Jan 19 - 22, 2022
4 days
$2,640per person, twin share (land content only). $440 supplement for sole use of a hotel room.

Tour Leader

Dr John Tidmarsh
Jan 19 - 22, 2022

Tour Leader

Dr John TidmarshDr Estelle LazerBen Churcher
  • Tour Info
  • Itinerary
  • Tour Leader
  • Hotels
  • Inclusions


The National Museum of Australia’s 20th birthday exhibition, Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes, is a must-see collection of over 170 works from the British Museum that have never before toured the Southern Hemisphere. The exhibition, with its celebration of athletes and the spirit of competition, is only one of several excellent events in Canberra this summer.  Another is the National Gallery of Australia’s Jeffrey Smart exhibition which commemorates one of Australia’s most popular artists in the centenary of his birth.

Expanding on the theme of the Greeks in Canberra, we join renowned archaeologist Dr Estelle Lazer for a talk on Greek Myths and the stars, followed by a private stargazing session at Mount Stromlo Observatory. On the last morning we enjoy an early drive around the Capital with resident archaeologist Ben Churcher to survey the foundations of the city. The tour is rounded out by fine dining and excellent accommodation in the heart of Canberra.

For this tour, Academy Travel has brought together a team of expert archaeologists and established tour leaders to enhance your experience. Dr John Tidmarsh, Dr Estelle Lazer and Ben Churcher will all join the tour and deliver lectures, plus there is an online talk by Dr Nick Gordon on the art exhibition at the NGA. In addition, a tour manager will accompany the group.

COVID-19? Book with confidence
If Government imposed COVID-19 restrictions mean that we cannot run a tour, or that you cannot travel to join a tour, then you will be given a 100% refund of all monies paid to Academy Travel for your tour.

Vaccination requirements
Academy Travel requires all participants on its tours to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. We reserve the right to inspect your digital vaccination certificate.


Ancient Greeks at the NMA
Enjoy an array of over 170 pieces from the British Museum including sculpture, ceramics and jewellery

Jeffrey Smart and the NGA
Explore the Jeffrey Smart exhibition, which brings together the artist’s masterpieces and archival materials that provide great insight into his art.

Greek Myth and the stars
Join Dr Estelle Lazer for a talk on the constellations, as described in Greek mythology: god-favoured heroes who received a place amongst the stars as a memorial of their deeds.

Mount Stromlo Observatory
In a behind the scenes tour learn of the 100 years of history of the Observatory, marvel at its 200kg meteorite and enjoy a guided experience of the highlights of the Southern Hemisphere sky.

Foundations of Canberra
A panoramic drive reveals the story of the establishment of the Capital, including early ruins and the grave of General Bridges who died at Gallipoli.

Itinerary Overview

Day 1: Check in. Evening lecture on the Ancient Greeks exhibit, followed by dinner in an excellent restaurant.

Day 2: Visit the Ancient Greeks exhibit at the NMA then an optional visit to the National Library Treasures collection. Afternoon lecture by Dr Estelle Lazer, early dinner and evening visit to Mt Stromlo Observatory.

Day 3: Online lecture on the Jeffrey Smart retrospective, followed by visit to the NGA. Late lunch at a winery outside Canberra.

Day 4: Early drive around Canberra to discover the foundations of the city. The tour ends at the hotel at midday.

Detailed Itinerary

Start & Finish

The tour begins at the Midnight Hotel in Canberra on Wednesday 19 January at 5pm and ends on Saturday 22 January at 12pm. Please contact us if you would like us to arrange transport to Canberra.

Detailed itinerary

Wednesday 19 January – Welcome and Ancient Greeks

Check into the Midnight Hotel and join Dr John Tidmarsh for a talk on the Ancient Greeks exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.  This superb display is subtitled Athletes, Warriors and Heroes. Particularly relevant in the afterglow of the recent Olympics, it celebrates the role of competition and combat in the ancient Greek world. These iconic objects have never before been exhibited in the Southern Hemisphere. This evening we dine in one of Canberra’s fine restaurants. (D)

Thursday 20 January – the Greeks and Astronomy

We start the day with a trip to the NMA to enjoy the exhibit in the company of John. After time for lunch there is the option of visiting the National Library to discover the Treasures Collection. In the late afternoon we join archaeologist Dr Estelle Lazer for a talk on the Greeks and the constellations as described in their mythology. We convene for an early dinner in the hotel before making the trip out to Mount Stromlo Observatory for a behind-the-scenes tour. We learn of its fascinating history as the Commonwealth Solar Observatory, achievements by its researchers, and its experience and rebirth following the 2003 bushfires. An astronomer will lead us in the use of the outreach telescopes, and a viewing of the best features of the Southern Hemisphere sky. (B, D)

Friday 21 January – Jeffrey Smart at the NGA

This morning, art historian Dr Nicholas Gordon joins us via Zoom for a talk on the Jeffrey Smart retrospective at the National Gallery of Australia. The exhibition brings together major works by this much-loved artist from public and private collections. It also includes significant archival material, such as Smart’s captivating drawings, which provide insight into his approach to composition.  An Academy Travel tour manager accompanies us to the NGA before we head to one of Canberra’s fine wineries in the Lake George region for lunch. (B, L)

Saturday 22 January – the Foundations of Canberra

On our final morning, we take an early drive around the outskirts of Canberra to learn about the establishment of the city with archaeologist and local resident Ben Churcher.  We enjoy a fine view from Mount Ainslie, discuss the Burley Griffins, visit spots like Duntroon Dairy which predate the city, stop at the early surveyors’ huts and see the foundation stone of the city. (B)

Dr John Tidmarsh

An archaeologist, former lecturer and current Co-Director of the University of Sydney excavations at Pella in Jordan.

