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Day by Day Itinerary

In Greece, the cradle of Western civilization beckons to you with its proud monuments, sun-drenched isles, and friendly people. Journey to Greece on this new Small Ship Cruise Tour and discover the enduring treasures of antiquity, from the Parthenon in Athens to the Temple of Apollo and the monasteries of Meteora. Then cruise aboard Grand Circle’s private small ship, which holds two groups of just 25 travelers, and explore millennia-old settlements layered deeply in myth and history. Visit Delos, birthplace of Apollo ... volcanic Santorini … bustling Syros … and Kusadasi, gateway to ancient Ephesus. Crown your adventure with two nights in Istanbul, Turkey’s cosmopolitan capital, where East meets West and ancient culture enlivens modern life.

    Fly from the U.S. to Athens, Greece.

  • View the Caryatids while exploring Athens

    A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the Athens airport and assist with your transfer to your Athens hotel. This afternoon, enjoy a walk to get acquainted with the area around the hotel. Then gather for a Welcome Drink and briefing, before dinner on your own.

  • View the scenic Greek countryside while traveling overland to Arachova

    This morning, travel overland through a landscape studded with rocky pinnacles to Kalambaka. Enjoy lunch on your own en route. After your afternoon arrival, enjoy time at leisure or make your own discoveries. This evening, enjoy an included dinner at your hotel.

  • See Meteora's hanging monastery while touring Greece

    This morning, ride by coach to the towering rock formations, on top of which are built the famous monasteries of Meteora. You’ll enjoy breathtaking views from this unique setting and visit the monasteries, some of which date to the 16th century. Meteora means “suspended in the air,” and these astonishing retreats are indeed perched atop pinnacles that rise about 1,000 feet from the valley floor. For centuries, the monasteries served as Christian redoubts while the Ottoman Turks ruled Greece, and the monasteries are still in operation today.

    After lunch on your own in the provincial town of Kalambaka, Thessaly, you'll discover a Byzantine tradition during a visit to a nearby icon-painting workshop.

    This evening, enjoy dinner hosted by a local Greek family in their home.

  • Discover local Greek dishes while cruising the Aegean Sea

    After breakfast, travel overland to Delphi, across the Thessaly Plain before climbing the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Enjoy lunch on your own along the way. Later, you'll reach the picturesque mountain village of Arachova where you'll stay tonight.

    A healthful Mediterranean style of cooking, Greek cuisine is popular throughout the world, with its reliance on olive oil, grains, wine, fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Late this afternoon, learn how to prepare classic Greek specialties during a special cooking lesson. Then, enjoy an authentic taste when you and your fellow travelers gather for dinner.

  • Explore the famous monasteries of Meteora

    Today, absorb the majesty of ancient Delphi, including the Temple of Apollo where the oracle once prophesied. This ancient sanctuary is beautifully set in a landscape fit for a god, at the foot of a mountain with a vista over olive groves stretching to the Bay of Itea.

    Those entering the sanctuary of Apollo in ancient times first purified themselves with the water of the Castalia Fountain, situated in the area. As you approach the Temple of Apollo, you'll walk the Sacred Way used by ancient Greeks such as the historian Plutarch, who was a priest of Apollo at Delphi. See treasuries built here by the Athenians, the Thebans, the Corinthians, and the Syracusans—the great powers of their day—including the theater, built to seat 5,000 people, from which it’s possible to get an amazing view if you climb to the top row. We also see the famous Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. Located a short distance from the main ruins, the circular structure was constructed between 380 and 360 BC and once consisted of 20 Doric columns, three of which have been restored.

    You'll also visit the recently renovated Delphi Archaeological Museum. The unmatched holdings here include the larger-than-life bronze Charioteer, dating to about 470 BC and one of the finest surviving bronze works of antiquity. The museum is filled with other masterpieces from the Archaic, Classical, and Roman periods, including scenes of the gods watching the Trojan War, a nine-statue family monument from the fourth century BC, and a sculpture of Roman Emperor Hadrian’s beloved friend Antinoos.

    Then, enjoy the rest of the afternoon to make your own discoveries. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • Explore the Aegean Sea aboard a small private cruise ship

    After breakfast, begin your transfer to Piraeus. You will have time for lunch on your own before you embark on your cruise.

    This evening, meet your crew and enjoy a Welcome Drink. Enjoy dinner onboard, followed by Greek dancing. During the night, your ship sails toward the island of Syros

  • Discover the historic buildings of the port town Ermoupolis

    This morning, explore Syros—whose main port town, Ermoupolis, is the capital of the Cyclades. This is the largest of the island ports that you'll visit. In the late 19th century, it was the main port for all of Greece, and it has a wealth of beautifully restored historic buildings including old mansions and churches. Enjoy a walking tour and discover the charms of this lively traditional Aegean port town. Here, you'll also taste one of Greece's favorite sweets, Loukoumi, a gelatin candy dusted with powdered sugar.

