4 Days Cretan Vegetarian Cooking Holidays in Greece

  • Kouriton House, Historic Manor, Rethymnon, Crete

Overview

Vegetarian, Vegan Cooking Trip in Greece

If you love to cook and travel, our vegetarian cooking adventure in Crete is what you are looking for. By joining this tour, you can combine your love of cooking, your love to the vegetarian lifestyle and philosophy and your love to travel into one amazing experience. Enjoy cooking vacations that blend all the secrets particular of the region of Crete and learn about them first-hand alongside the locals. Join local farm house ladies and host George, on an intimate cooking holiday into the heartland of Cretan regional Vegetarian cuisine.

Highlights

  • Chania culinary tour
  • Heraklion culinary tour
  • Food tasting, honey tasting
  • 2 vegetarian cooking classes
  • Market visit, village trip, city tour
  • Excursions in Chania, Heraklion, Doxa, Marathos
  • Daily breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • 3 nights accommodation
  • 2 days with instruction
  • English
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Kouriton House

At village Tzanakiana / Margarites around 25 kilometers from the city of Rethymnon, a fine stone-built country manor of 1750 is found, the Kouriton House. Classified as historical, it has been preserved for its traditional architectural structure, typical of the Cretan design stemming from prehistoric Minoan mansions. Run by the owner, a retired University professor of music, a very nice and warm lady, and her sons. Breakfasts and dinners at the manor prepared by the house lady with fresh ingredients from the area but most importantly, with love and care.

During the restoration procedure, the historical listed monuments Kouriton House preserved all the architectural characteristics of the 18th century house that has its roots at the pre-historic Minoan mansion: the backyard with the rock-built ponds and the terraces, the oven-house, the ceramic chimneys, the bedrooms, the rest for pitchers, the old jars, the crenellation and the rock-hewn surface water reservoir.

The house has 7 bedrooms that can accommodate from 2 to 4 persons. On the ground floor, there are 2 two-bedroom flats with a fireplace, an oven-house as well as a dining room with very old jars and a monastery-style table, where the guests can enjoy thematic breakfasts based on local products and traditional recipes. On the first floor of the house, there is the living room, where the guest can have a drink or use the internet. Every piece of furniture is a copy of the original Cretan furniture of the house, while the beds are authentic antiques.

Every room has a fridge, a TV, a hair dryer and ecological air conditioning. The guest house also provides drinking water from the fountain located in the area as well as a softener. It is built right at the entrance of the forest and the historic paths with a view over the evergreen gorges and the traditional settlements. The guest house has a rich library with vast folklore, historic material, leaflets regarding the Cretan gastronomy, a photocopy machine, and audiovisual material infrastructure.

Day 1: Arrival

  • Upon arrival at the Heraklion International Airport (HER) you will be met by your personal English-speaking driver that will offer you a snack and water for the 70 minute transfer to the house.
  • Check into your room, relax, and explore your surroundings before joining for a welcome home-made Cretan dinner made up of a variety of local vegetarian Cretan foods, your first taster of the flavors of Crete.

Day 2: Excursion to Western Crete in the Region of Chania, food tasting, market visit, cooking class

  • Departure at 9:00 to the West of Chania, a scenic city that combines the strong traditional color of living history with the virtues of a modern city. The traces of all the cultures and nations dominated and ruled the city in the pass, are more than evident as the city is a living museum where architectural styles and cultural attitudes have been harmonically blended together.
  • Join a visit to the town market of Chania. Dating back to the 1900s, it is a cross-shaped gallery that houses over 65 food stores, presenting fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, breads, legumes, and anything else you may want such as cafés, restaurants, and shopping. Walk the old city of Chania for an hour.
  • We will have lunch at the old harbour of Chania with a variety of local vegetarian specialties.
  • After lunch, we drive back to our village.
  • You will have a break at the village of Georgioupolis, where we will buy and taste the famous bread of Georgioupolis; made with the same method for the last 150 years. It has a unique smoked taste.
  • Go back to our village in the late afternoon.
  • Our first cooking class and dinner is about local legumes and casseroles.

