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Small-ship cruises to Greece

Step aboard our small-ship Aegean Odyssey, carrying an average of 350 passengers, and trace the history of this remarkable country from the earliest Mycenaean settlements and the rise of the Golden Age of Athens to the historical legacy of Venetian and Ottoman Empires. Our cruises ensure that you do not miss out on the extraordinary natural beauty that the Aegean has to offer: cruising the islands is one of the great experiences of travel. As the birthplace of so much of Western civilisation, Greece is a truly unique and inspiring place.

Byzantine Athens

Athens, Greece
Half Day Walking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfacesUphill Sections
Never in the history of Christianity has a school of artists infused such a high degree of spirituality into its work. Byzantine theologians insisted that painters and mosaicists reflect the image of God. This morning's sightseeing reveals the splendour of Byzantine art in a tour that combines visits to both the Byzantine Museum, home to the world's largest collection of icons, and also the Monastery of Kaisariani with its fine frescoes and elegant gardens.

Never in the history of Christianity has a school of artists infused such a high degree of spirituality into its work. Byzantine theologians insisted that painters and mosaicists reflect the image of God. This morning's sightseeing reveals the splendour of Byzantine art in a tour that combines visits to both the Byzantine Museum, home to the world's largest collection of icons, and also the Monastery of Kaisariani with its fine frescoes and elegant gardens.

Drive from the pier to Illissia Mansion, winter residence of the Duchess of Piacenza, and home to the Byzantine and Christian Museum. Founded in 1914, this renowned museum focuses exclusively on Byzantine art from the 4th to 19th centuries. In addition to its impressive icons, frescoes and tapestries, there are paintings, sculptures and illuminated manuscripts. Displays recreate Byzantine churches from the 5th to 11th centuries.

Continue next to the slopes of Mt. Hymettos, for a visit to the Monastery of Kaisariani, a beautiful example of Byzantine architecture. Inside its high walls discover the 11th-century catholicon, or main church, built in a Greek cross shape. The dome is supported by four columns from an earlier Roman temple and colourful frescoes from the 14th to 18th centuries enliven the interior walls. There is also an 11th-century bathhouse. Later additions include a refectory, the monks’ cells and a 19th-century bell tower. Savour the views of Athens and the serenity of this delightful spot before returning to your hotel.

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Athens and the Acropolis

Athens, Greece
Half Day Archaeological SiteWalking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfacesUphill Sections
Visit the sublime expression of Classical Greece, the Acropolis with its sweeping views of Athens. Commissioned by Pericles in the 5th-century BC, the site is dominated by the majestic Parthenon.

Visit the sublime expression of Classical Greece, the Acropolis with its sweeping views of Athens. Commissioned by Pericles in the 5th century BC, the site is dominated by the majestic Parthenon: a building that embodies the stunning achievements of the Athenian “Golden Age”.

Surrounding the great temple are the other architectural masterpieces of the citadel: the Propylaia (monumental gateway), the Erechtheion with its beautiful Karayatid Porch and the Temple of Athena Nike (Winged Victory).

Below the temple complex is the theatre of Dionysos where the dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were first performed. Then explore another marvel: the longanticipated $200-million, 226,000-square-foot Acropolis Museum.

In the dramatic Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis, ascending floors of glass literally “float” you above the excavations for an extraordinary perspective of the layers of Greek history that lie below.

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Delphi and its Museum

Delphi, Greece
Overnight Lunch Included
Delphi was considered by the ancients to be the physical and spiritual center of the earth.  The shrine of Apollo, set nearly 2,000 feet up on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, exerts today a potent grip on the visitor. Here was the most respected oracle of antiquity.

After breakfast, board your coach and drive to Delphi, on the way visit Osios Loukas Monastery. 

Delphi was considered by the ancients to be the physical and spiritual center of the earth.  The shrine of Apollo, set nearly 2,000 feet up on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, exerts today a potent grip on the visitor. Here was the most respected oracle of antiquity.  Even the most intelligent individuals who lived during the brilliant civilization of Athens believed implicitly in the responses of the god. These were given by the inspired priestess Pythia and were interpreted, usually with an ambiguous touch, by the priests. 

Delphi grew fabulously rich with offerings and though the ruins have almost disappeared now, you can admire them and try to picture the sanctuary as it was during its 1,000 years.  Zealous Christians initiated the destruction of this holy place and earthquakes added to its destruction. Your tour begins with a drive northwest via Thebes and Levadia, and you will be able to buy refreshments during a brief stop before reaching Delphi. 

The site is breathtaking and the view from the top, down to the blue waters of the  Gulf of Corinth, is spectacular.  The drive will take you by the sacred Castalian spring and close to the ancient site of Apollo's sanctuary.  You will then walk the sacred way, visiting the treasuries, the place of offerings, the Grand Temple of Apollo and the theater, with its splendid acoustics.

The tour continues with a visit to the Museum housing many treasures.  Omphalos, which marked the center of the world and the Charioteer, one of the finest pieces surviving from the fifth century B.C.are among the many wonders housed in the museum.

Afterwards a short drive will take you to your hotel for overnight in this beautiful village, where dinner will be included.

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Sightseeing tour of Argolis

Nauplia, Greece
Overnight Lunch IncludedArchaeological Site
Tales of Agamemnon and the time of Homer’s heroes take center stage today on this visit to Mycenae, one of the greatest cities of the highly-developed Mycenaean civilization.

In the morning take a coach and drive towards the Peloponnese, passing through the Rio-Antirrio bridge. Arrive in Mycenae and visit the great sites. Tales of Agamemnon and the time of Homer’s heroes take center stage today on this visit to Mycenae, one of the greatest cities of the highly-developed Mycenaean civilization. This culture dominated the eastern Mediterranean from the 16th to 13th century BC and laid the foundation for classical Greece.

Enter Mycenae on foot through the Lion Gate, Europe’s oldest piece of monumental statuary: it was here that the victorious, but battle-weary Agamemnon, was greeted by his wife, Klytemnestra, on his return from the long war with Troy, only to be murdered by her lover. Inside the gates, explore the Royal Palace, view the shaft graves and relive the tragic stories at an archaeological briefing in the Treasury of Atreus (Tomb of Agamemnon).

In the afternoon drive to Nafplio, the capital of Argolis area. The ancient part of the town is exciting and has its own unusual, authentic atmosphere. It has cobbled alleyways paved with stone and is lined with shops and many local taverns. With its old medieval neoclassic town, Nafplio is a dream to visit. We overnight at a hotel in this picturesque port, where dinner is included.

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Epidaurus

Piraeus, Greece
Half Day
In the 6th century BC, Epidaurus was sacred to the god of medicine, Asclepius. The medical facilities and healing treatments were immensely popular and the ensuing wealth was used to inaugurate a 4th-century BC building campaign.

In the 6th century BC, Epidaurus was sacred to the god of medicine, Asclepius. The medical facilities and healing treatments were immensely popular and the ensuing wealth was used to inaugurate a 4th-century BC building campaign.

Today Epidaurus is a vast UNESCO World Heritage site with temples and hospital buildings that provide insight into the healing cults as well as the theatrical arts of the time. The jewel is the theatre designed by the architect Polycletus.

Over 14,000 seats are carved into the hillside and the acoustics are so perfect that it is said you can hear a pin drop from the highest tier. The theatre, universally admired from the start, was extended in Roman times, restored in the 1950s and is still in use.

Nowhere is it so easy to envision the staging of the great tragedies and comedies than in this pure masterpiece of Greek architecture.

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Santorini: Akrotiri and Oia

Santorini, Greece
Full Day Tender Extensive Walking 1 to 2 miles within a period of 2-3 hoursLunch IncludedCable CarWalking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfacesUphill Sections
Closed to the public for over six years, the newly reopened Minoan settlement of Akrotiri is the tour's highlight, but you also visit several of Santorini's picturesque villages.

