Explore the great historic sites of mainland Greece: Meteora, Delphi, Olympia, and Alexander the Great’s Capital: Pella

LAND TOUR: $3,495 Canadian. Begins and ends in Athens, Greece.
AIRFARE: approx. $1,450 Departing Vancouver, BC to Athens, Greece & returning from Athens to Vancouver

NOTE: You do NOT have to come to Vancouver to join the tour please contact us for a quote to depart other cities

Escorted by Norman & Julie Bruce

(updated Dec 20 2017)

ITINERARY:

Tues May 29th This morning we fly from North America overnight via Europe to Athens.

Wed May 30th Arrive Athens
This afternoon we arrive in Athens and transfer to our hotel in the heart of the city. First of 2 nights in Athens. Astor Hotel or similar. Dinner if arriving in time.

Thurs May 31st Athens

This morning we take the funicular railway to the top of Lycabettus Hill. Towering above the Athenian cityscape, Mount Lycabettus has an important presence in Greek mythology. The goddess Athena created the hill by accident when she dropped a limestone mountain. Mount Lycabettus was also said to be home to wolves – thus its name. We enjoy one of the best views overlooking the city, looking across to the Acropolis Hill and the Parthenon. There is a stunning amphitheatre at the summit, which still hosts musical performances and other events.
This afternoon we take a guided tour of the National Archaeological Museum, seeing the best of the 200,000+ treasures at this world-famous museum. Artefacts and treasures from across Greece are arranged in 5 collections ranging from the Neolithic and Mycenaean to the Roman and Hellenistic eras. This superb collection is housed in a vast neoclassical building which was openned in 1891. One of the main attractions is the treasure which was excavated by Schliemann from Graves A and B at Mycenae, including the solid-gold Mask of Agamemnon. Second of 2 nights in Athens. Astor Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Fri June 1stAthens – Corinth – Epidaurus – Nafplion

This morning we leave Athens by the coastal road to Corinth. On our way we pass Salamis Bay, which was the site of the naval battle of the allied Greek states led by General Themistocles against the Persian forces of the Xerxes I of Persia. The Corinth Canal links the Ionian and Aegean seas and was first proposed in the 7th Century BC by Periander but which wasn't finished until 1892. The canal took 13 years to construct, is 197 feet deep, 75 feet wide and 4 miles long. In ancient times, there was a stele here which was thought to have been erected by Theseus. On the side that faced the West it said "Here is Peloponnesus, not Ionia", and on the side facing the East it said "Here is not Peloponnesus, but Ionia". Today the Corinth Canal is a junction of international sea transport and serves ships coming from the western Mediterranean and Adriatic en-route to eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea ports. From the canal we drive on to the site of ancient Corinth, made famous by St. Paul the apostle and his letters to the Corinthians which are included in the New Testament. The ancient city-state of Corinth was located on the narrow strip of land connecting the Peloponnese Peninsula to mainland Greece, known as the Isthmus of Corinth. The site has a very long history, being inhabited for the first time in the Neolithic Period. In ancient times, the city grew wealthy due to this strategic location and its control of the transportation of ships between the Corinthian and the Saronic gulfs. It became one of the most important trading powers in ancient Greece, rivalling Athens and Thebes, and had an extensive network of colonies. As well as being in a strategic location, at the crossroads between East and West, it was also on fertile soil and by 400 BC it had a population of 90,000 people. The location of countless ancient myths, such as the myth of Sisyphus, it also held games similar to those at Olympia. After initially being destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, the town was rebuilt by Julius Caesar. Under the Roman Empire Corinth rose again to become one of the most important trading cities in Greece, alongside Athens and Sparta. Highlights of our city tour include the Temple of Octavia, named after the sister of Emperor Augustus, the Odeon and marble columns of the Temple of Apollo.
This afternoon we continue to the archaeological site of Epidaurus, which was revered in ancient Greece as a site of great healing power and is now the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Sanctuary of Asklepios. A highlight of Epidaurus is the amphitheatre – which was built in the 4th Century BC, could seat 12,000 spectators and was dedicated to the god of wine, Dionysus. With a panoramic view from the headland called "Nesi" at Palaia Epidaurus, the theatre is considered one of the best-preserved classical Greek buildings and is renowned for its superb acoustics. We drive on to one of the most romantic towns in Greece, the seaside town of Nafplion – which became the first capital city of Modern Greece in 1829. Overnight in Nafplion. Nafplia Palace Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Sat June 2nd Nafplion – Mycenae – Olympia

