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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

THE GREEK ISLES

A non-cruise Greek cruise
What? A Greek Isles tour that's not a cruise??? On this very special trip, we travel by scheduled ferry through the beautiful Cycladic Island group and spend our nights on each unique island, with a perfect balance of organized activities and free time to soak it all up.

Feel the strength of history and the warmth of being in the southernmost part of Europe, and discover an evolutionary process of thought, influence and experience. Find a landscape that has given us thousands of postcard images but whose essence remains intriguingly impossible to capture.

Greece is a country of beautiful contradictions, a constant journey in time from the present to the past and back again.
ITINERARY
Day 1 • Arrival in Athens
Today we arrive in Athens, off-and-on the capital of Greece in its many incarnations over several thousand years. The city received a major facelift for the 2004 Olympics and is looking better than ever, with buildings and monuments cleaned and renovated, and newly created pedestrian areas near the Ancient Agora and Acropolis.

Overnight in Athens.
Meal plan: Dinner
Day 2 • Athens: City Tour
Today we enjoy a guided tour of Athens, the very heart and soul of Greece. Athens has been very nicely pedestrianized in recent years, and most sites of interest are easily and pleasantly accessed by foot or subway (rather than being trapped in Athens' horrendous traffic).

Our guided tour begins at the new Acropolis Museum, located at the foot of the Acropolis. The museum was built to house every artifact found on the rock, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. Nearly 4,000 objects are exhibited over an area of 14,000 square metres.

From here it is just a brief walk to enter the Acropolis, near the site of the Dionysos Theatre. Constructed in the 6th century BC, it is one of the world's oldest theatres and the place where the great works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes were first performed. We will also see a more recent theatre, the Odeon of Herod Atticus from the second century AD, which is still used for concerts and performances.

Ascending to the top of the Acropolis, we will see magnificent buildings dating from the 5th century BC, the Golden Age of Athens. On the highest point on the Acropolis is the Parthenon, often considered the finest monument to Greek civilization. The temple was dedicated to Athena "Parthenos," the virgin and patron goddess of the city.

After our Acropolis tour, we'll descend and enter the Ancient Agora located adjacent to the Plaka, the old town of Athens. Among the numerous sights in this archaeological park are the well-preserved Temple of Hephaistos and the landmark Roman era Tower of the Winds. From here you are free to wander and explore on your own, or make your way back to the hotel with your Tour Leader's assistance.

Overnight in Athens.
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 3 • Athens - Santorini
Today we fly to the island of Santorini, also known as Thira.

Vast geological upheavals have given this island its unique form resulting in the nickname, "Pre-Historic Pompeii." The effect of terracing makes this unlike any other island, Greece's most visually stunning. Santorini is also the island of churches, wine, and donkeys! From as early as 3000 BC the island developed as an outpost of Minoan civilization until around 1500 BC when the volcano erupted. At this point the island's history became linked with the legend of Atlantis.

This afternoon we can hike from Kamari Beach to the site of Ancient Thira, located 400m / 1,320 ft above the beach on the southeast coast of the island. Here we find the ruins of an 11th century BC Dorian settlement excavated by a German expedition in the 1860s. We can see remains from the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. The ruins are limited, but you can see evidence of temples, houses with mosaic floors, an agora, gymnasium, and a theatre with stunning and sheer views to the sea. We can also enjoy one of Santorini's finest black sand beaches.

Overnight on Santorini (Fira).
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 4 • Santorini: Island Tour
Visually, Santorini is the most spectacular of the Cycladic islands. With its brilliant flooded caldera, high cliffs and charming villages, it is the Greek Isle of everyone's dreams. Our coach tour today will take us to Santorini's highlights.

We begin with a visit to Akrotiri, where excavations have revealed a complete prehistoric Minoan city with squares, streets and two-storey houses which contained marvelous frescoes. The buildings date to the late 16th century BC. No skeletons or treasures have been found in Akrotiri, so historians think that the inhabitants were forewarned of the eruption and were able to escape. The excavations have yielded evidence what has revolutionized our knowledge of the Late Bronze Age; indeed the town has been called a "bronze-age Pompeii."

Our drive around the island will also take us up to the Prophet Elias Monastery built on the highest point of the island in 1711 AD. Though we will not visit inside the monastery, the view from here is breathtaking.

Fira is the capital of the island and the most important village. Early in the 19th century the capital of the island was moved from Pyrgos to Fira. After the earthquake of 1956 a part of the town was destroyed (only a small part of the 18th century buildings were saved). Fira is perched on the edge of an impressive cliff 260m high and offers a great panorama over the submerged volcano. Here the small streets are filled with all kind of shops, cafes, and restaurants. After an orientation walk through the town we will visit the impressive Archaeological Museum. This museum features many pieces and exhibits specific to the Santorini site of Akrotiri, as well as artifacts dating back to the time of the Cycladic Civilization, which can be divided into three periods: Early (3000-2000 BC), Middle (2000-1500 BC), and Late (1500-1100 BC). The most impressive legacies of this civilization are the statuettes carved from Parian marble -- the famous Cycladic figurines. Like statuettes of Neolithic times they depicted images of the Great Mother. Other remains include bronze and obsidian tools and weapons, gold jewelry, and stone and clay vases and pots.

