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Journey around the cradle of western civilization as we visit Delphi, Olympia, Mycenae and the delightful coastal town of Nafplion, all epicentres of the ancient Greece world. Spend time Athens exploring its famous Parthenon, spend the night in a mountain lodge and take a memorable train journey through tunnels, over heady ravines and past rushing waterfalls, to Kalavryta, a small village with a gigantic history.
Explore Tour Leader
12 nights comfortable hotel
1 nights premium hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Athens. The city is a mix of ancient and modern, having been the capital of Greece for less than 200 years, but with a history dating back over 3,000 years. Surrounded by mountains to the north and west and beautiful coastline to the south and east, the city itself is built on a number of hills, with our centrally located hotel a perfect base to explore the city.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6.30pm and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Due to a number of flights arriving into Athens later in the evening, our welcome meeting will take place on the morning of day two. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Athens at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Athens International Airport (ATH), which is about one hours' drive, depending on traffic.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to visit one of the cafes in the colourful Psyrri district which offer traditional Greek cuisine of scrumptious aubergines, tomatoes and cheese washed down with ouzo or raki. There are traditional rustic tavernas in the well-known Plaka area at the foot of the Acropolis.
Arion Athens Hotel (or similar)
After our Leader does an initial welcome meeting, we'll take a short walk to Monastiraki metro station, disembarking at Syntagma, home of the Hellenic parliament where we watch the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier.
From the crowds of Syntagma Square we'll head into the green oasis of the National Gardens for a stroll through the pristine park down to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, a former vast temple complex with well preserved columns offering great views of the Acropolis behind it.
Our next stop is the vibrant Plaka quarter, one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Athens and the markets around Monastirak. The streets are full of atmospheric tavernas with their tables spilling out onto the narrow cobbled streets and small traders selling all kind of specialties. Its a very picturesque area, an ideal spot to break for lunch with a wide choice of eating spots offering traditional Greek fare including Tiropita, Kolokithopita or Spanakopita a delicious spinach and feta filled snack.
In the afternoon we head for a guided tour of the Acropolis, deservedly one the wonders of the ancient world. Climbing up from Plaka to the Acropolis we pass through the Anafiotika district, where the architecture is more in keeping with Santorini than the Greek capital. We have a guided tour of the site including the Temple of Athena Nike, Pericles and the Parthenon tower and the monument most venerated by the ancient Athenians themselves - the Erechtheion.
Making our way back to our hotel late afternoon, the evening is free to further explore this great city, our tour leader can make recommendations for eating out tonight.
For those wishing to see more of Athens, it is well worth visiting the highly acclaimed Acropolis museum to see the layers of history painstakingly excavated right beneath your feet. It is now possible to see the ruins of the ancient Athenian neighbourhood that stood on this very site millennium ago, following a comprehensive refurbishment of the museum in 2019.
A scenic drive northwest out of Athens this morning takes us through the largest olive grove in Greece to reach Delphi. Perched on the rocky slopes of sacred Mount Parnassos, Delphi was the perfect setting for mystery and religious prophecy, and was known throughout the ancient Greek world as the sanctuary of Apollo.
We make a brief stop at Arachova to have a coffee break and pick up provisions for a picnic lunch. We'll drive to Delphi and walk from Delphi to Chrysso with picnic lunch on the way. We descend to Chrysso where the coach picks us up at the Café Pinakothiki in the village center.
Late afternoon we make the short fifteen minute drive into Delphi to visit its acclaimed museum and archeological site accompanied with a archaeological guide. The museum contains the much admired 'charioteer' widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Bronze sculptures in the ancient world.
Anemolia Hotel in Arachova (or similar)
Continuing our journey we drive south crossing the impressive Rion - Antirion bridge that spans the gulf of Corinth into the Peloponnese peninsular and onto Diakofto, where we board the historic rack railway to Kalavryta.
