Greek Isles: Cyclades, Crete, Santorini, and Aegina
Greek Island Tour: The isles of the Aegean, where a wealth of archaeological sites are set in stunning locations.
with Dr. Judith M. Barringer
May 5 – 18, 2019
Why Take This Tour?
- Private tour of Despotiko by the director of excavations
- Visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delos
- Walk through the recently-reopened Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri
- Cruise to the island of Aegina and visit the breathtaking Aphaia Temple
- Maximum 14 participants
(click to enlarge)
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive Athens. Ferry to Mykonos.
Day 3: Ferry to Delos. Tour Delos. Return to Mykonos.
Day 4: Ferry to Paros. Tour Paros.
Day 5: Private tour of Despotiko with the site director.
Day 6: Ferry to Naxos. Tour Naxos.
Day 7: Tour Naxos.
Day 8: Ferry to Santorini. Tour Santorini.
Day 9: Tour Santorini.
Day 10: Tour Santorini. Ferry to Crete.
Day 11: Tour Crete.
Day 12: Tour Crete. Fly to Athens.
Day 13: Ferry to Aegina. Tour Aegina. Return to Athens.
Day 14: Fly back to the USA.
The islands of the Aegean offer travelers a unique perspective of Greece, ancient and modern. A wealth of archaeological sites set in stunning locations reveal the myth and history specific to each island. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delos was one of the most imposing sites in the Greek world, celebrated as the birthplace of the twin gods Artemis and Apollo. Revealed in the splendid frescos and stunning architectural details, Knossos flourished as the administrative and ceremonial center of Crete in the Minoan and Mycenaean periods, remembered as the capital of King Minos and the labyrinth of the Minotaur. The stunningly preserved remains at Akrotiri on Santorini give a glimpse of a sophisticated Bronze Age community, thriving on the interaction of trade and exchange.
Traveling by ferry across the sparkling indigo Aegean Sea from island to island, visit the Cyclad isles of Delos, Paros and Naxos, along with Santorini, Crete, and Aegina, with its splendid Aphaia Temple. View the varied remains of thousands of years of continuous occupation while learning about the mythology of the ancient gods and heroes. But more than history awaits! Wander cobblestone village streets lined with gleaming whitewashed houses, pause for drinks in traditional tavernas, spend nights in small boutique hotels, and immerse yourself in the pastoral life that inspired the legends that have been passed down for millennia.
Judith M. Barringer received her BA from George Washington University, her MA in Classics from Yale and her PhD in Classical Archaeology from the same university. she is a specialist on Greek art and archaeology, and Greek myth and religion. Dr. Barringer is a Professor of Classics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. A prolific writer, she is the author of many articles and books, including The Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece, Art, Myth, and Ritual in Classical Greece, and The Hunt in Ancient Greece. She has been the organizer of conferences in Scotland, Greece, Berlin, and New Haven, and has been a speaker at seminars throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA. Dr. Barringer has received numerous fellowships and grants, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and a British Academy Larger Research Grant. She has been featured on television in the BBC series, Divine Women, part 2, and the History Channel, Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Professor Barringer has lived and worked in Greece, including Olympia, and speaks Greek.
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive in Athens and board a ferry to Mykonos. Enjoy a welcome dinner together. Overnight for two nights on Mykonos in the lovely boutique Despotiko Hotel, located a few steps from the chorá, or town center. (D)
Day 3: A short early morning ferryboat ride takes us to Delos, an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most impressive sites in the Greek world. Delos occupies a central place in Greek religion and politics. According to myth, this wandering island became fixed at the center of the Cyclades upon becoming the birthplace of Apollo and the center of his cult. Indeed it was the destination of religious pilgrimage for Ionian Greeks, and a Pan-Hellenic sanctuary for some thousand years. It also served as the treasury of the Delian League at the beginning of the great Peloponnesian War. The rich remains here attest to its cosmopolitan role in the ancient world. Return to Mykonos with lunch on our own and time for a refreshing dip in the hotel swimming pool. In the afternoon, visit the Archaeological Museum which houses marble sculptures, ceramics and jewelry from the nearby islands. (B/D)
Day 4: Travel the short distance to Paros by ferry. This island became a wealthy center of art and architecture in the Archaic and Classical Greek periods due to the island’s abundant marble, famous throughout the Mediterranean for its superior quality. Visit the Archaeological Museum, housing an unparalleled collection of marble sculpture, beginning with the exquisite Cycladic figurines of the Early Bronze Age. One of the most important objects here is the Parian Marble, the earliest Greek chronological chart. The stone records pivotal moments in mythic and literary history such as the Flood of Deucalion, the invention of agriculture by Demeter, and the poetic feats of Homer, Sappho, and Aeschylus. After lunch, stroll through Parikia, the port of Paros, dominated by an iconic windmill. Explore the ancient sites of the town and their reuse in spectacular Venetian, Ottoman and modern buildings. Conclude the afternoon at Panagia Ekatontapiliani, the church of one hundred doors. This historic Byzantine church complex is said to have been built by the mother of Constantine the Great. Dine on traditional food this evening in one of the town’s best tavernas. Overnight for two nights at the charming Argonauta Hotel in the center of Paros (B/L/D)
