MONDAY 09 SEPTEMBER ARRIVE ATHENS
Transfer to your hotel. In the late afternoon, meet your Tour Leader who will provide an orientation to our journey before we head out for an easy walk to the foot of the Acropolis and to Anafiotika. This area is reminiscent of a Cycladic island, because many of the workers who built modern Athens post 1831 Independence came from the island of Anafi and settled here. We also visit the Monument of Lysicratus where Lord Byron, on a visit inspired by the Grand Tour tradition, wrote his famous Childe Harold poem. We finish with dinner at O Psarras (the fisherman) Taverna deep in the Plaka below the Acropolis. (Meals in flight, D)
TUESDAY 10 SEPTEMBER ATHENS
After breakfast board our coach for a special visit to the ancient marble quarries that provided and continue to provide marble for the Parthenon in its restoration. Your tour leader will talk about marble carving and the challenges of preparing marble blocks at the quarries and transporting them for the building of the Parthenon itself (447-438BC). A visit to the nearby Byzantine Kaisariani Monastery may also be possible if time permits. Our lunch is in Athens’ Monastiraki area, where we can see the Tower of the Winds, and Hadrian’s Library.
Next we visit the Acropolis including the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum. There may also be time for a guided walk through Athens market area passing the beautiful Temple of Hephaestus, Odeon of Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysos. Dinner at the hotel. (B,L,D)
WEDNESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER ATHENS – DELPHI
After breakfast we board the coach for Delphi, the navel of the Earth and the seat of the priestess who passed on the Oracle’s prophecies to visitors as far away as Africa.
THURSDAY 12 SEPTEMBER DELPHI – PIRAEUS – HYDRA
This morning after breakfast we drive to Piraeus and take the fast ferry to the island of Hydra named after the mythical serpentine monster. With no cars allowed, transporting goods or materials is by donkey. Check in to our hotel. In the Sixties, Australian writers Charmian Clift, George Johnston, and Cynthia Nolan together with painter Sidney Nolan and their circle of friends lived here along with Leonard Cohen and the Modernist Greek Painter Ghykas – friend of the Durrells who had his house built here. Safe from traffic, we can wander until dinner at a taverna by the sea. (B,D)
FRIDAY 13 SEPTEMBER HYDRA – NAFPLION – SPARTA
Today we get a ferry after breakfast to the mainland of the Peloponnese and to the one-time capital of modern Greece – Nafplion. Strolling the charming streets, lunch at a taverna and perhaps a visit to the castle before our coach takes us to the site of Mycenae and the well-preserved theatre of Epidaurus which with its amazing acoustics continues to hold productions. Dinner and overnight in Sparta. (B,L,D)
SATURDAY 14 SEPTEMBER SPARTA – MYSTRAS – MONEMVASIA
Breakfast and a short talk on the connection of Sparta with the notorious Nazi Minister for propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Then we board the coach to visit the extensive UNESCO Byzantine settlement of Mystras with its cascading structures overlooking the plains of Laconia. Then we travel to magical Monemvasia – a charming medieval walled village protected by UNESCO. Staying within the walls, enjoy some home-made Greek cooking at a small taverna for lunch and gaze out to sea over the roofs of centuries old dwellings. A relaxing time in a special place where we enjoy a taverna dinner. Overnight Monemvasia. (B,L,D)
SUNDAY 15 SEPTEMBER MONEMVASIA – OLYMPIA – PATRAS
After breakfast we travel through scenic parts of the Peloponnese arriving in the valley at Olympia and the famed ruins dedicated to Zeus where the first Olympics were held in 776 BCE.
