20 days
Duration
Europe
Destination
Level 2 - Moderate
Activity

Learning about the Minoans

This small group tour of Crete is designed around an innovative itinerary that traces the remnants of Minoan culture across the beautiful Mediterranean island. Combining education, a variety of local experiences with a touch of exploration and discovery, the magnificent art, architecture and lifestyle of an ancient people long since vanished can be brought to life once again. Speculate, postulate or just guess at what may have brought about the demise of such a civilisation some 3,500 years ago as this tour of Crete takes you to the ancient cities, settlements and palaces of the Minoans.

Crete is largest of the Greek islands.

The Greek poet Homer, writing in the eighth century BC, long after the downfall of the famed Minoan civilization, spoke of an island, “rich and lovely out in a wine dark sea.” In his epic poem, The Odyssey, he tells audiences, both ancient and of more modern times, about the many cities of a “well populated and sea-girt land.” There is no doubt that Homer was referring to the island of Crete.

Situated just over 600 kilometres to the northwest of the great Egyptian city of Alexandria, Crete is the southernmost and the largest of the Greek islands. For many thousands of years, the well-positioned and well-provisioned isle has been the focus of the ambitions of those wishing to control the land.  Even as recently as World War II, both Britain and Germany vied for control of the strategic island.

Minoans have been described as the manufacturers of the first luxury goods.

Archaeological work has revealed evidence, dating to the third millennium BC, of a thriving trade network centred on Crete that dealt in tin and copper, the constituent elements for bronze. It is likely that this particular commodity brought great wealth and prosperity to Minoans as they raised their great palaces and expanded their settlements across the entire island. As affluence increased so did trade in other goods, with excavations by archaeologists pointing to the import of items such as jewellery, wine and luxury foodstuffs. In exchange, the Minoans maintained an established export of ceramics, timber from their cypress forests and even textiles, although the latter leave little trace from so long ago.

You will be on Crete, the once vibrant hub of a cultural and trade network that radiated out from a thriving Minoan civilisation to influence communities spread around the Mediterranean. There were strong connections with Egypt, the Levant and with mainland Greece. There is also the strong likelihood that the Minoan sphere of trading influence extended westwards to Sicily and Italy.

The life of the Minoans at home revolved around an agricultural lifestyle and their diet was likely much the same as many of the modern people of Crete today. Seafood, vegetables, grains and dairy, supplemented by the ever-present olive and its delicious and functional oil would have been found on the tables of most households. Wine appears to have been plentiful and the Minoans also enjoyed barley beer. Their houses were comfortable built from local stone, topped with mud-brick and wood.

Minoan civilisation declined and disappeared some time during the 15th century BC.

Minoan civilisation declined and disappeared some time during the 15th century BC. Certain scholars point to the eruption of the volcano on the nearby Thera, hypothesising that this devastated the cities of the Minoan trading allies thus causing their economy to collapse. Others believe there was an invasion from outside of the island taking over a government possibly riven by internal problems.  It remains conjecture as to what actually happened but the influence and the legacy of this great people lives on.

On this 20 day tour for seniors and mature travellers it is a program of exploration, as you wander the palace precincts of Knossos, Malia, Zakros and Galatas consider the influences, the political organisation and the society that provided for such impressive structure and adornment. Stroll along the streets of the settlements of Phaistos, Tylissos or Agia Triada and let your imagination take you where it will, as the paved streets and water systems stretch from one side of the town to the other. Marvel at the view from every home and shop across the island settlement of Psiera and think about explanations for its seemingly isolated position. Travel out over the now sunken causeway to Minoan Mochlos and wile away hours exploring its stone-lined streets and alleys.

This small group tour learning about the Minoans on Crete  is bound together by the thread of the Minoans but there has been included opportunity to step seamlessly into other aspects of spectacular Crete.

  • Revel for a time in the legend of Zeus as you look in awe upon the interior of the Dikteon Cave.
  • View first hand the later Venetian influences around the old harbour precincts of Chania and Heraklion.

You will be guided, but importantly, not led, through many thousands of years of history across the island. You will sample Cretan culinary delights made with many of the same ingredients that the Minoans used and look on while oil and wine is produced by ancient methods before you. You will sail on the blue waters of the Aegean over shipwrecks from across the millennia but be back in time for dinner and drinks at one of the harbour side restaurants surrounding the small ports or perhaps at a taverna in a local village. The choice is yours.

Crete small group tour for seniors itinerary

The Crete small group tour is for 20 days staying at 6 different locations. As a small, you explore and visit 26 different locations with a program leader, national and local guides who share their knowledge and learnings about the Minoans with you. The program gives you also some time to relax and explore individually the island over 4 seperate days other important aspects of the history of Crete.

 

 

 


PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

1
Visit, learn & explore Knossos Palace Herkalion
2
Travel with an Archaeologist and specialist guides for the entire program
3
Spend time on the island of Spinalonga with the Venetian fort
4
Visit the birthplace of Helena of Troy
5
See Cretan history, from Neolithic (c.7,000BC) to late Roman in the field

Overview: Today, the group meet for introductions and enjoy a welcome dinner locally.

Accommodation: Overnight  Ibis Styles Heraklion centre or similar

Overview: Today we commence the program with a walking tour of Heraklion and its place in the history and settlement of Crete. Today we visit the Archaeological Museum. The museum has antiquities that span several thousands of years, Minoan, post-Minoan and later periods that we will take some time to view and discuss.

