Greece

Day 1 

Depart from San Francisco

Day 2

Arrive Athens.  Upon arrival you will be met by your private driver who will transfer you to your Athens city center accommodation in a private vehicle. Afternoon to relax and explore the area around your accommodation. (Overnight Athens)

Day 3

Sightseeing in Athens

After breakfast this morning, you will enjoy a private tour of the ancient city of Athens with a personal guide. You will visit the Acropolis, icon of Athens perched on its plateau, and walk to Syntagma Square, the central square of the modern day city. Following a hotel pick-up, your first stop will be at the Panathinaikos Stadium, cradle of the first modern Olympic games, which took place in 1896. Pass by the Greek Parliament in the former Royal Palace of Syntagma Square and watch the fanciful Evzoni Guards in their amber tunics. Continue to the stately Zappion Conference Center in the National Gardens of Greece. Proceed pass the Roman Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arc and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by more Evzones. You will pass the handsome Numismatic Museum at Schlieman’s House, the Catholic Cathedral, Athens Neoclassical trilogy and finally the Acropolis, where you will visit the monumental marble gates of the Propylae, the Temples of Athena, Nike and Parthenon. See the famous Porch of Maidens at the Temple of Erectheion. Continue with a pleasant short walk past Herodion and Dionysos Theater, in order to visit the daring new Acropolis Museum. Home to a multitude of archaeological finds from the Acropolis, major attractions include votives, artifacts of everyday life, archaic statues, Caryatids and the Parthenon hall with displays from the pediments, the metopes and the frieze.  (Overnight Athens)

Day 4

Athens – Corinth Canal – Mycenae – Epidaurus – Mystra

Leave Athens behind and head west to the Corinth Canal – your first stop of the day! Linking the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf, the canal is very narrow, and the ancient ships that once passed through it have been replaced by bungee jumpers. After exploring, continue to Mycenae for a guided walking tour. Learn about the development of classical Greek culture as you walk through this fascinating archaeological site. After lunch (own expense) in Mycenae, travel to Epidaurus for a tour of its archaeological site, stopping to see the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Sanctuary of Asklepios (shrine to the Greek god of medicine). Continue on to Mystras (near Sparta) (Overnight at Hotel Pyrgos Mystra)

Day 5

Mystras – Sparta

Mystras is a fortified town and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese, Greece. Situated on Mt. Taygetos, near ancient Sparta, it served as the capital of the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea in the 14th and 15th centuries, experiencing a period of prosperity and cultural flowering. The site remained inhabited throughout the Ottoman period, when it was mistaken by Western travelers for ancient Sparta. In the 1830s, it was abandoned and the new town of Sparti was built, approximately eight kilometres to the east.

Visit the Archaeological Museum of Sparta, the Acropolis and Ancient Theater, the Ruins of Ancient Sparta and the Temple of Artemis Orthia today.  (Overnight at Hotel Pyrgos Mystra)

Day 6

Olympia – Antirion – Delphi

After breakfast, set off with your guide and visit the archaeological Site of Olympia. Home to the Atlis (Sanctuary of the Gods), the site was a mecca for ancient Greeks who came here to worship Zeus. See incredible ruins like the Stadium of Olympia, where the first ancient Olympic Games were held. In the afternoon, take a scenic drive to Antirion, passing the towns of Patras. Cross over the Rion-Antirion Bridge – considered a landmark of 21st-century Greece – and then sightsee independently in Antirion and the nearby town of Nafpaktos. Finish your day with a relaxing meal at your hotel in Delphi.  (Overnight Delphi)

Day 6

Delphi – Kalambakka

Rise early and meet your guide to explore Delphi – one of the most important archaeological treasures in Europe. As you walk around this stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site with your guide, see monuments like the Sanctuary of Athena. Head inside the Delphi Archeological Museum and encounter numerous artifacts and relics that date back to 15th century BC. Watch out for the Charioteer of Delphi and the intriguing Sphinx of Naxos. After spending most of your day in Delphi, head to Kalambakka, traveling through the eye-catching towns of Amphissa, Lamia and Trikala. Enjoy dinner at your hotel and then relax at leisure.  (Overnight Kalambakka)

Day 6

Delphi – Kalambakka

Rise early and meet your guide to explore Delphi – one of the most important archaeological treasures in Europe. As you walk around this stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site with your guide, see monuments like the Sanctuary of Athena. Head inside the Delphi Archeological Museum and encounter numerous artifacts and relics that date back to 15th century BC. Watch out for the Charioteer of Delphi and the intriguing Sphinx of Naxos. After spending most of your day in Delphi, head to Kalambakka, traveling through the eye-catching towns of Amphissa, Lamia and Trikala. Enjoy dinner at your hotel and then relax at leisure.  (Overnight Kalambakka)

