Step back in time as you travel with your local leader to the Athens Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Prodromos monastery, where you’ll enjoy a coffee with a local monk.. Be amazed by the magical monasteries and ancient rock pinnacles of Meteora and learn about the natural and cultural history of one of Greece’s most extraordinary sights.. Get an insider’s look at Greek produce when you visit a family of beekeepers in Itea, take part in ouzo tasting in Nafplion, a kitron tasting and a hands-on cooking class in Naxos and a wine tour in Santorini.. Experience two remarkable feature stays – a gorgeous and traditionally decorated stone mansion in the medieval village of Dimitsana and a fabulous whitewashed hotel on the magical island of Santorini.
Embark on a 16-day Premium journey exploring very the best of mainland Greece and the Cyclades. Whether it’s tracing a path through ancient ruins in Delphi, visiting secluded monasteries high in the Meteora Valley, or watching as the sun sets over the whitewashed buildings of Santorini, this is a country where the weight of history makes its presence felt. With plenty of opportunities to mingle with the locals, savour traditional Aegean cuisine and visit the acclaimed sites, this is a complete adventure into Greece’s sun-kissed heartland.
Breakfast Included: 15 Lunches Included: 1 Dinner Included: 4
Welcome to Greece! Your journey begins in Athens, Greece's storied capital. You will be collected from the airport and transferred to your hotel where you will meet your tour leader and group for a 6pm welcome meeting. There is a lot to do and see here in one of the world's oldest cities, so you may wish to arrive a few days early to allow time for exploration. The Archaeological Museum of Athens is highly recommended. After your meeting, head out for an included dinner with the group at one of Athen’s marvellous restaurants. Your leader will introduce you to some traditional Greek fare that’s a real treat for the taste buds, and perhaps you’d like to toast the beginning of the adventure with a glass of raki or ouzo.
Athens / Kalambaka
Today you’ll get to know ancient Athens during visits to two of the city’s most famous sites. Your tour leader will bring history to life as you visit Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest temple in all of Greece. Then it’s on to the famous Acropolis, one of the Western world’s most important historical structures. Meet with an expert local guide who will provide profound insight into the history and legacy of the civilisations who lived in this ancient citadel. Start with an ascent to the top via the towering entrance, the Propylaia. Once inside, encounter the Parthenon – the greatest Doric temple in the ancient world. Later in the afternoon, drive north to the town of Kalambaka, nestled at the base of the striking Meteora Mountains. This evening you can choose to have dinner at the hotel or perhaps take a short walk into town and dine at one of the local tavernas.
Meteora / Kalambaka
After breakfast, travel into the hills for a walk through the incredible monasteries of Meteora. The ancient stone buildings, which sit precariously on soaring cliffs, make these mountains one of Greece's most extraordinary natural and cultural sites – there’s truly nowhere else in the world like it. Settlement of the area dates back to the 11th century, when hermit monks first settled in the hidden caverns of Meteora. Begin your hike at the nearby Kastraki village, see the ruins of the Pantokrator monastery, cross a lush forest and walk through the huge rocks of Meteora with your leader by your side to guide you and answer questions on the awe-inspiring landscape and the history behind it. You will have the opportunity to visit a number of the monasteries, one of which will be the Moni Varlaam (Varlaam Monastery) with its fine examples of late Byzantine frescoes. Return to Kalambaka in the afternoon.
Delphi / Itea
Enjoy breakfast before travelling to Delphi. On arrival visit the fascinating Sanctuary of Apollo in Ancient Delphi, home to the Delphi Oracle. Your leader will tell you that legend has it that Zeus released two eagles from different ends of the world, and Delphi was where they came together. Zeus then threw a Sacred Stone at this same point, making Delphi the centre of the world. Walk through the complex and explore the Temple of Apollo, the most important building of the site. This is where statues and offerings to the gods were housed, and where cult rituals took place. You will also see the Sanctuary of Athena, the 4th-century BC theatre and the well-preserved stadium during your visit. There will also be time to visit the Delphi Museum if you wish. Continue to your overnight stop in the small coastal town of Itea.
Itea / Olympia / Dimitsana
This morning, visit a family of local beekeepers to learn about honey production, see the beehives and of course taste some of the delicious local honey. Next, drive on to the archaeological site of ancient Olympia. Stop en-route at the village of Galaxidi or Nafpaktos for a visit to a traditional family-owned bakery offering stuffed pastries and famous sesame round bread. Chat to the owner and get a glimpse at local life. Olympia is a complex that once comprised temples and public buildings, and was the site of the first Olympic Games. Your leader will show you the main stadium, gymnasium, wrestling school, priest houses, Temple of Hera, Temple of Zeus and the hippodrome. Continue to the enchanting medieval village of Dimitsana, home to your feature stay accommodation for the next two nights. Sitting pretty at the base of the Arcadian mountains is the gloriously romantic stone guesthouse of En Dimitsani. Traditionally decorated rooms delight with modern comforts, cosy fireplaces and panoramic balconies. Settle in for an evening in lodgings just as gorgeous as their idyllic surroundings.
