Day 1: Depart U.S. for Athens, Greece
Day 2: Athens After a late morning arrival in the Greek capital, there’s time to relax at our hotel before a walking tour of Hermes Street and the lower Plaka district. We are on our own for dinner tonight in this cosmopolitan city.
Day 3: Athens On this morning’s tour we visit the city’s most important sites, including the 5th-century Acropolis and Parthenon; and the renowned Acropolis Museum. Our afternoon is free in this historic and monumental city; museums, ruins, and landmarks abound. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner. B,D
Day 4: Delphi Today’s excursion takes us to central Greece to explore Delphi, one of the most beautiful and celebrated ancient sites. Nestled between twin cliffs on a slope of Mount Parnassus and spilling out onto the Sacred Plain, Delphi is where the oracle representing the revered god Apollo presided over the ancient world. We see the ruins of the Sanctuary of Apollo; walk the marble Sacred Way; and climb to the 4th-century BCE theater still in use today. We also visit Delphi’s museum that houses the bronze “Charioteer,” one of antiquity’s greatest statues. After lunch in a local restaurant and some free time, we return to Athens late afternoon. B,L
Day 5: Athens/Corinth/Nafplion We travel today by coach to the Peloponnesian Peninsula, Greece’s southernmost region separated from the mainland by the Corinth Canal. En route we visit the ruins and museum of Ancient Corinth, one of the country’s largest cities in antiquity that was demolished by the Romans (146 BCE), who then rebuilt it a century later. The site boasts a strong connection to Christianity: Paul wrote his two letters, First and Second Corinthians, here; and we see the altar where he preached. Next: a visit to the Melas olive oil factory to learn about the history of olive oil production – Greece consumes more olive oil than any other country – and to enjoy a tasting. After lunch in a local taverna, we reach Nafplion and our hotel, where we dine tonight. B,L,D
Day 6: Nafplion/Mycenae This morning we tour the imposing ruins at Mycenae, a UNESCO site that represented the pinnacle of civilization from the 16th to the 12th centuries BCE. A key influence on the development of classic Greek culture (and hence Western civilization), Mycenae also is linked to Homer’s epics, Iliad and The Odyssey. We see the Tomb of Agamemnon, with what was the world’s highest and widest dome for more than a thousand years; and the Lion’s Gate, the only known Bronze Age monumental sculpture in Greece. Then we return to Nafplion, a gem of a Venetian/Byzantine town with picturesque narrow streets, fortifications, and a bounty of waterfront cafés and restaurants – and an afternoon at leisure. B
Day 7: Nafplion/Epidaurus/Hydra Among the highlights of this morning’s visit to the vast archaeological site and museum of Epidaurus: the 2,300-year-old theater, a masterpiece of Greek architecture known for its perfect acoustics and still in use today; and the Asklepios, the temple dedicated to the god of healing. Long associated with healing and medicine, Epidaurus comprises one of the most complete sanctuaries remaining from antiquity. Following our tour we continue to the port of Ermioni, where we board a private boat for the ride to Hydra, the car-free Saronic island where donkeys provide the transportation. After lunch together at a local taverna, we have free time to enjoy this picturesque island as we wish. Late afternoon we return to Nafplion, where we dine tonight at a local restaurant. B,L,D
Day 8: Nafplion/Heraklion, Crete En route to Athens this morning we stop to see the Corinth Canal, cutting at sea level through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean. We continue on to the Athens airport for the 50-minute flight to Crete, arriving mid-afternoon in Heraklion, the Cretan capital. After checking in at our hotel, we enjoy an afternoon at leisure; this evening we take a walking tour of the Venetian/Ottoman-influenced town center prior to dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
Day 9: Heraklion/Knossos Today we visit one of Greece’s greatest museums: Heraklion’s Archaeological Museum, housing artifacts from 5,500 years of Cretan history, from the Neolithic period to Roman times. The museum is especially renowned for its Minoan collection, much of which was excavated from the palace of Knossos – our next stop. The political center of Minoan civilization and legendary home of King Minos, the Labyrinth, and the Minotaur, ancient Knossos is considered Europe’s “oldest city” and the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. Following our tour and lunch, we return to Heraklion for a visit to Koules Fortress, the well-preserved 16th-century bastion at the entrance to the old port. Then the remainder of the day is free for independent exploration. B,L
Day 10: Heraklion/Spinalonga/Agios Nikolaos After an hour’s drive this morning, we board a wooden sailboat for a private cruise through the Bay of Elounda to Spinalonga, a former Venetian island fortress later occupied by the Ottomans then used as a leper colony from 1903 to 1957. Then we return to Elounda for a lunch of traditional meze (small dishes). From here we travel to the colorful harborside town of Agios Nikolaos, with its galleries, shops, cafés, tavernas, and tiny Lake Voulismeni, where, legend has it, the goddess Athena once bathed. B,L,D
Day 11: Crete/Santorini We depart this morning by high-speed ferry for Santorini, southernmost of the Cycladic islands. Once believed to have been the legendary lost island of Atlantis, Santorini today attracts both Greeks and visitors alike with its stupendous setting of cubiform whitewashed houses sitting atop the jagged cliffs of a crescent-shaped caldera. Upon arrival we visit Venetsanos Winery for a tour and tasting then have free time in the town of Thira for lunch and to explore on our own. Late this afternoon we head to the town of Oia, known for its iconic whitewashed architecture and brilliant sunsets, which we watch over dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
Day 12: Santorini Today we tour Santorini’s archaeological site of Akrotiri, a Bronze Age Minoan location that was abandoned in the 17th century BCE following a volcanic eruption – whose ash also preserved the excavations that we now see. Then the remainder of the day is at leisure to enjoy this idyllic island as we wish. B
Day 13: Santorini/Athens After a late morning flight to Athens, we check in at our hotel then have time for lunch on our own. This afternoon we visit the Benaki Museum, housing an extensive collection of art and artifacts tracing the Greek world from antiquity through the formation of modern Greece. Tonight we enjoy a farewell dinner overlooking the Acropolis at the rooftop restaurant of our hotel. B,D
Day 14: Depart for U.S. We transfer to Athens’ international airport this morning, where we connect with our return flight home. B
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking on uneven or cobblestone streets and at sites of ancient ruins. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to the fullest.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included