Greek Mainland Odyssey with George Spiridakis: Athens, Vergina, Thermopylae, Meteora, Olympia, Nemea, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Nafplion and more...(June 6-18, 2016)
Greek Mainland Odyssey with George Spiridakis: Athens, Vergina, Thermopylae, Meteora, Olympia, Nemea, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Nafplion and more...(June 6-18, 2016)
TOUR PRICE: TOUR PRICE: The package price for this twelve days, all air-inclusive tour is only $2799.00 per person based on double occupancy (two to a room) and a minimum of 20 passengers. Swiss air taxes and fuel surcharges are additional. For those traveling alone and wanting a single room, the single supplement for the twelve days is $549.00.
AVAILABILITY: SOLD OUT.
It is with great pleasure and excitement that we introduce this spectacular small group tour to the mainland of Greece in June, 2016. Fully escorted by licensed Greek guide, George Spiridakis, and accompanied by ArawjoTours LLC owner, Kevin Arawjo, this incredible package will take you to some of the most famous historical and archaeological sites throughout the land of Hellas (Greece). Designed for people who have more than just a passing interest in the Greek achievement, the itinerary includes destinations that cannot possibly be reached and explored effectively as day trips from Athens. We will visit the Hot Gates of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartants took on the entire Persian army in 480 B.C., valliantly defending Western Civilization; we will behold the majestic rock formations of Meteora and visit the remote monasteries on their peaks; we will enter the tomb of Alexander the Great's father, Philip II of Macedon and be blinded by the golden cache; we will travel to the birthplace of the Olympics in Olympia, where the games first began nearly 3000 years ago; we will spend a few nights in the first capital of modern Greece, the lovely city of Nafplion; we will climb the citadel of Mycenae to reach the palace of the Mycenaean warrior kings, who ruled Greece during the Bronze Age; and all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to our trek through time, we will also enjoy modern Greek cooking and the friendliness and hospitality of the Greek people. If you are motivated for a truly rewarding educational experience, don't miss out on this wonderful opportunity. Below is a detailed itinerary and at the bottom of the page is a summary of the tour inclusions. We are limiting the size of this tour to between 15 and 22 participants, so sign up now if you want to be guaranteed a space.
Day 1 - Departure from USA for Athens, Greece
Day 2 - Arrival in Athens, Acropolis Walk and Group Dinner (included)
Athens is the capital city of Greece, with a population of more than 5,000,000 people, over 40% of the entire country’s population. Since hosting the 2004 Olympic Games, the city has experienced a true Renaissance, and is now a strikingly cosmopolitan and sophisticated city, whose countless ancient monuments look more beautiful than ever. Our hotel, the Divani Palace Acropolis, is ideally located just a short stroll from the magnificent Parthenon and many other sites. After checking in, we will go on a short stroll around the Acropolis, after which we will enjoy our first group dinner at a lovely restaurant. (Dinner included)
Day 3 - Acropolis and the Akropolis Museum
After breakfast, we will climb the sacred rock of the Acropolis. This natural citadel was first inhabited during the Neolithic Age but reached its peak during the Greek Classical Age of the 5th century B.C. Among the monuments we will see include the Parthenon, widely considered to be one of the most spectacular buildings in the world, the grand entrance known as the Propylae, the wonderful small temple of Athena Nike and the grand Erechtheion, built in honour of the ancient king Erechtheus whose porch is supported by beautiful female statues known as Caryatids
After our exploration of the Acropolis, we will take a short break and then visit the new Acropolis Museum, which is listed as one of the top 10 museums of the world. Arranged in four different levels, the museum displays items found on the hillside of the Acropolis, sculptures from the early Archaic temple of Athena, and the world famous Caryatids (the originals from the Erechtheion). The top floor has been reconstructed as a replica of the Parthenon and offers a grand view of the original Parthenon just a short distance away standing elegantly on the Acropolis.
Dinner on your own tonight, perhaps in the Plaka or at the base of the Acropolis.
Day 4 - Monastery of Holy Luke, Archaeological Site of Delphi and Group Dinner (included)
After breakfast, our Greek Odyssey truly begins, as we leave Athens and head for our first stop at the Monastery of Holy Luke, which commands a spectacular view on the hillside of the Elikonas Mountain in Boeotia. The Monastery is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was first founded in the 10th century A.D. by the hermit Luke, who supposedly performed a number of miracles in the area and whose relics and tomb can still be found in the old church of Mary (Panayia), the oldest church in Greece. The newer Church of Luke (11th century A.D.) contains some of the most spectacular mosaics in Greece.