Oia, our last destination, is built along the rim of the caldera wall. We will walk through the village, admire the magnificent panoramic views, and perhaps enjoy snack at one of the many local cafes.

Overnight on Santorini (Fira).
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 5 • Santorini: Free Day
Today is a well-deserved day at leisure in a truly spectacular place. You might explore some of the excellent shopping and / or visit the museum if not accomplished earlier. A popular thing to do is to walk down to the old port and then return to the rim via donkey or cable car (optional expense). Full or half-day volcano boat tours are also a popular option. Your Tour Leader can help you plan your day.

Overnight on Santorini (Fira).
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 6 • Santorini - Amorgos
Today we travel by ferry to the isle of Amorgos. The ferry likely stops at several lesser islands along the way and drops us at either Katapola, the main port of Amorgos, or Aegiali, the island's secondary port. If we must disembark at Katapola, we will travel by road to Aegiali where our hotel is located. We will likely arrive in time for dinner.

Amorgos's timeless monastery, scattered churches, and pleasant beaches offer both respite from tourists on the other islands and a taste of traditional Greece. For many, Amorgos has become the highlight of the tour, accurately described as "the soul of Greece." The locals are extremely friendly, the mountains surrounding the port majestic, and the sunsets stunning. It has been the location of several movies and is a super place for walks through idyllic olive groves.

Overnight on Amorgos.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 7 • Amorgos: Chora & Chozoviotissa Monastery
This morning we travel by road to Chora, the capital of the island. We will pause here to stroll about the village, set high above the sea protected from pirates of bygone days. We leave the village and follow a magnificent staircase going down to the Monastery of Chozoviotissa. The dazzling white building, founded in the year AD 1099, clings precariously to a cliff face. We will enter the monastery and climb into its snug interior. Hopefully the docent will be available to show us around and provide access to the tiny but fascinating museum.

We proceed to the other port on the island, Katapola. Here you can stroll the small promenade and have lunch before we head back to our hotel.

Overnight on Amorgos.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 8 • Amorgos: At Leisure
Today is free on Amorgos.

You may join your Tour Leader on a moderate hike through the olive groves up to the picturesque village of Langada, where you can lunch under the forever blooming bouganvillia. It is also possible to contiune your walk to the village of Tholaria. Amorgos also has some lovely beaches, while our hotel has a fantastic pool with expansive views.

Overnight on Amorgos.
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 9 • Amorgos - Mykonos
This morning we travel by ferry the short distance to the island of Mykonos and transfer to our hotel located a short drive away from town at Platy Yialos beach, where we can enjoy the peace and quiet away from town but still be close enough to conveniently access Chora using the frequent local buses.

Later this afternoon we venture into town for a walking orientation tour before dinner in town. We wander the pirate-proof streets of town and see the Paraportiani Church near the quay, an architectural masterpiece of five chapels in one. From the harbour waterfront, you can watch the local fishing boats, or venture into the labyrinth of dazzling, white-washed streets to the many churches, tavernas, or shops selling artisan crafts, jewelry and the latest fashions. In the distance stand a string of windmills that once harnessed the breezes of days gone by. As one of the most cosmopolitan Greek islands, Mykonos is legendary for its shopping and nightlife.

After our walk we will have dinner at one of the many restaurants in town before sampling some of the gay nightlife. Bus or taxi back to our hotel on your own.

Overnight on Mykonos.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 10 • Mykonos: Free Day
There are many beaches on Mykonos and today we can enjoy them to their fullest. You can also head back into town for more independent exploration and / or shopping. Your Tour Leader can help you plan your day.

Overnight on Mykonos.
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 11 • Mykonos: Boat trip to Delos
This morning we meet the boat that will take us to the tiny sacred island of Delos (30 minutes away). Delos gives the whole group of islands surrounding it their name, the Cyclades -- so named because they form a circle (kyklos) around Delos. We will see the Agora of the Competialists, Roman merchants or freed slaves who worshipped the guardian spirits of crossroads; the Sanctuary of Apollo, the three temples of Apollo and the Sanctuary of Dionysus. In the House of the Masks we are able to see a mosaic portraying Dionysus riding on a panthers back. The theatre here could seat 5,500 people. From the top of Delos Mountain we have a spectacular view of the entire island.

We return to Mykonos with the balance of the day at leisure (you may return to Mykonos at your leisure spending as much time as you like on Delos).

Overnight on Mykonos.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 12 • Mykonos - Athens
Today we take the fast ferry back to Athens.

Time-permitting in Athens, we recommend a visit to the Museum of Cycladic Art, devoted to the study and promotion of ancient Greek art. The main exhibit, the Cycladic Collection, contains 350 objects representative of every phase or type of artifact that Cycladic islanders have left us, be that marble sculpture, pottery, or metal ware.

