Crete: Wine & Archaeology
This tour is operated by Archaeological Tours
Crete may be a well-trodden ancient destination… but the largest of the Greek islands still has a bounty of surprises waiting to delight curious historians. Join us as we travel across a rich tapestry of placid beaches, ancient artifacts, and a vast expanse of vibrant cities and dreamy villages infused with wonderful food and generous spirit.
- Enjoy a unique tour combining the best of Cretan archaeology, wine and cuisine
- Explore the beautiful Mediterranean island’s lesser-known archaeological remains
- Discover Gortyn and its famous 5th century stone blocks, inscribed with the laws of Classical Greece
- Make your way around the huge Minoan palace complex of Malia
- Taste fresh olive oil produced by the monks who still reside at Toplou Monastery
- Discover the fruits of Crete’s winemaking renaissance during local wine tastings
Please note that the price of this tour does not include flights to and from the UK. Of course, we are very happy to arrange international flights from any UK airport, just give us a call and one of our expert customer care team will be able to assist you.
Upon arrival we transfer to the coastal city of Heraklion, Crete’s administrative capital – a spectacular mix of Venetian ramparts, Ottoman mosques and traditional fishing boats. Together we enjoy an introductory lecture to the trip from our Guide Scholar before relaxing over a welcome dinner and drinks at our hotel.
We wake for a full morning at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which houses the world’s greatest exhibition of Minoan artifacts; a stellar collection that has been gathered from the island’s palaces, towns and villas since the 1830s. Don’t miss the bull’s head rhyton – or drinking vessel – that was brought back here from Knossos, or the famously enigmatic Phaistos Disc, a clay disc from around 2000 BC, which has yet to be deciphered.
We begin the afternoon with a tour of the well-preserved villas at Tílissos – one of the first of all the Minoan sites to be excavated. Traveling on to the lovely, family-run vineyards of the Douloufakis Winery, we sample some of the fruits of Crete’s winemaking renaissance. We return to Heraklion this evening, enjoying dinner at one of the city’s local restaurants.
Our fourth day begins at the great Minoan palace of Phaistos, a site dating back as far as 4000 BC, and which features in the literature of Homer. Much has been revealed here, including a pillared crypt, royal halls and courts.
We continue on to the villa complex at Agia Triada, a settlement beautifully situated overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. More Linear A tablets have been discovered than at any other Minoan site.
After a traditional lunch at a local taverna, we explore the excellent Museum of Cretan Ethnology in Voroi, enjoying enlightening exhibits on the history of the island’s food, traditions and handicrafts, among many others. Later we treat ourselves to our second Cretan wine tasting, at Zacharioudakis, in full view of the mountains and the Libyan Sea. We return to Heraklion for dinner and a well-earned rest.
Setting out this morning we travel first to the Prinias Sanctuary, a temple constructed in around the 7th century BC, which bears a surprising resemblance to the temples of Ancient Egypt. Our next stop is Gortyn, which, during Graeco-Roman times, was the most powerful city on the island. Gortyn is best-known for its collection of 5th-century stone blocks, inscribed with the law codes of Classical Greece.
We spend our afternoon at the Lyrarakis Winery, leading producers of local wine since the 1960s, before making our way back to Heraklion.
On our sixth day, we delve into Knossos, the best-known archaeological site in Crete: a Minoan palace said to have been built by the legendary architect Dædalus, to house (among other things) the mythical bull-headed Minotaur. We spend a full morning among Knossos’ labyrinthine palace buildings, which were reconstructed and preserved by Sir Arthur John Evans and his team in the early 1900s.
After lunch at the nearby village of Skalani, we make our way over to Archanes. Here we enjoy a walking tour of the local archaeological sites, which include a Minoan graveyard. We round off the afternoon at the Boutari Winery, a modern, elevated vineyard growing local varieties of grape alongside global favorites such as Chardonnay and Syrah. We return for a final time to Heraklion this evening, devouring our dinner at an authentic Cretan restaurant.
Our journey takes us east today, to the grand and glorious Minoan Palace of Malia. Excavations here have revealed evidence of Neolithic habitation, including an early palace erected circa 1900 BC. We also stop at the archaeological site at Driros, a post-Minoan city, and necropolis which was occupied well in to the Byzantine era.
After lunch, we take a boat to the atmospheric fortress on Spinalonga Island. Spinalonga is best known as being the home of a 20th-century leper colony, although its origins date back to the 16th century, when Venetian settlers separated it from the mainland. We drive to Ayios Nikolaos, a harbor-side town on Crete’s northern coast, where we come together for dinner at our next hotel.
After a leisurely start we travel the short distance to the ancient city of Lato, a post-Minoan site complete with Greek agora – a public open space. Lunch today will be taken in Kritsa, one of the most picturesque spots in all of Greece; a gorgeous hillside village among the olive groves.
