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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 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.

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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 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.

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    • Meals included:

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

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

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    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.

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    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 Istiklal Street, the Fish Market, and the Galata District instead.

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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.

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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.

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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

Travel considerations for you and your small group of no more than 25, on Treasures of the Aegean: Greek Island Cruise, Athens & Istanbul.

Pacing

  • 15 days, with 7 nights aboard M/V Artemis, and 4 hotel stays, including a single 1-night stay

Physical Requirements

  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 6-8 hours of physical activities each day, including several sets of stairs (up to 60 stairs, consecutively)
  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them throughout the trip, and may not be able to participate in all activities

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 63-92°F during cruising season
  • June-August are the warmest months

Terrain

  • Travel over uneven walking surfaces, unpaved paths, hills and rocky slopes, stairs, and cobblestones
  • Good walking shoes and a walking pole are recommended

Transportation

  • Travel by 45-seat coach, funicular, and 50-passenger small ship

Small Ship Cruising

  • If docked at a pier, gangway incline can be steep
  • Weather conditions and tides may require adjustments to your itinerary
  • Good agility, balance, and strength needed for possible rough seas

Accommodation

  • The M/V Artemis does not have elevators onboard

Cuisine

  • Meals will be a mix of local specialties and familiar American standards
  • Meals onboard feature a variety of entrée options, including vegetarian

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 style, 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.

  • Metropolitan Hotel

    Athens, Greece | Rating: Moderate Deluxe

    Located in central Athens, the Moderate-Deluxe Metropolitan Hotel offers you a modern retreat amid the history that surrounds you in Athens. While here, enjoy the outdoor pool, health club, and three on-site restaurants. Each air-conditioned room features cable/satellite TV, a telephone, high-speed Internet access, minibar, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

    Please note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • The Marmara Taksim Hotel

    Istanbul, Turkey | Rating: Limited Service First Class

    The Marmara Taksim Hotel is located in the heart of Istanbul, and is within easy access to shopping and theater districts. Amenities include two restaurants, a bar, and a chocolate shop—as well as a fitness center, spa services, and an outdoor pool. Each of the hotel’s 376 rooms offers views of Istanbul or the Bosphorus, and is equipped with cable TV, high-speed Internet access, a bathrobe, and a hair dryer.

Extensions

  • Nafplia Palace Hotel & Villas

    Nafplion, Greece | Rating: Superior First Class

    The Superior First-Class Nafplia Palace Hotel & Villas is situated above the town of Nafplion, with excellent views across the bay. The hotel features three restaurants, two bars, two pools, a poolside bar, and a spa. Each room has a minibar, safe, satellite TV, and private bath with hair dryer.

    Please note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • Hotel Europa

    Olympia, Greece | Rating: First Class

    The First-Class Hotel Europa overlooks a 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. Each air-conditioned room features a balcony, safe, wireless Internet, satellite TV, and private bath with hair dryer.

    Please note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • 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 style, most have balconies, and all are air-conditioned and equipped with satellite TV, telephone, minibar, and private bath.

  • Doubletree by Hilton 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.

  • 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, Turkish hammam, restaurant, and bar. 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 may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

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.

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The Lowest Price & the Best Value

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FREQUENT TRAVELER CREDITS

When you return from a trip, you receive a credit worth 5% of that total trip cost that you can apply to your next trip. On average, that’s $315 in savings. NEW: Sign into My Account to see any personalized credits you may have.

VACATION AMBASSADOR REFERRAL PROGRAM

Earn $100 for your first referral—plus increasing CASH or credit rewards for each additional traveler you refer.

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Refer more travelers and see your rewards add up—earn up to $5900 or a FREE TRIP.

BEST PRICE GUARANTEE

We’re confident that our bottom line can’t be beat. If you think you’ve found a lower price on a comparable vacation, tell us: If you have, we’ll match it.

INNER CIRCLE BENEFITS

Our most loyal travelers—members of our Inner Circle—can now save even more:

  • Multiple Trip Credits
    Upon returning from your 2nd to 9th trips, save $250 on your second trip reserved in a calendar year and on any additional trips you take within the year, and upon returning from your 10th trip, your savings will increase to $350.
  • 6% Frequent Traveler Credits
    You’ll begin to earn extra credit after you return from your fifth trip—and on every subsequent vacation.

