Carole L Heiman-Kezios

Greece Travel Specialist

The Flavors of Santorini and Crete


This mini island-hopping itinerary visits two Greek island gems. You'll start in where we think every first timer to Greece should start: the stunning island of Santorini, famous for it's whitewashed cliff-side villages and it's romantic sunsets. It's the perfect place to relax and acclimate from your transatlantic journey.  From there, you'll ferry to Crete, the largest of the Greek islands and home of ancient Minoan palaces and striking landscapes like canyons, gorges, mountains, and beautiful beaches. It's also the breadbasket of Greece, and you'll have a chance to learn why farm to table isn't a fad here, but a way of life passed on through the generations.  


7 nights accommodations
All breakfasts, 4 lunches and 2 dinners as specified (lunches & dinners are part of excursions or activities)
All activities (boat trips, cooking classes, wine tastings)
Admission to all archaeological sites included in the itinerary
Wines as mentioned in the itinerary.
Services of English-speaking, professional licensed guides (or experts where noted)
Private, air-conditioned vehicle with wi-fi hotspot and professional driver
All ferry transportation as specified
All land transportation as specified
Domestic flight Chania to Athens
Gratuities at restaurants where included in the itinerary


International air
Gratuities for your private guides
Meals and alcoholic beverages not specified in the itinerary
Entrance fees to national parks (Spinolanga & Samaria)
Any items for personal use
Passport and visa fees
Travel insurance (recommended and can be arranged)

Monday - Santorini

Meet and greet at the Santorini airport

Your journey begins in Santorini. Arrival transfer information will be finalized once inbound flights are arranged. The price includes your arrival transfer but not your flights. 

Check in at Heliotopos Hotel

Heliotopos' studios and suites are located at the top of the Caldera in the centrally located village of Imergovigli.  We love the location since they entrance is right at the main path, so while you can't avoid stairs if you want the best views, here you'll minimize your trek. 

Their cave studios are traditional and cozy, with little balconies from which to enjoy the breathtaking views. 

Each room has individual layout and size and is decorated with original paintings, embroidery and objects of art. The photos that follow are examples of each room category.

Each suite and studio is exclusively private and feature a private balcony.

**This hotel, like most of the best positioned hotels on the Caldera, has stairs, lots of them. 

Welcome drinks & sunset and dinner at The Wine Bar

The Wine Bar, conveniently located in the hotel, offers breathtaking sunset views along with a great selection of cocktails, wines as well as dinner. The menu changes seasonally, but always includes a selection of both Mediterranean and traditional Greek items.  And the wine list? Lots of Santorini wines, of course!

Tuesday - Santorini

Breakfast on the Caldera

The breakfasts at Heliotopos are truly unique. A lavish buffet including a selection of home-made specialties – hot and cold – and freshly baked bread are included in this meal that begins your day. Our cook prepares a different Greek pie and a cake every day. Homemade marmalades and cookies, fresh orange juice and all kind of coffees are also part of our unique buffet breakfast. We aim for a low in fat, low in cholesterol, not too sweet, healthy, and very tasty meal.

Our breakfast is suitable for vegetarians, but please let us know in advance if you have any further dietary restrictions.

Trails of History & Wine: Ancient Akrotiri and Santorini Wineries Tour

This morning we'll explore the history of Santorini at the lost city of Akrotiri, the most impressive prehistoric site all over the Aegean.
Unfold the nearly-lost history of the ash-covered Bronze-Age city, dating back from the antiquity.

Then, we'll spend our afternoon sipping crisp Santorini volcanic wine during visits to 3 traditional wineries all acclaimed by international experts.

We'll sample a selection of 12 different Santorini wine styles served alongside local cheese and snacks and reveal a 4,000 year wine-making history.


  • In-depth history and wine tour led by a Greek archaeologist and a master sommelier.
  • Discover the fabled city of Akrotiri, lost for centuries underneath Santorini's volcanic ash.
  • We'll learn the fascinating history of Akrotiri as our guide uncovers the links between Plato's "Atlantis" and the ash-covered prehistoric town of Akrotiri.
  • Visit three acclaimed wineries at the pictuersque Santorini’s countryside
  • Try up to 12 varietals of Santorini wine such as Assyrtiko, Nykteri and Vinsanto.
  • Enjoy a platter of local cheese and snacks to eat alongside wine-tastings.
  • Admire the charming landscape filled with scenic villages and rolling hills.

Free evening to explore & dine on your own

Wednesday - Santorini - Ag. Nikolaos

Breakfast on the Caldera

Morning visit to Oia & hike back to Imerovigli

This morning we'll rise early to head to the charming and most photographed spot on the island - Oia (pronounced "Ee-Ah" not "Aw-Ya"). If we're early enough we'll miss the cruiseship daytrippers and have a chance to explore it's narrow paths and breathtaking views.  We'll leave Oia and head along the Caldera path for the spectacular hike along the rim of the volcano. We'll leave in plenty of time to stop for photos, or snacks, or shopping, returning to Imerovigli in time for our afternoon departure. Those who wish to relax and not walk are free to stay in Oia and explore and return at leisure.

