Classical Greece
15-day Grand Tour

Day 1                   Athens

Upon arrival at Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens, you are met and transferred to your hotel.  Balance of the day at leisure to rest and adjust to the new time zone.

 

Day 2                   Athens – ferry to Heraklion (Crete)

Today we enjoy the day exploring Athens, viewing its highlights and visiting the world renowned Acropolis and the new Acropolis museum.  In the evening, we board the ship in Piraeus and sail to the largest of the Greek islands, Crete.

Athens, the capital of Greece, is one of the oldest cities in the world spanning a history of 3,400 years.  Home of the great minds, philosophers and teachers of ancient times such as Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, Athens is the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western Civilization.

 

A bus tour will guide us through the highlights of Athens; House of Parliament, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Presidential Palace, Panathenaic Stadium, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, to lead us to the world renowned Acropolis.

 

We will walk through the architectural wonders of the Golden Age of Pericles; the Propylaia, the Parthenon and the Erechtheion.  We walk to Areopagus or Mars Hill, the site where trials were heard before the Council of Elders and where St Paul delivered his speech to the Athenians.  We visit the ancient Agora where Athenians gathered not only for commercial purposes but also for political and religious ones.  Our visit is not complete without a tour of the New Acropolis museum, which houses the findings of the Acropolis of Athens.

A short drive takes us to the port of Piraeus where we board our ferry and check into our cabins for the overnight journey to Heraklion.


 

Day 3                   Heraklion

We will tour the famous Minoan Palace of Knossos and visit the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

 

Crete has a rich history of which the Minoan Civilization is most legendary.  The Minoan Palace of Knossos, built around 2000 B.C. was the capital of that civilization and the frescoes discovered give an insight into the way of life of the Minoans their traditions and culture.  We shall go through the Palace into the various chambers, throne rooms, courts and theaters. The afternoon will be dedicated to visiting the outstanding Archaeological Museum of Heraklion where the treasures and frescos uncovered in the Palace of Knossos are displayed.



 

Day 4          Phaestos – Gortyna – Heraklion

Today we will drive south of Heraklion to visit the equally important palaces of the Minoan Civilization, Phaestos and Gortyna.

 

Phaestos is the second most important Minoan palace.  It was built in 2000 B.C. on a hill overlooking the Messara plain.  The famous Phaestos disc, stamped with symbols on both sides in spiral form and still an enigma for archaeologists, was discovered here.  Phaestos is architecturally much simpler in design than the Knossos palace but most impressive is the entrance to the palace via the Grand Staircase.  We visit the Central Court, the various chambers and apartments.  Leaving Phaestos we drive to Gortyna.  This archaeological site was inhabited by the Minoans, the Romans and in the 6th century, the Christians. Besides the massive tablets inscribed with the Laws of Gortyn and the Temple of Pythian Apollo we visit the basilica of Agios Titus.




 

 

Day 5          Santorini

 

Today we sail to Santorini to visit the ancient site of Akrotiri.  We’ll then watch the sunset as we enjoy our dinner in famous Oia.

 

Santorini is one of the most visited and spectacular of the Greek islands. Most impressive are the towns built on the sheer cliffs created as a result of the massive volcano that erupted 3600 years ago. Ancient Akrotiri is the archeological site, which we shall visit. Aprehistoric city that dates back to 4th millennium B.C., it was one of the main urban centers and ports on the Aegean.  Most noteworthy are the buildings, which are three to four floors, the elaborate drainage systems and the various vessels that were found.  Many of the frescoes that were also uncovered and which retain their original colors, can be seen at the Archaeological Museum of Athens and the Museum of Prehistoric Thira of Santorini.



 

Day 6          Santorini–flight to Thessaloniki

In the morning we will visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira and as the island is famous for its exquisite wines, a wine tasting experience will follow. We then take a flight to Thessaloniki.

 

Visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira to see the findings from the ancient town of Akrotiri. The exhibits include the fascinating frescoes, bronze utensils, weapons and tools as well as various size vessels.

 

Enjoy a wine tasting experience at one of the many wineries on Santorini before heading to the airport in time to catch our flight to Thessaloniki.



 

Day 7          Thessaloniki – Pella

Today we visit Thessaloniki and Pella

 

Thessaloniki was built about 315 B.C. by King Cassander, brother-in-law of Alexander the Great, who named the city after his wife Thessaloniki.  It was a major commercial center in Roman times as well as the second largest and wealthiest during the Byzantine era.

 

We explore the city of Thessaloniki, coming across the White Tower, the Arch of Galerius, the Rotonda, the oldest of Thessaloniki’s churches, Aristotelous Square and the Kastra and Ramparts overlooking the city and its gulf. We visit the Archaeological Museum, to see the treasures from the excavations in Northern Greece, and one of the majestic early Christian churches of Thessaloniki, the Basilica of St Demetrius (5th c. A.C.).

 

Pella was founded in 399 B.C., was the birthplace of Alexander the Great and the capital of Macedonia. We shall visit the archaeological site and museum with their beautiful mosaics depicting mythological scenes and geometrical designs.



 

Day 8          Vergina - Kalambaka

Today we visit the museum in Vergina before heading south to Kalambaka.

