VRTG Turkey & Greece Tour

With Victor Romagnoli

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

A unique, specially-designed itinerary that showcases all that is ancient and modern in this beautiful, venerable region of Europe, designed by our longest-serving Tour Leader, now a resident of Greece

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

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices below are per person, twin-sharing costs in US Dollars (USD). Pricing does not include airfare to/from the tour and any applicable taxes. For single supplement rates and taxes (if any), please refer to the entries under the blue box below.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Mon 09 Sep 2019Sat 12 Oct 2019 $10050 USD

This tour required a $1500 per person deposit

Optional Single Supplement: $1800 USD (number of singles limited).
This tour may require a mandatory single supplement charge of $940 if you join our share program and we are unable to pair you.


Tour Overview


This Turkey & Greece Tour will be led by senior Tour Leader, Victor Romagnoli.

Regions visited: Central And Eastern Europe and Western Europe
Countries visited: Turkey and Greece


Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrival in Istanbul
Arrival into Istanbul; the rest of the day is free to explore the city.* This evening you will meet your Tour Leader for an information session about the tour program followed by dinner.

* As our sightseeing planned for tomorrow is based on a hunch that many people have already seen the 'classic' sites of Istanbul and therefore concentrates on some lesser-known/visited places, the first-time visitor may consider spending independent time in the city pre-trip. Our hotel is located in Sultanahmet and is within easy walking distance of Agia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar should you choose to arrive early.

Overnight in Istanbul.

Included Meal(s): Dinner

Day 2 Istanbul Touring
Our morning starts with a visit to the aromatic Spice Bazaar, where the smells of cinnamon, clove, and thyme rise from hundreds of colourful muslin bags at every store front. Nearby we'll visit the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent, built by the great architect Sinan in the 16th century. The design of the mosque achieves a perfection of harmony and monumentality at once, set in the centre of a huge complex which included a library, soup kitchen for the poor, a hammam (bath), fountains, gardens, caravansary, and schools.

We then board a ferry for a relaxing cruise along the shores of the legendary Bosphorus, the natural gateway that divides Asia and Europe. As you sit back and enjoy some tea from traditional small cups, numerous summer palaces and palatial homes will pass by on either side.

Disembarking at the northern end of the strait, we have a break for lunch (a local fish restaurant is a popular choice) before we proceed to the Kariye (Chora) Museum to see the marvelous mosaics of the late Byzantine. Our last stop will be Grand Bazaar, which is amongst attractive shopping centers and the biggest "souk" in the world with nearly 4,000 shops of antiques, gold, jewellery, carpets and leatherwear.

Overnight in Istanbul.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 Istanbul - Flight to Trabzon: City Tour
This morning we fly to Trabzon and commence with a morning tour of this interesting Black Sea port city.

Our first visit is the 13th century Church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), built by Manuel I on the site of an earlier pagan temple. Having suffered extensive damage over the years, many of the frescoes -- some of the finest examples of Byzantine painting in the world -- were painstakingly restored to their former glory during the 1960's. Inside we will see scenes from the Old Testament and the life of Christ.

We then embark on a walking tour of old Trabzon. The city of Trabzon, the capital of "Byzantium in Exile" has inspired travellers and writers from Marco Polo to Rose Macaulay. Milesian colonists from Sinope settled here in the 7th century BCE who are thought to have been engaged in the metal trade, exporting such things as Urartian bronze to the Western Mediterranean. The name of Trapezos is thought to derive from the table-like headland on which the citadel was established, upon which are the remnants of the Byzantine city.

From here we continue into the old quarters to see the Tabakhane Bridge, the citadel and city walls, the Middle City, and the Ortahisar Mosque, formerly the main Cathedral of Byzantine Trabzon where weddings, funerals and coronations took place. We see the Upper Citadel where the Imperial Palace once stood overlooking the ravine. We leave the citadel via the Zagnos bridge to our final visit, the Ottoman Mosque of Gulbahar Hatun.

Overnight in Trabzon.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 4 Sumela Monastery - Erzurum
This morning we head to the Monastery of Sumela, built in the place where the venerated icon of the Virgin -- believed to have been painted by St. Luke -- was discovered by the Athenian monk Barnabas in 385 CE. The monastery developed in the 6th century, though what remains dates to the 13th and 14th centuries when the Byzantine Emperors of the Komnenos dynasty celebrated their coronations here. The miraculous powers of the icon were so famous that even Turkish sultans came here to make offerings.

We will ascend the monastery via a footpath through a lush forest; the entire walk is about 250 m and takes about 30 minutes. The first glimpse of the monastery clinging to the face of a sheer cliff is unforgettable. Although in a state of decay, many brilliant frescoes are still visible inside the main chapel. Sumela gives us a fascinating insight into monastic life, from the medieval to modern era.