5:00 PM - Eastern European Time - Departure

Ferry to Crete (Heraklion)

Transfer & Check in Minos Beach Art Hotel

Minos Beach art hotel, a favorite of all those appreciating genuineness and authenticity, provides a luxurious stay in minimalist surroundings.

With its distinctive Cretan architecture, Minos Beach has gained its reputation for being small, stylish, with personal unobtrusive service and perfection of its fine cuisine.

To create this paradise, they chose the magical area of Agios Nikolaos, in the eastern part of Crete, only a ten-minute walk from the town center and one hour’s drive from the airport of Heraklion.

The Minos Beach art hotel’s main building was originally built in 1961 and was completely renovated in 2007 - maintaining the small sense of an island escape while adding a number of contemporary features, and an extensive collection of art from both Greek and foreign artists. Guests say it is the perfect blend as it maintains the feel of a small, quiet seaside resort with the amenities expected from its much larger neighbors - all within walking distance of the charming quiet harbor town of Agios Nikolaos (itself a perfect blend of traditional fishing village & modern small harbor, where locals and visitors enjoy the mix of tavernas, cafes and shops along the water. 

Outdoor Swimming Pool with fresh water (heated during April & October)

Thursday - Ag. Nikolaos

Breakfast at Minos Beach

A delightful, rich buffet breakfast can be enjoyed at the Bacchus main restaurant serving a variety of hot and cold dishes, American-style cooked breakfast dishes such as pancakes and a selection of Cretan dishes too.

Excursion to the Olive press & farm

This morning we embark on a trip both back in time and into the future. Back to a time when food was eaten near it's source, and "processing" meant running freshly picked olives through a traditional manual press. We'll visit some goats and hope they'll cooperate with us so we can learn to prepare (and eat!) fresh goat cheese. And then to our future, where we gain the skills to impress friends and family back home with our newfound culinary skills: we'll settle around the country kitchen table, aprons on, as the farm chef leads us in a truly hands on cooking class followed by lunch.

Afternoon trip to Spinolonga Island

After lunch we'll drive along the coast to the little village of Plaka across the bay from Spinolonga island. 

A short journey across the clear blue waters we'll reach the tiny island of Spinalonga. With its amazingly rich history, Spinalonga is a truly magical place.
Due to its strategic location at the entrance to Elounda Bay, the Venetians created a fortified stronghold on Spinalonga - ‘The Rock’ - in the 16th Century AD. This fort protected East Crete from invasion by pirates and its extremely strong walls, even after so many cannon ball strikes, stand proud to this day. In the middle of the 17th century Spinalonga was attacked and conquered by the Turkish Ottoman Empire and remained a Turkish stronghold until the liberation of Crete in 1821.
In 1903, historical circumstances gave Spinalonga another role, that of Leper colony. For more than half a century the unfortunate ‘living dead’ were taken to live out their lives in an isolated community upon Spinalonga. The village with its tiny houses, shops, church, workshops and sanitorium still stands today. British author Victoria Hislop has immortalised the heartbreaking story of the lepers in her internationally acclaimed book ‘The Island’ and the story, based on true fact, has now been made into a film using Elounda. and the village of Plaka across the water as its setting. *A professional tour guide will escort you onto the island and you will hear all about the long history of this fascinating place. Close your eyes and imagine, listen to the sea and taste the salt water on your lips and you will be transported back in time in an experience you will never forget.

Free evening to explore Agios Nikolaos

Tonight enjoy a walk into the charming harbor town, dinner at one of the many seaside tavernas, or join escorts Carole and Basil for dinner at our favorite foodie spot.

Friday - Ag. Nikolaos to Chania

Breakfast at Minos Beach

Knossos Palace and archeological site private tour

Let us take you back 4,000 years in time! To the world famous Minoan Palace at Knossos, the home of the legendary King Minos who gave his name to Europe’s oldest civilization. According to Greek mythology, the monstrous Minotaur – half man, half bull – lived at Knossos and fed on human flesh and bone. He was eventually slaved by the brave and mighty Athenian prince, Theseus, within the hidden Labyrinth. Parts of the ancient Palace have been excavated and reconstructed by the British archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans, and today one can get a clear understanding of the function of the Palace and its complicated and mystical Labyrinth. Led by your experienced guide, you will visit the Throne Room, the Royal Apartments, the Central
Courtyard with its shrines and other fascinating areas within the Palace and you will learn the history and myths surrounding this wondrous and most interesting site.
Continue to Heraklion city and optionally visit the famous Archaeological Museum, one of the largest and most important museums in Greece, and among the most important museums in Europe. It houses representative artifacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,500 years from the Neolithic period to Roman times. The singularly important Minoan collection contains unique examples of Minoan art, many of them true masterpieces.
After you have explored the Archaeological Museum, our guide lead us on a short orientation through the historical center of Heraklion and a stop at the Archaeological Museum.

