A Journey through Minoan Crete, Mycenaean Greece and the Classical World

12 May – 1 Jun 2017

  • Region:
    • Europe
    • Greece
  • Status: closed
  • Code: 21710
Overview

Tour Highlights

  • Lectures and site visits by Emeritus Professor Frank Sear, a world expert on Roman architecture, and lecturer on Classical Archaeology as well as Latin and Greek.
  • Spend a full day at the Acropolis – the spiritual and artistic heart of 5th century BC Athens, exploring the Parthenon and her associated temples, wellspring of Western art and culture.
  • Make a comprehensive journey through the world of Classical Athens, foundation of philosophical enquiry, artistic rendering of the beauty of the human form, comedy, tragedy, scientific enquiry and democracy.
  • Stand where Socrates and Plato delved the mysteries of the universe, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes and Sophocles described the mysteries of the human condition, and where Pericles, Themistokles and Demosthenes defined the meaning of democratic government.
  • Journey through 4000 years via the pre-Mycenaean, Mycenaean and Minoan sites of Tiryns, Knossos, Pylos, Lerna, Gournia, Mycenae, Phaistos and Akrotiri.
  • Enjoy glorious scenery as we traverse the rugged, mountainous landscapes of Arcadia, Attica, Crete and the Peloponnese.
  • Visit some of the greatest museum collections in the world in Athens, Heraklion and Santorini.
  • View the mythical Palace of Nestor, considered to be the best example of a well-preserved Mycenaean palace in all of Greece, which reopened in June 2016, after a three-year 2.5-million-euro restoration.
  • Explore the relatively unvisited and beautiful ruins of the city of Messene in the south-west of the Peloponnese.
  • Wander the medieval streets of Byzantine Mistra, perched high on a slope overlooking the Vale of Sparta.
  • Take to the sea to view Santorini’s historically deadly caldera.
  • View a working replica of a Minoan ship at the Nautical Museum in Hania.
  • Explore Crete’s pristine southern coast, visiting the picturesque fishing villages of Khora Sfakion (site of the 1941 evacuation of Allied Troops) and Agia Roumeli and the stunning Samaria Gorge.
  • Spend time investigating the beautiful Venetian city-ports of Nauplion and Hania.
  • Sample traditional cuisine and local wine at some of Greece’s best local restaurants and tavernas, including the Herb Garden Restaurant – ‘since opening in 2007, this restaurant has emerged as offering the finest dining experience in Heraklion’ New York Times (August 2011).

21 days in Greece including Athens, the Peloponnese, Crete & Santorini

Overnight Athens (3 nights) • Nauplion (2 nights) • Tóriza (1 night) • Pylos (1 night) • Olympia (1 night) • Delphi (2 nights) • Athens (2 nights) • Hania (3 nights) • Heraklion (3 nights) • Santorini (2 nights)

Overview

Our journey takes us through historically significant sites around the Aegean, Peloponnese and Attica, to understand the beginnings, fluorescence and transformation of the Mycenaean and Minoan worlds, to the apotheosis of Classical civilisation – a stunning legacy inherited by their Byzantine heirs. On the Acropolis we explore some of the most exquisite architecture ever constructed. We admire the beautiful temple to Athena’s great rival, Poseidon, at Sounion, before heading west across the great Isthmus of Corinth, into the Peloponnese. From our base in the beautiful Venetian city of Nauplion, we explore the brooding hilltop fortress of Mycenae – citadel of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra – and journey to Epidaurus, majestic theatre and shrine dedicated to Asclepius, God of Healing. Heading south to Mistra, we wander streets of the last great Byzantine city before journeying across the jagged Taygetus Mountains to stand in the great hall of legendary King Nestor. We explore the haunting ruins of Messene, great nemesis of mighty Sparta. At the sanctuaries of Delphi and Olympia we investigate the roots of organised sporting triumph and a mysterious, chthonic world of ambiguous utterance. On mountain-spined Crete we traverse a landscape that nurtured a sophisticated Minoan world of palaces and towns, where skilled artisans created frescoes and ceramics whose beauty and vitality still entrance. At Knossos, ostensible palace of King Minos, we stand where Theseus and Ariadne’s doomed love blossomed, celebrated in countless operas, mosaics, plays and paintings. In the old Venetian port of Hania we view a working replica of a Minoan ship. We also explore Crete’s pristine southern coast, visiting the site of the 1941 evacuation of Allied troops and the stunning Samaria Gorge. On the stark, lunar island of Santorini we visit the Minoan Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri – a world forever preserved by volcanic disaster. Together we share a journey across 4000 years, exploring the foundations of Western culture, in the beautiful cradle of the Greek-speaking world – born of and nurtured by Homer’s “Wine Dark Sea”.