We'll break for lunch en route to Erzurum; while in the eastern Black Sea area, you may choose to sample some typical dishes of the region: lahana corbasi (cabbage soup), lahana sarmasi (stuffed cabbage rolls), hamsi (anchovies), and muhlama and kaymak -- two types of melted hot cheese served with bread.

We continue onwards to Erzurum. Erzurum has some of Turkey's earliest Islamic buildings. If time permits this afternoon, we will see Ezurum's most famous building, the Cifte Minare Madrasa. It was founded in 1253 by the Seljuk Sultan Aleddin Keykubad II in honour of his daughter whose mausoleum is part of the madrasa. We will also see the Lala Pasha Mosque and the Ulu Cami.

Overnight in Erzurum.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Erzurum - Kars & Ani
This morning we make our way to the frontier town of Kars and the haunting ruins of the old Armenian capital, Ani. Once a city of a hundred gates and a thousand churches, the ruins of Ani still capture the imagination. By the middle of the 10th century CE, no city in Europe could compare in size and magnificence to Ani and in the east only Constantinople, Cairo and Baghdad were its rivals. The Mongol raids, a severe earthquake in 1319, and the coup de
grace of Tamerlane's conquering armies combined to destroy the city. Today the abandoned walls and dozens of churches in red and black sandstone stand at the edge of a deep gorge right on Turkey's eastern border. Several of the churches have beautiful frescoes in the Armenian style.

Overnight in Kars.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Kars - Ishak Pasa Sarayi - Dogubeyazit
Today we drive to Dogubeyazit, via the region of Mt. Ararat, the highest mountain in Turkey (5165m/17,045 ft), steeped in religious tradition throughout the Near East since antiquity. According to Genesis 8:4, Mt. Ararat was the final resting place of Noah's Ark once the waters of the Great Flood had receded. The Armenians believed that their race descended from its slopes, the Arabs considered it the "roof of the world" from which the life-giving Tigris and Euphrates rivers originated.

En route we'll visit Ishak Pasa Sarayi, an incredible palace built in the 17th century by a Cildiroglu chieftain and finished by Ishak Pasa in the1784. The palace is located some distance from the remote frontier town of Dogubeyazit on the border between Turkey, Armenia, and Iran. The palace built circa 1800 is a mixture of architectural styles with Seljuk, Persian, Georgian, Armenian, and Ottoman elements. At one time the palace had a door plated in gold and studded with precious stones.

We descend from the palace to Dogubeyazit, a frontier town only 35km from the Iranian border, where we will spend the night. Your best chance to see Mt. Ararat in all its glory is first thing in the morning before the clouds move in.

Overnight in Dogubeyazit.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Dogubeyazit - Lake Van
Today we have a beautiful drive through the Bitlis Canyon to the shores of Lake Van, the heart of the ancient Armenian, Turcoman, and Kurdish cultures. Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey and the largest soda lake in the world -- a phenomena created by the high alkalinity of its waters. Located 1750m above sea level, with a maximum depth of 450m (1,485 ft), the lake was created millions of years ago when lava flows from nearby Mt. Nemrut blocked
the basin's outlet.

Upon arrival, we will pay a visit to the Van Museum with its outstanding collection of Urartian gold jewellery. We will also drive out of the town centre for a view of the Van Castle overlooking Lake Van.

Overnight in Van.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Lake Van & Akdamar Island
This morning we'll take a 20-minute boat ride out to Akhtamar Island, where stands the 10th century Armenian Church of the Holy Cross. Its beautiful location, 2 km off shore, has infused it with a tranquil and sacred aura. A monastic settlement since the 6th century, it was also at one time the seat of the Armenian Patriarch and the sacred burial ground of saints. Akhtamar church is also considered one of the masterpieces of Armenian art and architecture. We will see the remnants of its medieval frescoes inside and on the exterior, the wonderful frieze carved in relief of human and animal figures and biblical scenes.

Returning to Tatvan by boat, we continue our journey to Van, enjoying magnificent views of the lake, and, if it's a clear day, the snowcapped peaks of Mt. Nemrut (3050m) and Mt. Suphan (4058m).

Back in Van, we'll explore Van, the capital of the ancient Urartian Empire, whose realm once stretched into modern Iran, Iraq and Syria. We will climb up to Van Castle, the Urartian citadel, perched like an eagle's nest on a high rocky outcrop, where we will see the remains of stone battlements, a temple, royal tombs and inscriptions. From this vantage point, there are splendid views of Old Van.