Day 5: Our small boat heads out to the tiny nearby island of Despotiko, currently only populated by a goat-herder and cheese-maker. Here, recent excavations have revealed a Sanctuary of Apollo and Artemis. Finds include life-size sculptures from Paros and small objects from as far away as North Africa. Meet the local archaeologist who discovered the site and enjoy a private tour and discussion of the ongoing excavations. After lunch, return to Paros where we visit the Sanctuary of Apollo Delios, the source of the island’s famous marble. This evening is free to wander the quaint and bustling streets of the old town in search of the perfect dining spot. (B/L)
Day 6: Leave Paros and cruise for an hour to the most fertile island of the Cyclades, Naxos, with its well-preserved remains from the Bronze Age to the Venetian era. Ancient sagas tell the story that Naxos is where Theseus abandoned Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos of Crete, after she helped him slay the Minotaur on that island, and where the good Dionysus subsequently fell in love with the deserted princess. Those sailing into the harbor today are greeted by the Portara, the massive entrance to an unfinished Temple of Apollo. This monument was meant to signal the wealth and prestige of its builder, Lygdamis, the famous tyrant of the island in the 6th century BC. This afternoon, explore the layers of history at the heart of the modern village, where the remains of the ancient settlement are crowned by the kastro’, the fortified castle from where the 13th century Venetian Duchy ruled the Cyclades, now home to the Archaeological Museum. Dinner is in a taverna tucked away among the picturesque winding streets of the old town. In the evening, the area comes to life with local merchants, artists, and musicians. Overnight for two nights at the delightful Princess Hotel on Naxos. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Today we explore the island. Our first stop is the Sanctuary of Dionysus and Demeter. Remains of Dionysus’ cult are not surprising given his association with the myths of the island. This impressive 6th century construction is made entirely of marble and considered to be an architectural forerunner of the Parthenon. Stop to see Panagia Drosiani dating back to the 6th century and one of the oldest and most revered churches in Greece. Inside is a series of chapels decorated with murals and within the original church dome can be seen 7th century frescoes. Continue through the scenic mountains of the island’s interior, dotted with picturesque mountain villages, to Sangri where there is a 6th century BC Temple to Demeter, the ancient goddess of grain. 2500 years ago, people built their sanctuaries close to fertile areas dedicated to her and this is another example of impressive monumental architecture at such an early period in Greece. Lunch will be in one of the island’s remote hamlets to sample the local fare. After lunch, we reach the island’s famous marble quarries, the source of the island’s wealth and position, to view an unfinished 10-meter tall statue still in the stone. Dinner is on our own to find the perfect eating spot. (B/L)
Day 8: Cruise by ferry across the sparkling indigo sea to Santorini, the southernmost island in the Cyclades and considered the mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. After lunch on our own, visit the Thera Foundation P. Nomikos, a non-profit that is dedicated to promoting Akrotiri, a Minoan settlement destroyed in the Theran eruption about 1627 BC and uncovered in the 1960s and 1970s. During excavations, stunning wall paintings were found that covered the walls of elite homes depicting beliefs and historical events during the Bronze Age. They are now displayed within the Thera Foundation and constitute the most significant contribution to our understanding of Aegean art, economy, environment, technology, and customs during the first half of the second millennium BC. Overnight in the Santorini Palace for two nights. (B/D)
Day 9: Begin the morning with an exploration of ancient Thera, named after the mythical ruler of the island, Theras, and inhabited from the 9th century BC until 726 AD. The remains of the city are positioned at the top of one of the island’s ridges, with gorgeous views in all directions. Here, see the agora, the main square of the city, the stoa with a huge portico extending along the agora and with a roof supported by a row of ten Doric pillars, and the theater constructed in the 2nd century. Continue to the town of Akrotíri, the “Pompeii of Greece”, where pristine examples of Minoan art and architecture have been preserved for millennia under volcanic ash. This afternoon is free to walk through the town with dinner on our own. (B/L)
Day 10: The island of Santorini erupted around 1627 BC and what remains are broken pieces of the volcano’s rim encircling a deep lagoon. This explosive event, which engulfed the beautiful city of Akrotíri, may have inspired the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis. Today, picturesque whitewashed villages cling to the volcanic cliffs above beaches of black sand. In the capital village of Fíra, or Thíra, visit the Historical and Cultural Archaeological Museum which contains artifacts from excavations across the island. In addition to a vast collection of sculptures, the museum displays a fine collection of Geometric red and black vases dating to the 5th century BC. Move on to the Mégaron Gýzi Museum, housed in a 17th century mansion with collections about the island including photographs taken before the devastating 1956 earthquake. Wine has been produced on Santorini since antiquity but it was not until the Middle Ages that fine wine production began with methods brought by Venetian conquerors. At the Sigalas Winery, we have the opportunity to taste the results! Dinner is on our own. This evening, board a ferry to Iraklio, or Heraklion, Crete’s largest city. Overnight for two nights in the Lato Boutique Hotel. (B/L)
