Crete is a rugged and breathtakingly beautiful island with an unspoilt and mountainous interior. On this adventurous trail, riders will be able to explore this magnificent island on horseback. Ride up through the mighty Gorge of the Gonies with vultures hovering overhead, down the old donkey routes to the green and fertile Lassithi Plateau, up and over the higher reaches of the great Dikti Mountains and down to the Libyan Sea on the south coast to enjoy a swim with the horses.

Riders cover 100 miles on this journey across the island on well-schooled horses and an excellent back-up. Experience the true Cretan ‘filotimo’– the famous Cretan hospitality while exploring mountain villlages.Most people in Crete speak some English and arriving on horseback in small villages always creates some excitement.

The countryside lends itself to excellent riding with many dirt tracks winding through olive groves and mountains, as well as experiencing what rural Crete has to offer. Every other night the riders return to the base hotel whilst the horses stay out along the trail. 

This trail can also be ridden unguided; it is available throughout the year for experienced riders who are able to care for their own horses. Riders will be given a map with the route clearly marked.

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from LP of London on 20/11/2022

Ride Summary
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
hiking shoes should be recommended on day 1 of the trail rather than riding boots
What could we do to improve this ride?
ensure all restaurants can meet dietary requirements. if they cannot, guests need to be told in advance to make alternative arrangements
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
8
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
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May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1
On arrival the guests are given a welcome tour through the stables. Relax by the pool before enjoying the evening dinner in the restaurant at the hotel and a briefing about the ride.

Day 2
Today is an introductory ride in the area to get to know the horses. Ride in a northerly direction up the hills of Sfendili and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Cross the Byzantine church of Avdou which overlooks the sleepy, whitewashed village, and then step up a pace, getting to know the horses at a canter, riding quickly over the plateau of Mochos beneath the grand and majestic Psiloritis Mountains which boasts the highest peak of the island. Overnight in Avdou in the hotel .

Day 3
The trail starts with a spectacular climb. After riding through the gorge of Gonies, Climb up to 1000 metres above sea level to the mountain village of Kera. While the horses rest in a nearby olive grove riders can enjoy the breathtaking views and a lunch  washed down with a glass of refreshing Cretan wine. After lunch, continue the climb up to the rim of the Lassithi Plateau for a 360 degree view. To the north is the dramatic gorge and beyond that, the sea. Ahead lies the green and rural Lassithi Plateau, with the Dikti Mountains towering above it. Here the riders dismount and follow the old donkey track on foot. This was once the only possible path to the plateau. Upon reaching the outskirts of this fertile plain, re-mount and follow the meandering paths through the fields of small-scale farmers, where an abundance of fruit trees line the sandy tracks beside the neatly harrowed plots. This plateau is well known for its white windmills irrigating the land and the hard-working locals working with land with donkeys. This is the perfect chance to enjoy a fast canter over the flat plateau. Overnight in Magoulas, Hotel Dionissos or in Dzermiado Hotel Kourites (or similar). (6 hours riding)

Day 4
Today the route crosses the Dikti Mountain Range in southerly direction. Up here in the confines of the mountains, surrounded by ethereal peaks, riders will feel the freedom of isolation with nothing but the sound of the birds, the breeze and the goat bells, and the special feeling of being alone with the horses. The route climbs, crossing the high Limanakio Plateau, riding along the dusty goat tracks before beginning the descent. Enjoy a picnic under the shade of some tall trees and then we set off down towards the first village on the mountainside, where the horses will overnight and riders meet the transport back to the base hotel. (5 hours riding)

Day 5
Ride downhill through desert landscapes, dried by the south winds from Africa, until meeting the clear blue water of the Libyan Sea. That evening, if conditions are safe, reward the horses with a refreshing swim. Tonight dinner is a feast of fresh fish cooked on a wood-fire, sitting right by the sea. Overnight in Keratokambos. (6 hours riding)

Day 6
Ride along the sea before turning inland again. Follow the Anapodaris River which over the centuries has cut a 5km long gorge into the landscape.The horses are comfortable on the dirt track and allows riders the chance to look around and watch the river flowing down towards to sea and listen to the goats playing on the mountainside.  The terrain becomes more friendly with hills, olive trees and vinyards. Cross through villages and along Lake Ini where the horses enjoy a well-deserved drink. The horses stay overnight near the small village of Skinias and riders return to the base hotel. Overnight in Avdou at the hotel. (6 hours riding)