Closed to the public for over six years, the newly reopened Minoan settlement of Akrotiri is the tour's highlight, but you also visit several of Santorini's picturesque villages. One of the Aegean's most important archaeological sites, Akrotiri was abandoned after severe earthquakes, then covered in pumice by a volcanic eruption in about 1625BC. A visit tells the tale of an affluent society who farmed, built two-story homes and indulged a taste for frescoes, furniture and jewellery. Today's tour includes a visit to the ongoing excavations, where you can walk amid the well-preserved streets, view the workshops and squares.

Start your adventure with a transfer from the ship by local boat, then drive to the northern tip of the island to the village of Oia with its whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches and coffee shops carved in the cliffs. Stroll along the cobblestone streets where wealthy sea captains built their mansions, now converted to cafes, boutiques and art galleries. Take in breathtaking views in all directions.

Continue to the southern end of the island and the archaeological site of Akrotiri. The excavations, led by Professor Spyros Marintos, began in 1967. Walk around this amazing city and get an insight into the culture that laid the foundation for Greek civilisation. Then continue to tiny Pyrgos, once the capital. View the distant Venetian castle, then sit down to lunch before your adventure concludes in Fira, the scenic capital. From here, you'll have the option of remaining in town or returning to the ship by cable car.

Note: The price of this excursion already allows a credit for the unused half day excursion

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Santorini: Oia and Argyros Winery

Santorini, Greece
Full Day Tender Extensive Walking 1 to 2 miles within a period of 2-3 hoursLunch IncludedCable CarWalking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfacesUphill Sections
In prehistoric times, the people who inhabited Santorini (or Strongyle, meaning “round”, as it was known) enjoyed a relatively advanced standard of living, until 1650BC, when a volcanic eruption caused the centre of the island to sink, leaving a caldera with high cliffs that has remained one of the world’s most dramatic geological sights.

In prehistoric times, the people who inhabited Santorini (or Strongyle, meaning “round”, as it was known) enjoyed a relatively advanced standard of living, until 1650BC, when a volcanic eruption caused the centre of the island to sink, leaving a caldera with high cliffs that has remained one of the world’s most dramatic geological sights.

Nowhere is this ancient legacy more apparent than during a stroll through the beautiful village of Oia, on the northernmost tip of the island, where many of the clifftop dwellings were built into niches hewn from the steep volcanic rock face. These delightful buildings are painted a spectrum of pastel colours, reflecting the wealthy seafarers of the past who first developed the village. Walking around its narrow cobblestone streets you will come across shops offering handmade works of ceramic art, paintings and semi-precious jewellery, as well as coffee shops with spectacular views across the island and the sea.

Santorini’s highest peak is crowned by an excellent example of Cycladic architecture, the 18th-century Monastery of Mount Profitis Ilias. The scenic drive then continues from Oia to the Argyros wine estate. Founded in 1903, this family run vineyard combines ancient traditions with modern technology to produce some of the most prestigious wines on the island. After enjoying some wine-tasting, a traditional Greek lunch will be served before a short drive brings you to Fira, the picturesque capital of Santorini, with free time to explore before returning to the ship via cable car.

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The Palace of Knossos

Heraklion, Crete, Greece
Half Day Archaeological Site
Even without the tales of a bloodthirsty Minotaur, this magnificent palace complex with its flamboyant decoration, courts, audience chambers and residential areas is an impressive and inspiring site.

Even without the tales of a bloodthirsty Minotaur, this magnificent palace complex with its flamboyant decoration, courts, audience chambers and residential areas is an impressive and inspiring site. Constructed around 1900BC, it was the administrative and religious centre of the Minoan kingdom. Here King Minos held court and – so mythology holds – his wife gave birth to a half-man, half-bull creature that lurked in the palace’s labyrinth. This fearsome beast was appeased only by human sacrifices.

