Arhanes. Sitia. Ierapetra. Sivas.
The ancient Minoans concentrated their power around palace cities located in four areas of Crete: Knossos, Malia, Zakros and Phaestos. In order to see all of these sites you make a grand loop around eastern Crete. At each ancient site you descend into the essence of Minoan life. Meanwhile, in your travels you take in traditional contemporary Cretan culture which often harks back to their Minoan forebears.
Crete is a huge island, Greece’s largest, and it would take several weeks for the foreign guest to explore it in its entirety. The Minoan Palaces tour sticks with the eastern side of the island, basically staying along or near the north coast and the south coast.
The Minoan Empire was the first civilization on European soil. King Minos of Knossos was known as a just ruler. In homage to him, the Chief Judge’s wooden chair at the International Court in the Hague is a replica of King Mino’s alabaster throne. You are not permitted to sit on King Minos’ throne but you can view it from behind a small barrier 2-3 feet away.
The first and most prominent Minoan site you visit is Knossos which is only six kilometers south of Herakleion, the capital of Crete. Heading east, you stop at Malia palace city on the coast on your way to Sitia. The second day in Sitia you make a loop to visit rugged Zagros. The last site is Phaestos, located southwest of Herakleion, inland on an elevated site.
Apart from exploring Minoan palace cities, the tour also makes times for refreshing swimming opportunities, a boat ride to Spinalonga island (a former Venetian fortress), an ancient Roman site, wine tasting, the delicious and healthy Cretan cuisine and the vibrant Cretan culture.
We can customize this itinerary to suit your travel profile!
Itinerary Summary & Driving Mileage
- Day 1 Arhanes – Herakleion to Arhanes 16 km, 10 miles
- Day 2 Arhanes – Knossos Loop 20 km, 12.40 miles
- Day 3 Sitia – Arhanes to Sitia 142 km, 88 miles
- Day 4 Sitia – Zakros Loop 86 km, 53 miles
- Day 5 Ierapetra – Sitia to Ierapetra 60 km, 37 miles
- Day 6 Sivas – Ierapetra to Sivas 116 km, 72 miles
- Day 7 Sivas – Phaestos Loop 16.80 km, 10.5 miles
- Day 8 Depart – Sivas to Herakelion 65 km, 40 miles
Day 1: Arhanes
From Herakleion you head south 16 km to Arhanes, one of the most charming towns in Crete with its elegant villas and excellent restaurants. Visit a few of the many superb wineries in the Arhanes region, and cap the day off with a Cretan cooking class for dinner.
Day 2: Arhanes
The grandest Minoan palace at Knossos is a mere 10 kilometers from Arhanes (about a 15 minute drive). Tour it early with a professional guide who also accompanies you to the Herakleion Archaeology Museum which holds the precious Malia bee necklace and the famous Phaestos disc, the oldest printed document in the world.
Day 3: Sitia
En route to Sitia, stop to explore the Minoan palace city of Malia, ruled by Sarpedon, brother to King Minos. A professional guide will make Malia come alive. Also en en route, take a small boat to Spinalonga, an island that was a Venetian stronghold.
Day 4: Sitia
Today is your third Minoan city at Zakros, the smallest palace and the last to be discovered. It has a villa rich with wall paintings, wine presses, cellars and tombs cut into the side of cliffs. Make a loop to get there by including swimming at Vai, the largest natural palm forest in Europe.
Day 5: Ierapetra
Today you arrive to Crete’s southern coast and Ierapetra is Greece’s most southern city (and Europe’s too). There is consistently great weather for a relaxing beach day in Ierapetra.
Day 6: Sivas
En route to Sivas, stop at the ancient Roman city of Gortys to explore ruins, including a Roman column ensconced in an olive tree. The thousand year old village of Sivas, population 600, has some of the most preserved old houses on the entire island. The Greek Ministry of Culture has declared Sivas a “preserved” town.
Day 7: Sivas
Today you visit your fourth and last Minoan palace city, the site of Phaestos. The professional guide will explain to you how Phaestos was the most wealthiest and powerful city on Crete’s southern coast in the ancient days. Phaistos was ruled by King Radamanthis, one of King Minos’ brother.
Day 8: departure
It only takes one hour to drive from Sivas to Herakleion to catch either a flight to Athens or a boat to another island.
TRIP DURATION 7 nights, 8 days, departure on morning of Day 8
START & END POINTS
Start: The tour starts in Arhanes, located 16 kilometers south of Herakleion airport or port.
End: The tour’s last day is in Sivas, 64 km southwest of Herakleion airport or port, about one hour’s drive.
DRIVER-GUIDE VERSUS SELF-DRIVE
On your long-awaited Greece vacation, if you want to fully focus on the scenery, never get lost, avoid using quality holiday time to study maps, risk reading road signs in Greek script when English signs occasionally are missing and prefer being taken straight to each destination without the stress of driving in a foreign country, we recommend you opt for a company driver-guide.
Our driver-guides put your safety first. They are amiable, reliable, convenient, and totally helpful in translations, luggage, hotel intermediary and just a general overall trouble shooter to ensure that everything runs smoothly and all you do is relax and enjoy the tour. They are there when you need them and linger in the background when your party seeks quality time alone.
The self-drive option is less costly. Another important factor for self-drivers is the freedom and adventure to get around on your own in a foreign country. If you enjoy studying maps and orienting and navigating routes, opt for self-drive. You would also prefer self-drive if you simply love to drive!
