Secrets of Greece
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.
In the morning, walk with your guide to the world-renowned Acropolis to see the architectural miracles of the Golden Age of Pericles: the Propylea, the Erechtheum and, above all, the Parthenon (temple of Athena, goddess of wisdom). Take in a panoramic view of the city and observe the Agora (marketplace) where many ancient philosophers spent their time. Continue to the center of Athens and admire the National University, the National Library, the Academy, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Constitution Square with the House of Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The afternoon is free. Overnight at the hotel.
Today follow the coastal road to the legendary Corinth Canal and make a short stop there 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.
The day is free for exploration and shopping. In the afternoon, drive back to Athens following the coastal road of the Northern Peloponnese, which offers splendid views of the Ionian Sea. You will be transferred to the port for the overnight ferry to Heraklion, Crete. Dinner and overnight on board.
Arrive in Heraklion. This is the day that really gives you the opportunity to achieve an understanding of the Minoan civilization and of all the forms of its 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, as well as, of course, 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”. Back to Heraklion for 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, 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 examine the nearby “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. Dinner and overnight in Heraklion.
Day free. In the evening you will be transferred to the port for embarkation on the overnight ferry to Athens.
Early arrival in Athens. 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.