Crete, Greece Culture and food experiences with George Portolakis

Cooking and Culture Holiday in Crete, Greece with George Portokalakis Kapetaniana is a small village perched at an altitude of 800 meters on the Asteroussia range. This little known haven of tranquillity..

Cooking and Culture Holiday in Crete, Greece with George Portokalakis

Kapetaniana is a small village perched at an altitude of 800 meters on the Asteroussia range. This little known haven of tranquillity lies west of Kophinas peak, commanding magnificent views over the Libyan sea and surrounded by mountain wilderness. Kapetaniana is the glorious setting where you will combine your Cretan cooking holiday with an outstanding traditional Greek cultural experience.

This is why this Cretan cooking holiday is one of a kind.  Your cookery school offers an all-encompassing cultural cookery experience. In the mornings you will sit down to a lavish breakfast before heading off to visit sites of cultural interest specifically chosen so that you can immerse yourself in local Cretan history and tradition.

The area is steeped in history and intrigue and you will visit many interesting places, including the Basilica of St. Titus, the valley of Messaras, the city of Rethymnon and the waters of Argyroupolis. You will see the awe inspiring frescoes at the monastery of Odigitrias, which has a rich history dating back to the Turkish occupation, and visit local wineries with a chance to try your hand at making raki.

Your host and cook, George, believes it is important for you to fully experience the Cretan passion for food and each day he will take you around the island and show you the local traditions, historical and archaeological sites of interest and then you will share lunch with the locals before returning for your hands on, custom made cookery class.

Under the careful guidance and tutelage of cook George, you will be taught the traditional Cretan way of creating and transforming simple dishes into something wonderful to be shared with friends and loved ones.

You will learn to cook in an informal and sociable environment, with lessons custom built around your tastes and preferences. The focus is on learning to be creative with traditional and local ingredients taken fresh every day from the fields and markets.

This really is the best of both worlds.  A really unique experience, combining local visits in a beautiful tranquil setting with learning the skills and passion of Cretan cuisine, this unique 6 night/7 day Cretan cooking holiday is truly a magical experience.

Cretan food, wine and Cooking Holiday 

Start Days

– All arrivals are on Sundays on set dates

– Arrival will depend on your flight but times can be flexible

– It may be possible to arrange Cretan cookery holidays on other date for groups of 4 or more, to check availability, contact us with your preferred date

– Cretan cooking holidays are for 6 nights/7 days

– If dates appear ‘on request’ please contact us and we’ll check availability for your preferred day of arrival as quickly as possible

Cretan food, wine and Cooking Holiday Itinerary

The itinerary is for guidance only and is subject to change depending on the group’s needs and wishes but is typically as follows:

Day 1- Sunday – Arrival and traditional Cretan welcome dinner

– After arriving at Heraklion airport, you will be met by your driver and English speaking Cretan host George

– If you’re arriving in the morning you’ll head somewhere for lunch before being driven to the Thalori Resort via transfer

– For guests arriving after lunch, George will meet you at the airport and offer you a coffee, snack and water for the 70 minute transfer to the Thalori Traditional Resort

– Check into your house, relax and explore your surroundings before joining your fellow guests for a welcome dinner made up of a variety of local Cretan foods – your first taster of the flavours of Crete

Day 2 – Monday – Explore south-central Crete, visit to archaeological sites of Gortys, and Phaestos, Kokkinos Pyrgos village and first cooking lesson

– Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading out to explore the south-central part of the island with your host George

– Today you’ll visit Gortys, the ruined capital city of the Roman province which included the island of Crete

– You’ll see the impressive amphitheatre and the Basilica of St Titus before driving west to the archaeological site of Phaestos – the second most significant site of the Minoan civilisation

– Phaestos is an ancient palace and you’ll also see the site of the ancient city is was located in offering a detailed insight into ancient life

– Stop off in the fishing village of Kokkinos Pyrgos for lunch and enjoy local specialities – or freshly caught seafood for the pescatarians

