Greece - Athens
 
GREECE - HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS
AND LESSER KNOWN GREECE - PART 2

Greece is the foreign country I know the best, as I have spent over a year and a half in total in this wonderful land. I have discovered some extraordinarily beautiful spots at the end of little roads, both on remote islands and on the mainland . I have organized an exploration of Greece in 2 parts. Part 1 will be in the Fall of 2015 and Part 2 in the Fall of 2016. Late September and into the month of October is a perfect time for the weather. The summers in Greece are extremely hot, and the country is overrun with tourists. In the latter half of September tourism decreases considerably, the temperature is mostly much more pleasant and the water is still swimmable. As these two trips will not repeat any destinations, one could even do both of these and still have a different experience on each trip.

I always say that one is seldom as alive as one feels in Greece. From my first visit there, I immediately felt at home. And that is in a country where the language, the alphabet, and many customs are different. But as human beings I think we recognize something about the landscape, our history and our evolution. I like to quote a wonderfully dynamic Greek friend of mine who used to say “Greece is the love affair that never ends” in her Melina Mercuri-esque accent and who suggested she sell her motto to the Greek National Tourist Organization.

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Itinerary
Saturday, September 24 to Friday, October 14, 2016

This trip will complete a discovery of Greece that started with last year’s trip. It will focus, as always, on a few of the absolute highlights that every visitor does not want to miss, but it also takes us to places seldom explored where we can experience authentic Greece in all of its variety.
(Click photos to enlarge)

  • Day 1 - Saturday, September 24, 2016 -Thessaloniki

    Meet in Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is Greece’s second largest city. It is in many ways a more liveable place than Athens, and although it does not have a lot from the classical era, it is rich in monuments from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. It was the second most important city in the Byzantine Empire as well as being its second richest. At one time, because of large numbers of Sephardic Jews who had left Spain to come here, its population was over half Jewish. During the Second world War 96% of the Jewish population was deported to death camps by the Nazis. It has a beautiful waterfront, intriguing old quarters, and many Byzantine and Ottoman monuments. Its Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments have UNESCO World Heritage status.

    We will start our visit with an evening out on Saturday night, first with dinner and then music. ( Dinner and Music evening INCLUDED)

    Overnight –Anatolia Hotel, Thessaloniki

  • Day 2 - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - Thessaloniki

    Today we will do a walking tour of the city, stopping to see many of its sites. In the late afternoon we will visit the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum which has finds from Vergina and Pella (in particular the spectacular gold jewellery finds from the graves of the Macedonian kings). The famous Derveni krater is also here.

    Dinner and Evening ON OWN

    Overnight- Anatolia Hotel, Thessaloniki

    Day 3 - Monday, September 26, 2016-Thessaloniki to Kavala

    In the morning you will have a little time to visit Thessaloniki before we leave in the later morning for Kavala (about an hour and a half away). I would recommend a visit to the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki as there is not a lot of the richness of the Byzantine Empire actually on display in Greece. I can arrange a visit here for anyone interested or you can have free time instead.

    Kavala is one of the prettiest port cities in Greece. It is perched amphitheatrically overlooking the harbour and sea. The site has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It sat on the Roman thoroughfare, the Via Egnatia, on the route between Constantinople and Thessaloniki. It was part of the Ottoman Empire for a very long period of time. For about 150 years its economy was dominated by the profitable tobacco industry. There were 50 tobacco companies located here and 150 tobacco warehouses. The tobacco industry resulted in great prosperity. Kavala has an acropolis, a fine old city, an Ottoman aqueduct running through the centre, and an attractive waterfront. There is a very interesting Tobacco Museum anyone who is interested can visit. I can arrange getting us there.

    Dinner together in the old town (INCLUDED)

    Overnight-Egnatia City Hotel and Spa, Kavala

  • Day 4 - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - Kavala and on to Thassos

    We have some time in the morning to enjoy Kavala.

    Today we will cross by ferry to the beautiful heavily-wooded island of Thassos. This is Greece’s most northerly island, not over-touristed as are so many other Greek islands. It is very different in nature from the islands of the Cyclades which are mostly deforested and dry. Thassos is a large island with lovely villages and beaches.

