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 and ferry schedules. 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 a couple of days this will be a boxed/picnic lunch) and D=dinner.
Hania, Crete - 2 nights
Day 1: Wednesday 28 May, Arrive Hania
- Tour commences at 7.45pm in the foyer of the Porto Veneziano Hotel
- Welcome Meeting
- Light Evening Meal
Meeting Point: The tour commences at 7.45pm in the foyer the Porto Veneziano Hotel, located in the heart of the old city of Hania. There will be a short welcome meeting followed by a light dinner in the old town.
We begin our journey on Crete, a mysterious land that gave birth to Europe’s first civilisation. In the stories of Greek myth, this civilisation, called the ‘Minoan’ after the legendary King Minos, belongs to the Golden Age. Homer says that Crete had 100 cities and sent 80 ships to the Trojan War. Crete figures large in Homer’s Odyssey; his hero Odysseus claims to have visited on the way out to and home from Troy. He even masquerades as the younger brother of the Cretan king!
Our first destination is the beautiful city of Hania in Western Crete. Hania is built on an earlier settlement that Homer calls Kydonia, and this name is also found in the Mycenaean Linear B tablets (1100 BCE). The powerful city of Kydonia was a leader in resisting successive invaders, Romans, Arabs, the Venetians, and the Turks. During their rule, (1205-1669), the Venetians changed the name to La Canae – the channel – from which comes the modern name Hania. But even today, the province around Hania retains the ancient name, Kydonia. (Overnight Hania, Crete) D
Day 2: Thursday 29 May, Hania – Aptera – Hania
- Ancient Aptera
- New Archaeological Museum of Hania
- Shipyard Moro, Nautical Museum: featuring the reconstructed Minoan ship Minoa
- Welcome Lunch at Tamam Tavern
- Orientation walk of the old city of Hania, visiting the Venetian fortification and old Venetian and Ottoman quarters
- Time at leisure
We begin this morning with a visit to ancient Aptera, which overlooks Souda Bay and offers panoramic views across the plain of Armeni to the White Mountains. ‘Aptera’ means wingless; the city got this name from a mythical story about a singing contest between the dangerous bird-women, the Sirens and Zeus’ daughters, the Muses. When the Sirens lost the contest, they shed their feathers, turned white, and fell into the sea. Much of the area remains unexcavated but we will see the impressive, fortified city walls reminiscent of the Cyclopean walls of Tiryns and Mycenae. We also see the remains of a small 1st-century BCE temple of Demeter, a theatre and vaulted cisterns of the Roman period – according to one source they were used for grain storage.
On returning to Hania, we visit the New Archaeological Museum, opened in state-of-the-art premises in April 2022. Highlights are an unpublished, assemblage of clay bull votive figurines and the famous “Master Sealing” a seal impression showing a male figure towering over a Minoan town by the sea – possibly Kastelli Hill near our hotel. We also make a quick visit to Shipyard Moro, a division of the Nautical Museum of Crete to see the Minoa, a full-size replica of a 16th-century, BCE Minoan vessel.
Lunch will be served at the Tamam Tavern, a delightful Turkish restaurant housed in a former hammam. 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. At the entrance to the harbour lies the Firka Fortress, built by the Venetians (1206-1669) to serve as a local garrison and later used for the same purpose by the Ottomans (1669-1898).
The remainder of the afternoon and evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Hania, Crete) BL
Heraklion, Crete - 3 nights
Day 3: Friday 30 May, Hania – Eleutherna – Heraklion
- Arcadia Monastery
- Ancient Eleutherna Archaeological Site including the Necropolis of Orthi Petra
- The Museum of Ancient Eleutherna
Today we drive 23 kilometres southeast of Rethymnon to the fortified Arcadia Monastery which sits on a high fertile plateau on the northwest side of Mount Ida (in myth, a birthplace of the sky god Zeus). As early as the 16th century the monastery was a place for science and art with a school and a rich library. It was also noted for its rich production of olive oil and wine produced by the monks that lived in the monastery and farmers that worked the monastery’s extensive lands. The monastery played an active role in the Cretan resistance to Ottoman rule and in the revolt of 1866, providing refuge to nearly 300 guerrilla fighters and some 700 women and children.
Next, we visit Eleutherna, an ancient city-state that lies a few kilometres from the Arcadia Monastery. Eleutherna was a major city in 900-600 BCE. Burials at Orthi Petra confirm Homer’s account of funeral rituals and in particular, the Warrior’s Tomb confirms the practice of revenge killing of captives described in the Iliad. Rich finds from the excavation are on display in the new museum including a perfectly preserved bronze shield from the Warrior’s Tomb (c.700 BCE) and spectacular gold and jewelled adornments from the Tomb of the Four Priestesses (c. 675 BCE), including a series of intricate gold brooches, one depicting a male god flanked by two lions and another showing animal combat.
