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2016 Treasures of the Aegean: Greek Island Cruise, Athens & Istanbul

Sold out in 2016 , Join us in 2017

ABOARD OUR PRIVATELY OWNED 50-PASSENGER M/V ARTEMIS DESIGNED FOR AMERICAN TRAVELERS

Athens • Kalambaka • Meteora • Arachova • Delphi • Greek Islands including Mykonos, Santorini & Patmos • Ephesus • Istanbul

Trip Experience

Watch travelers sample locally made liqueur and visit the iconic sites in Istanbul, Turkey.

Trip Itinerary

Get more information about your detailed itinerary, like optional tours, exclusive Discovery Series events, and more.

Program Director

Learn what Laura Giannola loves most about traveling and about an unforgettable moment she had at an olive press.

Trip Extension: Athens

Discover ancient ruins and traditions in the cradle of Western civilization during our optional trip extension.

Trip Extension: Ankara & Cappadocia

See how the peculiar landscape of Cappadocia has shaped a truly unique lifestyle for the people living in the region.

Discover our Mediterranean small ships

See how our award-winning, 50-passenger small ships will enhance your Mediterranean cruise experience.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Athens and the Peloponnese

Get to know iconic Athens and discover the legendary locales beyond its borders with travel expert Rudy Maxa.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Greek Islands

Join travel expert Rudy Maxa to discover the sundrenched villages and natural wonders awaiting you along Greece's Cyclades islands.

Courtesy BBC.com Travel
My City: Istanbul

Learn how to best witness Istanbul's cultural traditions, from theater stages to neighborhood meeting spots and more.

Courtesy Darley Newman
Equitrekking: Turkey's Coast, Cappadocia & Istanbul

Explore a Turkish ghost town by horse, settle in for a dinner of local barbecue, and more.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Classical Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome

Travel expert Rudy Maxa takes you back to where western civilization all began in ancient Greece and Rome.

Courtesy Kristine Jurgensen and Ian Cross
Bazaar: Istanbul - Heritage Shops

Explore Istanbul's shops to learn the historical and cultural significance of Turkish lace, carpets, and more.

Courtesy Kathy Monk
Istanbul – Ancient Crossroads

Watch as this pair of lifelong friends discover Istanbul's historic and cultural treasures.

©2016 The New York Times
36 Hours in Athens

Discover two sides of Athens: from ancient ruins and traditional cuisine to a vibrant youth culture and modern entertainment scene.

Sold out in 2016 , Join us in 2017
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Itinerary Overview

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 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 enjoy a Greek island 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 Mediterranean cruise with two nights in Istanbul, Turkey’s cosmopolitan capital, where East meets West and ancient culture enlivens modern life.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 5 nights from only $1195

    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 Olympic Games. Discover the ancient Greek world with a two-night stay in Athens.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 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 to join passengers coming from the Ancient Glories: Olympia, Nafplion & Athens pre-trip extension. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

  • After breakfast, travel overland 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, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Then, enjoy an authentic taste when 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. This guided tour includes up to two hours of walking, with several sets of stairs (up to 60 stairs, consecutively).

    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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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, an exclusive Discovery Series event. 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 alternate activity.

    You may enjoy some free time in Santorini, then enjoy dinner aboard the ship this evening. Then cruise to Amorgos, our next port, 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.

  • Discover local Greek dishes while cruising the Aegean Sea

    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, an exclusive Discovery Series event. You'll also enjoy an included lunch here.

    Late this afternoon, transfer to the airport for your flight to 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. Please note: The Topkapi Palace is closed Tuesdays. If this day falls on Tuesday, you will visit the Istanbul Archaeological Museums and the Basilica Cistern instead.

    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.

    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, you will visit the Spice Bazaar instead.

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

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flights home or begin your post-trip extension in Ankara & Cappadocia, Turkey.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Ankara & Cappadocia, Turkey

    5 nights from only $1295

    Delve deeply into Turkey's ancient civilizations as you journey from the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia to Ankara—legendary birthplace of King Midas and summer retreat of Roman emperors. Learn about the powerful Hittite civilization during a visit to their ancient capital, explore the subterranean cave cities of Cappadocia and ancient rock churches of Göreme, and much more.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 5 nights from only $1295

    Delve deeply into Turkey's ancient civilizations as you journey from the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia to Ankara—legendary birthplace of King Midas and summer retreat of Roman emperors. Learn about the powerful Hittite civilization during a visit to their ancient capital, explore the subterranean cave cities of Cappadocia and ancient rock churches of Göreme, and much more.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 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. 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.

  • See the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul

    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. Please note: The Topkapi Palace is closed Tuesdays. If this day falls on Tuesday, you will visit the Istanbul Archaeological Museums and the Basilica Cistern instead.

    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.

    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, you will visit the Spice Bazaar 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.

    Discover local Greek dishes while cruising the Aegean Sea

    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.

  • Discover the historic buildings of the port town Ermoupolis

    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.

    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, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Later, back on the ship, enjoy a lively dance performance by members of the island's folk-dancing association.

  • 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.


  • 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 travel overland 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.

    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, an exclusive Discovery Series event. 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. This guided tour includes up to two hours of walking, with several sets of stairs (up to 60 stairs, consecutively).

    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.

  • After breakfast, 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.

  • 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.

    Explore the famous monasteries of Meteora

    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, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

  • 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:

    Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Ancient Glories: Olympia, Nafplion & Athens

    5 nights from only $1195

    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 Olympic Games. Discover the ancient Greek world with a two-night stay in Athens.

    View Extension Itinerary

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