Current as of: July 23, 2024 - 16:46

Highlights of Ancient Greece

Highlights of Ancient Greece Trip Notes

  • Ways to Travel: Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
  • Destination: Greece
  • Programmes: Culture
  • Activity Level:

    2 out of 7 - Easy & Moderate

  • 9 Days: Flight Inclusive
  • 9 Days: Land Only
  • Ages: 16+
  • Trip Code: AGM
  • Carbon Footprint: 13kg CO2e

Trip Overview

Journey through thousands of years and major UNESCO World Heritage sites

Starting in the capital city of Athens, we’ll visit some of the most significant archeological sites in the world, including the Acropolis, Mycenae and Epidaurus. We’ll also visit the medieval castle town of Mystras; Olympia, where the first Olympic Games took place; Delphi, where heaven and Earth meet; and the stone forest of Meteora, home to one of the largest Orthodox communities in Greece. At the same time, we’ll cover a large part of the mainland, including the Peloponnese peninsula and central Greece, enjoying beautiful coastlines, forests and mountains along the way.

At a Glance

  • Eight nights in three-star hotels
  • Travel by minibus
  • Option to travel by train to your adventure

Highlights

  • Explore the ancient sites of Mystras and Delphi
  • Visit Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games
  • Enjoy spectacular Meteora

Is This Trip for You?

This trip is graded Activity Level 2 (Easy & Moderate). For more on our trip gradings, visit our Activity Level Guidelines page.

This is a cultural trip taking in the major archaeological sites in Greece, combining coastal zones in the Peloponnese with several mountainous areas and villages. Expect beautiful landscapes, incredible history and rich culture. There is a fair amount of minibus travel (from two to four hours per day) with sightseeing and lunch breaks along the way, and free time usually upon arrival at each day’s destination. Most of the driving is on main roads, which are fast. In some places, we follow the provincial roads, which are also sealed.

The tour is not physically demanding; however, walking is necessary at several sites, including Mystras, Delphi and Meteora. At some of these sites, we walk between one and two hours, often uphill, taking uneven steps and terrain. Trainers (not sandals) are highly recommended.

Expect some early starts on departures from November through March, when many sites close at 3pm, as we want to ensure there is sufficient time to explore thoroughly.

Adult min age: 16

Min group size: 4

Max group size: 16

Itinerary

Map AGM

Land Only

  • Start City: Athens
  • End City: Athens Airport

Land Only Itinerary

Day 1
Start Athens

Our adventure begins in Athens, an enthralling capital city soaked in myth and legend. Depending on when you land, you may have time to explore a little or perhaps dive into a taverna to sink your teeth into the much-loved local cuisine. Either way, we’ll gather at the hotel for a welcoming briefing in the evening when we’ll meet as a group for the first time.

Accommodation: Arion Hotel or Achilleas Hotel (or similar)

Day 2
Morning walking tour of Athens, including the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum and Plaka; afternoon free to explore Athens
Greece Tours & Trips

This morning we embark on a walking tour of Athens, taking in the Acropolis ruins and artefact-filled Acropolis Museum. This walk is actually a journey through the history of the city; from the classical world ruled by the Olympian deities to the 21st century.

The afternoon is free for you to explore Athens on your own. Your leader can suggest where to visit.

Please note: During busy periods, the walking tour might take place in the afternoon when it is quieter and the morning will be free.

Accommodation: Arion Hotel or Achilleas Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 3
To Nafplio, visiting Ancient Corinth and Mycenae en route
Highlights of Ancient Greece

After breakfast, we head to Nafplio. On the way, we stop at the Corinth Canal, which separates the Peloponnese from mainland Greece and connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Aegean Sea. We then visit the archaeological site of Corinth, one of the major cities in antiquity and an important centre of trade. Extended excavations here have revealed a Roman forum, temples, fountains and various other monuments.

We then continue to the archaeological site of Mycenae, the kingdom of legendary Agamemnon and the most important and richest palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. Mycenae comprises a fortified acropolis and surrounding funerary and habitation sites. We then head to the picturesque town of Nafplio, where we spend the night.

Accommodation: Rex Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 4
Morning visit to the fortress of Palamidi; afternoon to explore ancient Epidaurus
Highlights of Ancient Greece

Today we visit the impressive Venetian

overlooking the town. It was initially fortified by the Venetians during the second Venetian occupation of the area (1686-1715). In 1715, it was captured by the Turks and remained under their control until 1822, when it was liberated by the Greeks. The most important monuments we’ll visit are the castle, and the prison of Kolokotronis, a hero of the Greek Revolution.

Next, we will explore Epidaurus (approximately a 45-minute drive from Nafplio), where the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the most famous healing centre of the classical world, is found. We’ll also visit the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, one of the finest examples of its kind. In the afternoon, we head to Mystras, where we spend the night.

