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Greece

Winter in Greece: The Magical Island of Crete

Program No. 22935RJ
From its arid east to the lush forests of the west, Crete beckons to be explored. Experience this ancient island like a local during the quieter winter months when the climate is mild.
Length
9 days
Rating (4.86)
Activity Level
Starts at
2,549
Flights start at
1,000

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climate
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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 30 - Feb 7, 2023
Starting at
2,549
Feb 13 - Feb 21, 2023
Starting at
2,549
Mar 13 - Mar 21, 2023
Starting at
2,549
Oct 30 - Nov 7, 2023
Starting at
2,549
Nov 6 - Nov 14, 2023
Starting at
2,549
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 30 - Feb 7, 2023
Starting at
3,009
Feb 13 - Feb 21, 2023
Starting at
3,009
Mar 13 - Mar 21, 2023
Starting at
3,009
Oct 30 - Nov 7, 2023
Starting at
3,009
Nov 6 - Nov 14, 2023
Starting at
3,009

At a Glance

The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has served as a melting pot of cultures since ancient times. Discover the best of this Aegean isle during the quieter winter months when the crowds have dissipated and the weather is mild. As you explore coastal villages and ancient sites, unravel the history of the Minoans, Romans, Ottomans and others who have left their mark on Cretan culture. Meet local families, sample local delicacies and even try your hand at creating Cretan cuisine during a hands-on cooking class.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to two miles a day over hilly and uneven terrain. Steep stairs without railings at historic sites, standing up to four hours a day with breaks.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Delve into ancient history during field trips and lecture to learn about Minoan Civilization.
  • Experience a traditional visit at the home of a local family in a village and enjoy authentic local raki, followed by lunch at a picturesque Eco-Lodge and a performance by a local musician playing the Cretan Lyra.
  • Marvel at the ruins of Knossos, considered by experts to be Europe’s oldest city.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Ancient Greece: Art, Architecture, and History
by Marina Belozerskaya, Kenneth Lapatin
This lively illustrated guide covers the architecture, painting and sculpture of Ancient Greece from the third millennium to the end of the Hellenistic period. With 282 color and 28 black-and-white illustrations.
The Search for Ancient Greece
by Roland Etienne, Francoise Etienne
Lavishly illustrated, this pocket encyclopedia covers the archaeology and meaning of ancient Greece -- quite an accomplishment for such a slim book.
The King Must Die
by Mary Renault
The first in Mary Renault's trilogy of well-researched page-turners features the tale of Theseus, slayer of the Minotaur and the king of Athens. Known for her exhaustive research, Renault is an acknowledged master of historical fiction.
Ill Met by Moonlight
by W. Stanley Moss
Moss tells the better-than-fiction story of the audacious World War II kidnapping of the German commander of occupied Crete with Patrick Leigh Fermor and fellow S.O.E. officers. Dirk Bogarde played PLF in the Powell movie.
Crete
by Barry Unsworth
A travel memoir from the Booker prize-winning novelist, richly detailed and steeped in the millennia-old traditions, myths, literature and history of the island.
Kidnap in Crete, The True Story of the Abduction of a Nazi General
by Rick Stroud
In this new chronicle of the kidnapping of a German general on Nazi-occupied Crete by travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor's small SOE unit, Stroud fills in the narrative with meticulous research, situating the legendary tale in its historical context.
The Cretan Runner, His Story of the German Occupation
by George Psychoundakis, Patrick Leigh Fermor (Translator)
