GC2 CLASSICAL GREECE TOUR

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with the Monasteries of Meteora

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Argolis tour -- Corinth, Epidaurus, Mycenae; Olympia site and Museum; Byzantine treasures of Mystra; Spectacular Delphi and Museum tour; Hanging Monasteries of Meteora; Guided Athens city tour

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Thu 03 Sep 2015Fri 11 Sep 2015 $2960 Last-minute Availability
Thu 10 Sep 2015Fri 18 Sep 2015 $2960
Wed 04 May 2016Thu 12 May 2016 $2960
Thu 30 Jun 2016Fri 08 Jul 2016 $2960
Thu 01 Sep 2016Fri 09 Sep 2016 $2960
Thu 08 Sep 2016Fri 16 Sep 2016 $2960

Optional Single Supplement: $390 (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


Greece is a country without rival when it comes to bewitching travellers with ancient monuments, exciting legends, noteworthy legacies and romance. Our tour, though only nine days in duration, packs so much in that it promises to satiate the thirst of any intrepid traveller thirsty to explore Classical Greece, but be warned that it will also leave you hungry to come back for more. Our guides regale us with the histories of 6th century temples and 14th century fortresses, of stories of betrayal and assassination, of ancient rivalries and of paying homage to the gods. We visit Sparta, whose near-barbaric military training served to produce the most formidable army in ancient Greece and we spend some time in Olympia, where rival states laid down their arms and set aside their differences to participate in the ancient Olympic Games. Here we find the Stadium, the Temple of Hera and the Temple of Zeus, which once housed one of the seven wonders of the ancient world -- a gargantuan statue of the god Zeus. Via the Monasteries of Meteora, we travel to Thermopylae, the site of the great historical battle between the Spartan King Leonidas and the massive Persian army and we end this classic tour with exploration of Athens.

Regions visited: Western Europe
Countries visited: Greece


Full Itinerary

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Day 1 Arrival in Athens
Today we arrive in Athens, off-and-on the capital of Greece in its many incarnations over several thousand years. The city received a major facelift for the 2004 Olympics and is looking better than ever, with buildings and monuments cleaned and renovated, and newly created pedestrian areas near the Ancient Agora and Acropolis.

Overnight in Athens.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Athens - Mycenae - Nauplia
We board our coach to drive to ancient Corinth for a brief visit. Back in ancient times Corinth was one of the three major powers in Greece, and took part in all the battles against the Persians. It was from one of the richest cities and this is quite evident by its remains, including the huge Agora (market place) and Apollo's Temple (6th c BC).

We continue to Mycenae. The citadel occupies the triangular summit of a low hill between two gorges. The Mycenaeans excelled in this style of building using large, unworked stones. These massive fortifications were begun in the 14th century, followed by Tiryns and Dendra, Argos and Athens, as well as a host of subsidiary forts and eventually, a huge wall across the Corinthian isthmus. The famous Lion Gate, and similar constructions at Gla and Tiryns, were built in the 13th century BC.

Here we will see vestiges of a kingdom that, for 400 years (1600-1200 BC), was the most powerful in Greece. We enter through the Lion Gate and see the Great Court where Agamemnon is believed to have been murdered in one of the chambers.

Later we travel to Epidaurus, a sanctuary of Asklepios, the God of Medicine. The sanctuaries of Asklepios, the healer god, were as much sanatoria, health farms or spas, as places of worship. This was the most prestigious centre of the cult in the Classical period and received a galaxy of splendid buildings spanning the whole of the 4th century BC.

Epidauros came into prominence only in the later 5th century, when the cult was received at Athens in 420 BC and the tragedian Sophocles became its priest. There was a revival at the sanctuary in the 2nd century AD, and worship on the site continued in the form of a Christian basilica.

We continue toward Nauplia.

Overnight near Nauplia.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Nauplia - Mystra - Sparta
This morning we spend a bit of time exploring the charming seaside town of Nauplia before joining we a dramatic winding mountain drive toward Sparta, arriving mid-morning.

We visit the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil in Sparta, which aims to highlight the culture and technology of the olive and olive production, which is inextricably linked with the Greek and Mediterranean identity. Unique in Greece, the museum is located in the heart of Laconia, one of the main olive producing locations in Greece.

We continue to our tour of Mystra, an impregnable fortress built by Guillame de Villehardouin in 1249. When the Byzantines won back the Morea from the Franks, Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus made Mystra its capital and seat of government. It soon became populated by people from the surrounding plains seeking refuge from invading Slavs.

During the rule of the despots, while the empire plummeted into decline elsewhere, Mystra experienced a renaissance, but then declined under Turkish rule. It was captured by the Venetians in 1687 and it thrived once again with a flourishing silk industry and a population of 40,000. It was recaptured by the Turks in 1715, and from then on it was downhill all the way. It was burned by the Russians in 1770, the Albanians in 1780 and Ibrahim Pasha in 1825. Not surprisingly, at the time of Independence it was in a very sorry state, virtually abandoned and in ruins, though since the 1950s much restoration work has taken place.

Back in Sparta, you may choose to visit the archaeological remains of ancient Sparta (optional), including the 2nd century BC theatre, the site's most discernible ruin. There is not much remaining of this once mighty civilization, but those interested in Spartan history may find the visit rewarding.

Overnight in Sparta.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Sparta - Olympia
Driving from Sparta to Olympia, we arrive in the early afternoon. After lunch we will have a tour of the site of ancient Olympia and the excellent on-site museum. This was a place in ancient Greece where rival states shed their protective armour and congregated in peace to enjoy the ancient games and make offerings to the Gods. The temple of Zeus once dominated the entire complex and housed the 13 m (43 foot) statue of Zeus, considered by the Greeks to be one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

We will also see the Stadium as well as the Temple of Hera, which is the site's most intact structure. This is the oldest structure in the precinct, originally dedicated to Zeus as well as Hera, and gradually rebuilt from wood into stone. The walls were of mud-brick with a tiled roof.

