CRETE SELF-GUIDED
bike tours on Greece’s largest island

BIKE TOURS EAST TO WEST
HERAKLEION TO HANIA
The East-West route starts in Herakleion in the east and ends in Hania in the west.  Choose this route if after the bike tour you want to take one-day hikes in the Samaria Gorge or Imbros Gorge or a multi-day hiking tour along the car-free Libyan Sea coast. Hania is the most convenient departure point for these hikes with a local guide or self-guided.   

BIKE TOURS WEST TO EAST
HANIA TO HERAKLEION

The West-East route starts in Hania in the west and ends in Herakleion in the east. Choose this route if you want to go to Santorini after the bike tour because only Herakleion has boats to Santorini. In high season there is also air service. Although the West-East rides cover the same terrain as the East-West rides, the ascents are a bit harder when biking eastward.

view from AreopagosWith its breathtaking mountains and seascapes, Crete is a dynamic destination for cyclists accustomed to ascents.  As Europe’s most southern terrain, Crete makes a desirable cycling destination during winter months when colder temperatures prevail in the rest of Europe.

Due to its extensive road network Crete offers a variety of overnight destinations and cycling road choices, not simply the standard routes we have posted in the East to West or West to East itineraries.   We work with you to choose the optimum route for your travel schedule and cycling ability.

Crete was the first civilization on European soil with its ancient Minoan palace cities that you can bike to, such as, Knossos, Phaestos or Malia.  There are unheralded ruins of equal interest, such as the mysterious Armeni Minoan cemetery and Fourni in Arhanes.   Crete is celebrated for its indigenous cuisine that epitomizes the healthy Mediterranean diet.  Look in the Extras tab about signing up for a Cretan cooking class or wine tasting, an ancient tradition extending back to the Minoan era.  There are wineries to visit throughout the island.

Before or after your self-guided tour, we recommend booking the Athens Add-on that immerses you in the culture of Athens and the Attica region with exciting activities:  Historic Central Athens bike tour (90% traffic free), Acropolis & Acropolis Museum with professional guide, Temple of Poseidon coastal cycling, Attica wine tasting, Temple of Artemis.

If you only have one day in Athens, check out the one-day bike rides available at Athens Day Tours

Details

2017 Dates choose your dates 
Duration 9 nights, 10 days for standard route.  Possible to add or subtract days; minimum 5 nights
Add-ons
yes, Libyan Sea Coast Hiking tour, Athens Day Tours – see Add-On tab
Arrival City Athens or Herakleion or Hania
Arrival transfer yes, depending on Itinerary.  For Athens, see Extras tab
Tour Start Point Athens or Herakleion or Hania
Tour End Point Athens or Herakleion or Hania
Minimum Age
18
Total Mileage 453 km, 281 miles for 10 day standard route.  Mileage depends on optional routes sought and itinerary destinations.
Highest Elevation
890 meters, 2920 feet (Tzermiado)
Rating Advanced.  See Rating System

Itinerary East to West

Below is our standard East-West itinerary, but it can be adjusted to add or subtract days or substitute overnight destinations, as these examples indicate:  Opt for an 8 day tour by starting in Arhanes instead of Tzermiado.  Split in half the long 94 km, 58 mile route from Rethymno to Hania on Day 10 by staying in the lovely traditional town of Vamos.  The same can be done for the Zaros-Rethymno route by an overnight in Spili, a town beloved for its Venetian-era fountain with 19 lion heads.  Overnight in Zaros two nights in order to bike the second day in the south and visit the Matala caves, Minoan Phaestos and Roman Gortyna ruins.  Consider overnight in Axos with engaging agro-tourism activities at Enagron.  Lots of possibilities!

If you travel to Crete by sea via an overnight ferry from Piraeus (Athens’ port), you will travel with the bikes.  If you travel to Crete by air or by sea from a port other than Piraeus, the bikes we will be waiting for you in Crete.  On your arrival, you will be met by a CycleGreece agent.  Depending on your itinerary, you will either start biking to your first destination from the port or airport, or you will be transferred to your hotel.

Leave your luggage in the hotel and it will be transferred to your next destination.

