Classical Greece gave birth to democracy and saw the rise of such leaders as Agamemnon, Pericles, and Alexander the Great. Equally revered, Greek mythology gave us Zeus and Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, Heracles and Medusa. World history was decided on the oracles of Apollo at Delphi, and wars stopped during the Olympic Games. From the arts to philosophy and mathematics, many of the roots of modern civilization began in ancient Hellas. On this tour, discover the essence of classical Greece. From the incredible finds in Vergina at Philips’ tomb, to legendary Delphi, Olympia and Mycenae, nothing is left unexplored. Along the way, find extraordinary Greek hospitality, distinctive cuisine, knowledgeable guides, and world-class accommodations.
Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Greece; specifically May, June, September and October. Conditions are perfect between Greek Easter and mid-June, when the weather is pleasantly warm in most places and beaches and ancient sites are relatively un-crowded. Mid-June to the end of August is high season and is very hot – the beaches are crowded and the ancient sites are swarming with tour groups. Conditions are once again ideal in September until the end of October. November to February are the wettest months and it can get surprisingly cold. Snow is common on the mainland and in the mountains, and it occasionally snows in Athens. But there are also plenty of sunny days and it is quiet during this time of year.
Fly overnight to Thessaloniki, founded in 315 BC and named after Alexander the Great’s half-sister. A fascinating city with a wonderful mix of the old and the new, modern buildings stand cheek by jowl with neoclassical structures and old churches. Enjoy a welcome dinner tonight and prepare for your adventure. Next day, see the statue of Alexander the Great riding his horse and the White Tower, mid-16th century Turkish structure built by Suleiman the Magnificent. At the Archaeological Museum, discover the region’s dynamic history back to prehistoric times and through the golden age of Macedonia, including the incredible treasures of the tomb of Alexander the Great’s father, Phillip II, discovered at Vergina in 1977. View the Rotunda and the ancient Greek agora, and end your day at the Museum of Byzantine Culture. ELECTRA PALACE HOTEL. (Meals Aloft,D; B,L)
Travel to Vergina, the first capital of Macedonia, where the tomb of King Philip II was unearthed by the archaeologist M. Andronikos. The most important remains are the monumental palace, lavishly decorated with mosaics and painted stuccoes, and the burial ground with more than 300 tumuli, some dating to the 11th century B.C. One of the royal tombs is Philip’s, who conquered all the Greek cities, paving the way for his son Alexander and the expansion of the Hellenistic world. The museum, located within the great royal tumulus itself, displays the architecture of the tombs and the grave goods found within. Further uphill is the palace. On your way back visit the city of Pella, the remains of the former capital of Macedonia from the 5th century, where Alexander was born. ELECTRA PALACE HOTEL. (B,L)
Drive south to Dion, an important religious center for worshipping the Gods of nearby Mount Olympus. This is where Phillip II came to celebrate his victories and Alexander to make his sacrifices before going off to conquer the East. Continue to Kalambaka, destroyed by the Nazis in WWII, but now a modern city at the base of Meteora and rock-top monasteries. Since the 11th century, solitary hermit monks have lived in the caverns of Meteora. Access to the monasteries was first controlled by removable ladders, then windlasses hauled monks up in nets, but don’t worry – steps have now been hewn into the rocks. HOTEL METEORA. (B,L,D; B)
Marvel at the Church of the Metropolis before continuing your journey to Delphi, on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus. En route, visit the Byzantine Monastery of Ossios Loukas. Declared by Zeus the center of the world, Delphi has a long and glorious history, spectacular ruins and awe-inspiring vistas. Dedicated to Apollo, pilgrims bearing gifts came to ask advice of its oracle, Pythia, believed to be Apollo’s mouthpiece and the most powerful in Greece. At the Archaeological Museum, view one of the finest collections of sculpture and art, including the bronze Charioteer. HOTEL AEGLI ARACHOVA. (B,L,D; B)
Take the coastal road and drive past picturesque villages and seaside resorts, arriving in Olympia for lunch. Witness the sacred sight of Olympia, one of the most important sanctuaries of antiquity and the birthplace of the great Olympic Games in 776 BC. At the Archaeological Museum, view an incredible collection of sculptures, pediments and metopes depicting the twelve Labors of Hercules and one of the world’s major sculptures, “Hermes” of Praxiteles. Your hotel is a tranquil retreat nestled into a valley of gardens with impeccable service, modern amenities and magnificent views. EUROPA HOTEL OLYMPIA. (B,L,D)
Enjoy a further visit of Olympia and drive to Nauplion, an elegant town with marble pavement and looming castles. Next day, visit the remarkably preserved theater in Epidaurus, its famed acoustics amaze even 21st century audiences. Explore Mycenae, home of legendary King Agamemnon. Magnificent ruins include the Palace, Treasury, the tomb of Queen Clytemnestra and Lion’s Gate. Your world-class home is situated on the waterfront against the hill of Nauplion’s historic castle with dazzling views of the bay and of the fortified isle of Bourtzi. AMPHITRYON HOTEL. (B,L,D; B,L)
Depart for Athens, stopping by ancient Corinth to take in the fresh air of the sea, the mountains and the harvest of grapes. Visit the ancient site of Corinth and enjoy wine tasting in one of the region’s excellent wineries and lunch at a local restaurant. drive to Athens in the afternoon, via the Corinth Canal. Tonight, gather for dinner at the trendy area of Psiri. Next day, explore some of Athens’ most important sites including the Parthenon, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Royal Palace, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the exciting new Acropolis Museum. Feast on Greek delicacies one last night at your farewell dinner at the Taverna O Geros tou Moria in Plaka. Your hotel is centrally located in Plaka, within walking distance of the Acropolis and all major historical sites. ELECTRA PALACE HOTEL. (B,L,D; B,L,D)
Bid Greece goodbye and vow to return – you’ve only scratched the surface of what this hospitable land has to offer. (B,Meals Aloft)
Continue your unique journey in Crete, the southernmost and largest island in Greece, where snow-capped mountains, rolling hills and varied coastline set the stage for rich culture and a dramatic past. Arrive in Heraklion, the largest city in Crete. Explore the ruins of Knossos Palace, the seat of ancient Minoan culture, and continue to Rethymnon with its Venetian buildings, and Chania, a lovely city with eclectic influences. Here, too, you can see yet another testament to Crete’s historic importance – the Fortress of Frangocastello, built in 1340. Discover natural wonders like legendary Lake Kournas and Kotsiphos Gorge. A treasure trove of charming villages, ancient ruins, churches and history, Crete is indeed the perfect ending to your adventure.
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