    We will transfer to our special small luxury hotel, Mare Monte Boutique Hotel at Skala Potamia. It sits above beautiful Chrysi Ammoudia (Golden Beach) , and is not far from the most beautiful beach on the whole island, Paradise Beach. The rest of the day will be free after we arrive just to enjoy the beautiful setting and the sea.

    Dinner together (INCLUDED)

    Overnight- Mare Monte Small Boutique Hotel, Skala Potamias



  • Day 5 - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

    This morning we will visit the small village of Panagia with its traditional architecture. For those who want to have a vigorous hike, we can take the trailhead from Panagia and climb Mount Ypsarion (1200 metres). This is a fairly steep climb and people can do the whole hike, or just go as far as they are comfortable with, or just enjoy the village and the surrounding countryside.

    Mid afternoon- Return to the Hotel for free time for the rest of the afternoon and the evening.

    Dinner - ON OWN

    Overnight-Mare Monte Small Boutique Hotel, Skala Potamias

  • Day 6 - Thursday, September 29, 2016

    We are not far from the capital and main port of the island, Limenaria, and from here we will take a day’s excursion by boat from the picturesque old harbour around the island. We will have beautiful views as we motor along the coast.

    On return, there are a few ancient ruins in the old part of the town worth visiting, especially the theatre.

    Dinner together (INCLUDED)

    Overnight-Mare Monte Small Boutique Hotel, Skala Potamia.

    Day 7 - Friday, September 30, -Thassos-Pella-Vergina-Meteora

    We will cross back to the mainland today, where we will have van transfer to Pella. Pella was the capital of the Macedonian kings, including Philip II and his son Alexander. Philip conquered Greece .Alexander took most of the known world all the way to India. Pella was laid out in a grid pattern and had running water and sewage drainage service for most of the homes.

    We will then proceed to Vergina, the religious and cultural centre of the Macedonian Kingdom. Here in fairly recent times were discovered the largest tombs of the Greek era. The most amazing find was the intact tomb of King Philip II who was assassinated here. Amazing works in gold were discovered . Philip’s funeral was said to be one of the most lavish in history. The Vergina Museum has been built right over the site, as it was discovered. This is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

    From here we will continue on to Meteora. (Another UNESCO World Heritage site). Meteora is an amazing area of other-worldly geological rock formations. Meteora means “suspended in the skies”. On top of these limestone pinnacles, Greek Orthodox monks constructed monasteries where they could be virtually completely isolated from the trials and tribulations of the world of man. They could limit their interactions by lowering baskets to receive food stuffs without having to deal face-to-face with the locals. They could lower ladders to climb up or down from their aeries. This is a place like no other. There are 6 monasteries left out of the original 20.We will explore some of the monasteries which are now open to the public. We will stay overnight here, so that you can experience the feel when the tourists have gone.

    Dinner together (INCLUDED)

    Overnight-Monastiri Guesthouse, Kalambaka

  • Day 8 - Saturday, October 1, Saturday-Meteora, and on to Delphi

    We will have some time in Meteora in the early morning and then drive to Delphi. Delphi was one of the most important sites in ancient Greece. (This is approximately a five-hour drive). Its setting is spectacular, and it was here that the Delphic oracle’s pronouncements were sought by pilgrims from all over the ancient world. The oracle gave predictions in riddle form that could be taken in more than one way. It was a religious, cultural and athletic centre as well. We will visit the site in the late afternoon, a great time to visit. The most important monument was the Temple to Apollo. At the entry were the inscriptions: “Know thyself” and “Nothing in excess”, both of which were maxims of classical Greece. Delphi is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

    Dinner - ON OWN

    Overnight- Hotel Ellinon Thea Arachova

  • Day 9 - Sunday, October 2-Delphi, and on to the Pelion Peninsula

    This morning we will visit the very spectacular Archaeological Museum at Delphi. The most famous artifact displayed here is the bronze statue of a charioteer. But, there are many other interesting things to be found here as well. The omphalos, a sculpted rock said to be the navel of the world, represented Delphi as the centre of the known Greek world.

    We then travel to the Pelion Peninsula, virtually a “Garden of Eden” full of flowing streams and springs. On the way there we will visit the Moni Osios Loukas, a UNESCO World Heritage designated Byzantine site.