Overnight in Van.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9 Lake Van - Kahta
This morning we leave Van for a drive west to Kahta, the base for our visit to Mt Nemrut.

This is a full day's travel (the longest of the trip) through the rugged, spectacular scenery of this corner of the country. Kahta, our destination, is a small town in attractive countryside at the foot of Mount Nemrut. The population of Kahta is mostly of Kurdish origin from Reshwan tribe.

Overnight in Kahta.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Mt. Nemrut Touring
This morning we visit the world famous Mt. Nemrut.

Mt. Nemrut rises to a height of 2150m (7,095 ft) above sea level, the highest mountain in this area of the anti-Taurus range. The summit of the mountain was adorned with colossal statues circling a massive 50m high tumulus in the 1st century BCE by the vain and megalomaniac king, Antiochus I. The ruler of a relatively unimportant but wealthy kingdom, the Commagene Kingdom served as a buffer state between the Roman and Parthian Empires. Antiochus I "Theos," a self-styled god, had two desires: to leave visible proof of his (self-proclaimed) royal descent from Alexander the Great and King Darius of Persia, and to be "buried close to the celestial throne." The result is the massive self-aggrandizing funerary monument impossibly built on the mountain summit.

On our way to the summit we will stop at Arsameia, the capital of the Commagene Kingdom. A 5m stele has a well- preserved relief depicting Mithridates I (father of Antiochus) shaking hands with Hercules. A nearby inscription mentions the founding of Arsameia and the sacred tomb of Mithridates. We continue to the summit of the mountain. From the car park, we will walk about 600m (20+ minutes) up the slope to visit the Western and Eastern Terrace. Although the latter is better preserved, both terraces have a similar layout. Lining the base of the tumulus, are colossal statues (of which the heads alone are 2m tall!) of the Graeco-Parthian gods of Helios-Mithra, Fortuna, Zeus- Ahurmazda, Antiochus and Hercules. On the western terrace are a series of reliefs, showing Antiochus shaking hands with Apollo, Zeus and Hercules, as well as one with a lion and the planets -- perhaps the astrological symbols of Antiochus's birth date. According the inscriptions found here, Antiochus left elaborate instructions on how he wished his birth and coronation date to be celebrated, including details of offerings and sacrifices to be made. The artificial mound of crushed rock in the center covers the royal tomb of Antiochus himself, which is yet unexcavated. We descend the mountain in the same manner; the route back to Kahta provides panoramic views of the reservoir of the Ataturk Dam below and hillside villages.

Overnight in Kahta.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 Kahta - Adiyaman - Flight to Istanbul & Cooking Class
Today we drive the short distance to Adiyaman from where we fly back to Istanbul.

Later today we enjoy a fun and informal cooking class. By now you understand why Turkish cuisine is world famous -- diverse and savory, spicy without being (too) hot, vegetable rich and healthy -- and today we will gain some hand-on skills to replicate some of the delicious dishes we have experienced on our trip. For our farewell dinner we'll be able to dine upon the fruits of our labours!

Overnight in Istanbul.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Istanbul, Turkey - Athens, Greece
Today we arrive in Athens and transfer to our central hotel. Welcome to Greece!

The Greek section of our tour has been crafted to combine some of your Tour Leader's favourite corners of this incredibly diverse land, including the relatively un-touristed northern regions of Thrace, Thessaly and (Greek) Macedonia; wild and rugged Western Crete, and timeless Rhodes, 'Island of the Knights,' with its mosaic of cultures.

Depending on our flight time, your Tour Leader may suggest some informal sightseeing to round out our day.

Overnight in Athens.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 13 Athens: City Touring
Today we will have a full morning walking tour of Athens. The focus of this guided tour is street art; 'graffiti' is, after all, a Greek word! The oldest known examples of graffiti date back to ancient times. Our tour will not only reveal how talented these artists are but also help us understand the challenges facing many of the younger generation living in Greece today since much of the graffiti is actually social commentary.

Our walking tour will take us to the neighbourhood of Exarchia, where we will have lunch and then proceed to the Archeological Museum of Athens for a guided tour focusing on artifacts relating to some of the sites we will visit in the weeks ahead.

Overnight in Athens.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 14 Athens: City Touring
This morning we walk the short distance (uphill) from our hotel to the Acropolis for a guided tour. 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 a break for lunch (included today), we'll visit the Museum of the Ancient Greek Technology. This often overlooked small museum has a fascinating series of ever-changing exhibits often pertaining specifically to contributions made by ancient Greeks to the world of sciences and math. The aim of the museum is to highlight this relatively unknown aspect of ancient Greek civilization and to prove that the technology of the ancient Greeks, just before the end of the ancient Greek world, was shockingly similar to the beginning of our modern technology. The bolts and nuts, gears and rules, pulleys and belts, sprockets and chains, block and tackles and winches, hydraulic controllers and valves are just some of the inventions of the ancient Greeks.