* IF you would like to extend your time on Mykonos, please advise as EARLY as possible so that accommodation (if required) can be booked accordingly.

Overnight in Athens.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 13 • Departure from Athens
Departure from Athens.

KALO TAXIDI!!
Meal plan: Breakfast

For detailed itinerary (PDF), click here
For hotel samples, click here
INCLUSIONS
  • Breakfast daily and most and dinners (mostly local restaurants)
  • All sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters
  • Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates
EXCLUSIONS
  • Tour Leader gratuities, some dinners, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international air taxes (if applicable), and excursions referenced as 'optional'
  • Airport transfers for Land Only customers
  • Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping
OUT FACTOR
Though still a traditional and relatively devoutly religious country, Greece is one of the more tolerant societies in the Western world. Gay culture, though not as organized and obvious (ie ghettoized) as in other European countries, is met with tolerance, or at least indifference, by the vast majority of the population.

As long as you are respectful of local sensitivities, ie discrete, the locals will be almost invariably charming and welcoming. Of course, in places like Mykonos and, increasingly, Santorini, practically anything goes.
PLEASE NOTE
This itinerary is correct at time of publishing. For a more detailed itinerary, download a PDF here. We reserve the right to make changes as necessary due to reasons beyond our control. For booking terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Terms.
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TRIP NOTES
Group size
10-18 plus Tour Leader
Staff & Support
Tour Leader, driver(s), and local step-on guides at various locations.
Accommodation
Well-located, air- conditioned, mid-range hotels (3/4 star) throughout. Island hotels are smaller properties (3-4 story) that will likely not have elevators. All hotels have en suite bath, though most have shower only. A special note about Santorini, which is primarily a luxury tourism destination and, while we can confidently promise our visit will be fulfilling and rewarding, one's hotel expectations must be in line with our overall purpose, which is sightseeing and cultural experience and not focused on the "hotel experience" per se. Porter service is rarely available on the islands ; you MUST be independent with your luggage, especially getting on/off ferries. Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.
Transport & travel conditions
Local ferries between mainland/islands can range from hydrofoils to large vehicular vessels—all bookings in economy class. Greek ferry schedules tend to change without notice; some itinerary adjustments may be necessary at the discretion of your Tour Leader. Land transport (city & island tours, port transfers) by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on group size (see 'group size'); some local buses and taxis. Several walking tours on uneven surfaces.
Weather/seasonality
This tour is offered in spring, summer, and autumn, the most popular being spring and fall when temperatures are milder, crowds thinner, and airfares lower. Spring is popular for green landscapes and wildflowers; beachgoers prefer summer and fall sea temperatures. The region has a Mediterranean climate with early springs, long hot and dry summers, and autumns that are bright and warm into mid-October. Showers are possible in spring, rare in summer, and possible in late autumn.

The following is a sampling of our preferred properties in some of the locations visited on this tour and is meant to be indicative only. Hotel properties are not confirmed until 30-60 days before trip date. You can click on the hotel photo to view the official hotel website (if available). For sample hotels in other locations on this tour, please contact us.

Hotel Divani Palace Acropolis


Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Athens
Country: Greece

Divani Palace Acropolis enjoys a priceless location right by the world-famous Acropolis, the perfect place to savour Athens fascinating history. Our beautiful hotel offers elegant rooms and suites, an outdoor pool with bar, and delicious dining including our summer Roof Garden restaurant with enchanting views of the ancient heritage. Top-notch meeting rooms and romantic banquet rooms make our hotel ideal for business meetings or a truly memorable event.

Click here to visit hotel website

Santorini Palace


Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Santorini
Country: Greece

Santorini Palace is an A' Class Hotel in Fira, the island's capitol. It is within walking distance from the breathtaking caldera, fine restaurants, and the main shopping center. With a total of 106 impeccably furnished rooms and suites, fully air-conditioned, an outdoor 300 sq meters swimming pool, a deluxe restaurant, main bar and pool bar.



Click here to visit hotel website

Hotel Aegialis


Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Amorgos
Country: Greece

The Aegialis Hotel & Spa is situated in Aegiali at the north part of Amorgos island. This family owned and operated hotel is positioned on the hillside in order to take advantage of the stunning views over the bay and the surrounded villages and islands.
The hotel is arranged in six blue and white buildings set into the hillside, so that they all benefit from the dramatic views over the bay. All rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, hair dryer, safe, refrigerator and direct telephone line.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hotel Petinos


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Mykonos
Country: Greece

Hotel Petinos, built and painted in traditional Cycladic architecture and colours, offers its guests a warm, cozy, hospitable environment. The Hotel was renovated in January 2006. All rooms and common use areas are air conditioned. The hotel also provides a TV room, a large courtyard garden, bar and restaurant facilities and a swimming pool nearby. There is a mini market just across the street.

Click here to visit hotel website