On this four day tour in Greece, we will travel from Athens to Epidaurus, Nafplio, Mycenae and Olympia.
We depart Athens by the coastal road to reach the impressive Corinth Canal (short stop). Your tour continues to Corinth, one of the richest towns in Ancient Greece, where Saint Paul lived and preached for two years. This ancient site – completely destroyed three times in the past and rebuilt from scratch – includes the Agora and the 6th century BC Temple of Apollo.
We will then continue to Epidaurus, with a brief stop at the site of the ancient port of Kechreae, where St Paul disembarked for his return to Ephesus in AD 52. Known in antiquity as a healing center, this was where the god of medicine Asclepius was born and worshipped. The sanctuary collected a lot of money from people that came here to be treated. The management of the sanctuary decided to spend some of the money for the entertainment of the patients. Between 340-330 BC, they assigned a local architect, Polykleitos, to build a theater. The amphitheater of Epidaurus, famous for its remarkable acoustics and symmetrical beauty, is the most perfect theater of Ancient Greece. This well preserved monument is still in use today during the “Summer Athens Festival”. It seems that the ancient Greeks were experts in acoustics, which are still admired by thousands of visitors today. We will then continue on to Nafplio, capital of modern Greece (from 1828-1834) and the “Grecian Venice”, an old town with remarkable Venetian architecture, one of the most attractive cities in Greece. You will then have the day to yourself to explore the town.
Our trip heads next to Mycenae, one of the most significant historical monuments of Greek civilization. Mycenae was the kingdom of the mighty Agamemnon, leader of the Greek army during the Trojan war. With the tour guide, visit the remains of the ancient city, including the Lion Gate, the circle graves, the cult centre and the Palace complex on the summit of the citadel, where Agamemnon was slaughtered by his wife, Clytemnestra. End by visiting the Treasury of Atreus (the largest and best preserved of the surviving “tholos” tombs). Excavations began in 1841 but it was 33 years later that the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann unearthed tombs, palaces, gold jewelry and other artefacts that were mentioned by Homer, proving that Homer was writing based on fact, not just myths. After lunch in Mycenae, we will depart for Olympia, driving through the picturesque mountains and villages of the central Peloponnese. Overnight at Olympia.
From Olympia to Delphi. After breakfast, spend the morning exploring the ancient site of Olympia, where the ancient ideas of unity, truce and fair play flourished. See the impressive ruins of the Temple of Zeus and the Temple of Hera, in front of which the Olympic Flame was lit and the torch relay started; the Gymnasium (for training of the naked athletes); the Palestra (school and training facilities for the wrestlers); the Leonidaion Hostel; the workshop of the sculptor Pheidias; the Stadium where the Olympic Games were held; the beautiful aquaduct and the amazing seven-echo portico, that bounced the echo back seven times (another acoustic miracle); and the statues of the victors. The Roman Emperor Nero was a major competitor, taking part in the chariot races and the guitar event that he invented. Walk across the way to the museum and see the amazing pieces of sculpture and pottery and the architectural remains of the ancient edifices. After lunch, we will be departing for Delphi, crossing over the Rio Antirrio bridge (the longest suspension bridge in Europe). Overnight stay in Delphi.
From Delphi to Kalambaka. After breakfast, you have your chance to explore Delphi, known as the center of the world and renowned for the popular oracle of Apollo, who spoke to mortals through the priestess Pythia. Walk up the Sacred Way, passed the Treasuries, to the Temple of Apollo, next to which is the exact spot where was believed to be the “navel” (omphalos) of the Earth, and the Theater, with the Stadium at the top of the hill. Grab lunch at the village of Delphi and continue to Kalambaka. Overnight in Kalambaka.
From Kalambaka to Meteora and back to Athens. In the morning we will drive up to Meteora and visit two of the Byzantine monasteries, perched on top of gigantic natural sandstone rock pillars of weird shape. The whole area of Meteora is a unique phenomenon and it is considered by UNESCO to be part of the world’s heritage. Time for lunch. After we feast on some delicious delicacies of Greek cuisine we will start driving back to Athens. On the way, we will stop at Thermopylae, where the famous battle between the Spartan King Leonidas and his 300 hoplites took place in 480 BC against the Persian army of Xerxes. The monument to Leonidas and the 300 cypress trees reminds us of the sacrifice of the heroic Spartans. The words “Molon Lave”, translated as “come and get them”, is written at the base of the statue. This was Leonidas’s answer when Xerxes asked him to surrender his weapons. After the battle, opposite the memorial, a stone plaque was placed: “Stranger, tell the Spartans that we lie here obedient to their laws”. After that short stop we will continue our way back to Athens.