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Slow Cycling in Crete

Cretan Heartlands | Classic

Crete is the jewel in the Aegean's crown. A remarkable island of mountains, gorges, rolling hills and dramatic coastline, it is also home to some of the most fiercely passionate musicians and storytellers in Greece.

Cycling in Crete offers a chance to truly immerse yourself in its traditional island culture. There are countless reminders of its rich history dating back to Europe’s earliest civilization, the Minoans, but also taking in the Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Byzantines, Venetians and Turks. Most visitors to the island stick firmly to the beaches but it is their loss, as the slow traveller comes to understand why Cretans are bound with such passion to their island.

When to go

Apr - Oct

Price from

£2,995

What's included?

From the moment you touch down in Crete, everything is included so that while you are with us you can forget about your wallet, relax and enjoy your time on the island.

Duration

5-6 nights

Scheduled Journeys

Travel Privately

Journey highlights

  • Feel the mythical presence of mighty Mount Ida (Psiloritis) as you cycle the undiscovered Amari valley.
  • Eat, drink and dance with the islanders who open their homes to us with typically Cretan generosity.
  • Walk through the beautiful Rouvas Gorge, full of streams, cascades and lush vegetation.
  • Dance the night away to Cretan folk music overlooking the Libyan Sea.
  • Stand with the goats and sheep after cycling to the top of the breathtaking Asterousia Mountains.
  • Meet local artisans, truffle hunters, beekeepers and musicians still practising a slow, traditional way of life.
Cretan Coastline explored by the Slow Cyclist
Guest house bath in Crete
ON THE MOVE

We start our journey in fertile rolling hills of the north, amid charming villages brimming with local artisans and monasteries sacred to Cretans. As we follow the island's contours we always have Psiloritis, or Mount Ida, birthplace of Zeus, to provide context.

Heading south, the remote and largely deserted Amari Valley is particularly special, as is the spring town of Zaros. As we climb into the wild Asterousia Mountains we enter another world. Here vultures ride the thermals above stark mountains, the southernmost in Europe, which plunge into the Libyan sea at the end of our journey.

The cycling is a mix of tracks and quiet backroads, taking in the undulating countryside but with a steeper climb on the last day. There are two walks, each between 2-3 hours. These are not too technical, although they do require sturdy walking boots.

 

The Slow Cyclists Matthew Banks
JOURNEY DESIGNER Matthew says:

The highlight of any time I spend in the Cretan interior is always the people. Their sense of identity, their spirit, traditions and generosity, their lovingly prepared mountain food, their music and their raki.

A Slow Cyclist villa and swimming pool overlooking the Cretan coastline.

Cretan Heartlands

We designed our cycling holiday in Crete to be a 6-night immersion in this extraordinary island’s culture, history and people. Below is the itinerary, although it can easily be offered as a 5 night journey too, by omitting Day 2 below.
Day 1 - Arrival

Transfer 1 hour 30 minutes

After your flight to Crete you will be transferred to the quiet village of Thronos, our base for two nights. Here we find Eleftheria, Lambros and family who give us our first taste of warm Cretan hospitality. Their homely property, Aravanes, enjoys spectacular views at the head of the valley. If you arrive in the afternoon, options include relaxing by the pool with a mountain view or walking in the vicinity with Lambros to learn about the local flora. The hotel has an authentic local taverna where we will have dinner.

Day 2 - Northern Slopes
Morning cycle 20 kms – afternoon cycle 25 kms
 
Today, as we start to immerse ourselves in Cretan history and landscapes. We loop around the western and northern slopes of mighty mount Psiloritis. In one direction we climb up and over shepherds’ tracks between the central and northern valleys; at higher altitude the trees become hardier, the land rockier, the tracks redder. On the northern slopes we visit the artisan village of Margarites where we meet our local potter friends who are keeping alive traditions dating back to Minoan times. Then two major historical sites, 16th century Arkardi Monastery, a deeply significant place for Cretans with a tragic history, then the scattered ruins of the ancient city at Eleftherna, where we enjoy a short walk around the site to understand its Hellenic and Roman relevance. Returning to Thronos, we will again drink and dine in high spirits at Aravanes.
Day 3 - Thronos to Zaros
Morning cycle 40 kms – afternoon cycle 20 kms
 