Mid-afternoon we continue our journey to Heraklion, the capital of Crete. Our boutique hotel is located in the heart of the city. (Overnight Heraklion, Crete) BL
Day 4: Saturday 31 May, Heraklion – Phaistos – Gortyn – Heraklion
- Minoan ‘palace’ complex at Phaistos
- Graeco-Roman site of Gortyn
- Archaeological Museum of Messara
This morning we drive inland to the Minoan palace complex at Phaistos with its evocative view over the Messara Plain. According to myth, Phaistos was founded by Rhadamanthys, brother of King Minos, both of whom ultimately became judges of the dead in the Greek Underworld. Like Knossos, the complex at Phaistos also dates to about 1900 BCE, but here we see the original ground plan of a Minoan palatial complex without the overlay of Arthur Evan’s reconstructions. Phaistos remained the same throughout several cycles of destruction and rebuilding until it was abandoned in about 1400 BCE.
After our picnic lunch, we transfer to the site of ancient Gortyn. Our first evidence for people living in the area around Gortyn dates to the Neolithic period (ca. 7000 BCE). The site was clearly in use during the Minoan period (2600-1100 BCE) — as a lot of their artefacts have been excavated in the area — but scholars still dispute whether Gortyn was developed into a city by the Minoans. However, it was clearly a centre of power by the time of the Trojan War (ca. early 12th century BCE), as Homer mentions “…Gortyna, famed for its walls…” in both his Iliad and Odyssey. Gortyn rose to such prominence during the 1st millennium BCE that it rivalled the former Minoan capital at Phaistos. The city’s influence was at its highest in the 2nd century BCE during the Hellenistic period when it dominated all of Crete. During the Roman Imperial period the city became the regional capital of the dual provinces of Crete and Cyrenaica, and many of the site’s features we will visit date to this Roman period.
Today ancient Gortyn is perhaps most famous because of the ‘Gortyn Code’ inscription that was discovered in 1884. This is the 2nd longest Greek inscription known today. It is dated to the 5th century BCE, which makes the ‘Gortyn Code’ both the longest and oldest known example of an ancient Greek law inscription. This astounding find was preserved because the blocks on which it was inscribed were re-used in the walls of an Odeon built during the reign of Emperor Trajan.
We end our visit to Gortyn by visiting the new Archaeological Museum of Messara, which opened in 2023. The museum consists of three halls, each dedicated to one of the three major historical periods: prehistory, Graeco-Roman and Christian era.
Following our visit to the museum we will transfer back to Heraklion for an evening at leisure. (Overnight Heraklion, Crete) BL
Day 5: Sunday 1 June, Heraklion – Knossos – Heraklion
- Minoan ‘palace’ complex of Knossos
- Heraklion Archaeological Museum
This morning we set out for Knossos, the famous Minoan ‘palace’ complex on Crete. The site was excavated and reconstructed by Sir Arthur Evans in the early years of the twentieth century. Evans’ reconstruction is controversial, but it does offer a vivid experience of how Minoan palatial complexes may have looked in the Bronze Age.
Evans thought that the Knossos complex, with its three-storied maze of corridors and rooms, was the labyrinth where the Athenian hero Theseus killed the Minotaur. In the Iliad, Homer mentions the dancing floor that the craftsman Daedalus built for Ariadne at Knossos. It is also very possible that Homer’s description of King Alkinoos’ shining palace preserves a collective memory of Knossos.
Following time at leisure for lunch we visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This is one of the world’s great museums with marvellous finds from all over Crete. The displays cover a span of 7500 years, but the museum is most celebrated for its collection of beautiful and sophisticated objects from the Minoan civilisation, including frescoes from Knossos, the distinctive faïence figurines of the snake goddess and the mysterious Phaistos disk. Other exhibits include a Boar’s Tusk Helmet that exactly matches Homer’s description of the helmet worn by Odysseus in the Iliad.
For tonight’s group dinner, we shall enjoy a traditional Cretan banquet at the Herb Garden Restaurant. (Overnight Heraklion, Crete) BD
Naxos – 3 nights
Day 6: Monday 2 June, Heraklion – Santorini – Naxos
- Morning High-Speed Ferry from Heraklion to Fira, Santorini (0845-1035)
- Museum of Prehistoric Thira
- Minoan Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri
- Evening High-Speed Jet from Santorini to Naxos (1930-2105)
Early this morning we take the high-speed ferry to the volcanic island of Santorini. Upon disembarking from the ferry we take a cable car from the port up to the modern capital town of Fira.