Later today we will take advantage of staying in the lively neighbourhood of Koukaki and go for a wine and cheese tasting stroll through this 'happening' neighbourhood. 

Overnight in Athens (dinner on your own this evening).

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Lunch

Day 15 Athens - Monasteries of Meteora - Kalambaka
Today we travel north from Athens to the plains of Thessaly. En route we make a brief stop at the ancient site of Thermopylae, where we will see the statue of Leonidas who led the Spartans to victory against the Persians in 480 BCE. The plains of Thessaly are among the most fertile and continuously-inhabited regions of Western Europe. In fact, the Thessalian plain is home to some of the oldest Neolithic settlements in Greece.

Our focus today will be on the World Heritage listed 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 Meteora is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries and is second only to Mount Athos. We'll visit several monasteries* (usually 3 in total; periodic closures determine which ones we visit).

* Please refer to your pre-trip notes for advice re appropriate attire for today's visits.

Overnight in the Kalambaka area.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 16 Kalambaka - Kastoria
Today we continue north to Lake Orestiada, the lake of Kastoria, one of the most beautiful in the Balkans. The lake is directly linked to the character, history, and development of the city and has been classified as a "Monument of Natural Beauty" by the Ministry of Culture and integrated in the European "Network of Nature 2000."

Our destination is Kastoria, a town that flourished from the 17th century onwards as the most important fur-trading centre in the then Ottoman Empire. Handsome mansions, Dionysian celebrations, Byzantine treasures, waterbirds and artisanal furs, characterize this charming town, the "Lady of Macedonia."

Time-permitting, we may begin our Kastoria area sightseeing upon arrival.

Overnight in Kastoria.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 17 Kastoria Area Touring
This morning we will enjoy a walking tour of Kastoria.

Our tour will include visits to a number of mansions owned by former fur-trading families. Lake Orestiada was once teeming with beavers ('kastoras') and the trade in beaver skins, which began over a thousand years ago, gave rise to the town's chief industry, that of furrier to much of Europe. When the beavers ran out, the town imported furs and it seems that, almost on every block in this charming small city of narrow streets and Byzantine-era churches, that there is at least one place of business related to the fashioning of clothing out of now-imported furs, mostly mink. Kastoria remains an international center for the fur trade, and hosts an annual international exhibition of fur. We also visit the Byzantine museum which houses a remarkable collection of local icons.

Later today we will make a visit to the nearby Prespa Lakes. There are several lakes that make up this important wetland area, shared between the Balkan counties of Albania, Greece, and the recently-recognized 'Northern Republic of Macedonia' (until June 2018 the Government of Greece referred to its northern neighbour as FYROM).

Overnight in Kastoria.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 18 Kastoria - Vergina - Kavala
Today we have an early morning departure with a coffee break in Edessa, famous for its waterfalls. Our journey continues south through the productive farmlands of Naoussa, known for its dairy farming and excellent vineyards. Later today we arrive at the fascinating archeological site of Vergina. Here we visit the most important remains of the monumental palace of the Kingdom of Macedonia, lavishly decorated with mosaics and painted stuccoes, and the burial ground with more than 300 tumuli, some of which date from the 11th century BC. One of the royal tombs is identified as that of Philip II, who conquered all the Greek cities, paving the way for his son Alexander and the expansion of the Hellenistic world.

We skirt Thessaloniki (ferry schedules dictate that we save the city for a couple days from now) and drive to the city of Kavala, one of the most attractive of Greece's larger cities,
rising like an amphitheatre from the beautiful harbour up to a huge Byzantine fortress. Built on the ancient city of Neopolis, the city's population doubled in 1922 when the Greeks from Asia Minor made there way here during the exchange of populations.

Overnight in Kavala.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 19 Kavala: Town Tour - Ferry to Thassos Island
This morning we have a tour of this important northern port city. Among the city's impressive landmarks are the old walls, the Byzantine castle, and the Kamares -- the aqueduct erected by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. We visit the Archaeological Museum containing finds from the ancient city of Amphipolis, a colony of Athens.

Later today we make a short 10km ferry crossing of the Gulf of Kavala, arriving on the island of Thassos, the first of the islands of the Thracian Sea that we visit. The sea is actually part of the North Aegean but the islands found here are much less visited that their southern Aegean neighbours. Their beaches are wild, their forests dense and green, and the history quite different.

