Crete is a rugged and breathtakingly beautiful island with an unspoilt and mountainous interior and on this adventurous trail you will be able to explore this on horseback; up through the mighty Gorge of the Gonies with the vultures hovering overhead, down the old donkey route 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 where you can swim with your horse in the clear waters.
Riders cover 100 miles on this journey across the island and en route, in the mountain villages, you will encounter the true Cretan ‘filotimo’– the famous Cretan hospitality. This horse riding holiday truly is an opportunity to explore another culture on good horses with secure back up. Most people in Crete speak some English and arriving on horseback in small villages you are eagerly awaited guests.
The countryside lends itself to good riding with many dirt tracks winding through olive groves and mountains. As well as experiencing all of what rural Crete has to offer, every other night you will return to the stunningly appointed 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 able to care for their own horses. You are equipped with maps and route descriptions and the trail is already clearly marked with blue arrows at every crossroads.
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 SI of London on 02/06/2017
Arrival, a welcome tour through the stables, a dive in the pool and evening dinner in the restaurant at the hotel. A briefing about the trail riding you'll be undertaking.
Today we have an introductory ride in the area to get to know the horse who will take us on our trail. We ride in a northerly direction up the hills of Sfendili and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside. We cross the Byzantine church of Avdou which overlooks the sleepy, whitewashed village, and then step up a pace, getting to know our 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 .
The trail starts with a spectacular climb. After riding through the gorge of Gonies we climb up to 1000 metres above sea level, to the mountain village of Kera. While the horses rest in a nearby olive grove we enjoy the breathtaking views and eat a lunch cooked in a traditional oven washed down with a glass of refreshing Cretan wine. After lunch we continue our climb, up to the rim of the Lassithi Plateau. As we look around us we see 360 degree views. To the north we see the dramatic gorge and beyond that, the sea. Ahead of us lies the green and rural Lassithi Plateau, with the Dikti Mountains towering above it. Here we dismount and follow on foot the old donkey track, once the only possible path to the plateau. Upon reaching the outskirts of this fertile plain we re-mount and follow the meandering paths through the fields. Here we find great agricultural industry on a minute level; 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. Along these paths we shall meet the locals still working with their donkeys on the land. Here we are able to enjoy a fast canter over the flat plateau. Overnight in Magoulas, Hotel Dionissos or in Dzermiado Hotel Kourites. 6 hours riding.
Today we cross through the Dikti Mountain Range in southerly direction. Up here in the confines of the mountains, surrounded by ethereal peaks, you will feel the freedom of isolation; nothing but the sound of the birds, the breeze and the goat bells. Riding through these majestic mountains you will experience the special feeling of being alone with the horses, the mountains, nature and perhaps some goats. Higher we go, crossing the high Limanakio Plateau, riding along dusty goat tracks before beginning our descent. Under the shade of some tall trees we enjoy our picnic lunch while the horses enjoy theirs, and then we set off down towards the first village on the mountainside, where the horses will overnight and we will meet the transport. Overnight - transport back to our base hotel in Avdou. 5 hours riding.
We ride downhill through a desert land dried by the south winds from Africa until we meet the clear blue water of the Libyan Sea. That evening, if conditions are safe, we will reward the horses (and ourselves!) with a refreshing swim. Tonight we will dine on fresh fish from the wood-fire sitting right by the sea. Overnight in Keratokambos. 6 hours riding.
First we ride along the sea and then we turn inland again. We follow the Anapodaris River which over the centuries has cut a 5km long gorge into the landscape. Even now the water is cutting the gorge deeper. The horses stride confidently along the dirt track as we watch the river flowing down towards to sea and listen to the goats playing on the mountainside. Suddenly the land becomes more friendly, hilly with many olive and vinyards. We 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. Overnight in Avdou at the hotel. 6 hours riding.
We ride back to Avdou through typical Greek countryside. The gently winding paths through the olivegroves make for good faster riding and we canter happily across the red earth; the horses love to feel the wind in their manes. Eventually we make our way back into the mountains and the paths become more rugged. We stop for lunch at a beautiful little chapel with good shade and a waterpump for the horses. Our trusty steeds rest in the adjacent olive grove whilst we relax and enjoy the atmosphere here. Finally, we take our last ride back to the Velani Hotel with the stunning Dikti Mountain range on our right. Tonight we will have a delicious farewell dinner and look back fondly on the adventure we have had. 5 hours riding.