    The Pelion Peninsula grows everything imaginable and has a spectacular seacoast as well. We will have 2 and half days here. Our first night will be in the mountain village of Makrinitsa, with its giant plane trees and interesting mountain village architecture. Our hotel is a restoration of a traditional mountain mansion.

    Dinner-together (INCLUDED)

    Overnight-Archontiko Evilion, Makrinitsa

  • Day 10 - Monday, October 3, 2016 - Pelion

    Today we will explore the peninsula stopping in the beautiful village of Zagora, There will be stops in Pouri, Horefto, Agios Giorgios, at Damouchari, at Tsangarada, and at Milopotamos. We will hike for a couple of hours along beautiful stone paths in the spectacular countryside. Again, for those who do not hike they can just explore these interesting towns or stop for a break.

    We will continue on to Afissos where we will stay for 2 nights.

    Dinner ON OWN

    Overnight - Karavia Lux Inn, Afissos

    Day 11 - Tuesday, October 4, 2016

    Today the morning will be free. Good hiking can be suggested and I will take a group hiking if they wish.

    There is an afternoon excursion to Milia, Vyzitsa, and Pinakates, other traditional Pelion villages. We have the van and will take advantage of being able to stop when we want.

    Dinner Together (INCLUDED)

    Overnight-Karavia Lux Hotel, Afissos

  • Day 12 - Wednesday, October 5-Pelion to Skopelos

    Today we finish our time on the Pelion Peninsula. We drive to Volos early this morning (and that is the end of our road time). We cross on the Hydrofoil to the Island of Skopelos. I have chosen Skopelos over Skiathos. Skiathos has more beautiful beaches, but it is also much more touristed because its airport has connections directly with cities all over Europe. Skopelos is a beautiful place and I think it makes a great destination. Most of “Mamma Mia” was shot here and you will see why they chose this island because it is so very photogenic. We will spend 2 nights here. Our time will be mostly free as we have done a lot of travelling in the last few days.

    Our hotel sits in manicured lawns, overlooking beautiful Stafylos Bay. It is near both Stafylos and Velanio beaches, and it has a private swimming platform of its own. The rooms are stone-floored and have views out over the sea. The hotel provides free shuttle service in to Skopelos town (about 2.5 miles away). There are wonderful footpaths here for lovely walks. Skopelos town has an interesting architecture of traditional slate-roofed buildings.

    Dinner-together (INCLUDED)

    Overnight-Mando Beachfront Hotel, Stafylos 

  • Day 13 - Thursday, October 6-Skopelos

    A full day to appreciate this great place. Skopelos means rocky and it certainly is. The island is covered with beautiful pine forests.

    Dinner-ON OWN

    Overnight-Mando Beachfront Hotel, Stafylos

  • Day 14 - Friday, October 7- Skopelos to Athens

    We have the morning to enjoy in Skopelos. We will take the hydrofoil to the neighbouring island of Skiathos. We will have dinner tonight in Skiathos overlooking the harbour. (INCLUDED).Then we take the only flight of the day to Athens, which is an evening flight. We will stay at Athens airport for an early flight the next morning. Our hotel is right at the airport, so we only have to walk across the street to the terminal.

    Overnight- Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel

  • Day 15 - Saturday, October 8 - Athens To Rhodes

    We leave VERY EARLY this morning to fly to Rhodes. I will hire a guide for a historical tour of old Rhodes We will be staying in a lovely restored stone hotel in the heart of the old town. This is one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world. Unfortunately, it has also had a lot of tourist development. The city of Rhodes has some small ancient sites, Ottoman-era construction, including the old market, and the only functioning Turkish baths in Greece. We will tour the Street of the Knights and the Castle of the Knights. The Knights of St John used Rhodes as a base during the Crusades to tackle targets in the Middle East.

    Dinner together (INCLUDED)

    Overnight Rhodes-St. Nikolis’ Hotel, Old Rhodes Town

    Day 16 - Sunday, October 9- To Marmaris and on to our boat

    We will take the morning ferry from Rhodes to Marmaris, Turkey.