Day 3: Excursion, honey tasting, food tasting, cooking class

  • Today we visit the palace of Knossos. When visiting the island of Crete someone must see the ancient palace of Knossos, built 3500 years ago.
  • Walk the centre of Heraklion city with a break for lunch at a small mezedopolion at the heart of Heraklion with a variety of vegetarian dishes.
  • After lunch, drive North West to a place 20 kilometers from the city of Heraklion. The beautiful virgin nature is perfect pasture for bees. Old traditional beekeeping methods ensure ecological, clean, and free from any additives honey and other bee products. The first honey of the season is collected from spring thyme blossoms. This golden yellow honey is perfect source of nature's ingredients.
  • We will get a break at the small local café / restaurant run by the beekeepers since 1949. The owners, two brothers, have been beekeepers for all their lifetime, taking the business from their father. You wil taste honeycombs straight from the beehive and learn everything about bees and beekeeping, as well as having a kind of pancake dipped in honey, called tiganite, and small cheese pies with honey in company with local wine and the Cretan snap, Raki. You will definitely feel the positive effect to your body and soul.
  • You will then visit a women cooperative at the near village of Marathos, where they make the very special Xompliasto Koulouri, unique art pastry with small and bigger round breads.
  • Go back to the village in the late afternoon.
  • Our second cooking class and dinner is about stuffed vegetables, vine leaves and olive oils.

Day 4: Departure

  • After breakfast, drive to the Heraklion International Airport (HER) for the flight back home.

In Crete, a meal is not only a celebration but also a culmination of various events. Enjoy culinary explorations that blend all the secrets particular of the region of Crete and let you enjoy and learn about them first-hand alongside the locals. Going from one region of Crete to another changes not only what you eat, but how you eat it, how its prepared and what accompanies it. Each region is a mystery unto itself. Immerse yourself in the fantastic flavours and mouth-watering smells of regional Crete.

We believe that the most authentic way to experience and understand the heritage of Cretan culture, nutrition, history, way of life and its people, is in the company of a local scholar, walking through streets which are alive with religion, art and history, immersing in the architecture, learning about the life, traditions, and customs of Cretan people, past and present.

You will sample some of the finest meals as well as fruit and vegetables in the world. You will drink selected spirits (ouzo, raki, liquors) and wines that will elevate your spirit and help you relax, and relish the excellent traditional cooking in some of the less obvious restaurants that we will point you out.

Follow Porto Club Vegetarian lead, come on a route of adventure, travel and wonder as you explore the mysteries, flavours and customs particular to various Cretan regions on our unique and authentic Cretan vegetarian food holiday. We can promise you we will not be part of any tourist trail or the sheep following mentality. Our aim has always been to offer quality not quantity, so Porto Club remains small but perfectly formed.

We offer a unique opportunity to experience at first hand authentic Cretan regional cooking techniques and recipes that have been developed and handed down over generations. All of the ingredients you will use are bought each morning from local open market and so you will be working with fresh fruit and vegetables in season.

Throughout our cooking you will learn about the ingredients and the traditions around the dishes. You will learn the passion of the Cretan kitchen and, importantly, have a lot of fun and enjoyment doing it. Your week in Crete will be as much a hands on cooking experience as a cultural one. George will introduce you to the philosophy of local cooking and its traditions. You will learn about the history of Cretan cuisine and how it was influenced by its occupation for more than 2000 years.

You will learn the inspirations behind the Cretan dishes, the methods employed by local producers, how to make a variety of Cretan dishes from simple ingredients you can find back home, how very few ingredients can be the basis for 6 or 7 dishes. You will learn how to prepare traditional Cretan dishes adapted to vegetarian requirements but never compromising on flavor as well as the cooking techniques and methods used to create the dishes.

Cretans eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables. The fat we use in our cooked food and salads is mainly olive oil. We eat pulses and vegetables in large amounts. They are the basis in our daily diet. No more than two or three days would go without pulses in a meal and not a day without vegetables, wild greens, olives, uncooked fresh vegetables and greens as salad, Cretan rusks and fruits. We eat more fruit than most, in fact, 4 times more than the other inhabitants of the Mediterranean.

