Classical Greece7 days & 6 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
Athens, Nafplio, Olympia & Delphi
Considered the birthplace of western civilization, Greece's influence still resonates today in the fields of architecture, science, engineering and philosophy. Incorporating the classical sites of Olympia, Delphi, Mycenae and Epidaurus, this tour also explores Greece's magnificent scenery and the man-made marvels of the Corinth Canal.
Day 1Arrive Athens
On arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel.Electra Hotel - 2 Nights
Today enjoy a morning tour of Athens including the Acropolis and Museum. You will view the main attractions in the center of Athens including Constitution Square, Hadrian's Arch, The Presidential Palace, the Panathenaic Stadium., and the Acropolis and its museum, which was specially built to house its treasures.
Constitution Square, or Syntagma Square, is often seen as the center of the city as it is the socially most important and oldest square in Athens. The Greek Parliament is housed on the northern side of the square with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier situated at its entrance. The National Guard are on continuous patrol in front of the tomb and you may view the changing of the guard each day. The National Guard are famous for their uniforms of pom-pom clogs and kilts. The Presidential Palace was formerly the residence of the last King, Constantine who fled the country in 1967. It is now the ceremonial home of the President.
The Kallimarmaro Stadium was the scene for the first modern Olympic Games on the 5th April 1896. Constructed in white Pentelic marble by a wealthy benefactor, the modern stadium can seat up to 60,000 spectators and is built on the site of the original stadium whose history dates back to the 3rd century BC.
Hadrian's Arch was built in 131 AD and marks the border between the ancient city and the new quarter of Athens, which the Roman Emperor built during his tenure.
After your orientation tour, continue to visit the Acropolis, which is widely considered to be the most important ancient monument in the Western World. Crowned by the Parthenon, the largest Doric temple built in Greece, the Acropolis can be seen from almost anywhere within Athens. Highlights of the Acropolis are the elegantly proportioned small Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheum and the Parthenon.
The Temple of Athena Nike was the first Ionic structure to be built on the Acropolis. Begun in 427 BC, it was completed during the unrest of the Peloponnesian war, and remained untouched until 1686 when the Turks used its stones to build defenses against the Venetians. It was later completely reassembled and today the main structure, stylobate and columns remain largely intact.
The Erechtheum, on the north side of the Acropolis, is noted for its unusual and elegant design. The temple as seen today was built between 421 BC and 407 BC, but it is believed to be a replacement for an older temple, as it is on the site of some of the most ancient and holy relics of the Athenians.
The Parthenon has stood atop the Acropolis of Athens for nearly 2,500 years. It was originally built to give thanks to Athena, the city's patron goddess, for the salvation of Athens and Greece in the Persian Wars. Throughout its history the Parthenon has functioned most importantly as a Greek temple, but has also been a treasury, a fortress, a church, and a mosque. Although the Parthenon is regarded as the finest example of a Doric order temple, the nearby Temple of Hephaestus is the most complete surviving example.
Many of the Parthenon Marbles that were removed from the site in the late 18th century by the Earl of Elgin can be found in the British museum, while other sculptures from the Parthenon are found in the Louvre in Paris and in Copenhagen. The remaining portable objects that have been removed from the Acropolis since 1834 including statues, reliefs and artefacts, are located in the Acropolis Museum. In addition to the Parthenon frieze, notable highlights of the museum's permanent collection include several statues and offerings from the Archaic Temple of Athena and the original Caryatids salvaged from the Erechtheum Temple. After your visit to the Acropolis, you will visit the Acropolis museum, which was specially opened in 2009 to house over 4,000 objects of antiquity.
This afternoon is yours to further explore Athens at your own pace or join another guided tour.Electra Hotel or similar (B)
Optional Excursion: Afternoon visit to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon (payable locally).
Cape Sounion lies 43 feet from Athens and, legend has it, was the place where King Aegeus leapt to his death on sighting his son Theseus's ship returning to Athens from Crete. Theseus was to use a white sail to signify success in slaying the Minotaur but returned under a black sail, seeing which Aegeus jumped from the cliffs to his death and gave his name to the Aegean Sea.
The Temple of Poseidon lies back from the cliff face 197 feet above the sea and dates from around 444 BC. Built in a traditional Greek hexastyle design with a front portico of 6 columns and a rectangular shape with colonnades on all four sides, only 16 columns still stand today. The name of the English poet Lord Byron can be found engraved on the ruins.