Optional Lunch at Avli Creative Cuisine or lunch on your own

  • Pending

Located in the heart of the old town of Rethymno, Avli has been a driving force in Cretan gastronomy for over 30 years. 

The setting, a beautiful collection of 16th century Venetian buildings lovingly restored by the owner and her architect husband. The food, an eclectic mix of fusion, Greek inspired dishes which can be paired with the perfect wine from their massive collection (wander around the building to have a view into their cava). 

Our favorite dish is the kataifi wrapped eggplant - often a surprise to dinners used to kataifi being used only in desserts. Another favorite is the braised octopus (actually sous vide) on a bed of roasted eggplant puree topped with Greek saffron. 

I'm pretty sure you can't go wrong with anything on the menu here. And the setting, in a courtyard garden (from where "Avli" takes it's name, it's Greek for courtyard) is magical, and the service friendly and unpretentious. 

**Carole & Basil's favorite dining spot in Rethymnon - any and everyone is welcome to come along

Rethymnon exploration

After lunch we'll head over to learn the secret behind those fine threads which wrap both sweet and savory Greek sweets. We'll visit a local baker who has been supplying them to cooks throughout Greece long enough that he's now joined by both his son and his grandson in the business. If we're lucky we'll have a chance to watch the master hand stretch massive sheets of filo, the delicate wrapping for everything from baklava to cheese pies. 

Check in at Domus Renier, Chania

Domus Renier Boutique Hotel in Chania is a dream every visitor of the city would love to live. It constitutes a part of Chania’s Venetian period history, closely linked to some of its protagonists: the Reniers, one of Venice’s leading noble families, who lived in this building.

The main building of the Renier Townhouse, once dominating the Venetian Harbour, has today become Domus Renier Boutique Hotel Chania. An architectural gem that, after many decades of silence, stands again glorious in the most central point of the old town of Chania.

Sea view luxury boutique hotel in Chania harbour
Domus Renier Boutique Hotel is a small yet impressive luxury boutique hotel in Chania, Crete. It consists of 9 rooms and suites, all different from one another, most with a sea view of Chania harbour and the Egyptian Lighthouse. All rooms and suites are furnished with specially designed furniture and decorated with unique articles. Some include adorned ceilings, a testament to the Cretan Renaissance period of the building. Each and every one is equipped with comfort, luxury and modern technology in mind.

In Domus Renier Boutique Hotel in Chania, Crete time acquires new meaning. Don’t feel surprised if, while contemplating the lighthouse, you catch yourself waiting for the ship from the Serenissima to appear on the horizon.

Etz Hayyim Synagogue - Kabbalat Shabbat Service (Optional)

There is no longer a Jewish community in Chania, yet the synagogue has a Havurah, a circle of friends, who act as caretakers of the synagogue as a place of prayer and convocation. It's a mix of observant, conservative, reform, reconstructionist or secularised Jews; others are Christians and some are Muslims. What binds the members of the Havurah together is a sense of the need for community and sharing of a common pursuit as opposed to the consumer oriented, ecologically indifferent and valueless society that by necessity we are also a part of.  

They hold a service most Fridays (it is very short, 45 minutes), as well as over the high holidays. Everyone, Jewish or not, is welcome. It is often a mix of Jewish visitors or volunteers, and locals - often Christian, who make the minyan at this now lovingly cared for once thriving sacred space.

Kabbalat Shabbat

The time listed is our local candle lighting time. Candle lighting is followed by Kabbalat Shabbat Service, which lasts ca. 45 minutes. Everybody is welcome.

Please ask me or contact the Synagogue Office for further questions and arrangements. As is customary throughout the various Jewish communities in Greece, you will be asked to provide a copy of your passport in advance of your visit. 

Saturday - Chania

Breakfast at Domus Renier

Our Chania home, was once the elegant former home of the Reniers, one of Venice's leading noble families. Solidly built it's renovation left much of the stately main floor's original footprint. Alas, no grand dining space here - and good for us that is! It means breakfast is a mix of made to order and small plates of local specialties delivered to each table. Dense, rich full fat Greek yogurt, a side of thick sweet local honey, homemade "kalitsounia" wrapped with a perfect filo and stuffed with a savory cheese. Homemade breads served with eggs prepared to order and coffee is served with frothed milk on request. Breakfast here lets me start the day feeling a part of the noble Renier family!

