Greek Isles: Cyclades, Santorini, and Aegina
Tour the Greek isles of the Aegean, where a wealth of archaeological sites are set in stunning locations.
with Professor Jennifer Tobin
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
‘The trip was wonderful; an excellent blend of history, archaeology, 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
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive Athens. Ferry to Tinos. Church of Panagia Evangelistria
Day 3: Museum of Marble. Sanctuary of Poseidon and Amphitrite
Day 4: Ferry to Mykonos.
Day 5: Delos. Return to Mykonos.
Day 6: Ferry to Paros. Tour Paros.
Day 7: Private tour of Despotiko with the site director.
Day 8: Ferry to Naxos. Tour Naxos.
Day 9: Naxos.
Day 10: Ferry to Santorini. Tour Santorini.
Day 11: Santorini. Akrotiri
Day 12: Fly to Athens. Museum of Cycladic Art, Kerameikos
Day 13: Ferry to Aegina. Tour Aegina. Return to Athens.
Day 14: Fly back to the USA.
But more than history awaits! Wander cobblestone village streets lined with gleaming whitewashed houses, pause for meals in traditional tavernas, spend nights in charming boutique hotels, taste the luscious wines produced on the islands, and immerse yourself in the pastoral life that inspired the legends that have been passed down through the ages.
Jennifer Tobin received her BA in Classical Studies from Stanford University and her PhD in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. From 1992-97, she was Assistant Professor at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. She is now Professor Emerita of History and Classics, University of Illinois, Chicago. Professor Tobin has worked on archaeological projects in Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and Greece. She speaks Modern Greek, German, French, Italian and Turkish, and has published widely on everything from Roman architecture in Syria to Alexander the Great. Her books include Black Cilicia: A Study of the Plain of Issus during the Roman and Late Roman Periods and Herodes Attikos and the City of Athens. She has been a featured teacher for The Modern Scholar series – Learn Out Loud, recorded not-for-credit lecture courses taught by university professors, including the Glory that was Greece and The Grandeur that was Rome. Twice a recipient of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Silver Circle Teaching Award, Professor Tobin’s enthusiasm, marvelous teaching skills, and appreciation of the people and archaeology of the Mediterranean World is infectious.
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive in Athens and transfer to the port. Board a ferry to the ruggedly beautiful and tranquil island of Tinos, a hidden gem well off the beaten tourist trail. After lunch in a village taverna, we will walk through Chora to the Church of Panagia Evangelistria (Our Lady of Tinos), one of the most sacred pilgrimage sanctuaries in Greece. Dedicated to an icon discovered in 1823, it is not only the patron saint of Tinos, but is also considered as the saint protector of the Greek Orthodox in the country. Even today, the sanctuary is a place of pilgrimage and reputed miracles. Overnight for two nights in the Aeolis Tinos Resort, a charming boutique hotel high on a hill overlooking the main town of the island. (L)
Day 3: Today’s outing takes us through the dramatic landscape of Tinos. As we drive, countless whitewashed villages tucked into the mountain ravines and remains of windmills, will appear, along with hundreds of small, decorated structures. Tinos is known as the ‘Island of Dovecotes’. The breeding of pigeons was the exclusive entitlement of the Venetian ruling class, and when they invaded Tinos in the 13th century, the nobles began constructing homes for these feathered creatures that were used for both food and as a source of fertilizer. During the centuries, local farmers continued building these two story structures, with doves on the top floor and tools stored in the rooms below. Although there are dovecotes on other islands, none is as charmingly decorated as those found here. The people of this island have long quarried marble and we will stop at the Museum of Marble, displaying the tools and techniques used in working this stone that has been used since antiquity until today. We will also visit the School of Marble Sculpture where young people learn the craft, which dates back hundreds of years. Tinos was the only island of the Cyclades that devoted an entire temple to Poseidon, the god of the sea and his wife, the sea nymph Amphitrite. We will stop to see this sanctuary, begun in the 4th century BC when Macedonians dominated in the Cyclades, and culminated in the 3rd century AD when it was a magnet for pilgrims. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Depart Tinos for Mykonos. Upon arrival, drive to Mykonos Vioma Organic Farm and Winery for a wine and food tasting experience. In the afternoon, there will be time to wander through Mykonos town on our own. Dinner is on our own. Overnight for two nights in the Madelena Hotel with views over the old port and Mykonos Town. (B/L)
Day 5: A short early morning ferryboat ride takes us to Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most impressive antique ruins 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 more than two thousand years. It also served as the treasury of the Delian League at the beginning of the great Peloponnesian War. The rich remains that have been found here attest to its cosmopolitan role in the ancient world. (Note: Time on the island is dependent upon the ferry schedule.) Return to Mykonos with lunch on our own and time for a refreshing dip in the hotel swimming pool. In the afternoon, visit the island’s Archaeological Museum. (B/D)
