8 Days, 7 Nights|
Guides, ground transportation, support vehicle, lodging, most meals (breakfasts and dinners), and entry fee into Samarian and other Gorges.|
Air or ferry to Heraklion, lunches, drinks and one dinner, personal clothing and accessories, full medical, baggage and trip cancellation insurance, airport taxes and gratuities.
|This week-long Plein Air painting trip, designed for fun and artistic creativity, will feature several days each in the towns of Matala and Agia Galini along the south-central coast of Crete. Matala is a lovely beach resort town, whereas Agia Galini as a picturesque harbor town dramatically situated on a mountainside.|
During this workshop, we will cover a variety of art skills, including drawing and composition in a painting, light and shadow, color and temperature, edges and paint application, all while staying true to your own unique way of seeing.
Our daily routine will be morning of informal instruction en plein air, lunch in a taverna by the Libyan sea, then a choice of afternoon activities. These might include relaxing under an umbrella at the beach, hiking to a remote beach, or visiting nearby Minoan ruins, picturesque villages, and natural sites. Before dinner in a local taverna, we'll gather for a "Happy Hour" meeting and formal seminar.
9:00 – 12:00: Paint
12:30: Lunch in seaside tavernas
1:30 - 4:30: Paint or optional activities
5:30 - 7:00: Happy hour
7:00: Sunset and dinner
And of course there will still be opportunities on this active artist retreat for: journaling, photography, short stories, mythology, poetry writing, swimming, beachletter-writing, reading, Greek dancing, eating, hiking, cave exploring, R & R, naps, snorkeling, sunset-watching, people-watching, shopping and disco dancing.
Our special trip designed for artistic creativity will feature a full week’s time with a group studio space outside Matala, which is a peaceful and picturesque seaside village famous for its sacred caves and beautiful beach on the southern coast of Crete.
Day 1: No matter which route you take to get to Heraklion, the trip will officially begin around 10:00 a.m. at the Heraklion airport. We have found that the flight schedules from Athens to Heraklion vary year to year but generally there are flights arriving between 9:30 and 10:15 a.m. We will meet you at the airport in the arrivals section. Look for staff wearing Northwest Passage t-shirts and carrying “Welcome” signs. From the airport we will head to Knossos, the Minoan palace ruins just outside of Heraklion. We will visit Knossos, then shuttle down to Matala on the south coast. There are many options for lunch spots in Matala. You’ll have some free time in the afternoon to explore the town. We’ll get together to enjoy an incredible sunset, have a drink, and begin to get to know one another. We will review the itinerary for the week and answer whatever questions you may have. Dinner included.
Day 2: After breakfast, we will outfit all with paddle, PFD and sprayskirt, then head across the street to the beach where we will offer basic kayaking instruction. The protected bay in Matala provides us with a perfect spot for instruction surrounded by the famous caves (legendary homes to Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and others in the 60’s). After enjoying lunch the Artists will depart for the studio. The afternoon will be spent arranging your space for the week. You’ll have some free time followed by an optional sunset hike. We’ll end the day with a great meal (as always) and a chance to experience the rousing nightlife of Matala. Breakfast, Dinner included.
Day 3: We’ll get an early start today in order to stop and visit the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Festos. The Palace offers a unique blend of rural Crete and ancient Minoan lifestyle. We will spend the morning at the Palace absorbing the beauty and allow each member the time needed to capture the essence of this unique place. The afternoon will be spent in the studio. Breakfast, Dinner included.
Day 4, 5 and 6: Our suggested daily routine for the next few days will be to draw and paint in the AM en plein aire or in our studio, have lunch in a taverna by the Aegean, paint some more or go to the beach to draw, write, read, swim and snooze. There will also be excursion opportunities offered to nearby ruins, villages and natural sites. These excursions will be arranged and offered by The Northwest Passage staff. Some options include a kayak tour to a neighboring beach or village, day hiking in the Psiloritis (Crete’s highest mountain range), exploring the numerous ruins dotting the countryside (i.e. Gortis, Levina, etc). Dinners will be in nearby tavernas with possible group meetings or activities. Breakfast included.
Day 7: As our week on Crete comes to a close we will spend the morning in the studio wrapping up any remaining projects. If you decide to forgo the morning studio session, you are welcome to relax in Matala. The afternoon will be spent returning to the studio for breakdown and clean-up. This evening we will travel 20 minutes to the port town of Agia Galini to meet the sea kayakers. We will celebrate and share our many tales with a final dinner overlooking the scenic harbor at Agia Galini. Breakfast, Dinner included.