Day 1:  Tzermiado   

The Lassithi Plateau, one of the highest farming areas in Greece, once had 20,000 windmills which only a generation or so ago were still in use, which gives you an idea of how traditional this region is.  Today’s ride calls for an ascent of 2283 feet 695 meters to the plateau.   30 km, 18.60 miles.  Consider a 14 km, 8.60 miles detour on the flat coastal road to the Minoan palace city of Malia.

Day 2:  Tzermiado

Make a grand loop of the plateau, stopping at Lassinthos Eco Village and at Diktion Cave to marvel at the gigantic stalactites and stalagmites.  Cretans believe Zeus was born in this cave.  25 km, 15 miles    If you did not visit Malia yesterday, consider doing so today if you are up for an almost 3,000 foot descent/ascent to the coast.  Stop for lunch in Krasi, known for fresh drinking water springs. 54 km, 32 miles

Day 3: Arhanes 

Head west, over mountain ridges, cycling on back roads with goats and donkeys.  Listen for the cheery sound of their bells.  En route make an optional 4 km detour to the Nikos Katzantzakis Museum, home of the author of Zorba the Greek.   In Arhanes, you will admire the traditional architecture of the “arhontiko,” the preserved old villas.  Located only 15 km south of Herakleion, Arhanes is famous for its local cuisine and wines.  See the Extras tab for a cooking class and wine tasting.  44 km, 27 miles

Day 4: Arhanes 

Bike a back road to reach Knossos, the capital of the peaceful Minoan Empire. Admire King Minos’ throne; a replica was made for the chief judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.  25 km 15 miles  To avoid Herakleion’s urban traffic, we recommend taking at taxi or bus from Knossos to Herakleion Archaeology Museum with its famed Minoan frescos and the enigmatic Phaestos disc.   There’s likely time for an afternoon Arhanes loop 24.50 km, 15 miles

Day 5: Zaros

Today you will plunge into the interior of central Crete to Zaros located in the Psiloritis Mountains at 1394 feet 425 meters.  Zaros is known for its bottled mineral water, fresh trout and the E4 (European) hiking path.   En route don’t miss the Monumental Olive Tree at Panasos.   Optional afternoon hike in the Rouvas Gorge. 55.52 km, 34.50 miles

If you opt to spend a second night in Zaros, the next day an inviting bike ride awaits you to the Matala caves, Minoan Phaestos and the Roman ruins of Gortyna.   78.50 km, 48 miles

Day 6: Rethymno 

Back country roads, lots of climbing, breathtaking scenery characterizes today’s ride. The day’s final destination is Crete’s best kept secret, Rethymno, a Venetian era city with an Ottoman overlay.  You must visit the Fortezza, the grand Venetian-era fort overlooking the city.   77.20km, 48 miles

Instead of biking Zaros to Rethymno on Day 6, if you want to linger in the mountainous countryside instead of the city, you can opt to bike Zaros to Spili to enjoy its fountain of water spewing from the mouths of 19 lions heads.  Continue the next day Spili to Rethymno.

Day 7: Rethymno  

A bike ride into the low portions of the Psiloritis Mountains. Visit Melidoni Cave and learn its poignant history. Lunch on the seacoast at Panormos.  Stroll Rethymno’s car-free alley-like streets or along its fourteen kilometer sandy beach.  67.70 km, 42 miles

Day 8: Hania  

The ride to Hania passes the Minoan cemetery at Armeni with its fascinating tombs of unknown origin.  Halfway en route is the gorgeous sea at Giorgiopoli (Georgetown).  The final leg entails a climb over Malaxa village at 1500 feet high.     78 km, 48.50 miles

Instead of biking Rethymno to Hania on Day 8, if you want a shorter “smell the roses” tour and an overnight in a traditional village, you can opt to bike Rethymno to Vamos and continue the next day to Hania.  This option allows a detour to Ancient Aptera and Koules Fortress.