Day 7
Ride back to Avdou through typical Greek countryside. The gently winding paths through the olive groves make for good faster riding and canters across the red earth. Eventually the trail heads back into the mountains where the paths become more rugged. Stop for lunch at a beautiful little chapel with good shade and a waterpump for the horses. While the horses rest in the adjacent olive grove, riders can relax and enjoy the atmosphere before taking the last ride back to the Velani Hotel with the stunning Dikti Mountain range on the right. Enjoy a last night farewell dinner while looking back over the adventure of the past week. (5 hours riding)

Day 8
After breakfast depart for the airport and your flight home.

Notes: In the case of unguided trails the days can be taken at the riders own pace, and on some days there are shorter or longer routes available to the accommodation for that night. As with many of our horse riding holidays, the itinerary may change due to weather or other local considerations. The trail is not available in July and August due to the heat, the Sun and Riding program is offered instead with a few hours riding in the cooler hours of the day.

Please follow this link for a map of this itinerary: Lasithi Trail

Reading List
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.

Winds of Crete - David MacNeill Doren
The Chania Town News - Douglas Bullis 
Last Temptation and Zorba The Greek - Nikos Kazantzakis
The King Must Die and The Bull From The Sea - Mary Renault

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The stable has two Arabs, one Berber, two Thoroughbreds, four Dutch warm bloods, four Greek warm bloods, and one Hanoverian for the guide. Their sizes vary from 14hh to 16hh. The riding style is English and the horses are generally ridden with a relaxed, long rein. For the children there is a Welsh pony (section B). The warmbloods and thoroughbreds are ideal for long distance riding. All horses are well tempered, strong and in excellent conditions making them ideal for the mountains.



The pace of the riding is dictated by the terrain, steady on steep mountainous areas, faster on the flat. Due to the size of the stables,the ride can only accept a maximum of 10 riders a week. This means that the hosts are able to maintain close and personal contact with the guests.



The stables are built with natural stone, like the hotel, and are designed to cater to all the physical needs of the horses. The facilities include: - 14 stables with connected behind turnout paddocks giving the horses themselves the choice to go inside or outside. - Outdoor arena, 42 x 20m with an all-weather proof floor and a small tribune. - Outdoor arena, 15 x 12m, for lunging. - Tack room - A horse shower - Bathroom/changing-room and toilets for the guests. Space, outside air and contact with other horses helps to keep our horses happy. Most of the horses are stabled in pairs in 1 large stable of 6, 20 x 3, 20 m. The roof all around is open giving the horses a constant flow of fresh air.


Rider requirements

For the guided trail participants should be comfortable at walk, trot, canter and have some experience in rough terrain. Expect to spend an average of 4-7 hours a day in the saddle. You must also be fit enough to be able to dismount and lead your horse on steep sections and remount on the trail. The minimum age for this ride is 12 years.
In addition, for the unguided trail, you need to be comfortable caring for your horse – feeding, grooming, catching and saddling them daily. You need to be able to follow a route on a map and will also be given a written trail description. You are equipped with maps and route descriptions and the trail is already clearly marked with blue arrows at every crossroads. Most people in Crete speak some English but you will benefit from having a few words of Greek to communicate in the mountains such as 'nero' (water) for the horses. You have two saddlebags for your personal belongings.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Riders stay in comfortable hotels each night,  or return to the base hotel at Avdou. A comfortable room and hot shower are available every night. Hotels are rural inns where riders have the opportunity to meet local people, and experience the local hospitality. Some of the hosts may not able to speak much English, but are keen and enthusiastic communicators so there will be no problems.



The base hotel is well suited to its surrounding as it is built in neo-classic style from the area's natural stone from the area. The main building houses the reception and a cafe with a large balcony where you can enjoy a Greek coffee or Rakí. In the main building is the restaurant with its large terrace overlooking the valley. The restaurant serves fresh home cooked food with organically grown vegetables and fruit from its own gardens, including olive oil pressed from the farm's own olives. Local products from nearby farms is regularly used.



