Knowledgeable local guides take the hassle out of navigating Athens. Head straight for the most incredible ancient sites, such as the Acropolis and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.. Experience a different side of Greece by staying in the medieval village of Dimitsana at our ‘feature stay’, a gorgeous 7th-century township set on top of two hills and a gorge in little visited Central Arcadia. Share a coffee or ‘Greek delight’ with a monk during a visit to nearby Prodromos monastery.. Visit the legendary theatres of the very first Olympic Games – the stadium, gymnasium, wrestling school, priest houses, temples and hippodrome.. With magical monasteries built on a series of ancient rock pinnacles, Meteora is one of Greece’s most extraordinary sights.
Much like a fine baklava, modern day Greece is layered with history so rich and complex that the only way to do it justice is to see it for yourself. Learn how the spectacular hanging monasteries of Meteora protected modern Hellenic culture from invading Turks, then trace a path through tumble-down ruins in Delphi. Visit the site of the world’s first Olympics, stop in at pretty seaside villages in Nafplion, and discover the secrets behind a proper Greek coffee, all on this whirlwind adventure.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 2
This journey begins in Athens, Greece's storied capital. 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. There are no activities planned for today, other than an important welcome meeting this evening. Afterwards, head out for dinner with the group and sample some traditional Greek fare and maybe toast the beginning of the adventure with a glass of raki or ouzo.
Athens – Kalambaka
Today visit two of Athens' most impressive sites. The first is the 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. Your guided tour will start with an ascent to the top of this sacred rock via the towering entrance, the Propylaia. Once inside, encounter the Parthenon – the greatest Doric temple in the ancient world. Later in the afternoon, board your private minibus and drive north to the town of Kalambaka in the centre of the country. The town is 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.
After breakfast, travel into the hills to see the monasteries of Meteora. The ancient stone buildings, which sit precariously on soaring cliffs, make these mountains one of Greece's most extraordinary sites. Settlement of the area dates back to the 11th century, when hermit monks first settled in the hidden caverns of Meteora. The monasteries attracted many writers, painters, poets and philosophers, who were responsible for keeping Hellenic traditions, culture and religion alive during Ottoman rule. On your visit to Meteora, you will visit two 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.
Enjoy breakfast before travelling to Delphi (approximately 4 hours). On arrival visit the fascinating Sanctuary of Apollo in Ancient Delphi, home to the Delphi Oracle. 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 be free time to visit the Delphi Museum.
Olympia – Dimitsana
After an early morning drive (approximately 3.5 hours) arrive at the archaeological site of ancient Olympia. En-route stop at the village of Galaxidi or Nafpaktos for a visit to a traditional family-owned bakery offering pastries, stuffed with cheese, spinach, chicken or potato, and the famous sesame round bread. Chat to the owner and get updated on the latest gossip. Olympia is a complex that once comprised temples and public buildings, and was the site of the first Olympic Games. Over the centuries, and both during times of war and peace, the games were held every four years without exception. Even during periods of battle, the ancient games were bound by a sacred truce that required city states to cease fighting and travel to Olympia to compete. See all the major sites including the main stadium, gymnasium, wrestling school (palaestra), priest houses (theokoleon), Temple of Hera, Temple of Zeus and the hippodrome. After your exploration enjoy some free time to visit the museum, which houses the impressive marble statue of Hermes of Praxiteles and sculptured head of Hera. Next is the charming medieval village of Dimitsana (approximately 2 hours), where you will spend the next two nights at our feature stay. Dimitsana's charm lies in its location, set amidst magical mountains in Central Arcadia.
Today explore the central part of the Peloponnese peninsula and the spectacular Lousios Valley, one of the most scenic places in the central Arcadia region. 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. The local monks will show you around on a tour of their home and offer you a coffee or the local specialty, the Greek delight. As part of your visit you'll see the splendid 14th-century frescoes decorating the rock walls inside the chapel. Further along on our hike, visit the tenth-century Byzantine monastery of Philosophou. 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 (with a towering Crusader Castle) and Andritsena. Return to Dimitsana.
Nafplion – Epidaurus – Athens
This morning drive to the delightful seaside town of Nafplion (Nafplio), the original Greek capital. In your free time you might choose to explore one of the town's three fortresses, or perhaps wander through the narrow winding streets filled with Venetian houses and neoclassical architecture. The seaside promenade is lined with a multitude of lively cafes and restaurants, making it a great place to watch local life unfold. If you're still unsure what to do, 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.
Your journey comes to an end in Athens after breakfast. We are happy to book additional accommodation for those wishing to see more of the city, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking.