Crete Bike tour
The island of Crete is one of Europe's most dramatic and unspoiled tourist destinations. It has rugged mountains in the interior and hundreds of miles of glittering blue coastline. As part of Greece, it also has fantastic food, delicious local wines, and a long and rich history. In fact, you could say that Western European civilization was born with the Minoans on Crete some 5,000 years ago! Come and explore the central and western part of the island with us on this new and exciting bike trip. Dimitris and Claire have woven together exciting biking with beautiful "boutique" hotels, fun cultural activities, and plenty of downtime at the beach and in vibrant small towns to ensure you experience the best that this wonderful island has to offer.
Crete Bike tour itinerary
Arrival in Chania
Meet your guides and the rest of the group in the colorful seaside port of Chania. The city’s history goes back to Minoan times, and it remained an important port through Arab invasions, Venetian domination, Turkish rule, and eventually modern Crete. We’ll enjoy a glass of wine together at one of the vibrant sidewalk cafes along the port and then have a copious seafood dinner to kick off the week. Overnight Chania. Hotel and dinner included.
Loop ride via Lake Agia and the Theriso Gorge
Lake Agia is one of two freshwater lakes in Crete and has a unique ecosystem, with a variety of wildlife not found on the rest of the island. Stop for a delicious iced coffee (a Greek specialty!) along the lake and then continue up a lovely and gradual climb through the Theriso Gorge. We continue through the verdant hills to a very special lunch of local specialties cooked in the traditional way over a wood fire. A thrilling downhill takes us back to our “boutique hotel” along the waterfront. We dine tonight at a local taverna with a creative menu inspired by middle eastern themes. Overnight Chania. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
The Rugged Interior
Today’s ride is about transitions, from the coastal seaside charm of Chania to the rough and rugged interior of the island. We begin with a climb and eventually cut over to the picturesque, traditional village of Vamos. Another climb after lunch takes us to the Askyfou Plateau, whose green valleys make a pleasant contrast to the spiky and impassable White Mountains further west. Our hotel is a stately lodge with horse stables and a swimming pool. Relax this afternoon and enjoy some hearty meat dishes for dinner in the hotel restaurant this evening. Overnight Askyfou Plateau. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
The South Coast
What goes up must come down, and this morning’s ride is payback for yesterday’s climb! We have an absolutely breathtaking ride from our hotel down to the south coast, passing by dramatic scenery as we go. We eventually hit the glittering sea below and make a left turn to follow the coast on a road that rolls through olive groves and tiny villages. We’ll stop to check out a Venetian fortress that sits right on the beach, and then continue to the sunny beach town of Plakias. Spend the afternoon relaxing on the town’s white-sand beach and enjoying the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean. Overnight Plakias. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Loop ride via the Preveli Monastery and Two Gorges
Today can be as challenging or as easy as you like. You may choose to rest the legs and take advantage of the sandy beach, or you may like to do a beautiful loop ride via some spectacular gorges that shelter tiny chapels in their rocky curves. We’ll also visit a working monastery that sits perched above the sea with a location that would make any hotelier jealous. Anyone with energy to spare can of course do a longer loop (mileage is almost unlimited, but hills are guaranteed!). Tonight is a “free night,” so you can opt to go easy or splash out with a seafood feast. Overnight Plakias. Hotel and breakfast included. Dinner not included.