An earthquake destroyed the original complex; it was then rebuilt on an even grander scale, only to be destroyed again by the massive volcanic eruption on Santorini around 1500BC. Though periodically excavated by Greek archaeologists in the late 19th century, credit for the full excavation and restoration is given to amateur Victorian archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. Roundly criticised for occasional missteps in restoration, Sir Arthur poured his fortune into the effort and did a remarkable job for the time period. Knossos today, at least, allows the visitor to visualise the palace as it once was and understand its intricacies.

The guided tour will take you through this legend-rich, entrancing complex that sprawled across five acres, where everything from the throne room to royal living quarters is reconstructed with meticulous care.

On our return to Heraklion, we will visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, one of the greatest museums in Greece and the best in the world for Minoan art, as it contains the most notable and complete collection of artifacts of the Minoan civilisation of Crete.

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Scenic Lassithi Plateau

Agios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece
Half Day Archaeological Site
Agios Nikolaos, overlooking the beautiful curve of Mirabello Bay, is your starting point for a pleasant journey into the Cretan countryside, as you are transported into the mountainous interior of the island, on a route that rises some 3,000 feet above sea level.

Agios Nikolaos, overlooking the beautiful curve of Mirabello Bay, is your starting point for a pleasant journey into the Cretan countryside, as you are transported into the mountainous interior of the island, on a route that rises some 3,000 feet above sea level.

The first stop on this magnificent panoramic tour is the medieval Eastern Orthodox monastery of Kera. Continuing on, the road then climbs even higher, passing through woods and villages to reach the plateau of Lassithi, where you will catch your first sight of the many hundreds of picturesque windmills, for which the area is famous.

Arriving in the charming village of Seli, the views of the encircling mountains and windmills here are truly breathtaking. After some time to enjoy a relaxing stroll, you will be invited to sample some local treats and warm hospitality in a local tavern, before returning to Aegean Odyssey back in Agios Nikolaos.

Please note: this tour falls on Easter Monday, meaning all sites and museums are closed.

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Agios Nikolaos & Spinalonga

Agios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece
Half Day Boat RideUneven or Volcanic Ground
Built on the western recess of Mirabello Bay, Agios Nikolaos is the most picturesque harbour in Crete, with a history dating back to the Roman and First Byzantine periods, when it was known as Lato Etera.

Built on the western recess of Mirabello Bay, Agios Nikolaos is the most picturesque harbour in Crete, with a history dating back to the Roman and First Byzantine periods, when it was known as Lato Etera.

The small Byzantine church of Saint Nicholas, or “Aghios Nikolaos”, which gives the town its name, is located on a peninsula to the north of the town. After a guided walk through its attractive streets and some wonderful views of the aptly named “beautiful looking” Mirabello bay, our tour continues with a panoramic drive north to Elounda, where we will be transported by boat to the island of Spinalonga, the setting for Victoria Hislop’s bestselling novel “The Island” and Werner Herzog’s experimental short film, “Last Words”.

Officially known as Kalidon, Spinalonga translates from the Venetian as “long thorn” and has its roots in the period of Venetian occupation. According to the cartographer, Vincenzo Coronelli, the island was originally linked to the adjacent peninsula of Kolokitha, until a portion of land was cut away in 1526 to create a more impregnable offshore fortress.

From 1903 to 1957 Spinalonga was used as a leper colony and is notable for being one of the last such colonies in Europe. When its final inhabitant, a priest, left in 1962, it was abandoned and looted, but in the years since then, this unoccupied island has become an iconic Cretan landmark.

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The Villages of Karpathos

Karpathos, Greece
Half Day Tender Walking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfacesWinding road
Situated on the edge of the Aegean Sea, Karpathos has managed to remain remarkably unspoiled. This is a place of picturesque villages, where many historic traditions are still actively practised.

Situated on the edge of the Aegean Sea, Karpathos has managed to remain remarkably unspoiled. This is a place of picturesque villages, where many historic traditions are still actively practised.