See How Much You'll Save

Watch these savings add up using the tool below. Simply click the blue box on the scale below to drag to each month to see your potential savings. Remember, the earlier you pay in full prior to your final payment due date, the more you save. NEW: With our new personalized feature, if you sign into My Account providing your user name and password, you can see any existing Frequent Traveler Credits you may have accumulated from a previous trip displayed in the chart below.

Our Travel Counselors will help you find your savings.
Call toll-free at 1-800-221-2610. Or, start building the trip that’s right for you

Dates & Prices

*All figures and savings shown are examples only. Vacation Ambassador and Frequent Traveler savings shown are based on the average credits earned by Grand Circle Travelers. Good Buy Plan savings are calculated after Frequent Traveler Credits, Vacation Ambassador rewards, and multiple trip credits are deducted from your initial tour price; some benefits cannot be combined. For your specific savings, contact a Traveler Counselor. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

History, Culture & More

Learn more about the history, art, culture, and more you’ll discover on this trip by reading the features below. These articles were collected from past newsletters, Harriet’s Corner, and special features created for Grand Circle by our team of writers.

One Sultan’s Vision

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar has experienced six centuries fostering international trade. Learn more about its history.

Read More »

Epic Proportions

Though these Greek gods are no longer worshipped, the stories they inspired have endured. Read about them here.

Read More »

Lemons: The culinary gold of Greece

Lemons have been used in Greek cooking since at least the first century. Try using them as you make Avgolemono.

Read More »

History, Culture & 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

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.

History, Culture & More

Epic Proportions

Ancient myths and the Greek identity

by Lyette Mercier, for Grand Circle

The ancient Greeks viewed their gods and goddesses as divine but not infallible, which sometimes led to myths that seemed more akin to soap operas than scripture. Though all-powerful, Greek deities possessed the same weaknesses as humans: pride, jealousy, lust, and anger. These vanities often put the gods at odds with each other, and tales of their feuds and whims were created to explain the existence of everything from the earth below to the sky above. Though these gods are no longer worshipped, the stories they inspired have endured, adding intrigue to historical accounts of Greek landscapes.

Delos: Location, location

The island of Delos, for example, is a small, rocky spot of land in the Aegean Sea. It possesses limited drinking water and no arable soil. Nonetheless, it was one of the most revered places in ancient Greece, as it was believed to be the birthplace of the divine twins Apollo and Artemis, god of the sun and truth, and goddess of the moon and the hunt, respectively.

Their mother, Leto, was the first wife of Zeus, king of the Greek pantheon. Zeus married his second wife, Hera— who was also his sister—when Leto was pregnant with the twins. If Zeus running off and marrying his sister while another wife was pregnant sounds callous, well, Zeus wasn’t exactly known for doing right by the mothers of his children. He accidentally burned one to ash (Semele, mother of Dionysus) and swallowed another (Metis, mother of Athena). Hera was the goddess of wives and mothers, but her role in many myths is that of the jealous harasser of Zeus’ paramours. She hated Leto, and declared that all land on Earth deny the pregnant goddess shelter or fear Hera’s wrath. After wandering the world and being denied shelter everywhere, Leto finally found a rock floating in the sea and therefore was not subject to Hera’s curse. There, under the shade of a lone palm tree, she gave birth to Artemis and, nine days later, Apollo. Nonnus, a Greek epic poet, wrote in the fifth century AD,

When Leto carried her twin burden she had to wander over the world, tormented with the pangs of childbirth . . . until Delos gave help to her labor, until the old palm tree played midwife for Leto with her poor little leaves.

Leto’s twins, both skilled with a bow and arrow from birth, protected their mother from further Hera-induced trials before taking their place with the other major god and goddesses on Mount Olympus.

Some versions of the Delos myth say that after the twins’ birth, Zeus appealed to his brother Poseidon, god of the sea, to tether the rock to the ocean floor with diamond chains. In other versions, Leto herself anchored the rock to the seabed in gratitude for giving her sanctuary. The island was named Delos, meaning “the visible,” and became a sacred place for worshippers of Apollo and Artemis, as well as a major cult center for other Greek gods.

Delos’ mythical importance may have been tied to its location in the Aegean Sea. It is equidistant from the Greek mainland to its northwest, Rhodes to its east, Crete to its south, and the Peloponnese to its west. To a culture as skilled in mathematics and navigation as the Greeks, this would have given Delos a significance befitting an important origin myth. Delos endured as a place of worship until the dawn of Christianity, when after a long decline it was abandoned. Today, relics of Delos’ sacred history are scattered across the sunny island. Indeed, the isle is one of the most important archeological sites in Greece and excavations there are ongoing.