Later in the day, we continue on to Delphi, where the famed Oracle of Apollo was located. In the eyes of many, Delphi is the most stunning site in Greece. It has everything: a long and glorious history as the religious center of all of Greece, spectacular ancient remains, an impressive museum and a beautiful location on the side of Mount Parnassos. The ancient Greeks believed that Delphi was the center of the earth, the spot that Apollo chose as the home of his most famous oracle. Ordinary people as well as kings and Emperors climbed its steep hill for hundreds of years in order to ask for Apollo's advice on state affairs and personal matters. Delfi was also the place of the Pythian Games,the most famous festival of ancient Greece next to the Olympics.
We will see the sacred way, the impressive Doric Temple of Apollo, where Pythia the priestess sat and gave the oracles, the ancient theatre, and, for those that have the stamina, the impressive stadium on top of the hill.
Group dinner in village of Delphi and overnight at thee Hotel Acropole. (dinner included)
Day 5 - Delphi Museum, Thermopylae, Veria and Group Dinner (included)
This morning we will visit the recently redone Archaeological Museum in Delphi.
The museum contains impressive bronze treasures, huge male statues of marble, known as kouros, the chryselephantine statues of Artemis (or Leto) and Apollo, the massive gold and silver plated bull and, of course, the famous 5th century B.C. bronzed Charioteer of Delphi.
After the end of our tour, we will drive north through the impressive Greek countryside, reaching the battlefield of Thermopylae (Hot Gates). We will stop and pay our respects to king Leonidas and the 300 Spartans that fell to the last, opposing the 100, 000 man army of the Persian king Xerxes. The Battle of Thermopylae battle was one of the most glorious pages of Greek History. Located at the site are the statue of Leonidas, the tomb where the 300 Spartans were buried, and the local museum.
Later in the evening we will reach Veria, a charming Macedonian town, where we will spend the night at the Hotel Makedonia. A group dinner is included.
Day 6 - Vergina Royal Tombs and Museum, Old Town of Veria
After breakfast, we will drive for only 20 minutes in order to reach the area of the ancient Macedonian capital city of Aiges. There lies the great Tumulus which shelters deep in the ground the Royal Tombs of Macedonia. The site's modern name is Vergina and it is one of the most incredible finds in Greece. In 1977, excavations conducted by Manolis Andronikos made Vergina world famous as he found the royal tomb of Philip II , the father of Alexander the Great! Many kilos of solid gold items where found, such as the golden box (larnax), which contained the burned bones of Philip II, the golden oak wreath, his panoply, and many other precious items, which are all now displayed in the center of the Great Tumulus. Since 1996, the Tumulus Museum has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We will have some free time for lunch and enjoy a free afternoon to explore the old part of Veria. (We may also have the opportunity to visit a local winery in the afternoon. Overnight at the Hotel Makedonia.
Day 7 - The Monasteries of Meteora, the Town of Metsovo and Group Dinner (included)
After breakfast, we have another great day ahead of us! Leaving Veria, we will drive along the country's best highway and have great views of the Pindos mountain range, the biggest and most expansive in Greece. After a relaxing coffee break, we will arrive at one of the wonders of nature, the rocks of Meteora. Suspended between heaven and earth the Meteora rock formations reach up to 1000 feet as they twist their way into the sky, and as they suddenly show up in the Valley of Thessaly. It is believed that 30 million years ago the valley was a huge inland sea, and as it receded, it left impressive rock formations behind it. The rocks themselves are striking, but the really astonishing feature is the Monasteries that were built on top of the rocks hundreds of years ago. By 1500 A. D., there were 24 monasteries in operation at Meteora, though today only 6 of them are still active. We will visit two of them.
After a lunch break, we will drive on to Metsovo, a very traditional small town at a height of over 3000 feet in the heart of the great Pindos mountain. We will enjoy a wonderful group dinner, featuring lamb chops and other local specialities. Overnight in Metsovo at the Kassaros Hotel. (Dinner included)
Day 8 - Metsovo to Olympia Travel day and Group Dinner (included)
After a hearty breakfast we will start our long journey through the amazing landscape of western Greece. Our final destination will be the Olympia, located in the Peloponnese. We will stop at Arta and look at the famous and legendary bridge that connected the city in the past, and then we will drive over the big suspended bridge of Rio over to the Peloponnese. Our hotel in Olympia enjoys a magnificent view and is known for its home cooked cuisine. We will enjoy a group dinner. Overnight at the Olympion Asty Hotel in Olympia. (Dinner included)
Day 9 - Olympia, Olympia Museum and Group Dinner (included)
After our breakfast, we will visit the birth place of Olympic Games, Ancient Olympia. The setting is magical, being surrounded by two rivers, Alfeios and Klaudios, and shaded by huge pines, olives and oaks. There are two temples in the sacred ‘altis’, one to Zeus and one to Hera. Phidias, sculptured the 13 meter high chryselephantine statue of Zeus which once stood in the back of the temple. The Olympia stadium, still preserved, was the place where the Olympic Games were held every 4 years from 776 B.C. to 393 A.D. The legend suggests that the mythical Hercules established them, when he completed his 12 labours, and when he ran the whole distance of the stadium without taking any breath. In modern times, the torch of new Olympics is always lit at Olympia, in front of Hera’s temple.
