The mythical island of Crete is known for its rich history, vibrant culture, quaint villages, and exquisite Mediterranean cuisine. It’s the birthplace of the king of the Olympian gods and modern European civilization. The largest island of all the Greek isles, Crete is a Mediterranean jewel. Perhaps what's most interesting is its ancient Minoan culture. The Minoans pre-dated the Greeks. They worshiped female goddesses, and their high priests were all women! Not surprisingly, they lived in peace while the girls took charge for 2000 years. You’ll discover this incredible ancient culture as we take you on a stunning journey to the authentic heart of Crete, from the Venetian city of Chania to the gorgeous eastern town of Agios Nikolaos.
Here's a SAMPLE day-by-day itinerary of the trip.
Arrive in Athens and take a taxi to your hotel, the delightfully artistic 5-star New Hotel. It's steps from the Plaka. Relax and recover from your travels.
After settling in and taking a moment to unwind, we'll explore history and culture with a tour of the nearly 2,500-year-old Acropolis and its museum.
At around 6:30 pm, we’ll toast our ensuing adventure on the hotel rooftop. Dinner is at the rooftop Art Lounge, where we'll watch the sunset and admire the view of the Acropolis.
Acropolis Museum Tour
Athens and Chania
After a lovely Greek breakfast, we’ll provide optional activity ideas, like coffee at a local pavement cafe, curated shopping, or visits to other notable sites and marketplaces.
Grab a quick gyro before we hop onto an afternoon flight to Chania, the capital of Crete. We’ll check into The Domus Renier, a 5-star boutique hotel facing the ancient Venetian port of Chania. This is our home for the next three nights.
After unpacking, we’ll head out for a “sites and bites” guided walking and tasting tour of Chania, the largest city on Crete. Your tour begins in the old town near the hotel, exploring its Venetian and Ottoman monuments, like the Firkas Fortress, the Franciscan Monastery of San Salvador, the Venetian church of Agios Rockos, the Venetian Grand Arsenal, the Venetian “Neoria”, Gialli Tzamissi and the Ottoman district of Splanzia.
On our way, and between the sites, we’ll try local delicacies, pastries, and sweets, like the famous “loukoumades” donuts with honey, “bougatsa” a sweet cheese pie, “kalitsounia” pastries and filo sweets.
The day ends at the cruciform open-air market, unique in Crete. We’ll sample various Cretan products, like pure olive oil, scrumptious cheeses, “raki,” (a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy from Crete that is almost 50 % alcohol) and local wines. Then, we’ll sit down for a few more bites.
As the sun gracefully sets on another day of exploration, we retreat to the comfort of our hotel.
Sites and Bites
Today, we’ll learn about traditional Greek cooking. After breakfast, we’ll head out with our private English-speaking escort to a traditional village in the Chania region. Here, we’ll attend an authentic cooking class in an 18th-century olive mill. A local chef will share her olive oil secrets. We’ll learn how to use the legendary Cretan Mountain herbs and discover the best way to select fresh and pure ingredients while cooking these specialties.
After working alongside the chef, we’ll sit around an old monastery-style table with fresh, homemade bread and local wine and savor the food we've just made. Before you kiss our host goodbye, she’ll give us her recipes so we can take our new skills home.
After our delightful culinary workshop, our senses enriched with new flavors and cooking techniques, we'll embark on a captivating village tour, immersing ourselves in the vibrant tapestry of local life.
This afternoon, you’re free to roam around Chania to shop and explore. There is superb shopping in this town at excellent prices. Make sure you leave room in your suitcase.
In the evening, we’ll enjoy a special dinner at Pallas Chania.
Eleutherna & Margarites
After a hearty breakfast, we’ll begin the day by visiting the newly excavated ancient city of Eleutherna with its unique museum. Many impressive discoveries, dating back from the 9th century BC, can be found in this city, between three hills.
Passing through beautiful small villages along the way, we’ll reach the traditional village of Margarites, renowned for its long tradition of pottery making and local cuisine. Our setting for lunch is a local café with a stunning view. After lunch, we’ll visit a pottery shop, where the local potter will demonstrate regional techniques. We’ll have an opportunity to buy affordable and beautiful wares here. Hint – they ship!
We’ll head back to our hotel for a rest.
We'll have dinner on our own tonight.
Herakleion & Spinalonga
We’ll say goodbye to historic Chania today, making our way to the vibrant city of Heraklion. Here, we'll indulge in a delightful lunch to satisfy our taste buds and wanderlust.
Following our culinary exploration, we bid farewell to Heraklion, and take the scenic route to our new hotel, The Minos Palace, a 5-star spa/wellness hotel right on the beach. The view will make you swoon.
After some free time to refresh and rejuvenate, we'll leave the village of Plaka on a small traditional boat to the fascinating island of Spinalonga, one of Crete's more important historic sites. The island became a fortress in the middle of the 16th century and constitutes one of the best examples of Venetian defensive architecture.
On Spinalonga, we’ll enjoy a guided tour followed by a small boat tour of the area, heading to quiet bays where we can take a dip in the Sea of Crete as we enjoy some adult beverages on board.
We'll end our day in Plaka for a picture-perfect sunset dinner on the boat.