Travelling through the dramatic Vouraikos Gorge through tunnels, over heady ravines and past rushing waterfalls, its an unforgettable train ride to remember. Our destination is Kalavryta, a small village with a gigantic history; it was here that the Greek revolution began in 1821. In more recent times, it was the setting of one of Greece's most tragic encounters in WWII. On December 13th, 1943, in retaliation against the Greek resistance guerrillas who had been fighting around the area, the German troops invaded Kalavryta. After looting and setting fire to much of the village, they rounded up the town's entire male population of 451 men and boys, and executed them. Only 13 survived, after hiding under the bodies of the dead.
This tragedy is still very much alive in Kalavryta's collective memory, and on our arrival we will take a walk to the poignant site of the town's WWII holocaust memorial.
Hotel Filoxenia (or similar)
Our destination today is the monuments of ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic games and one of Greece's most renowned historical sites, for a guided tour. The site lies in an enchanting valley setting close to the modern-day town of Nea Olympia. The first monuments to be constructed were in the Altis, or sacred grove, and date back to the 10th - 9th century BC. Estimates indicate the games first began in 776 BC, after the worship of Zeus was established. Initially all the principal Greek cities took part in the Olympiads, which were held every four years. As well as wandering through the remains of the gymnasium, wrestling school, stadium, and the Temple of Zeus, we visit the excellent Archaeological Museum which has many remarkable exhibits on view.
Our hotel today is on the outskirts of Olympia, offering fine views of Alfeios River and Kiparissia Bay and featuring a large terrace and swimming pool. Dinner is included tonight, which can be taken on the terrace.
Olympian Asty Hotel (or similar)
Taking the scenic coastal road, we travel to Nafplion, the first capital of modern Greece and one of the most beautiful coastal towns in the Peloponnese. Guarded by two imposing Venetian castles, the old town of Nafplion is a jumble of red roofed houses overlooking its expansive bay.
After checking-in to our centrally located hotel, we head out for an orientation walking tour of this charming town including the first Greek parliament and fine examples of Byzantine and Venetian churches and buildings, with ample time for a leisurely lunch.
Later in the day, visit a family run ouzo distillery to learn about the liquor most closely associated with Greece. Now in their fourth generation, the Karonis family have proudly produced ouzo for 145 years with ingredients produced locally, they also produce a cherry liquor sourced from produce in the Arcadia region. After our distillery tour we have the opportunity for tastings.
Returning to town, our hotel in Nafplion is ideally located within close walking distance to the town waterfront promenade. Perhaps enjoy a late afternoon stroll and watch the sunset followed by dinner at one of the many harbourfront restaurants.
Hotel Agamemnon (or similar)
Epidavros is home to one of the greatest and best preserved of all ancient Greek theatres. With its backdrop of rolling hills, this 14,000-seat arena merges perfectly into the landscape, so much so that it was rediscovered and unearthed only in the last century. The acoustics of the amphitheatre are so incredible, it's said that even those sat on the highest tier will hear a coin drop on stage!
Dedicated to Asclepius, the healing god and legendary son of Apollo, the sanctuary here was one of the most important of the ancient world, and it remained a site of pilgrimage from the sixth century BC to Roman times.
Our next stop is the mighty ruins of ancient Mycenae. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the valley of Argos, Mycenae is connected to the legend of King Agamemnon who commanded the 10-year long expedition against Troy.
The site was unearthed by the archaeologist Schliemann in the 1870's and is prized for its Lion Gate and Royal Tombs. Equally impressive are the 'beehive tombs' which include the Treasury of Atreus, the lintel over the monumental Atreus door weighs over 120 tons. Inside, the structure is impressive. The principal chamber dates from about 1350 BC and emulates the grandeur of the Egyptian pharaohs.
We round the day off with a visit to a Greek winery near Argos, set amongst rolling hills the Skouras winery boasts a cellar of over one thousand barrels. The tour starts by heading out into the vineyard to learn about the different types of vines used and the yearly rhythm of production, we then head back into the winery to see the grape pressing and bottling area, finishing the tour with a tasting session.
Head back to Nafplion to enjoy our last night on the Peloponnese peninsular.