In this exceptional memoir, Psychoundakis recounts his role in the Cretan Resistance as a "runner," delivering messages and goods while dodging Nazi storm troopers. His good-humored narrative even crosses paths with (his eventual translator) Patrick Leigh Fermor.
The Colossus of Maroussi
by Henry Miller
Miller captures the spirit and warmth of the resilient Greek people in this inspired tale of a wartime journey from Athens to Crete, Corfu and Delphi with his friend Lawrence Durrell.
DK Eyewitness Top Ten Crete
by Eyewitness Guides
A compact, illustrated guide in the popular series, featuring favorite attractions in Crete.
The Complete World of Greek Mythology
by Richard Buxton
With hundreds of color illustrations, site plans, genealogies and maps, this handsome, encyclopedic reference illuminates the world of the Greek gods.
Aegean Art and Architecture
by Donald Preziosi, Louise Hitchcock
An illustrated survey of Minoan and Mycenaean art from the Neolithic to the extraordinary Bronze Age palaces of Knossos, Gournia and Phaistos. Great for any archaeology-minded traveler.
The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece
by Robert Morkot
This pictorial survey of Greek antiquity, recording its culture and expansion, features dozens of full-color maps.
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, Why the Greeks Matter
by Thomas Cahill
Cahill brings to life ancient Greek society and civilization through the lives and words of politicians, playwrights, a poet, a philosopher and an artist in this eloquent and absorbing tribute.
The Greeks, An Illustrated History
by Diane Harris Cline
This accessible photographic history of ancient Greece pays special attention to Greek innovations: great literature and architecture, war tactics, democracy, the Olympics, Socrates and much more. Cline laces the gripping story of the Greek empire with archaeological discoveries.
The Golden Step, A Walk through the Heart of Crete
by Christopher Somerville
Sommerville's account of a heroic 300-mile, mountainous trek west across Crete from Heraklion to the Monastery of the Golden Step.
The High Mountains of Crete
by Loraine Wilson
This new edition of Cicerone’s full-color guide to the White Mountains includes new routes, photographs and information on the Gorge of Samaria National Park and the Psiloritis and Lassithi ranges. Written by a longtime guide to the White Mountains.
Across Crete, From Khania to Herakleion
by Johan De Bakker
This collection explores the history of Crete through the writings of various travelers from around the world. The first of three illustrated books that tour the island, east to west.
Greece, A Traveler's Literary Companion
by Artemis Leontis (Editor)
In this terrific anthology, 24 modern Greek writers offer a flavor of their nation, its culture and people, beautiful landscapes and rich history.
Abducting a General, The Kreipe Operation and SOE in Crete
by Patrick Leigh Fermor
In another riveting episode from the life of Patrick Leigh Fermor, the eminent travel writer recounts his time as an operative during WWII and as the leader of 11 guerrilla fighters in Crete who famously kidnapped German general Heinrich Kreipe.
Knossos & the Prophets of Modernism
by Cathy Gere
In this marvelous, scholarly study of the myth and meaning on Minoan Crete, Gere illuminates both the original excavations of Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos and how this ancient civilization captured the Western imagination as an idealized society.
Crete Adventure Map
by National Geographic Society
A detailed, double-sided map at a 1:150,000, printed on handy tear- and water-resistant paper.
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Map details are not available for this location.
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9 days
8 nights
15 meals
7 B 4 L 4 D
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Athens, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Athens
D
Hera Hotel