Our visit to Santorini marks the beginning of our tour of some of the Cycladic islands. Santorini (ancient Thira) is the southernmost of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. Santorini refers to a group of five small islands, with Thira being the largest. These islands are the parts of a volcanic cone that remained above water following its numerous explosive eruptions which occur about every 20,000 years. The last of these giant eruptions is dated to circa 1500 BCE, and the resulting impact on the climate is thought to have adversely affected Bronze Age societies around the Mediterranean, including the Minoans who dominated the region at the time. The volcano today is only dormant, not extinct.
Our first destination today will be the Museum of Prehistoric Thira where we will learn about the region’s history from the Late Neolithic to Late Cycladic periods (ca. 7000-1,000 BCE). The museum showcases many extraordinary artefacts excavated in the area from the different cultures and periods that inhabited the islands. The museum also features an exhibition inaugurated in 2021 entitled “Thera Murals – The Treasure of the Prehistoric Aegean” which showcases a large number of previously unseen frescoes from the prehistoric town. The frescoes are wonderfully celebratory in their observation of plants and animals, and especially of marine life.
Following some time at leisure for lunch in Fira, we transfer to the famous archaeological site of Akrotiri, which takes its name from the nearby modern village. This site was a thriving settlement during the Cycladic Bronze age, largely due to its location directly on the sailing route from copper-rich Cyprus to Minoan Crete. The inhabitants of Akrotiri became adept at processing copper, as evidenced by the discovery of many related tools and implements during the excavation of the site. Copper-processing brought in great wealth for about 500 years, which financed the creation of finely paved streets and complex urban drainage systems. Such wealth also allowed for developing refinement in other crafts such as ceramics and delicate jewellery. This all ended, however, in the mid-16th century BCE when the island exploded. Sites not destroyed completely, were buried in deep layers of ash, which helped preserve the buildings and artefacts.
Following our visit to Akrotiri we enjoy free time in Fira before boarding our ferry to Naxos. (Overnight Naxos) B
Day 7: Tuesday 3 June, Naxos
- Chalkio village: Naxos Agios Georgios Diasoritis & Panagia Protothroni
- Apeiranthos village
- Lunch in Koronos village
- Holy Paleochristian Church of Panagia Drosiani, Moni village
- Kouroi statues: The sleeping giants of Naxos, Flerio Melanes
Today we explore Naxos, the largest and most fertile of the Cyclades. It is believed that the island has been inhabited for at least 160,000 years since the latter Middle Paleolithic period, as Neanderthal tools were found southwest of modern Chora. Naxos is also famous for a species of dwarf elephant that lived here prior to going extinct upon the arrival of hominids. During late prehistory (Neolithic to Bronze Ages), Naxos was the centre of the Cycladic culture in the region. It also featured prominently during the Archaic and Classical Greek periods, as it is linked to major myths such as the birth of the Olympian Zeus, the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur, and as the birthplace of Poseidon’s nereid wife. The importance of the island continued throughout western history: becoming a religious centre during the Byzantine period, a Venetian Duchy after the Fourth Crusade, and a refuge for Anatolians fleeing the Seljuk Turk invasions of the 13th century.
Our first destination today is the village of Chalki located near the centre of the island. A short walk through olive groves takes us to the Church of Saint George Diasoritis. This 11th-century church is one of the best preserved of the ‘cross-in-square’ design, an atypical design for churches built on Naxos. Along with learning about the history and architecture of the church, we will view its well-preserved frescoes. These include the Christ Pantocrator in the dome, an admirable Virgin and Child, and an image of its eponymous St. George that is unusual for being painted within a frame like an icon.
We continue our walk through the picturesque village of Chalki to visit the Panagia Protothroni, which still serves the Christian Orthodox community. This small church dedicated to the Virgin Mary is unique in the region, being the only ecclesiastical structure to be covered in white wash. We will see exquisite paintings inside from five eras, including some early Christian images, as well as those from several Byzantine periods. Time permitting, we will also visit a small, adjoining museum that contains relics, icons, and rare books from the church’s history.
Following our visit to the Panagia, there will be time at leisure to visit the local Villindras Distillery or Fish & Olive Gallery. These two establishments highlight the richness of the products from the fertility of the island.
We journey on to another regional village, Apeiranthos, considered the ‘crown jewel’ of Naxos. It is built, like an amphitheatre, onto the slopes of Mount Fanari. After time to stroll through the village we proceed to the northeast part of the island to the mountain village of Koronos, where we dine in a local restaurant.