The 12 hotel rooms are grouped into 2 bungalows each housing 6 rooms. The bungalows are separate from the main building and the rooms are large and comfortable, with a tremendous view over the valley. Each room has a large bathroom with bathtub. The rooms have central heating and air conditioning (both included in the price), a fridge, a flat screen TV with international channels, a hairdryer, a large glass door of 2m and a private balcony or terrace. Most rooms are equipped with a wood stove (the wood is not included in the price). The large natural 100 m2 swimming pool is situated next to the main building (unheated and open all year), and also a separate children’s pool of 11m2 (40 cm deep). The sun beds are free to use. There is a free WIFI internet connection in the main building and on the terrace.



Check-in at the hotel is all day but please be aware that  rooms will only be ready from 14h00. Guests are required to vacate their room by 10h30 on the last day, but are welcome to spend the day at the hotel until the transfer flight home.



The price of the holiday includes all meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 8, however meals outside of this time can be purchased on-site from the restaurant. You can expect a continental breakfast with coffee, tea or hot chocolate, fresh bread, butter, jams, cheese, ham and orange juice.



Picnic lunches are prepared by your hosts for you to take along in your saddle bags each day. It is recommended you bring a water bottle to take with you.



Dinner includes a starter, main dish and a salad. Vegetarians can be catered for with advance notice, any other dietary requirements need to be checked before booking. Avdou is situated 9 miles from the sea and the lively holiday centre Chersonissos. Here you can find all the modern facilities you might need e.g. banks; a private medical centre, water sports and souvenir shops. In the Bay of Chersonissos there are several small sandy beaches. The wide sandy beach lies on the west side of Chersonissos reachable by bike, scooter or car. The beaches are child friendly and some have coast guards.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

There are rules about taking food and drink into the EU. See Taking food and drink into the EU for further information.

Passport and Visa requirements can change regularly depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country.

Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/germany

In the USA: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Germany.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/germany

Climate Summary

The climate in the mountains are always changeable so you should come prepared with a raincoat and warmer jacket even in summer time. The temperatures below are for the nearest town on the plains and are cooler in the mountains.

Climate Chart

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

There are rules about taking food and drink into the EU. See Taking food and drink into the EU for further information.

There is a risk of West Nile virus in some parts of Greece. You should consider preventative measures to minimise exposure to mosquitoes.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Greece and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.

While pharmacies across the country stock a good supply of medicines, you should make sure you have sufficient medical supplies (including prescription medicines) for the duration of your stay and any unforeseen delays, adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 or 166 and ask for an ambulance

Electricity

In Greece the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Film and Camera Equipment

Good quality film is widely available for purchase as well as batteries (normal, alkaline and lithium). At Hotel Velani there is free WiFi throughout the building and a computer and printer available to use.

Packing List

We have put together a suggested packing list for your trip. This should be used as a guideline as requirements may very according to your programme and preferences.

• Riding Helmet - we strongly recommend that you wear a properly fitted riding helmet of the current standard which is PAS015 or BSEN1384. Helmets are available at the stables if you do not have your own
• Jodhpurs - jodhpurs, breeches or other comfortable trousers (jeans may rub and can also be quite hot)
• Riding Boots - it is important to have correct shoes or boots for horse riding. Jodhpur or ankle boots with a rubber sole are recommended but sturdy shoes with a definite heel are acceptable (such as walking boots)
• Half Chaps - these are great when worn with ankle boots and help prevent the stirrup leathers rubbing against your legs
• T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
• Sunhat
• Sunglasses
• Fleece - Although the weather is generally very warm, the evenings can be a bit cooler
• Warm layers - At times the evening temperature drops significantly
• Casual Clothes - for when out of the saddle
• Water Bottle - it's very important to drink a lot of water when it's hot, especially when doing physical activities
• Raincoat - it is always a wise idea to pack a light waterproof/ windproof jacket and also light waterproof trousers in the winter!
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take inset repellent and plenty of sun cream
• Camera and Spare Batteries/Charger - an absolute must! It is also a good idea to take a camera case you can strap around your waist or onto a belt for whilst you are riding
• A copy of your passport
• Swimwear

Programmes

There are set departure dates for this programme for the guided trail. Programme includes 8 days / 7 nights / 6 riding days. The unguided trail can be taken at any time apart from at the same time as the guided trail and during the summer months.

