Explore the golden age of the Minoans in Crete
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and has a long, rich history, stretching from Stone Age seafarers and Neolithic farmers to the enigmatic Bronze Age civilisation of the Minoans. This beautiful island has been ruled by many great powers - Venetian, Ottoman, Roman, and Byzantine, all of which have left an impressive imprint.
On this tour, you'll explore Crete's history through its archaeological highlights, focussing on the remnants of the Minoan era, with visits to its four Minoan palaces, Knossos, Phaestos, Malia, and Kato Zakros.
The Minoan civilisation flourished in the Bronze Age in Crete and on other Aegean islands. This civilisation is famous all over the world for its magnificent palaces, embellished with frescoes, and the Cretan palaces are some of the best remaining examples of Minoan architecture.
You'll be accompanied on your trip by Tristan Hughes, a presenter for History Hit, who'll give informative and entertaining commentary throughout, providing you with unparalleled expert insight into the fascinating Minoan era.
As well as the visits to the four impressive palaces, there are visits to the exceptional Heraklion Archaeological Museum and The Minoan town of Gournia to look forward to. In between excursions, you'll have a day free to explore the coastal city of Agios Nikolaos, where you can wander along the banks of its tranquil lake or visit an ornate Byzantine chapel.
You'll stay at two four-star hotels during your trip, the Atrion Hotel in Heraklion and the Miramare Resort and Spa in Agios Nikolaos, where you can enjoy glorious sea views from your room.
Reasons to book
Discover the Minoan palaces
Free day in Agios Nikolaos
Enjoy delicious Greek food
Explore the ancient town of Gournia
Travel with experts
Stay in four-star hotels
Your expert guide
- Return flights from London Gatwick to Heraklion (regional flights available on request)**
- History Hit expert Tristan Hughes will accompany the group
- Three nights' accommodation at the four-star Atrion Hotel, Heraklion, one night on half board and two nights on bed and breakfast
- Four nights' accommodation on half board basis (drinks with dinner not included) at the Miramare Hotel, Agios Nikolaos
- Visit four Minoan palaces: Knossos, Phaestos, Malia, and Kato Zakros
- Explore the Heraklion Archaeological Museum and the Minoan town of Gournia
- All transfers, tours and entrance fees
- Local guides and tour manager throughout
Day1HeraklionIraklion (Heraklion), Greece
Fly from London Gatwick to Heraklion and transfer to the Atrion Hotel for a three-night stay. You'll have dinner at the hotel tonight, offering a chance to meet your fellow guests.
Day2Knossos Palace, Archaeological Museum and VathypetroKnossos,
Today, you'll visit the first of the four palaces on the tour, the Palace of Knossos. This was the centre of Europe's first civilisation and is the largest Bronze Age site in the country, with connections to the myths of Theseus, the Minotaur and the labyrinth.
The day includes a visit to the Archaeological Museum, where you'll see one of the world's most important exhibits of prehistoric art and a magnificent showcase of Minoan culture.
The last visit of the day is to the Minoan manor house and outbuildings of Vathypetro, the surviving remnants of a settlement that stretched across three hills, including a wonderfully preserved wine press - one of the oldest in the world.
Day3Gortyn, Phaestos Palace and Agia TriadaGortyn, Greece
Today, you'll drive to the south of the island to visit three important sites. First is the Greco-Roman site of Gortyn in the lush Messara Valley, thought to have once been populated by over 300,000 people. The site is best known for its lengthy wall inscription of 5th-century BC law codes of the city, the oldest and most complete example of coded ancient Greek laws ever found.
You'll then continue to the magnificent Minoan palace of Phaestos and see the Phaestos Disc, which was found in its archives and whose script remains undeciphered.
It's then on to Agia Triada, a once-grand Bronze Age villa that has yielded more examples of Linear A tablets than any other site of its kind.