Recommendation for your afternoon at leisure; visit the National Archaeological Museum.
Opened in 1891, the National Archaeological Museum is considered to be one of the finest museums in Greece. It houses artefacts and treasures from nine separate time periods, ranging from the Neolithic and Mycenaean to Roman and Hellenistic eras. One of the main attractions is the treasure which was excavated by Schliemann from Graves A and B at Mycenae, including the Mask of Agamemnon.
Day 3To Nafplio
Today, you will drive from Athens to Nafplio via the ancient sites of Corinth and Epidaurus. The total distance is 198 miles and the journey time is approximately 8 hours, including stops.Nafplia Palace (B, D)
The first leg of your journey is to drive from Athens to Corinth, visiting Corinth Canal en route, a distance of 96 miles and journey time of approximately 2 hours. On your way you will pass Salamina Bay, which was the site of the naval battle of the allied Greek states led by General Themistocles against the Persian forces of the Xerxes I of Persia.
The Corinth Canal is a waterway linking the Ionian and Aegean seas that was first proposed in the seventh century BC by Periander but which wasn't finished until 1892. The canal took 13 years to construct, is 197 feet deep, 75 feet wide and 4 miles long. There will be an opportunity to stop and take photographs of the canal.
Drive to the site of ancient Corinth, a distance of 34 miles and a journey time of about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Enjoy a tour of ancient Corinth. Made famous by St. Paul the Apostle and his letters to Corinth which are featured in the New Testament, the town of Corinth was an important trading town for the Roman Empire in Greece. After initially being destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, it was rebuilt by Julius Caesar. During the Classical period, it ranked with Athens and Sparta as one of the most important cities. Highlights of your tour will be the Temple of Octavia, named after the sister of Emperor Augustus, the Odeon and the Temple of Apollo.
Continue to Epidaurus, a distance of approximately 43 miles and a journey time of about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Experience the tour of Epidaurus. The site of Epidaurus was revered in ancient Greece as a site of great healing power. A highlight of Epidaurus is the amphitheater. Built in the fourth century BC and dedicated to the god of wine, Dionysus, it is considered one of the best-preserved classical Greek buildings. It is renowned for its superb acoustics, which are due to a combination of nature and simple design. Visit the museum, which houses a number of interesting artefacts from the site, and the sanctuary, an area of religious importance.
The last leg of your journey is to drive to Nafplio and your hotel, a distance of 25 miles and a journey time of about 40 minutes.
Day 4To Olympia
Today you will drive from Nafplio to Olympia, via Tiryns and Mycennae. The distance is about 143 miles and the journey time is around 7 hours including stops.Best Western Hotel Europa (B, D)
The first leg of your journey is to drive from Nafplio to Tiryns, a distance of 3 miles and a journey time of 15 minutes.
Enjoy a tour of Tiryns. Often overlooked by its more glamorous neighbor Mycenae, the ruins of the Tiryns are no less worth visiting. Built on a low rugged hill, this site also has Cyclopean walls and is an excellent example of a Mycenae fortification. Much of the site is in ruins, but one of the highlights of the visit are the tunnels, or syringes, which are located to the south and west.
Continue to Mycenae, a distance of 12 miles and a journey time of about 30 minutes.
Proceed on a tour of Mycenae. The ancient citadel of Mycenae was the site of a former powerful Greek kingdom. Dating back to the Bronze Age, it is 1,000 years older than the acropolis in Athens and is considered to be one of Greece's finest classical sites. It first came to prominence when it was explored by Heinrich Schliemann, the renowned explorer who was famous for his work at Troy.
Your visit to Mycenae will be divided into three parts: the museum, the acropolis and, lastly, the beehive tomb of Agamemnon.
The museum houses a collection of artefacts which were discovered at the site including a copy of the Mask of Agamemnon, the original of which is housed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
To obtain access to the acropolis, which was the highest point of the city, you will pass the renowned Cyclopean walls. The original walls were up to 46 feet wide and 130 feet high. They were so large that legend has it only a cyclops could have built them. Pass through the Lion Gate for an excellent view of Grave A, which is where the first kings of Mycenae were buried in six shift graves containing 19 bodies and 31 pounds of gold, and Grave B, which is located outside of the city walls. See the ruins of the megaron and the Royal Palace, which still contain burn marks on the stones from when it was destroyed.