This morning we drive to the ancient citadel of Mycenae, which is 1,000 years older than the acropolis in Athens. This UNESCO World Heritage site first came to prominence when it was explored by Heinrich Schliemann, the renowned excavator of Troy. Mycenae, described by Homer in his epics as “Rich in Gold’ and the capital of King Agamemnon (leader of the Greeks against the Trojans), is the most important and richest palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. The city’s name has been given to one of the greatest civilizations of Greek prehistory, the Mycenaean Civilization. The museum houses a collection of artefacts which were discovered at the site including a copy of the Mask of Agamemnon, the original of which we saw in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. To obtain access to the Acropolis, which was the highest point of the city, we pass through the renowned Cyclopean walls. The original walls were up to 46 feet wide and 130 feet high. They were so large that legend has it that only a cyclops would have been big enough to have built them. We pass through the Lion Gate for an excellent view of Grave A, which is where the first kings of Mycenae were buried in 6 shaft graves containing 19 bodies and 31 pounds of gold. Grave B is located outside of the city walls. Inside the Citadel we see the ruins of the megaron, the Royal Palace (which still shows burn marks on the stones from when it was destroyed) and the Treasury of Atreus – a magnificent 14th-Century BC structure! Our last visit is to one of the 60 beehive tombs which are dotted around the area and contain the royal tombs(including those of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra) with their lengthy passageways to deter grave robbers. Overnight in Olympia. Best Western Europa Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Sun June 3rd Olympia – Delphi

Dedicated to Zeus, the father of the gods, Olympia spreads over the southwest slopes of Mount Kronios at the confluence of the Alpheios and Kladeos rivers in a lush, green landscape. Although isolated near the west coast of the Peloponnese, Olympia became the most important religious and athletic centre in all of Greece. The first Olympic Games took place in 776 BC and became the greatest national festival, held every 4 years to honor Zeus. We see the Palaestra training center (where the competitors used to exercise for a month prior to the Games), the Council House (where the athletes took the Olympic oath), the Gymnasium, the Philippeion (which was built by Alexander the Great's father, Phillip II), the remains of the Temple of Zeus and the fabled Treasury Houses. One of the most photographed sections of the site is the Temple of Hera, where the Olympic torch is still lit for the summer and winter Olympics today.

From the main site we walk through a tunnel to the ancient stadium. When Olympia was at its peak it was covered with a roof and with white limestone to keep the athletes cool while waiting for the next event. The main focus of the stadium is the 394-foot running track, which still has themarble starting blocks for the runners and the small stone seats which were assigned to the judges of the races.

The museum includes the helmet of Miltiades which was worn at the battle of Marathon, the Nike of Paionios and an excellent collection of classical statues. The main room contains 42 figures decorating the two pediments of the Temple of Zeus. The first pediment depicts the chariot race between Pelops and Oinomaos, while the second pediment depicts the abduction of the Lapith women by centaurs, and has Apollo as its central figure. The Temple of Zeus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and is believed to have contained a statue of Zeus which was 46 feet high, covered in gold and which took 20 years to carve.

We cross the plains of Iliad and Achaia to the north coast of the Peloponnese peninsula and cross back to mainland Greece, driving over the Rio-Antirio Bridge – the largest suspension bridge in the world. It took 5 years to construct and, due to its location, can withstand an earthquake of up to force 10 on the Richter Scale. When crossing the bridge, we can see in the distance the small town of Nafpaktos, where the sea battle of Lepanto was fought in 1571 between the Catholic states and the Ottoman Empire. We drive along the beautiful coast to Delphi, rich in mythology and the centre of the ancient Greek world as designated by Zeus. According to mythology, it was here that the two eagles sent out by Zeus from the ends of the universe to find the navel of the world (the "Omphalos") met. The prestige of the sanctuary extended far beyond the boundaries of the Hellenic World and its importance extended both long before the classic Greece period and also after it, when Roman emperors protected the site and continued to send delegations to seek the oracle's advice until the 3rd Century AD. Built on the slopes of Mount Parnassos, Delphi was the site of the most famous oracle of ancient Greece, the Temple of Apollo and for its Pythian Games – second in importance only to those at Olympia. First of 2 nights in Delphi. Ellinoin Thea Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Mon June 4th Delphi

Our tour begins with a visit to Delphi Museum, an impressive and considerable collection from as far back as the 15th Century BC including a frieze from the Treasury of the Sifnians depicting the battle between the gods and giants; the Naxian Sphinx (which dates from around 560 BC), thestatue of Antinoos and the ‘’Charioteer’’ (one of the finest bronze statues ever made anddedicated to Apollo by Polyzalos, the tyrant of Gela, in 478 BC when he won the chariot-race at the Pythian Games.)