Day4Malia Palace and SpinalongaSpinalonga, Greece
Dating back over 4,000 years, the palace of Malia is a huge Minoan complex just north of the Lasithi Mountains, which includes a unique craftsmen's settlement with distinctive storage rooms, granaries, and kernos.
You'll take a short boat trip to the island of Spinalonga, the location of a former leper colony which was the setting for Victoria Hislop's novel The Island. Spinalonga was once occupied by the Venetians and the Ottomans in order to strengthen their defences.
After your visits, you'll check in to your sea view room at the Miramare Hotel, Agios Nikolaos for a four-night stay.
Day5Agios NikolaosAyios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece
You'll have the entire day free today to relax or explore Agios Nikolaos at your own pace. Perhaps you'll choose to wander by the city's tranquil lake or see the fascinating frescoes at the Byzantine chapel. Alternatively, you might want to simply kick back and relax at one of the hotel's four swimming pools or in the luxurious spa.
Day6Gournia and MochlosGournia, Crete, Greece
Today, you'll visit the well-preserved late Minoan town of Gournia. The remains of Gournia cluster around cobbled streets on the side of a hill and are crowned by workers' houses and a palace. It is the best example of a Minoan town in the prehistoric Aegean, and it is still being excavated.
There are traces of around 50 houses to be seen here, as well as three cemeteries and a port. You'll take a boat trip to Mochlos, one of the largest and most significant of the surviving Early Minoan cemeteries in Crete.
Day7Zakros PalaceZakros, Crete, Greece
Today, you'll visit Zakros, the smallest of the Minoan palaces, the excavation of which has provided much information on the Minoan trade. Evidence of its links with the East was provided by the discovery of four elephant tusks and six bronze ingots.
Day8DepartureIraklion (Heraklion), Greece
Today, you'll check out of the Miramare Hotel and transfer to Heraklion Airport for your return flight to London Gatwick.
Atrion Hotel, Heraklion
Fully renovated in 2004, this modern, four-star hotel is next to Heraklion's vibrant centre, with its cafés, shopping centre, tavernas and museums but also a short stride from the seashore. Crete's main highways can be easily accessed from the hotel, making it an ideal base for discovering the island.
Miramare Hotel, Agios Nikolaos
A stylish four-star resort situated in the peaceful location of Gargadoros, Agios Nikolaos. There are a range of luxurious treatments and cosmetic services available in the hotel’s sleek spa, and you can enjoy the use of four swimming pools plus beach sunbeds and umbrellas.
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* From price is FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY, per person, based on two people sharing a room, subject to availability. Price and itinerary correct at time of print but may be subject to change. Single supplement £290pp. Deposit £250pp. Local charges such as tourist tax may apply. **175pp discount if guests book flights independently,In the case of unforeseen circumstances, expert(s) may be substituted, and any expert-led events may be subject to change. Expert(s) will not join you for your full trip duration unless otherwise stated. Travel insurance is not included but required for most of our overseas trips, and should be taken out at time of booking. Images used may not reflect your actual tour experience. This holiday may be sold through other selected brands. Tour is operated by and subject to the booking conditions of Travel Editions Group Ltd, ABTA V3120 and TS Travel Limited (ATOL bonded).
* From price is FOR ALL OTHER TRAVELLERS, per person, based on two people sharing a room, subject to availability. Price and itinerary correct at time of print but may be subject to change. Single supplement £290pp. Deposit £250pp. Local charges such as tourist tax may apply. **175pp discount if guests book flights independently,In the case of unforeseen circumstances, expert(s) may be substituted, and any expert-led events may be subject to change. Expert(s) will not join you for your full trip duration unless otherwise stated. Travel insurance is not included but required for most of our overseas trips, and should be taken out at time of booking. Images used may not reflect your actual tour experience. This holiday may be sold through other selected brands. Tour is operated by and subject to the booking conditions of Travel Editions Group Ltd, ABTA V3120 and TS Travel Limited (ATOL bonded).