With its rugged beauty, Greece has long been a crossroads of history and a battleground of warring cultures. Its early history is utterly fascinating, from the internal struggles between the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations to the rise of city-states three millennia ago.
Under the leadership of Alexander the Great, these fragmented states united. Subsequently, they were designated a province by the Romans, flourished as a beacon of the Eastern Orthodox Christian world with the Byzantines, and became an integral part of the Ottoman Empire for four centuries.
Join Far Horizons on an immersive 16-day educational trip across Greece, exploring northern Greece and the Peloponnese Peninsula. Dive deep into both renowned and hidden archaeological treasures. Begin in the historic Thessaloniki, a city echoing over 2,000 years of civilization. Witness the ancient remnants of Philippi, founded in the 3rd century BC, and Aigai, famed for its mesmerizing Macedonian royal tombs.
Marvel at the grandeur of Byzantine monasteries in Meteora and Mystras. Traverse through the iconic cities of Olympia, Delphi, and Messini, the latter being notable for its expansive fortification wall established in 369 BC. Visit the awe-inspiring Sanctuary of Epidaurus, Corinth, Mycenae, and Tyrns.
Conclude your Greece cultural tour with two enriching days in Athens. Throughout this adventure, indulge in delectable regional dishes, unwind in quaint boutique hotels, savor exquisite wines, and experience the warm hospitality of the Greek locals.
If you choose, you may join us to continue the journey and explore the island of Crete.
Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands, is know for its beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, historic villages and ancient ruins. From approximately 2800 BC to 1000 BC, Crete was the center of a brilliant civilization of mythical origin. According to Homer, Zeus was born here and his son, Minos, is credited as the great king of the Minoans. Vestiges from the past societies that have inhabited this island – the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottoman – are abundant. As a result of its varied past, Crete’s modern culture is a tapestry of traditions found no where else in the world.
Far Horizons proudly presents a 5-day exploration of this fabled island with many highlights, including a visit to Knossos, a UNESCO World Heritage site, breathtaking Lasithi Plain, famous for its white-sailed windmills, and several opportunities to experience the unique customs that live on through Crete’s people and cuisine.
Continue reading to learn more about this Far Horizons adventure. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Depart on a flight bound for Thessaloniki, Greece.
Arrive Thessaloniki, a vibrant metropolis that has existed for more than 2,000 years. In the afternoon, take a short walk along the seacoast of the city. Constructed in the 16th century by the Ottomans the White Tower was once part of the town’s fortifications and is the only section of the seaward section remaining. The intrepid may climb to the top for a splendid view of the city’s waterfront. A further stroll along the esplanade takes us to the Museum of Byzantine Culture, with collections of sculpture, frescoes, mosaics, and other artifacts from the Byzantine period.
Gather this evening for our welcome dinner. Overnight for four nights in the 5-star Daois Luxury Living Hotel in the heart of Thessaloniki. Gather this evening for our gala welcome dinner. (D)
East of Thessaloniki are the ruins of ancient Philippi, originally established in the 4th century BC and named by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Strategically located between the mountains and the sea, in antiquity this UNESCO World Heritage city controlled the trade route linking Europe and Asia. In 42 BC, this is where the pivotal battle occurred in which Mark Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius, the principal assassins of Julius Caesar. Much of the Hellenistic walls are still visible, along with the 4th century BC theatre built by Phillip II.
We will spend the day walking through the extensive remains including the Roman Forum and basilicas built in the Byzantine era. After our tour, we will stop by a vineyard to taste wines of the region before our return to Thessaloniki with dinner on our own. (B/L)
During the Byzantine Era Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the empire after Constantinople. We will spend the day viewing the sights. The defensive walls have towered over the city for almost 2,000 years. We will walk parts of the bastions and see Eptapyrgio Castle. Within the battlements are several structures that UNESCO has designated the Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika World Heritage Sites. Constructed in the 14th century, the Church of the Holy Apostles was part of a large monastery complex. The sanctuary’s interior is richly adorned with exquisite mosaics and frescoes.
