Named for the mythical goddess of wisdom—Athena—Athens has inspired some of the world’s greatest philosophers and dramatists, embraced a colorful mythology, and laid the groundwork for democracy as we know it. Discover important highlights of antiquity from Athens to the Peloponnesian Peninsula on this discovery-filled extension.
- It's Included:
- Accommodations for 4 nights at the Moderate-Deluxe Metropolitan Hotel or similar
- 5 meals: 4 breakfasts and 1 dinner
- 3 included tours: Athens city tour, Acropolis tour & Acropolis Museum visit, Mycenae & Epidaurus
- NEW for 2015: Gratuities on this extension are now included for local guides and motorcoach drivers
- Exclusive Discovery Series event: Archaeology discussion
- Exclusive services of a Grand Circle Program Director
- All transfers
Today, you’ll depart home, flying overnight from your U.S. gateway to Athens, Greece.
In Athens, a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to your hotel. The remainder of the afternoon is yours to settle into your room or explore on your own. This evening, gather with your travel companions and Program Director for a Welcome Drink, followed by a Welcome Dinner at the hotel.
Continually inhabited since the Neolithic Age, Athens is a vibrant, forward-looking city that proudly preserves its ancient heritage. Get your bearings during an included panoramic city tour, featuring Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus, the Parliament Building and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Syntagma Square, and the charming Plaka, the city’s oldest neighborhood.
You’ll also visit the magnificent Acropolis, set high atop the “sacred rock” overlooking the city (Acropolis literally means “upper city”). Though many Greek cities have an Acropolis, the Acropolis of Athens is the most famous among them for its sheer majesty and for buildings that, like the Pyramids of Egypt, still amaze us with their construction. Chief among these is the beautiful Parthenon, one of the most recognizable structures in the world. Admire this temple to the goddess Athena and then visit the new Acropolis Museum, which opened in 2009 and exhibits archaeological finds from the site.
Enjoy lunch on your own, perhaps at one of the small restaurants that line the winding streets of the Plaka, then join your Program Director for a stroll through a local meat and vegetable market. Here, you’ll witness the everyday life of today’s Athens firsthand.
You’ll have leisure time to explore on your own before this afternoon’s fascinating discussion on archaeology, which is led by an expert from the American School of Classical Studies. Then, enjoy dinner on your own. Your Program Director can offer suggestions.
Today’s full-day tour ventures into the Peloponnesian Peninsula, where ancient Sparta once ruled. Begin your discoveries with a stop at Corinth Canal, where you’ll view the canal that was first envisioned by the Roman Emperor Nero in AD 67 but ultimately not completed until 1893. An engineering marvel of its time, the Corinth Canal today is too narrow for most modern ocean-going vessels, but nevertheless allows passage for 11,000 ships a year.
Continue on to the ancient city of Mycenae, immortalized by Homer. Seat of the civilization that won the Trojan War, it once was the most important city in Greece. Dating to the second millennium BC, Mycenae was believed to exist only in legend until its ruins were discovered by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1874. Here, in the palace of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, you’ll behold the mighty Lion’s Gate, the remains of grave circles, and the Tomb of Atreus, a lofty stone chamber whose entryway is 18 feet high.
Pause for lunch on your own in Nafplion, a scenic seaside town that served as the first capital of an independent Greece. Admire the beautifully preserved Venetian castle poised on a hillside overlooking the town and accessible by a sweeping stairway of a thousand steps.
The next stop on today’s discovery-filled itinerary is Epidaurus, a famous healing center of antiquity. Today, Epidaurus is better known for its 15,000-seat amphitheater, built during the fourth century BC and still in use today. Admire the elegance of the structure and the magnificent view of the landscape beyond.
Return to the hotel late in the afternoon, and enjoy dinner on your own.
Explore Athens on your own today. Perhaps you’ll take the funicular to the top of Mount Lycabettus or drive to Sounion to view the Temple of Poseidon. You might also browse the collections of the National Archaeological Museum or the Benaki Museum; visit the Agora, the ruins of the city’s ancient marketplace; or enter the lively spirit of the Monastiraki street market. Or return to the Plaka to wander among the quaint shops and cafes.
Or, join us on a full-day optional tour that enables you to 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 to the Bay of Itea.
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. View treasuries built here by the Athenians, the Thebans, the Corinthians, and the Syracusans—the great powers of their day. You'll also see 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.
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. Lunch is included on this optional tour.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Istanbul. Settle into your hotel, then join your fellow travelers as described on Day 2 of your Crossroads of Turkey itinerary.