We meander around the Amari valley’s quiet roads this morning, first to the village of Meronas and then beside a stream and through olive groves to the abandoned monastery at Asomaton. Skirting along the southern foothills of Psiloritis, we continue through rolling scenery, with goats and sheep for company, through numerous villages, one of which we stop at to enjoy a lesson in Cretan music by the talented Adonis. After a picnic lunch, Slow Cyclist style, we journey to the small town of Zaros. The gorgeous setting for our next two nights is a farm nestled alone in a small valley. The family owners have created a special environment that is true to their values of sustainability, quality craftsmanship, consideration for the land and gentle hospitality. There are no electric lights, just candlelight.
Day 4 - Rouvas Gorge

Afternoon walk 2-3 hours

 

In an open 4×4 we adventure into the heart of the Rouvas forest, on the slopes of Psiloritis above Zaros. We join Nikos, bursting with character and a passionate truffle hunter. Depending on the season, we will join him on a hunt with his Italian hunting dogs, after which he and his daughter will prepare a truffle lunch. If truffle hunting is not possible, Nikos will turn his infectious enthusiasm to his other passion: bees. After this feast, we will trek down the beautiful Rouvas gorge, full of streams, small cascades and lush vegetation, ending at Votomos lake. Before dinner back at the farm, we can help prepare the bread and raki before a fun evening of food and music with our family hosts.

Day 5 - Zaros to Kapetaniana

Morning cycle 40 kms – afternoon cycle 25 kms

 

This morning we leave behind the mythical mountains to drop into the Mesara plain, the largest and most fertile in Crete, hence its attraction to the ancient civilisations. With a guide, we visit the Minoan antiquities of Phaistos (dating back to around 2000 BC), which enjoy an impressive setting with panoramic views. Then we cycle along the undulations at the edge of the Mesara plain, through its agricultural villages which live off the endless olive groves, before an epic lunch at Maria’s taverna. Maria’s simple and delicious seasonal food is much needed to fuel us for our late afternoon winding climb into the Asterousia mountains. What a change and what a surprise! Breathtaking scenery, a very special guest house and a larger than life host await. Oh, and an infinity pool.

Day 6 - Asterousia Mountains, Africa beyond

Morning walk 2 hours – afternoon cycle 40 kms

An epic day and a fitting conclusion to our Cretan journey. By jeep we are driven down a steep dirt-road to the coast. From here we hike along a rocky path from the village of Ai Giannis, through a small forest, to the monastery of Koudoumas, one of the most important on the island. We pass beaches and caves where priests took refuge in medieval times. At the monastery, directly on the shoreline, we indulge in a picnic lunch and swim in the clear blue sea. In these parts, what goes steeply down must go steeply up. Mounting our electric bikes, we challenge ourselves for the climb up the sacred Kofinas mountain, vultures circling around its distinctive peak. As a reward (for succeeding or trying), Zeus-like Markos hosts us for dinner on his terrace, with music and dancing to celebrate the end of our journey.

Day 7 - Departure
Transfer time 1.5 hours
After breakfast we will transfer you to the airport for your onward journey.

Upcoming Scheduled Journeys

Cretan Heartlands
September 9, 2024
5 Nights
£2,995.00
HOW TO BOOK

There are two ways to travel with us. You can either travel on a set-date Scheduled Journey or put together your own private party.

MAKE NEW FRIENDS

Scheduled Journeys

A wonderful opportunity to explore Crete by bike, to meet like-minded travellers and make new friends in a group of Slow Cyclists assembled by us.

TRAVEL WITH FRIENDS

Private Journeys

If you’d like to experience a cycling holiday in Crete with a small group of family or friends, get in touch and we will help make it happen.

Enquire Now