The archaeological Museum is located right next to the site. It displays various offerings of the participants or winners of the Games, the monumental sculptures from the pediments of Temple of Zeus, the metopes, tools and other items from Phidias's workshop, while its most important item is the fine statue of Hermes, created by Praxitelis.
Group dinner, and second overnight at the Olympian Asty Hotel in Olympia. (Dinner included)
Day 10 - Ancient Nemea and Nafplion
After breakfast we will drive across the Peloponnese towards the picturesque town and former capital city of Greece Nafplio. En route we will stop at Nemea, an American-excavated archaeological site that is truly a gem, complete with a beautifully restored stadium, a magnificent temple with columns still standing and a lovely museum. Every two years the Nemean Games took place, until their powerful neighbors moved the festival to Argos. But thanks to the Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games, the Nemean Games were held again in June 2000 and ever since with great success. The American archaeologist Steven Miller from the University of California has devoted his life to the Nemea site and stadium, and recently he began restoring some of the columns of the Temple of Zeus. The ancient stadium is well preserved, especially the entrance tunnel of the athletes, and dates to the 4th century. B.C.
When our tour is over we will reach the coastal town of Nafplion, which is by far the most charming town in the Peloponnese, with stepped cobbled streets, handsome neoclassical buildings, nice shops, restaurants, cafes, an impressive fort atop the hill with 999 steps and a fine Museum. It is considered the most favorite vacation destination for the Athenians.
Dinner is on your own tonight. It is recommended that you try the popular seafood of the city. Overnight at the Hotel Amphitron.
Day 11 - Nafplion Museum and Mycenae
After breakfast we will start with the beautiful Nafplion Museum, located in the main square. The museum houses finds from various bronze Age sites of the Argolid, and its best piece is the nearly complete Dendra Panoply, the only of its kind in all of Greece. There is also a splendid video in English, which explains where the finds were discoverd.
Following our visit to the Nafplion Museum, we will visit the best known Bronze Age site of Mycenae, with its large number of royal tombs dating to the 13th century B.C. The Akropolis of Mycenae is built on top of a hill with a wonderful view over the Argolid valley. Homer called Mycenae ‘rich in gold’ (polychrisse), the place from which King Agamemnon led the Greeks to the Trojan War. Quite spectacular are the Cyclopean walls that enclose the Citadel and the world famous Lions Gate. The local museum contains some fine Mycenaean frescoes and all around the general area are a large number of Tholos tombos (beehive tombs). The most impressive of all is what is called ‘The treasure of Atreas’, believed by many to be the tomb where Agamemnon himself was buried.
After our complete tour we will return to Nafplion for our second overnight at the Hotel Amphitron. Dinner on your own.
Day 12 - Epidaurus, Return to Athens and Group Dinner (included)
After breakfast we will make our way to splendid Epidaurus. This ancient theatre of the 4th century B.C. is the best preserved in the whole of the Greek Peninsula. It is famous for its perfect acoustics and is still used for performances during the summer.
The shrine of Epidaurus honours the God Asclepius and his healing abilities. Thousands visited the shrine, seeking cures for a variety of ailments. There is also quite a big stadium on the site where games were held, a strange round temple of an uncertain use, the sleeping quarters for the sick visitors, and a very large ‘hotel’ known as katagogion.
After our tour and a break, we will drive back to Athens for our last overnight in Greece. We will enjoy a farewell dinner together and share our wonderful memories and pictures of Greece. Overnight at the Divani Palace Acropolis. (Dinner included)
Day 13 - Return Flight to USA. We hope you enjoyed your tour of mainland Greece.
TOUR FEATURES: Round trip air on Swiss Airlines from Newark to Athens, Greece; the use of a full time air-conditioned motor coach with professional driver throughout the tour; a full time licensed tour manager/guide and a full time ArawjoTours tour representative; three total nights in Athens (two at the beginning and one at the end); one night in Delphi, two nights in Veria, one night in Metsovo, two nights in Olympia, and two nights in Nafplion; a total of 18 meals including 11 buffet breakfasts and 7 dinners; a comprehensive sightseeing program as outlined in the attached itinerary with all entrance fees included; and a pre-departure orientation and dinner sponsored by Kevin Arawjo of ArawjoTours, LLC.