Activity note: Check-in available from 2:00 PM.

Dinner: In the hotel restaurant, we will enjoy a festive Welcome Dinner. This will be a 3-course set meal with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water, plus a glass of wine.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Athens, Flight to Heraklion
Heraklion
B,D
Aquila Atlantis Hotel

Activity note: Flight from Athens to Heraklion is approximately 1 hour. Today’s activities will include up to 1 hour of walking.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room.

Morning: Check-out of your hotel and enjoy a scenic drive through the city of Athens. Our Group Leader will provide commentary, pointing out the iconic landmarks of the city as well as providing some historical and cultural context. Some of the sites we will see during this drive are the famous Acropolis, Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Zeus, Constitution Square, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the National Garden, the Presidential Mansion and the Olympic Stadium. After our panoramic drive, we will make our way to the Athens International Airport.

Lunch: On your own at the Athens Airport.

Afternoon: Board a domestic flight towards Heraklion, Crete. Upon arrival, we will transfer via motorcoach to our new hotel and check-in. Reconvening right before dinner, enjoy a short orientation walk through Heraklion where our Group Leader will point out some local landmarks and give us insight into the island of Crete.

Dinner: In the hotel dining room.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Knossos, Heraklion Historical Center
Heraklion
B,L
Aquila Atlantis Hotel

Activity note: Today’s activities will include walking up to 2 hours on uneven terrain with stairs.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room.

Morning: This was once the ceremonial and political center of the Minoan civilization, but was abandoned in the Late Bronze Age (1,380 – 1,100 BCE.) for unknown reasons. The builders of this palace achieved an extraordinarily high level of architectural sophistication, and its complex design have made many believe this to be the legendary home of King Minos and the site of the famed labyrinth in which he placed his son, the Minotaur. Returning to Heraklion, we will drive along the impressive city walls from the Venetian period, one of the most important monuments of this type in the entire Mediterranean basin. We will stop where Crete’s most acclaimed 20th-century writer Nikos Kazantzakis, is buried in the Martinengo Bastion, the largest on the Venetian walls.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We will head out on a walk through the historical center of Heraklion. Led by our Group Leader, we will explore the old herb market, the Morozini fountain, the Loggia, the Church of Saint Titus and the Church of Saint Mark. Those who wish to extend their walk further may visit the old Venetian Harbor, which includes the impressive fortress of Koules that once protected the entrance to the city.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Rethymnon, Chania
Heraklion
B,L
Aquila Atlantis Hotel

Activity note: The drive from Heraklion to Chania is approximately 2 hours each way. Today’s activities will include walking up to 2 hours on even terrain with some stairs.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room.

Morning: We will board a motorcoach and drive along the northwest coast of Crete towards Chania, the second largest city on the island. On our way, we will make a short stop in the city of Rethymnon, one of the few preserved Renaissance cities in all of Greece. Here we will see the stunning architecture of the area, which bears a strong Venetian and Ottoman influence and style. After our stop, and after driving a little longer, we will arrive to the city of Chania. Chania was built atop the ruins of ancient Kydonia, a city-state founded, according to tradition, by the mythical King Minos. Due to its strategic positioning in the Aegean, Kydonia was conquered, controlled and owned by a variety of empires – including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians and Ottomans. Our first visit in Chania will be to the Agia Triada (“Holy Trinity”) Monastery, a 17th century Venetian church built in a Byzantine style. We will then ride into Chania for a walk through the city center, which includes the lively municipal market. This market was established in 1913 by Eleftherios Venizelos, a Chanian-born leader of the Greek liberation movement who was elected Prime Minster of Greece eight times. We will also see the city lighthouse, originally built in 1595 by the Venetian state and then rebuilt into a minaret in 1832 by Ottomans, which remains an iconic symbol of the city.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We will continue our exploration of Chania with a walk through the old town. We will see historical structures, including the Venetian church of Agios Nikolaos dating from c.1320 CE. It was originally a monastery, then a mosque, then a church. We will also visit Crete’s only surviving synagogue, Etz Hayyim, converted in the 17th century from a 15th century church. After many years of damage, it was restored with assistance from the World Monuments Fund and rededicated in 1999. We will learn the fascinating saga of Crete’s Romaniote Jews, a distinctive group who are neither Sephardim nor Ashkenaz, with their own language and religious traditions. We’ll return to Heraklion after our field trip.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Lasithi, Women of Kritsa, Agios Nikolaos
Heraklion
B,L
Aquila Atlantis Hotel

Activity note: The drive from Heraklion to Lasithi is approximately 1 hour each way. Today’s activities will include walking up to 2 hours on hilly terrain, with cobblestones and some stairs.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room.

Morning: We’ll board our motorcoach and drive eastward through Lasithi province, the wildest area of Crete, with the richest biodiversity and least trampled ranges. This is also one of the most authentically “Cretan” areas of the island, little affected by mass tourism. The picturesque, whitewashed village of Kritsa is nestled in the Dikti Mountains. Centuries ago, it was the largest and most prosperous village in Crete, but has been razed and restored from conquest to conquest numerous times. Today, it is notable for traditional arts and crafts as well as the vestiges from the past such as the ancient Byzantine church of Panagia Kera, originally constructed in the 12th century. We will see colorful Byzantine frescoes, then stroll along winding lanes where local embroiders, weavers, and other artisans display their fine handiwork. We will also meet some of the women of Kritsa who have established a cooperative to produce and sell local specialties. We will join them in making a local dish and enjoying it for lunch.

