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7 Days Pilgrimage Tour to Crete
Since the early Christian years, Crete became a cradle of Orthodox Christianity. This is reflected on the hundreds of religious monuments on the island. Even the struggles for liberation, in most cases, started from the monastic communities.
With thousands of places of worship and dozens of monasteries that have played a special role in the consolidation of Christianity and the struggle against the invaders, Crete is an ideal religious and historic destination.
Since the early Christian times, when Paul the Apostle visited Crete and preached the new religion for two years, the Christian tradition developed through the centuries. Remote places of monastic self-exile, traces of early Christian basilicas, cavernous chapels and painted Byzantine churches are found everywhere on Crete.
- Athens, ChaniaDay 1
- Chania, Samaria Gorge, Monastery of Life Giving SpringDay 2
- Chania, Georgioupoli, Lake Kourna, Rethymno, Moni Prevelis, Arkadi, HeraklionDay 3
- Gortyna, Phaestos, Agioi Deka, MatalaDay 4
- Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Sitia, Toplou, Vai, IerapetraDay 5
- Monasteries in “Mount Athos” of CreteDay 6
- Heraklion, Departure For AthensDay 7
Athens – Chania
Gathering and departure for Athens airport from where we fly to the romantic town of Chania with the Fortezza in the Venetian port. Arrival in the city and departure to visit the Tombs of the Venizelos family on the Cape. Next stop Kolympari where we visit the Orthodox Academy of Crete, operating since 1968 as a foundation of the Monastery of Kissamos and Selino, under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is located near the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels and aims at educating the church crew and cultivation of Ecumenical Dialogue in the spirit of the Venerable Ecumenical throne.
We will also visit the Monastery of the Virgin Lady of Angels at Gonia of Kolimbari of Kissamos, which was founded in the 17th century. Located 20 km from Chania, on the beach of the Bay Kydonia. The church is a basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary that became Stavropegic in 1662. Many times this place was a battlefield and suffered many disasters, as for example in 1941 by the invasion of the Germans. After the war it was renovated and is a male monastery today. Back to Chania. Settle in the hotel. Overnight.
Chania – Samaria Gorge – Monastery Of Life Giving Spring
Breakfast and departure for Omalos. We continue to the Samaria Gorge one of the most beautiful natural phenomenons in Europe, located between the White Mountains. The gorge has been declared a national park because of its rare flora and fauna, such as the wild goat of Crete or otherwise known as Kri-Kri.
Then we will visit the Monastery of Life Giving Spring (Chrysopigi), a female monastery founded in 1600 AD. It is located between Chania and Souda and founded by the physician John Chartofylakas. The church is built in the style of Byzantine architecture and features remarkable icons, many artifacts, relics and documents. The monastery is dedicated to Life Giving Spring – Chrissopigi – and celebrates its feast on Friday after Easter. Back to our hotel in Chania. Overnight.
Chania – Georgioupoli – Lake Kourna – Rethυmno – Moni Prevelis – Arkadi – Heraklion
Breakfast and departure for Rethymnon. During our journey we will pass from Georgioupolis and we will continue to Kournas village where we will find the only lake on Crete, the Lake Kournas. It has an area of about 65 acres, along 100 meters length and 650 meters of width. It may be small in size but it is incomparable in beauty, with color changing from light green to dark emerald and blue. Arrival in Rethymnon and visit of the old town – the treasure of the city of Rethymno. A city literally breathtaking, with many hidden beauties and attractions. There are over 1000 houses throughout the city and 600 of them have facades of the 16th and 17th century. In Rethymnon we find many elements of Venetian and Ottoman architecture and tiny picturesque streets, old minarets, elaborated fountains and finally the Lighthouse and the Venetian castle, the Fortezza, built in 1573 in order to fortify the city. The whole city is the most important and largest cultural area of the county.
We continue to southern Crete and Preveli Monastery, passing through the amazing route of Kourtaliotiko Gorge where the river is poured into the sea. We arrive in the Holy Preveli Monastery where the natural landscape that surrounds it is magical and the view of the Libyan Sea unique. The name came from the first settler named Preveli. He is dedicated to Saint John the Theologian and Evangelist and belongs to male monasteries. Pilgrimage to the monastery with the impressive wooden temple in the interior and the Museum with the relics of the monastery, such as vestments, sacred vessels and images.
Last stop in the famous beach resort of Plakias. On the way back to Heraklion we will visit the Monastery of Arkadi, which is at the end of a wonderful journey between Adelianos Kambos, full of trees loaded with fruits. The monastery was the most sacred symbol of the fight for the uprising against the Turks and the independence of Crete. In November 1866, following a valiant defense of the Cretans, Turks occupied the monastery and slaughtered the defenders. Abbot Gabriel blew the gunpowder along with 700 women and children who had taken refuge there. After our visit we continue to Heraklion, passing from the bay of Fodele, the Paleokastro and Amoudara. Arrival at the hotel, settling into the rooms. Overnight.
Gortyna – Phaestos – Agioi Deka – Matala
After breakfast we will embark on a full day excursion in southern Crete, with our first stop in Gortyna, one of the oldest cities of Crete, located in the Messara plain. The first Christian Churches were built there, with most important and oldest the Metropolitan Church of Agios Titos (3rd century), of which we will see the ruins. Then we continue our holy pilgrimage to the Monastery of Kaliviani, whose creation is placed in the second Byzantine period. There is an orphanage, which houses, nurtures and educates poor orphan girls of the island. We then continue to Phaestos, the second most important site after Knossos, on a hill that dominates the plain of Kato Messara. Upon our return to the hotel in Heraklion we will visit Agious Deka.