Your tour begins in the old capital of Aperi, which grew in size during the Middle Ages, when coastal dwellers moved inland to avoid pirates. Situated on the edge of the Aegean Sea, Karpathos has managed to remain remarkably unspoiled. This is a place of picturesque villages, where many historic traditions are still actively practised. In 1894 Pigadia took over as the main town, but Aperi is still one of the largest villages on the island and has some charming buildings to see, including the ruins of a tower built in 3,000BC.

Othos is the highest village in the Dodecanese and has some striking views looking out to sea. A highlight is the wonderful folklore museum, which has been carefully designed to replicate a traditional island dwelling. Many of the items on display here, from kitchen utensils to musical instruments, lace and clothing, are still in use on the island today.

The village of Pyles has an open-air agricultural museum featuring a windmill, farmhouse and a wine press. There will also be a chance to relax in the lovely fishing village of Finiki, before arriving at the picturesque village of Arkassa to visit the Church of Agia Sophia, which is one of the oldest on the island.

The final stop is another unique church, dramatically poised on the edge of a steep rock in the hillside village of Menetes. The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin is a hugely important site to the people of Karpathos, who flock here each year to celebrate the feast of the Assumption while surrounded by some stunning views of the island.

 

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Highlights of Karpathos

Karpathos, Greece
Full Day Tender Boat RideWalking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfacesWinding road
Historically the people of northern Karpathos lived on the coast, in the ancient Doric city of Vrykounda, but after a series of raids by Saracen pirates in the 6th-century, around seventy families decided to move inland and build a fortified settlement on the slopes of the mountain.

Historically the people of northern Karpathos lived on the coast, in the ancient Doric city of Vrykounda, but after a series of raids by Saracen pirates in the 6th-century, around seventy families decided to move inland and build a fortified settlement on the slopes of the mountain. Until recently the only way to reach this remote village was through the nearby port of Diafani, so this tour has been specially designed to recapture that traditional journey, via a delightful coastal boat-ride from the main town of Pigadia, where Aegean Odyssey will be docked.

The picturesque waterfront of Diafani is perfect for enjoying some refreshments at a local café, before you are transported back in time to Olympos, where many local women still wear brightly coloured traditional clothing and the pastel-coloured houses are like a living museum, in a way that is quite unique to the Mediterranean.

The spectacular windmills lining the mountaintop are no longer functioning, but during your guided tour you will be able to see inside a traditional house and museum, watch a shoemaker at work and visit the Byzantine church, which is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. Following the tour there will be plenty of time to enjoy some local hospitality at your leisure, before the boat-ride back to Pigadia.

Please note: this optional excursion can be booked using the signup sheet and paid for on-board the ship (all prices for purchases on-board Aegean Odyssey are listed in US dollars).

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UNESCO World Heritage Site

Old Town & Grand Masters Palace

Rhodes, Greece
Half Day Walking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfaces
Leave behind the port where the Colossus once stood and discover a stunning ensemble of Gothic architecture just a short drive from the port. These UNESCO World Heritage monuments testify to the role of Rhodes, the largest island in the Dodecanese group, as a strategic crossroads. Many structures date to the era of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, who lived on the island from 1309 until 1522 when the Ottoman Empire finally dislodged the Knights.

Leave behind the port where the Colossus once stood and discover a stunning ensemble of Gothic architecture just a short drive from the port. These UNESCO World Heritage monuments testify to the role of Rhodes, the largest island in the Dodecanese group, as a strategic crossroads. Many structures date to the era of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, who lived on the island from 1309 until 1522 when the Ottoman Empire finally dislodged the Knights.

En route, you’ll visit the lookout Mount Smith, named after the British admiral Sir Sydney Smith who used this vantage point to scan the seas for French ships in the Napoleonic era. Then you enter the citadel of the Knight’s through the d’Amboise Gate and head for the restored Grand Master’s Palace.

The first building of the 14th-century Crusaders, the Palace was modelled on the great Papal Palace of Avignon. It served as a fortress in times of war, a residence for the Grand Master of the Knights, a meeting place for senior knights, and, in later times, a summer residence of both Mussolini and Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. Stroll the cobblestone Street of the Knights and admire the honey-coloured stone buildings with their giant doorways and arched windows.

