Grand Archaeological tour of Greece 13 days
Arrive at the airport of Athens where our representative will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. In the evening, a “welcome” cocktail party will take place followed by a “welcome” dinner. Overnight in Athens.
This morning you get acquainted with the city of Athens starting with the world-renowned Acropolis, where you can see the architectural miracles of the Golden Age of Pericles and Pheidias: the Propylea, the Nike Temple, the Erechtheum and, above all, the Parthenon (Temple of Athena). Take in a panoramic view of the city and observe the Monument of Philopappus, the Pnyka, the Areopagus and more. Don’t miss the New Acropolis Museum where, among other masterpieces, you will see the original Caryatids from the Erechtheum and the remaining sculptures from the Parthenon. Walk down to the Agora, north of the Acropolis hill, and explore the excavational site. Admire the Temple of Hephaistus, the remains of the Odeon of Agrippa and the restored Stoa of Attalus, which has been turned into an exquisite museum with a number of artifacts that you cannot find in other museums. Take a break in Plaka to enjoy your included lunch. Afterwards, walk to Kerameikos, the public cemetery of ancient Athens, and study the interesting collection of exhibits in its small Museum, the grave stelae and other funerary monuments which can be seen “in situ” at the archaeological site. Overnight at the hotel.
Begin with a bus tour of Athens to see the landmarks of our capital: Constitution Square with the House of Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Old Olympic Stadium, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Residence of the Greek President and more. Spend the rest of the morning at the National Archaeological Museum, one of the finest in the world, whose collections offer a great overview of the long Greek history and of the ancient civilizations you will come across during your trip. The Cycladic figurines, the Mycenean treasures, and the Santorini frescoes are just a few of the collections that are not to be missed. In the afternoon arrive at Cape Sounion, the southeastern extremity of Attica. On the way, stop at a nice taverna near the sea and enjoy your lunch. At Cape Sounion you will admire the beautiful marble-white columns of Poseidon’s Temple and the amazing view will take your breath away. In the evening return to Athens for overnight.
Today, follow the coastal road to the legendary Corinth Canal for a short stop to view the Canal and take pictures. Continue to ancient Corinth (Korinthos), home to one of the “Seven Sages”, Periander. The Greek-American excavation there has brought to light the well- preserved ruins of the once glorious city, including the Temple of Apollo, the Lechaion Road, the Peirene Fountain and the Bema. The Museum has a wonderful display of the famous Corinthian ceramics and a number of other interesting collections (sculptures, mosaics, etc). Before you leave, drive up the Acrocorinth to admire the superb view and the imposing citadel. Then go south to Epidaurus, the site of the most popular Sanctuary of Asclepius in ancient Greece. Nowadays it is visited by thousands of people, who want to admire the spectacular Theater and test its astonishing acoustics. This amazing Theater is preserved in an almost perfect condition, while the other remaining beautiful edifices of the Sanctuary, where the healings used to take place in a mystical manner, lie in ruins at a small distance from the Theater. In the small Museum nearby, find a number of stelae with medical records of the Sanctuary and also a collection of surgical instruments which were used by the physicians-priests of Asclepius. Finish your day in Nafplion, one of the most attractive towns in the country, where you will have dinner at the hotel.
Take time in the morning to drive to Tiryns (Tiryntha), the second most important Mycenean acropolis in the region of Argolis, and marvel at its Cyclopean Walls, the most striking of its features. Thirty minutes away is the Homeric city of Mycenae, which was uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann and was the kingdom of Atreus and his son Agamemnon. The Lion Gate, the Grave Circles, the Palace, the secret Water Cistern and, especially, the beehive Tombs will undoubtedly impress you. Equally impressive is the new Museum, which houses a superb collection of architectural remains, pottery, jewelry, clay idols, Linear B tablets and many more findings from Mycenean sites all over the Peloponnese. Many of these exhibits have never been displayed before and it is the first time the public has the chance to see them. Later, drive through the region of Arcadia and arrive in Olympia for dinner and overnight.
The first half of the day is dedicated to the discovery of Olympia’s splendors. Stroll around the archaeological site and see the remains of the Gymnasium, the Palaestra, the Workshop of Pheidias, the Leonidaion. Then, inside the Sacred Precinct admire the massive foundations and pillars of the Temple of Zeus, inside which the gold and ivory cult-statue of Zeus was standing (one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”). Also see the Philippeion, the Temple of Hera, the Nymphaion and, of course, the legendary Stadium where the Olympic Games were held every four years. These games were a symbol of Greek unity and peace due to the “Sacred Truce” that was observed among all the Greek cities during the competitions. The unique experience of Olympia continues in the Museum, which possesses a new display of breathtaking works of art: bronzes, weapons, architectural fragments, ceramics and magnificent sculptures, among them the “Nike” of Paionios and the “Hermes” of Praxiteles. The prides of this Museum are the sculptures and the metopes from the Temple of Zeus. In the afternoon, drive back to Athens following the coastal road of the Northern Peloponnese, which offers splendid views of the Ionian Sea. Dinner and overnight in Athens.
Our representative will take you to the airport for your flight to Chania, Crete. This is probably the most attractive city on this island where, according to the legend, Zeus was born. It is full of neoclassical mansions and impressive Venetian fortifications, which testify to the city’s glorious and diverse past. Visit the interesting Archaeological Museum in the Venetian Church of St Francis to see Minoan findings from Chania like clay artifacts and tablets with Linear A and Linear B signs. Find also coins, jewelry, sculpture, inscriptions, mosaics etc. Then leave for Rethymno, another charming town with an old Venetian Quarter and Castle. Take time to explore the old town before driving to the capital of Crete, the city of Heraklion (Iraklio), famous for its turbulent history and massive fortifications which remind the Cretans of their many conquerors (Romans, Arabs, Venetians, Turks). Dinner and overnight.