“Most Idyllic Place”

Artemis had a later role in the creation of another Aegean island, according to legend. Today, the island of Patmos is best known as the place where St. John wrote the biblical Book of Revelation. The grotto where he received his divine vision, fantastically known as the Cave of the Apocalypse, is a popular Christian pilgrimage site. But in ancient times, the island had a charming origin story with Artemis as its champion.

The myth: Artemis once hunted in the evenings on Mount Latmos, where there was a temple in her honor. While there, she would converse with Selene, the goddess of moonlight. One evening, Selene’s moonbeams cast a glow upon an island on the bottom of the sea. Artemis was enchanted by the isle and asked Apollo to raise it to the surface for her. Apollo didn’t want to do it, however; in the manner of families everywhere, he asked his father to do it for him. Zeus then passed the task along to Poseidon, who finally fulfilled Artemis’ wish and brought Patmos to the surface, where Selene’s brother Helios, god of sunlight, warmed it with his rays and brought the land to life.

Artemis made the first settlers of the island devotees from Mount Latmos, and they named the island “Litios,” meaning “Daughter of Leto,” in the goddess’s honor. Today, the island retains the charm that inspired such a lovely origin myth, with Forbes magazine naming Patmos “Europe’s Most Idyllic Place” in 2009.

Delphi: Center of the Earth

Apollo was worshipped along the Aegean as well, most famously in Delphi, where legend has it he slew Python, a dragon, and took control of the Delphic Oracle from Gaia, the earth goddess. The ancients believed Delphi to be the center of the Earth, with the dragon protecting the world’s omphalos, or navel. The Oracle at Delphi was sacred well before Apollo was worshipped, and the myth of Apollo and Python served to explain the transition from worshipping the earth goddess there to visitors worshipping Apollo as the god speaking through the Oracle.

The Oracle, always a woman, was called Pythia, because it was believed that the vapors that sent her into a prophetic trance rose from Python’s corpse. Today, it’s speculated that the Oracle’s trances were caused by breathing ethylene gas rising from a fissure in the earth. In her trance, Pythia would mutter nonsense that was then interpreted into prophecy by the temple’s priests.

Citizens from all over the Hellenic world came to consult the Oracle once a month, with the richest visitors skipping the line by giving lavish gifts to Apollo’s temple. Pythia’s prophecies were so in demand that the historian Plutarch, who was also a priest at the temple, wrote that eventually there were three Oracles: two to work in shifts and a spare in case the others needed a break. The Oracle was abandoned after an earthquake in 373 BC, and contemporary research has shown that the temple is located on top of two fault lines, suggesting the possibility that the quake closed off the fissures releasing the ethylene gas that allowed the Oracle to prognosticate. The Oracle’s last recorded response in 362 BC stated “the temple has fallen.” The rise of Christianity also contributed to the Oracle’s demise.

Love & loss

Though Apollo communicated with humans through the Oracle, there are also many tales of the gods interacting directly with mortals. One of the sweetest (or saddest, depending on how you look at it) myths is that of Ariadne and Dionysus, god of wine and celebration. After helping Athenian founder Theseus to defeat the monstrous Minotaur and escape the labyrinth, Ariadne f led with the hero, in love and planning to marry him. Alas, Theseus had other ideas and abandoned Ariadne as she slept on the beach on the island of Naxos. Some versions of the legend maintain that Theseus had fallen in love with Ariadne’s sister Phaedra and callously left Ariadne to die on Naxos; some say Theseus forgot Ariadne on the beach in his hurry to get home; while other accounts are that he was ordered by Dionysus to abandon Ariadne and was heartbroken to leave her. (The latter version was possibly favored by Athenians, because it makes their city’s founder look like less of a cad.)

In all variations of the myth, poor Ariadne was left alone, abandoned and in tears. Depending on the tale, either she was discovered by Dionysus, who was so enchanted by her beauty that he made her his wife, or she was taken hostage by the god for breeding purposes. Ovid, in his poem the Fasti, sides firmly with Dionysus, saying of Ariadne,

Theseus’ crime deified her. She gave that ingrate the winding thread [of the labyrinth] and gladly swapped her perjured husband for Dionysus. Pleased with her marital fate, she asked: “Why did I sob like a country girl? His lies were my gain.”