Itinerary

The following itinerary describes daily activities which may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, road conditions, flight schedules etc. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch (on several days this will be a boxed lunch) and D=evening meals.

Athens - 3 nights

Day 1: Friday 12 May, Arrive Athens
  • Welcome Meeting

Travellers taking the ASA ‘designated’ flights are scheduled to arrive at Athens airport in the early afternoon. Here you will be met by your private coach and transferred to the Royal Olympic Hotel. Note: if you are not arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight you will be required to make your own way to the hotel, or you may wish to contact ASA to arrange a private transfer. (Overnight Athens)

Day 2: Saturday 13 May, Athens
  • The Acropolis incl. Odeon of Herodes Atticus & Theatre of Dionysus
  • Acropolis Museum
  • Welcome Evening Meal

This morning we visit the Acropolis, the foremost site of Classical Greece. Here we see the Propylaea (437 – 432 BC), the Parthenon (447-438 BC), the Erechtheum (408-395 BC) and the Temple of Athena Nike (427-424 BC). On the southern slope of the Acropolis we may view the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus where plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were first performed.

This afternoon we visit the Acropolis Museum, which holds an extensive collection of sculptures found on the Acropolis. The most important works are a large group of archaic Attic kouroi (youths) and korai (maidens), the Mourning Athena, the Moschophoros (youth carrying a sacrificial calf), and the caryatids from the Erechtheum. Our day ends with a welcome meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Athens) BD

Day 3: Sunday 14 May, Athens – Sounion – Athens
  • Ancient Agora of Athens
  • Library of Hadrian
  • Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds
  • Plaka
  • Mitrópoli (Cathedral)
  • Doric Temple of Poseidon at sunset, Sounion

Today we begin with a visit to the Ancient Agora of Athens. The Agora, or ancient marketplace below the Acropolis, was the social and political centre of 5th century BC Athens and was excavated by the American School of Classical Studies. Within the Agora’s precincts are the best preserved of all Greek temples, the Hephaistaion (incorrectly referred to as the Theseum); and the Stoa of Attalus, a great colonnaded market building, reconstructed to give us a true sense of the cityscape of classical Athens. We also explore the Roman world of Athens through visits to the Roman Agora and Library of Hadrian: both reflective of the seductive allure of Greek culture to their Roman overlords.

We continue our exploration of the development of the city by visiting the Plaka district, historic centre of Byzantine and Ottoman Athens. At the nearby Mitrópoli Cathedral we stand in a monument to Greek self-belief and Orthodox Christian identity, built after the Greek War of Independence in the 19th century AD.

Following some time at leisure (to pack and arrange an early dinner) we drive east along the scenic Attic coast to Cape Sounion. Here, the white marble Doric Temple of Poseidon is dramatically perched on the edge of a sheer cliff; the views of the temple overlooking the Aegean Sea at sunset are quite breathtaking. Byron spent several months in Athens in 1810 and 1811 and there are two documented visits by him to Sounion. Byron mentions the Cape in his poem Don Juan:

Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep..

We return to our hotel in the late evening (around 9.30pm). (Overnight Athens) B

Nauplion - 2 nights

Day 4: Monday 15 May, Athens – Corinth – Epidauros – Nauplion
  • Ancient Corinth & Museum
  • Theatre and Sanctuary of Asklepios, Epidauros

This morning we depart Athens by coach for Nauplion via Corinth and Epidauros. In Corinth we visit the site of the ancient city, which is being dug by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Corinth was populated in Mycenaean times and became a major port and city state during the 6th century BC and the classical period, with colonies in Italy and Sicily. The city hosted the Isthmian Games, one of the four great festivals of the Greek world. Corinth became a Roman city in the 2nd century BC; this can be seen alongside the Greek monuments such as the Temple of Apollo. The fortifications of its acropolis, Acrocorinth, show traces from the Classical period to the Turkish occupation.

In the afternoon we continue to Epidauros to explore the sanctuary of Asklepios, god of medicine. The greatest monument of the sanctuary is the theatre, one of the best preserved of the Greek world. It is famous for its acoustics as is evidenced by the Festival of Classical Theatre which is held here without the use of any modern audio equipment.