The last visit is to one of 60 beehive tombs which are dotted around the area containing the royal tombs which feature lengthy passageways to deter grave robbers.
After the visit you will drive to Olympia and your hotel. The distance is 127 miles and a journey time of approximately 3.5 hours.
Day 5To Delphi
This morning visit the site of Ancient Olympia, ruins devastated over the years by a number of earthquakes and Emperor Theodosius II, who in 426 AD declared that the temples should be destroyed. Your visit will be divided into three different sections: the museum, the main site, and the ancient stadium and running track.Amalia Hotel (B, D)
The museum contains a host of artefacts which have been uncovered at the site. Some of the highlights which you will view are the helmet of Miltiades which was worn at the battle of Marathon, the Nike of Paionios and an excellent collection of statues from the classical era of Greece. The main room of the museum contains 42 figures decorating the two pediments of the Temple of Zeus. The first pediment depicts the chariot race between Pelops and Oinomaos, while the second pediment depicts the abduction of the Lapith women by centaurs, and has Apollo as its central figure. The Temple of Zeus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and was believed to contain a statue of Zeus which was 46 feet high, covered in gold and took 20 years to make.
The main site is a mixture of religious buildings which were dedicated to the ancient gods and sites which were used for athletics. View the Palaestra training center; the Philippeion, which was built by Alexander the great's father, Phillip II; and the remains of the Temple of Zeus, Temple of Hera and the fabled treasuries. One of the most photographed sections of the site is where the Olympic torch is lit for either the summer or winter Olympics.
After leaving the treasuries, continue through a tunnel to the ancient stadium. When Olympia was at its peak it was covered with a roof and with white limestone to keep the athletes cool while waiting for the next event. The main focus of the stadium is the 394-foot running track, which still contains the start and finish lines of the competitors and the small stone seats which were assigned to the judges of the races.
Time permitting, a visit will be made to an excellent garden within the site of Olympia which contains a wide range of flora and fauna from the local region.
You will be driven from Olympia to Delphi, a distance of 166 miles and a journey time of approximately 4.5 hours, excluding stops.
When crossing from the Peloponnese to mainland Greece, you will travel via the Rio-Antirio Bridge. This bridge is the largest cable in the world, took five years to construct and, due to its location, can withstand an earthquake of up to factor 10. When crossing over the bridge, you will notice in the distance the small town of Nafpaktos. It was here in the bay of Nafpaktos where the sea battle of Lepanto was fought in 1571 between the Catholic states and Ottoman Empire.
Day 6To Athens
This morning, proceed on a visit to the site of ancient Delphi. Built on the slopes of Mount Parnassos, the ancients believed this site to be the center of the world. The tour begins with a visit to Delphi museum, an impressive and considerable collection including a frieze from the Siphnian treasury depicting the battle between the gods and giants; the sphinx of the Naxians, which dates from around 560BC; and the Charioteer, a bronze statue of a chariot driver.Electra Hotel (B)
After your visit to the museum, continue to the main site of Delphi. This consists of the fourth century BC temple of Apollo; the theater where plays were held every four years during the Pythian festival; the stadium, which is considered to be the best-preserved in Greece and where it is still possible to see the sprinters' stone starting blocks; and the Sacred Way, a street once lined with treasuries and statues. The Treasury House of the Athenian's has been reconstructed to show visitors how the treasuries would have looked when Delphi was at its peak.
Located half a mile from the main site of Delphi are the ruins of the Sanctuary of Athena, whose main temple has been partially reconstructed and offers an excellent location from which to view the main site of Delphi. The walk to the sanctuary is over uneven ground so good footwear is recommended.
Drive to Athens, a journey of approximately 130 miles and 3 hours.
Day 7Depart Athens
Enjoy the morning at leisure.
Recommendation for your morning at leisure; a visit to Benaki Museum. Set in an elegant neo-classical mansion, the Benaki Museum was originally a private collection owned by the Benaki family. Today, the unique collection is open to the general public and contains two different collections: the first is dedicated to art from the Neolithic to late Byzantine periods while the second contains Cretan icons and paintings.
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.(B)