By all accounts, Dionysus so loved Ariadne that after her death he raised her crown to the heavens, creating the constellation Corona. Other stories say he also descended to the underworld to bring Ariadne and his mother, Semele, up to live with him in immortality on Mount Olympus. The myth is considered a classic love story, with Ariadne depicted alongside Dionysus on many ancient paintings and mosaics.

It’s hard to throw a stone in Greece without it landing somewhere associated with a myth. Wherever you travel here, keep in mind the fabulous tales its ancient inhabitants spun about their homeland— and that the storied landscapes that still exist here were as inspiring then as they are today.

History, Culture & More

Lemons: The culinary gold of Greece

from Harriet’s Corner

From city apartments to island homes, it’s a safe bet that all kitchens in Greece will always have at least one ingredient in common: the lemon. Abundant in these ancient isles, lemons have been used in Greek cooking since at least the first century, contributing to everything from savory sauces to sweet desserts. Two millennia later, the golden fruit remains prized not only by Yia Yias (grandmothers) cooking comfort food, but also by chefs capitalizing on the current embrace of healthy cuisine.

Avgolemono (Egg-lemon) Two Ways: Soup & Sauce

One of the most beloved Greek food pairings is the luscious blend of egg delicately flavored with lemon juice. Avgolemono is the name for both a soup and a sauce with similar ingredients. Both feature dairy and citrus emulsified into broth to yield a texture reminiscent of a cream sauce, but with a bright, tangy flavor. And they’re both simple to make: the soup, a meal in itself, requires just four ingredients besides salt and pepper, while the sauce requires only three, and makes a perfect accompaniment to chicken, fish, or rice.

Soup Ingredients:

8 cups chicken stock
1 cup orzo or rice
4 eggs, separated
Juice of 3 lemons
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauce Ingredients:

1 cup chicken stock
3 eggs, separated
Juice of 3 lemons
Salt & pepper to taste

Soup Preparation

  1. Bring broth to a boil.
  2. Add orzo or rice. Simmer 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. While the orzo simmers, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form.
  4. Maintaining a steady stream, whisk the egg yolks and the lemon juice into the whites, making a creamy sauce.
  5. When rice is cooked, ladle two cups of the broth into a measuring cup with a good spout for pouring. Slowly pour this broth into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs into solids.
  6. When all the broth has been added and thoroughly incorporated, pour the liquid back into the cooking pot, whisking to incorporate with the orzo and existing liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sauce Preparation

  1. Bring the cup of broth to a boil.
  2. While the broth heats, whisk the egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form.
  3. Maintaining a steady stream, whisk the egg yolks and the lemon juice into the whites, making a creamy sauce.
  4. Slowly pour the broth into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs into solids. If the sauce is not liquid enough for your liking, whisk in a tablespoon of warm water.
  5. When sauce is desired consistency, add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle over meat or rice.

Serves: 4-6

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When you travel with the “Leader in Small Ship Cruising Worldwide”—ranked among the top five small cruise ships in Condé Nast Traveler's 2014 Readers Poll, we guarantee you will always get the best combination of value and experience, at the best price.

2. Compare the trip to ours

We are so confident our prices can’t be beat that we invite you to see what other cruise lines have to offer.

We encourage you to compare our prices and value with the following companies:

  • Linblad Expeditions
  • Wilderness Travel
  • Zegrahm Expeditions
  • Road Scholar
  • Ponant
  • Voyage to Antiquity
  • Windstar Cruises

How do I know if I’ve found a “comparable” trip?

  • Does the trip travel along the same route, with the same or similar ports of call?
  • Is the departure date in the same month?
  • Does the trip include the same or similar number of days, if not overall per-day price?
  • Would you be traveling on a privately owned or exclusively chartered ship?

3: Call us at 1-800-221-2610 to see if you found a match

If you think you have a comparable trip, don’t delay. Call us today and get the best price on your vacation—guaranteed. Our Travel Counselors will be able to either give you a response on the spot or will get back to you within 24 business hours.

Tell your friends: They can also enjoy our best price, guaranteed, and you can all benefit with our Vacation Ambassador Referral Program.

See full Best Price Guarantee Terms & Conditions.