After our visit to the museum, we continue to the main site. As we explore, admire the mountain views and learn how the site housed the oracle of Apollo, a priestess who dispensed cryptic predictions.The UNESCO world heritage site of Delphi consists of the 4th-Century BC Temple of Apollo, the Athenian Stoa, the Polygonal Wall, the monument of Platea, the monument of the Argive Kings, the Theatre (where plays were held every 4 years during the Pythian Festival andwhich could seat more than 5,000 spectators), the stadium (which is considered to be the best-preserved in Greece and where it is still possible to see the sprinters' stone starting blocks), the Castalian Spring and the Sacred Way, a street once lined with treasuries and statues. The Treasury House of the Athenians has been reconstructed to show visitors how the treasuries would have looked when Delphi was at its peak.

Today we include lunch together. The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy this spectacular place. You may choose to explore the village of Delphi and do some shopping or you might like to join us on a hike in the surrounding hills. Located half a mile from the main site of Delphi are the ruins of the Sanctuary of Athena, whose main temple has been partially reconstructed and which offers an excellent view over the main site of Delphi. Later this afternoon you have free time to wander in the village of Delphi and choose your own spot for dinner (at your own expense.)Second of 2 nights in Delphi. Ellinoin Thea Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Lunch.

Tues June 5th Delphi – Meteora

This morning we drive via the central Greece towns of Amphissa, Lamia and Trikala toKalambaka, a small traditional town that is built at the foot of the majestic grey Rocks of God in the shadows of another of Greece’s must-sees – the UNESCO-listed Meteora monasteries.Meaning ‘suspended in air’, the name Meteora soon came to encompass the entire community of 24 medieval monasteries – each perched on top of high rock towers or burrowed into cliffs. This isthe biggest and most important group of monasteries in Greece after those on holy Mount Athos.Built on a natural formation of sandstone rock pillars up to 1,312 feet high, the 6 remaining monasteries date from the 14th Century and form a remarkable and awe-inspiring combination of nature and spiritual significance. We visit 2 of the most outstanding monasteries and learn about their long history and how they provided refuge for monks in the bloody aftermath of the Roman Empire. In those days there were no steps and the main access to the monasteries was by means of a net that was hitched over a hook and hoisted up by rope with a hand-cranked windlass to winch towers overhanging the chasm. Monks descended in the nets or on retractable wooden ladders up to 40m long to the fertile valleys below to grow grapes, corn and potatoes. Each community developed its own resources. The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron is the largest and was restored and embellished in 1483 and 1552 with exquisite examples of Byzantine art. It now serves as the main museum for visitors. The Katholikon (main church) was consecrated in honour of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Overnight in Kalambaka. Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Wed June 6th Meteora – Macedonia From Kalambaka we drive north into historicalMacedonia. Our first stop is at Veria (Biblical Beroea) to visit the Church of the Apostle Paul and the marble ''Vima of Apostle Paul'', the place where the future Saint Paul preached to the people of one of his most beloved towns for many days. We then stroll through the old Jewish neighborhood. Northern Greece had a large Jewish population until the occupying Nazis transported most of them to Auschwitz and other death camps in 1942.

We continue to the nearby town of Vergina to see one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century, the royal tombs of Macedonia. One of them is the tomb of King Philip II, Alexander the Great's father.The museum here displays the golden crowns and other finds from the tomb. This special museum has been built underground around the in situ tomb of King Philip II. From the cemetery at Vergina we travel on to Lefkadia to see the excavations of the ancient Macedonian capital itself. This is where Alexander the Great grew up.

Further north we visit Naoussa, a site of exceptional beauty and importance. This was Aristotle's school, where the great philosopher taught the doctrines of morals and politics to Alexander and the Macedonian youths.