From Epidauros we travel to the harbour town of Nauplion, the first capital of the Greek state after it won its independence from the Ottoman Empire (1823). (Overnight Nauplion) BL

Day 5: Tuesday 16 May, Nauplion – Mycenae – Tiryns – Nauplion
  • Fortress City of Mycenae: Treasury of Atreus & Acropolis
  • Citadel of Tiryns
  • Time at leisure in Nauplion

In the morning we travel to Mycenae to visit the great city of the Achaeans (c.1500-1100 BC). In legend, Mycenae was Agamemnon’s city and it was from here that the Achaeans set out to attack Troy. In the extensive remains of the fortress-city Schliemann found the grave circle which yielded the treasures now in the Athens National Museum. We enter the citadel through the Lion Gate, visit the remains of the grave circle A, the palace, and, outside the main monumental complex, grave circle B, and one or two of the nine great domed tombs or tholoi, such as the ‘Treasury of Atreus’.

We then go to Tiryns, a fortified palace of the Mycenaean era, with its walls and gallery of huge rocks and its clearly discernible megaron or central hearth and hall. Our day is timed to return to Nauplion mid-afternoon for some time at leisure. (Overnight Nauplion) BL

Tóriza, Sparta - 1 night

Day 6: Wednesday 17 May, Nauplion – Lerna – Tripoli – Mistra – Tóriza
  • The House of Tiles, Lerna
  • Alea Athena Temple (Ancient Tegea), Tripoli
  • Byzantine city of Mystras

Early this morning, we depart Nauplion for Mistra via Lerna where you will see the very early pre-Greek ‘House of the Tiles’. We also make a brief stop in Tripoli to visit the site of Ancient Tegea, an important religious centre. Here we may view the remains of a very interesting 4th century BC temple, built by Skopas and described with admiration by Pausanias.

We shall spend much of the day at Mistra, the splendid site of a deserted Byzantine city located on a steep spur of Mount Taygetos with a vast panorama of the Eurotas Valley and Sparta. Mistra seems to owe its existence to a great citadel built by the Frankish lord William de Villehardouin in 1249, when the Europeans controlled Byzantium. It was taken by the armies of Michael III Palaiologos who reconquered Constantinople three years later. Mistra became a lustrous city, capital of the Despotate of Morea, a state ruled by the sons of Byzantine Emperors, which survived for seven years after Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. It was a city of great culture whose scholars were instrumental in the development of the European Renaissance. We shall explore the ruined city and a number of its churches, which have fine frescoes.

In the late afternoon we drive into the foothills of Mount Taygetus for an overnight stay in one of Greece’s charming eco-boutique hotels. Depending on the group size, we may be sub-divided between the charming Ilaeira Mountain Resort and the nearby Taleton Sparti Country House. (Overnight Tóriza) BLD

Pylos - 1 night

Day 7: Thursday 18 May, Tóriza – Langada Pass – Kalamata – Messene – Pylos
  • Langada Pass & Taygetus Mountains
  • Archaeological Museum of Messinia (time permitting)
  • Ancient Messene

The 59 kilometre Sparta–Kalamata road is one of the most stunning, if time consuming and winding, routes in Greece, crossing the Taygetus Mountains by way of the Langada Pass. The climb begins in earnest at the village of Trypi, 9 kilometres west of Sparta, where the road enters the dramatic Langada Gorge. To the north of this gorge is the site where the ancient Spartans left babies too weak or deformed to become good soldiers to die. The road then follows the course of the Langada River before climbing sharply through a series of hairpin bends to emerge in a sheltered valley. It then climbs steeply once more, to the high point of 1524m, crossing the boundary from Lakonia into Messinia on the way. The descent to Kalamata is equally dramatic.

On arrival in Kalamata (time permitting) we visit the Archaeological Museum of Messinia, located in the heart of the historical centre. The museum displays are divided into provincial regions – Kalamata, Pylia, Messini and Triphylia. Important exhibits include a 16th-century BC gold signet ring found in a domed tomb in the region of Ellinika, figurines and gold jewellery from a chamber tomb in the same area, a figurine of hippocampus from the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Akovitika and funerary stele from the Sanctuary of Pamisos at the village Agios Floros.