Overnight on Thassos.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 20 Thassos Island
Thassos is one of the most beautiful islands of Greece, combining sea and lush green mountains. History here goes back as far as ancient times, and Thassos has no shortage of myths. According to one of them, Zeus took shelter on Thassos after kidnapping the Phoenician queen, Europa.

Limenas, the capital of the island, is a picturesque town with colourful shops, tavernas and ouzeri, and ideal for walking in the narrow streets. An ancient agora on the harbour was established by the 4th century BC; nearby we'll visit an archaeological museum with findings from Thassos Island from the 7th century BC until the 7th AD.

While on Thassos our itinerary will be somewhat flexible and free-form; outside of organized activities, you'll also have time to explore on your own and soak up some of the relaxed atmosphere (dinner on your own this evening).

Overnight on Thassos.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Day 21 Thassos - Ferry to Keramoti - Alexandroupoli
Today we take a short ferry ride from Thassos to Keramoti and continue east across the Thracian plains to Alexandroupoli. En route we will stop to visit Xanthi, known for its traditional Ottoman mansions, many of them built by tobacco barons. Just over 50km further east, we stop at Komotini where approximately half of the population is of Turkish descent. An unusual mix for Greece, it explains the presence of both Ottoman mosques and Byzantine churches side by side.

Later we continue to the most easterly city of mainland Greece: Alexandropoli. Time-permitting we may include some sightseeing in Alexandropoli upon arrival.

Overnight Alexandropoli.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 22 Alexandroupoli - Ferry to Samothrace
Today we travel by ferry to Samothrace (Samothraki).

Due to its small and predominantly mountainous territory, there is no airport in Samothrace; because of this, combined with its scarce maritime connections and tucked-away location in the northern Aegean Sea, Samothrace is well off the beaten path. You won’t find exciting nightlife, crazy parties, ranks of souvenir shops or Michelin-starred restaurants, but rather traditional villages, empty pebbly beaches and pristine nature.

Overnight in Kamariotissa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 23 Samothrace Touring
The focus of our visit to Samothraki is the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, often considered to be one of Greece's most mysterious archeological sites. From at least 1000 BCE, pilgrims came to this stop to worship the Great Mother goddess Earth. Originally called Cybele, her identity and name evolved over time and by the Hellenistic age she was associated with the Olympian female deities Demeter, Aphrodite, and Hecate. The rituals that took place at these temples remain a mystery, because although everyone was welcome (men, women, servants, slaves, and all other citizens) the penalty for revealing the secrets of the sanctuary was death. We'll walk through he ruins of the once grand constructions, gates, walls, theatres and temples plunged in Mediterranean scrub. It was here that the famous Nike sculpture was unearthed.

You'll have time to explore and soak up the atmosphere of Chora, the charming little capital of Samothrace, built like an amphitheatre on one flank of the mountain with all the crammed, stone houses—whitewashed, of course—facing the sea. The outcome is astonishingly beautiful views you can behold from its winding cobblestone alleys, flowery balconies, and terraces or from the vestiges of the medieval Gateluzi castle.

Overnight on Kamariotissa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 24 Samothrace - Thessaloniki
We return to Alexandroupolis by ferry and continue to Thessaloniki, the second largest city of modern Greece. It was first established in 316 BC by Kassandros and named after his wife, Thessaloniki, half sister of Alexander the Great. It is here that the Apostle Paul first brought the message of Christianity (AD 50) and that Demetrius, a Roman officer died in martyrdom (AD 303), thus becoming the holy patron of the city. Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire, next to Constantinople, and is full of beautiful examples of Byzantine art and architecture.

If time permits we may accomplish some of our Thessaloniki sightseeing upon arrival.

Overnight in Thessaloniki.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 25 Thessaloniki & Mt Athos
Today's excursion takes us to the Haldiki Peninsula.

Comprised of three smaller peninsulas (Kassandra, Sithonian, and Athos), the Halkidiki is home to one of the most important monastic communities in the entire Christian Orthodox world. At the foot of Mount Athos stands an enormous World Heritage site; the monasteries of Mt Athos. Visiting the monasteries is somewhat impractical for us due to strict visitation rules (ie only men are permitted to visit, and they require advance notice and written invitation from their nation's embassy in Athens). Instead, we will enjoy a short lunch cruise passing below numerous coastal monasteries with good views of Mt Athos's peak (2033m).