Lunch: At the women’s cooperative, we’ll have a light country lunch and savor our own creations.

Afternoon: Next, we will drive to Agios Nikolaos, the fourth-largest town in Crete but with a small town feel. Like so many places in the region, this town named for Saint Nicholas was built on the ruins of earlier settlements going back thousands of years. The town grew around Lake Voulismeni, which we will stroll around today. Its great depth is the stuff of legends, although in reality it’s where the Nazis dumped their war material before retreating from Crete in 1944. Our scenic drive takes us through the small resort of Elounda and along the majestic Mirambello Bay to reach the coastal village of Plaka, which has become very popular after the success of “The Island” by Victoria Hislop. Spinalonga, a former lepers’ colony across the bay from Plaka, is the subject of Hislop’s book. Today the island is characterized by its imposing Venetian fortress. We will stop at Plaka for a photo stop. After our field trip, we’ll return to Heraklion

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Mountain Village, Lunch with Locals, Farewell Dinner
Heraklion
B,L,D
Aquila Atlantis Hotel

Activity note: The drive today is less than 2 hours each way. Today’s activities will include walking up to 1.5 hours on uneven terrain with some steps.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room.

Morning: For our next field trip, we will drive to Central Crete, the untamed heart of the island. This area has an uninterrupted human presence that has lived in harmony with nature since the Neolithic Age and has left a rich archaeological heritage in the fertile plains and the nearby mountainous regions. These areas are of high ecological value where sheep and goat farming provides the inhabitants with income for generations. As we explore this part of Crete we’ll cross the fertile plains where millions of olive trees grow and we’ll talk about the island’s olive oil history. We’ll view the stunning untouched mountains, meet local people and learn about their daily village life. One of the highlights will be exploring one of the most traditional villages of the island, a frontier between civilization and wilderness, with farming roots dating back to the Minoan period and beyond. At the village we’ll be welcomed with a local mountain tea and then we’ll visit the village’s unique byzantine church richly decorated with frescoes. We’ll stroll through its picturesque alleys while viewing one of the most imposing sacred mountain peaks of the ancient Minoans! And while indulging in the song of the sheep bells, we’ll participate in seasonal activities (weather permitting).

Lunch: At an atmospheric village lodge we’ll enjoy a delicious meal, lovingly prepared, using age-old methods. The traditional dishes prepared by village women are made from fresh, local ingredients, nurtured by Mother Earth for centuries in this unspoiled area. Naturally, local wine and raki (local grappa) will follow our meal while enjoying music played on the Cretan lyra. This enigmatic, truly unique instrument has survived for approximately 600 years with little alteration to its form.

Afternoon: Return to Heraklion, enjoying another beautiful panoramic drive. The remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: At a prize-awarded local restaurant, we’ll have a traditional Cretan plated meal with a glass of wine and a glass of herb-flavored raki. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our Farewell Dinner.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Heraklion Archeological Museum, Flight to Athens
Athens
B,D
Hera Hotel

Activity note: Flight from Heraklion to Athens is approximately 1 hour. Today’s activities will include up to 1 hour of walking, with long periods of standing at the Heraklion Archeological Museum.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room.

Morning: We will set out on foot with our Group Leader for an in-depth visit of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This museum houses the largest collection of Minoan art in the world, and is considered one of the greatest museums in all of Greece. Divided into twelve rooms, visitors travel through time through 5,500 years of Cretan history – from the Neolithic period (7,000 BCE) to Roman times (3 CE). After our visit, enjoy some time to explore the museum on your own.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: Check-out and meet at the hotel lobby for transfer to the Heraklion Airport. Board a domestic flight to Athens, and upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.

Dinner: In the hotel dining room.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 PM.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room.






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.