The Archaeology of Greece
Tour northern Greece and the Peloponnese and see the remains of Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman civilizations.
with Professor Thomas F.X. Noble
June 2 – 17, 2024
Why Take This Tour?
- Led by The Great Courses lecturer, Professor Thomas F.X. Noble
- Ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Private tour of Olympia by the director of excavations
- Private tour of Mycenae by the Assistant Director of the project and President of the Mycenaean Foundation
- Lunch with the archaeological staff of Mycenae in the new Mycenaean Center
- Wine tasting at renowned vineyards
- See the royal tombs of Aigai (Vergina)
Day 1: Depart USA
Day 2: Arrive Thessaloniki. Afternoon walking tour
Day 3: Philippi
Day 4: Thessaloniki
Day 5: Thessaloniki
Day 6: Aigai (Vergina)
Day 7: Meteora
Day 8: Delphi
Day 9: Olympia
Day 10: Messini
Day 11: Mystras
Day 12: Mycenae, Tiryns
Day 13: Sanctuary of Epidaurus, Corinth
Day 14: Athens
Day 15: Athens
Day 16: Return to USA
A land of rugged beauty, Greece has been a geographic crossroads and turbulent battleground for millennia. Early Greek history portrays a multitude of internal struggles, from the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures to the city-states that began to emerge three thousand years ago. The scattered states were consolidated under Alexander the Great, designated a province under the Romans, became a powerful part of the Eastern Orthodox Christian world under the Byzantines, and was part of the Ottoman Empire for four hundred years.
Join Professor Thomas F.X. Noble on a very special 16-day journey through northern Greece and the Peloponnese Peninsula viewing both celebrated and more remote archaeological remains. Begin in Thessaloniki, a city with more than 2,000 years of history. View the ancient remains at Philippi, established in the 3rd century BC, and Aigai, known today for its stunning Macedonian royal tombs. Gaze upon the magnificent Byzantine monasteries in Meteora and Mystras. Walk through the great cities of Olympia, Delphi, and Messini, founded in 369 BC and enclosed by a five-mile long fortification wall. See the Sanctuary of Epidaurus, Corinth, Mycenae, and Tyrns, and finally spend two full days exploring Athens. And along the way, dine delicious regional cuisine, stay in charming boutique hotels, partake of exceptional wines, and enjoy the hospitality of the Greek people.
Thomas F. X. Noble received his MA in History and Latin and his PhD in Medieval History from Michigan State University. He is presently Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. A popular speaker for The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company), Professor Noble is a lecturer on ten different series including the 48 lecture course, The Foundations of Western Civilization. Dr. Noble is the author, coauthor, or editor of 10 books and has published more than 40 articles, chapters, and essays including From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, and his coauthored textbook, Western Civilization: The Continuing Experiment, which is in its 5th edition. Professor Noble has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and research grants from the American Philosophical Society. He has been the invited speaker at many national and international conferences including in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Scotland. Dr. Noble was the recipient of the Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Award for Excellence in Teaching from Notre Dame, and was awarded the Alumni Distinguished Professor Award and a David Harrison III Award for outstanding undergraduate advising, both from the University of Virginia.
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: 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 Mediterranean Palace Hotel in the heart of Thessaloniki. Gather this evening for our gala welcome dinner. (D)
Day 3: 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)
Day 4: 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)
Day 5: 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)
Day 6: 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 Grand Meteora Hotel. (B/D)
Day 7: 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 Kastalia Boutique Hotel for two nights. (B/L/D)
Day 8: 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. (B/L)
Day 9: Drive to 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. Overnight in the Olympion Asty Hotel. Dinner tonight is on our own. (B/L)
Day 10: 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)
Day 11: 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 Grand Sarai Nafplion Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 12: 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)
Day 13: 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 Elia Ermou, with views over the Acropolis. Dinner is on our own this evening. (B/L)
Day 14: 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)
Day 15: 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)
Day 16: Return to the USA.
CALL (per person, double occupancy) includes all hotels; most meals (as noted in brochure); land transportation; entry fees; and gratuities to guides and drivers. Price is based upon the exchange rate for the Euro not going over 1.10 to the US dollar. If the value of the Euro increases, the price of the trip may go up.
Single Supplement: CALL. If a roommate be requested and one is not available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost does not include: International flights from the USA to Thessanoliki and return from Athens to the USA; meals other than those listed in the itinerary; food, alcoholic and other beverages not on set menus; a separate donation check of $150.00 per person to a designated donation project; passport and visa fees; airport fees and taxes; excess baggage charges; email, telephone, and fax charges; necessary vaccines or tests; laundry or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: 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 projects and museums 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 write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. We will be designating a donation project for this trip shortly. Note that the donation is required, due 120 days before departure, and is non-refundable.
A deposit of $750 per person is required along with a separate check made out to the donation project, as well as your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure (January 20, 2021). Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent your initial trip documents, which contain pre-trip travel information. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450 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. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
International flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If you do not arrive or depart on the scheduled days, you are responsible for all transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. 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.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
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 may not be onsite when our groups arrive due to unforeseen circumstances.
Note about Travel in Greece
Although this tour is not considered difficult, the group will be walking into and around sites extensively, as much as two miles or more each day, including walks over steep gradients and over poorly maintained paths. Please remember that most castles and some monasteries are on mountains and to reach them means climbing stairs. Churches and monasteries run on their own schedule and those listed on the itinerary may not be open when we visit. The adventurous nature of the itinerary makes it essential that participants be in good physical condition. As a courtesy to your fellow travelers, participants, unassisted, must be able to keep up with group members. If you are not physically strong, are walking with a cane, or have problems with climbing, please be aware that there will be no one to assist you. Team spirit and a good sense of humor are vital! By maintaining a flexible attitude, you will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the cordiality of the Greek people, and the fascinating sites. If you have questions about your ability to handle this sort of challenge, please call us.
We have chosen hotels that are charming and characteristic. However, at times they may be simple and are not five-star. Please keep in mind that Greece is a European country and hotel rooms tend to be smaller than ones in the USA. If you would like to be upgraded to a larger room or suite at an additional cost, please contact the Far Horizons office.
This Archaeological Tour to Greece is limited to 14 participants