After breakfast drive back to the capital where we have some free time before driving to Piraeus harbour to board the ferry to Naxos departing at 5.30pm. We have reserved seating on board, so we are assured of a seat, but you are also free to take in the sea air from the deck or enjoy a drink in the bar. The total journey time is five hours.
Disembarking at the port of Naxos, it's a short drive to our hotel close to the town centre. Naxos is the largest and most fertile of the Cyclades island group, covering an area of about 430 square kilometres, with fine beaches and a mountainous interior.
Hotel Grotta (or similar)
The morning is free to relax at our hotel. Read a book in the garden courtyard, take a dip in the pool or take a stroll on Agios Georgios Beach.
This afternoon we head out to explore Naxos town on foot. At the entrance to the harbour sits the grand Portara stone that has greeted visitors for over 2500 years. The town itself is a mix of whitewashed houses and medieval Venetian mansions, with the fortified 'kastro' or castle occupying a prominent position overlooking the bay. Our tour leader will show us around the network of alleyways and courtyards, as well as making recommendations for eating out in town. We return to our hotel along the promenade alongside Grotta beach.
Heading inland, we drive to a small chapel at the foot of Mt. Zas. Situated at over 500 meters, the air here is noticeably cooler most days, a welcome escape from the summer heat.
Walking to the village of Apiranthos along the foothills of Mt. Zas (also known as Mount Zeus), the highest mountain in the Cyclades island group, we stop at the amazingly well preserved Fotodoti Monastery before continuing to Apiranthos. In total we cover just over five kilometres, for those who want to opt out of the walk there is the option to drive directly to Apiranthos and re-join the group for lunch.
Apiranthos is a charming village, far removed from the crowds of the beaches along the coast; with the most Cretan influence of all of the interior villages of the island. The village square is surrounded by cafes and tavernas looking out to the terraced valley below. It is an idyllic spot to have a leisurely lunch, with time afterwards to visit the village museum.
Returning to Naxos town we make a stop at the Vallindras distillery, known for its distinctive citron liqueur. Now in their fifth generation the Vallindras family continues the tradition producing their fragrant liqueur made from the leaves for citrus fruits grown on the islands' fertile slopes. We have a tour of the distillery followed by a tasting.
Checking out of our hotel we head back to the port of Naxos to board the lunch time ferry to Santorini, a journey of 2.5 hours.
Renowned for its amazing natural beauty, Santorini (or Thira as the island is also known) is the most southerly of the Cycladic Islands. It's one of the most picturesque areas in the Aegean and the familiar images of whitewashed churches with blue-domed roofs adorn this beautiful landscape. It's also an area of particular interest to those keen on the Lost Atlantis legend.
Formerly a huge volcano, its centre disappeared in an enormous explosion in around 1450 BC and this area now forms a lagoon where some believe that the city of Atlantis now resides having been destroyed by the eruption and swept into the waters. Record show that the eruption did overwhelm the Minoan settlements at Akrotiri as well as those on Crete.
We transfer to our hotel which features a large swimming pool and beach front location. The rest of the day is at leisure. Please note that our accommodation is located near the village of Kamair. It is a 20 minute drive into Santorini's main town of Fira, there are frequent bus departures from the bus stop near the hotel.
Kamari Beach Hotel (or similar)
This morning we have a coastal walk from Thira to Oia. This moderate walk takes approximately three to four hours and covers eight kilometres.
We head to our starting point by public bus. The path goes along the lip of a caldera and provides great views along the way out to sea and of the surrounding countryside. Halfway through the walk there's the option to stop at a coffee shop for refreshments.
The town of Oia on the northwestern tip of Santorini, is built along a rocky stretch of coastline and is one of the most photogenic places on Santorini. It has a long seafaring culture and there are two types of houses here - the whitewashed cave houses that are dug into the volcanic rock in the cliff side and the captain houses above ground where the upper class ship owners once lived.
Oia has a host of taverns and cafes; it is well worth spending time here after our walk and getting the bus back to hotel later in the day, it's also a great place to witness a magnificent Santorini sunset.