In the afternoon we tour the local area, paying a visit to the church at Panayia Kira, a building housing magnificent Byzantine frescoes. We return to Ayios Nikolaos for dinner this evening, stopping at a Cretan olive oil farm en route if time permits.
This morning we travel as the Ancient Greeks did: by boat, to the tiny island of Mochlos, home to one of the earliest Minoan settlements in the country. Here we visit the stunningly situated ruins of Chamaizi, made famous by the Middle Minoan building which is located on the summit of its hill. A truly magical encounter.
This afternoon we return to the mainland and enjoy special access to the archaeological site of Petras, where excavations have so far uncovered several Linear A tablets.
We spend tonight in the charming seaside town of Sitia, an area which has been occupied in various incarnations since Neolithic times.
We begin today at Sitia Archaeological Museum, an institution housing an extensive collection of Minoan artifacts, including one of the world’s oldest wine presses. Our next destination is the Minoan palace and harbor town at Kato Zakro. It is believed that Kato Zakro once acted as a gateway to the east – a theory supported by the discovery of several Middle Eastern objects on site.
We continue to the ancient settlement of Palaikastro, a former Minoan trading center. Our afternoon ends at the Toplou Monastery, a 15th-century complex, where we view original folk engravings and unique icons. Those who wish can also sample wine and olive oil made by the monks who still live and work here. We return to Sitia, taking dinner at a local restaurant.
We drive west to the large and complex site of Gournia. Here we fine the wonderfully well-preserved remains of a Minoan town: its small houses, crowded along narrow cobblestone lanes, are laid out much the same as today’s Cretan mountain villages.
En route to Rethymno, we stop at the recently-opened Eleftherna archaeological site and museum, learning all about the history of this Doric town before its destruction by Arab invaders. We tour Rethymno’s Venetian fortress before enjoying dinner at one of the town’s excellent local restaurants.
After touring the Rethymno Archaeology Museum, with its illuminating chronological collections, we take a scenic drive to the Graeco-Roman site of Aptera, a powerful walled city built above the bay, with an aspect looking south to Akrotiri. First founded in the Minoan era, the city was largely destroyed by a 7th-century earthquake.
Following lunch we explore the marvelous monasteries of the Akrotiri Peninsula with visits to Moni Agias Triada, Gouverneto and Katholiko. We continue to the romantic town of Chania, checking in to our final hotel of the trip.
Having reached the western tip of Crete we visit the site of Falasarna, once an extensive fortified Greek harbor. Today its ruins are made especially enchanting by the lapping turquoise sea around them, as well as several thriving species of rare flowers. If time allows, we will also tour the site of Polyrinia, where Medieval and Roman remains lay atop an originally Minoan settlement.
Our afternoon is spent at Kissamos Museum, where we find exhibits that paint a colorful picture of the region’s history across the millennia. We return to Chania this evening, by way of a local olive oil farm.
This morning we head to Souyia and catch a boat to Lissos, an ancient city famed in antiquity for its temple dedicated to Asklepios, god of healing. A sublimely scenic journey across the ‘wine dark’ sea…
This afternoon, back on the mainland, we visit the Manousakis Winery at Vatolakkos for a tour and tastings of their outstanding organic vintages. We return to Chania this evening, for some free time to unwind at our leisure.
Our final day in Chania begins at the Archaeological Museum, its displays gloriously set within a restored 16th-century Venetian church; a treasure trove of statues, ceramics, glassware and so much more. We continue to view the remains of ancient Kydonia, on whose former site modern-day Chania is now built.
In the afternoon we take more free time to enjoy historic Chania in our own pace, wandering its narrow lanes; admiring its Venetian harbor and beautifully restored townhouses. This evening the group reunites for a fabulous farewell dinner.
We transfer to the airport for our return flight home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes
5 nights at GDM Megaron, Heraklion
2 nights at the Minos Beach Art Hotel, Agios Nikolaos
2 nights at the Site Beach City Resort & Spa
1 night at the Bellagio Boutique Hotel, Rethymno
4 nights at the Cretan Dream Royal, Chania
Joining the Tour
There are a few options for joining the tour and we’ll be happy to help or book your international flights for you*
- You can choose to join group flights departing from London (connecting flights & transfers available).
- You can choose to book your flight directly to your final destination. You can either meet the group flight at the airport arrivals hall or the hotel (transfers available).
- You can book your flights on your own, all we ask that you forward your flight details to us as soon as possible after booking.
Connecting flights, additional travel arrangements, and accommodation before or after the tour available on request, for further information just call our office. (*Additional cost applies.)
Passport & Visa Information
For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.