Day 8: The van will depart for Heraklion between 11 a.m. and noon, giving time for folks to visit the renowned Heraklion Archaeological Museum. If you want time to visit the Museum, you should not book a flight out of Heraklion before 5:00 p.m. Those with early morning flights from Heraklion will need to arrange a taxi from Agia Galini (cost is approximately $50). Breakfast included.
Note: This is our intended itinerary. As with any travel, the forces of nature can be unpredictable, causing us to make adjustments and changes to the itinerary. Rest assured that our many years of exploring Crete have provided us with numerous options if changes need to be made.
This is all you will need -- anything else is unnecessary baggage and will only be extra weight to carry.
- 3-7 t-shirts, some synthetic quick-drying are great
- 1 shirt, long sleeved
- 2-3 pair shorts (some quick drying)
- Sun/rain hat
- Sneakers/cross trainers for hiking; some prefer hiking in Tevas or other sandals with socks
- Rain gear just in case! (Paddling jacket works well as an alternative) or windbreaker jacket
- 1 pair sport sandals (Tevas, water socks etc)
- Bathing suit(s)
- Underwear, socks
- Casual clothes for evenings (shorts/summer dresses are fine!)
- Clean change of clothing for the trip home
Notes from Marge, one of our artist instructors, especially for women:
- "Bring one of everything, items that layer and all in colors that work together." That's my Golden Rule - lots of black and white, with a colorful top or two. Example: a tank top, a t-shirt, a 3/4 sleeve v-neck, a thin long-sleeve v-neck, a cardigan sweater and a waterproof windbreaker!
- Also REI or similar light-weight travel pants that unzip just above knees into shorts; my new best friend!
- a pareo, the big colorful scarf to wear about 5 different ways, especially around your waist on top of bathing suit; i.e., fun beach/taverna cover up. Lots of camping uses! I know it's really Polynesian, but it works! These can be bought cheaply in Matala.
- Passport (be sure to check expiration date)
- Personal medication kit- ibuprofen, aspirin, vitamins, band-aids, Dramamine®, cold/sinus meds if prone to colds
- Daypack/fanny pack for hiking
- Chums/Croakies® to keep glasses on your head are imperative
- Camera, film, waterproof container (if you want to bring on kayak)
- Small travel alarm clock
- Art Supplies - options for purchasing them on Crete are very limited, so try to have what you need with you.
- Canvas or paper in a block
- pencils, erasers
- pens, colored pencils, water-soluble crayons
- basic assorted brushes
- paints in tubes (watercolor, acrylic or oils)
- gesso and medium, if needed
- masking fluid
- varnish (no aerosol cans)
- Mask and snorkel (can be purchased inexpensively in Crete)
- Field glasses – binoculars
- Ziploc® storage bags (to keep stuff extra dry in dry bag)
- Small dry bag with carabiner clip (clear ones are very useful)
- Headlamp for sea caves if kayaking
- Small towel (e.g. PackTowel® works well)
What is special about this trip?
Incredible coastline, spectacular sunsets, the friendliest innkeepers and taverna owners you’ll ever meet, warm waters in tremendously varied shades of blue and green, amazing sea caves, cliff jumping for all levels of risk-takers, never-ending sunshine, phenomenal food, an opportunity to see the Crete that few tourists see. Rick Sweitzer, Executive Director of The Northwest Passage, fell in love with Crete in the late 60’s and has been exploring the backroads and coastline of this incredible island ever since. The Northwest Passage has been touring Crete by kayak, bicycle and foot for many years and in the process, we have developed great friendships with our local hosts. You’ll feel like part of the family as we share with you our most popular international trip.
How do I get there?
Our adventure begins in Heraklion, the capital of Crete. To reach Heraklion, most participants fly into Athens. From there, you have a choice of flying to Heraklion (a one hour flight offered by several carriers including Aegean and Olympic Air or taking an overnight ferry. If you choose to fly, most U.S. travel agents can book Olympic Air but are not familiar with Aegean. You can book flights online for either Olympic (www.olympic-airways.gr) or Aegean (www.aegeanair.com). You can also make reservations through Pacific Travel (www.pacifictravel.gr email@example.com) We have been working with Pacific Travel for many years and they are quite helpful. They have an office at the Athens Airport that is staffed 24 hours a day. There is also a website at www.cretetravel.com which is quite helpful. You can also call our office to get more details regarding the travel options. It is important to confirm your return flights, both the flight to Athens and the flight from Athens to the US, 48-72 hours prior to the flight. If you choose to take the ferry, you can purchase tickets right at the port or in advance through a travel agent. The port (Piraeus) can be reached by taxi or bus from the airport. The cost for the ferry will vary depending on level of accommodation (private cabin with bath, semi-private, etc). Most of the ticket agents at the port will take credit cards.
