Greece has been lauded for its works of human intellect as manifested in its ancient monuments which often overshadows the enduring spirit and soul of its people, often expressed in its cuisine. You will see the Acropolis, but you will also enjoy learning how to prepare a Greek meal. You will float on translucent waters and visit grand churches, but you will also learn to appreciate Greek varietals of wine along with learning how to use delicious locally produced feta in meal preparation. Recline on a white sand island beach then share a meal with a local family. In the small villages, in the faces of their citizens, in the aura of sunlight and redolent grill smoke, feel the soul and taste the history of Greece.
Slightly Active. May involve some walking and climbing.
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 uncrowded. 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 to Athens, arriving the next morning, where you will be met and escorted to your hotel. After lunch, meet up with your guide who will take you on a picturesque drive to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. On your return drive, eat at one of the “psistaries”, essentially a Greek BBQ restaurant that specializes in roast lamb. Wash it down with some ouzo for the perfect introduction into Greek cuisine. DIVANI PALACE ACROPOLIS HOTEL. (Meals Aloft, D)
Today delve deeper into the history of Athens with visits to the Parthenon and Acropolis Museum, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Royal Palace, temple of Olympian Zeus, and Panathenian Stadium. Get a taste of local culture at the Monasteraki flea market. Prepare lunch at a local restaurant in Plaka, the unique old section of Athens dotted with shops and taverns. A local chef will teach you how to prepare a great Greek salad, souvlaki( lamb shish kabob) with fried potatoes in olive oil, pita bread and tzatziki sauce (yogurt, cucumber and garlic). Afterward, enjoy a desert of loukoumades, fried balls of dough, drenched in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. Tonight, enjoy dinner at a seaside restaurant – try ‘barbounia’ (red mullets), ‘marida’ (white bait) and ‘tsipoura’ (sea bream) and your first ‘saganaki’ – fried cheese. DIVANI PALACE ACROPOLIS HOTEL. (B,L,D)
Shop at a Greek farmer’s market, a laiki, at Varvakeios Agora, where the air is filled with the shouts of touters, baying of livestock, and the smell of herbs and spices. Enjoy an optional (additional cost) cooking lesson with Chefs John Baxevanos and Elias Gogos, where you will prepare and then relish a five course meal. DIVANI PALACE ACROPOLIS HOTEL. (B)
Board a ferry to the isle of Poros, resting in the center of the Saronic Gulf and blessed with diaphanous blue tinted water. A wonderful culinary experience awaits you at the Odyssey Center, a large private home-turned-inn, located just 150 feet from the beach in the small island town of Askeli. The Center offers a profusion of activities such as sailing, cycling or sea kayaking, a Greek language course, traditional weaving, a Greek history lesson, painting, waterskiing, and walking. For an additional cost, learn how to cook delicious Greek dishes with daily hands-on classes in the Odyssey cooking school facilities, with chef and owner of the Center, Katerina Sakelliou. ODYSSEY APARTMENTS. (B,D; B,L)
Make your way to a place of mythic proportions, Mycenae, birthplace of the legendary king Agamemnon. Afterward, enjoy a typical Peloponnesian country lunch of baked lamb with lemon potatoes served with a shredded cabbage and carrot salad. Continue to Epidaurus and the acoustic wonder of its ancient theater. Overnight at elegant Nauplion, which served as the capital of the first Hellenic Republic from 1821-34. AMALIA NAUPLION HOTEL. (B,L,D)
Board a train in Diakofto, and travel along the scenic Vouriakos River to visit the beautiful monastery of Aghia Lavra, then on to the quaint mountain town of Kalavryta. Here you tour a local feta-producing facility, then enjoy a wine tasting at your hotel. There are optional (at additional cost) cooking classes where you learn the ins and outs of preparing Greek dishes. HELMOS HOTEL. (B,D;B,L)
Leave Kalavryta this morning for Olympia, the birthplace of the great Olympic Games in 776 BC. At the Archaeological Museum, view an incredible collection or artifacts, including one of the world’s major sculptures, “Hermes” of Praxiteles. Then, take the ferry from Kyllini to Zakynthos, the flower of the east. This evening, enjoy dinner while watching the sunset on this idyllic island. HOTEL LESANTE. (B,D)
Today after visiting St. Dionysios Church, the patron saint of the island, you will tour the island, ending with a lunch hosted and prepared for you by Stacy Fiorentinos’ family (Stacy is the president of Classic Escapes.) In the afternoon visit Bohali for stunning views of the town and port. Next day, explore the island’s crystal clear blue waters and white sand beaches. Visit Anafonitria, with its fascinating 15th century monastery, the village of Keri, and Volimes, home to a beautiful Venetian tower and lovely old churches with 12th and 14th century frescoes. Take a boat ride to view the Blue Caves, a series of caverns and grottos cut out of the white cliff faces and view the iconic Navagio, a shipwreck which is one of the most visited sites on the island. HOTEL LESANTE. (B,L; B,L)
Leave Zakynthos and travel by ferry to Kyllini, your first step back toward Athens. Stop off in Corinth, to take in the fresh air of the sea, the mountains and the harvest of the grapes and have lunch. Tonight enjoy a festive farewell dinner at a taverna while being serenaded by Greek music. DIVANI PALACE ACROPOLIS HOTEL. (B,L,D)
This morning your journey comes to an end as you are transferred to the airport for your return flight home. You have just experienced a unique world, one that combines the thrill of ancient civilizations, warm hospitality and amazing natural beauty. (B, Meals Aloft)
Fly to Crete where the essence of which is wrapped up in the simple and delicious meals, whose scents waft past vestigial palaces and medieval churches. Visit small traditional villages that still prepare meals as they have for millennia, and learn to create uncomplicated mezedes, and join with villagers in their revelry. Visit Knossos, whose serpentine lanes gave rise to the myth of the Minotaur. Shop in the agora in Chania, drive to the White Mountains where stout patriots resisted Ottoman rule, then relax on the banks of Crete’s only freshwater lake. At all times be enveloped in the sights sound and scents of a place that speaks in an ancient voice of things eternal.
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