Step into the 15th-century Knights Hospital, now an archaeological museum that counts the Aphrodite of Rhodes in flawless Parian marble among its treasures. At the conclusion of this tour, you can return to the ship or stay to wander this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The Acropolis at Lindos

Rhodes, Greece
Half Day Extensive Walking 1 to 2 miles within a period of 2-3 hoursWalking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfacesSignificant StepsUphill Sections
Gain inspiration from the exquisite natural setting of the Acropolis at Lindos, a destination of both historic and scenic interest, just an hour’s drive from Rhodes.

Gain inspiration from the exquisite natural setting of the Acropolis at Lindos, a destination of both historic and scenic interest, just an hour’s drive from Rhodes. This Doric town rose in power hundreds of years before Christ and continued to thrive into the middle ages.

We’ll walk to the Acropolis, surrounded by the contrasting 12th-century crusader fortifications, clinging to the rocks above the village. At the summit is the Doric Temple of Lindian Athena, an archaeological jewel dating from the 4th century BC, with a double-winged portico and elaborate propylaea. The site offers sweeping views over St Paul’s Bay, where the Apostle is said to have sought shelter during a storm.

Following the Acropolis, we’ll descend to the village with its whitewashed houses and tempting shops. A favourite resort since the time of Julius Caesar, Lindos is home to writers, artists and craftsmen.

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Nisyros at a Glance

Nisyros, Greece
Half Day Tender Uneven or Volcanic GroundUphill SectionsGravel Flooring
Greek mythology has it that the island of Nisyros was once a part of Kos, until Poseidon threw a piece of the island at the giant Polybotes, trapping his foe and creating a volcano, beneath which Polybotes still shakes and groans.

Greek mythology has it that the island of Nisyros was once a part of Kos, until Poseidon threw a piece of the island at the giant Polybotes, trapping his foe and creating a volcano, beneath which Polybotes still shakes and groans.

Whatever the truth of its origins, Nisyros is certainly one of the biggest hydrothermal volcanoes in the world, but careful monitoring ensures there are no surprises. Over the last 150,000 years there have only been three significant eruptions, with the last occurring during the Middle Ages. Everything flourishes in the volcanic soil and there are some unique species of flora and fauna to see during a scenic drive across the island.

The largest of the island’s volcanic craters is Stefanos, which is believed to be over 3,000 years old. Descending into this otherworldly landscape, as steam rises from bubbling fumaroles and the smell of sulphur fills the air, it’s easy to feel as though you’ve just stepped into a Jules Verne novel. Looking up, you will also be able to spot the small village of Nikia, which is perched right on the lip of the caldera.

This picturesque settlement has a population of less than one hundred and is among the most authentic villages in Greece. The houses are brightly painted, the church dates back to the 15th-century and the main square features a memorable pebble-stone mosaic (or “choklakia”) designed by the 19th-century artist Paschalis Pashalakis. After exploring the village and enjoying some wonderful views in all directions, a stop will be made at an abandoned natural spa, for another one of a kind experience, before your return to Aegean Odyssey.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site

Sacred Delos

Delos, Greece
Half Day Tender Archaeological SiteGravel Flooring
Discover the tiny, deserted isle of Delos, the religious centre of the Cyclades, where columns lie glistening in the sun, and the Lions of Delos guard the Sacred Way. As the reputed birthplace of the god Apollo, Delos was once a principal religious and commercial centre of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Discover the tiny, deserted isle of Delos, the religious centre of the Cyclades, where columns lie glistening in the sun, and the Lions of Delos guard the Sacred Way. As the reputed birthplace of the god Apollo, Delos was once a principal religious and commercial centre of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Pilgrims, traders, politicians and warriors alike came from all over the Mediterranean to this sanctuary. In fact, the “Cyclades,” the name of this island group, means “those islands around Delos.” In the 5th century BC, the Delphic Oracle decreed the island was to be purged of all the dead and that no person could either die or give birth on Delos to preserve the isle’s sanctity. Some of the richest archaeological treasure troves in Greece await as you leave the Sacred Harbour on your guided walking tour. Imagine the merchants in the Agora and the pilgrims entering the Sanctuary of Apollo.