Day 7

Kalambakka – Meteora – Athens

Leave your hotel to visit the rock towers of Meteora – incredible sandstone peaks topped with 11th-century monasteries. With your guide, make your way up the walking trails to visit these monasteries, enjoying breathtaking panoramic views from the top. After spending the morning exploring Meteora, head back to Athens by coach, stopping in the town of Thermopylae and at Kamena Voural hot springs. Arrive back in Athens at approximately 7pm.  (Overnight Athens)

Day 8

Athens – Crete

In the late morning, take a one hour flight from Athens to Heraklion, Crete.  Meet your driver at the baggage claim and transfer to your hotel for the afternoon. (Overnight Crete)

Day 9

Heraklion

Follow the encircling Venetian walls to soak up the city’s medieval past, then spend a few hours boning up on Minoan history at the city’s archaeological museum. With your head spinning with images of bulls and topless goddesses, make your way to the excavated ruins of the legendary Palace of Knossos, just outside Heraklion. The reconstructions of the original courtyards, private apartments, baths and, in particular the lovely frescos, brilliantly convey palatial life in Minoan times. If you just can’t get enough ruins, head to Archanes in the late afternoon, to explore the ruins of the summer palace and necropolis.  (Overnight Crete)

Day 10

Around Crete

Head out of the city to visit a classic example of a Venetian castle at Frangokastello, or explore yet more Minoan ruins to the east of the capital at Malia. Then get a taste for big town life on Crete at Hania or Rethymno. Both towns boast a stunning mix of Venetian and Ottoman architecture, with lovely old town centers to explore, Venetian harbors, museums, churches and mosques. Perhaps the best thing to do in Hania and Rethymno is to sit back and soak up the village atmosphere from a waterfront taverna looking onto the port. (Overnight Crete)

Day 11

Beach Day

It’s the largest island in Greece, so it’s not surprising that Crete is ringed by gorgeous beaches. From hidden coves to wide white-sand beaches, there’s a stretch of sand for every beach lover.

The water is warm and inviting in the summer, and even in winter the water temperatures are mild enough for paddling. Beaches on the north coast are generally shallower, warmer and more family friendly, and have lifeguards. South coast beaches are less crowded, but wherever you venture around the island, most beaches have facilities such as sun beds and beach umbrellas for hire.

For snorkeling, head to Elounda, Bali, Plakias and Paleohora, and for the best windsurfing, target Kouremenos north of Palekastro on the island’s west coast.

Starting with family beaches not far from the capital, Heraklion, try Kalives or Amyirida on the west coast, where the water’s shallow, the beach is sandy and there are facilities and beach equipment for hire. Sandstone cliffs ring Agia Galini, another family-friendly resort town, with water sports equipment for hire and secluded spots on its long stretch of sand.

Agios Pavlos and Triopetra are more remote, tranquil beaches around 53km (33 miles) from Rethymno, complete with sand dunes and cliffs. Directly south on the south coast, Makriyialos is the choice for long stretches of sand away from the resorts. Preveli, also on the south coast, is considered one of the island’s prettiest beaches, with its mix of flowering oleander and palm trees.

Hania is perhaps the best base for nearby beaches. Living up to its name, Golden Beach has something for every beach bunny. It’s close to Hania, the waters are shallow, there are water sports and plenty of amenities. Platanias is similarly popular, with the added enticements of some great tavernas and bars.

And to dance on the beach where Zorba the Greek kicked up his heels, head to Stavros on the Akrotiri Peninsula near Hania.

Day 12

Feeling adventurous? Samaria Gorge

Consider this group tour – Start your experience with a pickup from your Crete hotel. Then, travel by air-conditioned coach to the entrance of the Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains of west Crete. Arrive at the plateau of Omalos, the natural gateway to the gorge, and set off on your approximately 11-mile (18 kilometer) hike. Walk at a pace that suits you and admire the breathtaking views as you follow trails down the mountain slopes. Walk through the gorge’s narrowest section between steep cliffs, and look for wild flowers, deserted settlements, birds of prey and kri-kri, wild goats, along the way. Toward the end of the hike, walk the gently sloping tracks downhill to the sandy beach and village of Aghia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea. Rest up from your 5- to 6-hour walk, and then take a boat trip to nearby Chora Sfakion. Step ashore here and rejoin your waiting coach for your return drive. Your trip concludes with a hotel drop-off. (Overnight Crete)

Day 13

Beach day

Relax and prepare for your trip home.

Day 14

Return flight to Athens, then on to the USA.