We arrange for your use of a vehicle with a rental car company we patronize. We forward your credit card to the rental company for security purposes. You sign the rental car contract not for the basic rental cost but for liability purposes in the event of accidents or damages. The fee for the rental car is included in your tour cost.
The rental car agent meets you with the vehicle either at Herakleion port or Herakleion airport. At end of the tour, return the vehicle to either port or airport.
To drive in Greece, you must have an international driver’s permit. For Americans, an AAA branch can issue a permit upon presentation of a valid driver’s license and two passport photos. After filling out an application, within 15-20 minutes for a cost of $15 you will have your permit. If you are not able to go to an AAA office, the permit can be obtained by mail.
BOOKING AGREEMENT Participants are required to sign our company Booking Agreement as a condition of the tour.
WAIVER Participants are required to sign our company Waiver as a condition of the tour.
COST PER PERSON
|1-2||3740 euros per person||2250 euros per person|
|3-4||2640 euros per person||1860 euros per person|
|5-6||2270 euros per person||1790 euros per person|
|7-8||2090 euros per person||1720 euros per person|
Tour cost is based on double occupancy.
Children under 12 enjoy a 20% discount.
For daily exchange rates, click here.
|Driver-Guide Inclusions||Self-Drive Inclusions|
|7 nights accommodations in 3-4 star hotels – see Accommodations tab||7 nights accommodations in 3-4 star hotels – see Accommodations tab|
|Daily breakfast at each hotel||Daily breakfast at each hotel|
|Driver-Guide and Vehicle – see details below||Vehicle akin to 4 Door Nissan Note or Nissan Prima Star mini-van for 5-8 persons, manual steering|
|Airport transfers||GPS for automobiles|
|Licensed guides at Knossos & Herakleion Archaeology Museum, Malia, Zakros, Phaestos||Licensed guides at Knossos & Herakleion Archaeology Museum, Malia, Zakros, Phaestos|
|Entry fees to Knossos & Herakleion Archaeology Museum, Malia, Zakros, Phaestos, Gortys||Entry fees to Knossos & Herakleion Archaeology Museum, Malia, Zakros, Phaestos|
|Cretan Cooking Class||mobile phone with 10 euros card|
|Wine tasting in Arhanes & Sivas|
|maps of the region||maps of the region|
|Trip packet with useful information: what to see and do in each region, recommended tavernas, packing tips, phone numbers, etc.||Trip packet with useful information: what to see and do in each region, recommended tavernas, packing tips, phone numbers, etc.|
|Gratuities, tips, VAT||Gratuities, tips, VAT|
|Driver-Guide Exclusions||Self-Drive Exclusions|
|Airfare to/from Greece||Airfare to/from Greece|
|Airfare or ferry to/from Crete||Airfare or ferry to/from Crete|
|Meals except breakfast||Meals except breakfast|
|Travel Insurance – see Extras tab||Travel Insurance – see Extras tab|
|Vehicle gas and tolls|
|Automatic steering (extra cost)|
|Culinary & Wine activities|
VEHICLE WITH DRIVER GUIDE
Guests on Driver-Guide tours are transported in a mini-van akin to a Nissan Prima Star with seating for up to eight passengers. For more than eight participants see Groups tab. Our company driver-guides are focused on your safety, your comfort, your pleasure, your convenience. They work a basic eight hour day and are not needed at night because almost all eating choices are within walking distance. Driver-guides assist with your luggage, interface with the hotels, help with translations, lead you on walks or hikes, introduce you to all activities, and in general they are all around trouble shooters. They take care of all their own meals. It is in your discretion if you wish the driver-guide to join your party at dinner but he pays for his own meal.
Travel Insurance For U.S. citizens, we are official agents of Travel Guard travel insurance and can book your trip insurance or provide you a policy quote.
Enhance your Self-Drive tour with these additional activities which we arrange for you with our local collaborators.
Traditional Cretan Cooking Class in Arhanes. Learn to make such Cretan delicacies as lemonmint tzatziki, vine leaves stuffed with bulgar, or chicken with olives, raisins & onions in orzo. Participation in meal preparation and, of course, eating! 4 hours. 80 euros per person.
Labyrinth Musical Workshop in Houdetsi near Arhanes. This is a very special center with a focus on traditional music and traditional musical instruments. The seminars are offered mostly for multi-day but from time to time there are one-day workshops and the premises have a museum, too. Contact us for more information.
Wine tasting en route to Sivas. Visit a 2000 m² organic vineyard planted in a unique way, on small and large low stone walls at an altitude of 500 meters (1640 feet) overlooking the Valley of Messaras and the Libyan Sea. Cost is 30 euros per person includes presentation of wine tasting of six wine by local expert, cheese and rusk plate.
Indicative accommodations for the Minoan Palaces tour is Kalimera Archanes in Archane consisting of four lovingly restored archaic stone villas.
We select the accommodations based on quality, comfort, cleanliness, hospitality, location and charm. Most of the hotels on this tour are family owned and operated.
Hotels are included in the tour cost based on double occupancy. A single room entails an additional cost. Standard double rooms are provided but upgrade options are available.
All hotels are dependent on availability. In the event of no occupancy, we patronize comparable accommodations in the same location.
Request Links to Accommodations for Minoan Palaces
Crete Music & Dance
Walks & Hikes
Culinary & Wine
History & Culture
Health & Wellness