After lunch we visit the Holy Paleochristian Church of Panagia Drosiani – our third unique church for the day, and is also dedicated to the Virgin Mother. Its construction is quite unusual, consisting of a three-part attic with a round dome, and three adjoining chapels on the north wall, each with squared-dome bases for their roofs. The oldest part of the church dates to the 6th century CE, and some of the original frescoes from this period are still preserved. We will see additional frescoes from the 11th-14th centuries as well.
Our final stop for the day will be Flerio Melanes, where we visit the unfinished colossal ‘kouroi’ statues that likely date to the 7th-6th centuries BCE. ‘Kouroi’ are naked youths shown standing with their arms at their sides; ‘korai’ is the term used when the statues are of females. The two ‘kouroi’ are both unfinished and are carved from the local Naxian marble.
From Flerio Melanes we transfer back to Naxos Chora for an evening at leisure. (Overnight Naxos) BL
Day 8: Wednesday 4 June, Naxos – Ios – Naxos
- Morning High-Speed Ferry from Naxos to Ios (1030-1100)
- Prehistoric – Early Bronze Age Settlement of Skarkos
- Ios Archaeological Museum
- Scenic drive to Homer’s Tomb
- Time at leisure for dinner at Ios Chora
- Evening High-Speed Ferry from Ios to Naxos (2015-2105)
This morning we take the ferry to the rugged, hilly island of Ios, another of the Cycladic islands. On arrival we transfer to the Skarkos archaeological site. Skarkos is one of the most important prehistoric sites, not only for the Cycladic cultures, but also for the Bronze Age throughout the entire Aegean Sea. The historic settlement is located on a hill encompassed by ancient terracing. It is situated superbly to benefit from the surrounding fertile plains and still have immediate access to a natural harbour which is the most sheltered of all natural harbours in the Cyclades. Skarkos was systematically and thoroughly excavated between 1984-1997, revealing some of the best-preserved remains from the Bronze Age to be found in the region, including four-metre walls found still standing, as well as two-storey buildings.
After visiting Skarkos we return by coach to Ios Chora to make a brief stop at the Ios Archaeological Museum. Here we view some of the extraordinary material culture recovered during the long excavations at Skarkos and other nearby sites.
In the afternoon we take a 13km scenic drive, through picturesque mountains that overlook hidden coves and beaches, to the north of the island. On arrival we take a short (approximately 300m) coastal walk to view the exterior of the ‘so-called’ Homer’s Tomb. The site affords spectacular views over the Gulf of Plakotos. Various legends recount that Homer took his last breath here on the island of Ios, and is buried in this tomb. Your tour leader will tell you these tales as we visit the site.
We next return by coach to Ios Chora for some leisure time to have dinner and explore the town while we wait for the return ferry to Naxos. (Overnight Naxos) B
Tinos – 3 nights
Day 9: Thursday 5 June, Naxos – Tinos
- Venetian Castle including temporary exhibition of Archaeology, Naxos Chora
- Site Museum of Naxos Mitropolis
- Temple of Apollo
- Fast Ferry from Naxos to Tinos (1430-1635)
This morning we walk along the coastal promenade to visit the Venetian Castle, or ‘Kastro’. The castle was built in the 13th century as the seat of the ‘Duchy of Naxos’ which was created by Venetian Marco Sanudo upon occupying the Cyclades. It is in the shape of a pentagon, surrounded with 12 towers. The ‘Duchy’ only survived for 54 years before it fell to the Turkish pirates led by the Ottoman corsair Heyreddin Barbarossa. Today, the castle houses the Naxos Archaeological Museum, two cathedrals (Catholic & Orthodox), and a school run by Ursuline nuns.
Following our visit to the castle, we continue a walking tour of Naxos Chora to reach the Site Museum of Naxos Mitropolis. Opened in 1999, this is the first museum of its type in Greece. Here visitors can walk amongst artefacts still seated where they were excavated. The museum includes a Mycenean ceramic workshop (1750-1050 BCE), a Geometric period tomb (900-700 BCE), and several residences from the 2nd century CE.
We next walk along the causeway that connects Naxos to the small islet of Palatia to view the ‘Portara’ (‘Great Door’), which is an enormous marble doorway that once gave ingress into a huge Temple of Apollo. The Ionian style temple was begun in 530 BCE, but was never finished. Today, the ‘Portara’ is the only element that remains intact.
