The Golden Age of the Minoans

7 nights starting from

  • A fascinating insight into the Minoan civilization that is considered the very first advanced civilization of Europe

  • Visits to the four great Minoan Palaces; Knossos, Phaestos, Malia and Zakros

  • The exceptional Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which houses the greatest collection of Minoan exhibits in the world

  • The Minoan town of Gournia, the only excavated Minoan town found on Crete

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and its historical significance is very impressive, stretching from Stone Age seafarers and Neolithic farmers to the enigmatic Bronze Age civilisation of the Minoans. The Minoans are known for their labyrinthine ‘palaces’ – the greatest of which is Knossos. As a strategic gateway to the eastern Mediterranean, Crete has been ruled by many great powers - Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman. This tour explores Crete’s cultural highlights, including its four Minoan palaces. If you have never visited Crete, this expert-led tour is the perfect way to explore this wonderful island; if you have been before, you will see it from a different perspective.

Your Lecturer - Dr Rita Roussos Phd
Rita studied ancient Greek and Latin at the University of Califonia, Berkeley, and completed her Phd in History of Art at the Courtauld Institude of Art, University of London.  She has excavated in Greece and taught at the American University of Athens.

Available Departures


04 - October - 2020 £ 1495.00 Travel Info Book Now

Provisional Timings

London Gatwick

Departing: 04th October 2020 at 06:55

Returning: 11th October 2020 at 13:55


Day 1: Fly from London Gatwick to Heraklion and transfer to the Atrion Hotel for a three-night stay.

Day 2: Knossos Palace, Archaeological Museum and Vathypetro.
Today we visit the first of the four “palaces” on the tour, the “Palace” of Knossos, which is the centre of Europe’s first civilization and the largest Bronze Age site in the country. The intricate, multi-storeyed layout of the palace has led to its connection with numerous myths and legends, including that of Theseus, the Minotaur and the labyrinth. Knossos was controversially excavated in the early 20th century by the English archaeologist Arthur Evans. The day includes a visit to the Archaeological Museum where we will see one of the world’s most important exhibits of prehistoric art and artefacts, a magnificent showcase of the Minoan culture, fully re-opened in 2014 following an eight-year refurbishment. The last visit of the day is to the Minoan manor house and outbuildings of Vathypetro, the surviving remnants of a settlement that stretched across three hills, including a wonderfully preserved wine press – one of the oldest in the world.

Day 3: Gortyn, Phaestos Palace and Agia Triada.
We drive to the south of the island to visit three important sites. First is the Greco-Roman site of Gortyn in the lush Messara Valley, thought to have been populated by over 300,000 people. The site is best-known for its lengthy wall inscription of 5th century BC law codes of the city, the oldest and most complete example of coded ancient Greek laws ever found. We continue to the magnificent Minoan “palace” of Phaestos, whose most famous find, the Phaestos Disc, was found in its archives and whose script remains undeciphered. We leave Phaestos to visit Agia Triada, a grand but ruinous Bronze Age villa that has yielded more examples of Linear A tablets than any other site of its kind.

Day 4: Malia Palace and Spinalonga.
Founded over 4,000 years ago, the “Palace” of Malia, is a huge Minoan complex just north of the Lasithi Mountains, noteworthy for its size, which includes a unique craftmen’s settlement. The distinctive storage rooms, granaries, and kernos are impressive. Today includes a short boat trip to the haunting and evocative island of Spinalonga, the location of a former leper colony, which was in use from 1903 until 1962 and the setting for Victoria Hislop’s novel The Island. The island was occupied by the Venetians in the 16th century in order to strengthen their defences. Similarly, the Ottomans also used it for defensive purposes. Check-in to the Hermes Hotel, Agios Nikolaos for a four-night stay.

Day 5: Full day free at leisure.

Day 6: Gournia and Mochlos.
We visit the well-preserved late Minoan town of Gournia. The remains of Gournia cluster around cobbled streets on the side of a hill and are crowned by workers’ houses and a “palace”. Traces of some 50 houses are in evidence here, as well as three cemeteries and a port beyond. It is the best example of a Minoan town in the prehistoric Aegean and it is still being excavated. We take a boat trip to Mochlos, one of the largest and most significant of the surviving Early Minoan cemeteries in Crete.

Day 7: Zakros Palace.
The “palace” of Zakros is the last of the four Minoan “palaces” and the smallest. Its rich finds have provided much information on Minoan trade. Evidence of its links with the East is provided by the discovery of four elephant tusks and six bronze ingots, imported on the same overseas journey. Zakros is located at the southeast end of the Lassithi plain on a natural bay. In 1961 N. Platon began the archaeological excavation of the site, bringing to light a “palace” with impressive finds, as it had remained unlooted after its destruction. The palace of Zakros preserved today was founded in the Neopalatial period (c. 1600 BC). The town was densely populated.

Day 8: Transfer to Heraklion Airport for return flight to London Gatwick.

NB: Exact order of itinerary may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion.

Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 25 passengers.


  • Return flights from London Gatwick to Heraklion (a choice of regional flights also available, please enquire)
  • Three nights’ accommodation on bed and breakfast basis at the four-star Atrion Hotel, Heraklion, based on shared occupation of twin/double room
  • Four nights’ accommodation on half board basis at the Hermes Hotel, Agios Nikolaos, based on shared occupancy of a twin/double room
  • Four lectures throughout the tour from Dr Rita Roussos PhD
  • Transfers, tours and entrance fees
  • Dr Rita Roussos PhD, local guide and tour manager throughout


  • Single room supplement 
  • Holiday insurance 
  • Regional flight supplement - regional flights are available from a number of UK airports. Please contact us for a quote.  
  • Meals other than those stated
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls etc 
  • Porterage and gratuities


Excellent quality hotels are used throughout this tour, all offering a high standard of service, facilities and comfort in ideal locations to explore the sites visited.

Atrion Hotel, Heraklion
Modern four-star hotel located right in the heart of Heraklion within a short walk of a host of restaurants, cafés and bars. Facilities here include bar, restaurant, patio and comfortable bedrooms with all modern amenities.

Atrion Hotel website

Hermes Hotel, Agios Nikolaos
Situated a few minutes walk from the centre of Agios Nikolaos, the four-star Hermes Hotel is a well-established hotel in an excellent location. Positioned on the sea front, it is an easy 5 minute walk to the centre of Agios Nikolaos. The hotel offers comfortable rooms, balcony, air-conditioning, TV and bathroom with bath/shower, pool towels, safe box and fridge. The 'elevated' pool, located on the 5th floor, overlooks the sea. Facilities at the hotel include the hotels main restaurant, located on the 5th floor and the Hermes Bar, open in the evening. A small beach can be accessed via a tunnel direct from the hotel and other beaches in the area can be accessed easily on foot. Seaview rooms are available at a small supplement.

Hermes Hotel website

MORE INFO - Please click here for more tour information

Your Lecturer - Dr Rita Roussos Phd

Rita studied ancient Greek and Latin at the University of Califonia, Berkeley, and completed her Phd in History of Art at the Courtauld Institude of Art, University of London.  She has excavated in Greece and taught at the American University of Athens.

Similar Holidays

Valencia - Art Nouveau to the City of Science Escorted Tour

3 nights from £879


Flowers and Wildlife of Menorca Escorted Tour

7 nights from £1045


Authentic Crete Escorted Tour

7 nights from £1150


Wild Flowers of Mount Parnassus Escorted Tour

7 nights from £1145