 

Vergina or ancient Aegae, was the first capital of the kingdom of Macedon.  Although the capital was later transferred to Pella, Aegae remained the city where sacred rituals and ceremonies would take place.  Here we will visit the very impressive site of the Royal Tomb of King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great.  Displayed within this tomb are the finds such as the gold ossuary with the 16 pointed Macedonian star, gold leaf wreaths, frescos and ornaments.



 

Day 9                   Meteora–Delphi 

Today we visit the exceptional and unique Byzantine monasteries of Meteora and then head to Delphi.

 

Amongst striking scenery, perched on sheer-sided gray rock pinnacles of varied and spectacular shapes and appearing to be suspended in mid-air, stand the ageless 14th century monasteries of Meteora.  The monasteries contain beautiful Byzantine art and offer an insight into the mystic world of the monks still residing there. 



 

Day 10       Delphi - Olympia

We will spend our morning exploring the Sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi.  We then continue to Olympia.

 

In antiquity Delphi was known as the center or the navel of the earth for it was believed that when Zeus released two eagles from opposite sides of the world they would meet in Delphi.It reached its height in power in the 4th century as the sanctuary to the god Apollo.  Pilgrims would gather here to seek advice from the great oracle, Pythia, on various matters including waging wars.  We explore the sanctuary by walking up the Sacred Way to see the Treasuries, the Theater and the Temple of Apollo.  Visit the museum of Delphi and marvel at the unique collection of artifacts from the excavation, including the bronze “Charioteer” one of the best preserved ancient works of metallurgy.

 

Our drive will then take us over the magnificent Rio/Antirio Bridge, which connects Peloponnese to the mainland and through the plains of Eliad and Achaia.  Our destination is Olympia. 



 

Day 11       Olympia – Nafplio

We will spend the morning visiting the ancient site of Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games.  We then head to Nafplio.

 

Today we spend the time exploring the birthplace of the Olympic Games. The first games were held in Olympia in 776 BC and thereafter every 4 years until their decline in 394 AD. They were revived in 1896 and continue since then to be a primary quadrennial international event. The Olympic flame is lit on this ancient site and relayed by runners to the cities where the Games will be held. We shall visit the archaeological site with the Sanctuary of Olympian Zeus, the Ancient stadium, the Hippodrome and the Temple of Hera.  We then visit the Archaeological Museum which houses amongst other antiquities, the statue of Hermes of Praxiteles, the Head of Hera and the beautifully carved metopes and pediments.

 

Nafplion was an important major port dating back to the Bronze Age. As a result of this significance three forts protected it; Palamidi being the most domineering citadel.  The city played a huge role in the War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire and up until 1834 was the first capital of Greece.  Today it is a large modern city as well as a seaside resort.  Its old town is filled with neoclassical and Venetian buildings offering the visitor a most pleasant stroll through its narrow streets. 



 

Day 12 Epidaurus – Mycenae – Nafplion ​

Today we visit Epidaurus and Mycenae.  

 

Epidaurus was known in antiquity as a healing center, the place where the god of medicine Asclepius was born and was worshiped. The ruins of the sanctuary include among other things the Temple of Asclepius, the hospice and a stadium. We will visit the Theater of Epidaurus famous for its astonishing acoustics and one of the best-preserved classical Greek structures still being used for theatrical and musical performances.  

 

Thereafter we visit the Homeric city of Mycenae. Dating from 1600 BC, the Royal House of Atreus established a major military stronghold and kingdom ruled most notably by king Agamemnon who fought in the Trojan War mentioned in Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey.  At the archaeological site of Mycenae we see the remains of the prehistoric Acropolis, the Palace, the Grave Circles, the Lion’s gate, the Cyclopean walls and the famous beehive (tholos) tombs.  The museum in Mycenea houses a beautiful collection of mosaics, pottery and bronze objects.



Day 13       Corinth – Cape Sounion

We will visit Ancient Corinth before crossing the Corinth Canal and head to Athens.

 

Our journey takes us to Ancient Corinth, one of the most important trading cities of ancient Greece dating back to the 6th century BC.  Visiting the archaeological site we will come across the Temple of Apollo, the agora and the Peirene fountain. 

 

On our way to Athens, we cross the Corinth Canal, whichseparates Peloponnese from the Greek mainland.

 

In the afternoon we shall drive along the coastal road to Cape Sounion where we visit the Temple of Poseidon built in 444 BC on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea.



Day 14       Athens and farewell dinner in Plaka

We will wind down our tour by visiting the National Archaeological Museum with a free afternoon at leisure to follow and a farewell dinner in Plaka.

 

The National Archaeological Museum contains a vast collection of Greek antiquities collected from the various and multiple archaeological sites around the country dating from prehistoric times and covering the Neolithic, Archaic, Cycladic eras as well as the Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations. Some of the most outstanding exhibits are the frescoes from Akrotiri in Santorini, the mask of Agamemnon and the Horse and Jockey of Artemision. 

 

Take advantage of your free afternoon to explore, relax and shop in the neighborhoods of Plaka and Monastiraki in central Athens.

 

Tonight in the shadows of the Acropolis in the old neighborhood of Plaka, we shall have a taste of the Greek tradition; great food, great wine, live music and dance.



 

Day 15          Departure

You will be transferred to Athens airport in time to catch your return flight for home.