What papers do I need for travel?
All US citizens require a valid passport to enter Greece. A visa is not required for citizens of the United States, Canada, and the European Union. If you are a citizen of another country, please check with your nearest Greek embassy for visa requirements.
Do I need to get any shots before traveling?
No inoculations are required when entering or leaving Greece.
How and where will you meet me?
We will ask for a copy of your travel itinerary prior to your departure. We will meet the morning of the first day of the trip at the Heraklion Airport, or otherwise by arrangement. Exact meeting time will be determined once flight schedules from Athens to Heraklion are finalized for that season. We have found over the years that the schedules vary somewhat year to year. The airport is quite small and we will be wearing Northwest Passage shirts and carrying an NWP sign. We will meet in the arrivals area of the Heraklion airport.
How long will it take me to get there?
The flight to Athens is usually an overnight flight, leaving the U.S. in the late afternoon and arriving mid-day to late afternoon in Athens. Depending on the carrier and connection, you may overnight in another city en-route. There are flights out of Athens to Heraklion starting at 6 a.m. and continuing throughout the day and evening until 11:45 p.m. Returning from Athens, most flights back to the U.S. are in the early morning, requiring an overnight in Athens the last day of the trip. Generally, participants will book flights out of Heraklion late afternoon on the last day. If you want to visit the Archaelogical Museum in Heraklion, you should not book a flight before 4:00 p.m. on the last day of the trip.
Where should I stay overnight around there?
There are many hotel options in Athens in varying price ranges. The Plaka area of Athens (near the Acropolis, etc.) is the most popular area and not too far from the airport (45+ min. cab ride depending on traffic; buses are also an option). Please feel free to contact our office for hotel suggestions. If you choose to overnight in Heraklion either at the beginning or the end of the trip, there are hotel options downtown as well as just outside of town, again in varying price ranges. We can give you suggestions based on your preferences and budget.
What money should I take?
The trip fee covers most of your costs. The only things you will be responsible for are lunches, drinks, one dinner, personal purchases, and gratuities. Lunches generally range 5-10 Euro. Dinner ranges 10-20 Euro. Personal purchases again vary- one can buy unique souvenirs made of olive wood for 5 Euro or get fine jewelry for significantly more… it’s up to you.
What's the currency? Exchange rate? Where can I exchange money?
The Drachma was the Greek currency. However, Greece converted to the Euro in January, 2002. For the most current exchange rate, there are several helpful websites. Oanda (www.oanda.com) will give you a handy conversion cheat sheet to take with you. You can exchange money at the airport (either Athens or Heraklion). Exchange rates at the airport may not be the most favorable and they often have higher commission rates and/or minimum commissions. There are ATM’s at the airports which can be handy as there is not a commission, just the ATM service charge. There are also ATM’s in Matala, Plakias and Agia Galini. Some of the hotels where we stay will also exchange. Some shops do exchange money but their rates are often high.
Do they take plastic there? Are there cash stations?"
There is a Cash Station at the Heraklion Airport. There are also ATM’s in Matala where we spend the first two nights and again in Plakias and Agia Galini. Many of the more upscale shops will take credit cards. You can sometimes negotiate a better price on goods if you pay cash. Many smaller shops do not accept credit cards.
What's the weather like?
The weather in fall and spring is generally around 80° with lots of sunshine. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, including lip protection. A broad-brimmed hat that secures on your head can also be very helpful. Water temperatures in fall tend to be in the mid to upper 70’s. Spring water temperatures are significantly cooler (high 60’s). Air temperatures cool off at night to the point you may want a light jacket. Rain is unusual but does sometimes occur. A light rain jacket can be handy.
What are the accommodations like?
We choose the nicest inns/hotels in each of the towns where we stay. That said, we are avoiding the major touristy towns of Crete so options are somewhat limited. All of the hotels are clean and rooms have private baths. Bathtubs are a rarity in Crete but all rooms have showers.
What do I need to bring?