After breakfast depart for the airport and your flight home.
Notes: In the case of unguided trails the days can be taken at your own pace and on some days there are shorter or longer routes available to your accommodation 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
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.
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.
The stable has two Arabs, one Berber, two Thoroughbreds, four Dutch warm bloods, four Greek warm bloods, and one Hanoverian for the guide. For children there is 1 Welsh section B pony.
The warmbloods and thoroughbreds have good breath and rarely tire so are therefore suitable for long distance riding. They are cool headed, courageous and strong and in excellent condition having been trained in the mountains. Their sizes vary from 14hh to 16hh. The riding style is English and the horses are generally ridden with a relaxed, long rein.
The pace of the riding is dictated by the terrain, steady on steep mountainous areas, faster on the flat. Due to the small character of the stables, with a maximum of 10 riders a week, your hosts are able to maintain a close and personal contact with their guests. The stables are built with natural stone like the hotel but above all they are designed to be horse friendly to be as close as possible to the physical needs of 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 that is what gives the horses’ joy, health and peace! That is why the horses not only enjoy a large stable with an open turnout paddock but they also have the possibility for social contact. 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.
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.
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.
The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Each night you stay in comfortable hotels or return to your base hotel at Avdou. A comfortable room and hot shower are available every night. Hotels are rural inns where you are given a unique opportunity to meet local people, who are invariably delighted to meet you. Some of your hosts are not able to speak English but are keen and enthusiastic communicators so you will have no problems.
The base hotel is well suited to its surrounding as it is built with real natural stone collected from the land it stands on, giving it a robust and natural look. The hotel has a neo-classic style creating a romantic atmosphere for long summer nights. The main building houses the reception and a cafe with a large balcony where you can enjoy your Greek coffee or Rakí. In the main building you also find the restaurant with its large terrace overlooking the outside menage and the valley. The restaurant serves Cretan cuisine which is famous for being healthy with its use of olive oil. The olive oil is made from olives from the estate.
The restaurant serves fresh home cooked food with organically grown vegetables and fruit from its own gardens and makes use of local products from nearby farmers.
The 12 hotel rooms are grouped into 2 bungalows each housing 6 rooms. The bungalows lay quietly, separate from the main activities. The rooms are large and comfortable and all have 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).
Next to the main building lies the naturally formed large swimming pool (unheated) of 100 m2 (130 – 160 m. deep) with a separate, lower situated, 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 your room will be ready from 14:00. On departure day, guests are required to vacate their room by 10:30, however they are welcome to spend the day at the hotel until their 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.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
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.
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.
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
• 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 waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• 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
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.
2017 Guided: 26 Mar; 23 Apr; 7, 21 May; 4 Jun; 10, 17 (FULL) Sept; 1, 29 Oct
2017 Unguided: Available all year around except June - September and when the guided trail is not running (high season 19 Mar - 29 Oct and 16 Dec - 8 Jan 2018).
2018 Guided: 25 Mar; 22 Apr; 6, 20 May; 3 Jun; 9, 23 Sept; 7 Oct; 4 Nov.
2018 Unguided: Available all year around except 15 Jan - 15 Feb, 1 Jun - 30 Sept and when the guided trail is not running (high season 18 Mar - 4 Nov and 16 Dec - 9 Jan 2018).
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,029|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||485|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,055|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||165|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||499|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||965|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||425|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,019|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||445|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,079|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||505|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,079|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||505|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,019|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||445|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,139|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||539|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,139|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||539|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,069|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||469|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,129|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||489|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,199|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||559|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,199|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||559|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,129|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||489|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,429|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||219|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||675|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,429|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||219|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||675|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,339|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||219|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||589|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,415|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||219|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||615|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,505|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||219|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||699|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,505|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||219|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||699|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,415|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||219|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||615|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||11,365|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,745|
|2017 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||5,375|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||11,365|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,745|
|2017 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||5,375|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||10,529|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,725|
|2017 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||4,615|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||11,265|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,745|
|2018 Unguided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||4,885|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||11,959|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,745|
|2018 Unguided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||5,585|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||11,959|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,745|
|2018 Guided High Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||5,585|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||11,265|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,745|
|2018 Guided Low Season||8d/7n||6||non rider||4,885|
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 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.
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.