– After lunch you’ll head back to the Thalori complex and head to the kitchen for your first cooking class

-This evening’s hands-on class focuses on fish and sea food and George will teach you preparation techniques that transform basic ingredients into the stars of the table, full of richness colour and flavour

– After the class sit down as a group and enjoy the meal you’ve learned to cook accompanied by local wine

Day 3 – Tuesday – Arkadi monastery, village of Margarites, and sage hill / goats shearing

– After breakfast at the Thalori houses where you will be staying, take a drive through the vineyards and small villages of the Rethymnon region

– Visit the 16th century monastery of Arkadi.

– Next you’ll visit the village of Margarites – a small village famous for producing ceramics

– After browsing the shops and a coffee break we drive east to the village of Honos where we meet our hosts shepherds family Petoussis and join the goats’ shearing. Ending the shearing a fiesta with food and live music will follow

– After lunch you’ll return to the Thalori houses and prepare for your second cooking class with George this time focusing on stuffed peppers, courgettes, aubergines and tomatoes as well as Dolmadakia – stuffed wraps with vine leaves, sorrel and pumpkin flowers.

– After the class you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labour with the group along with some raki and local wine

Day 4 – Wednesday – Moussaka cooking class and cave shepherds dinner

– After breakfast you’ll be spend  some of your time at the Thalori swimming pool or relax for the evening event. 11 am we start the cooking class based on Moussaka and Pastitsio and some more specialties. Ending the class we lunch the meals we have cooked and rest of afternoon at Thalori for a nap to be fresh for the coming evening. 6 pm departure from the resort for the drive to the other side of the mountain. Leave the car and start the walk to the cave. Arrive the cave by the sun set and the event starts with music songs food and mystical atmosphere. Walk back to the car after midnight and drive back to Thalori

Day 5 – Thursday – Matala caves, wine tasting, producers visit at vineyard and casserole cooking class

– After breakfast you’ll be driven to the caves of Matala and its beach which is known to be the best in the region where you’ll learn about the ancient history of the caves and the more modern history and how it was mentioned in songs by Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell amongst others

– Spend some time at Matala and leave the place driving north for a pleasant experience visiting a small family run winery producing special small quantity good quality organic wines. The winemakers know their product and share their knowledge. An exceptional experience a ‘producer visit’ visiting one of George’s friends-cousin’s farms for lunch. Picked all the produce lettuce. Cucumber, tomatoes and thee meat sourced locally, chicken, lamb and of course goat served on plastic tables, chairs and paper table cloth. Great atmosphere and ambience. The simplicity of the setting will be part of the enjoyment and the various meats cooked accompanied by homemade wine. Late afternoon drive back to begin this evening’s cookery class

-Tonight’s cooking class is based around the mageirefta or ladera and you’ll use several types of wild greens, green beans, broad beans and other ingredients to create a  delicious dish to enjoy with the other guests of local wine and raki

Day 6 – Friday – Knossos, walking tour of Heraklion, beehives visit and art of pastry making at the women’s co-operative work shop of Marathos and farewell dinner

-After breakfast, today’s excursion takes you to Knossos, an ancient palace and must-see archaeological site of Crete

– After visiting the 3500 year old site of Knossos, you’ll head to Heraklion and take a walk through the city taking a gastronomic tour of all the best local food places and vendors

– Next you’ll explore the central market and stop for an ouzo with meze at one of the traditional mezedopolion (restaurants)

– Here you can admire the scenery and stop for coffee before heading to Marathos to visit the women’s co-operative work shop at the village of Marathos where the residents make unique and incredibly artistic pastry breads called Xompliasto and spend 1 hour working with them

– You will see how the pastry is made and the delicate work needed to create such stunning breads and spend an hour working together and learn their technique

– Ending the visit, you’ll visit a bee keeper and learn about traditional methods of bee-keeping employed here to make organic, additive free local honey