Following some time at leisure for lunch in the old town, we continue our journey to Messene, one of the most beautifully ruined ancient cities in Greece. Rarely visited by western tourists, Messene was a 4th century BC polis (city-state) re-founded by the great Theban general and strategist Epaminondas after his extraordinarily conclusive triumph over the feared Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra in 369 BC. Wolf-like, war-like Sparta was greatly feared by contemporary Greeks, as an “unnatural” and alien society, where Spartan women enjoyed extraordinary social freedoms and Spartan men trained for eternal war. This feared, garrison culture was rooted in the enslavement and formal terrorisation of her Helot slave population. Young Spartan men were commanded to track and murder a Helot before joining his brothers in wearing the famed red cloak of a Spartan citizen. The Helots were the descendants of Messenians first enslaved during a war with Sparta in the 8th century BC. This unending enslavement of Greeks by other Greeks both fascinated and repelled Sparta’s contemporaries. Following Epaminondas’ victory, his freeing of the Messenians and construction of their new polis was both a clever strategy designed to ensure Sparta never rose as a martial power again, and a tangible symbol of Greek liberty as understood in the 4th century BC. In the late afternoon we drive to the charming fishing village of Pylos overlooking the Bay of Navarino. (Overnight Pylos) BD

Olympia - 1 night

Day 8: Friday 19 May, Pylos – Olympia
  • Neo Kastra (Ottoman Castle), Pylos
  • Mycenaean site of the ‘Palace of Nestor’

This morning we explore Neo Kastra, the southernmost of two Ottoman castles protecting the approach into Navarino Bay. Constructed in 1573, this formidable fortification encloses a citadel, mosque converted into a church after the Greek War of Independence, and dungeons used as a prison by local authorities as late as the early 1900s.

Following time at leisure for lunch, we travel to the Mycenaean site of the ‘Palace of Nestor’. This extraordinary place is linked to the legendary Nestor of both the Iliad and the Greek myth of Jason, the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece. Historically, this was a palatial centre of power during the 2nd millennium BC, dominating the whole of the western Peloponnese. The rich Mycenaean rulers of Pylos built themselves a glorious two-storey palace of reception chambers, light-wells, baths with attendant sewage system and sustained this rich world on international trade with Egypt, the Levant and the local exploitation of great estates of sheep and cattle. Scribes recorded in intimate detail the economic foundations on which Mycenaean power was constructed and following the destruction of the Palace of Nestor, the heat of the conflagration preserved these clay tablets. 2200 years later a series of these tablets were instrumental in Michael Ventris’ decipherment of Linear B, achieved after comparing tablets from Pylos with tablets excavated by Evans at Knossos. We then continue north along the coast, skirting Arcadia, to the great sanctuary of Olympia. (Overnight Olympia) BD

Delphi - 2 nights

Day 9: Saturday 20 May, Olympia – Patras – Delphi
  • Ancient Olympia
  • Ancient Olympia: Archaeological Museum
  • Cable bridge ‘Rio-Antirrio’ across the Gulf of Corinth

Early this morning we drive to the sanctuary of Olympia, where the Olympic Games took place (776 BC-393 AD), one of Greece’s most important sites. It contains the Temples of Zeus and Hera, gymnasia, palaestrae (wrestling schools), the stadium and many other buildings still under excavation.

We also visit the Archaeological Museum at Olympia to see sculptural cycles from the Temple of Zeus (e.g. Metopes: Labours of Herakles) and other works from the site. These works were executed not long before Phidias’ Parthenon metopes and show a transition from the stiff Archaic to the more naturalistic Classical style.

This afternoon we depart Olympia for Delphi taking the Rio-Antirrio bridge,  one of the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges and the longest of the fully suspended type, across the Gulf of Corinth.  The bridge crosses the Gulf of Corinth near Patras, linking the town of Rio on the Peloponnese peninsula to Antirrio on mainland Greece by road. After an attractive drive along the northern shore of the Gulf passing through some picturesque towns and villages (Galaxidi, Erateini, Nafpaktos), we shall climb up through the mountains to Delphi. (Overnight Delphi) BLD

Day 10: Sunday 21 May, Delphi
  • Sanctuary of Pythian Apollo
  • Sanctuary of Athena
  • Archaeological Museum
  • Time at leisure

We spend the day in the Sanctuary of Apollo, site of the Pythian Games and famous for its oracle. Delphi, breathtaking in its setting between Mount Parnassus (home of Apollo and the Muses) and the slopes which run down to the Gulf of Corinth, contains the remains of an important group of temples, shrines and treasuries. We shall visit the museum with its large sculptural collection (including the Delphic Charioteer), the Sanctuary and Temple of Apollo, shrines and treasuries, theatre and stadium, and, lower down, the Sanctuary of Athena. Our day concludes with some free time to enjoy the austere beauty of the valley. (Overnight Delphi) BLD

Athens - 2 nights

Day 11: Monday 22 May, Delphi – Hosios Loukas – Zemeno Arachovas – Athens
  • Byzantine Monastery of Hosios Lukas
  • Lunch in the traditional village of Zemeno
  • Free time in Athens (Optional visit to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus & Hadrian’s Arch)

Today we return to Athens. En route we visit the great Byzantine religious monument, Hosios Lukas, a monastic complex built in the mid-tenth century AD. The spare, elongated forms of the figures in its mosaics speak of the spirituality of their artists’ and iconographers’ vision; and probably reflect the slow emergence of representation from the period of iconoclasm.

