to the physical appearance and health of the Minoan people. 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, the site has a commanding view of the Messara plain.
Full day visit by boat to Santorini. The island of Santorini, located 63 nautical miles north of Crete, was formed by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history, which was also credited with the destruction of the Minoan civilisation on Crete. Santorini is a mass of soaring cliffs, topped with tumbles of bright white-washed Cycladic houses with volcanic sand beaches at their feet, and has much fascinating archaeology and a huge amount of aesthetic beauty to enjoy. Visits to Akrotiri and Thira as well as lunch are included.
Full day to relax and explore at your leisure. There is an option to take a half day tour (payable locally) to the monastery of Arkadi and the village of Thronos in the Amari region. The fifth century monastery of Arkadi is a place of great historical importance and tells a terrible tale that contributed significantly to the freedom of Greece. In Thronos we find one of the many Byzantine churches of the Amari Valley that we have the opportunity to visit to see its wall paintings.
Full day tour to Chania. An atmospheric Venetian harbour town, Chania is set against a spectacular backdrop of mountains and aquamarine seas. A turbulent history saw its occupation by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Turks and Egyptians, but this has left behind a rich and captivating architectural heritage. En route to Chania we will stop briefly at the Souda Bay commonwealth war cemetery and hear the tragic tale of the 1941 ‘Battle of Crete’.
Full day tour to the Minoan Palace of Knossos and the Archaeological museum. Little was known about the ancient Minoan civilisation until 1894 with the discovery, by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, of Knossos. Excavations began in 1900AD which revealed the remains of an extensive palace and surrounding town. Dating from 1900BC, the palace was destroyed by an earthquake in 1700BC, rebuilt and then finally destroyed in 1375BC by fire. Knossos is now the most well-known of the Minoan sites on the island, controversially made famous by the restoration work done by Evans. The archaeological museum at Heraklion houses some of the most famous Minoan finds from Knossos and other sites on Crete.
Transfer by coach back to Heraklion airport for your return flight to London Gatwick.
NB: Exact order of itinerary may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion.
Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 49 passengers.
This comfortable four star hotel is in a convenient location and only a few minutes walk from Rethymnons long sandy beach. The hotel offers excellent facilities including a spacious outdoor pool, gym, bar, restaurant and very comfortable rooms with balcony, private bath/shower, TV, telephone & simple kitchen facilities. A half board option is available at the hotel at a supplement and on request. However, the location of the Bio Suites makes dining out an attractive and easy option as there is a fantastic choice of tavernas located just a few minutes walk from the hotel many situated on the waterfront as well as amidst the back streets of the old town.
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.
Accomodation stunning, as was Jane as facilitator and Constantine as our guide. we would have liked to have been told when booking we could extend stay at hotel for a few days after the tour ended, but otherwise super holiday which we'd strongly recommend.
Our courier Trish was extremely helpful, friendly and efficient. The guide Rita? (Pronounced Ritter?) was very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, could not have been a better ambassador for Crete! WE would definitely travel with you again!
Mr J Tracey