– The owners are two brothers who have been bee-keepers their whole lives, inheriting the business from their father

– At the cafe, you will have the opportunity to take honeycombs straight from the beehive, learn about the bees and beekeeping as well as having the local pancakes known as tiganites served with honey and cheese pies along with raki and local wine

– After the bee-keepers place , you’ll head back to the Thalori resort to relax before  a farewell dinner which tonight is your day off from cooking and a chance to enjoy a meal cooked by the chefs at the complex

– Dinner is a chance to sample yet more local dishes and compare them to the dishes you’ve learnt during the week and discuss the sites, tastes and sounds of your holiday with new friends over wine and raki

Day 7 – Saturday – Departure day

– After a leisurely breakfast guests are asked to check-out of their rooms and be ready to be taken back to the airport taking home with them an insight into Cretan life, new friendships and unique culinary and cultural memories that will stay with them long after the holiday is over

About Your host 

– Your Greek host and cook for the holiday is George

– George has been working in the travel industry for over 40 years but has always had an love and interest in food and the food industry

– George has had two experiences running his own restaurants and has catered for Cretan weddings as well as running cookery holidays on the island

– He began offering cooking holidays in response to guest’s request whilst working in travel and has run the holidays for a number of years

– George’s interest and expertise in vegetarian and vegan cuisine as well came in response to some guest’s comments that Cretan and Greek food is heavily meat focussed

– He took it upon himself to prove to his guests that Crete and Greece was the perfect destination for vegetarians and vegans, and over the years he has worked extensively with the International Vegetarian Society, and Vegan Society

– George is well rehearsed in vegetarian and vegan diets and hopes to show visitors the richness of Cretan food that he believes can be accessible and enjoyed by all, whatever your dietary requirements

– George’s style is friendly, informal, and relaxed and cooking is often accompanied by a glass of wine or raki

– He thinks cooking should be a fun activity to be shared with friends and there are no strict rules to his cooking

– He believes the freshness of the ingredients make the dishes and uses only local ingredients

– George is passionate about the island of Crete and so as well as taking you on a culinary journey to discover the island’s cuisine, it will also be a cultural one

The Accommodation

– Your accommodation is set in the village of Kapetaniana, in the Heraklion region of the island of Crete

– Kapetaniana is a small village perched some 800m above sea level, with magnificent views of the Libyan Sea

– You’ll stay in the Thalori Resort which is made up of a cluster of 14 traditional houses and boasts a central restaurant, kitchen and recreational area

– Each house has been built with an emphasis on traditional, locally sourced resources

– Local rocks and stones make up the walls of the properties, local marble and wood for the interior and traditional fireplaces and embroidered carpets make for a warm and welcoming stay

– All houses are equipped with central heating, fireplace, fully equipped kitchen, mini stereo system, Satellite TV with 20” LCD screen, Chess table, board games, orthopaedic mattresses, and complimentary bathroom products

– Houses vary in size and accommodate from 1-5 people

– There are 4 double bedroom houses, 5 triple room houses, 1 four bedroom property and 4 five bedroom houses

– Bathrooms are shared within each house

– If you are travelling solo, stay in a double room house for sole occupancy for a small supplement or you may be able to share a house with other guests but this is subject to availability (to check availability please contact us

– Houses are allocated according to availability, where possible your group will be offered their own house

– The thick stone wall and central heating make the houses a comfortable temperature year round

– There is a swimming pool with beautiful views over the area at the accommodation

– The restaurant is built in a similar style to the houses and set over two floors

– There is also a professional kitchen and separate meeting room with terrace within the restaurant building

– Your cookery lessons will take place either in the complex’s kitchen, side meeting room with terrace, or in the restaurant itself

– The imposing windows of the restaurant offer panoramic views to the Libyan Sea

– Accommodation is included for 6 nights / 7 days

– Check in anytime after 2pm on day 1 and check out by 10.30am on day 7 (subject to flight times)