Accommodation: Hotel Byzantion (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 5
Morning to explore Mystras; afternoon to Pylos, visiting Ancient Messene en route

This morning we visit Mystras, a Unesco World Heritage site known as the Wonder of the Morea. The site occupies a steep foothill on the northern slopes of Mount Taygetos and has a Frankish castle that came under Byzantine control in 1262, before becoming a seat of the Despotate of Morea in the mid-14th century. In 1460, it was captured by the Turks, but was liberated again in 1821. We explore the site on foot, visiting beautiful Byzantine churches, mostly built between the 12th and 15th centuries; the palaces of the Mystras Despots; and some urban buildings.

Please note: Unfortunately, the castle and the palaces are closed for reconstruction so we are unable to enter any buildings. We will have a look at them from the outside.

In the afternoon, we head towards ancient Messene, one of the finest and best-restored archaeological sites in Greece, yet still relatively unknown. Lying in a fertile valley, below Mount Ithomi in central Messenia, the site was first inhabited during the Late Neolithic or the Early Bronze ages. Among the site monuments, we will visit the ancient theatre, agora, and Asclepeion. The stadium and gymnasium are among the most impressive and well-preserved building complexes in ancient Messene. We then drive to the seaside town of Pylos, where we will spend the night.

Accommodation: Hotel Karalis (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 6
Morning to explore the Castle of Pylos; to Olympia or Katakolo

After breakfast, we will visit the Castle of Pylos, which also hosts a fine exhibition and museum of underwater antiquities. Here you will find out more about underwater archeology in Greece, how research, excavations and preservation of the antiquities take place. You will also see artefacts from shipwrecks found in the sea near the Peloponnese and Ionian islands.
After lunch, we’ll drive along the west coast of the Peloponnese towards Olympia where we spend the night (approximately a two-hour drive).

Accommodation: Hotel Pelops (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 7
Explore Ancient Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games
Highlights of Ancient Greece

After breakfast, we visit ancient Olympia, the site that hosted the first Olympic Games. At the confluence of two rivers, in a lush landscape, near the west coast of the Peloponnese, Olympia is the most important religious and athletic centre in Ancient Greece. We will explore this major archeological site, including the Sanctuary of Zeus and the many buildings put up around it, such as an athletic premises used for the preparation and celebration of the Olympic Games, administrative buildings, and other lay buildings and monuments (the Temple of Hera, the Council House, the Ancient Stadium and Gymnasium and the Altar of Zeus).

After lunch, we will drive (approximately 3hr 30min) to Delphi where we will spend the night. En route, we will cross from the Peloponnese peninsula to mainland Greece and will have the chance to admire the cable-stayed Rio-Antirrio Bridge, a masterpiece of architecture.

Accommodation: Nidimos Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 8
Morning to explore Delphi; afternoon visit to Arachova on the slopes of Mount Parnassus; to Meteora
Meteor Mountain

In the morning, we will head to the Unesco World Heritage site of Delphi. We will explore this magnificent archaeological zone on foot, the place that in ancient times was considered the centre of the world, the place where heaven and Earth met. According to mythology, it is here that two eagles sent by Zeus from the ends of the universe to find the navel of the world met. The sanctuary of Delphi, on the slopes of Mount Parnassos, was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre and symbol of unity for the Hellenic world. Once at the archaeological site, we’ll visit the Temple of Apollo, the Treasury of the Athenians and of the Siphnians, the ancient theatre and the Castalian Spring that was considered the sacred source of Delphi.

After lunch, we head northeast to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Meteora (approximately a four-hour drive). Meteora is one of the largest Greek Orthodox communities in Greece, second only to Mount Athos. Situated over the town of Kalampaka, on the northwest edge of the Plain of Thessaly (in central Greece), Meteora is one of the most imposing sights in Greece. Steep sandstone rocks, rising more than 1,312ft (400m) above the ground, were formed about 60m years ago through fluvial erosion, earthquakes and geological changes. What makes Meteora even more astonishing are the monasteries perched on top of rocky pinnacles. We aim to arrive in Meteora late afternoon, going to several viewpoints where we can enjoy panoramic views over the Kalampaka plain and stone forest of Meteora.

Accommodation: Hotel Meteoritis (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 9
Explore the Unesco World Heritage site of Meteora; afternoon to Athens airport and end

After breakfast, we will visit one of the cliff–top monasteries of Meteora and learn more about their history and monastic life. The area of Meteora was initially inhabited by monks who lived in caves within the rocks during the 11th century.

Please note: Clothing must cover knees and shoulders for both men and women to enter the clifftop monasteries of Meteora.