Day 9: Hania   

Ascend from sea level to 1860 feet through the enchanting Therissos Gorge road.  On the way back stop at a family winery for lunch, or visit a delightful botanical park created by two brothers when their cherished olive fields burned down. Stroll Hania’s beautiful harbor with Venetian architecture.  Take time for shopping in Hania – handmade knives or gold jewelry.  51 km,  31.60  miles

Day 10: Departure  

There are daily flights from Hania to Athens Airport, including ones that leave early enough to enable you to make a connecting flight home.  Overnight ferries to Piraeus depart at 9:00 pm.   Leave your bikes and gear at the hotel.

Itinerary

Below is our standard East-West itinerary, but it can be adjusted to add or subtract days or substitute overnight destinations, as these examples indicate:  Opt for an 8 day tour by starting in Arhanes instead of Tzermiado.  Split in half the long 94 km, 58 mile route from Rethymno to Hania on Day 10 by staying in the lovely traditional town of Vamos.  The same can be done for the Zaros-Rethymno route by an overnight in Spili, a town beloved for its Venetian-era fountain with 19 lion heads.  Overnight in Zaros two nights in order to bike the second day in the south and visit the Matala caves, Minoan Phaestos and Roman Gortyna ruins.  Consider overnight in Axos with engaging agro-tourism activities at Enagron.  Lots of possibilities!

If you travel to Crete by sea via an overnight ferry from Piraeus (Athens’ port), you will travel with the bikes. If you travel to Crete by air or by sea from a port other than Piraeus, the bikes we will be waiting for you in Crete. On your arrival, you will be met by a CycleGreece agent. Depending on your itinerary, you will either start biking to your first destination from the port or airport, or you will be transferred to your hotel.

Leave your luggage in the hotel and it will be transferred to your next destination.

Day 1: Hania

On arrival by air or sea, a CycleGreece agent meets you with your bikes.  You are in the area of Akrotiri peninsula, so go cycle there!  Descend the stone step path to Catholikon, an abandoned monastery.   After exploring Akrotiri, take a back road route to enter the city of Hania.   Stroll Hania’s beautiful harbor with Venetian architecture. Roam the car-free old city and its Jewish quarter with finely preserved synagogue.  56 km, 35 miles , (13 km shorter when arriving by air)

Day 2: Hania

Ascend from sea level to 1860 feet through the enchanting Therissos Gorge road. On the return route stop at a family winery for lunch and wine tasting, or visit a delightful botanical park created by two brothers when their cherished olive fields burned down.  Take time for shopping in Hania for handmade knives and gold jewelry. 51 km, 31.60 miles

Day 3: Rethymno

The halfway point en route to Rethymno is the seaside town of Giorgiopoli (Georgetown) whose most alluring feature is its beautiful beach. If you have time, you might want to take a dip.  Start swooning when you reach the old car-free city of Rethymno with its dreamy Venetian-Ottoman appearance.   Be sure to walk up to the towering Fortezza fortress.   78 km, 48.50 miles

Instead of biking Hania to Rethymno on Day 3, if you want a shorter “smell the roses” tour and an overnight in a traditional village, you can opt to bike Hania to Vamos and continue the next day to Rethymno.  This option allows a detour to Ancient Aptera and Koules Fortress.

Day 4: Rethymno

A bike loop in the lower hills of the Psiloritis Mountains.  Visit Melidoni Cave and learn its poignant history. Visit a family owned olive oil farm for olive oil tastings.  Visit the ceramics village of Margarites, one of four centers in Crete practicing ancient pottery techniques. Visit a Mycenae-style tomb.   Lunch on the seacoast at Panormos. 67.70 km, 42 miles

Day 5: Zaros

Back country roads, lots of climbing, breathtaking scenery characterizes today’s ride.  Very little traffic as you head upward and inward into the Psiloritis Mountain region — don’t miss the Monumental Olive Tree in Panasos.   This day’s climbing is the specific case where the East to West route is easier.  There likely won’t be enough time today to take an hour hike in the Rouvas Gorge, but consider it before you set off tomorrow.   77.20km, 48 miles

Instead of biking Rethymno to Zaros on Day 5, if you want to split up the mileage and visit Spili to enjoy its fountain with water spewing from the mouths of 19 lions heads, you can opt to bike Rethymno to Spili.   Continue the next day Spili to Zaros.