    We board our sailing vessel “Duramaz” for a 5 day cruise from Marmaris at 15:00 this afternoon, along the Datca Peninsula, to Symi, then Nissiros , and back to Rhodes. I chartered the Duramaz 2 years ago on our Turkish exploration and people were very happy with it. It is a 100 foot long Turkish “gulet”, with teak decks and 6 beautiful mahogany cabins. It is extremely well-equipped. We sail an average of 4 hours a day, otherwise anchoring in picturesque spots . There is swimming available off the boat’s stairway and the sea is normally still warm enough for swimming.

    On our cruise there will be breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea every day. You can pick up your preferred refreshments in Marmaris harbour before leaving and save exorbitant charges on the boat. 

  • Day 17, 18, 19, 20 - Monday, October 10, Tuesday, October 11, Wednesday, October 12, Thursday, October 13-Cruise to Symi, Nissiros, and Rhodes

    The Datca Peninsula in Turkey is a long pine-clad land mass, with idyllic little bays all along it.

    Symi has a perfectly-preserved main town and harbour, on a fjord-like inlet. The architecture is all neo-classical. Recently Tom Hanks bought a home here. It is impressive in that the local architecture and historical society makes sure that all construction fits with the style of the handsome town. Symi is a sailing destination, and the harbour is full of sailing yachts. Symi is one of my very favourite places in Greece, in that it is so atmospheric.

    Nissiros is a very unusual little island. It basically consists of a very large volcano, still spewing small amounts of sulphurous gases and a tiny inhabited portion, like an appendix to the volcano. There is a charming, but simple town, and of course, there were curative hot springs. The island boasts a thousand year old church built into the rock cliff, and remnants of Cyclopean walls dating to about 3000 B.C.

    We return to Rhodes.
    Overnight on the 13th in Rhodes. On the Boat.


    Day 21 - Friday, October 14-Rhodes and Home

    We disembark this morning in Rhodes harbour . The boat is ours until 10 A.M. Depending on the time of the flights, we will fly back to Athens, for connecting flights home.
    IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON STAYING IN RHODES AFTER THE CRUISE PLEASE LET ME KNOW SO WE DO NOT BOOK FLIGHTS FOR YOU ON THE 14TH


TERMS AND CONDITIONS:

  1.  Price of trip: $5450.00 CDN based on double occupancy. Deposit of $750.00 on booking. Balance due August 1, 2016. Single supplement $950.00 CDN (there will be a limited number of single spaces available)

  2.  Cancellation Policy: If cancelled by September 1, 2016, charge of $250.00 CDN plus any flights booked by us in your name for flights within Greece. If cancelled by September 15, 2016- 50% refund. If cancelled after September 15, 2016-No Refund.

  3.  Includes: All hotel and cruise accommodations (cruise is 5 nights), breakfast daily, 3 meals a day (and afternoon tea) on the cruise boat, 15 dinners (including the dinners on the ctuise), all entrance fees to sites, all ground transportation (except from Thessaloniki airport to hotel), guides to sites, flights from Skiathos to Athens, Athens to Rhodes, and Rhodes to Athens.

  4.  Any planned excursions. The only excursions one would pay for are optional excursions.

  5.  All transport is included including minivan transfers, ferries, hydrofoils, taxis for any of our scheduled activities.

    NOT INCLUDED:
    - Airfare to and from arrival/departure destinations from Canada/U.S.
    - Non-alcoholic beverages
    - Alcoholic beverages
    - All lunches (except for 4 cruise lunches)

NOTES


Activity level- moderately active. Hikes are all voluntary. Must be able to walk for 3 to 4 hours at a time, but no strenuous walking unless you want to.

Weather-Can be somewhat variable this time of year. Usually warm to hot. We start in the north and work our way south, as in Greece, Part 1.

Money-ATM’s are everywhere

Slight revisions may be made to the schedule if necessitated by refugee issues. However, the places we are going to are MOSTLY not refugee destinations.

DETAILS

For itinerary details contact Donald Smith at: donalex.smith@gmail.com or travel-alchemy@tnt21.com

For bookings contact Susan Hickling at : susan@hanovertravelplus.ca Tel: 1-800-265-5515

 

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