After viewing the ‘Portara’ we return across the causeway for some free time in the ‘Old Town’ of Naxos Chora before we reconvene at the ferry port to depart for Tinos. (Overnight Tinos) B
Day 10: Friday 6 June, Tinos
- Agapi Village: Walking tour to view Pigeon Houses
- Pyrgos village & the Museum of Marble Crafts
- Kardiani Village, Aegean vistas
- Afternoon at leisure to explore Tinos Chora
- Dinner at Kalopsia Restaurant
Today we begin our exploration of Tinos by travelling to the small village of Agapi, which means ‘Love’ in Greek. This is one of the oldest towns on the island, and is most famous for its many, elaborate ‘dovecotes’ (pigeon houses). While it is estimated that there are more than 1000 of these pigeon houses on Tinos, generally those in Agapi are thought to be the most impressive. These amazing small buildings are two floors and usually built of stone. The ground floor is used for storage and the top floor is where the pigeons live. The pigeon houses of Tinos are considered superb examplars that showcase Greek folk architectural traditions. The first written documentation of their existence only dates to 1726, but it is generally held that the tradition is much, much older. While in Agapi we will take a stroll to view a selection of these amazing structures.
We next transfer to the largest village on Tinos, known as Pyrgos (old Panormos). This town, located on the northwestern end of the island, is considered by many as one of the most scenic places in the Cyclades. Until the 18th century it was little more than a fishing village. But the development of a marble mining, working, and shipping industry arose during the 18th-19th centuries which helped establish Pyrgos as a major artistic centre in the Aegean. Its town square is considered a jewel, being covered with marble paving and hosting an exquisite marble fountain. Here we will visit the Museum of Marble Crafts to learn more about the role this stone played in shaping the town and its history. We will then have free time to explore the town.
After lunch we transfer to the highland village of Kardiani for the pure pleasure of its landscape and vistas over the Aegean. This stunning town even holds a classification from the Greek Ministry of Culture as a surviving traditional settlement.
We return to Tinos Chora for an afternoon of leisure. This evening we dine at Kalopsía Restaurant run by well-known chef Giorgos Stilianoudakis. Overlooking the Aegean, the menu will introduce you to the traditional products and flavours of Crete and the Cyclades. (Overnight Tinos) BD
Day 11: Saturday 7 June, Tinos – Delos – Tinos
- Morning boat excursion to Delos (UNESCO World Heritage Listed)
- Lunch at Teresa Harikiopoulou’s tavern, Mirsini
- Bolder landscape of Volax village
- Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Evangelistria at Tinos
This morning we journey to the island of Delos located near the centre of the Cycladic archipelago. This island is one of the most storied in all of Greek history. It is linked through Greek culture in its mythology and its history. Much of this is due to the island being considered sacred. For more than a millennium before the rise of the Olympian gods, Delos was a religious centre. Eventually the earlier religious significance became subsumed into the Olympian cosmology as the birthplace of the Greek Apollo and his sister Artemis. The importance that Delos played in Aegean history is astounding, given that the island itself is poorly-suited to producing its own food or natural resources — all of which had to be imported. We will explore some of the remnants from Delos’ history during our morning visit. Which features we visit will be determined based on what is open at the time. These may include the sacred lake, the Temple of the Delians, Terrace of the Lions, the Oikos of the Naxians, the Doric-style Temple of Isis, Temple of Hera, House of Dionysos with its famous mosaic of the god riding on a panther, or many other options.
Upon returning to Tinos we transfer to the village of Mirsini to enjoy a home-cooked lunch by Teresa who is renowned for her traditional cooking highlighting the authentic flavours of the island. Her meals are accompanied with award-winning wines from the region.
After lunch we travel to the village of Volax, located on a small triangular plateau at an altitude of 300m above sea level. It is surrounded by an unusual monolithic moonscape characterized by giant, spherical boulders up to 10 metres high. These are spread over a 22.6km area – making it arguably the largest boulder field in Europe. Volax is one of the oldest settlements on Tinos. The original medieval settlement made use of the boulders by carving out the surrounding rocks with small windows, blending into the landscape to become invisible from the threat of pirate attacks. The custom of building on and around these boulders continues, as does the tradition of basket-weaving. Tinos, is one of the emerging winegrowing areas of Greece, and the majority of the island’s nationally acclaimed wineries are grown in the area.
We then return to Tinos Chora for our final stop of the day, to visit the Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Evangelistria. This religious complex is centred around a holy, miraculous icon. The icon was ‘discovered’ within days after the modern Greek state was established, which led to Our Lady of Tinos being named as the patron saint of Greece.
Our day ends with a short walk back to the hotel for an evening at leisure. (Overnight Tinos) BL
Kos – 3 nights
Day 12: Sunday 8 June, Tinos – Mykonos – Kos
- Morning Ferry from Tinos to Mykonos (0920-0940)
- Free time to explore Mykonos Chora
- Fly Mykonos to Kos (1450-1720)
This morning we take the ferry to Mykonos the last Cycladic island of our tour. There will be time at leisure to explore the picturesque capital, Chora (also known as “Mykonos town” or “Hora”), a mostly pedestrian maze of narrow streets with cubic whitewashed houses decorated with colourful windows, doors and balconies.