Following lunch in the small village of Zemeno, one of the most traditional villages in Greece, we return to Athens where there will be an optional visit to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. The Temple of the Olympian Zeus, lies on the foundations of an earlier temple. Construction began in 515 BC by the tyrant Pisistratus but was abandoned when his son was overthrown in 510 BC. In the 3rd century BC the Hellenistic king Antiochus IV of Syria hired the Roman architect Cossutius to design the largest temple ever known in the world. When Antoichus died in 164 BC, building was again delayed until the Roman Emperor Hadrian, a great admirer of Greek culture, finally brought it to completion in 129 AD. Hadrian’s Arch was constructed in 131 AD as part of a wall separating the old and new cities of Athens. On the side of the arch facing the Acropolis is the inscription, “This is Athens, the former city of Theseus” while on the other side reads, “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus”. (Overnight Athens) BL

Day 12: Tuesday 23 May, Athens
  • National Archaeological Museum
  • Afternoon at leisure

This morning we visit the refurbished National Archaeological Museum, established in 1866-89 to exhibit the cascade of ancient artifacts being unearthed in the 19th-century orgy of archaeological discovery. The museum’s spectacular collections present an unrivalled overview of Greek culture from the Bronze Age Helladic to Hellenistic eras: exhibits include the magnificent Mycenaean treasures excavated by Heinrich Schliemann; stunning coloured wall frescoes from Thira (Santorini); and one of the world’s premier collection of glorious Attic Red-on-Black ceramics. The museum’s collection of Hellenic sculpture encourages us to explore the development of abstract and representational human form, through Attic Kouros and Kore figures, to the sublime beauty of 5th-century BC naturalism. The afternoon is free for you to explore Athens at your leisure. (Overnight Athens) B

Hania, Crete - 3 nights

Day 13: Wednesday 24 May, Athens – Hania
  • Kerameikos Cemetery
  • Benaki Museum
  • Afternoon flight from Athens to Hania (A3 336 1610-1700)

This morning we visit the Kerameikos, an area located to the northwest of the Acropolis. Originally the potters’ quarter of the city, from which the English word ‘ceramic’ is derived, it was also the site of an important cemetery and numerous funerary sculptures erected along the road out of the city towards Eleusis. The archaeological site includes part of the Themistoclean Wall, the Dipylon Gate and Sacred Gate, the Pompeion, the burial enclosure of the Stele of Hegeso, the Demosion Sema, and other well-known monuments.

Later this morning we continue onto the Benaki Museum – Athens’ most important private collection, gathered by Antoine Benaki. Exhibits range from artefacts of the Classical Era, traditional 18th & 19th century peasant garb, and a fabulous array of Byzantine icons, including works by two Cretan Masters: Poulakis and El Greco

Following some time at leisure for lunch at the museum’s café we transfer to the Athens airport for our afternoon flight to Hania. Located on the northern coast of the island, 145kms west of Heraklion, this is the second largest city of Crete. (Overnight Hania, Crete) B

Day 14: Thursday 25 May, Hania – Souda Bay – Ayia Triada – Hania
  • Memorial Cemeteries, Souda Bay
  • Monastery of Agia Triada
  • Lunch at ‘Tamam Tavern’
  • Orientation walk of the old city of Hania, visiting the Venetian fortification and old Venetian and Ottoman quarters
  • Maritime Museum of Hania featuring the reconstructed Minoan ship “Minoa”
  • Time at leisure

We depart Hania early this morning and travel to the Commonwealth War Cemetery located at the head of Souda Bay. The graves belong mainly to British, New Zealand and Australian troops who died during the Battle for Crete (20 May – 1 June, 1941). Note: from the entrance, looking down the hill towards the bay, you will find the Australian graves located in the second tier, on the right-hand side.

Next we continue north to the Agia Triada Monastery located on the Akrotiri Peninsula. Two Venetian brothers who had adopted the Orthodox faith built this large church in the 17th century. During the 19th century Ottoman occupation this monastery, like many across Crete, played an important role in maintaining Greek identity by educating the local student population in the Greek language and way of life.