Located around the city’s acropolis, the Upper Town, known as Ano Poli, is the historic area of Thessaloniki and the only part of the city that survived the fire of 1917. Today it is a delightful labyrinth of cobblestoned streets, traditional wooden houses, Ottoman fountains, and Byzantine sanctuaries. The 14th-century Church of Aghios Nikolaos Orphanos and the Church of Ossios David are two of the fifteen monuments that are included in the city’s UNESCO World Heritage List. (B/L/D)
Begin this morning in the Roman heart of the city – the Galerian Palace, the construction of which began in the late 3rd century AD when Caesar Galerius Valerianus Maximianus selected Thessaloniki to be the seat of the eastern part of the Roman Empire. The complex comprises the remains of several 4th century structures. The Rotunda, now Saint George’s Church, displays domed architecture similar to the Pantheon in Rome with dazzling mosaics decorating the interior. The Arch of Galerius, originally the ancient town’s main entrance gate, features elaborate reliefs that celebrate Ceasar Galerius’ victorious campaign against the Sassanid Persians in 298 A.D. North of the Roman Agora lies the town’s main religious sanctuary, the 7th century Church of Ayios Dimítrios, built in honor of the town’s patron saint, the martyred Roman Soldier Dimitrios.
In the afternoon, we will enter The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, one of Greece’s largest museums. Here, artifacts on display span the centuries from prehistory to late antiquity with special collections from all over ancient Macedonia. (B/L)
An early departure takes us to Aigai, next to the town of Vergina, the first capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia best known today for the discovery of its royal tombs, some dating back to the 4th century BC.
The wealth of imperial burials unearthed in the necropolis attest to the city’s prosperity. Certainly the most important crypt is the one said to belong to Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. Built on a hill overlooking the city lies the Palace of Aigai, opened to the public in 2018. Gorgeous mosaic floors and painted stuccoes on the walls display the affluence of the Macedonian kingdom.
After spending the day onsite, we will drive to Kalambaka, a town in the Meteora region, and overnight for one night in the Kastraki Hotel. (B/D)
Meteora, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, consists of a group of monasteries dramatically perched above the plain on rocky stone pillars created by a huge river that flowed through the region millions of years ago. Six of the monasteries are still in operation, and the 14th century Great Meteoron is the most significant.
Dedicated to the Transfiguration and founded by a scholar monk from Mount Athos, it is the highest, largest and oldest of the six. The main cathedral is embellished with lovely 16th century frescoes. The second largest is the Monastery of Varlaam. According to ancient tales, it took more than twenty years to winch the building materials to the top of the rock. Move on to Delphi. Drive to Delphi and overnight in the Amalia Hotel for two nights. (B/L/D)
We will spend today in Delphi, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This was the home of Apollo for more than 1,000 years and in antiquity people came here to consult the oracle of the god.
Begin in the Sanctuary of Athena, containing the remains of several buildings including the enigmatic Tholos, a 4th century BC rotunda. The stunning New Temple of Athena was constructed about 360BC.
Walk to the Castalian Spring, where pilgrims who entered Delphi were required to purify themselves. Water from these springs provided the cold baths in the Gymnasium for athletes who were in training.
Enter the Sacred Way through the agora and pass the Bouleuterion, or Delphic Council House, and the Rock of Sibyl marking the place where the first seer of Delphi pronounced her oracles. In the heart of the inner sanctum lies the splendid Sanctuary of Apollo and one of the finest theaters of the ancient Greek world.
Finally, enter the Delphi Museum, which houses a collection second in importance only to the Athenian Acropolis Museum.
In the late afternoon, drive to Olympia and overnight for two nights at the Olympion Asty Hotel. (B/L/D)
Today we visit the UNESCO World Heritage city of Olympia, esteemed for over a thousand years as a religious and athletic center. The city was famous for the Olympic Games that were born here and held every four years at the late-summer full moon and were the most prestigious of all Hellenic competitions.
Here, if onsite, join chief archaeologist, Dr. Reinhard Senff, for a tour of excavations. The massive column bases and tumbled sections are proof of the former magnificence of the Temple of Zeus. Walk through the colonnade surrounding the central court at the Palaestra, the workshop of Phidias, the archaic Hera Temple, and the still-standing vaulted entrance to the stadium.
In the site museum, view the plethora of artifacts found during excavations including the relief pediments recovered from the Zeus temple. Dinner tonight is on our own. (B/L)
Depart Olympia and drive to Messini, ancient Messene, an impressive archaeological site that is on the UNESCO Tentative List. The city was founded in 369 BC by the great Theban general Epaminondas who defeated the Spartan military power and liberated the Messenia region. The fortification wall, almost five miles in length, is dotted with towers and gates, and is one of the most extraordinary achievements of ancient military architecture.