Overnight in Thessaloniki.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 26 Thessaloniki Touring
Situated at the head of the Theramic Gulf, Thessaloniki was once surrounded by a huge defence wall. The White Tower, where we begin our tour today, once formed a corner of that wall. We also hope to include the Roman Agora, the Castro District with its Byzantine walls, and the church of Agios Dimitrios. During our stay in Thessaloniki we also hope to include visits to three superb museums: the Museum of Jewish History, the Archaeological Museum, and the Ethnographic Museum.

Overnight in Thessaloniki.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 27 Thessaloniki - Fly to Chania
Today we fly from one lesser-known corner of Greece to another, to the island of Crete and the city of Chania for a three night stay.

Crete is the largest island in Greece; the island offers amazing variety, combining snow-capped mountains, rolling hills covered with olive trees, and over 1000 km of varied coastline. Western Crete has much to offer--deep and wild gorges, steep mountains, green valleys and woods, stunning beaches, important archaeological sites, and historical venues. October is the perfect time to visit Crete -- the crowds of summer will have dwindled and the summer heat will have been replaced by a gentle warmth. This is also the time when the Cretans will be making their wines and will soon begin the olive harvest.

Time-permitting we'll commence some of our sightseeing program upon arrival.

Overnight in Chania.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 28 Chania: Walking Tour
Chania is a place where several different civilizations have flourished throughout the centuries. The city is built on the area of Minoan Kidonia, at the end of gulf between Akrotiri and Onicha peninsulas. After Arabs and Byzantines it was conquered by Venetians in 1252 and was given to Turks in 1669. Later it was annexed to the rest of the Greek State, on December 1913, under the administration of Eleftherios Venizelos and King Konstantinos the 1st. Today the atmosphere has a touch of Florence and Venice (a few years ago when those cities still had some room to walk!), combined with the culture and character of Cretan people and traditions.

During our tour of the old town of Chania, we will pay a visit to the Archaeological and Folklore museums and explore the wonderful labyrinth of narrow streets in the historic quarter. We will discover "lost" Turkish fountains and bathhouses; quaint medieval back streets and alleyways; Venetian and Turkish houses; mosques, churches, fortifications, old tradespeople's shops and a host of other gems that are the secrets of this Greek city. The covered food market is outstanding with many traditional products such as cheese, honey, herbs, fresh fish, meat, and produce.

Later we will stop to have our lunch (included today) at a waterfront restaurant overlooking the port. Your afternoon is free (dinner on your own) to enjoy Chania, one of the most picturesque cities in Greece.

Overnight in Chania.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Lunch

Day 29 Chania: Elafonisi & Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa
This morning we will make an interesting excursion to Elafonisi via the Topolia Gorge.

Our drives takes us through forested mountains and, before arriving to Elafonisi Beach, we will stop to photograph the Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa. Perched 35 metres up on a large rock overlooking the Libyan sea, the monastery is reached by climbing 90 steps. According to legend, one of the steps is made of solid gold, but this golden step can only been seen by the sinless (your Tour Leader will perhaps not be able to point it out for you ;) ).

You'll have a chance to relax and perhaps swim at Elafonisi beach, considered to be one of the most beautiful in all of Crete. The emerald waters here are surrounded by pink sand dunes and black rocks creating a natural work of art. Later today we return to Chania.

Our evening meal tonight will be in the Splantzia quarter of the city -- the former Turkish district. We will have our meal under the huge plane tree that shades the main square of this quarter.

Overnight in Chania.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 30 Chania - Iraklion & Knossos
Today we travel east towards the capital city of Iraklion.

Upon arrival we travel to the site of Knossos, where our local guide will show us the ancient palace of King Minos, first built around 1900 BC. In 1700 BC it was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt to a grander and more sophisticated design. The city of Knossos consisted of an immense palace, residences of officials and priests, the homes of ordinary people, and burial grounds. The palace, which covered an area of 22000 sq m (236,682 sq feet), consisted of royal domestic quarters, public reception rooms, shrines, workshops, treasures and storerooms around a central court. Knossos was excavated by Arthur Evans between 1900 and 1930.

We also visit the Archaeological Museum in Iraklion, one of the best museums in Greece. The exhibits, collected from excavations carried out in all parts of Crete, come mainly from the prehistoric era and form a valuable record of the artistic, social and economic life of the island during the ancient period.

Overnight in Iraklion.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 31 Iraklion, Crete - Fly to Rhodes
Today we fly to Rhodes for a three-night stay.

Located in the Dodecanese island group, Rhodes is just over 95 kilometres in length and, like the rest of the 12 islands in this group, hugs the Turkish coast. Upon arrival, we transfer to our hotel located in the heart of the old city of Rhodes. Time-permitting we may begin our sightseeing program on arrival.