We then continue to Thessaloniki, the largest town in Northern Greece and the second largest city in all of Greece. First of 2 nights in Thessaloniki. Capsis Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Thurs June 7th Thessaloniki + Alexander’s capital This morning we take a tour of the city that throughout the era of the Byzantine Empire was the "co-reigning" city, second in population and prestige only to Constantinople. We visit some of the oldest churches in the Christian world as well as in the Museum of Byzantine Culture, awarded with the Council of Europe's Museum Prize for the year 2005. Today we include lunch together. The rest of the day is free to enjoy time in the lively centre of the city or you might like to join our (included) excursion to Pella, the capital that Alexander the Great created after he moved from his father’s capital at Vergina. Here we see the exquisite floor mosaics from the 4th Century BC in situ in the ruins of their villas, as well as in the museum. We return to Thessaloniki where you have free time to wander the old streets and choose your own spot for dinner (at your own expense.) Second of 2 nights in Thessaloniki. Capsis Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Lunch.

Fri June 8th Thessaloniki – Thermopoylae – Athens Travelling south along the Aegean coast, we visit the Archaeological Park of the sacred Macedonian town of Dion, situated at the foot of Mount Olympos, the highest mountain in Greece and the legendary home of the 12 Gods of Greek Mythology. Skirting round the holy mountain, we cross the mountain-ringed Thessalian Plain and the Valley of Tempe via the towns of Larissa and Lamia to Thermopoylae, stopping to see the monument and the recently-built Visitor’s Centre, which recreates the ancient battle where King Leonidas led the 300 Spartans against the vast Persian army in 480 BC. We drive across the fertile plain of Beotia, crossing the town of Thebes which was connected with the tragedy of King Oedipus. We arrive in Athens this evening. Overnight in Athens. Astor Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.

Sat June 9th Fly Athens - Home
Today we fly from Athens via Europe to North America, arriving the same afternoon.

TOUR INCLUDES:
Accommodation mainly in 4 Star hotels. All our hotels have en-suite bathrooms and air-conditioning/heating.
Breakfast & dinner (except Days 7 and 10) daily. We usually include dinner at local restaurants but sometimes we take dinner at our hotel, especially if we have had a long day of sightseeing.
Arrival & Departure Transfers in Athens if purchasing our Land & Air package and arriving and departing on the group dates.
Transport by coach.
Sightseeing and entrance fees as mentioned in the itinerary.
All tips for group activities.
Guiding by Royal Heights tour leaders Norman and Julie Bruce with the assistance of our expert Greek guide.

NOT INCLUDED:
Visas. Canadian passport holders do not currently require a visa for Greece. However, your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the date you leave Greece (i.e. until at least December 9th 2018.)
Lunches – except on Day 7 in Delphi and Day 10 in Thessaloniki.
Trip Cancellation / Interruption and Medical Insurance. We offer insurance coverage with Manulife insurance
Single Supplement charge, if requested ($670 Canadian)
Personal Expenses such as souvenirs, laundry, drinks not included at meals.

FLIGHTS: Please note that the cost of the airfare will be confirmed at the time of booking your flights. Land portion of the tour must be booked directly with Royal Heights Tours. Our group flights from Vancouver are normally with Air Canada via Toronto into Athens and returning from Athens via Montreal. You do NOT have to come to Vancouver to join this tour. Please call us for flights and fares from other cities. Please note that for this tour it is very easy to organise your own arrival & departure transfers from and to Athens Airport by taxi, so we do not include them in either the LAND ONLY package or our airfares. You can book the Land portion of the tour with us and make your own flight arrangements through your travel agent or using your Frequent Flyer points.

SINGLE TRAVELLERS:
If you wish to be guaranteed a single room, there is a Single Supplement charge of $670. Our price is based on 2 people sharing a room. Those people travelling alone but wishing to share will be informed 3 months prior to departure if a roommate is not currently available. At that point you will be invoiced for the Single Supplement ($670). If a roommate subsequently joins the tour, your single supplement will be refunded with the final documentation.

PAYMENT You can secure your place on the tour with a $400 per person non-refundable deposit. We take payment by cheque, Visa or Mastercard for the $400 /person deposit. The invoice for the Land tour will be sent at the end of February 2018. Payment will be due on March 29th 2018. Price quoted is for FINAL PAYMENT by cheque.

SPECIAL NOTES:
Our office staff are not medically qualified to advise you on which immunizations you require. Please consult your local travel health clinic.
Hotels in Greece do not have porters. Our guide, driver and tour leaders will help with the luggage but you must be able to wheel your own luggage yourself.

Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with Royal Heights Tours.

Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.