In the morning, go south to Gortys (Gortyna) which was, according to tradition, the first city of Crete to accept Christianity. See the Roman Odeion, the Gortyn Law Code (5 th B.C.) which was based on Minoan tradition, and the cruciform Church of St. Titus, named after the first bishop of the island. Continue to Phaistos (Festos), the most wealthy and powerful Minoan center in southern Crete, to admire the old and new Palaces with their terraces, central court, royal quarters, store rooms, workshops etc. This is where the intriguing Phaistos Disc was found, now on display in the Heraklion Museum, which you can see the following morning. In the same museum you will see the painted Sarcophagus found at Aghia Triada (Holy Trinity), the site you visit next. In the Royal Villa of Aghia Triada notice the typical features of palatial architecture it presents and, a few steps away, examine the “Agora” with its shops, the Mycenean Settlement and the Cemetery with the tholos and chamber tombs. Later, drive to Matala, a picturesque village by the sea, for your included meal. Overnight in Heraklion.
This is the day that really gives you the opportunity to achieve an understanding of the Minoan civilization and of all its forms of art. Begin with the outstanding Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, the world‘s finest storehouse of Minoan art, which has twenty rooms with findings from the palaces, houses, tombs and caves in Crete. Some of the most important items of the exhibition are the “Snake Goddesses” from Knossos, the “Rock-Crystal Rhyton” from Zakros, the “Bull’s Head Rhyton” from Knossos, the “Bull-Leaping” fresco also from the Palace of Knossos and the “Fruitstand” of the “Kamares Style” from Phaistos, together with the “Phaistos Disc” and the “Aghia Triada Sarcophagus”. After a 20-minute drive arrive at Knossos, the seat of the legendary King Minos. The Palace is connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur and the story of Daidalus and Icarus. This is the largest and best known of the preserved Minoan palatial centers, with four wings around a central courtyard. Explore the royal quarters, the throne room, the shrines, the workshops and store rooms, and discuss the controversial restoration carried out by Arthur Evans. Other interesting monuments of the site are the “Little Palace”, the “Royal Villa”, the “House of the Frescoes” and the “Caravan serai”. Your included lunch will be served in the traditional village of Arhanes, not far from Knossos, where you will also have the opportunity to see the local Archaeological Collection. Back to Heraklion for overnight.
Board the morning ferry for the volcanic Santorini, the southernmost island in the Cyclades. In 1500 B.C. the volcano of Santorini exploded and what remains are broken pieces of its rim, encircling a deep lagoon. The exquisite white-washed villages cling to volcanic cliffs above beaches of black sand. In the capital village of Fira (or Thira) visit the two small Museums - the Archaeological, with sculpture, inscriptions, clay vases and figurines mostly found in Ancient Thera, and the Prehistoric, with findings mainly from the excavations at Akrotiri, but also from other sites on the island. The exhibits include fossils of plants and archaeological objects, like pieces of pottery, plaster casts of furniture, bronze vessels, tools, weapons, seals, Linear A tablets and magnificent wall-paintings that give you a first taste of the Akrotiri culture. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Fira.
Today, drive up the mountain Mesa Vouno to get acquainted with Ancient Thira, the classical city of the island, founded by Dorian colonists in the 9 th c. B.C. The preserved ruins belong to the Hellenistic and Roman phases of the city and you can see the Sanctuary of Artemidoros, the Agora, the Royal Stoa, the Temple of Dionysus and much more. Your expedition continues with the visit to the Pompeii of Santorini, the Minoan town of Akrotiri, preserved for millennia under volcanic ash. One of the most important prehistoric urban centers and ports of the Aegean, Akrotiri, was a large settlement (ca. 20 hectares) with sophisticated multi-storeyed buildings with amazing frescoes, furniture and vessels, an elaborate drainage system and a wide network of external relations which show its great development and prosperity. As you wander through the site, don’t miss the Xeste 3 (a large two-storeyed edifice with frescoed walls, believed to be a sacred place), the West House (a small but well-organized building, where some of the most famous wall-paintings were found), Sector B (two separate buildings also with well-known frescoes) and Complex Delta (includes four houses, where the “Spring” fresco and a number of Linear A tablets were found). Your included lunch will be served in a traditional restaurant in Pyrgos. In the evening you will be transferred to the Santorini airport for your flight back to Athens. Overnight in Athens.
Drive to scenic Delphi, passing the cities of Thiva (Thebes) and Livadia. This breathtaking place was believed to be the “navel” (omphalos) of the world and Apollo’s most important and famous oracle was there. Follow the Sacred Way up to Apollo’s Temple, where his priestess Pythia delivered his oblique prophecies, marvel at the beauty of the landscape and study the remains of the Roman Market-place, the Treasuries (especially the restored Athenian Treasury), the Stoa of the Athenians, the Theater and the Stadium of Delphi, where athletic contests used to take place in honor of Apollo, the god of Light. Then, proceed to the exquisite Museum which is full of masterpieces, all “ex- votos” of the ancient pilgrims who came to take the advice of Apollo. The pride of the Museum is the bronze “Charioteer” (Hniohos), one of the finest examples of classical sculpture of the “severe style.” However, of course there is more to see: the Archaic Kouroi, the Sphinx of the Naxians, the Frieze of the Athenian Treasury, the Statue of Antinoos, and other excellent works of art. On your way back to Athens, view the Gymnasium ruins and the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaea. Your farewell dinner will take place in a Greek taverna in Plaka. Overnight at the hotel.
Fly back home with a new insight into the great archaeological sites and history of Greece.