The morning you can choose to join a local wine tasting at Artemis-Karamolegos Winery in Exogonia, the island is best known for its delicious white wines.
The middle of the day is left free to further explore the island. Late afternoon we head to the port of Athinios and board a shared sailing boat. The Captain takes us to the best spots to enjoy the views and take spectacular pictures of the Caldera and the Volcano. A delicious buffet dinner is served during the cruise. Before the sun starts setting into the sea, the Captain brings the boat to the best location to see the amazing sunset of Santorini. After the sunset we sail back to Athinios port, where we are met and returned to our hotel.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Santorini.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Santorini at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Santorini Airport (JTR), which is about fifteen minutes drive, depending on traffic.
Greece has such a vast geographical difference between the mainland and the islands, and travel is possible at all times of year but the climate can vary depending on when you go.
During late spring or early autumn, in the months of April-May or September-October, temperatures are warm and pleasant, usually hovering around 25 degrees. Rainfall is low, but can be erratic during these months. Cooler evenings take the heat off the day. If you have booked a walking holiday, wild flowers bloom during the spring, adding colour to the hiking trails.
Summers are hot and dry, with plenty of sunshine and little rain. Temperatures can go north of 35 degrees in July and August. On the islands, restaurants and bars may be busy with cruise ship passengers. While this period definitely gives you a ‘summer holiday’ feeling, those wishing to explore Greece’s ancient sites may find the heat challenging.
When travelling in winter, from late November to early March, the villages will be very quiet. Temperatures in Athens at this time are around 10-15 degrees, while the nights will be colder. Hotels in northern Greece in particular are well adapted to deal with cold winters, having proper heating and warm fires to retreat to after a day of exploring. This makes it a good destination for travel between November-March.
2 Pin Round
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your trip, please note that some of the walks and boat trips will be weather dependent, trips departing in the early season (in particular in April) are more likely to be effected. Athens: On the afternoon of day two you may like to do the following: Acropolis Museum entrance €15.00 per person National Archaeological Museum entrance €12.00 per person Olympic Stadium entrance €10.00 per person Trams - 24 hour ticket costs €4.10 per operson If you are a student or over 65, please carry ID for half price museum entrance fees. only cash accepted
July and August are the hottest months, but early and late in the season go prepared with clothing to suit drops in temperature and the odd shower. Women in trousershorts are not permitted to enter monasteries - please bring a skirt.
Comfortable, well broken-in walking boots or shoes with good heel support are necessary for participating in walks and visiting the sites. Trainers and sandals are also recommended for relaxing.
One main piece of baggage and a daysac. Remember, porters are not available at all locations, so don't overload yourself. You'll also need to carry your luggage on/off buses.
Water bottle, sunhat and sun cream.
Our hotel in Athens has been chosen for its very close proximity to the city centre, with the Acropolis a short fifteen minute walk away and the delightful Plaka quarter with its excellent choice of bars and restaurants even closer. Tucked away from the bustling centre, the hotel has a 7th floor roof garden with views looking out directly to the Acropolis, an ideal spot to watch the sunset. The breakfast buffet includes products from the Mediterranean including seasonal fresh fruits, cereals, scrambled eggs, honey, cakes, bread rolls with olives, raisins or multi-grains, croissants and hot and cold beverages. In Delphi we stay outside the main town in the mountainous village of Arachova, a ten minute drive from Delphi. A ski lodge in winter, our delightful hotel features large panoramic windows overlooking the mountains, a big indoor swimming pool and a cozy fire in the reception area to take the chill away from the higher altitude. Moving onto Olympia, we use a resort style property with fine views of Alfeios River and Kiparissia Bay. Featuring a large terrace and swimming pool and surrounded by gardens its an ideal location, close to the Olympia site. Dinner is included tonight, which can be taken on the terrace. Finally in Nafplion we use a town centre hotel, chosen for its proximity to the beach, jus five minutes walk away. All rooms have air conditioning and satellite TV. All hotels offer free Wi Fi.
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Greece: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
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You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
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Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
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