Crete, Greece - 6 nights
Available year round - Sunday to Saturday
This is a unique opportunity to experience first hand authentic Cretan regional cooking techniques and recipes that have been developed and handed down over generations. Your cooking trip takes place in a beautiful wonderfully tranquil location in the mountain of Asteroussia about 40 miles south of Heraklion city. The cooking classes allow you to immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle of Crete and learn to cook authentic Cretan dishes in an informal and friendly environment. All of the ingredients you will use are bought each morning from the local open market or direct from the fields so you will be working with fresh fruits and vegetables in season. You will learn the traditions and passion of the Cretan kitchen and, most importantly, will have a lot of fun!
We offer this tour to those people who care about healthy food, the special tastes in combination with tradition and culture. We would like to introduce you to one of the most tasty and healthy cuisines in the world but also to a magnificent ancient civilization. In other words we invite you to THE WELL - BEING. We offer you the luxury of enjoying your meal in the famous herb scented countryside of Crete in the company of warm and joyful people with the sense of hospitality inherited and not dictated by the icy politeness of commercialized tourism.
Cretan cuisine does not depend on expensive dishes and glassware or silverware. But your sometimes earthenware plates will contain valuable fresh wild greens from the mountains, aromatic herbs, garden fresh fruits and vegetables, virgin olive oil and the famous thyme Cretan honey.
This vacation offers you the opportunity to enjoy the regional cuisine in Crete, as well as learn to prepare dishes from your native host and native farm house ladies. You will visit restaurants, taverns, local farm homes where you sample delicious dishes. You will be fed like royalty, treated to fine local home chemical free wine, tasty home made bread, green pies and you will learn to make your way around the fresh food markets. The cooking lessons can last from 2-4 hours and afterwards you enjoy the meals that were prepared. Of course, there is always time for you to make some discoveries on your own.
In this tour you will travel comfortably and stay in a comfortable modern accommodation with distinctly Cretan flavor. No need to worry about a language barrier because your tour leader is fluent in English and Greek. Cooking classes are always taught in English.
DAY ONE - SUNDAY
Arrival, Greeting and Traditional Cretan Dinner
Upon arrival at the Heraklion airport, you will be met by your driver and English speaking Cretan host. If you are arriving in the morning you will head somewhere for lunch before being driven to the Thalori Resort via transfer. For guests arriving after lunch, your host will meet you at the airport and offer you a coffee, snack and water for the 70 minute transfer to your accommodation.
Within minutes you realize that you have been transported to another time – you need only relax and soak in the experience.
Dinner at the lodge or a local restaurant with a variety of local foods. The flavours and freshness and variety of local foods are a wonderful welcome to the Island of Crete.
DAY TWO - MONDAY
South Central Crete: Culture, Food and History
Enjoy a rich breakfast and ready to explore the south-central part of the island with your host. Today we will visit Gortys, the ruined capital city of the Roman province including an impressive theater, the Basilica of St. Titus the eponymous saint converted the island to Christianity and was the first bishop, the Odeon and the Law code. Ending the visit drive west and the palace of Phaestos the second most significant archaeological site of the Minoan civilization Phaestos is located at the southern region of the prefecture of Heraklion in the valley of Messaras. The site of the ancient city is very impressive and the palace compound, although not as extensively restored as the compound of Knossos, offers a detailed insight of the everyday life of such a historically remote period. According to mythology the king of Phaestos was Radamanthis brother of king Minos of Knossos, and superior judge of the underworld.
Stop off in the fishing village of Kokkinos Pyrgos for lunch and enjoy local specialties – or freshly caught seafood at the sea front restaurant of Kokkinos Pyrgos.
After lunch you will head back to your hotel and head to the kitchen for your first cooking class. Tonight’s hands-on class is based on a variety of vegetables and minced meat with prep techniques that transforms basic ingredients into a full table of colour, flavours, variety and richness. Moussakas, Aubergines Papoutsakia, fried vegetables in tomato sauce, smoked eggplant and Pastitsio (the Greek Version of Mac and Cheese).
After the class sit down as a group and enjoy the meal you have learned to cook accompanied by local wine.
DAY THREE - TUESDAY
The Arkadi Monastery, City of Rethymnon and Waters of Argyroupolis
After a rich breakfast, you will enjoy a slow drive through the vineyards and the small villages of the region. You will visit the 16th century monastery of Arkadi, the small village of Margarites popular for the ceramics they produce, and the city of Rethymnon where every street will take you on a journey through history. Venetian and Turkish buildings have become small restaurants, cafés and shops. Your walk down the narrow streets will take you to small tourists’ shops and coffee houses where you can mingle with locals. A slow drive to the Water
of Argyroupolis where lunch will be served with a variety of Cretan vegetable and cheese specialties and an abundance of grilled meats.
After lunch, a slow drive back to the lodge and get prepared for the second cooking class. This hands-on class will take you through the process of making stuffed tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, and aubergines…as well as Dolmadakia (little stuffed wraps) with vine leaves, sorrels or pumpkin flowers. These all will be enjoyed as our dinner and will be accompanied with copious amounts of pure, homemade local wine and raki.
DAY FOUR - WEDNESDAY
The Caves of Matala, the Monastery of Odigitrias, Lunch with Locals and the Seafood Evening
Breakfast, followed by a slow drive to the monastery of Odigitrias or Xopateras. Rich history back to the Turkish occupation. Center of revolutionary against conquerors - beautiful frescoes. Next we stop at the beach and caves of Matala which has by far the best-known beach in Heraklion province. These are believed to be ancient tombs first used by Romans or early Christians to more recently inhabited by a sizeable hippie community. Modern artists such as Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, and Joni Mitchell, among others.
Lunch in Matala at sea front restaurant with local specialties. On the way back we buy fresh fish and seafood that will be for our cooking class and dinner featuring fish soup with rice in egg and lemon, the famous KAKAVIA (fisherman fish soup), fish with tomato and onion sauce baked in the oven, shrimps “saganaki” in tomato sauce, wine and feta cheese and cuttlefish in pot with fennel or octopus stew in tomato and onions are a few of the cooking menu items to create a delicious dinner to enjoy with the other guests and will be accompanied with copious amounts of pure, homemade local wine and raki.
DAY FIVE - THURSDAY
The Lake of Zaros, small wineries, raki making and joining lunch with locals, Beehives and Art pastry at the women cooperative of Marathos village
After a rich breakfast, we drive north direction the lake of Zaros, a beautiful environment. Have a coffee break and drive east north to Dafnes, a village near Heraklion. We visit small well known family wineries, and depending on the season we may have the chance to see the way they produce the Cretan Raki. We taste Raki and home made unique wines and spend a few hours with the locals. Visit with them on their daily life and try various home made plates.
After lunch drive north west to a place 20 km away from the city of Heraklion; beautiful virgin nature is the perfect pasture for bees. Old traditional bee keeping methods ensure ecological, clean and free from any additives honey and other bee products. First honey of the season is collected from spring thyme blossoms. This golden yellow honey is the perfect source of nature’s ingredients. We do a short hike and reach the place where the bees are located. Later on, we walk down a small local café / restaurant run by the owners since 1949. The owners (two brothers) have been beekeepers their entire lifetime taking the business from their father. Therefore, we taste honeycombs straight from the beehive and learn everything about bees and beekeeping as well as having a kind of pancake that we call –tiganites – deep in honey and small cheese pies with honey with local wine and the Cretan snap – Raki. You will definitely feel the positive effect to your body and soul.
A visit to a women cooperative at the nearby village of Marathos where they make the very special – unique art pastry small and bigger round breads – called XOMPLIASTO KOULOURI – and drive back to the hotel.
Get ready for the last cooking class which is Pork bites in tomato sauce in the oven with orzo, and Drunken Pork bites cooked in wine and oregano are wonderful appetizers paired with Raki. Boneless pork with celery and egg and lemon sauce, oven baked pork or Lamb with potatoes called pseeto, Cretan sausages in tomato sauce and chilli type hot Cretan peppers also on the menu.
Dinner will be accompanied with copious amounts of pure, homemade local wines.
