Crete Yoga, Kayak and Hiking Retreat
Based on double occupancy. Single supplement applies.
8 Days, 7 Nights
Based on double occupancy. Single supplement applies.
-Andrea Hunter (2008)
Exhilaration and relaxation! What could be a better combination? Our unique Yoga, Hiking, and Kayaking adventure along the South Coast of Crete brings together the best of all worlds for a fun and rejuvenating vacation that is truly like no other.
Day 1: Our yoga adventure begins when we’ll greet you at the airport. Plan to arrive around 9:30-10:00 AM at the Nikos Kazantzakis Heraklion airport on the Greek island of Crete, a short flight or overnight ferry from Athens. We will then travel a short distance to Knossos, the ancient Minoan palace just outside of Heraklion. We will have a tour of Knossos followed by lunch at a neighboring taverna. From there, we will cross the island of Crete and arrive at Matala on the south coast. Tonight, we'll get to know each other over welcoming drinks, share a communal dinner, and review maps and the itinerary for the week to come. We'll have a chance to answer whatever questions you may have before we settle in for our first night's slumber. (D)
Day 2: We begin our day with a relaxing session of yoga on a large balcony of the family-owned inn, then, all limber, we’ll outfit everyone for kayaking and conduct an introductory clinic on the shore before paddling to Red Beach, a secluded spot just over the hill from Matala. There, we’ll have a chance to swim and relax on the beach, enjoying the local scenery, rock carvings, and customs - be aware that clothing is very optional at Red Beach - as well as a special ancient Minoan spa treatment. Depending on conditions, we may extend our kayaking to another beach north of Matala for a lunch stop, or we’ll return to Matala for lunch at your choice of seaside tavernas. Prior to lunch, there will be a chance for some swimming and some thrilling cliff-jumping for the most adventurous souls in the group. You'll have some free time before our afternoon yoga session. Tonight, we'll end the day with a beautiful sunset hike followed by dinner at our favorite taverna in Matala. (B,D)
Day 3: This morning, we’ll get a very early start and head to Festos, the Minoan palace ruins just outside of Matala. From there, we’ll drive to the start of the famed Samaria Gorge, Europe’s deepest gorge for a four-to-five hour hike. We will have a brief session of muscle-sparing stretches prior to entering the gorge itself. After our hike through this incredibly beautiful, unspoiled area, we’ll spend the night at the base of the gorge in the traditional town of Roumeli on the coast of the Libyan Sea. (B,D)
Day 4: We will start the day with a yoga session on the wide deck overlooking the sea. Today you have options: either relax your legs and spirit on the sunny beach, paddle to a pristine nearby beach, or hike up to two different Venetian fortresses overlooking the bay at Roumeli. Whatever you choose, we’re sure you’ll enjoy this charming town and the warm, welcoming small hotel where we stay. Once again, there will be another yoga session in the afternoon and a well-earned dinner will round out the day. (B,D)
Day 5: This morning begins with our morning yoga session on the deck. Then we’ll depart Roumeli and paddle along the coast to the small, beautiful seaside village of Loutro, only reachable by foot or by sea - there is no road. Along the way, we'll pass Agios Pavlos, an ancient seaside chapel commemorating the visit of St. Paul to that very spot. Lunch today will be at the quaint beach of Marmara, a spectacular spot for cliff jumping from the marble cliffs which the wind and waves have sculpted into swirling shapes. An option exists to take a ferry today instead of hiking or paddling. (B,D)
Day 6: Our yoga session in the morning will most probably be in the ruins of an ancient Venetian fortress which guards the entrance to Loutro Bay. From Loutro, we’ll hike or paddle to Chora Sfakia with a pause at Sweetwater Beach where freshwater springs bubble up from underneath the pebbles. A small taverna adorned with a mermaid built just offshore and reached by a short bridge will provide us with a reviving cappuccino or other beverage. There will be the option to remain at Sweetwater for several hours or to press on to Chora Sfakia and lunch at one of our favorite traditional tavernas. Tonight, dinner is on your own at your choice of restaurants in Loutro. (B )
Day 7: We will have a morning session of yoga again overlooking the sea. There will be paddling and hiking options, including the possibility of paddling or hiking to another small village, Phoenix, located about an hour away on foot, or go a bit farther and hike into the Aradena Gorge. The afternoon will provide our usual yoga session, followed by our final dinner together. (B,D)
Day 8: After breakfast and a final yoga session - be sure to note your accomplishments from the beginning of the week, we will paddle, hike, or ferry to Chora Sfakia and shuttle to Heraklion. Depending on departure times, you may have a chance to visit the renowned Heraklion Archaeological Museum before heading to the airport to catch departing flights. **This itinerary is subject to change.