    Have lunch onboard, then cruise on to Mykonos. You'll make an afternoon visit to this vacation spot popular with the international jet set.

    Enjoy dinner together onboard and moor for the night in Mykonos.

  • Explore the ancient ruins at Delos

    This morning, take a short cruise to Delos. The mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, Delos has been settled for more than 5,000 years. You'll stroll among the restored remnants of markets, towers, and fountains, and see the preserved mosaics that earned this outstanding preserve of antiquities designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    After lunch onboard, cruise to Naxos, arriving late this afternoon. This is the largest and most mountainous island in the Cyclades, topped by 3,294-foot Mount Zas. Regarded by the ancient Greeks as being sacred to Dionysus, Naxos still produces excellent wine. In Greek legend, this was also the island where Theseus cruelly abandoned Ariadne, breaking his promise to marry her in return for the help she had given him in defeating the Minotaur.

    Enjoy dinner aboard ship again this evening.

  • View octopus drying at a local market in Naxos

    Ride across Naxos to the village of Kournochari, then hike to Melanes—a valley hamlet rich with fruit and olive trees. You'll visit a garden where a half-finished ancient kouros sculpture lies on the ground. This kind of statue of a young man from Greece's Archaic period may have been intended to portray a guardian of Zeus, and was modeled after the formal style of ancient Egyptian sculpture. From here, transfer to the town of Naxos and continue on foot to the harbor, where you'll return to the ship for lunch. Your afternoon is free to relax or to explore Naxos further on your own.

    Gather in the early evening for a bus ride to some homes of local residents, where you'll enjoy a special island dinner. Later, back on the ship, you'll be treated to a lively dance performance by members of the island's folk-dancing association. Your ship charts a course toward Santorini overnight.

  • Alight from your ship this morning and take in the exquisite beauty of Santorini. This remarkable island is the remnant of the rim of a volcanic caldera, much of which was blasted away by a huge eruption in 1600 BC. The bay enclosed by the crescent is nearly 1,300 feet deep, and our destination, the village of Fira, is perched on the caldera rim, about 1,000 feet above the water. You may choose your method of ascent: a funicular (cable car) or a traditional donkey ride. In this spectacularly situated town, gleaming white houses look down hundreds of feet to the bay. You'll visit a local museum and learn about the excavations at Akrotiri—an ancient Minoan city buried by volcanic ash—during your tour here. You'll also visit the picturesque village of Oia and learn about the fascinating ancient history of this area. Please note: Should the museum be closed, your visit will be substituted by an alternative activity.

    You may enjoy some free time in Santorini, then enjoy dinner aboard the ship this evening. Then cruise to our next port, Amorgos, an elongated island which winds like a serpent through the sea.

  • After breakfast this morning, depart for the Hozoviotissa Monastery. The pride of Amorgos, the monastery was built into the cliff face to honor what the locals call "The Grace of Panagia," more commonly known as "The Virgin Mary." Perched hundreds of feet above the water, the monastery's interior is lined with icons, paintings, and collected treasures, and is presided over by monks.

    After your monastery visit, enjoy free time in Amorgos. Settled since the fourth century BC, this unspoiled island owed its prosperity during ancient times to its proximity to the coast of Asia Minor. Its name derives from the Mourgos, a rare plant used to extract the red dye for royal garments. You'll have the rest of the morning to experience the traditional ambiance of this undiscovered gem.

    After lunch back aboard ship, cruise to the isle of Patmos, arriving in time for dinner onboard.

  • View the Old Town Center while touring Patmos

    This morning, explore the beautiful and rugged island of Patmos, named a Sacred Island by the Greek government in 1981 and long a popular pilgrimage site. According to Roman legend, the island received its name when Poseidon stepped on it (patima being Greek for "step").

    The island served as exile for an important figure from history: St. John the Evangelist, one of Jesus' twelve apostles. At the time, the island's near inaccessibility made it a perfect site for the banishment of criminals and political agitators. Exiled from Ephesus, St. John lived in a grotto beneath the Temple of Diana for 18 months, between AD 95 and 97. It was there that he was said to have received his vision of fire and brimstone and dictated the Book of Revelation. He also wrote the Fourth Gospel during this period.

    During this morning's included tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you'll visit the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse, where St. John lived and worked. If you see cracks in the walls of the cave, consider that they are said to have appeared when the apostle heard the voice of the Lord. You'll also explore the eleventh-century Monastery of St. John, built by the monk Christodolous on the ruins of the Temple of Diana. Fortified over the next two centuries to protect it against marauding pirates, this imposing monastery is visible virtually everywhere on the island and has remained in continuous operation for more than 900 years. You will see some priceless religious relics during your visit here, and be sure to listen for the remarkable acoustics inside the main chapel. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Aegean in Hora, the 17th-century town of dazzling white houses that tumbles down the hillside surrounding the citadel.

    After lunch back aboard the ship, enjoy some free time on Patmos before your ship sets sail for Kusadasi, arriving in the evening. Enjoy a Captain's Farewell Cocktail and Dinner as your ship remains moored at Kusadasi.