Day 11: Begin today’s exploration of Crete in Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. The Palace of Knossos, a maze of corridors and passages, once contained 1,300 rooms, extensive courtyards, with stairways to multistory buildings. In Greek mythology, King Minos dwelled in this enormous palace and he is said to have constructed a labyrinth in which to retain his family’s monstrous progeny, the Minotaur. Parts of the Royal Road, the paved thoroughfare from the harbor to the palace, are still visible. In the afternoon, journey into the heart of Crete to visit Phaistos that according to Greek mythology, was ruled by King Rhadamanthys, the son of Zeus and Europa and brother of King Minos. Return to Iraklio where dinner is on our own to sample the local Cretan fare. (B/L)
Day 12: The Iraklio Archaeological Museum contains the magnificent art and artifacts from the Palace of Minos, and we will start our day here. We then drive west to Rethymno, one of the most well-preserved Venetian old towns on the island of Crete. After lunch overlooking the harbor, we will step back in time as we stroll the maze of narrow cobble-stoned streets to view picturesque Ottoman houses with graceful wooden balconies, and ornate Venetian monuments, including the massive Venetian fortress that dominates the harbor. In the evening, fly to Athens and overnight for two nights at the Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 13: Drive to Piraeus and embark on a short voyage to nearby Aegina, one of the Saronic Islands. It was named for a nymph who was loved by Zeus who carried her off in the guise of an eagle. Our explorations take us to two remarkable ancient sanctuaries. Located on the Hill of Kolona, just north of the town of Aegina, lies the Temple of Apollo, built in 520 BC. At one time, other temples stood within the complex including those dedicated to Dionysos, Artemis, and Delphinian Apollo, who protected sailors. Aegina’s Museum is located on the hill. It contains a marble Sphinx, excavated in 1903, with a body that is half eagle and half lion that was originally a votive monument dedicated to the Temple of Apollo. From here, we continue to the archaic Temple of Aphaia, founded on a site of former temples on the summit of a pine covered mount. Dedicated to the goddess Athena, this magnificent shrine still has twenty-five of the original thirty-two Doric columns still standing. Many figurines belonging to the late Bronze Age have been found here, especially female figurines showing that cult activity connected to the Minoan civilization existed from the 14th century BC. After lunch in a traditional restaurant with views over the sea, we will return to Piraeus. For our farewell dinner, we will drive to the nearby seaside village of Nea Makri for our last meal overlooking the sea. (B/L/D)
Day 14: Return flight to the USA. (B)
$9,595.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes all hotels; most meals (as noted in brochure); land and sea transportation; one domestic flight from Crete to Athens; entry fees; and gratuities to guides and drivers. Price is based upon the exchange rate for the Euro not going over 1.30. If the value of the Euro increases, the price of the trip may go up.
Single Supplement: $895.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: International flights to and from Athens; a separate donation check of $150.00 per person to a designated donation project; food and beverages not on set menus; alcoholic beverages; passport and visa fees; airport fees and taxes; excess baggage charges; email, telephone and fax charges, laundry or other services of a personal nature.
Note on Donation: As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy ofdonating 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 90 days before departure and is non-refundable.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
A deposit of $750.00 to Far Horizons is required upon making your reservation, along with a completed and signed registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a initial trip documents. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
‘The trip was wonderful; an excellent blend of history, archeology, sight seeing, food, and culture. Four thousand years of human experience really came alive. I would recommend the trip to anyone. I could do it all over again.‘ – Adrienne Long
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will result in an administrative fee of $450.00. Cancellations received less than 120 days before departure will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation.
If you do not fly on the group flight, you are responsible for all flight arrangements and 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.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
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 onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
We have chosen hotels on the islands that are charming and characteristic of island life. But they may be simple and are not five-star. Please keep in mind that Greece is a European country which means that 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.
Travel in the Greek Islands
The group will be walking into and around sites extensively, frequently over uneven paths. All participants must be in good health, physically active, and able to walk independently and unassisted for distances that may exceed two miles or more each day. As a courtesy to your fellow travelers, you must be able to keep up with the group during the daily outings. You will be responsible for your own suitcase, and when boarding ferries, there will be no one to assist you. Suitcases with wheels are essential. If you have questions about whether or not you are physically capable of this level of activity, please contact the Far Horizons office as soon as possible. As the trip is designed around ferry schedules, changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation times may occur. By maintaining a flexible attitude you will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the cordiality of the local people, and the fascinating sites.