Agios Nikolaos – Elounda – Sitia – Toplou – Vai – Ierapetra
After breakfast departure from Heraklion to the city of Agios Nikolaos, the capital of Lasithi prefecture in the Gulf Myrampelo and Voulismeni lake, whose waters are so deep that the popular imagination considered it a fraud. We continue to Elounda, a picturesque fishing village lying directly opposite of the island Spinalonga, known as the “island of lepers.” We will visit Paleokastro and continue to Sitia, one of the most beautiful cities of northeastern Crete, built in the shape of an amphitheater with a picturesque port, home of Vitsentzos Kornaros. Impressive is the homonym bay and the Venetian fortress of Kazarmas.
We will visit the Aquarium of Crete, the only place in Greece, where guests can admire images of the Mediterranean seabed and the richest in Europe of its kind. It was developed in the area of the former US base of Gournes, 15km from the city of Heraklion and very close to Hersonissos and Agios Nikolaos. The time of our visit will last 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then we will continue to Toplou Monastery, one of the largest and oldest monasteries in Crete, which is said that it was built in the second half of the 15th century and has been destroyed several times since then. From the rich treasures the few having survived, include a Gospel of 1808, two Crosses of 1762 and 1795 with scenes from the Gospel and the old picture of the Great Lord of 1770, work of Kornaros, on which interpreted figurative scenes from the wish of the Great Blessing. Then we visit the palm forest in Vai and later Ierapetra, Dikteon Andro. Return to Heraklion. Overnight.
Monasteries in “Mount Athos” of Crete
After breakfast we depart from the hotel with jeeps heading for the south region of the mountain range of the Asterousia also known as the “Mount Athos” of Crete, due to its secluded and inaccessible landscape. Asterousia was the cradle of Christianity, especially in the early Christian times, when a rich monastic and ascetic tradition developed here, mainly centred around the Agiofarago and Martsalo gorges. We will visit the Monastery of Apezanon, the Koudoumas Monastery, the Odigitria Monastery and the Martsalo Gorge.
Monastery of Apezanon
The monastery of Agios Antonios, also known as Apezanon, is located in southern Crete on a plateau overlooking the Libyan Sea. The monastery’s church is a three-aisled basilica with a higher central aisle than the other two, dedicated to Saint Anthony, the Transfiguration, and the Three Holy Hierarchs. The church features a one-of-a-kind carved altar screen, intriguing icons, and a bell tower. During Venetian authority, the monastery, which resembled a fort like Toplou, was built. During their occupation, the Turks destroyed the monastery. Today, reconstructed monastery is located in a beautiful setting and preserves many important relics.
The Koudoumas Monastery is devoted to the Virgin Mary and is located on the island’s most southern shore, south of Kofina mountain. The Monastery of Koudouma provides the calm and tranquillity that one seeks in order to be in complete communion with the Divine. Hundreds of caves were found, all “scattered” around the monastery and facing the sea, a fact which attests that life existeded there already from the 6th century.
Hodegetria Monastery is one of the oldest and grandest monasteries on Crete, with its history closely linked to that of small monasteries and hermitages in the Asterousia region. Hodegetria is a citadel-type monastery, with a large fortified tower in its courtyard, which was built in order to protect the monks from pirates arriving from the sea in the south. According to tradition, this tower was initially built by Nikiforos Fokas in 961 AD. However, the today’s tower was reconstructed after the first one during the Venetian era reatining many of its Byzantine characteristics. The two-aisled church at the centre of the courtyard is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Holy Apostles.
Martsalo Gorge – Asterousia
The gorge of Martsalo, that belongs to the municipality of Phaistos, is one of the most characteristic and beautiful gorges of southern Crete. It is located at the western foot of the Asterousia mountain range, right next to Agiofaraggo, and south of Odigitria Monastery. It is 2 kilometres long and the elevation difference between the entrance and the beach of Martsalo, where it ends, is approximately 145 metres. The gorge, like all the other gorges of the region (e.g. Agiofarago) was and still is a hermitage of the Odigitria monastery. For this reason, it is considered a site of great religious importance. In the gorge you will see many remnants of the cells, where the monks once lived.
Heraklion – Departure for Athens
Breakfast and departure with the first stop in Knossos, the most important of all the other cities in Minoan Crete with the famous palace of Minos, which surpassed any other building in Europe during the Bronze Age in terms of grandeur and luxury. We will go up the small hill where the grave of Kazantzakis is and then to the city of Heraklion. We will see the city walls and the Venetian fortress, the Fountain of Morozinis, the Lotzia, we will worship the Cathedral of St. Titus. Then we will visit the very remarkable archaeological museum, which was founded in 1883 by the Educational Association of Heraklion. On the 20 halls that were opened to the public after the Second World War, exposed the most interesting and best preserved findings. The Minoan art is represented nowhere ele better and this makes the museum unique and known around the world. We will also visit the ethnographic museum and library of Vikelaia. The afternoon transfer takes us to Heraklion airport where we will take our return flight to Athens.
- Flights tickets Athens – Chania & Heraklio – Athens
- Transport to and from Crete airports
- Six(6) nights at selected hotels
- Daily breakfast (6 breakfasts)
- Transfers, trips with local bus as analytical program
- Tour leader/ Guide
- Liability insurance
- Airport taxes
- Entrances to visiting sites
- Meals, gratuities
- Anything mentioned as recommended or optional
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