In the afternoon we reconvene for our transfer to the airport. We will then take a flight to the island of Kos, where we will check-in and have the evening at leisure. (Overnight Kos) B
Day 13: Monday 9 June, Kos
- Casa Romana
- Sanctuary of Asclepius
- Lunch at Ouzu Restaurant, Kólpos Kefálou Bay
- Ruins of the Basilicas of Agios Stephanos, Kólpos Kefálou Bay
- Castle of Antimachia
We begin our full day on Kos with a visit to the Casa Romana which was built during the late 2nd century and early 3rd century CE on the ruins of an earlier Hellenistic house. Following extensive renovations, the house now provides a wonderful insight into how a wealthy Koan official and his family lived. It includes 36 rooms and 3 atria which are decorated with exquisite mosaic floors, most of which date back to the 3rd century CE.
At the top of a verdant hill, three kilometres to the southeast of Kos Town lies the sanctuary of Asclepius, an ancient medical centre. It dates from the first half of the 3rd century BCE and was built to honour the god of health and medicine, Asclepius, after the death of the famous ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates (460–380 BCE). The site is laid out in three terraces. On the lowest terrace there is a stoa and a complex of Roman baths dating from the 3rd century CE. On the second terrace we see the remains of a large altar which was built around the middle of the 4th century BCE and is one of the earliest structures in the Asklepieion. To the west of the altar there is a Temple of Asclepius dating from the 3rd century BCE and to the east of the altar there is a Roman temple in the Corinthian order from the 2nd century CE. On the third and final terrace there lie the remains of the Doric Temple of Asclepius from the 2nd century BCE.
Following our visit to the Asklepieion we transfer by coach to the Ouzo Restaurant for lunch. Overlooking Kólpos Kefálou Bay, the restaurant’s menu, which includes fresh seafood dishes combined with Greek classics with an exciting modern twist, was designed by Michelin-starred chef Lefteris Lazarou.
After lunch we walk to the Agios Stefanos ruins, which are situated in a spectacular setting of a small peninsula that extends into Kamari Bay. Here we tour the ruins of two early Christian basilica churches which are dated to late 5th century and mid-6th century. Both churches originally had three levels, although today we can only walk through the preserved foundations and first few courses of wall stones. Both churches, however, are nonetheless remarkably preserved, allowing us to see all the components typical of churches of the time.
Before returning to Kos town we visit the Castle of Antimachia for our first glimpse of Crusader architecture. This imposing fortification was begun in the early 14th century by the Catholic military Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, or the ‘Knights Hospitaller.” The Antimachia stronghold was formidable, having only one entrance on its inland face. It took decades to build, coming to completion around 1494 as evidenced by an inscription that can still be read above the entrance gate, next to a carved emblem of the Order. Inside the fortress there are two Venetian churches, as well as a few poorly preserved remains of houses, cisterns, and other utilitarian features. (Overnight Kos) BL
Day 14: Tuesday 10 June, Kos – Bodrum – Kos
- Morning Ferry from Kos to Bodrum (0900-0930)
- Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Bodrum Castle
- Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
- Theatre of Halicarnassus
- Afternoon Ferry from Bodrum to Kos (1730-1800)
Today we make a special excursion to the Turkish mainland to visit Bodrum, the ancient city of Halicarnassus – which was home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Dominating Bodrum’s harbour is the Castle of St. Peter, begun in 1402 by the Knights Hospitaller as a hospital for pilgrims to Jerusalem, and today houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Bodrum is the centre of Turkish marine archaeology and the Museum has a wide range of fascinating underwater finds displayed throughout the Castle in many atmospheric halls and galleries. Displays include finds from a wreck dating from 1350 BCE that was carrying, possibly on royal consignment, copper and tin ingots, amphorae packed with terebinth resin used in making perfume, as well as fragments of scrap gold and silver jewellery that were intended for reuse. From another wreck, an early medieval merchant ship discovered in the 1970s and known as the ‘Glass Wreck’, comes a display of intact glass cups and bottles. The greater part of this vessel’s cargo appears, however, to have been over a million shards of broken glass, which were also being transported for recycling.
Following lunch at a local restaurant we visit the site of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Once this edifice stood over 50 metres high, but today only the foundations remain. The Knights Hospitaller used the Mausoleum as a quarry to build their castle. When the site was excavated in the middle of the 19th century moreover, the surviving frescos and statuary discovered by C. T. Newton were sent to the British Museum. In the 1950s, the Turkish writer Cevat Sakir Kabaagaçlı – known as ‘The Fisherman of Halicarnassus’ wrote to Queen Elizabeth requesting that the Mausoluem’s artifacts be returned to Bodrum. He argued that such exquisite works of art were not given their true place under the foggy, grey sky of London. The response he allegedly received stated: ‘Thank you for reminding us of the matter, we have painted the ceiling where the Mausoleum is located in blue.’
