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The Leader in Small Ship and River Cruising Worldwide

Worldwide Discovery at Extraordinary Value Since 1958

2017 NEW The Aegean Islands, Athens & Ephesus by Small Ship

Sold out in 2017 , Join us in 2018

CRUISE COMFORTABLY IN SMALL GROUPS OF 25 ABOARD OUR PRIVATELY OWNED 50-PASSENGER M/V ATHENA

Greece: Athens, Arachova, Delphi, Kalambaka, Meteora, Piraeus • Greek Islands: Syros, Mykonos, Delos, Naxos, Santorini, Patmos • Turkey: Ephesus

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 of David Conover & Paul Villanova
Travelogue: Santorini & Delos, Greece 1954

See Greece in 1954 in this vintage 16mm film footage—from donkeys to hillside towns and ruins.

©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.

Courtesy of Epicurious
How to Make Greek Moussaka

Creamy and savory—moussaka is Greece’s most iconic comfort food. Learn to make this traditional dish.

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.

Sold out in 2017 , Join us in 2018
Extend Your Trip
 

NEW Itinerary for 2017
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Find the Adventure That’s Right for You

Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5

Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderate

Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5

Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

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 Adventure and discover the enduring treasures of antiquity, from the Temple of Apollo to 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 Aegean cruise with two nights in Athens, where centuries of history mingle with modern sensibilities for an atmosphere like no other.

Make It Your Adventure

Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.

  • O.A.T’s team of Adventure Specialists makes every effort to provide you with non-stop flights and acceptable connection times to and from your destination. You also have several other options for personalizing your air itinerary, which include:

    • Choose your departure city and airline: We list the most popular gateway cities on our website, but not all of them. If you don’t see yours listed, or there’s one that better suits your needs, let us know. You can also tell us if you have an airline preference and we will try to accommodation your request.
    • Depart from one city and return from another: Just because your flight leaves from one city doesn’t mean you have to return there. Maybe you flew out of Boston and wish to visit friends in Los Angeles after your trip is over. Tell us where you want to go and we’ll do our best to get you there.
    • Fly the way you want to: We’ll gladly arrange a flight upgrade to business or premium economy class if it’s available. And when you fly economy class, we’ll do our best to see that you get your choice of seating preference or even add a special meal request if you have dietary restrictions or needs.
  • You can extend your time abroad and "break away" anywhere you'd like to do more exploring on your own. Stay for a day, a week, or even a month in a favorite locale. Or consider arriving a few days early in Athens for a fresh start. Our Travel Counselors can provide you with information on the accommodations we will use at the beginning of your trip so that you can make your own arrangements. That way, you'll know that you will be exactly where you need to be to meet your group.

  • Many of our travelers choose to take another trip directly after their first one ends. Think about it: If you’re already overseas, why not see more of the region and avoid the expense and length of another international flight? Many of our travelers have taken two or three consecutive trips before returning home. Two of the most common Small Ship Adventures combined with The Aegean Islands, Athens & Ephesus by Small Ship are Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece and Undiscovered Adriatic: Eastern Italy, Venice, Puglia & Malta. And now you’ll save an additional $250-$350 per person when you reserve two trips right after one another.

  • Many Grand Circle travelers simply don’t want their trips to end. With an array of pre- and post-trip extensions to choose from, you have the chance to experience more of the places you’ve traveled so far to see, including Ancient Glories: Olympia, Nafplion & Athens and Cappadocia, Turkey. Plus, you lower your average per-day costs because you’re taking advantage of your already included international airfare.

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
Athens Athens Expand All
  • Fly from the U.S. to Athens, Greece.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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, begin your return transfer to Athens, where you will embark your small ship. You will have time for lunch on your own before you arrive.

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

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    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 have the afternoon free to explre this vacation spot popular with the international jet set.

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

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    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.

    While enjoying lunch onboard, your ship continues on to Kusadasi, Turkey. The afternoon is yours to relax or mingle with your fellow travelers before dinner. Your ship arrives in Kusadasi late tonight.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    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.

    Return to your ship early this afternoon to depart for the island of Patmos. Dinner will be onboard tonight.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    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 enjoying lunch onboard, the afternoon is yours to explore more of Patmos independently. Return to your ship this evening for dinner, then relax as your ship sails on to 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 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 as you cruise on to Naxos.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Early this morning, ride across Naxos to the village of Kourounochari, 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, where you’ll have the chance to savor an authentic island meal when you join a local family for a Home-Hosted Lunch. Your afternoon is free to relax or to explore Naxos further on your own.

    Afterward, return to your ship and toast to your discoveries during your Capitan’s Farewell Cocktail reception, followed by a Farewell Dinner. Late this evening, begin the overnight cruise to Athens.

  • Disembark your ship this morning for a full day of discoveries in Greece’s capital, beginning with a visit to one of its most defining sites—the ancient Acropolis. Located atop a rocky outcrop, many of the Acropolis’ most important buildings—including the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike—were built in the 5th century BC, likely as shrines to Athens’ patron goddess. With their Doric columns and distinct decorative flourishes, these enduring structures are today considered among the most important examples of Classical Greece.

    Following your tour here, descend from the hill atop which the Acropolis sits to explore the Plaka district. Nestled in shadow of the mighty citadel, Plaka is Athens’ oldest neighborhood, and is filled with welcoming cafes, flower-lined patios, and shops specializing in hand-painted icons, jewelry, and antiques. Your stroll through Plaka concludes at Monastiraki Square, where you’ll enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant.

    The remainder of the afternoon is yours to explore Athens independently, perhaps shopping in the large market in Monastiraki Square, or visiting one of Plaka’s many museums. Dinner is on your own tonight.

  • After breakfast, the day is yours to do as you please. You may choose to visit the National Archaeological Museum, considered one of the greatest and most important museums in the world. Founded by Greece’s prime minister in 1829, the museum houses artifacts from archeological sites around the country, including sculptures, frescoes, and Mycenean and Cycladic art.

    Or, you might explore the Benaki Museum. Located in a formerly private mansion in downtown Athens, the Benaki museum is home to an extensive collection of Greek art from prehistorical times to the modern age. A stroll through its corridors is like a panoramic tour of the evolution of Greek civilization.

    Your Program Director will be happy to offer other suggestions, and can also recommend the best restaurants and cafes to enjoy an authentic Greek lunch. This evening, celebrate your discoveries during 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 Cappadocia, Turkey.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Cappadocia, Turkey

    4 nights from only $1195

    Delve into Turkey's ancient civilizations as you immerse yourself in otherworldly Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site honeycombed with rock-cut settlements and colorful stone valleys. Witness centuries-old cave churches in Goreme, explore subterranean cities in Kaymakli, witness fairy chimneys from Pasbang to Zelve, and so much more. 

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on NEW The Aegean Islands, Athens & Ephesus by Small Ship

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