On returning to Hania we shall lunch at ‘Tamam Tavern’, a delightful Turkish restaurant housed in a former hamam. The afternoon is dedicated to exploring the beautiful architecture and narrow streets of the Venetian harbour district and the maze of narrow streets in the Splantzia / Daliani District, an Ottoman enclave established during the Divine Porte’s rule of the island in the 19th century.

We also visit the Maritime Museum of Crete featuring an exhibition of ancient and traditional shipbuilding including the reconstructed Minoan ship Minoa (an experimental model, faithful copy of the original ancient commercial ship). The late afternoon and evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Hania, Crete) BL

Day 15: Friday 26 May, Hania – Khora Sphakion – Agia Roumeli – Hania
  • Khora Sphakion, WWII commemorative stone
  • Boat excursion Khora Sphakion – Agia Roumeli via Loutro Village
  • Basilica and old village of Agia Roumeli
  • Samaria Gorge

Today we visit some small coastal villages of southern Crete. After an early departure from Hania we travel through the dramatic landscape of central Crete to the village of Khora Sphakion. In 1941, allied troops were evacuated from this village; we will visit the memorial that commemorates this evacuation.

At Khora Sphakion we board a small ferry to travel along the beautiful south coast of the island. Many of the small villages that we pass are only accessible by sea. We disembark at the village of Agia Roumeli, best known as the starting point for hikes through the Samaria National Park. We spend the day in the vicinity of Agia Roumeli. On arrival in the village we visit the small church of Panayia that has foundations dating to the 5th and 6th centuries. Next we take a leisurely walk through Agia Roumeli’s abandoned old town, with its ancient olive trees, garden plots and fields still grazed by goats.

After reaching the coffee shop located just to the south of the Samaria Gorge entry, you will have free time to continue up the gorge (a light packed lunch will be provided), or return to explore Agia Roumeli at your leisure, before catching the ferry back to the village of Khora Sphakion in the late afternoon.

Note: An early dinner (4.00pm) at the restaurant in Agia Roumeli will be provided; you are not scheduled to arrive back into Hania until after 9.00pm. (Overnight Hania, Crete) BLD

Heraklion, Crete - 3 nights

Day 16: Saturday 27 May, Hania – Agia Triada – Phaistos – Heraklion
  • Minoan harbour town of Kommos (exterior only)
  • Minoan Palace Complex of Agia Triada
  • Minoan Palace of Phaistos

We depart Hania early this morning and journey towards the Minoan harbour town of Kommos. From a cliff above the site you will enjoy an excellent view of its extant remains including its partly submerged ship sheds and reefs. It is believed that this site served as the principal trading port for the palace of Phaistos and later for Agia Triada monastery.

Next we travel to the southern coast of Crete to visit the Minoan palace of Phaistos, founded (according to legend) by Minos’ son Rhadamanthys, and the nearby smaller palace or villa at Agia Triada. The site of the former incorporates two superimposed palaces, the first dated 2000 to 1650 BC and the more recent from 1650 to 1400 BC. The site has much the same layout as Knossos, which also suffered destruction but was rebuilt. Phaistos has a theatre area, great propylaia, royal apartments, central court and storerooms. Agia Triada, like Phaistos, occupies a magnificent site overlooking Massará Plain and Bay. (Overnight Heraklion, Crete) BL

Day 17: Sunday 28 May, Heraklion – Malia – Gournia – Heraklion
  • Minoan Palace of Malia
  • Cretan Picnic Lunch
  • Minoan Town of Gournia

This morning we drive along the Cretan north coast to to Malia, the third largest of the Minoan palaces. It is of similar plan to Knossos and Phaistos, though on a smaller scale. It has an outer court, thought by some to have been used for games such as bull-leaping, a central court, royal apartments and service rooms.

From Malia we continue east to the Minoan town of Gournia where we explore an urban centre of houses clustered across paved streets dating back 3500 years, ancient sanctuaries dedicated to unforgiving gods, crowned by a palace and all burned and ravaged by Mycenean warlord-kings around 1450 BC. Today’s program includes a delicious Cretan picnic lunch especially prepared for us by the chef of the Brillant Gourmet Restaurant. (Overnight Heraklion, Crete) BL

Day 18: Monday 29 May, Heraklion – Knossos – Heraklion
  • Minoan Palace of Knossos
  • Heraklion Archaeological Museum
  • Traditional Cretan Dinner at the ‘Brillant Gourmet Restaurant’

We begin early in Knossos, exploring the Minoan palace excavated by Sir Arthur Evans. This three-storeyed complex with its central courtyard and warren of corridors and rooms was associated in the Classical period with the labyrinth of the Minotaur. Its architecture has been termed agglutinative to describe the random addition of rooms in all directions (hence its labyrinthine nature) without the discipline of axial planning. This absence of axis and perspective distinguishes Minoan architecture from that of Mycenae and Classical Greece.