DAY SIX - FRIDAY
Knossos, Walking Heraklion and Goodbye Dinner
Today we visit the palace of Knossos. When visiting the island of Crete someone must see the ancient palace of Knossos, built 3500 years ago. After the visit of Knossos we drive to Heraklion. A walk in the heart of the city of Heraklion with stops at small shops, tasting special cheeses with a shot of raki and having lunch at a small Mezedopolion is a wonderful way to round out your week on the Island of Crete. We will walk the streets of the city and meet nutritional wanderings elevating the palate to heaven!! We will explore unique tastes on this walking tour of Heraklion and see the real daily lifestyle of the people who live in Heraklion. The day will start from the best small pastry shop in the city. Gloria: Artistic feeling + imagination + pure fresh ingredients = fascinating for your palate. We taste the “Galatoboureko” milk cream and filo pastry in syrup and “trigono” cheese cream and filo pastry in syrup. Incredible taste!!
Walk down town to the heart of the city and come to the PLATIA KORNAROU where we drink a cup of Greek coffee the traditional way cooked in hot sand. Walk the central market and stop for an OUZO with MEZE (Small bites accompanies the spirit) at one of the traditional Mezedopolion in the street. We will be part of the people walking / talking / arguing. Visit the cathedral of the city Saint Minas, and then the Morozini fountain at the heart of the city, the Venetian church of Saint Marcos / now gallery, the church of Saint Titus. Then we walk down towards the sea side of the city where we go for a light Cretan style slow food lunch with a variety of dishes accompanied with cold white wine or retsina. We end our walk after lunch visiting and tasting the famous “loukoumades” Cretan style doughnuts sprinkled with honey and sesame.
Tonight our dinner will be prepared by the owners. We will have the opportunity to sample a large variety of specialties (called mezedes) accompanied by the Cretan snap RAKI. Time to compare their dishes to those you have learned during the week. You have explored a new region of the world filled with some of the best food you have ever tasted and made new friends – what more could one ask?
DAY SEVEN - SATURDAY
After a restful sleep, transportation will be provided for you to meet your departing flight.
A minimum of 2 participants is required to run this tour and the tour is limited to a maximum of 8 participants.
(The number of participants refers to how many persons are required to run the tour, not to how many persons you must have in your party. Please inquire.)
HOW TO ARRIVE
The closest airport is the Heraklion Airport, which is about a one hour ten minutes to the accommodation.
*Pricing may vary depending on market fluctuation
After availability is confirmed, a 50% per person deposit and the completed and submitted registration form will secure your reservation. Final payment in cash is due upon arrival.
*Six (6) nights' accommodation
*Return transfers to/from Heraklion airport
*A welcome drink and snack on arrival at the airport
*Cretan cookery lessons on day 2, 3, 4 and 5
*A visit to archaeological sites of Gortys, Phaestos and Knossos (guiding/entrance fees are extra)
*A visit to the women’s co-operative of Marathos
*A visit to the monasteries of Arkadi and Odigitrias
*A visit to Argyroupolis natural springs and Matala caves and Zaros Lake
*A gastronomic walking tour of Heraklion
*A visit to local bee-keeping honey producers and tasting of produce
*A visit to local wineries and tasting of wine and raki
*All transport to and from the excursions
*All cooking materials and ingredients
*Breakfast each morning
*Lunch on days 2-6
*Dinner accompanied by bottled table water, local wine and raki every night
Airfare, train tickets, personal expenses and optional tour suggestions are not included – please inquire about cost of optional tours
For further inquiries or to register, click here.
Please contact us for cancellation policy information. Travel insurance is highly recommended.
Pauline B, Boulder, Colorado"Truly exceptional everything!"
Kimberly A., Nevada City, California"The AGH experience was exactly what I hope for in a cooking adventure! Not only was the sign up easy, but there was a proper amount of interaction prior to the trip. At no time was I concerned that my trip wasn't going to go as planned. Once I arrived, my guide was both professional and friendly. He was very welcoming and made the experience one that I will always remember. Not only did we cook and eat (a lot!), but the guide introduced me to the culture of Crete. I appreciated that I didn't feel like I was on a "tour" but able to learn about the Cretan culture in a very organic and spontaneous way."
This exciting region is depicted below. You can also access Google MapsTM by clicking HERE.
*In some cases mapping may give clients a general sense of location due to changes in venue. Please inquire about specific location.