  • Explore the ruins of Ephesus

    Disembark your small ship in Kusadasi this morning and head out to probe the ruins of nearby Ephesus—one of the best-preserved and most extensive (2,000 acres) classical Greco-Roman cities in Asia. Located 60 miles from Izmir, Ephesus dates to at least 1300 BC and was home to the early philosopher Heraclitus. As the commercial center and capital city of Roman Asia Minor, it was once the fourth-largest city in the Roman Empire, boasting a population numbering more than 300,000. One ancient legend attributes the founding of Ephesus to the Amazons of Greek mythology. Another credits the Athenian Androclus, who received advice from an oracle to establish a colony at the "place of the fish and the boar." And so, when he and his crew saw a wild pig charge out of underbrush set ablaze inadvertently by locals grilling fish, he staked his claim on the Anatolian shore. Since 1992, Grand Circle Foundation has been contributing to the preservation and ongoing excavations of this remarkable site, with its donations to the Foundation of Friends of Ephesus.

    Your discoveries in Ephesus include a visit to the Basilica of St. John, constructed in the fifth century over the tomb of the evangelist St. John, and the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

    After Ephesus, visit a local cooperative to learn how hand-woven Turkish carpets are produced. You'll also enjoy an included lunch here.

    Late this afternoon, transfer to the airport for your short flight to Istanbul. Check into your hotel before dinner on your own at one of this cosmopolitan city's many great restaurants.

  • See the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul

    Spend the day getting to know Istanbul, the great romantic city straddling the Bosporus Strait. This morning, you'll visit a few of the great landmarks of the city's historic center, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. First, explore the sprawling Topkapi Palace, the maze of opulent buildings that served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries. The Topkapi was a city-palace with a population of approximately 4,000 people. It housed all the Ottoman sultans from Sultan Mehmet II to Abdulmecit—25 sultans over a span of nearly 600 years. Today, it is the world's oldest and largest surviving palace, one of the world's richest museums, and a masterpiece of Turkish architecture—a complex of shady courtyards overlooking the Golden Horn, where the Sea of Marmara meets the Bosporus. Highlights include the weapons collection, and galleries exhibiting the imperial collection of crystal, silver, fabled jewels, and Chinese porcelain.

    You'll also visit the beautiful Sultan Ahmet Mosque. The mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet under the orders of Sultan Ahmet I, who ascended to become the 14th ruler at age 14, and died 14 years later. The mosque is part of a large complex consisting of tombs, medreses (theological schools), fountains, a health center, homes, storehouses, and other buildings, but it is best known for its courtyard, elegant domes, and six minarets soaring above the skyline. As you remove your shoes to enter the mosque, you'll see how it earned the name Blue Mosque: Its interior gleams with a magnificent paneling of blue and white Iznik tiles.

    After lunch on your own, your tour continues at the magnificent Hagia Sophia, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Constructed as a Christian church during the sixth century, this Church of the Holy Wisdom served as the mother church of the Orthodox religion for more than 1,000 years. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks seized control of Istanbul and converted the church into a mosque, which it remained until 1935. Today, it is a museum.

    Among the wonders of this remarkable structure is its huge dome—the model for Byzantine churches to come. As you enter the Hagia Sophia, note the cannonballs along the outer courtyard, which remain from the Ottomans' siege of the city. Entering the sanctuary, you will be awed by an immense vaulted ceiling that soars above the four arches on which it rests. Admire the marble walls and the juxtaposition of Islamic calligraphic roundels with golden Christian mosaics that are still being uncovered. Please note: Hagia Sophia is closed Mondays. If this day falls on a Monday, you will visit Chora Museum instead.

    Just outside, you'll also see the remains of the Roman Hippodrome, where thundering chariots once competed in races. Wrestling, boxing, and other athletic events were also held here, as were political rallies. Of special note at the Hippodrome is the Obelisk of Theodosius, which dates to around 1500 BC and which was transported to Istanbul (then Constantinople) in AD 390. You'll also see the fourth-century Constantine Column; the Greek Serpentine Column, one of city's oldest monuments, dating to 479 BC; and the German Fountain, a gift to the Ottoman Sultan in 1898.

    Your introduction to Istanbul concludes with a stroll through one of the largest (and with its origins in the 15th century, the oldest) covered markets in the world, Istanbul's Grand Bazaar (known as the Covered Bazaar to the Turkish people). As you browse among the 4,000 shops stretched along miles of labyrinthine passageways, you'll find that the street names recall the days when each trade had its own quarter: goldsmiths' street, carpet sellers' street, and the street of the skullcap-makers. Perhaps you'll find a bargain in brilliant hand-painted ceramics, copper and brassware, gleaming gold jewelry, spices, leather goods, traditional costumes, and antiques. Please note: The Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays. If this day falls on a Sunday, we will visit Istiklal Street, the Fish Market, and the Galata District instead.