Day 6: Travel the short distance to Paros. 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. Parikia, the port of Paros, is dominated by an iconic windmill, and our walking tour takes us to the ancient sites of the town including 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 Chronicle, or Parian Marble, a Greek chronology inscribed on a stelae covering the years from 1582 BC to 299 BC. 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. 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. Enjoy a dinner of traditional food in one of the town’s tavernas together. Overnight for two nights at the lovely Argonauta Hotel standing at the entrance to Paros Town. (B/L/D)
Day 7: 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 with Yannos Kourayos, director of excavations and the archaeologist who discovered the site. Dr. Kourayos will give us a private tour and discussion of the ongoing excavations. After our box lunch, return to Paros where we visit the Delion Sanctuary of Apollo. Built in the 5th century BC, the temple was the home of the nine-foot tall statue of Artemis, now housed in the Archaeological Museum of Paros. 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 8: Leave Paros and cruise for an hour to the most fertile island of the Cyclades, Naxos, which has a wealth of well-preserved remains dating 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 a fortified castle from where the 13th-century Venetian Duchy ruled the Cyclades, now home to the Archaeological Museum. Dinner is on our own to search for the perfect 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)
Day 9: 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 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, 7th-century frescoes can be seen. 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. (B/L)
Day 10: Cruise across the sparkling indigo sea to Santorini, the southernmost island in the Cyclades, shaped by an explosion that created its dramatic appearance. What remains are broken pieces of the volcano’s rim encircling a deep lagoon. The exquisite whitewashed villages cling to volcanic cliffs above beaches of black sand. In the capital village of Fíra, or Thíra, visit the Archaeological Museum. After lunch taking in the scenery of Oia, enjoy the afternoon at your leisure. Overnight for two nights in the elegant Cori Rigas Suites, located on the cliff edge of the caldera. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 11: The island of Santorini erupted around 1627 BC and what remains are broken pieces of the volcano’s rim encircling a deep lagoon. Today, picturesque whitewashed villages cling to the volcanic cliffs above beaches of black sand. 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. (B/L/D)
Day 12: A morning flight returns us to Athens. In the afternoon, enter The Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation Museum of Cycladic Art, housing one of the most complete private collections of Cycladic art in the world. Dedicated to the study and promotion of ancient cultures of the Aegean and Cyprus, the emphasis is on Cycladic Art from the distinctive culture that flourished in the central Aegean during the Early Bronze Age (third millennium BC). Overnight for two nights in the innovative Elia Ermou Hotel overlooking the Acropolis. Our final dinner will be on the hotel’s rooftop restaurant with stunning views over Athens and the Acropolis. (B/L/D)
Day 13: Embark on a short voyage to nearby Aegina, one of the Saronic Islands. It was named for a nymph who was loved by Zeus. He is said to have 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. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 14: Return to the USA. (B)
$9,995.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes all hotels; most meals (as noted in brochure); land and sea transportation; one domestic flight from Santorini to Athens; entry fees; and gratuities to guides and drivers. Price is based upon the exchange rate for the Euro not going over 1.25. If the value of the Euro increases, the price of the trip may go up.
Single Supplement: $1,095.00. If a roommate be requested and one is not available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: International flights from New York to Athens; 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.
Note on Donation: 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.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
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. 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.
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.
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.
If you do not fly on the designated group flight, you are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation 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
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.
We have chosen hotels that are charming and characteristic of island life. However, 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.
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 islanders, and the fascinating sites.