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Treasures of the Aegean: Greek Island Cruise, Athens & Istanbul 2014

Pre-trip: Ancient Glories: Olympia, Nafplion & Athens

More than 30% of our travelers take this extension

Journey far back in time to the Peloponnese—a peninsula south of mainland Greece steeped in ancient myths and enveloped in rugged scenic beauty. Discover the Neo-Classical splendor of Nafplion, the Bronze Age culture of ancient Mycenae, and the sanctuary of Zeus in Ancient Olympia, home of the first Olympian Games. Discover the ancient Greek world with a two-night stay in Athens.

It's Included:
Accommodations: for 2 nights in Athens at the Superior First-Class St. George Lycabettus or similar, 1 night in Nafplion at the Superior First-Class Nafplia Palace Hotel & Villas, and 2 nights in Olympia at the First-Class Hotel Europa
7 meals: 5 breakfasts and 2 dinners
5 included tours: Acropolis, Epidauros, Nafplion, Mycenae, Ancient Olympia
Exclusive services of an experienced Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers
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    You depart from the U.S. for Athens.

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    A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport for your transfer to our hotel. You’ll enjoy a Welcome Drink and have the chance to get oriented with a walking tour of your surroundings.

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    After breakfast, enjoy a guided tour of a UNESCO World Heritage Site—the Acropolis. You'll explore it from all sides to expand your feel for what this birthplace of civilization was like in ancient times. The Acropolis is crowned by the majestic ruins of the Parthenon, perhaps the most architecturally perfect structure in the West. The rest of the day is at leisure in Athens.

    Or, you may choose to join an optional tour of Cape Sounion, home of the Temple of Poseidon. Constructed by the Ancient Greeks around 400 BC, the temple has suffered damage from foreign invasions over the years, but the ruins remain an elegant and picturesque tribute to the mighty gods of the Greeks. This evening dinner is on your own in Athens.

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    On the way to Nafplion, enjoy a brief stop at the historic Corinth Canal, gateway to the Peloponnese. Construction of the Corinth Canal was originally initiated by the Roman Emperor Nero as a way to link the Aegean with the Gulf of Corinth. But the four-mile-long ribbon cut through solid rock proved too difficult and the project was quickly abandoned. Since digging didn't begin again until 1881, in ancient times ships were simply dragged across the isthmus along a paved road. At one time, the great city state of Corinth rivaled Athens in power and prestige, but its reputation for bawdy living caused St. Paul to criticize it mercilessly during his stay here in AD 52.

    After Corinth Canal, stop at Epidauros, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous ancient sites in Greece. Since early Greeks recognized Epidauros as the birthplace of Asklepios, the god of healing, the entire site was renowned for its extensive medical facilities and healing treatments from the sixth century BC until about AD 200. Today Epidauros is perhaps more famous for its magnificently preserved fourth-century theater, which we'll visit. Renowned for its near-perfect acoustics, a coin dropped at the center of this 14,000-seat structure can easily be heard from its farthest reaches.

    Following lunch on your own, we arrive in Nafplion and embark on a walking tour. A lovely seaside town nestled between the mountains and Gulf of Argolis, Nafplion features charming Venetian homes and a picturesque harbor dominated by citadels. While the fortresses attest to a checkered military history, after independence from the Ottomans early in the 19th century, Nafplion became the first capital of liberated Greece. Later, enjoy dinner with your fellow travelers at your hotel in Nafplion.

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    After breakfast, depart for nearby Mycenae, our next UNESCO World Heritage Site. A destination linked to Homer and his tales of glory and war, Mycenae was a sophisticated Bronze Age culture that occupied the region from about 1700 BC until it mysteriously vanished after the Trojan War in about 1180 BC. While Homer wrote about Mycenae in his ninth-century BC epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey, its actual location was thought to be lost to the mists of time until the amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found a treasure trove of gold masks, jewelry, and weapons here in 1874. The ruins of the fortified palace complex of Mycenae begin at the Lion Gate, the grand entrance to the city. Highlights of the ruins include a series of tholos, or beehive-shaped, tombs where Mycenaean kings were buried with their golden treasures and ornamented weapons and enough food and drink for their journey to the underworld.

    After a visit to a pottery workshop and time for lunch on your own, journey across to the west coast of the Peloponnese peninsula to Ancient Olympia. Upon arrival, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

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    After breakfast, embark on a tour of Olympia, a sanctuary of ancient Greece dedicated to the worship of Zeus that gave birth to the Olympian Games, forerunner of our modern Olympic Games. The renowned athletic competition began here to honor Zeus in 776 BC and continued for the next thousand years. Plato, Socrates, Alexander the Great, and Nero are just a few of the historical figures that watched or participated in the games. After a visit to the original site of the games, you'll explore the vast holdings of the Archaeological Museum which features a wealth of exhibits spanning Greek prehistory up to the Roman era.

    After lunch on your own and some free time in the village of Olympia, return to your hotel. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer to Athens with lunch on your own en route. This afternoon, join your fellow travelers to begin your Treasures of the Aegean: Greek Island Cruise, Athens & Istanbul Small Ship Cruise Tour.