If you opt to spend a second night in Zaros, the next day an inviting bike ride awaits you to the Matala caves, Minoan Phaestos and the Roman ruins of Gortyna. 78.50 km, 48 miles

Day 6: Arhanes

After so much climbing, it is now time to descend into lower terrain.  Head for Arhanes, a town anyone with taste and class will admire,especially its traditional architecture of the “arhontiko,” the preserved old villas.  Located only 15 km south of Herakleion, Arhanes is famous for its local cuisine and wines.  See the Extras tab for a cooking class and wine tasting.

Day 7: Arhanes

Bike a back road to reach Knossos, the capital of the peace Minoan Empire. Admire King Minos’ throne; a replica was made for the chief judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. 25 km 15 miles To avoid Herakleion’s urban traffic, we recommend taking at taxi or bus from Knossos to Herakleion Archaeology Museum with its famed Minoan frescos and the enigmatic Phaestos disc. 41.60 km, 25.80 miles or 24.55 km, 15 miles   There’s likely time for an afternoon Arhanes loop 24.50 km, 15 miles

Day 8: Tzermiado

Head east, over mountain ridges, cycling on back roads with goats and donkeys. Listen for the cheery sound of their bells. En route make an optional 4 km detour to the Nikos Katzantzakis Museum, home of the author of Zorba the Greek.  Tzermiado is the largest village on the Lassithi Plateau, one of the highest farming areas in Greece that once had 20,000 windmills, in use only a generation or so ago.    44 km, 27 miles

Day 9: Tzermiado

Make a grand loop of the plateau, stopping at Lassinthos Eco Village and at Diktion Cave to marvel at the gigantic stalactites and stalagmites. Cretans believe Zeus was born in this cave. 25 km, 15 miles   Consider visiting the Minoan palace city of Malia, if you are up for an almost 3,000 foot descent/ascent to the coast.  Stop for lunch in Krasi, known for fresh drinking water springs. 54 km, 32 miles

Day 10: Departure

A thrilling descent of 2283 feet 695 meters from the mountainous Lassithi region to the coastal areas near Herakleion.  A CycleGreece agent meets you at the end of the ride to transfer you to either your Herakelion hotel or the airport or the port, depending on your itinerary.  Leave the bikes with the agent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 10: Departure

There are daily flights from Hania to Athens Airport, including ones that leave early enough to enable you to make a connecting flight home. Overnight ferries to Piraeus depart at 9:00 pm. Leave your bikes and gear at the hotel.

4 nights Libyan Sea Coast Hiking Add-On

Day 1 of the Libyan Sea Coast hiking tour is Day 8 of Self-Guided Crete cycling tour.

Day 1: Samaria Gorge, Soughia
A steep wooden staircase takes us to the beginning of the astounding Samaria Gorge, said to be Europe’s longest gorge. A descent through this national park may well be the highlight of your trip. Wildlife unseen elsewhere, cold fresh water mountain springs, narrow cliff walls 3 meters (10 feet) wide in places and the abandoned Samaria village are a few of the marvels that make this ravine Crete’s most beloved hiking trail. At the end of the trail we take the ferry to Soughia. 18 km, 11 miles. 4-5 hours walking

Day 2: Agia Roumeli
There were over 200 Asclepion healing centers spread throughout Ancient Greece, and one is located at Lissos, the destination of today’s hike. The area also has a fresh spring and seemingly dozens of Roman tombs from 60 AD. Return back to Soughia for a boat to Agia Roumeli. We are deep in Sfakia territory, Crete’s most rebellious region against the Turks, the center of resistance during foreign domination, and the most culturally engrossing. 10 km, 6.2 miles. 5 hours

Day 3: Loutro
We hike from Agia Roumeli to Loutro, two towns accessible only by foot or boat. At Agia Pavlos we stop to swim, get a bite to eat, jump off the big boulder into the sea, and inspect St. Pauls’ pastel pink Byzantine church. As a car-free village on the sea, Loutro is very quiet and serene. 10 km, 6.2 miles, 5 hours.

