You'll take home a million memories when you travel through the eastern mountains of Crete on a private tour to the Orthodox Monastery of Aretiou, Byzantine Church of Panagia Kera and the traditional village of Krista.
After meeting your professional guide on the pier, you will depart Agios Nikolaos and drive to nearby Elounda Bay for a panoramic view of the bay. A photo stop will be made to see the world famous island of Spinaloga, a small rocky island that has protected the harbor of ancient Olous and Elounda Bay since antiquity. It once was home to the most powerful fortresses of the Venetians, with walls built in 1579 which can still be seen today. After the Turkish conquest of Crete, Spinaloga was a refuge for many Christians who fled there to escape. From 1912 to 1958 the island served as a sanatorium for the lepers of Crete.
You will then drive into the Mirabello mountains, and upon reaching the Orthodox Monastery of Aretiou, you will be rewarded with a superb view of the Bay and Spinaloga from its location 2,900 feet above the Aegean Sea. The sixteenth-century Aretiou Monastery (or Monastery of the Holy Trinity) is set in various buildings around a courtyard and includes a katholikon, the monks' church, which still contains some precious seventeenth- century icons. The founder, Marcos Papadopoulos, gathered around him many of the famous artists and intellectuals of the period, and on his death in 1603 he left a generous donation asking that the Monastery continue his charitable work for the poor, and to support the local artists who specialized in holy images. Surrounded by high walls and due to its location in a dry, isolated area, the monastery defended itself well against the continual attacks by the Ottomans, and survived.
After visiting the Monastery of Aretiou, you will drive further inland to the Church of Panagia Kera (Our Lady Kera). It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries, and it is the most important Byzantine-era church on the island. It is dedicated to the Virgin and the Saints Anthony and Anna, and its three naves are adorned with many important Byzantine frescoes of the 14th and 15th century. There are also14 scenes portraying the secret life of the Virgin Mary after Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection. Because of its continuous building over several centuries, the church also serves as a timeline of sorts, as the frescoes exhibit the development and trends of the Cretan school of painting through the centuries.
Then drive to the nearby mountain village of Kritsa, a magnificent traditional village, which sits on the side of a rocky hill at an altitude of more than 1,230 feet above sea level. It is one of the most picturesque towns in Crete, and its approximately 2,000 inhabitants keep the old Cretan customs and the traditions alive. The town is considered one of the most important centers of the Cretan folk and weaving art. You will have approximately one hour to explore on your own through the narrow streets before starting your drive back to Heraklion.
Please Note: This tour offers customized departure times between 7:30 AM and 7:00 PM. If your preferred departure time is not listed, please contact us to place your request.