Knossos & Archanes Village
After breakfast, we’ll visit one of Crete's most important archaeological sites – the Minoan Palace of Knossos – the mythical Labyrinth of Homer. Prepare to explore a prehistoric city of 22.000 square meters. This is where the oldest European civilization started and flourished over 5,000 years ago.
We’ll experience a unique dance session, which our instructor calls the Minoan Nature Dance, at a nearby nature park. We'll explore our feminine Goddess energy as we connect with nature, our bodies, and each other. We’ll find the meaning of the Cretan Labyrinth Dance through its movement and steps based on Minoan Art depictions and ancient literature.
A delectable lunch will tantalize your taste buds and leave you satisfied.
We'll arrive at our hotel as the day draws to a close, ready to relax and unwind, cherishing the memories of our delightful dance adventure.
Enjoy dinner alone or with friends tonight.
Kritsa & Agios Nikolaos
Our morning starts with a trip to a stunning scenic village built amphitheatrically into the hills named Kritsa. In addition to its charming appeal, this village is known for its strong women, among them a famous Greek heroine named Kritsotopoula, who fought off Turkish invaders. In this lovely village, we’ll visit a local female boutique owner who will share her passion for Greek designers. We’ll also stop to learn about local textiles and the nature museum. Afterward, you'll have time to shop and browse around on your own.
For lunch today, we’ll feast on specialties made at the women’s cooperative.
Later on, we’ll head towards Agios Nikolaos, a picturesque port town with a unique story where you'll have free time to explore charming shops and immerse yourself in the local culture.
We'll reluctantly bid farewell to this picturesque town as we depart for our hotel.
Later, we'll gather at the hotel's restaurant, Amaltheia, for a memorable farewell dinner, where delectable cuisine and heartfelt conversations will mark the perfect end to our time together.
Αντίο, Adio, Farewell. After breakfast, we’ll catch our flights from Heraklion back to Athens to return home. Your new friendships and seaside Grecian memories will last a lifetime.
New Hotel is an architectural jewel, adorning Athen's city center with its intriguing design, fabulous atmosphere and fine gastronomic proposals.
The Domus Renier is a boutique hotel located inside the ancient port city of Chania.
Casey O’Brien Blondes, a Girls' Guide colleague based in the Loire Valley, will accompany you throughout the journey to ensure that everyone is happily engaged. A dual-national and author of two travel and lifestyle books about France, Casey develops and leads many trips for us throughout France. Long an avid traveler, she loves to share her enthusiasm for exploring new cultures through immersive experiences that create an emotional connection with the destinations you discover! When not focused on travel, Casey works as a freelance writer, editor, translator, and college essay coach.
"There is a kind of flame in Crete - Let us call it soul"
Crete is the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Here, you can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations, explore glorious beaches, impressive mountainscapes, fertile valleys, and steep gorges, and become part of the island's rich gastronomic culture.
Everything stated in itinerary above including most meals (unless otherwise noted) plus wine or beer with your evening meal
Lodging at unique hotels
All guides, experts and entry fees
All wine tastings and cooking experiences
All in-country transport including flights to and from Crete
Roundtrip airfare to Athens.
Any spa treatments desired
Additional wine, beer, or spirits beyond what is offered at meals.
All personal souvenir purchases
Travel and Medical Insurance (required)
Girls’ Guide to the World is perfect for the traveler who wants a first class trip with unique experiences. The hotels are fabulous, the meals delicious and the guides are wonderful. You will feel pampered and well cared for the entire time. I highly recommend for the woman who wants to travel alone or with a friend. - Kathy M.
This was my first trip with Girls Guide, and I can't wait to do another. Crete is a beautiful and welcoming country, with a long history: so interesting were the Minoan ruins at Knossos and the Venetian fortress on the island of Spinalonga. I loved the time we spent cooking with Koula and can now better appreciate the simplicity of traditional Cretan cooking - and the health benefits! The best part of the trip was meeting new friends and really getting to know one another. While we were of different ages and diverse backgrounds, we bonded immediately and enjoyed our time together. Accommodations and food were top-notch ... I can absolutely recommend this specific trip and Girls Guide to the World! - Ginger, Hershey, PA
I took the Mythical Crete tour, and would sign up for another Grils' Guide trip in a heartbeat. Doni arranged such varied activities: seeing historic and prehistoric sites (including some that most tourists don't visit), taking a cooking and a dancing class, spending an evening on our own boat .... I liked the balance between structured activities and flexible time so we could follow our interests. The food was consistently fresh and local; the hotels were fine too, especially the Minos Palace. All in all, unforgettable! - Sue, Cambridge MA
Fly into the Athens International Airport.
The trip officially starts on the afternoon of May 7th, but if you are traveling across an ocean to get to Athens, consider arriving a day early so you have time to relax and adjust to the local time zone. If you do decide to arrive early, please let us know and we will take care of booking your room for you and make sure that you are kept in the same room until the trip starts.
About 6-8 weeks before the trip starts, we'll organize a Zoom video call to discuss all the details of the trip and give you a packing list. Here is a great website that we love that will help you with packing and travel trips.
The temperatures in Crete in May are comfortable with low of 64°F and and high up to 71°F.
You can expect a few rainy days in Crete during May, but usually the weather is comfortable in May.