Overnight in Rhodos.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 32 Rhodes Touring
Today's on-foot exploration will include visit the Castle (aka Palace of Grand Masters), which features turreted towers as perfect as they were back in the 14th century. This rare example of Gothic architecture in Greece was possibly built using stones taken from one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Colossus of Rhodes. Destroyed when an arms store in the nearby Church of St. John exploded in 1856, it was rebuilt by the Italians and was the summer retreat of King Victor Emmanuel and Mussolini.

The Knights of St John was a religious order of the church of Rome founded in Amalfi in the 11th century. They went to Jerusalem initially to minister to the needs of the pilgrims who arrived there and soon extended their duties to tending the poor and sick of the Holy Land. Over the years they became increasingly militant, joining forces with the Knights Templars and the Teutonic Knights of St Mary in battles against infidels.

We'll also have a walking exploration of the old town of Rhodos, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Overnight in Rhodos.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 33 Rhodes: Acropolis of Lindos
This morning we head out of town by bus, stopping at Lindos to visit the Acropolis and to have a wander about this lively village, a unique monument of preservation. The beauty of the castle, the Acropolis of Athena Lindia on the top, with St. Paul's Bay (where the Apostle arrived in 58 AD) and the paved streets of the village captivate visitors. A walk through its narrow paved streets reveals the beauty of the traditional island architecture.

On the way back to Rhodos we drive across the island from east to west coast, passing through villages and densely wooded areas. We reach the top of Filerimos Mountain, with its marvellous panoramic view. We then come to the ruins of the acropolis of the ancient Lalussos where we have one of the best panoramic views of Ixia, one of the biggest tourist resorts in Rhodes.

We return to Rhodes town mid-late afternoon.

Overnight in Rhodos.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 34 Departure
Departure from Rhodos.

KALO TAXIDI!

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Tour Map

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*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.


Sura Design Istanbul

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Istanbul
Country: Turkey

This upscale hotel is a 6-minute walk from the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia mosque and 3 km from the Galata Tower.
... bright, modern rooms provide free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and minibars.
Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Zorlu Grand Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Trabzon
Country: Turkey

Zorlu Grand Hotel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Zorlu Holding, a major Turkish corporate group ity whose roots reach back
... 1953 and production and trade activities supported by a few looms in the town of Babadağ in Denizli province in southwest Turkey and is today active in sectors ranging from electronics and white goods (Vestel) and textiles (Korteks, TAÇ, Linens) to energy (Zorlu Energy) and real estate (Zorlu Property Group).

It was in Trabzon that Ahmet Nazif Zorlu and Zeki Zorlu got their real start in business and it was because of their fondness for the town that they decided to invest here. Spotting the need for a genuinely world-class 5-star hotel in the city in the 1990s, they decided to build one. The project soon got underway and the result was Zorlu Grand Hotel, which opened its doors in 1997.

Zorlu Grand Hotel is the first and only 5-star hotel located along the Turkish Black Sea riviera. Aware of the responsibilities which this entails, we remain steadfastly bound by our commitment never to allow any lapse in quality or service. Hospitality is both the watchword and an ingrained way of life at our hotel. Ever since its inception, Zorlu Grand Hotel has been playing host to the most prestigious congresses, seminars, company meetings, and similar gatherings taking place not just in Trabzon but throughout the Turkish Black Sea region. The hotel will continue to do so in the future as well.

Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Palan Hotel

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Erzurum
Country: Turkey

Set in Erzurum, this family-friendly hotel is within 6 mi (10 km) of Ataturk House Museum, Erzurum Archaeology Museum, and
... town.
Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Tehran Boutique Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Kars
Country: Turkey

Set on a street lined with shops, this unpretentious hotel is 6 km from the 17th-century Ishak Pasha Palace. The
... rooms feature flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi access, plus minibars, and tea and coffeemaking facilities.
Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hotel Ertur Butik

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Dogubeyazit
Country: Turkey

The hotel has a barbecue and views of the mountains, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. The
... is popular for skiing and hiking.
Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hotel Double Tree by Hilton

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Van
Country: Turkey

Across the street from Lake Van, this relaxed hotel with views of the surrounding countryside is 5 km from Van
... Melen Airport and 10 km from Abbasağa Camii, a 17th-century mosque.

Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Zeus Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Kahta
Country: Turkey

Our hotel is located in the entrance of Kahta having a distance of 35 km to Adiyaman, 14 km to
... Adiyaman airport and 45 km to the National Park of Nemrut Mount. Following standards are provided in our hotel adopting international standards as a principle while serving its guests.
Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

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.