In the late 12th century, a small church called the Panaghia Doupiani was built at the foot of one of the rocks, but during the Turkish occupation it became less secure so the monks climbed higher and higher up the rocks to protect themselves from different conquerors. Numerous monasteries were systematically built on top of the rocks so by the end of the 15th century there were 24 constructed in total; today only 6 of them are still active. The monks had to climb up ladders or use baskets and ropes to transfer the material for the construction of these monasteries and until 1920 this was the only means for getting supplies.

After lunch, we’ll return to Athens airport (approximately a 4hr 30min drive) where our adventure will end. Please note, we offer post-tour accommodation if you prefer to fly back the next day.

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation

A selection of Greek hotels

Highlights of Ancient Greece

We stay in small, family-run hotels where possible, favouring traditional properties that highlight the architecture of each destination. Most offer free wifi and some have a swimming pool. The normal accommodations used on this trip can be found on the day-to-day itinerary; however, below are a few of the notable places we stay.

Mystras: Hotel Byzantion (night 4)

Highlights of Ancient Greece

The Byzantion is a family-run hotel in the centre of Mystras village. Wrapped by mountains, the property has an alpine feel, while the hotel has plenty of retro touches, such as wood-paneled ceilings and an old phone booth. Our groups particularly like to gather in the green garden, where there’s a dipping pool and shady spots where you can shelter from the sun.

Pylos: Hotel Karalis (night 5)

Highlights of Ancient Greece

This 35-room hotel is just moments from the main town square and overlooks the Bay of Navarino. Nearby, there’s plenty to explore. The Three Admirals Square, named for the monument in its centre, has cafe seating under the shade of plane trees – an essential experience in this part of the world. Meanwhile, the hotel has a bar for post-exploration, pre-dinner drinks.

Delphi: Nidimos Hotel (night 7)

Highlights of Ancient Greece

The Nidimos is consistently a standout hotel for our groups. There are 34 modern rooms, each with a large balcony and seating area. There’s also a light and bright bar where you can gather for post-exploration drinks – make sure to check out the views of the mountains and Bay of Itea.

Single supplement from £ 275

Food & Drink

Breakfast is included at all the hotels.

Simple buffet-style Greek breakfasts consist of bread/toast, butter, jam, fresh juice, milk, local yoghurt, eggs, honey, and coffee/tea.

Other meals are not included, and we suggest you allow approximately €175-€250 to cover them, more if you include alcoholic or expensive fruit juices with each meal.

Your group leader will assist in organising group meals at most stops, so you may benefit from better choices and good food. For lunch and dinner, we will go to different tavernas and restaurants, where we can sample typical Greek meze dishes, olives, fresh fish, vegetables and more.

Transport

A comfortable air-conditioned bus is used throughout the trip.

Weather & Seasonality

  • February/March and November/December: Daytime temperatures 10C-18C (50F-64F); night time 5C-9C (41F-48F); rain and chances of snow on high mountains.
  • April, May and October: Daytime temperatures 17C-27C (63F-81F); night time 12C-17C (54F-63F); small chance of rain; the ideal time to see spring flowers.
  • June and September: Daytime temperatures 20C-30C (68F-86F); night time 18C-23C (64F-73F); very dry and warm, ideal for swimming.
  • July: Daytime temperatures 30C-35C (86F-95F); night time 25C-28C (77F-82F); very dry and hot, ideal for swimming.

Joining Instructions

Key information 

Start hotel: Arion Hotel or Achilleas Hotel

Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, but if you miss it the leader will update you separately

Airport: Athens International Airport (ATH)

Highlights of Ancient Greece

Getting to the start hotel 

The start hotel is approximately 45 minutes drive from the airport. Your options for this journey are: 

Take an Exodus transfer 

Exodus provides one group arrival transfer from the airport, which is timed to coincide with the arrival of a chosen flight from London, UK. You may join this transfer at no extra cost, provided you can be at the airport before the transfer leaves. Speak to your sales representative for the group arrival transfer times or to arrange a private transfer. 

Make your own way 

You can reach the start hotel relatively easily using taxis or public transport. A cab from the airport costs EUR 40 and should take 45 minutes. Alternatively, Metro Line 3 connects the airport to the city centre (Syntagma Square). The journey time is approximately 40 minutes and a single ticket costs EUR 9. On arrival at the hotel please make the reception staff aware that you are part of an Exodus group and they will have more details on meeting with your leader and group 

If you would like further information on joining this trip, please speak to your sales representative.  

Catching your return flight 

There’s a group departure transfer to the airport for customers who Exodus booked onto a chosen flight to London, UK. Please speak to your sales representative if you wish to join. If the group departure transfer does not suit your flight time, speak to your sales representative to arrange an alternative transfer. 