A traveler in Greece when goes for lunch or dinner can find a huge variety of vegetarian and vegan meals in Estiatorion (restaurant). In these restaurants they present their specialties in show tables so guests can view the meals and choose one of them. Estiatorion is restaurant that operates mostly for local people. They always supply a big number of free-meat dishes we call them Ladera. You can find them at taverns or other kind of restaurants but Estiatorion is the ones I always suggest.

I have no compunction in saying that Crete and Greece is an ideal destination for a vegan or vegetarian, at least nutritionally. There is still a long way to go to connect with the philosophy and spirit of the vegan way, but any vegan visitor will be surprised at how harmoniously local Cretan people live with animals, almost all of whom free range in the fields or mountains. I hope and believe respect is a good first step between Cretans and vegans or vegetarians worldwide.

For many Greeks, especially in the countryside and islands, five days a week their meal is vegetarian or vegan. Yes, Greeks are meat and dairy eaters, but because such a large percentage of our diet consists of pulses, vegetables, greens and fruits, a vegan or vegetarian visitor will not have any difficulty in finding a huge variety of vegetarian food all over Greece. You don't have to apologize or explain why you don't eat meat.

Taste the healthy Cretan and Greek Mediterranean meat-free delicacies and our fine wine. You shall feel strong humanity, away from the stress of our daily life. You shall feel the warmth of Greek and Cretan company. You shall be captured by the place, perhaps because you think that time has stood still or because they welcome you with a shot of Tsikoudia with Cretan rusks and fresh tomato or a tsipouro or an ouzo.

Cretan dishes

  • Casseroles
  • Dolmadakia vine leaf wraps stuffed with sorrel, pumpkin flowers
  • Ladera
  • Mageirefta
  • Moussakas
  • Saganaki (fried cheese)
  • Sfakiani (stuffed pitta)
  • Soups
  • Stuffed peppers, tomatoes, courgettes and Aubergines (Papoutsakia)

Cretan bakery and desserts

Cookies: On Crete, these cookies are traditionally made and served over the Christmas and New Year's holiday season. They are enjoyed at other times of year as well, but in December and January, they come together to create a fabulous collection of tastes and textures.

Kalitsounia: These sweet cheese pastries are an Easter favourite on the island of Crete.

Kouloura: These sweet breads are an Easter favourite as well on the island of Crete.

Kourabiethes: Kourabiethes (also kourambiedes) are traditional celebration cookies, served at Christmas, New Year's, weddings, and baptisms. Toasted almond shortbread-type cookies topped with a generous coating of confectioner's sugar, they melt in the mouth.

Melomakarouna: Melomakarona are a Christmas tradition in Greece (but enjoyed at other times of the year). All over Greece, kitchens will be filled with the wonderful smell of these spice cookies that will adorn tables, be given as hostess gifts, and eaten in huge quantities.

Pastries: these cookies are traditionally made and served over the Easter holiday season.

Pies: Crete is famous for its cuisine and mostly of its traditional Kalitsounia, which are small pies that can be filled with different fillings, such as cheese (tyropitakia) or greens and wild herbs (Hortopitakia). These unique delicacies are served across the entire island and are a very tasteful and healthy snack you can enjoy any time of the day, as an appetizer or light meal.

Spoon Sweets: Spoon sweets are healthy confections, visually pleasing, distinctive, and extremely versatile. Offering them to guests is a wonderful tradition and a sign of "sweet" hospitality. Nowadays they are used as healthy spreads, in baked goods, and to top ice cream, cakes, and yogurt. Spoon sweets reflect the spirit of the Cretan and Greek hospitality. Spoon sweets are a traditional offering in Greek homes. Spoon sweets are fruits, preserved in syrup. They are commonly known as "spoon sweets" which translates to sweet of the spoon. due to the traditional way of serving the sweets on a well-filled teaspoon accompanied by cold water.