Walk along the spectacular Avenue of the Lions. Pay homage to the guardians of the Sacred Lake where Leto gave birth to the twin gods, Artemis and Apollo. And above all, savour the almost-mystical silence that pervades this haunting site of antiquity.

 

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Ancient Olympia

Katakolon (Olympia), Greece
Half Day Extensive Walking 1 to 2 miles within a period of 2-3 hoursArchaeological Site
The small fishing village of Katakolon is approximately an hour from the mystical site of Ancient Olympia, sacred ground to the people of the Peloponnese Peninsula as early as the 10th-century BC.

The small fishing village of Katakolon is approximately an hour from the mystical site of Ancient Olympia, sacred ground to the people of the Peloponnese Peninsula as early as the 10th century BC. Olympia is most familiar as the site where the first Olympic Games were held in 776BC in honour of Olympian Zeus. The origin of the word Olympic comes from the ancient Greek Olympiad – meaning every four years.

The setting could not be more idyllic: prominently located in the middle of a fertile valley with the rivers of Alfeios and Kladhios flowing past. The site was a religious sanctuary even before the Stadium was built and the games took place in the sacred area called Altis. The most imposing monument in the area was the outstanding Temple of Zeus housing the gold-and-ivory statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Temple of Hera, the Prytaneion, and the Philippeion were also monuments standing in the sacred grove. The famous Stadium, the largest of its day with a capacity of 45,000 spectators, was entered through a long, tunnel-like passage, constructed in Roman times. The stadium was restored in 2004 for the historic return of the modern Olympics to Athens.

After your exploration of the famous grounds, visit the archaeological museum which is a short 5-minute walk from the site. Among the great finds of the area that are displayed are the Head of Hera and ornaments from the Temple of Zeus, the famous statue of Hermes created by Praxiteles and the helmet of Miltiades, the Athenian general during Athens' 'Golden Age'.

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Ancient Messini

Pylos, Greece
Half day Tender Extensive Walking 1 to 2 miles within a period of 2-3 hoursArchaeological Site
Take a short drive to the Arcadian Gate, an impressive structure that once acted as an entrance to the ancient city of Messini. From here, you’ll head for the archaeological site of Messini.

Messini is regarded by many as one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in Greece. Take a short drive to the Arcadian Gate, an impressive structure that once acted as an entrance to the ancient city of Messini. From here, you’ll head for the archaeological site of Messini, which dates back to 146 BC. This is a marvellous site that includes an almost-intact theatre, the ruins of a 3rdcentury temple, a time-worn sanctuary and a Byzantine monastery.

Then on to Mavromati village, about five minutes away, for a coffee break and the chance to enjoy the great panoramic view of the ancient site of Messini before making your way back to the ship.

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Castles of Southern Greece

Pylos, Greece
Half day Tender Extensive Walking 1 to 2 miles within a period of 2-3 hoursArchaeological SiteUphill Sections
This tour combines ancient history with a taste of everyday local life. Proceed to the castle of Niokastro, situated at the southern part of the port of Pylos.

This tour combines ancient history with a taste of everyday local life. Proceed to the castle of Niokastro, situated at the southern part of the port of Pylos. The castle was built by the Turks in 1573 and, due to its strategic importance, it quickly became one of the major castles in the Peloponnese during the Turkish occupation. It was captured by the Venetians in 1686 but was recaptured by the Turks some years later. Niokastro is one of the most well preserved castles in Greece, and is today the home of the Centre for Underwater Archaeological Studies.

Then on by road to the city of Methoni where you will find beaches of golden sand, winding alleyways, cobbled houses, and where you will visit the Venetian castle of Methoni. 