    This evening, celebrate your travels with a Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:

    This morning you rise very early to transfer to the Istanbul airport for your flight home or begin your post-trip extension in Ankara & Cappadocia, Turkey.

    Fly from the U.S. to Istanbul, Turkey.

  • View Istanbul's Topkapi Palace from Galata Tower

    A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport in Istanbul and assist with your transfer to your hotel to meet travelers who took our Ankara & Cappadocia, Turkey pre-trip extension. This afternoon, enjoy a walk to get acquainted with the area around the hotel. Gather with your fellow travelers this evening for a briefing and Welcome Dinner.

  • Enjoy the day getting to know Istanbul, the great romantic city straddling the Bosporus Strait. This morning, you’ll visit a few of the great landmarks of the city’s historic center, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. First, explore the sprawling Topkapi Palace, the maze of opulent buildings that served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries. The Topkapi was a city-palace with a population of approximately 4,000 people. It housed all the Ottoman sultans from Sultan Mehmet II to Abdulmecit—25 sultans over a span of nearly 600 years. Today, it is the world’s oldest and largest surviving palace, one of the world’s richest museums, and a masterpiece of Turkish architecture—a complex of shady courtyards overlooking the Golden Horn, where the Sea of Marmara meets the Bosporus. Highlights include the weapons collection, and galleries exhibiting the imperial collection of crystal, silver, fabled jewels, and Chinese porcelain.

    See the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul
    You’ll also visit the beautiful Sultan Ahmet Mosque. The mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet under the orders of Sultan Ahmet I, who ascended to become the 14th ruler at age 14. The mosque is part of a large complex consisting of tombs, medreses (theological schools), fountains, a health center, homes, storehouses, and other buildings, but it is best known for its courtyard, elegant domes, and six minarets soaring above the skyline. As you remove your shoes to enter the mosque, you’ll see how it earned the name Blue Mosque: Its interior gleams with a magnificent paneling of blue and white Iznik tiles.

    After lunch on your own, your tour continues at the magnificent Hagia Sophia, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Constructed as a Christian church during the sixth century, this Church of the Holy Wisdom served as the mother church of the Orthodox religion for more than 1,000 years. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks seized control of Istanbul and converted the church into a mosque, which it remained until 1935. Today, it is a museum.

    Among the wonders of this remarkable structure is its huge dome—the model for Byzantine churches to come. As you enter the Hagia Sophia, note the cannonballs along the outer courtyard, which remain from the Ottomans’ siege of the city. Entering the sanctuary, you will be awed by an immense vaulted ceiling that soars above the four arches on which it rests. Admire the marble walls and the juxtaposition of Islamic calligraphic roundels with golden Christian mosaics that are still being uncovered. Please note: Hagia Sophia is closed Mondays. If this day falls on a Monday, you will visit Chora Museum instead.

    Just outside, you’ll also see the remains of the Roman Hippodrome, where thundering chariots once competed in races. Wrestling, boxing, and other athletic events were also held here, as were political rallies. Of special note at the Hippodrome is the Obelisk of Theodosius, which dates to around 1500 BC and which was transported to Istanbul (then Constantinople) in AD 390. You’ll also see the fourth-century Constantine Column; the Greek Serpentine Column, one of city’s oldest monuments, dating to 479 BC; and the German Fountain, a gift to the Ottoman Sultan in 1898.

    Your introduction to Istanbul concludes with a stroll through one of the largest (and with its origins in the 15th century, the oldest) covered markets in the world, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar (known as the Covered Bazaar to the Turkish people). As you browse among the 4,000 shops stretched along miles of labyrinthine passageways, you’ll find that the street names recall the days when each trade had its own quarter: goldsmiths’ street, carpet sellers’ street, and the street of the skullcap-makers. Perhaps you’ll find a bargain in brilliant hand-painted ceramics, copper and brassware, gleaming gold jewelry, spices, leather goods, traditional costumes, and antiques. Please note: The Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays. If this day falls on a Sunday, we will visit Istiklal Street, the Fish Market, and the Galata District instead.

    Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Dinner tonight is on your own.

  • Explore the ruins of Ephesus

    Depart for the airport this morning after an early breakfast to catch your flight to Izmir. On arrival, head out to probe the ruins of nearby Ephesus—one of the best-preserved and most extensive (2,000 acres) classical Greco-Roman cities in Asia. Located 60 miles from Izmir, Ephesus dates to at least 1300 BC and was home to the early philosopher Heraclitus. As the commercial center and capital city of Roman Asia Minor, it was once the fourth-largest city in the Roman Empire, boasting a population numbering more than 300,000. One ancient legend attributes the founding of Ephesus to the Amazons of Greek mythology. Another credits the Athenian Androclus, who received advice from an oracle to establish a colony at the “place of the fish and the boar.” And so, when he and his crew saw a wild pig charge out of underbrush set ablaze inadvertently by locals grilling fish, he staked his claim on the Anatolian shore. Since 1992, Grand Circle Foundation has been contributing to the preservation and ongoing excavations of this remarkable site, through donations to the Foundation of Friends of Ephesus.