Upon registering, we will provide you with a detailed clothing and equipment list to guide you in your packing. Casual clothes are the order of the day- no need for anything fancy. If you bring any items requiring electricity, be sure to bring both a converter and adapter plugs. These can be purchased at Radio Shack®, other electronics stores, travel stores etc. Let the salesperson know you are traveling to Greece and they can help you select the appropriate converter and adapter plugs for your equipment. Note that hair dryers, irons, and any other heat producing devices require a stronger converter than other devices. It is helpful to know the wattage of your particular equipment when purchasing the appropriate converter.
Can I drink the water?
The water is safe to drink in all the areas we visit except the town of Loutro. In Loutro, the water will not make you ill but has a salty taste. However, bottled water is readily available everywhere and quite inexpensive so most folks choose to drink bottled water.
What's the food like?
Breakfast generally consists of fresh Greek yogurt with honey, bread, cheese, juice, coffee or tea, with eggs as an occasional option. Lunches and dinners are ordered off the menu which typically consists of Greek specialties such as moussaka, pastitsio, grilled meats and fish, spaghetti (doesn’t sound Greek but very popular), stifada (generally beef stew), etc. Selections for vegetarians are more limited but previous vegetarian clients have not gone hungry, enjoying dolmades (grape leaves), eggplant, zucchini, tzatzki (yogurt/cucumber/garlic dip), saganaki (fried feta), Greek salads etc.
What time zone will I be in?
Greece is two hours ahead of Greenwich Time, which makes it 7 hours ahead of US Eastern Time, 8 hours ahead of Central Time, 10 hours ahead of Pacific Time.
How can people reach me in an emergency? Can I call home?
We will provide you with a list of our hotels including phone and fax numbers. You should also provide family/friends with The Northwest Passage number (800-RECREATE, 732-7328) as NWP staff will always be notified of any changes in the itinerary. You can call home using a calling card. Many of the hotels will have phones in the rooms. Keep in mind the time difference listed above. It can be helpful to remind family and friends about this also. MCI access code for calls from Crete is 00-800-1211. AT&T access code is 00-800-1311, Sprint access code is 00-800-1411.
How many people are on this trip? How many guides? Who are the guides / what are their qualifications?
Typically, between 4 and 8 participants join us on this trip. The guides are experienced outdoor professionals, and know Crete very well. They are always ready to suggest a scenic spot that will surely inspire some great work.
How can I prepare physically for the trip? How much prior experience is needed?
No prior experience or physical conditioning is necessary.
"What a wonderful way to see and experience the crossroads of civilization! Whether hiking, kayaking, painting, shooting, or just taking in local colors and tastes, Crete will become part of your soul." - Dave D.
THE HISTORY OF CRETE
Crete is the largest of the islands of Greece, and is the home of Europe’s earliest known civilization, the enigmatic Minoans. While the first permanent settlements on Crete seem to date to about 8000 years ago, new artifacts found in sea caves along the coast we will kayak indicate that the first mariners may have reached its shores as early as 150,000 years ago, rewriting the history of early seafaring.
THE STONE AGE- 6000-2600 B.C.
Crete’s first inhabitants appear to have been a blend of settlers from Anatolia, Africa, and the coastal regions of the Middle East. Neolithic tools include handaxes, stone drills, and other artifacts. The site of the Minoan-era palace of Knossos and Phaestos are built over neolithic remains, and at Phaestos, the stone base of a neolithic-era hut can still be seen.
MEETING THE MINOANS (BRONZE AGE) - 3000-1400 B.C.
From simple beginnings, the arts and crafts began to thrive on Crete. Early dark-fired pottery called "Kamares Ware" after the cave in which it was first found still dazzles modern viewers with its delicacy and strong sense of design. From the beginning, Minoan artists expressed a freedom and liveliness of line that is enchanting. Around 2000, the first so-called palaces rise up, seemingly coordinated, in a number of places on Crete. These structures cover large areas with multi-story buildings enjoying a natural ventilation system and running water - even fountains and flush toilets. Images of beautiful women with complex coiffures and clothing dominate the arts, leading many to believe that the earliest Minoan society was ruled by powerful queens and priestesses rather than a male king. But by the time of the development of writing, the myths tell of powerful kings such as Minos himself and his brother Radamanthys, a renowned seafarer and lawgiver. But despite their power over the Aegean seas, men are not usually depicted in positions of power in Minoan art. A fresco of male tribute-bearers which originally covered hundreds of feet along the walsl at the palace complex of Knossos appears to end in front of a female figure, preserved only by her feet and hem of her dress.