Central Arcadia / Dimitsana
Today join your leader for an exploration of the central part of the Peloponnese peninsula and the spectacular Lousios Valley. Walk deep into the valley to the incredible working monastery of Prodromos. This wood and clay structure, which has stellar views over the valley below, was built precariously into a rock face. Gain a special look into the lives of the local monks as they show you around on a tour of their home and offer you a coffee or the local specialty, the Greek delight. See the splendid 14th-century frescoes decorating the rock walls inside the chapel. Further along on the hike, visit the tenth-century Byzantine monastery of Philosophou. Learn how this monastery was the base for a secret school known as 'Kryfo Scholio', which was run by monks during Ottoman rule to teach Greek children their own language and religion. Later on, visit the medieval villages of Stemnitsa, Karitena and Andritsena. Return to Dimitsana.
Nafplion / Epidaurus / Athens
This morning drive to the delightful seaside town of Nafplion (Nafplio), the original Greek capital. Stop in for a tasting of Greece’s most celebrated drink – Ouzo. A taste of this anise-infused alcohol will take you straight to the heart of Greek culture. Chat to the experts and learn how Greece’s national drink is made. Enjoy some time to take in Nafplion’s charms. Perhaps explore one of the town's three fortresses, or head to the seaside promenade – lined with lively cafes and restaurants, this is a great place to watch local life unfold. Of course, your friendly leader will be on hand to offer suggestions. Later, continue to ancient Epidaurus (Epidavros), the most famous healing centre of the Greek and Roman world. The highlight of Epidaurus is the third-century theatre, one of Greece's best-preserved classical structures. The theatre has incredible acoustics and is still used today for major performances. Return to Athens in the afternoon.
Enjoy a day at leisure in Athens. You may like to take a walk around the gorgeous National Garden or explore the colourful Plaka neighbourhood. A meeting will take place at your hotel at 6pm this evening to welcome any new travellers joining you for the next part of your adventure. After the meeting, head out for dinner with the group at a local restaurant in the vibrant Psiri neighbourhood.
This morning you will be transported to Athens' port at Piraeus and board a ferry bound for Paros – a beautiful and relaxed island with a layered history. Ferries are a great way to travel between the islands and are the lifeblood of many remote islands in Greece's multitude of archipelagos. In the afternoon, get to know Paros during an island tour with a local guide. Start off in Parikia, the island’s main town, where you will visit the Ekatontapiliani church, also known as the Church of a Hundred Doors. Explore charming narrow streets and learn about the architecture of the town. Continue with a drive through the island’s mainland, passing by ancient marble quarries, then stop off at the village of Lefkes. Take some time to explore the peaceful village, surrounded by verdant hills dotted with olive and pine trees, then carry on to Naoussa – a delightful village known for its whitewashed alleys, Venetian castle and stunning port. After your tour, enjoy an evening at leisure.
The day is yours to uncover more of Paros’ charms. There’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do on the island. You may like to begin the day with a guided morning hike along the coast – starting off at a lovely fishing village and weaving through some of the island’s most pristine beaches. In the afternoon you will have the option to visit the nearby island of Antiparos – a favourite secret holiday spot for royals and celebrities, this lesser-known island offers a tranquil escape. Or perhaps you’d like to spend the day relaxing on one of Paros’ many beautiful beaches, cooling off with dips in Aegean Sea. Speak to your leader for more information about the activities on offer today and for tips on how to make the most of this spectacular island.
This morning you will say goodbye to Paros and catch a short ferry to Naxos. The largest of the Cyclades islands, Naxos has something for everyone – from glittering beaches to an endearing Old Town and hundreds of years of Venetian history. Take some time to settle in on arrival, then regroup in the late afternoon to discover the wonders of the town with the guidance of your leader. Pay a visit to the Portara, a giant marble doorway and the only remaining part of an unfinished temple of Apollo from 530 BC. Naxos is unique in the fact it is the Cyclades’ only self-sufficient island, meaning all produce is grown and available on the island without imports. Because of this, the cuisine is hyperlocal and differs to the rest of the country. This evening you will enjoy an included dinner and learn about the wonderful regional specialties of the island.
This morning you will drive to Eggares, a small farming village set in the region that produces most of the island’s produce. Here you will tour an olive oil press museum to learn about the importance of olive oil to Greek culture and traditional extraction methods. After your visit, you’ll put your new knowledge to good use as you travel to the nearby village of Galini for a hands-on cooking class. Meet with a local who will share her in-depth culinary knowledge with the group, leaving you with wonderful recipes you can cook up at home to bring you back to the island. First you will collect fresh ingredients from your host’s organic garden and learn about cultivation and farming on Naxos, then you’ll be shown how to put the ingredients together to create a marvellous Naxian dish from scratch, enjoying the fruits of your labour for lunch. Continue to the village of Halki for a look at its magnificent ancient buildings, then pay a visit to the iconic Vallindras distillery for a kitron tasting. With a history stretching back to the 19th century and only produced on Naxos, a taste of this citron liqueur will take you straight to the heart of the island’s culture.