We end our day in Bodrum with a visit to the Theatre of Halicarnassus. Built in the late 2nd century BCE, it originally had a seating capacity of 10,000 people. (Overnight Kos) BL
Rhodes – 4 nights
Day 15: Wednesday 11 June, Kos – Rhodes
- Kos agora
- Kos Archaeological Museum
- Plane Tree of Hippocrates & exterior of Neratzia Castle
- Afternoon ferry from Kos to Rhodes (1540-1810)
We begin our final day on Kos with a walk to visit the agora, which was the market and meeting place, the commercial and social centre of the ancient city. Kos’ agora is huge and located near the harbour, which can be seen as an indication of how important sea-trading was to the city’s economy. Excavations have shown that the oldest section of the agora was constructed in the mid-4th century BCE. During our walking tour we will see parts of the city fortifications and ancient port, remains of temples to Hercules and Aphrodite, and of course, ruins of numerous shops.
Next, we visit the Kos Archaeological Museum. Although small in size, this museum has an excellent series of displays that tells the history of Kos from prehistory through to the Ottoman era.
Following time at leisure for lunch, we walk to the port, stopping to see the Plane Tree of Hippocrates, under which legend says Hippocrates himself taught medicine to his students. It is an impressive tree, with crown spanning more than 12 metres, which may make it the largest Plane tree in Europe. We will also walk past the exterior of the Neratizia Castle, another fortress that was largely built by the Knights Hospitaller during the 15th century. We then depart Kos by ferry for the island of Rhodes. (Overnight Rhodes) B
Day 16: Thursday 12 June, Medieval City of Rhodes (UNESCO World Heritage Listed)
- Harbour of Mandraki
- Palace of the Grand Masters
- Lunch at Paneri Creative Mediterranean Cuisine
- Rhodes Archaeological Museum, Hospital of the Order of the Knights of St John
- Kahal Shalom Synagogue (time-permitting)
Rhodes, known as the ‘island of roses’, can be considered a ‘crucible’ of Eastern Mediterranean history. The third largest of the Greek islands, Rhodes is graced with two concentrations of monuments: the city of Rhodes and the citadel of Lindos. According to ancient tradition, Early Iron Age Doric colonists settled Rhodes, dividing the island into three states. These shared the port-city and harbour of Rhodes, later famous for one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the colossus that supposedly straddled its entrance. When the other Hellenic republics were absorbed into the empire of Alexander the Great, and then into Hellenistic successor states of the Seleucids and Ptolemies, Rhodes retained its independent status. It grew rich as a major participant in maritime trade linking the Aegean, Egypt and Syria. Seleucid hostility to the concept of the autonomous city-state, however, made Rhodes uneasy and in the 1st century BCE the island appealed to Rome for protection. During the Roman period the development of more southerly maritime trade routes from Italy to the Levant decreased Rhodes’ importance and the island had become somewhat of a backwater when St Paul visited it.
Rhodes remained outside the main currents of Mediterranean life until the Crusades, when it became one link in a chain of fortresses and ports that connected the Crusader kingdoms of the Levant with the western Mediterranean. In the 14th century the Knights Hospitaller, expelled from the Holy Land by the Egyptian Mamluks, sought refuge in Rhodes. Rhodes became the Order’s stronghold and the Knights built a number of beautiful palaces there for their different Langues (‘tongues’: the national groups into which the Order was divided). Then, in 1503, the Ottoman sultan Suleyman the Magnificent forced the Knights to leave after a six-month siege.
This morning we transfer by coach to Rhodes’ Venetian harbour, Mandraki, where we will examine the medieval harbour and fortifications, and discuss the controversy over the original location and size of the famous Colossus of Rhodes, the 3rd century BCE statue of Helios, the Sun God.
From there we continue with a walking tour of the old city which was originally laid out in the 5th century BCE by the architect Hippodamus of Miletus. His fame rests on his reputed invention of the urban grid plan, seen at Miletus, Priene and other West Anatolian cities. Modern Rhodes has some buildings greatly influenced by the Italian fascist architecture of the late 1930s but is dominated by the old fortified medieval town. Of particular interest is the so-called ‘Street of the Knights’, where the Gothic palaces of the Langues form marvellous late medieval streetscapes. Each palace has an impressive arched doorway surmounted by the emblem of its particular Langue.
The tour highlight is the impressive medieval Palace of the Grand Masters. The building was begun in 1440 by Grand Master de Lastic with money bequeathed by his predecessor, Fluvian, and completed in 1489 by Grand Master d’Aubusson.