But apparent divisions on the island drove some Minoans to the Greek mainland, where they may have mingled with the local Greeks and become the Myceneans.
The Minoans established towns throughout the Aegean and beyond in what some have termed a "thalassocracy" - domination by seatrade. But in a sudden shift about 1638 BC, everything changed. The island of Thira - now known as Santorini - exploded in a devastating volcanic eruption which sent as tsunami roaring into Crete, less than 90 miles away. The height of this wave has been estimated as high as 200 feet, and it was accompanied by a volcanic cloud which dimmed the sun enough to affect agriculture around the Mediterranean. About the same time, Knossos was destroyed in an earthquake and fire. Some historians believe there was an opportunistic invasion of Crete by the Mycenaeans shortly after the eruption and tsunami. In any case, there is a shift in language and culture after this time. Though Knossos itself was rebuilt, the other palaces were not, and Knossos became the undisputed center of Cretan politics during the Mycenaean period. After about 500 years, around the close of the estimated time of the Trojan War, the Mycenaeans lost power to a new invader, the Dorians, tall blue-eyed Greeks who are the ancestors of the local Sfakians we will meet along our journey. Some of the changes that come with the Dorians are preserved in the stone steles found at Gortyna which make up the "Gortyna Code", a collection of laws. Corrections 'penciled in" on these stone tablets show the gradual diminishment of Cretan women's rights of inheritance and other changes.
Crete eventually comes under the control of the Ptolemies, the Greek rulers of Egypt who came to power after the death of Alexander the Great. Crete at one point belonged to Cleopatra, who is believed to have visited her holding after it was restored to her by Marc Antony. She would not be the first femme fatale to make a visit to the island - Helen of Troy is also rumored to have stopped along the south coast of Crete while traveling with her husband Menelaus.
Crete is mentioned in the Bible several times, mostly in connection with St. Paul who is said to have been shipwrecked at the Cretan port of Fair Havens on his way back to Rome to face charges. In any case, the south coast is fond of St. Paul and there are several spots named for him, including a chapel on the beach at Agios Pavlos which we will visit by kayak. "Pavlos" is also a very popular name in southern Crete. Slightly later, St. Titus came to the island to preach and there are the remains of an early cathedral at the ancient site of Gortyna. While not part of our usual itinerary, some may find the ruins of this vast Roman-era city worth a visit before or after the trip.
After the departure of the Romans, Crete was made part of the Byzantine Empire. In 824 A.D. an Arab Saracen force invaded the Island, meeting little resistance. They used Crete as a base for attacks on ships and were little more than pirates. For over a century Arabs had control of the Island. The Byzantine rulers did little to help their colony until 961 A.D., when they drove out the Arabs in a huge and bloody battle which decimated the Cretan population and wiped out the occupying Arabs. After the Crusades, the island of Crete fell into Venetian hands. While the native Cretans were second-class citizens, the Venetians were generally more or less benevolent or merely indifferent rulers, and as time went on, Venetians and Cretans intermarried. Some of the foods of Crete and other Greek islands still reflect this Italian influence - which is why a baked spaghetti with pork dish is a specialty at one of the tavernas we'll visit.
The Venetians maintained control over Crete until 1668, when the Ottoman Empire captured the island. Crete remained under Ottoman control until long after the liberation of the rest of Greece, gaining independence in 1897. It was its own nation for about 15 years, reuniting with Greece in 1912.
During World War II, Crete was the site of the "Battle of Crete", when Hitler dispatched 17,000 paratroopers to take over the island in a single night. However, over six thousand of them were killed by local Cretans. While the invasion succeeded, the loss of so many elite troops against ill-equipped opponents made Hitler resolve to never use that method of attack again, a decision which may have cost him dearly.
In modern times, Crete enjoys a robust agricultural and shipping economy augmented by a vibrant tourism sector. While it is suffering from the financial crisis throughout Greece, Crete is still a net contributor to the economy of Greece, sending far more in taxes to the Greek government than they receive back in services - or so our Cretan friends insist. Crete also made good use of EU funds in the early days of Greece joining the Euro union, with the result that many roads and other infrastructure projects were financed with EU money. It also has become a popular destination for many Northern Europeans seeking a holiday home in the sun. Throughout the rest of Greece, Crete is renowned for its excellent food, great climate, and generous hospitality, all of which we will enjoy on our journey through the land of the mystical Minoans.