    Your discoveries in Ephesus include a visit to the Basilica of St. John, constructed in the fifth century. It is built over the tomb of the evangelist St. John and the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

    After Ephesus, visit a local cooperative to learn how world-renowned hand-woven Turkish carpets are produced. You’ll also enjoy lunch together here.

    Late this afternoon, arrive in the lively Aegean resort of Kusadasi and board your private small ship. Settle into your cabin before enjoying a Welcome Cocktail and the Captain’s Welcome Dinner onboard. Sail to Patmos overnight.

  • This morning, explore the beautiful and rugged island of Patmos, named a Sacred Island by the Greek government in 1981 and long a popular pilgrimage site. Though small in size, Patmos abounds in ancient myth. It was believed that Patmos originally existed at the bottom of the sea, visible only by moonlight, until Zeus gained permission from Poseidon, his brother, to raise it into the light and warm it into life. According to Roman legend, the island received its name when Poseidon stepped on it (patima being Greek for “step”). And it is also said that Orestes fled to this island to escape the vengeance of the Furies after he killed his mother, Clytemnestra.

    View the Old Town Center while touring Patmos

    The island served as exile for another important figure from history: St. John the Evangelist, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. At the time, the island’s near inaccessibility made it a perfect site for the banishment of criminals and political agitators. Exiled from Ephesus, St. John lived in a grotto beneath the Temple of Diana for 18 months, between AD 95 and 97. It was there that he was said to have received his vision of fire and brimstone and dictated the Book of Revelation. He also wrote the Fourth Gospel during this period.

    During this morning’s included tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll visit the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse, where St. John lived and worked. If you see cracks in the walls of the cave, consider that they are said to have appeared when the apostle heard the voice of the Lord. you’ll also explore the eleventh-century Monastery of St. John, built by the monk Christodolous on the ruins of the Temple of Diana. Fortified over the next two centuries to protect it against marauding pirates, this imposing monastery is visible virtually everywhere on the island and has remained in continuous operation for more than 900 years. You’ll see some priceless religious relics during your visit here, and be sure to listen for the remarkable acoustics inside the main chapel. You’ll also enjoy breathtaking views of the Aegean in Hora, the 17th-century town of dazzling white houses that tumbles down the hillside surrounding the citadel.

    Return to the ship for lunch, then relax onboard as you cruise toward the island of Amorgos, the easternmost island of the Cyclades, where the captain will drop anchor for the night.

  • After breakfast this morning, explore Amorgos, an elongated island which winds like a serpent through the sea. Your first stop is the Hozoviotissa Monastery. The pride of Amorgos, the monastery was built into the cliff face to honor what the locals call "The Grace of Panagia," more commonly known as "The Virgin Mary." Perched hundreds of feet above the water, the monastery’s interior is lined with icons, paintings, and collected treasures, and is presided over by monks.

    After your monastery visit, enjoy free time in Amorgos. Settled since the fourth century BC, this unspoiled island owed its prosperity during ancient times to its proximity to the coast of Asia Minor. Its name derives from the Mourgos, a rare plant used to extract the red dye for royal garments. You’ll have the rest of the morning to experience the traditional ambiance of this undiscovered gem.

    After lunch back aboard the ship, cruise toward the crescent-shaped island of Santorini.

  • Alight from your ship this morning and take in the exquisite beauty of Santorini. This remarkable island is the remnant of the rim of a volcanic caldera, much of which was blasted away by a huge eruption in 1600 BC. The bay enclosed by the crescent is nearly 1,300 feet deep, and our destination, the village of Fira, is perched on the caldera rim, about 1,000 feet above the water. You may choose your method of ascent: a funicular (cable car) or a traditional donkey ride. In this town, gleaming white houses look down hundreds of feet to the bay. Visit a local museum and learn about the excavations at Akrotiri—an ancient Minoan city buried by volcanic ash—during our tour here. You'll also visit the picturesque village of Oia and learn about the fascinating ancient history of this area. Please note: Should the museum be closed, your visit will be substituted by an alternative activity.

    Enjoy some free time in Santorini before returning to your ship late this afternoon and begin your cruise to the next port, Naxos. Dinner is onboard tonight.

  • Naxos is the largest and most mountainous island in the Cyclades, topped by 3,294-foot Mount Zas. Regarded by the ancient Greeks as being sacred to Dionysus, Naxos still produces excellent wine. In Greek legend, this was also the island where Theseus cruelly abandoned Ariadne, breaking his promise to marry her in return for the help she had given him in defeating the Minotaur.

    View octopus drying at a local market in Naxos

    Begin your discoveries here by riding across the island to the village of Kournochari and then taking a hike to Melanes, a valley hamlet rich with fruit and olive trees. Here, you’ll visit a garden where a half-finished ancient kouros sculpture lies on the ground. This kind of statue of a young man from Greece’s Archaic period may have been intended to portray a guardian of Zeus, and was modeled after the formal style of ancient Egyptian sculpture. From here, transfer to the town of Naxos and continue on foot to the harbor, where you'll return to the ship for lunch. Your afternoon is free to relax or to explore Naxos further on your own.