  • 2 cooking classes
  • 3 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 3 dinners
  • 3 nights accommodation
  • 4 days cultural drives
  • 4 days private vehicle and English speaking driver
  • Explorations, visits, contact with locals in their home or place and join their daily life
  • Transportation from and to the airport or port to the apartment on arrival and departure
  • Anything not mentioned above
  • Entrance fees at archaeological or historical sites
  • Tips
For information about the booking conditions, please send Porto Club Travel Services an inquiry.

Testimonials

  • Review by Carolyn and Ian

    "It was a memorable tour and as Ian said a true "slow food" experience! Thanks for your generosity and hospitality, for sharing your passion for Crete and showing us all the wonderful things it has to offer. Our time in Crete was much enriched by joining your tour. Thanks again."

    Porto Club website, edited

  • Review by Suzanne

    "First of all thank you for the wonderful week with you in Crete and immersing me in the Cretan culture, food and beautiful scenery. Your vibrant personality made it so much more fun. Thank you also for sending me the recipes, I will put them to good use. Again thank you again for the wonderful time in Crete, and the cave dinner was truly a highlight during that week."

    Porto Club website, edited

  • Review by Diana

    "I just wanted to say, that you are a true professional and a very special person. You made the experience truly memorable. You treated all of us like family instead of just strangers.You took us to local eating establishments which really enriched the experience. The cooking classes were a lot of fun, they were very hands on, which I bloody loved. You went out of your way to make sure that we all had a fabulous time.The lodgings were very nice and the location was really spectacular! George I will always remember my time there as very special, and wish you and your family the very best. I will always have a grand smile as I remember my time in Crete."

    Porto Club website, edited

  • Review by David from USA

    "I cannot thank you enough for the truly remarkable experience in Crete. Since I arrived back in the USA, I have cooked several meals using the principles you shared with us and enjoyed every one of them.Unfortunately we cannot get the freshest ingredients, but even the techniques you showed (simple combinations of ingredients that show up in most dishes, grating tomatoes, different ways of chopping onions, cooking with potatoes, and so on) have been very useful. I cannot wait to entertain others with the Cretan cuisine!The best part of the trip was that you took us to places that tourists would probably never know about, where you knew the people and their families. That made the vacation especially authentic and memorable. Even the long drives were okay, because we got to experience the wonderful sights of the island."

    Porto Club website, edited

  • Review by Christina

    "David and I enjoyed the week we spent in Crete. The sites we visited and the food that was cooked and ate were definitely unique and delicious. Below are some feedbacks on the culinary tour.Thaloris location in the mountains and it is integrated into the village provide a local Cretan experience. Georges knowledge on Crete history and Thaloris hospitality makes the visit enjoyable.The various local restaurants that we ate at enabled David and I taste local Crete food and cooking. The ingredients were very fresh, very delicious. The cooking experience where we got hands-on experience in preparing and cooking Cretan food each night.The small group setting allows the group members and George to interact and build close relationship during the week. This helps adjust the flexible itinerary if the group likes to explore/visit some different sites. The bottom line: the food and alcoholic beverages were great."

    Porto Club website, edited

  • Review by Chantal

    "Our trip was great, but of course, the highlight was our week on Crete. We have already made tsaziki, lots of boiled and sauted greens, the cucumber appetizers, the eggplant dip, and greek salad. We bought some grape leaves and phyllo dough so will try making some more dishes soon.As far as critical thoughts about our stay in Crete, we enjoyed the trip and learned so much about Cretan food, culture, and history. Thank you again for a fantastic week full of learning and good memories."

    Porto Club website, edited

  • Review by Rene

    "I am writing to you because I am still awestruck by the experience of a lifetime! I could never have imagined how wonderful, gracious, enjoyable and entertaining a vacation it was to be. I absolutely fell in love with Crete and George. I couldn't have planned a better trip and I can't wait to go back. Thanks for all your help and please tell everyone this is the vacation not to be missed. There was plenty of everything. I didn't want for anything!"

    Porto Club website, edited

Heraklion, Greece

Travel provider for small group exclusive weekly packages on the island of Crete. Food and wine, cultural visits and hands on cooking classes in Greece.

Speaks English

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4 days / 3 nights

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