We then drive to Patra (Killini) where we dine at our hotel and stay the night. (B,D)
MONDAY 16 SEPTEMBER PATRAS – ITHACA
After breakfast we will be ferried to the island of Ithaca made famous by Homer as the home of Odysseus and Penelope. We now have a chance to enjoy the waters of this magical island for a swim or for relaxation by the water with a well-earned frappe having travelled through much of the Peloponnese. Free time at your own pace. Local tavernas provide plenty of choices for dinner. (B)
TUESDAY 17 SEPTEMBER ITHACA
Breakfast. Free time in Ithaca. (B)
WEDNESDAY 18 SEPTEMBER ITHACA – CORFU
After breakfast we ferry from Ithaca to the northern Ionian island of Corfu. An orientation and short history of the island and its British connections (Prince Phillip’s birthplace) follows. Lunch is available on the ferry. We will dine like royalty in one of the charming tavernas. This is also a chance for a de-brief and feedback from the group to the trip leader. (B,D)
THURSDAY 19 SEPTEMBER CORFU
More of Corfu today with a trip to “Durrell land” – where the Durrells stayed and where much of the UK TV series was filmed. This is in the NE part of Corfu allowing us to be by the sea and enjoy dining at yet another sea-side taverna for dinner. (B,D)
FRIDAY 20 SEPTEMBER CORFU – JANNINA – METEORA – KALAMBAKA
Today we start after breakfast with a long day visiting Jannina and on to Meteora. Jannina has a rich Ottoman and Jewish history and remains a centre for silversmithing. Time may hopefully allow a short boat trip to the small island which was the home of the notorious Albanian Ottoman, Ali Pasha who ruled a large part of NW Greece. Overnight at Kalambaka near Meteora and dinner at our hotel. (B,D)
SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER METEORA – THESSALONIKI
Meteora is famed for the medieval monasteries that crown the weird rock formations that seem to spring out from the plains. Access was by being hauled up in twine nets. Fear not because there are now safer ways as we will see! Later we cross to the eastern coast of Greek Macedonia en-route to Thessaloniki where we dine and stay the night. (B,D)
SUNDAY 22 SEPTEMBER THESSALONIKI – PELLA – VERGINA -THESSALONIKI
Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki has a rich history. A century ago its largest ethnic group was the Sephardic Jews brutally decimated during the Germanic Occupation. On a brighter note the patisseries rival those of Paris and the museum hints of what is to come.
Both Pella and Vergina relate to Philip II and son “Alexander the Great” and what has been discovered under the mound that represents Philip’s tomb will astound you.
After lunch we return to Thessaloniki where we enjoy a short walk taking in Roman times when the city was connected by the Via Egnatia to Anatolia – today’s modern Turkey. This is befitting as Kemal Attaturk, Turkey’s founder, was born in Salonica as it is sometimes referred to. Overnight Thessaloniki. (B,L,D)
MONDAY 23 SEPTEMBER THESSALONIKI – PIRAEUS
After breakfast today we travel south to Piraeus, the port close to Athens for an over-night stay. After a quick lunch stop, dinner is provided at our hotel where we rest in readiness for tomorrow’s ferry to Santorini. (B,D)
TUESDAY 24 SEPTEMBER PIRAEUS – SANTORINI
The only way to arrive at this magical place is by boat! As we near the island we look up to the edge of the volcano caldera and gaze at the town that seems like the icing on a cake with its whitewashed and pastel buildings bathed by the golden Aegean light – a light that has enchanted writers and poets for so many decades. A light lunch can be bought +on the ferry.
Tonight’s dining is planned at a taverna known for traditional fare. A walk through the main town – Thera – will delight you. Our first night in Santorini. (B,D)
WEDNESDAY 25 SEPTEMBER SANTORINI
Breakfast then a full day in Santorini starting in Akrotiri, a Minoan settlement which was covered in lava after the volcano exploded in 1600BC. Buildings and some inhabitants are preserved in time by the lava and we can see two storey dwellings and streets just as in Pompeii. A light lunch can be bought in Thera and we have a few hours for souvenir or gift shopping. Our evening begins with the sunset over Oia. If it can be arranged this will be crowned by dinner by the small fishing port of Ammoudi with its dazzling festoon lighting and bobbing fishing boats. Being down at sea level with everything set above us can be a surreal experience. Alternatively, we will dine at a traditional taverna made famous for almost a century for its innovative home-style menu. (B,D)
THURSDAY 26 SEPTEMBER SANTORINI – PIRAEUS – ATHENS
After breakfast we travel by fast ferry back to Piraeus allowing us to relax and recall our journey to date over the five hour trip. A light lunch can be bought on board.
Time may allow us a quick visit to our hotel before we coach to see the famous Sounion sunset at the Temple of Poseidon ahead of our last Greek dinner. Overnight Athens. (B,D)
FRIDAY 27 SEPTEMBER DEPART ATHENS
This morning after breakfast and checkout, we will visit the nearby Museum of Ancient Technology that will take us to midday. This museum will surprise you with robotics, automatic theatre, weather and time machines, distance communications systems, sophisticated warfare machinery, and machinery that made nuts and screws – yet all in the era BC. (Meals in flight, B)