-Andrea Hunter (2008)
“There are many options offered, which allows one to enjoy the trip in a variety of ways - from gentle to challenging. Spectacular.” -Julie S., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
“I loved the flexible options with a such a small group and a perfect mix of relaxation time and some restorative yoga and active options of paddling and hiking.” -Connor S., Chicago, Illinois
"Extremely worthwhile! Adventure of a lifetime!" -Nick T., Dekalb, Georgia
“It’s not lying to say I enjoyed all of it. First time kayaker - nice surprise how much fun it was. A pleasure to do yoga everyday. Good walks - special to have Samarian Gorge to ourselves.” -Lynn M., Westmount, Quebec, Canada
"Each of the guides were well informed, skilled, and most of all helpful. I especially appreciated thier interest in finding additional challenges, like biking through the rocks." -Stephen G., Northfield, Illinois
"I felt very carefree and was able to attain many goals that I had set for myself." Dianne A., Leaburg, Oregon
"Wish I had done this years ago!" -Paulette B., Wilmette, Illinois
"When given the option- kayak. There is nothing like the sense of accomplishment when finishing the last leg." -Joel S., Cumming, Georgia
"Spectacular! No exaggeration!" -Barb R. and Chuck L., St. Paul, Minnesota
"This is such a beautiful place to be, and exploring it in a kayak and on foot brings you so much closer." -Jonah K., Spokane, Washington
"I loved being able to exercise everyday. It is a great start to being really motivated to continue." - Deanna S., Watsonville, California
"The company is very well organized and the staff is excellent." -John S., Watsonville, California
THE HISTORY OF CRETE
Crete lies at the crossroads of three continents, Europe, Africa and Asia. The largest Greek Island, Crete is the home of Europe’s earliest known civilization, the Minoans. The strategic position of Crete in the middle of the Mediterranean has led to an almost constant battle to control the Island from ancient times until the present century.
THE STONE AGE- 6000-2600 B.C.
Crete’s first inhabitants probably came from Anatolia in Asia Minor or possibly Africa. They were cave dwellers who eventually began to build simple huts from burnt clay bricks.
THE MINOANS (BRONZE AGE)- 2000-1400 B.C.
From about 2000 B.C. onwards the new immigrants with their higher degree of civilization join with the indigenous population to become the “Minoans”. A sophisticated society develops. Skilled craftsmen such as stonemasons, potters, metalworkers, jewelers and weavers are at work. Agriculture thrives. Metal tools replace stone. The society acquires a structure and hierarchy and palaces are built at Knossos, Festos, Malia and Zakros. The Minoans have a merchant fleet selling their wares throughout the Mediterranean with trading posts and colonies in places such as the Cyclades, Rhodes and as far afield as Asia Minor, Egypt and the East. Trade and not military power extends their Empire. Around the time of 1700 B.C. the palaces were destroyed, the most likely cause being an earthquake although some historians believe it may have been a tidal wave. The palaces were rebuilt even more splendidly and the society and culture continued to prosper. They were decorated with frescoes and were often on several stories with courtyards, wide staircases and complex plumbing and drainage systems. Art flourished with the rebuilding of the palaces, not just frescoes but sculpture including naturalistic human figures and animals have been excavated. As the craftsmen became more skilled so their wares changed. Beautiful pottery and stone vessels in many different shapes and designs and often decorated with local scenes dating from this period have been found. This flourishing, peaceful and wealthy society with its influence felt throughout the Mediterranean and beyond was not to last. A minor earthquake in about 1600 BC was the beginning of the decline. Complete destruction followed. Knossos survived but soon the Mycenean Greeks invade from the mainland and take over what is left of the Minoan society. THE MYCENAENS- 1400-1100 B.C. The Mycenaens dominate the Minoans and a hybrid of the two cultures develops. Crete is no longer the trading power it was and the Minoan dominance of the Mediterranean is at an end. The Mycenaens use weapons to defend themselves against the waves of Dorians who are coming to Crete after the Trojan Wars.
DORIAN CRETE (IRON AGE)- 1100-480 B.C.
The Dorians drive out the Mycenaens and form their own Class orientated society. The original Cretans tried to preserve their identity and formed settlements apart from the Dorians. They have become known as Eteo-Cretans (real Cretans). Crete became an Island of small independent states with no unified culture.
CLASSICAL AND HELLENISTIC CRETE- 480-67 B.C.
Crete becomes a shadow of its former Minoan glory. Used as a base for pirates the sea trade in the Mediterranean is disrupted. This, combined with the Island’s strategic position drew the Romans to Crete.
THE ROMAN AND BYZANTINE CRETE- 67 B.C.-1204 A.D.
After a couple of earlier abortive attempts, in 69 B.C. a successful Roman invasion took place. After two and a half years of fierce fighting, the Cretans surrendered to their fate. The Romans brought prosperity and a level of organization not seen since the Minoans. Large settlements with roads, irrigation systems and aqueducts developed. Agriculture flourished and Crete once again assumed an important position albeit within the Roman Empire.
St. Paul is thought to have brought Christianity to Crete in about 50 A.D. and there is a chapel on the beach at Agios Pavlos to commemorate his visit. Christianity spread rapidly across the Island but the early Christians were persecuted for their beliefs. At the end of the fourth century the roman Empire was split in two with Crete belonging to the eastern part belonging to Byzantium (Constantinople, Istanbul today). Although the many Churches built during this period with their elaborate frescoes testify to the prosperity of these times, the Island held an insignificant position in the scheme of things. There is soon a new threat to Crete. The rapidly developing Arab world is casting their eye in her direction. In 824 A.D. an Arab Saracen force invades the Island and meets little resistance. They use the Island as a base for attacks on shipping and are little more than pirates. For over a century they control the Island. The Byzantine rulers do little to help their colony until I 961 they drive out the Arabs ina huge and bloody battle which decimated the Cretan population and wipes out the Saracens. The island reverts to Byzantine rule and its flagging population is boosted by immigrants from the mainland and Byzantium. The Crusades were the first that brought the next of Crete’s rulers. Turning their might on Byzantium the Crusaders sack and burn Constantinople and the Empire is divided up. Crete is sold to the Venetian Republic for a small sum.