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TOUR FULL Wildflowers, Wine and History in Crete (FULL)

14 - 20 Apr 2024
  • Cultural Tours

About the tour

Visiting Crete is a sensory adventure filled with the scents of rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender, and chamomile. An island brimming with beautiful flowers and stunning landscapes, there are around 2,000 species of plants, of which about 10% are endemic to Crete. The peak explosion of wildflowers is from March to May, when wild orchids and tulips are joined by chamomile, poppies, anemones, iris, field gladiolus and much more in bloom.

Crete's natural beauty is equalled only by the richness of its history. The island is the birthplace of the first advanced society on European soil, the Minoans, who ruled some 4,000 years ago. At the crossroads of three continents, Crete has been coveted and occupied by consecutive invaders. Evidence of this long history can be seen in Chania, where labyrinthine lanes are lorded over by mighty fortresses, and where gorgeously restored Renaissance mansions rub rafters with mosques and Turkish bathhouses.

Gourmands also need look no further, on an island where 'locavore' is not a trend but a way of life. Rural tavernas often produce their own meat, cheese, olive oil, raki and wine, and catch their own seafood.

The tour is led by two former residents of Crete, who are also experienced tour leaders of walking and botanical tours on the island. This tour takes you across this wonderful island and looks at history, both ancient and contemporary. Explore Crete's rich botany, beautiful landscapes and delicious food and wine, and learn how all of these intertwine.

Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Valerie and Clive Whittington

Valerie and Clive Whittington

Valerie and Clive have spent their working lives in education, at all levels, with adults and children across the age range. They have lived and worked abroad and have travelled extensively. Since retiring, they have lived in Crete, building a house and garden on a wild and windy hillside.

In her capacity as the Branch Head of the Mediterranean Garden Society on Crete, Valerie organises a variety of events on the island and hosts visitors to her garden from as far afield as Australia and California. Clive, as a tour leader, has led groups of walkers on Crete, mainland Greece and other islands.

Both have joined tours run by Jon Baines Tours and enjoyed the cultural, historical and local emphasis that is at the heart of the philosophy of the company, along with the camaraderie of fellow tour members. The tour on Crete will emulate this, including the delights of Cretan cuisine.

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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Chania (Sun,14 April) Arrive and transfer to Porto Veneziano Hotel. Hear a brief background on the tour in the evening before a welcome dinner at the hotel.
  • Day 2:Chania (Mon, 15 April) Landscapes, Food and Wine of Crete Explore Chania's old town on a walking tour. See the city’s impressive 14th-century harbour and see the 16th-century lighthouse and synagogue. Learn of Crete’s Egyptian, Venetian, Ottoman and more recent influences as you walk its narrow streets. In the afternoon drive out to the foothills of the White Mountains and visit the beautiful Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete, encompassing a wide range of plants and wildlife that thrive in its microclimate, including fruit trees and herbs as well as medicinal and ornamental plants. Meet with the owners and learn about the landscapes and cuisine of Crete. In the evening, learn about the food and wine of Crete with a cooking demonstration, followed by dinner at the park's restaurant.
  • Day 3: Chania (Tues, 16 April) Minoans and Crete's Classical History Drive to Heraklion and visit the world renowned Bronze Age Palace of Knossos, accompanied by a specialist guide. After lunch visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which includes important finds from the island such as the Phaistos Disc and Minoan frescoes. Return to Chania in the afternoon.
  • Day 4: Chania (Wed, 17 April) DAY AT LEISURE or JOIN OPTIONAL TOUR: Bridging the Gap, Greeks and Romans (and Wildflowers) This day is at leisure with the option to join a morning and/or afternoon visit, at your own expense. Travel along the coast to the archaeological site at Aptera, above Souda Bay. Visit impressive Roman cisterns, ruins of Roman bath houses, a newly excavated theatre and the monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos, in which there is an excellent presentation of the site of Aptera. It is also a wonderful site for wildflowers.*
    Return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure or join the optional afternoon visit to the recently completed archaeological museum near the outskirts of Chania, providing a different experience to the museum in Heraklion. Stroll back along the seafront and enjoy the late afternoon and evening at leisure.
  • Day 5: Chania (Thur, 18 April) Wildflowers and the Real Crete Drive up to the Spili Plateau and see wild tulips which are endemic to Crete, orchids and a host of other wildflowers. Spend time at the attractive village of Spili and have lunch at a local taverna. Return to Chania via the castle of Frangokastello, where there will be time to wander on the sandy beach and paddle.
  • Day 6: Chania (Fri, 19 April) Battle of Crete With a specialist guide, take part in a tour tracing Operation Mercury (the German Invasion of Crete) and learn about the Australian, New Zealand, British and German soldiers at the Battle of Crete. Visit Hill 107 in Maleme, the German war cemetery, the airfield and bridge of Tavronitis. Continue on to Galatas village and the small museum, Greek-New Zealand memorial and ANZAC memorial and the Allied cemetery. Visit a winery for a light lunch with tastings of Cretan wine. Return to Chania for free time before your farewell dinner at Salis, accompanied by Dourakis wines.
  • Day 7: Chania (Sat, 20 April) Morning at leisure until check out time. Depart Chania.

*As a general note, there can be no guarantee about precise flowering times. All itineraries are subject to change according to local conditions.

Tour cost

Tour cost is USD $2,226 per person sharing. Tour cost with a room to yourself is USD $2,520.