Midday we return by coach to Heraklion. After time at leisure for lunch we visit the city’s famous archaeological museum that houses material ranging from the Neolithic to the Roman periods. The most impressive finds on display are from Minoan Crete. They highlight the prosperity and technical achievements of the island during the Bronze Age period. Some highlights include a four-wheeled cart, one of the earliest examples of wheeled transport on the island, polychrome vases and Karmares style pottery, also known as eggshell ware. The Phaistos disk, bull head rhytons and figurines of the snake goddess found at Knossos can also be found in this extensive display. The hall of the frescoes presents fragments of the original Bronze Age wall paintings from the halls of Knossos.

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure for you to explore the Venetian parts of Heraklion: the square with the Morosini fountain, the handsome Loggia and the massive fortifications of the port with its Arsenal, remnant of the sea power of the marine republic. We shall remeet in the evening to enjoy a traditional Cretan meal. Before dinner the Brillant Gourmet Restaurant’s owner and chef will give a short presentation on local food and identity. (Overnight Heraklion, Crete) BD

Thira, Santorini - 2 nights

Day 19: Tuesday 30 May, Heraklion (Crete) – Thira (Santorini)
  • Morning Catamaran from Heraklion to Santorini
  • Ancient Akrotiri

This morning we take the Hellenic Seaways Flying Cat (a 1 hr 45 min. trip) to the volcanic island of Santorini, known as Stongili, then Thira, in classical antiquity. This island is famous for its spectacular sunsets and the white painted houses that cling to the cliffs above its ancient caldera (the word ‘caldera’ is from the Late Latin caldaria, ‘cooking pot’, in turn derived from the Latin caldarium, meaning ‘hot bath’). It is believed that the eruption of this volcano 3500 years ago contributed to the downfall of the Minoan civilisation on both Thira and Crete.

Upon arrival there will be time at leisure to have a snack lunch before visiting the ancient site of Akrotiri. This Minoan Bronze Age settlement is one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean. The earliest habitation at the site dates from the Late Neolithic period (at least the 4th millennium BC). During the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC), a sizeable settlement was founded and in the Middle and early Late Bronze Age (ca. 20th-17th centuries BC) it was extended and gradually developed into one of the main urban centres and ports of the Aegean. The large extent of the settlement (ca. 20 hectares), its elaborate drainage system, sophisticated multi-storeyed buildings with magnificent wall-paintings, furniture and vessels, reflect its great prosperity. Various imported objects found in the buildings reflects its wide trade network. Akrotiri was in contact with Crete but also communicated with the Greek Mainland, the Dodecanese, Cyprus, Syria and Egypt. The town’s life came to an abrupt end in the last quarter of the 17th century BC. when the inhabitants were obliged to abandon it as a result of severe earthquakes. The eruption followed and volcanic materials covered the entire island. These materials, however, have protected Akrotiri’s buildings and their contents, just as in Pompeii. (Overnight Thira) B

Day 20: Wednesday 31 May, Santorini
  • Private Cruise of the Santorini Caldera
  • Museum of Prehistoric Thira
  • Evening Farewell Meal in Oia

Early this morning we transfer to the foot of the cliffs of Thira where we board a boat for our excursion to the Santorini caldera. You will have the opportunity to walk to the rim of the crater, sail around the islet and take a swim in the hot thermal springs.

At the end of our cruise we take the chair lift up to the village of Thira for some time at leisure for lunch, followed by a visit to the rich museum of Prehistoric Thira. Here we view material excavated from the famous Late Bronze Age site of Akrotiri that was preserved beneath ash that fell when Thira erupted in 1500 BC. The pristine state of this settlement provides archaeologists with a rare glimpse into the daily lives of those who lived there and this is reflected in the Museum displays. The museum has remnants of pottery from distant lands, complex jewellery and a selection of vibrant paintings from this period.