Up and over to the North Coast
To complete our crisscross of the island we ride back up and over to the north coast. We’ll pass through another spectacular gorge before emerging on a low plain that offers sweeping views across the flat top of the island and out to the sea at the edge of the horizon. It’s a gradual, gentle descent past placid herds of sheep and skittish wild goats, past olive and orange groves and tiny traditional towns. We’ll have lunch once we reach our destination, the delightful port town of Rethymno, one of Crete’s most beautiful cities. Our hotel is in the heart of the old town, so you can choose to roam the cobbled streets and admire the shops or else head out to the nearby sandy beach to rest after your ride. Or, book yourself an afternoon at a local spa, modeled after a Turkish-style hammam. We dine tonight on fresh local specialties, washed down by some of the delicious local wine. Overnight Rethymno. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Monasteries and Minoans, a Final Loop Ride through Crete’s Historic Past
We’ve left the craggy, rugged landscape behind and are now in rolling terrain with roads that snake gently through fields and farmland. We stop to visit the historical Arkadi Monastery, which played an important role in the Cretan resistance against the Ottomans in the 19th century. It’s unusual on the island as it was built with Renaissance ideals and was a center of science and the arts. After that we go back in time – some 10,000 years! – as we visit the archaeological site of Eleftherna, one of the most important sites on the island. We’ll stop for lunch afterwards on a leafy terrace, and then end the afternoon with a lovely ride back to the coast and to our hotel. Overnight Rethymno. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Heraklion and Knossos
Say good-bye to the bikes this morning and transfer east to Heraklion, the island’s capital. Once there, we visit the newly-expanded and world-famous Archaeological Museum, which houses finds from Knossos and other Minoan sites around the island and mainland Greece (note: we have opted not to visit the site of Knossos itself due to the overwhelming number of tourists who go there now; we can include it if the group votes to to do). To recover from historical overload, we’ll drive into the hills for a short walk through a vineyard followed by a tasting of local wines. Return to Heraklion in the late afternoon and then get together for a final dinner together (if you have an early flight the next morning out of Athens, you could also leave after the day’s events so you can spend the night by the Athens airport hotel). Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Departures from Heraklion
The trip ends this morning after breakfast. There are frequent flights from Heraklion to Athens with a variety of airlines, and it only takes 50 minutes. The earliest is usually around 6:30 a.m. and there are more every hour. You can get great deals if you book early, and could fly as cheaply as €50. There are also some direct flights to European hubs during the high season (at the time of writing, Aegean has direct flights to Paris and Frankfurt), so see the airport’s website here. See the Greek airline websites at: https://www.olympicair.com/en and http://en.aegeanair.com/.
Note: Chania is only 2 hrs by bus, so you could also return to Chania if you find the perfect flight from there.
** If your desired flight back to the U.S. on Sunday leaves super early from Athens and you can’t make it on time from Heraklion, you could consider leaving the trip early and flying back to Athens on Saturday early evening. Our day’s activities finish in the late afternoon so you wouldn’t miss out on a day, only the final dinner and overnight. Of course, we’d make arrangements to deduct the final night’s expenses from your final payment.
Activity Rating: 4 = Rewarding: Rolling terrain with only occasional flat stretches. Frequent hills, some being up to 10 kms long, with sinewy roads, so good bike handling skills are required. Daily activity 4 to 5 hours. Max distance 65 kms.
Trip Cost Includes: 8 nights’ accommodations; 8 breakfasts and 7 dinners; 27-speed hybrid bicycle [road bike available for an additional supplement]; at least one Greek-speaking guide and one other guide; visits as noted in the itinerary; and all luggage transfers. All departures are accompanied by two guides.
Not Included: Round-trip airfare; airport/hotel transfers; lunches; one dinner; travel insurance; gratuities; alcoholic beverages; and items of a personal nature.
Booking: e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a booking contract (or use the 'Contact Us' link at the top of this page), or click on the 'Book Now' button to the right.
Insurance: We highly recommend the purchase of Trip Insurance. We recommend “Travel Guard” to our North American clients, just click on the logo below. Australian, New Zealander, and British travelers, please consult your insurance brokers.
[travel Guard insurance]
Independent arrival in Chania.
Air: The city of Chania has its own airport, which is well connected to Athens as well as some European cities in the high season (at the time of writing, there are direct flights from Chania to London Gatwick with EasyJet). Do a thorough search online to get the most current schedules.
Getting away at the end of the trip: The trip ends on Sunday morning in Heraklion, which is similarly connected to Athens and also to London Gatwick on EasyJet. Aegean may also have direct flights with Paris and Frankfurt. Should you need to get back to Athens earlier to make an early-morning flight on Sunday, you could fly to Athens on Saturday after our day's activities. Contact us if you need help planning your trip.
If you should book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip. Please e-mail us with any specific travel questions.
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