Following lunch at a local restaurant, we continue our tour of the Old Town with a visit to Rhodes’ Archaeological Museum, housed in the Hospital of the Knights, which was built in 1440 and completed by the Grand Master d’Aubusson (1476– 1503). The museum displays pottery, jewellery and figurines from the Iron Age tombs of the island’s three cities, a good collection of Classical, Hellenistic and Roman sculpture, and a series of Hellenistic to Early Christian mosaics. Particularly impressive are the funerary slabs from the period of the Knights with relief representations of the dead or of their coats of arms.
Time-permitting we also visit the Kahal Shalom Synagogue (Holy Congregation of Peace), the oldest Jewish synagogue in Greece, and the only remaining Sephardic temple in Rhodes. Known as the New Synagogue, it is now part of a large complex consisting of two yards, the ruins of a small house, a courtyard with a plaque inscribed with the synagogue’s founding date of 1577, and a fountain. The courtyard held a library until World War II. On either side of the temple’s central door is an Ehal, a marble niche where the Torah is kept. To ensure its long-term survival, the synagogue was included on the 2000 World Monuments Watch. (Overnight Rhodes) BL
Day 17: Friday 13 June, Rhodes – Lindos – Epta Piges – Kamiros – Rhodes
- Medieval village of Lindos and ancient Acropolis
- Lunch at Argo Restaurant
- Valley of Epta Piges
- Ancient Kamiros
We depart early this morning to visit the medieval village of Lindos and the ancient acropolis above it. We shall climb to the acropolisvia the monumental staircase and propylaea(entrance building) dating to the Hellenistic period, passing an unusual carved rock relief showing an ancient Rhodian ship. Within the acropolis, which was fortified during the Middle Ages with impressive walls, is the fine Doric temple to Athena, where the offerings table and base of the cult statue can still be seen. The temple also affords stunning panoramas of the island, including a view of Agios Pavlos, the place where St Paul is said to have landed.
Following lunch at a local seafood restaurant overlooking Haraki Bay, we journey along the southern coast to the site of Epta Piges (Seven Springs), a valley with flowing clear springs and covered with enormous plane and pine trees. From here, we turn inland and cross the island to the ancient city of Kamiros, located on the north coast, approximately 50 kilometres south-west of Rhodes Town.
Kamiros, along with Lindos and Ialissos, was, according to Homer, one of the three City-States founded by the Dorians who settled on Rhodes. The western and central parts of the island belonged to Kamiros; it was more conservative than the other two City-States of the island. Its agricultural production, made possible by its fertile, loamy soils, formed the basis of its prosperity. The oldest evidence of settlement in the wider area of Kamiros known to this day, namely Kamirida, date back to the Mycenaean times and come from the cemetery of chamber-like tombs in the village of Kalavarda, a few kilometres north-east of Kamiros. Twice destroyed by earthquakes (in 226 and 142 BCE), the main remains at Kamiros date to the Hellenistic period, although some Classical elements are also visible. The Hellenistic city was built on three levels with various buildings and monuments including an agora, a Doric fountain house, a reservoir and a stoa. The acropolis commands fabulous views across the sea to the coast of Turkey. Below it are the reasonably well-preserved remains of a town with all its ancient conveniences.
In the late afternoon we return to Rhodes Town where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rhodes) BL
Day 18: Saturday 14 October, Rhodes – Ialyssos – Rhodes
- Monte Smith (Temple of Apollo, Old Stadium)
- Monastery of Philerimos, Ialyssos
- Time at leisure in Rhodes Town
- Farewell Dinner at Nobel Gourmet Restaurant
We begin this morning by exploring St. Stephen’s Hill, known locally as Monte Smith, site of the acropolisof ancient Rhodes. It has a 3rd century BCE Hellenistic stadium that hosted the athletic events of the Alioi Games held in honour of the sun-god Helios. At its summit you will encounter the Temple of Apollo, patron deity of the city. The bizarre name of Monte Smith derives from the name of a British Admiral, Sir Sydney Smith, who used the location in 1802 as a lookout from which to observe the manoeuvres of Napoleon’s Egyptian fleet.
Nearby we also visit Philerimos (Filerimos), a hilltop monastery built by the Byzantines in the 5th century CE on the ruins of ancient Ialyssos.
We return to Rhodes Town for an afternoon at leisure before re-meeting in the evening to share a farewell meal together. (Overnight Rhodes) BD
Day 19: Sunday 15 June, Depart Rhodes
- Tour concludes in the morning
- At leisure/Check out
Our tour ends in Rhodes after breakfast. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel. Please contact ASA if you require assistance with a transfer to Rhodes Airport. B