The early evening will include some time at leisure in the peaceful village of Oia. Perched on a cliff, this picturesque village of white painted houses with vivid blue doors, narrow streets and stairways is a delightful place to soak up Santorini’s culture. A farewell meal at Oia will allow us to enjoy what has made the village most famous, its spectacular golden sunset. (Overnight Thira, Santorini) BD

Day 21: Thursday 1 June, Depart Santorini
  • Airport transfer for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Our tour ends in Santorini. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights will be transferred to the Santorini Airport for their flight back to Australia (via Athens). Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in Santorini. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance.  B

Accommodation

21 days in Greece

Hotels are rated 3 to 4-star locally and are comfortable and conveniently situated. All rooms have shower or bath and w.c. Several hotels have swimming pools. Single rooms may be requested – and are subject to availability and payment of the single supplement.  Further information on hotels will be provided in the ‘Tour Hotel List’ given to tour members prior to their departure.

  • Athens (3 nights): Superior 4-star Royal Olympic Hotel – fully renovated in 2009, this modern hotel features a rooftop bar and restaurant with spectacular views over the Acropolis. Located adjacent to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, it is within easy walking distance of the Acropolis and Plaka neighbourhood. www.royalolympic.com
  • Nauplion (2 nights): 4-star Grand Bretagne Nauplion – a Neo-classical hotel located on the main promenade overlooking the port; within easy walking distance of numerous cafés and sea tavernswww.grandebretagne.com.gr
  • Tóriza (1 night): 4-star Ilaeira Mountain Resort – a charming hotel located on the slopes of Mt Taygetus in the village of Tóriza, 15kms from Sparta. ilaeira-resort.gr
  • Pylos (1 night): 3-star Karalis City Hotel & Spa – located a few metres from the village’s main square and 150m from the harbour.  Renovated in 2014, the  hotel offers superior rooms overlooking the Bay of Navarino. hotelkaralis.gr
  • Olympia (1 night): 4-star Hotel Europa – overlooking Ancient Olympia with a scenic view of the Arcadian Mountains and the Valley of Alpheios to the South. www.hoteleuropa.gr
  • Delphi (2 nights): 4-star Kastalia Boutique Hotel – located in the village, a 5-minute walk from the archaeological site of Delphi. www.kastaliahotel.gr
  • Athens (2 nights): Superior 4-star Royal Olympic Hotel – fully renovated in 2009, this modern hotel features a rooftop bar and restaurant with spectacular views of the city. Located adjacent to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, it is within easy walking distance of the Acropolis and Plaka neighbourhood. www.royalolympic.com
  • Hania (3 nights): 3-star Porto Veneziano Hotel – completely renovated in 2013, the hotel is located on the waterfront of the Old Venetian Harbour, 300m from the centre of the old town and excellent fish tavernas. www.portoveneziano.gr
  • Heraklion (3 nights): 3-star Lato Boutique Hotel – a family-run hotel renovated in 2007. Ideally located inside the city walls, opposite the old city harbour, providing spectacular panoramic views overlooking the Venetian Fortress and the Mediterranean Sea. www.lato.gr
  • Santorini (2 nights): 4-star El Greco Resort Hotel – a resort hotel with a spa centre, located approximately 900m from Thira, the capital of the island. www.elgreco.com.gr

NoteHotels are subject to change. In this instance a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Royal Olympic Hotel, Athens

Royal Olympic Hotel, Athens

How to book

Make a Reservation

ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION FORM

Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Passport Details

All participants must provide no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the program a photocopy of the front page of their current passport.

Double (as single) Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double room for single use throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single use is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Gallery Tour Map
Physical Endurance & Practical Information
Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, six to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 21-day tour involves:
  • A moderate amount of walking where many of the sites are large and unsheltered
  • Visiting sites where you will encounter steps, cobbled streets, rocky and uneven ground, slopes and steep walks
  • Extensive travel by air-conditioned coach; excursion by ferry to Agia Roumeli (Day 15), and by catamaran from Crete to Santorini (Day 19)
  • Domestic flight with A3 from Athens to Hania (Crete) (Day 13)
  • 3 to 4-star hotels with eight hotel changes
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person
  • The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information (provided in mainland Greece only).

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers see: www.smartraveller.gov.a

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $9890.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: book before 30 June 2016

AUD $10,090.00 Land Content Only

AUD $1690.00 Double (as single) Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3- and 4-star hotels
  • Meals as indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Domestic flight: Athens-Hania (Day 13)
  • Excursion by ferry to Agia Roumeli (Day 15), and by catamaran from Crete to Santorini (Day 19)
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports or ferry terminals)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Local guide in mainland Greece, Crete & Santorini
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits (mainland Greece only)
  • Tips for the coach driver, National guides and restaurants for included meals.
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Athens, Santorini-Athens-Australia
  • Evening meals & lunches not indicated in the tour itinerary
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20 kg (44 lbs)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (if applicable)
Terms & Conditions
Deposits

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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