This vacation from picturesque fishing villages to ancient historic ruins is a classic. Spectacular ancient history will unfold in Athens, where you will visit the Acropolis; ancient Corinth; Mycenae, with 19th-century excavations; Epidaurus; Olympia, where athletes of antiquity competed; and Delphi, with a special visit to the Archaeological Museum. Enjoy a whole afternoon in the unreal, fantastic landscape of Meteora with its 24 rock-top monasteries. Visit Varlaam Monastery, famous for its frescoes, and St. Stephen’s, featuring a unique collection of icons and an incredible panoramic view. Next is Thermopylae, the site of the heroic battle of Leonidas’ 300 doomed Spartans against Xerxes’ huge Persian army. Drive past Thebes and Marathon before returning to Athens. Then board your cruise to some of the fantastic Greek islands—Mykonos, Kusadasi (Turkey), Crete, and Santorini.
Day #1 Athens, Greece. Welcome to Athens! At 6 pm, meet your traveling companions for a welcome drink with your Tour Director.
Day #2 Athens. Sightseeing with a Local Guide features a visit to the Parthenon’s crowning beauty atop the ACROPOLIS, the Erechtheum with its Porch of Maidens, the beautifully preserved Theseum, Roman temple dedicated to Zeus, theater of Dionysus, and the Agora where Socrates taught. Vistas of the government buildings and elegant homes in the modern city provide a striking contrast to the remains of the glorious past. Tonight is your chance to join an optional dinner outing to try out local fare and entertainment reminiscent of Zorba the Greek. (B)
Day #3 Athens–Corinth–Mycenae–Epidaurus–Nauplia. Cross the spectacular Corinth Canal, then visit ANCIENT CORINTH, where St. Paul preached. Two highlights today: MYCENAE, where 19th-century excavations reveal impressions of the splendors so vividly described by Homer. Admire the Beehive Tombs, the Treasury of Atreus, Lion Gate, Europe’s oldest known monument, remains of Agamemnon’s Royal Palace, and the impressive fortifications of the Citadel. Then, a short drive to EPIDAURUS for a tour of its amazingly well-preserved 2,300-year-old open-air theater. Overnight in nearby Nauplia. (B,D)
Day #4 Nauplia–Olympia. Spectacular scenery on the way through the Arkadian Mountains. Then, spend the afternoon in OLYMPIA, where the athletes of antiquity competed in honor of the king of deities. Learn about the history of those original Olympic Games as you walk among the impressive remains of the Gymnasium and the Temples of Hera and Zeus. Also visit the MUSEUM that displays Praxiteles’ magnificent statue of Hermes. (B,D)
Day #5 Olympia–Delphi. Via the busy seaport of Patras, proceed through the picturesque fishing villages along the south coast of the mainland to mystic Delphi. The afternoon is devoted to a fascinating tour of the ancient sanctuary of the god Apollo in its dramatic setting on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Hear about the Oracle and tour the EXCAVATIONS. End the day with a visit to the ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM to admire the Charioteer, an extraordinary 5th-century BC bronze statue. (B,D)
Day #6 Delphi–Meteora Area. Drive past Lamia and Trikala to Kalambaka in the unreal, fantastic landscape of Meteora with its 24 rock-top monasteries. Visit VARLAAM MONASTERY, famous for its frescoes, and ST. STEPHEN’S MONASTERY, featuring a unique collection of icons and an incredible panoramic view (ladies are suggested to pack one long skirt, as shorts or trousers may be inappropriate when visiting the monasteries). (B,D)
Day #7 Meteora Area–Thermopylae–Athens. Today’s highlight is a guided visit to THERMOPYLAE, the site of the heroic battle of Leonidas’ 300 doomed Spartans against Xerxes’ huge Persian army. On the way back to Athens, your Tour Director will tell you about Thebes, the setting of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, and Marathon, where 10,000 Athenians defeated more than twice that number of Persian invaders in 490 BC. Enjoy an optional dinner in a romantic restaurant. (B)
Day #8 Athens–Piraeus (Embarkation)–Mykonos. Head for Piraeus, where at 11 am you will sail into the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea. Later, dock at the mountainous island of Mykonos with its characteristic windmills and dazzling white houses. Time to wander at whim through narrow paved streets before returning on board. (B,L,D)
Day #9 Cruising: Kusadasi, Turkey. Discover the Turkish port of Kusadasi. An optional excursion is available to the fascinating Greek, Roman, and Byzantine excavations of Ephesus. (B,L,D)NOTE:Departures March 8-May 24 & August 30-October 25 include a call at the island of Patmos.
Day #10 Cruising: Heraklion–Santorini. First port of call today is Heraklion on Crete. A few miles away is Knossos, the center of the 3000 BC Minoan civilization, and an optional excursion can be booked. Afternoon call (weather permitting) at Santorini, the “Black Pearl of the Aegean.” The optional shore excursion here takes you up to the cliff-top village of Thera for one of the world’s most breathtaking panoramas. (B,L,D)
Day #11 Piraeus, Greece (Disembarkation)–Athens. After breakfast on board, disembark at Piraeus and return to Athens. The rest of the day is free. (B)
Day #12 Athens. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)