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Monemvasia Walking Tour

Monemvasia, Greece
Half Day Walking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfaces
Pass through a gap in a rocky cliff and emerge into a Medieval scene on this morning tour of Monemvasía, a castle town that has been called the Gibraltar of Greece.

Pass through a gap in a rocky cliff and emerge into a Medieval scene on this morning tour of Monemvasía, a castle town that has been called the Gibraltar of Greece.

Indeed, the name means “single entrance.” For us, it provides an illuminating transition from the classical world to the Byzantine era. Monemvasía dates back to the 6th-century, when inhabitants of Laconia settled on the site, which developed into a major city- state. In the 15th-century the city suffered a hundred-year blockade by the Turks. Walk along the narrow streets, sometimes only wide enough for two, and visit the 13th-century Church of Christos Elkomenos (Christ Chained to the Cross), home to several Byzantine icons.

Those who wish can climb on their own to see another 13th-century treasure: the ethereal Agia Sofia, a rare example of a domed octagonal church with original wall paintings. The views out over the sea and lower town are a spectacular reward. Those who prefer not to climb may want to seek out a quiet cafe and a sip of Malmsey, the sweet dessert wine that originated in this atmospheric spot.

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Included
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UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Acropolis & its Museum

Athens, Greece
Half Day Archaeological SiteWalking over cobblestones, uneven or slippery surfacesUphill Sections
Visit the sublime expression of Classical Greece, the Acropolis with its sweeping views of Athens. Commissioned by Pericles in the 5th-century BC, the site is dominated by the majestic Parthenon.

Visit the sublime expression of Classical Greece, the Acropolis with its sweeping views of Athens. Commissioned by Pericles in the 5th century BC, the site is dominated by the majestic Parthenon: a building that embodies the stunning achievements of the Athenian “Golden Age”.

Surrounding the great temple are the other architectural masterpieces of the citadel: the Propylaia (monumental gateway), the Erechtheion with its beautiful Karayatid Porch and the Temple of Athena Nike (Winged Victory). Below the temple complex is the theatre of Dionysos where the dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were first performed.

Then explore another marvel: the longanticipated $200-million, 226,000-square-foot Acropolis Museum. In the dramatic Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis, ascending floors of glass literally “float” you above the excavations for an extraordinary perspective of the layers of Greek history that lie below.

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Included
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Cultural Activity
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National Archaeological Museum

Athens, Greece
Half Day
Founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, the National Archaeological Museum is one of the most important in the world devoted to ancient Greek art.

Founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, the National Archaeological Museum is one of the most important in the world devoted to ancient Greek art.

During your visit you will be able to see Cycladic, Minoan, Mycenaean and Classical Greek art, and you'll also view sculptures from the Archaic and Hellenistic periods, along with pottery from the Geometric period. A few of the museum's most important exhibits include the bronze statue of Poseidon, the head of Hygeia (Goddess of Health), the bronze statue of the "Jockey-Boy" of Artemision, the golden mask of Agamemnon and the brilliant Minoan frescoes from the site on Thira (Santorini).

Within the museum's walls more than 11,000 exhibits provide a panorama of Greek art from prehistory to late antiquity. Wander amid the royal tombs of Mycenae, dating from 1500BC. Marvel at sculpture from the 7th to 5th centuries BC, including the kouroi, nude male athletes, carved in Naxian marble. Admire a delicate bronze by Praxiteles and frescoes from Akrotiri, buried over 3,500 years ago in a volcanic eruption. Trace the evolution of Greek pottery from earliest times in collections including rare white clayware. This astonishing museum even includes Egyptian and Cypriot antiquities, as well as treasures from the sea. A shipwreck at Antikythera produced a scientific instrument used for astronomical calculations in the 1st century BC.

Please note: this optional excursion can be booked using the signup sheet and paid for on-board the ship (all prices for purchases on-board Aegean Odyssey are listed in US dollars).

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Optional $ 35
Cruises with this tour