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 vacation takes place in a fine stone-built country manor of 1750, which is classified as historical. It has been preserved for its traditional architectural structure, typical of the Cretan design stemming from prehistoric Minoan mansions. 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 beautiful 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 airport of Heraklion you will be met by your personal English speaking driver and host with welcome refreshment. Within minutes you realize that you have been transported to another time – you need only relax and soak in the experience. You will be treated to Greek coffee and a Cretan traditional Mediterranean meal with a variety of dishes, and then later driven west to the Lodge. It is a 70 minute drive, and if you have arrived mid-day, you will also enjoy home-made Cretan food. You can even join in the meal preparation if you wish, or just relax and have it all done for you. The flavours and freshness of the picture perfect variety of foods are a wonderful welcome to the Island of Crete.
DAY TWO - MONDAY
Region of Chania Culinary Tour
After a full breakfast buffet consisting of fresh pastry, fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs and cheese, you will depart with George who is knowledgeable of Crete, her history and allure. The town market of Chania dating back to the 1900’s is a cross-shaped gallery that houses over 65 food stores, presenting fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, breads, legumes and anything else you may want such as cafés, restaurants and shopping. Lunch will be in Spaltzia (Turkish quarter during the Turkish occupation) at an old harbour restaurant featuring a variety of local specialties. On the way back to the lodge, there is a stop to buy fresh seafood for the evening cooking class, and also a stop to buy the famous bread of Georgioupolis made in the same method for the last 150 years with its unique smoked taste.
The “Seafood Evening” Cooking Class
The evening will feature your first hands-on cooking class based on the fish and seafood that was purchased earlier in the day. Fish soup with rice in egg and lemon, the famous KAKAVIA (fisherman fish soup), fish with tomato and onion sauce baked in the oven, fresh fish grilled and fried are a few of the cooking menu items. A basic feature of the Cretan diet is the large consumption of vegetables. On average Cretans are at the top of the scale in terms of vegetable consumption. In fact, they consume three times the amount of vegetables than Europeans! That too is a part of their secret for a long and healthy life. A delicious dinner will be enjoyed that your own hands helped prepare. Lots of pure homemade local wine is served with dinner meals
DAY THREE - TUESDAY
The Arkadi Monastery, City of Rethymnon, Argyroupolis Natural Springs, Second Cooking Class
After breakfast, take a drive through the vineyards and small villages of the Rethymnon region. Visit the 16th century monastery of Arkadi. Next you’ll visit the city a Rethymnon, a city steeped in history and an attractive place to wander through its narrow streets and marvel at Venetian and Turkish architecture that house its restaurants, cafes and shops. After browsing the shops and a coffee break where you can mingle with the locals, you’ll drive to the natural springs of Argyroupolis a site boasting attractive cascades and an idyllic setting for lunch where you’ll enjoy Cretan vegetable and cheese specialties.
After lunch you’ll return to your accommodation and prepare for your second cooking class with George, this time focusing on a variety of vegetables and minced meat. After the class you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labour with the group along with some raki and local wine.
Cretan Heritage Cooking Class
You now find yourself in the heart of the Cretan kitchen. Cretans feel the urge to share their secrets of life with the world. Besides their history and culture, you will share their prized heritage known as the Cretan Diet. Local producers warrant that all Cretan products are pure, without chemical substances or other preservatives and additives. These products, being a part of century old tradition, are treated with the same respect as that afforded to them by their ancestors. 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, variety and richness. Moussaka, Aubergines Papoutsakia, fried vegetables in tomato sauce, smoked eggplant and Pastitsio, with vegan and vegetarian options being in abundance. As always, local wine will complement your meal and enhance your evening.
DAY FOUR - WEDNESDAY
South Central Crete: Culture, Food and History
Explore south-central Crete, visit to archaeological sites of Gortys, and Phaestos, Kokkinos Pyrgos village and 3rd cooking lesson. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading out to explore the south-central part of the island with your host George.
Today you’ll visit Gortys, the ruined capital city of the Roman province which included the island of Crete. You’ll see the impressive amphitheatre and the Basilica of St Titus before driving west to the archaeological site of Phaestos, the second most significant site of the Minoan civilization. Phaestos is an ancient palace and you’ll also see the site of the ancient city which offers a detailed insight into ancient life. Stop off in the fishing village of Kokkinos Pyrgos for lunch and enjoy local specialties or freshly caught seafood. After lunch you’ll head back to the Kouriton House and head to the kitchen for your 3rd cooking class. This evening’s hands-on class focuses on local meats and casseroles and George will teach you preparation techniques that transform basic ingredients into the stars of the table, full of richness colour and flavour. After the class sit down and enjoy the meal you’ve learned to cook accompanied by local wine.