The villages of western Crete ...

  • VV

Today we'll head out of Chania and up into the foothills. Our route will take us to one of our favorite Cretan villages to learn how the locals have restored a once almost "dead" village through agrotourism. 

We'll visit the ‘Fabrica', an old olive press dating from 1846 with Venetian arches and large millstones in the center. From here we'll head off to visit a local olive oil producer and we'll have a chance to learn correct olive oil tasting methods (and what the different tastes really mean!),  see the more modern extraction methods as well as see and sample that various other products being created with olive oil.

Dourakis Winery

After our morning of olive oil, we'll head further inland to meet the Cretan vitner, Andreas Dourakis, who has an amazing personality and a great story. The winery itself is a lovely traditional setting, with its stone cava (cave) where barrels are aged, and it's amazing gardens, where I finally had the chance to experience a tomato like the first tomato I ate in Crete 30 years ago. Rich with flavors I did not know were the real taste of a tomato (growing up in the Chicago suburbs I actually never liked tomatoes! and then I came to Crete to discover I just did not know what a tomato was supposed to taste like!)

Today we'll learn about how Andreas came to winemaking, tour the wine cellar and we'll taste a selection of his (and Basil's!) favorites along with lunch in the garden.

Free evening in Chania

Tomorrow is an early day for those hiking the gorge.  

Sunday - Chania

Breakfast at Domus Renier

Today we'll take breakfast boxes and picnic in the gorge.

Two options for today ...

  1. Samaria Gorge hike
  2. Excursion to Balos or Elafonisos beach

Hike the Samaria Gorge

The Samaria Gorge is the longest and one of the most imposing gorges in Europe. Perhaps the most popular hiking path in Greece runs through the gorge - 18 km long and as slim as 10 feet wide at its narrowest (at a point aptly named "iron doors". 

The walk down the gorge begins at "Xiloskalo", in Omalós (at an altitude of 1.200 metres) usually, quite early in the morning, since it requires 4-8 hours, depending on the walking pace. 

It's a beautiful, not too hard walk - full of gifts of nature along the way. Depending on the time of year you may pass springs, pools and impressive large rocks lying in the watercourse, as well as numerous trees, such as plane trees, pines and cypresses. Trees and deciduous oaks rooted on the highest cliffs, ineffable scents of herbs and an occasional Cretan wild goat (kri-kri) climbing on a steep slope make this gorge unforgettable. 

The path ends at the warm waters of the Libyan sea, where weary hikers can take a refeshing dip before boarding the boat to Loutro, Chora Sfakion, Sougia or Paleochora. (There is no road to the village at the end of the gorge, so the boat takes you to the nearest accessible village, where your driver or a bus await to transfer you back to your accommodation.

** Important notes:

Entrance fee

To enter the Gorge of Samaria there is an entrance fee that costs five (5) euros. Children under 15 years old have a free pass. The entrance fee is the same regardless you wish to enter the Gorge only for a few kilometers or for the entire route.

Note: It is important to keep your ticket in order to be checked at the exit. This is done for the safety of the visitors, since the Park rangers will know how many people have entered and exited the Gorge.

Boat from Agia Romelli to Chora Sfakion

At the end of the gorge we'll take one of several boats in the afternoon - 4:30 pm (might be 4:15 pm, check the schedule when you arrive), 5:30 pm and the last one at 6:30 pm to Chora Sfakion, where our driver will be waiting to take us back to Chania for the night.

Excursion to Elafonisos

This is your chance to visit one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Elafonisos is truly a heaven on earth, with soft white/pink sand, exotic crystal-clear water and cedar trees that extend down to the coastline. It is located in the easily accessible, south-western side of Crete.

En route to Elafonisos we'll pass several small traditional villages as well as the rugged landscape around the Topolia Gorge. Once you have reached Elafonisos, we'll have 3-4 hours of free time to soak in the amazing sun and enjoy the spectrum of shades of blue that this beach has to offer.  We'll head back to Chania in the late afternoon.

Farewell to Chania dinner

You'll have tonight to wander the cobblestone strrets of Chania as you say farewell to Greece. We'll recommend dinner at a popular, but tucked away Sfakian taverna just off of the old harbor.  Chrisostomos celebrates the Cretan diet by sourcing local, seasonal fruits & vegetables, dairy and legumes. 

Monday - Travel to Athens

Breakfast at Domus Renier

Transfer to Chania airport for flight to Athens

Well nourished and with a new appreciation of the foods and flavors of Greece, you'll head to the Chania airport for your flight to Athens. We'll arrive at the Athens airport to meet your outbound international flight or be met by your driver to continue on to explore Athens and the Greek mainland.

Information & Documents

This looks fantastic! I am ready to book!