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Location start: Athens
Location end: Athens Airport

Transfer Details

Airport transfers are included for those on the group flights. Please note that transfers are not included for clients arriving on any other flight, even if Exodus has booked it.

If you require airport transfers, you may (by prior arrangement only) be able to join the group transfer. Transfers are arranged to coincide with the arrival time of the group flight – please check the group flight details 2 weeks before departure. If you do not take this transfer, or miss it, you must make your own way to the joining point at your own expense.

What To Take

Essential Equipment

  • Two/three-season jacket for April and May departures
  • Light waterproof jacket
  • Sunhat
  • Water bottle (water is drinkable almost everywhere on this itinerary, and you can refill your bottles from the tap at restaurants and hotels)
  • Swimwear
  • Sandals or old trainers for swimming
  • Comfortable shoes or trainers

Please note: Clothing must cover knees and shoulders for both men and women to enter the clifftop monasteries of Meteora. Women are also required to wear long skirts as long trousers are not acceptable.

The temperatures can sometimes be very high during the day in summer (June to September); we highly recommend you bring the following at this time of year:

  • Comfortable light clothing
  • Sunglasses
  • High-factor sunscreen

Practical Information

Passport

Remember to check the expiration date of your passport if travelling internationally. Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months after the date of your scheduled return.

Visa

Greece

Travellers from the UK, US and EU normally do not need a visa to enter Greece. Please note, visa requirements often change and it is your responsibility to obtain any required visas for this trip. Therefore, we recommend that you check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your chosen destination(s), including any countries you may be transiting or transferring through.

Some local governments provide guidance on what visas their citizens need. To help, we’ve gathered a selection of useful links below.

• Australia: www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/europe/greece
• Canada: www.travel.gc.ca/destinations/greece
• United Kingdom: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/greece/entry-requirements
• USA:  www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Greece.html

Vaccinations and Health

Greece

There are no required vaccinations. However, you may want to consider vaccinations for tetanus, rabies and tick-borne encephalitis. Please confirm with your doctor or travel clinic.

If you’re a UK citizen, please note that your UK-issued European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) are still valid and offer the same cover as the Global Health Insurance Cards (GHIC) in the EU. This gives you medical care at a reduced cost, and in some cases for free, in many European countries, but should not be considered a substitute for adequate insurance. Once your EHIC has expired, replace it with a GHIC.

Local Time

Greece's time zone: Europe/Athens (UTC +03:00)

Electricity

Greece's electricity: Plug types C (two round pins, European standard) and F (two round pins) – 230V, 50Hz

Highlights of Ancient Greece

Money

Greece's currency: Euros (EUR)

ATM Availability

There are some ATMs that take Visa/MasterCard or Switch, but it is still recommended to travel with some cash. Major credit cards are accepted in most places.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

Budget for €175-€250 for food and drink.

Tourist tax: €24 per room for the week to be paid locally (subject to change).

Optional Excursions

  • Morning boat trip in Navarino bay to the island of Sfaktiria. The price depends on the number of travellers that would like to join this activity, please discuss with the tour leader.
  • Afternoon wine tour and wine tasting in Olympia: €20 per person.

Tipping

Our local staff are paid well and fairly for their work with Exodus; however, most of our clients wish to tip their guides in appreciation of their help and friendliness. This is not compulsory and depends on the service received.

If you would like to leave a tip, we would suggest approximately €45 per person in total on this itinerary to be broken down as follows:

  • €30 for the leader
  • €15 for the driver

People, Places & Planet

At Exodus, we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Important Information

Water safety

This trip includes time by a lake, river or sea, where there may be opportunities to swim. You should always seek local advice before deciding whether to swim. Open-water or wild swim spots should be treated with extreme caution. Information on how to keep yourself safe while swimming is shown here.

Important Information

Your safe participation 

When booking this trip, you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability, please call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary. 

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely take part in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity. 

By booking this trip you agree to our Booking Conditions which clearly state that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these rare instances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred. 

How to Book

  1. Check availability: Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.
  2. Secure your place: You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.
  3. Complete your booking and payment

When you’re ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque.

After booking

You will receive your booking confirmation letter and invoice, which includes extra information and guidance about your travel arrangements.

Full joining instructions, including local emergency numbers and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately two to three weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier, please contact our office or your travel agent.

Trip Note validity

These Trip Notes are valid from the “Current as” date on page one. They will occasionally be updated after booking and before departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary, customers will be written to separately. They will also receive a link to the most up-to-date Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions before travelling.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons – climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best-possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

Licensing

Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582, issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA – The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all money paid to us for your trip is fully protected.