Departure Dates

2023 Guided Trail High Season: 19 Mar; 2, 30 Apr; 28 May; 11 Jun; 10, 24 Sept; 8 Oct.
2023 Guided Trail Low Season: 5 Nov
2023 Unguided: Available all year around except when the guided trail is running (high season 14 Mar - 5 Nov and 15 Dec - 8 Jan 2024).
Hotel and Stables closed 10 Jan - 17 Feb 2023 and 26 Nov - 12 Dec 2023

Pricing
No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6double pp1,375
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6single supplement225
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6non-rider665
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6double pp1,375
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6single supplement225
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6non-rider665
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6double pp1,309
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6single supplement225
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6non-rider605
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6double pp1,309
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6single supplement225
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6non-rider605
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6double pp1,515
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6single supplement245
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6non-rider735
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6double pp1,515
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6single supplement245
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6non-rider735
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6double pp1,445
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6single supplement245
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6non-rider665
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6double pp1,445
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6single supplement245
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6non-rider665
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6double pp1,739
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6single supplement285
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6non-rider845
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6double pp1,739
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6single supplement285
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6non-rider845
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6double pp1,659
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6single supplement285
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6non-rider765
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6double pp1,659
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6single supplement285
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6non-rider765
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6double pp17,399
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6single supplement2,815
2023 Unguided High Season8d/7n6non-rider8,439
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6double pp17,399
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6single supplement2,815
2023 Guided High Season8d/7n6non-rider8,439
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6double pp16,595
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6single supplement2,815
2023 Guided Low Season8d/7n6non-rider7,639
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6double pp16,595
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6single supplement2,815
2023 Unguided Low Season8d/7n6non-rider7,639
Recommended Reading

‘Winds of Crete’ by David MacNeill Doren ,Douglas Bullis' The Chania Town News’ , Nikos Kazantzakis, ‘The Last Temptation’ and ‘Zorba the Greek’ and Mary Renault's ‘The King Must Die’ and ‘The Bull from the Sea’. For a broad selection of equestrian travel books, many previously unavailable visit www.HorseTravelBooks.com - inspiring adventure!


Other Activities

Other activities in the hotel are paragliding (only for experienced flyers), hiking, caving and mountain climbing for all levels. Please enquire for the different programmes. It is also possible to rent mountain bikes.
A 18 hole golf course is located 7 km away.
The traditional Greek village of Avdou lies at 1km away. The village has 250 inhabitants, here time has stood still.
The wide sandy beach of Anissaras lies at 15km away.
The airport is 40km away.

Wildlife

The moment you arrive on the hillside you experience the serene quietness and the tremendous panoramic view. Beneath you stretches the Langada Valley with the Apposelemis River crossing through and above are the red coloured peaks of the Dikti Mountains. Birds of prey, like the Griffon Vulture, glide along these peaks. The estate is surrounded by protected Kerm Oak forest and olive groves stretching down to the valley. On the estate many protected trees and flowers can be found, such as different types of beautiful orchids.

Other Country Information

Greece is located in south-eastern Europe bordering the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. Greece shares borders to the east with Turkey and to the north with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria and Albania. The climate is temperate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.

Modern Greece, as an independent national entity, came into being in 1829 after a protracted independence struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Greece has been fighting for territory with Turkey ever since, continuing in their battle over the split island of Cyprus.

Ancient Greece has given the world democracy, the Olympic Games, theatre and a high literary culture through great works by Homer and some of the greatest philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato. However this was not just a world of sobriety and high academia. The Greek god of wine for example, Dionysus, was a hell raiser who encouraged the local townswomen to dance naked through the street in his honour. Hugely debauched festivals were held in his honour and some of that spirit has definitely been passed down through the generations and has found itself still celebrated in the tavernas across the country.

Greece is two hours ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram. The international dialling code for Greece is +30.


Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Heraklion (HER)
Transfer:
Payable on site, available any time. €55 from Heraklion Airport or €60 from Heraklion centre each way per car (1-4 pax), takes approximately 45min.
Flight Guide:
London - Heraklion return from £145 pp
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