The games, which were the most prestigious athletic event in Greece, were held in conjunction with a festival to Olympian Zeus. Three heralds were sent to all the Greek states to announce their date and declare the universal truce, under which all hostilities were suspended for one week. The games were brought to an end in AD 393, under an edict of the Emperor Theodosius that banned all pagan festivals. The temples were destroyed in AD 426.

Overnight in Olympia.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Olympia - Delphi
We drive across the Rio-Antirrio Bridge en route to Delphi, arriving in the early afternoon. On arrival we will have a guided tour of this spectacular site and its excellent museum.

According to mythology, Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the world and they came to rest at Delphi, the 'navel of the world.' Delphi is known as the center of worship for the God Apollo, son of Zeus who embodied moral discipline and spiritual clarity. But even before the area was associated with Apollo there were other deities worshipped here including the earth goddess Gea, Themis, Demeter and Poseidon, the well known god of the sea. By the end of the Mycenaean period Apollo had displaced these other deities and became the guardian of the oracle.

Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and it was a major site for the worship of the god Apollo. His sacred precinct in Delphi was a Pan-Hellenic sanctuary, where every four years athletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games, the precursor to the Olympic Games.

Overnight in Delphi.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Delphi - Kalambaka - Monasteries of Meteora
Today we drive from Delphi to Kalambaka. Our route takes us through the central plains, a rich agricultural land often referred to as the "bread basket" of Greece.

Later this afternoon we have a panoramic drive around the Monasteries of Meteora, built upon rocks that rise vertically from the plains below. These "Rocks of the Air" are visible for miles around and are crowned with old monasteries that cling to their summits. The afternoon light provides ideal conditions for photography. Making our roadside photo stops today allow us to spend more time on the sites tomorrow when we visit the monasteries.

Overnight in Kalambaka.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 The Monasteries of Meteora - Athens
The Meteora is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries and is second only to Mount Athos. The monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly.

This morning we visit several monasteries (usually 3 in total; periodic closures determine which ones we visit), including the Metamorphosis (Grand Meteora), built on the highest rock at 613 m (2,030 ft) above sea level. Its striking series of frescoes depict the persecution of Christians by the Romans.

Later today we return by road to Athens, visiting Thermopylae, where the great historical battle between the Spartan King Leonidas, the ultimate soldier-king, and the huge army of Persians took place.

Overnight in Athens.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Athens: City Tour
Today we enjoy a guided tour of Athens, the very heart and soul of Greece. Athens has been very nicely pedestrianized in recent years, and most sites of interest are easily and pleasantly accessed by foot or subway (rather than being trapped in Athens' horrendous traffic).

Our guided tour begins at the new Acropolis Museum, located at the foot of the Acropolis. The museum was built to house every artifact found on the rock, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. Nearly 4,000 objects are exhibited over an area of 14,000 square metres.

From here it is just a brief walk to enter the Acropolis, near the site of the Dionysos Theatre. Constructed in the 6th century BC, it is one of the world's oldest theatres and the place where the great works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes were first performed. We will also see a more recent theatre, the Odeon of Herod Atticus from the second century AD, which is still used for concerts and performances.

Ascending to the top of the Acropolis, we will see magnificent buildings dating from the 5th century BC, the Golden Age of Athens. On the highest point on the Acropolis is the Parthenon, often considered the finest monument to Greek civilization. The temple was dedicated to Athena "Parthenos," the virgin and patron goddess of the city.

After our Acropolis tour, we'll descend and enter the Ancient Agora located adjacent to the Plaka, the old town of Athens. Among the numerous sights in this archaeological park are the well-preserved Temple of Hephaistos and the landmark Roman era Tower of the Winds. From here you are free to wander and explore on your own, or make your way back to the hotel with your Tour Leader's assistance.

Overnight in Athens.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Departure from Athens
Departure from Athens.

KALO TAXIDI!!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Hotel Divani Palace Acropolis

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Athens
Country: Greece

Divani Palace Acropolis enjoys a priceless location right by the world-famous Acropolis, the perfect place to savour Athens fascinating history.
... beautiful hotel offers elegant rooms and suites, an outdoor pool with bar, and delicious dining including our summer Roof Garden restaurant with enchanting views of the ancient heritage. Top-notch meeting rooms and romantic banquet rooms make our hotel ideal for business meetings or a truly memorable event.
Read More.

Hotel Parnassos

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Delphi
Country: Greece

Centrally located right in the heart of Delphi, the Hotel Parnassos is conveniently situated for visiting the famous archaeological site
... museum (300 meters away). All rooms feature air-conditioning, central heating, private bathroom, TV, hairdryer, telephone.


Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (mostly local restaurants) daily. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international (if applicable) air taxes, and excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour is offered in spring, summer, and fall, the most popular being spring and fall when temperatures are milder, crowds thinner, and airfares lower. Spring is popular for green landscapes and wildflowers. The region has a Mediterranean climate with early springs, long hot and dry summers, and autumns that are bright and warm into mid-October. Showers are possible in spring, rare in summer, and possible in late fall.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Road transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Greek roads are very good and distances are not great, though we do have some full, though scenic, travelling days. Several walking tours on uneven surfaces.

Accommodation

Well-located, air-conditioned, mid-range hotels (3-star) throughout. All hotels have en suite bath, though most have shower only. Porter service is usually available on the mainland (see 'Inclusions'). Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, driver (s), local step-on local guides in various locales.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)