Click here to visit hotel website

Doupiani House

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

Set on the outskirts of town, this refined hotel is 1 km from the Meteora. Traditional rooms with antique wood
... feature satellite TV, minifridges, free Wi-Fi, and balconies offering mountain and Meteora views.
Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hotel Kastoria

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

This cosmopolitan hotel features 37 luxurious and well-equipped rooms (bathroom, satellite-TV, Mini-Bar, A / C, Telephone, Hairdryer, Safe), very good
... convenient parking the cafe-bar with a distinctive Italian design combined with the natural environment and the beautiful lake.

Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Galaxy Hotel

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

Featuring a terrace with city and sea views, Airotel Galaxy enjoys a central location in Kavala near shops, restaurants and
... It offers a rich Greek breakfast in buffet style, and a fitness center. WiFi is offered throughout. All air-conditioned rooms are stylishly decorated.
Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

A for Art Hotel

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

A 2-minute walk from the Old Harbor of Thassos, this boutique hotel in a tobacco warehouse built in 1907 is
... 3-minute walk from Ancient Agora. The nearest ferries are a 9-minute walk away. The rooms are individually decorated with art or classic furniture, feature free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, as well as minibars.
Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Grand Hotel Egnatia

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

On a beach along the Aegean Sea, this upscale hotel off National Road 2 is 12 minutes' walk from the
... Museum of Alexandroupolis.
Featuring marble bathrooms and sea views, the polished rooms provide complimentary Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and minifridges.

Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Niki Beach Hotel

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

Across a road from a beach on the Aegean Sea, this casual hotel is a 6-minute walk from Samothrace ferry
... and 6 km from the ancient Samothrace temple complex.

Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Egnatia Palace Hotel

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

Set in an art deco-style building, this upscale hotel is a 14-minute walk from the White Tower of Thessaloniki fortress
... an 8-minute walk from Hagios Demetrios church.

Polished, individually decorated rooms feature free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, minibars and safes; some have balconies

Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Kydon Hotel

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

A 6-minute walk from the Archaeological Museum of Chania, this upscale hotel is 8 minutes' stroll from Paralia Koum Kapi
... Low-key rooms with a mix of classic and modern elements feature floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies. They include free Wi-Fi.
Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hotel Atlantis

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Heraklion
Country: Greece

The well-known Atlantis Hotel is situated right in the town center and commands a spectacular view of the harbour. All
... feature air conditioning, satellite TV, fridge, mini bar, spacious veranda, phone, and hairdryer.


Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Amphitryon Hotel

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

This low-key, 5-story hotel is a 9-minute walk from the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
... a 12-minute walk from the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes.

Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Daily hotel breakfast, some lunches, and most dinners (mostly local restaurants; see tour itinerary for specifics). All accommodation, transport (including internal flights) sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters (if available). Airport transfers for land & air customers (if you arrive early/leave late, your transfers are included if your book your air and extra nights through us).

Exclusions

International airfare to/from the tour. Most lunches, some dinners, Tour Leader gratuities, alcoholic beverages, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international air taxes (if applicable), 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 the late summer/fall when temperatures are milder, crowds thinner, and airfares a bit lower than mid-summer. 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.

Overall we can expect dry conditions with warm-hot days and mild/cool evenings and mornings.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Local ferries between mainland/islands can range from hydrofoils to large vehicular vessels (economy class). Greek ferry schedules tend to change without notice; some itinerary adjustments may be necessary at the discretion of your Tour Leader. Uncontrollable factors such as weather may result in delays.

Land transport by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on group size (see 'Group Size'); some local buses and taxis. Greek roads are very good and distances are not great, though we do have some full (and scenic), travelling days. In Turkey we have some full days of travel with plenty of stops for sightseeing and comfort.

Our difficulty level "2" refers to the overall ambitious nature of our program, which features full days of travel and sightseeing, possibly with some early starts. We also feature walking tours of towns/cities and sites, some of which are large. Both Greece & Turkey are hilly, and we will encounter plenty of steps, many of which are uneven/cobbled. We will also have short walks to dinner. In short, you can expect a LOT of walking on this tour.

See also notes under "Accommodation"

Accommodation

Well-located, air-conditioned, mid-range hotels (3&4-star; 4-5 star in Turkey) throughout. Some smaller hotels in Greece are smaller properties (3-4 story) that may not have elevators. All hotels have en suite facilities, though most have shower only (ie no tub).

Porter service is usually available at larger city hotels; they may not be available on the islands or at smaller properties (see 'inclusions'); you MUST be independent with your luggage, especially getting on/off ferries and at airports.

Single rooms are limited in number and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

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

Group Size

Maximum 18 plus Tour Leader

VRTG TRIP DETAILS

DURATION34 days

TOUR STARTIstanbul

TOUR ENDRhodos

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