Local Meats and Casseroles Cooking Class
Preparation is the key to the variety of dishes that will be created. Time spent in slicing, dicing, chopping and peeling enables the assembly of various dishes in record time. Pork bites in tomato sauce, and Drunken Pork bites cooked in wine and oregano are wonderful appetizers paired with Raki (an alcoholic drink that is made from the grape peel, after the wine has been produced). Boneless pork with celery and egg and lemon sauce, oven baked lamb with potatoes, Free-range lamb tsigariasto and lamb fricassee are also on the menu.
Dinner will be accompanied with copious amounts of pure, homemade local wines. Viniculture is a 4000 year old practice on the island of Crete.
DAY FIVE - THURSDAY
Central Crete: Forgotten Monastery, Art Pastry Women’s Cooperatives Work Shop, Honey Bees and Wine Tasting – Sweets Tasting, Honey Tasting, Distillery Visit
After your buffet breakfast your tour will start in the direction of Heraklion driving the side roads to Heraklion. First break you visit one almost forgotten monastery, and a church with beautiful frescoes. Keep driving to the village of Marathos where we visit the women cooperative work shop at the village of Marathos where they make the very special (unique art pastry small and bigger round breads), we call them “Xompliasto Koulouri” and big variety traditional hand made cookies and sweets. Next stop the little café of Doxa. The place is 20 km far from the city of Heraklion and 50 km from our accommodation; Beautiful untouched nature is a 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 a perfect source of nature’s ingredients.
We take a break at this small local café / restaurant run by the bee-keepers since 1949. The owners (two brothers) have been beekeepers since all their 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 pancakes we call them “tiganites”, deep in honey and small cheese pies with honey in company with local wine and the Cretan snap, Raki. You will definitely feel the positive effect to your body and soul.
A slow drive to the village of Sivas where we visit one of the best small family wineries providing organic wines. Spend some time there tasting a variety of wines. Ending the visit break for lunch tasting the “street foods” of Greece like gyros pita and souvlaki pita. Drive back to the hotel and get prepared for our last cooking class.
Cooking Class Featuring Stuffed Vegetables, Vine Leaves and Olive Oils
It is believed that the secret for a long and healthy life lies in olive oil, the principle ingredient in the Cretan diet. Past and present research conducted in the US and Europe supports the view that olive oil not only shields the human heart from disease, but also increases healthy operation of other organs by reducing cholesterol. Olive oil is an important ingredient in all dishes on the dinner menu. 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 can be enjoyed as a meze or main course. At the conclusion of your Cretan holiday, you will be armed with a full assortment of Greek recipes that are easy to reproduce back home. Friends and family will be so impressed!
DAY SIX - FRIDAY
Knossos, Foodie Tour of Heraklion City and Farewell Dinner
After breakfast, today’s excursion takes you to Knossos, an ancient palace and "must-see" archaeological site of Crete. After visiting the 3500 year old site of Knossos, you’ll head to Heraklion and take a walk through the city taking a gastronomic tour of all the best local food places and vendors. You’ll visit the best pastry shop in the city and sample filo pastries in syrups, with cheeses before heading to a coffee shop and tasting coffee roasted the traditional way in hot sand. Next you’ll explore the central market and stop for an ouzo with meze at one of the traditional Mezedopolion (restaurants). You’ll also have the opportunity to see the cathedral of Saint Minas, the Morozini fountain, Venetian church turned art gallery before heading towards the seaside. A light lunch will be served accompanied by chilled white wine before ending your gastronomic walking tour to taste the famous loukoumades, Cretan style doughnuts sprinkled with honey and sesame.
After the walking tour, you’ll head back to your accommodation to relax before a farewell dinner which tonight is your day off from cooking and a chance to enjoy a meal cooked by the lady of the house. Dinner is a chance to sample yet more local dishes and compare them to the dishes you’ve learned during the week and discuss the sites, tastes and sounds of your holiday with new friends over wine and the Cretan Raki.
DAY SEVEN - SATURDAY
After a leisurely breakfast guests are asked to check-out of their rooms and be ready to be taken back to the airport taking home with them an insight into Cretan life, new friendships and unique culinary and cultural memories that will stay with them long after the holiday is over.
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 and ten minutes to the accommodation which is 40 miles west of Heraklion.
*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.
Available year round - Sunday to Saturday
*Six (6) nights at a historic house
*Arrival, Greeting and Traditional Cretan Dinner
*Region of Chania Culinary Tour
*The “Seafood Evening” Cooking Class
*The Monastery of Arkadi, the City of Rethymnon walking tour and the waters of Argyroupolis
*Cretan Heritage Cooking Class
*South Central Crete: Culture, Food and History
*Local Meats and Casseroles Cooking Class
*Central Crete: Forgotten Monastery, Women cooperative workshop, honey tasting and wine tasting
*Cooking Class Featuring Stuffed Vegetables, Vine Leaves and Olive Oils
*Knossos, Heraklion walking culinary tour
Airfare, ferry/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.