Cooking and Traditions of Crete

From its gorgeous beaches and breathtaking mountains to its bustling cities and fairytale-like villages, Crete is a magical place. The natural beauty of the Greek island is only rivaled by that of its history, as the island is the birthplace of the Minoans, and even today vestiges of the island’s past populate Crete. Pair the island’s beauty with the gastronomy of the island — which has been named some of the healthiest in the world, as the diet is rich in fruits and vegetables — and Crete has the makings of a foodie heaven.

In this heaven on earth, escape to Lasithi Plateau, one of the largest plateaux in all of Greece and located in a rural part of the island. Don’t be surprised to hear the sound of goat bells, while enjoying the stunning views of cloudy mountain peaks and fertile fields populated with orchards and old wind mills.

Your hosts for the week are the lovely husband and wife team of Yiannis and Eleni, who started offering cooking tours in 2012. Yiannis has a background in geography, and in addition to running the apartments, he represents local cultural organizations. While it is Eleni who leads the cookery courses, he appreciates the traditional cuisine and loves spending time in the kitchen too.

Cooking and Traditions of Crete Itinerary

Day One

The island of Crete

  • Transfer from Heraklion airport on Crete to your rustic and charming apartment accommodations on Lasithi Plateau.
  • Some time to relax before meeting your hosts, Eleni and Yiannis, for your welcome dinner with local wine.
  • Overnight.

Your hosts for your cooking vacation on Crete

Day Two

  • Breakfast with “Amalthea’s Goods.” (Amalthea was a she-goat — or a nymph, according to some — who was Zeus’s foster mother when he was hidden in a cave. When Zeus grew up, he crafted his thunder-shield from her hide and the horn of plenty from her crown). Breakfast throughout your time on Crete will feature local goods.
  • In the morning, start your first hands-on cooking lesson, which will be an introduction to Greek flavors. Some dishes you may prepare include moussaka, tzatziki, Greek salad, and zucchini fritters.
  • Lunch to follow based on your efforts. Weather permitting, enjoy it out on the veranda. A bottle of local wine is included.
  • Afterwards, enjoy some time to relax before departing on a walk through the nature of the plateau, as well as some nearby villages.
  • Dinner tonight will be in the village of Krassi, where the biggest platen tree is located, where — as the mythology goes — the god of Zeus mated with Europa. Krassi is also where Nikos Kazantazaki — a famous Greek writer — used to relax, write, and meet friends.
  • Overnight.

Greek food enjoyed al fresco

Day Three

  • Traditional breakfast.
  • Return to the kitchen for your next hands-on cooking class focusing on Cretan specialties. Your menu may include giant beans with herbs and vegetables; snails with vinegar and rosemary; tomato feta and oregano fritters; and briam with cheese.
  • Lunch to follow based on your efforts with a bottle of local wine.
  • In the afternoon, visit the cave where it’s said the god of Zeus was born.
  • Next it’s on to a local creamery to learn about and taste Cretan cheese and butter. While here learn how to prepare olive oil and herb soap, which you can take home as gifts!
  • Dinner back at your accommodations.
  • Overnight.

Grapes at a winery in Greece

Day Four

  • Traditional breakfast.
  • In the morning, visit Knossos Palace, an ancient archaeological site that’s considered Europe’s oldest city; it was once the capital of Minoan Crete.
  • Continue to a local award-winning winery for a food and wine tasting lunch that includes six dishes with wine.
  • In the afternoon, stop for a visit at the Natural History Museum of Crete, which is focused on the study of the flora and fauna of the beautiful island.
  • Walk over to Heraklion, the largest city on the island. During this brief visit to the bustling modern metropolis with plenty of shopping, stop for a Greek coffee and “bougatsa” (pastry) tasting. Dinner tonight is included.
  • Overnight.

Greek sardines

Day Five

  • Following breakfast, head to the beach for some time relaxing in the sun and swimming in the crystal clear sea.
  • Enjoy a fresh juice, or frappe, tasting while at the beach.
  • Take part in your next cooking class, this time in a fisherman’s village. The course will focus on fresh fish and seafood. Lunch to follow based on your efforts with one bottle of local wine.
  • In the afternoon, it’s time to learn about Greek raki, which resembles Italy’s grappa. It’s made with grapes and is a byproduct of the wine-making process, resulting in a strong alcoholic drink. Tour three different places, enjoy some tastings of raki along with salty mezedes (or small plates) for dinner.
  • Overnight.

Cooking classes in Greece

Day Six

  • Traditional breakfast.
  • In the morning, have some time on your own to relax, explore, and enjoy your last morning on the Greek island.
  • Lunch on your own.
  • Return to the kitchen one last time for your final cooking class with Eleni, and to receive your cooking certificate. A farewell dinner to follow with a bottle of local wine.
  • Overnight.

Day Seven

  • Breakfast followed by check out and group departure transfer to Heraklion airport.