Day 4: Loutro
Today’s hike is through the beautiful Aradena Gorge that comes to the abandoned village of Aradena where it is worth admiring the traditional Cretan architecture of days past. The path consists of an old stone track known as kalderimia with wide steps conducive to mule traffic. The ascent is 1968 feet, 600 meters and descend the same route. 15 km, 9.3 miles. 6 hours.

Day 12: Departure
Morning ferry to Hora Sfakia, then vehicle transfer to Hania, the tour’s departure point. If you are not staying overnight in Hania, plan for an evening ferry or flight. If your departure from Crete is from Herakleion, additional transfer fees apply.

Cost

1300 euros per person for 1-2 persons. 1200 euros for 3-4 persons. 250 euros single supplement

Inclusions

  • 4 nights in local hotels, simple furnishings — a worthy exchange to be amidst an undeveloped coast and minimal tourism — ample hospitality
  • All meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner with local wine
  • Day 12 airport transfer to Hania (additional fees apply for transfer to Herakleion)
  • Local bilingual hiking guide
  • Daily luggage transfers
  • All sea transfers
  • Samaria Gorge entry fee

Exclusions

  • Air or sea transfer from Crete to Athens
  • Alcoholic beverages (other than house wine)
  • Travel insurance — see Extras tab

Cost in euros based on double occupancy

1-2 riders
10 days 2850 euros per person
8 days 2220 euros per person

3 riders
10 Days –  2700 euros per person
8 Days –   2100 euros per person

4 riders
10 Days – 2580 euros per person
8 Days –  2010 euros per person

Single Supplement 10 Days – 700 euros per person
8 Days – 500 euros per person

The above costs are based on the two standard Itineraries (East-West, West-East).  Cost may vary if Itinerary varies.

See daily exchange rates

TOUR INCLUSIONS

Accommodations: 3-4 star hotels, primarily family owned and operated, ranging from boutique hotels to seaside upscale hotels. Tasteful, clean, air-conditioned, private bath, abundant hospitality, comfort. All accommodations are standard doubles with option for upgrade.  All accommodations serve breakfast, usually buffet style. Tour prices are based on double occupancy.  See Accommodations tab to request more info about tour’s accommodations

Arrival Transfer:  East to West Day 1 transfer from Herakleion to bike start point (Hersonissos) to Tzermiado.   Option to transfer on Day 1 directly to hotel on any itinerary.

Departure transfer: Transfer arranged for any itinerary to port or airport.

Bikes:   Specialized road bike or hybrid bike.  Triple chain ring, 27 gears. Road bike has carbon fiber fork. Hybrids have front suspension. E-bike available as an upgrade on request.  Regular pedals or toe clips on request.  You are welcome to bring your own clip-in pedals and shoes.  See Our Bikes and Gear

Bike gear:   2 water bottles, helmet, handlebar pouch, odometer, lock, rear rack on request. For hygienic purposes we encourage you to bring your own helmet.

Bike tools: hand pump, patch kit, tire irons, spare tube, multi-tool. One set per group.

MealsBreakfasts are included at each hotel. 

Cue sheets   turn by turn directions plus distance/elevation profiles

GPS device: Oregon 450 with programmed routes, arrow indicating route and turns. Bike mount for GPS. One device/mount per group.

Mobile phone:  one per couple with 10 euros phone card.  One phone per group.

Maps of the region

Trip packet useful and interesting information about the region

CycleGreece jersey:  short sleeved, rear pockets, locally made

Gratuities, tips and VAT taxes

TOUR EXCLUSIONS

• International airfare to/from Greece

• Arrivals to or departures from Crete

• All meals except breakfasts

• Private licensed guide at Knossos – see Extras tab

• Additional GPS device, 50 euros per device

• Travel insurance – see Extras tab

TAKE NOTE
Travel Insurance is required as a condition for participation in a CycleGreece tour.