    Gather in the early evening for a bus ride to the home of local residents for a special Island Dinner and a glimpse of local life. Later, back on the ship, enjoy a lively dance performance by members of the island’s folk-dancing association.

  • Explore the ancient ruins at Delos

    This morning, make a short cruise to Delos. The mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, Delos has been settled for more than 5,000 years. You’ll stroll among the ancient remnants of markets, temples, and fountains, and see the preserved home mosaics that earned this outstanding preserve of antiquities designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Reboard the ship and enjoy lunch as you cruise to Mykonos. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure in this vacation spot popular with the international jet set.

    Later this afternoon, the captain will chart a course toward the island of Syros.

  • Discover the historic buildings of the port town Ermoupolis

    This morning, explore Syros, whose main port town, Ermoupolis, is the capital of the Cyclades. This is the largest of the island ports that we visit. In the late 19th century, it was the main port for all of Greece, and it has a wealth of beautifully restored historic buildings, including old mansions and churches. Discover the charms of this lively traditional Aegean port town on a walking tour. You’ll also taste one of Greece’s favorite sweets, Loukoumi, a gelatin candy dusted with powdered sugar.

    You’ll reboard the ship for lunch, then relax onboard as your ship cruises toward Piraeus. Bid farewell to your ship’s crew this evening over a Captain's Farewell Cocktail and Dinner.

  • Explore the Aegean Sea aboard a small private cruise ship

    Disembark after breakfast and then travel overland to Kalambaka today, journeying through a landscape studded with rocky pinnacles. Enjoy lunch on your own en route. After your afternoon arrival, enjoy time at leisure or to make your own discoveries.

    This evening, enjoy an included dinner at your hotel.

  • See Meteora's hanging monastery while touring Greece

    This morning, visit the towering rock formations, on top of which are built the famous monasteries of Meteora. Enjoy breathtaking views from this unique setting and visit the monasteries, some of which date to the 16th century. Meteora means “suspended in the air,” and these astonishing retreats are indeed perched atop pinnacles that rise about 1,000 feet from the valley floor. For centuries, the monasteries served as Christian redoubts while the Ottoman Turks ruled Greece, and the monasteries are still in operation today.

    After lunch on your own in the provincial town of Kalambaka, Thessaly, you'll discover a Byzantine tradition during a visit to a nearby icon-painting workshop.

    This evening, enjoy dinner in the home of a local Greek family.

  • After breakfast, travel overland to Delphi, driving across the Plain of Thessaly and then past Mount Brallos before climbing the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Enjoy lunch on your own along the way, and later reach the picturesque mountain village of Arachova where we will stay tonight.

    Discover local Greek dishes while cruising the Aegean Sea

    A healthful Mediterranean style of cooking, Greek cuisine is popular throughout the world, with its reliance on olive oil, grains, wine, fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Late this afternoon, learn to prepare classic Greek specialties at a special cooking class. Then, enjoy an authentic taste as you and your fellow travelers gather for dinner.

  • Today, absorb the majesty of ancient Delphi, including the Temple of Apollo, where the oracle once prophesied. This ancient sanctuary is beautifully set in a landscape fit for a god, at the foot of a mountain with a vista over olive groves stretching to the Bay of Itea.

    Explore the famous monasteries of Meteora

    Those entering the sanctuary of Apollo in ancient times first purified themselves with the water of the Castalia Fountain, situated in the area. As you approach the Temple of Apollo, you'll walk the Sacred Way used by ancient Greeks such as the historian Plutarch, who was a priest of Apollo at Delphi. See treasuries built here by the Athenians, the Thebans, the Corinthians, and the Syracusans—the great powers of their day—including the theater, built to seat 5,000 people, where an amazing view awaits if you climb to the top row. You'll also see the famous Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. Located a short distance from the main ruins, the circular structure was constructed between 380 and 360 BC and once consisted of 20 Doric columns, three of which have been restored.

    You will also visit the recently renovated Delphi Archaeological Museum. The unmatched holdings here include the larger-than-life bronze Charioteer, dating to about 470 BC and one of the finest surviving bronze works of antiquity. The museum is filled with other masterpieces from the Archaic, Classical, and Roman periods, including scenes of the gods watching the Trojan War, a nine-statue family monument from the fourth century BC, and a sculpture of Roman Emperor Hadrian’s beloved friend Antinoos.

    Return to the hotel, and enjoy the remainder of the afternoon to make your own discoveries. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • View the Caryatids while exploring Athens

    After breakfast, begin your transfer to Athens. You will have time for lunch on your own en route before you arrive at your hotel. Enjoy time to settle in, and perhaps join your Program Director for an orientation walk around the neighborhood of your hotel.