During our walk we visit the Morosini Lions Fountain, Dermatas Gate, the cathedral of Saint Minas and from the Venetian period, the Fort, the city walls and shipyards.

Accommodation: Overnight  Ibis Styles Heraklion centre or similar

Overview: Today we travel out to visit the ancient archaeological site of Knossos and then the town of Tylissos.

This evening there is a group meal.

Accommodation: Overnight  Ibis Styles Heraklion centre or similar

Overview: Today is a break day. If you’d like, you can simply rest up. Or you’ll have the opportunity to further explore Knossos palace or the ancient city of Heraklion.

Accommodation: Overnight  Ibis Styles Heraklion centre or similar

Overview: Today we travel some 30km to Agios Nikolaos. We visit and learn about the Minoans at Galatas  and Malia.

Tonight there is a group evening meal.

Accommodation: Overnight  Avra Collection Hermes Hotel or similar

Overview: Today we take the boat out to explore the island of Spinalonga  and the Venetian fortifications for the day. We enjoy a barbecue lunch, before returning in the late afternoon.

Accommodation: Overnight  Avra Collection Hermes Hotel or similar

Overview: Today we explore Gournia Minoan Town as well as Mochlos city.

Accommodation: Overnight  Avra Collection Hermes Hotel or similar

Overview: Today we transfer to Sitia. On our way we transfer across by boat to Pseira island. On the island we explore and more about the Minoan culture.

There is a group meal tonight.

Accommodation: Overnight  Sitia Beach or similar

Overview: Today we continue our study, visiting the Zakros Minoan Palace, the Palaikastro settlement, and the Kazarma Fortress in Sitia.

The remainder of the day is at your leisure.

Accommodation: Overnight  Sitia Beach or similar

Overview: Today we transfer to Rethimno. We visit the Dikteon Cave & Zeus Cave. This is the legendary birthplace of Zeus!

There is a group dinner in the evening.

Accommodation: Overnight  Ionia Suites or similar – apartment

Overview: On our first full day based in Rethimno as a small group we visit the Agia Triada archaeological site, the archaeological site of Phaistos, Kommos and the Monastiraki Minoan Palace.

There is a group dinner this evening.

Accommodation: Overnight  Ionia Suites or similar – apartment

Overview: The day is free for individual touring of Rethimno. In the evening we have a group meal at a local organic farm.

Accommodation: Overnight  Ionia Suites or similar – apartment

Overview: Today we travel onto Chania. We will take a break in the beautiful village of Stylos.

In the afternoon we enjoy a guided walking tour of Chania.

Tonight there is a group meal.

Accommodation: Overnight  Belmondo Hotel or similar

Overview: Today, we pause to luxuriate in this picture postcard seaside small town. The day is yours to relax and reflect, explore or just sit, read & watch.

Accommodation: Overnight  Belmondo Hotel or similar

Overview: Today there is a walk along the Imbros gorge with a local guide.  The walk starts near the town of Imbros and finishes at Komitades.

There is free time in Komitades to allow you to explore before returning to Chania.

There is a group meal at a local Taverna this evening.

Accommodation: Overnight  Belmondo Hotel or similar

Overview: In the morning we travel around 40 kilometers to Kíssamos.

In Kíssamos after lunch at your leisure, we visit the local museum, located in a fine old building which was once the Venetian, then Ottoman, command-post. The ground floor contains flawlessly labelled finds from nearby ancient Polyrrhenia and Phalasarna. It is primarily pottery amongst a myriad of intriguing exhibits organised by chronology and provenance.

But the museum’s pride and joy lies upstairs: two Roman mosaics from a late second or early third century AD villa. The first juxtaposes the Roman Four Seasons with Three Horae (Dancers) symbolizing the traditional Hellenic tripartite division of the year. The second panel, damaged but still vivid,  is devoted to Dionysiac themes.

There is a group dinner this evening.

Accommodation: Overnight Gallini Beach Hotel or similar

Overview: Today we travel to the ancient city of Falassarna. This Minoan city had a direct maritime link to Alexandria in Egypt a major  contributor  to its prosperity. However, the local sailors did not limit their activities to peaceful trading; like the inhabitants of other coastal cities of the time, they were also particularly fond of piracy. 

This ancient city after an earthquake is now some 100m from the coast.

The late afternoon is at your leisure.

Accommodation: Overnight Gallini Beach Hotel or similar

Overview: Today, we return to Heraklion.

In the afternoon we return to Knossos Palace to refresh our original interpretation of what we saw in this incredible ancient Minoan city, before arriving in Heraklion.

Accommodation: Overnight Ibis Styles Heraklion centre or similar

Overview: Today, we spend time exploring the role of Crete in WWII with a local guided walk and muesuem visit.

There is a farewell evening meal for the group today.

Accommodation: Overnight  Ibis Styles Heraklion centre or similar

Overview: Program finishes after breakfast.

What’s included in our Tour

  • 19 nights of accommodation.
  • 19 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 9 dinners.
  • Services of Tour Leader for the duration of tour.
  • Transport in comfortable and modern coaches or 4×4 vehicles
  • All excursions, entrance fees, and local guides.
  • Gratuities and necessary tips.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • International airfares and departure taxes.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
  • Porterage

Crete small group tour
Crete tours
Crete small group tour

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