Electric Bike

  • E-bikes for a 10 day tour cost 300 euros.   See Our Bikes & Gear for more info

Travel Insurance

  • For travel insurance for U.S citizens, we are official agents of Travel Guard.  Contact us to receive a policy quote.   Cost of coverage depends on various factors including your state of residence, your age, your days of travel.   Travel insurance is not provided for flights booked using frequent flyer mileage.  Some policies require booking within 15 days of paying your trip deposit, such as, cancel for any reason or coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

Airport Transfer on Arrival to Athens

  • Private transfer from Athens Airport to Athens hotel. You are met at the arrivals exit by one of our team holding a sign with your name on it. We wait for you regardless of how late your plane may arrive.  No waiting in taxi or bus lines. 170 euros per transfer for up to 8 persons.

Athens Hotel

  • If you stay in Athens pre or post tour, we can recommend a hotel and book your room.   We patronize a range of Athenian hotels  in different neighborhoods and different budgets.

Private Archaeology Guide

  • Visiting famous ancient ruins without a professional guide is like watching a movie with the sound turned off!   The guides we work with make the archaic stones and temples come alive.   Three hour tour with licensed guide to Knossos and Herakleion Archaeology Museum.  190 euros per group, excluding 16 euros entry fee per person.

Traditional Cretan Cooking Class

  • Learn to make such Cretan delicacies as lemon­mint tzatziki, vine leaves stuffed with bulgar, or chicken with olives, raisins & onions in orzo.  Participation in meal preparation and, of course, eating!  4 hours.  From 80 euros per person to 150 euros per person depending on location and number of participants.

Wine Tasting

  • Experience the passion and expertise of a family run winery serving organic wines.  Choice of wine tasting alone, wine with cheese platter, light lunch, full lunch.  All choices include tour of the winery.  Costs range from 7 euros per person to 35 euros per person.  Contact us for details.

Samaria Gorge Guided Day Hike

  • Descend Greece’s most famous gorge that is a national park with a local guide who shows you its secrets and charms.  Cost is 380 euros per couple.  Inclusions:  skilled guide, transfer from Hania hotel to park entry, Samaria entry fee, picnic lunch, sea transfer to Hora Sfakia, land transfer to Hania hotel, port or airport. Also ask about guided day hike to Imbros Gorge.

 

 

Accommodations

An indicative hotel for Crete self-guided tour is Kalimera Arhanes located in the traditional town of Arhanes, famed for its food and restored villas known as arhontiko.

We select the accommodations for guided tours based on quality, comfort, cleanliness, hospitality, location and charm.   Most of the hotels on this tour are family owned and operated.

Hotels are included in the tour cost based on double occupancy.  A single room entails an additional cost.  Standard double rooms are provided but upgrade options are available.

All hotels are dependent on availability.   In the event of no occupancy, we patronize comparable accommodations in the same location.

Click to open in Google Maps

Overnight destinations and points of interest

Self-Guided tours require a deposit of 400 euros per person with the balance due 90 days prior to departure.

To make payment, we must first set up your online account. Once your itinerary and cost are finalized, go to the Book Now link which takes you to the secure Aegea Booking page to input your credit card information via PayPal. You may pay with a major credit card or Visa or Mastercard debit card or a PayPal account if you have one. You have the option to pay in euros other currencies. We pay all bank service fees although your credit card company may charge you a foreign transaction fee.

Alternatively, if you are reluctant to pay online, we can take your credit card information by phone. Please contact us to arrange a mutually convenient date and time for us to call you. We can also give you our bank account details if you opt to pay by bank wire transfer which usually has lower fees than those charged by a credit card company .

See details in the Booking Agreement which you must agree as a condition to participation in a CycleGreece tour. Participants are also required to sign a Waiver & Release of Liability.

Crete Self-Guided Photo Gallery

  • Crete6
  • Crete6

Pre & Post Tour Add-Ons

Tour Highlights

Stroll car-free Hania, a romantic Venetian & Ottoman era city

Examine the Minoan palace cities of Knossos, Phaestos and Malia

Walk the expansive grounds of Rethymno’s fabulous Fortezza

Opt for a Cretan cooking class in a traditional village

Cycle the rural roads of the Psiloritis Mountains and hike the Samaria Gorge

Monumental Olive Trees

Other Self-Guided Tours

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