    This evening, celebrate your travels during a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:

    This morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight home.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

There's no better way to learn what a trip is like than from the firsthand experiences of your fellow travelers, and our Traveler Reviews are the real deal—unbiased and unedited—giving you an honest appraisal of the experiences that await you on this trip.

Have you been on this trip? Share Your Thoughts, Sign In

Please note: If you have taken this trip, please log into your My Account & return to this page. You will be prompted to post your review. Reviews are limited to 10,000 characters. Due to our moderation process, please allow up to 72 hours for your review to appear.

Striving for Excellence

Read about our goals >

Our #1 commitment is delivering the best travel experience at the best value, so we take feedback from our travelers seriously as we strive to improve what we do. And one of the best ways for us to measure how travelers have rated our trips—including their experiences and the value we offer—is from our post-trip surveys, sent in by travelers.

Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Ship Excellence
97%
Program Director Excellence
100%
Overall Trip Excellence
88%
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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

  • This Greek Island cruise features a fair amount of walking over uneven surfaces. The M/V Athena and Artemis do not have elevators onboard. For your comfort and safety, we recommend this trip only to individuals in good physical condition. If you have difficulty walking or are wheelchair-bound, please ask your Travel Counselor about choosing another Grand Circle Cruise Line vacation.
  • We reserve the right for our Program Directors to modify participation, or in some circumstances send travelers home if their limitations are impacting the group's experience.
  • Due to the varied geography of the regions we visit on this program you will experience a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. We recommend that you bring a rain jacket and sun-block regardless of the time of year you travel. If you travel in spring or fall, you can expect cooler temperatures or inclement weather.

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Greece: No visa required.
  • Turkey: Visa required.

Travelers who are booked on this vacation will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • M/V Artemis

    The M/V Artemis was ranked #1 on Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 20 Small Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    Owned, operated, and staffed by Grand Circle Cruise Line, the M/V Artemis was designed exclusively for two small groups of just 25 Grand Circle travelers, each with its own Program Director. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in select common areas, but connectivity is limited in certain locations on your itinerary. Enjoy daily breakfast and lunch buffets onboard. Sit-down dinners feature international and local specialties.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Main Trip

  • Hera Hotel

    Athens, Greece

    The Hera Hotel is ideally situated near the Acropolis and other archaeological sites. Your air-conditioned room includes coffee- and tea-making facilities, high-speed Internet access, and private bath.

  • St. George Lycabettus Hotel

    Athens, Greece | Rating: Superior First Class

    Located at the foot of Lycabettus Hill overlooking the city of Athens, the Superior First-Class St. George Lycabettus is also close to the exclusive shopping area of Kolonaki. Rooms are contemporary-styled, most have balconies, and all are air-conditioned and equipped with satellite TV, telephone, minibar, and private bath.

  • Anemolia Hotel

    Arachova, Greece | Rating: First Class

    Offering stunning views of the Gulf of Itea, the Delphi Valley, and Mount Parnassus, the Anemolia Hotel is just a few kilometers from Delphi's renowned archaeological ruins. Amenities include a heated indoor pool, two lounges with fireplaces, a fitness center, sauna, and complimentary buffet breakfast. There is also a restaurant and bar, and each air-conditioned room features a private bath, hair dryer, and television.

  • Hotel Meteora

    Kalambaka, Greece

    Situated in an idyllic natural setting on the outskirts of Kalambaka (about a 20-minute walk from its center), the Hotel Meteora offers scenic views of the surrounding mountains and is just a short distance to the famed monasteries of Meteora. Hotel amenities include a restaurant and outdoor swimming pool. There are 63 air-conditioned rooms, each with telephone, satellite TV, minibar, hair dryer, and private bath.

  • Titanic City Hotel

    Istanbul, Turkey

    Located within walking distance of Taksim Square and downtown Istanbul, the modern Titanic City Hotel is an ideal base from which to explore the city and its legendary sites. Amenities include a restaurant and bar as well as a fitness center, spa services, and an indoor pool. Each of the hotel’s 183 rooms offers a view of Istanbul and is equipped with satellite TV, minibar, and private bath with shower.

  • Crowne Plaza Old City

    Istanbul, Turkey

    Located in Istanbul's historic city center, the Crowne Plaza Old City Hotel is close to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul University, and public transportation. Amenities include a health club, three restaurants, and an indoor pool. Air-conditioned rooms feature cable/satellite TV, telephone, Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

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  • Nafplia Palace Hotel & Villas

    Nafplion, Greece | Rating: Superior First Class

    Surrounded by three World Heritage Sites, the Nafplia Palace Hotel & Villas is situated above the historic town of Nafplion, with excellent views across the bay. There are three restaurants, two bars, two pools, a poolside bar, and spa treatment facilities to choose from at the hotel. There are 85 rooms, each with climate-control, minibar, safe, satellite TV, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Hotel Europa

    Ancient Olympia, Greece | Rating: First Class

    Situated at the top of Drouvas Hill in Ancient Olympia, the Hotel Europa overlooks the valley filled with ruins, monuments, and the stadium of the Ancient Olympic Games. Facilities at the hotel include a restaurant, tavern, outdoor swimming pool, garden, and pool bar. There are 78 air-conditioned rooms at the hotel, each featuring balcony, safe, wireless Internet, satellite TV, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • St. George Lycabettus Hotel

    Athens, Greece | Rating: Superior First Class

    Located at the foot of Lycabettus Hill overlooking the city of Athens, the Superior First-Class St. George Lycabettus is also close to the exclusive shopping area of Kolonaki. Rooms are contemporary-styled, most have balconies, and all are air-conditioned and equipped with satellite TV, telephone, minibar, and private bath.