– All breakfasts are included and taken in the complex restaurant

– Breakfast consists of bread, honey, eggs, local pancakes, cheese, yoghurts, fresh fruits, and fresh juices

– Lunch is always taken out on excursions at local villages and restaurants

– Dinner is the food that you’ve learnt to cook and the first on Sunday and last dinner on Friday is prepared for you by chefs at your accommodation – All meals are suitable for vegetarians and can be adapted to vegans

– Dietary requests must be communicated to us at the time of booking

Free Time In Crete

– This Cretan food, wine and cookery holiday is packed with cultural trips, culinary delights, and cooking lessons but if you want to explore the area there is plenty to do

– From the Thalori houses you can take a mountain path to trek to some of Crete’s most beautiful beaches

– There are numerous cultural and archaeological sites nearby, as well as chapels and monasteries which are decorated with distinct murals

– Ravines and caves are scattered through the mountainous area surrounding the complex which can be explored

– Several sandy beaches frame the Heraklion County’s coast which are often deserted

This is a food, wine and cookery holiday that is about so much more than simply learning to cook. It is a holiday that will awaken your senses, enliven your passion, invigorate your intellect and teach you how to cook meals from the heart.

About the location

With spectacular views over the Libyan sea, Kapetaniana is a cosy village and the perfect location for your Cretan food, wine and  cookery holiday experience.

This characterful location, in the heart of Asteroussia, has at its centre an ancient building that has long been associated with myth and legend. It is now the unique and atmospheric location of your cookery school.

You will cook and dine on traditional dishes chosen specifically from fresh, local ingredients that are in abundance around you, giving you that feeling of living from the land and letting you indulge in the beauty that nature provides.

The Asteroussia area is a favourite destination for anyone seeking the tranquillity of the mountains or breathtakingly beautiful walks along the secret beaches of southern Crete.

You will stay in the Thalori resort which has been designed and furnished to offer memorable experiences. The Thalori is a complex of traditional stone built houses which have been beautifully restored to reflect the ancient traditions of the area. The houses are constructed from stone and rock, with traditional fireplaces and embroidered carpets that create a gloriously warm atmosphere. The houses are equally functional and relaxing.

There are 14 houses in total and these are allocated so that each person or group stay within their own house and share a bathroom. There is also a stunning swimming pool boasting beautiful views over the area.

All meals and cookery classes are taken as a group hosted by cooks George who is also your host for your tours around the island.

It’s easy to see why Chef George is so successful in teaching cookery courses. He has a warm and friendly disposition, full of character with a great sense of humour. He has worked internationally in the hospitality industry for more than forty years and has managed his own restaurants but he loves nothing more than communicating his passion for the Cretan food and traditions. And for more than ten years now, he has been teaching others how delicious and healthy traditional Cretan cooking is.

George is a member of the Vegetarian Society International and is committed to raising awareness of the diversity and variety of traditional Cretan food in vegetarian cooking and that it is not just a cuisine for meat eaters.


– Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty 68km from Heraklion

– The beach is about 7km away so within walking distance

– A restaurant with a unique atmosphere where you can share and enjoy the best of Cretan cuisine

– Beautifully restored accommodation with all amenities geared towards your comfort and enjoyment, including LCD and satellite TV, orthopaedic mattresses and central heating

– Swimming pool with stunning views

– Inspiring tours around the island to sample and learn about the Cretan way of life

– The wilderness of the mountains and spectacular views and inlets to the secret beaches of Southern Crete

– Expert hands-on tuition and a warm, casual and relaxed learning environment

– An opportunity to travel to interesting places out of tourist zones and see local people at work

– Learning at your own pace using the techniques of traditional Cretan Mediterranean cuisine following the old methods

– Learning how to transform your vegetarian dishes and being creative to make authentic and delicious dishes you will want to share with family and friends