Enclosed within these ramparts are the remains of public and religious buildings laid out in a pattern according to the design of Hippodamus of Miletus, a legendary Greek architect long acknowledged as the inventor of formal city planning. As we enter through the almost complete Arcadian Gate, we will see the ancient theater of Messini, the agora, the Sanctuary of Asclepius and the stadium. In the afternoon, move on to Sparti and overnight for one night in the Hotel Menalaion. (B/L/D)
Mystras, where the last Byzantine emperor was crowned, is a finely preserved medieval city that breathtakingly sprawls down the steep slopes of the Taygetus Mountains. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is truly spectacular! Crowning the top is a magnificent fortress built after the disastrous Fourth Crusade. As we proceed down a series of stairways, we will encounter several medieval structures. Dominating the upper town is the Palace of the Despots.
Nearby Agia Sofia was the palace church and where the wives of several emperors were entombed. Just below the palace, the Metropolitan Church of St. Demetrius displays exquisite paintings along with a marble engraving of the crowned two-headed eagle of the coat of arms of the final emperors.
Move into the lower town by passing through the Monemvasia Gate to visit Pantanassa Convent, still inhabited by a group of nuns and the only still-occupied building in the city. Enter the ornate stone-carved façade to find vibrant paintings inside. Continuing downhill, we reach Perivleptos Monastery, where very rare late Byzantine frescoes depicting colorful Gospel scenes adorn the interior.
After lunch, continue to the Archaeological Museum of Tegea, a small, award-winning gem. Drive on to the lovely seaside town of Naufplio, lying in the shadow of a huge Venetian citadel, and overnight for two nights in Hotel Liberty. (B/L/D)
Today we travel to Mycenae, another UNESCO World Heritage site. The extensive complex, uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann, is one of the earliest examples of sophisticated citadel architecture. Enclosed by fortification walls up to 46 feet wide, the city contained royal palaces and rich tombs.
Here we meet with the archaeological director who will give us a private tour. He will lead us through the glorious Lion Gate, erected in the 13th century BC, to reach the royal family’s shaft graves where 31 pounds of gold funerary goods were found, and then to the tholoi, or beehive tombs, outside the city walls. We will have the opportunity to learn more about the excavations when we join the archaeological staff of the Mycenae Center for lunch.
In the afternoon, continue to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tiryns, a 13th century BC citadel protected by cyclopean walls. Dinner is on our own to search for one of Nafplion’s charming tavernas. (B/L)
The Sanctuary of Epidaurus, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was an extensive therapeutic and religious center dedicated to Asclepius. After seeing the sanctuary, drive to Nemea, regarded as a great winemaking region since the time of the ancient Greeks. Here we will enjoy lunch in one of the country’s top wineries with a sampling of the estate’s wines.
Then move on to Corinth to visit the Temple of Octavia where three ornate Corinthian columns still stand on a platform, the Glauke Fountain and its four cisterns carved from a huge monolith, the theater, and the Temple of Apollo, the most striking structure of the lower city.
As we head for Athens, pass through the four-mile-wide isthmus with a stop to see the Corinth Canal, first begun by Emperor Nero, and the reason for the ancient city’s prosperity. In Athens, overnight for three nights in the charming Hotel Electra. Dinner is on our own this evening. (B/L)
Athens has been a city for more than 3,500 years and much of the glory of ancient Greece is found in the many monuments that still survive. Begin the day in the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This great hill dominates the city of Athens and has been occupied since the Neolithic period, and in Mycenaean times there was already a palace and fortified citadel here.
In the mid-5th century BC, the Athenians began the construction of several extraordinary buildings that still stand today. Walk through the Propylaia, the enormous entrance to the Acropolis, and pass the Temple of Athena Nike, built to commemorate the Athenians’ victories over the Persians. View the Erechtheion, situated on the most sacred part of the Acropolis, said to be where Poseidon left his trident marks in a rock and Athena’s olive tree sprouted. See the Porch of the Caryatids on the south side of the Erechtheion with carved statues of women used in place of columns. The immense and lovely Parthenon was originally built to house the 40-foot high sculpture of the goddess, Athena Parthenos. The splendor of its frieze and perfection of its architectural techniques makes it immensely impressive even after 2,500 years. Spend time in the Acropolis Museum, which contains the works of art found onsite.