  • Doubletree Hotel Avanos

    Nevsehir, Turkey | Rating: Superior First Class

    This Superior First-Class, 126-room hotel features indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a health club with Turkish bath, restaurant, lounge, and more. Its rooms include a flat-screen TV, complimentary wireless Internet access, and a private bath.

    Please Note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • Ankara Hilton SA Hotel

    Ankara, Turkey | Rating: Moderate Deluxe

    The Moderate Deluxe Ankara Hilton SA Hotel is an ideal base for exploring Ankara. Amenities include a pool, outdoor sun deck, health club with gym and Turkish hammam, restaurant, and bar and lounge. Your air-conditioned room features Internet access, an iron, minibar, safe, TV, telephone, and hair dryer.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your ship or hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your vacation
  • Choose to "break away" before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle Cruise Line vacations to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium class

The air options listed above will involve an additional fee of $100 per person for confirmed requests (as well as incremental airfare costs based on your specific choice).

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $3895
w/ standard air $5495
Approximate travel times

Partner since: 1992
Total donated: $365,595

Preserving History for the Future

Grand Circle Foundation is proud to work with historic sites around the globe. We contributed to the UNESCO World Monuments Fund, as well as smaller preservation organizations—just by traveling with us, you are helping us change lives in this historic and irreplaceable site.

Ephesus

Partner since: 1992 • Total donated: $105,000

Since 1992, Grand Circle Foundation has been contributing to the preservation and ongoing excavations of this historic site via donations to the Foundation of Friends of Ephesus. As a traveler in this ancient city, it is easy to feel the pulse of history under your footsteps. Here, it is said that the Gospel of John was written, and the Temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We are proud to bring travelers on our Turkish departures right into the heart of history on this site that is over 3,000 years old.

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

Read More

One Sultan’s Vision

Six centuries of fostering international trade in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

by Alper Tizer, Vice President of Turkey and Greece

Exploring the Grand Bazaar remains a captivating experience, with more than 5,000 vendors set up along 60 streets in central Istanbul.

The initiatives and innovations of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II helped shape numerous aspects of Turkish society, and to this day he is revered as a national icon—a potent example of a leader who, while continuing to expand the range of his empire, was also deeply committed to the welfare of his people. He formulated a unified code of law, and created a number of colleges in Constantinople, several of which still thrive in present-day Istanbul. It was on his order in the mid-15th century that the seeds of the Grand Bazaar were planted.

The two bedestens

Already an active marketplace prior to Mehmed’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Bazaar’s wares soon reflected the vast holdings and growing power of the Ottoman Empire. The first of the Bazaar’s two bedestens (domed buildings built to protect more valuable items) was completed under Mehmed’s orders in 1461, intended to nurture commerce and generate funds for the Hagia Sophia—the magnificent Orthodox basilica which he had recently transformed into a mosque as part of his efforts to convert the city to Islam.

While scholars continue to debate the exact date of its construction, a second bedesten was built years later. Called the Sandal Bedesten (its name deriving from a type of thread similar in color to sandalwood), this structure stood less than 50 meters from the original bedesten and became the market’s principal hub for textile trade. The original building (subsequently dubbed the Cevahir or “Gems” Bedesten) eventually focused on the sale and trade of luxury items—including jewelry, art, and expertly tooled leather goods. Today, the first bedesten houses the bazaar’s most valuable items.

From past to present

Through the centuries, the bazaar has survived a series of devastating fires, catastrophic earthquakes, and regime changes, continually reemerging as a vital and important locus of trade. However, the textile industry’s gradual shift towards Western Europe in the 19th century dampened activity in the Grand Bazaar, lowering prices and rents in the market’s thousands of stalls. But today, the bazaar has rebounded substantially, fulfilling Mehmed II’s goal of furthering international commerce by catering to both international travelers and to local residents.

Exploring the Grand Bazaar remains a captivating experience, with more than 5,000 vendors set up along 60 streets in central Istanbul. One such vendor is calligrapher Nick Merdenyan. Since 1968, Merdenyan has created delicate pieces on the surface of dried leaves, bringing traditional calligraphy and embroidery techniques to this demanding, brittle medium.

During your visit, be sure to spend time in shops and avenues furthest from the central bedesten. Here, you’ll experience local Turks purchasing daily provisions and practical items, giving you invaluable insight into the daily lives of Istanbul’s people.