In the afternoon, drive to Cape Sounion to watch the sunset over the ancient temple of Poseidon and for our final dinner together. (B/L/D)
Spend the morning in the National Archaeological Museum, the largest museum in Greece, housing the greatest collection of Greek antiquities in the world. In the afternoon, examine the remains of the ancient city. The Arch of Hadrian was erected by the 2nd-century Roman Emperor. From 600 BC, the Agora formed the political heart of ancient Athens. Nearby, view the Tower of the Winds, an octagonal structure originally built as a water clock and weathervane by an astronomer in the 1st century BC. Move forward in Athenian history and pay a visit to the 12th century Little Metropolis church, or Panayia Gorgoepikoos (“Virgin Who Answers Prayers Quickly”). Dinner tonight is on our own. (B/L)
Transfer to the airport for our return flights home (B) ….or continue on the optional extension to Crete (B/ / D).
This morning we depart Athens on a flight to Heraklion, Crete’s largest city. Throughout the ages, this city has been under the control of the Romans, Arabs, Venetians, and Turks, and each has left behind spectacular cultural remains.
On our driving tour, we will see the Venetian Arsenal, found at the end of the colorful old port, along with the 16th century fortress still bearing the Lion of St. Mark and the city walls, which are three miles long. Reinforced by seven large bastions, these bulwarks were designed by the same man who built the fortifications of Padua and Verona.
After arriving to the Olive Hotel, our home for the next four nights, the afternoon and lunch are on our own to relax before a festive welcome dinner. (B/ /D)
We begin today at the outstanding Iráklio Archaeological Museum where we will view a magnificent array of prehistoric artefacts, extraordinary finds from Knossos and other nearby Minoan cities, and impressive art from the Greek and Roman ages.
Then it’s on to Knossos, where a maze of corridors, passages, hundreds of rooms and stairways make up the Palace of Knossos, the ceremonial and political center of the Minoan civilization. Although there is controversy concerning the reconstruction done one hundred years ago, the complex illustrates the richness and complexity of the former civilization. Stunning painted frescoes covered the walls, light wells allowed air circulation, and the royal apartments that were adorned with paintings and private bathrooms. Parts of the Royal Road, the paved thoroughfare from the harbor to the palace, are still visible.
Return to the hotel with dinner on our own to sample the local cuisine. (B/L)
On our journey west this morning we stop in the village of Margarites, a pottery center with stunning Venetian architecture. Next, we visit the Rethymno Museum, which and contains a notable collection of ancient artifacts.
After lunch nearby, we drive inland to Eleutherna, one of Crete’s oldest and most important ancient cities set in the beautiful Amari Valley. Here the recently-opened archaeological museum displays artefacts – from ongoing excavations – to demonstrate the considerable wealth that existed here in the Early Iron Age, including burial objects from tombs of warriors and priestesses.
In the late afternoon we return to Heraklion with dinner on our own. (B/L)
Today we travel along twisting mountain roads to the Hellenistic city of Lato, where traces of an ancient town lie scattered over the slopes with an awesome view down the mountainside to the sea beyond. The setting is extraordinary, in a saddle of land between two mountains each crowned by an acropolis, with the agora in the open space between.
Continue to Krista, one of the oldest and most picturesque villages in Crete, built amphitheatrically on a rock hill, named Kastellos, surrounded by olive groves.
Before returning to Heraklion in the late afternoon, we will stop at a local Olive Oil Cooperative, to sample one of the top extra virgin olive oils in the world! Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
This morning we travel west to Chania, built on the ruins of ancient Kydonia, which according to mythology was founded by king Kydon and was one of the most important cities of Crete. The city is a mix of Eastern and Western aesthetics influenced by Venetian and Turkish architecture. We will tour the narrow, charming streets of the old city, enter Etz Hayyim Synagogue, the only surviving remnant of the Crete’s Romaniote Jewish community, and visit the impressive Archaeological Museum on the outskirts of the city.
After lunch on our own, we will visit that which no tour of Crete would be complete without, a local winery, for a specially-arranged tasting.
Our final night and dinner will be at the SanSal Boutique Hotel, with stunning views overlooking the Cretan Sea. (B/ /D)
Travel to the airport this morning for a short flight to Athens in time to connect to our return flights to the USA. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.