Dr John Tidmarsh is an archaeologist who has conducted excavations in Syria, Jordan, Greece, and Cyprus. He is currently Co-Director of the University of Sydney excavations at Pella in Jordan and also Co-Director of the Australian Mission to Jebel Khalid, Syria. He is an Honorary Associate, Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Sydney and was previously Senior Investigator of the University of Sydney excavations in Torone, Greece and Associate Director of the University of Sydney excavations at Paphos, Cyprus.

He has travelled widely in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East and since the 1980s has led numerous tours to Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Oman, and Greece.

His main interests are in the art, archaeology and history of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period in the east, and in the Islamic World. He has written many articles and conference papers on these areas and has co-authored several books on the excavations at Jebel Khalid in Syria. He is soon to complete his book on the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods at Pella in Jordan.

John has a BA (Hons), MA (Hons) and PhD from the University of Sydney where he was previously tutor, then part-time lecturer in Classical Archaeology. He is a former President of the Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation at that university. John is also Chairman, Executive Committee of the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens

We asked John, what motivates your passion for travel?

“Since I first joined the excavation team in 1978 at Pella in Jordan I have become addicted to travelling and working in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

Along with my fascination for the detective work and discovery which archaeological excavation entails, one of my greatest joys is introducing my tour groups to worlds very different from those they have encountered while travelling in the USA and Europe. It is a source of real pleasure for me to see those first-timers to the Middle East, who often approach the region with slight trepidation though they may have travelled widely elsewhere, become quickly entranced by the marvellous mountain and desert landscapes and monuments that these countries possess and, more importantly, by the unsurpassed friendliness and hospitality of both Arabs and Persians alike.”

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Dr Estelle Lazer

An archaeologist with an international reputation for her work on the human victims of Pompeii in southern Italy.

Estelle has also worked on archaeological sites in the Middle East, Italy, Cyprus, the UK, Antarctica and Australia.

Estelle has also worked on archaeological sites in the Middle East, Italy, Cyprus, the UK, Antarctica and Australia.

Estelle is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Sydney. Her work on the human victims from Pompeii has been published in academic journals and books, most notably, in an academic volume, Resurrecting Pompeii. Estelle is currently heading a project to examine the casts of the Pompeian victims for the first time, using digital X-ray and CT scanning technology. Estelle’s research has been included in three documentaries over the past few years: Pompeii: New Secrets Revealed with Mary Beard for the BBC (and the Smithsonian and Arte), Pompeii’s Final Hours: New Evidence (a three-part series for Channel Five in the UK) and Pompeii: Secrets of the Dead for National Geographic.

She has delivered invited lectures on her research at a number of Australian and international institutions, including The Australian National University, the National Museum of Singapore, Oxford University and the British Museum in the UK, Lund University, the Italian Cultural Institute, Stockholm and Stockholm University in Sweden,  and Trondheim University in Norway.

Her other main field of research is historical archaeology in Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic. Estelle spent four summers working on Mawson’s Huts, and has spent another summer studying evidence of the sealing industry as well as Australia’s first post-war Antarctic base at Heard Island.

Estelle has led tours to Italy and the Mediterranean for Academy Travel since the company’s inception in 2004, and also works extensively with our Academy Schools program for teachers and students. In addition to her obvious archaeological expertise, she particularly enjoys explaining the place of mythology in the landscape – especially in Sicily and southern Italy.

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Ben Churcher

An educator and practicing archaeologist, who works both in Jordan and with Aboriginal sites in Australia.

Ben Churcher is an archaeologist who works both in the Near East, as well as with Aboriginal archaeology in Australia. He has a strong personal interest in history and archaeology, primarily of the Muslim world, but not exclusively. Ben holds the position of Field Director at the University of Sydney’s archaeological excavations at Pella in Jordan.

Ben holds a BA (Hons) from the University of Queensland and a Dip. Ed from the University of Sydney. In 1983, Ben received a travelling grant from the Alumni Association at the University of Queensland to participate at the excavations at Pella in Jordan and he has been involved in archaeology ever since.

In between digs, Ben worked as a secondary teacher for five years at both public and private high schools and in 1993 he brought together his love of teaching and archaeology by founding Astarte Resources, a company producing and distributing educational resources specialising in history. While running Astarte Resources, Ben has been involved with adult education lecturing on a range of historical subjects and graduate teaching duties at the University of Canberra in their cultural heritage degree.

Since 2002 Ben has worked extensively in Aboriginal archaeology in Australia, working with a small firm undertaking heritage assessments and management. This work has taken him from western NSW, into the Snowy Mountains and onto the coalfields of the Hunter Valley.

Ben has continued his association with the excavations at Pella in Jordan throughout this time and he has participated in most seasons of excavation at the site. This work has involved excavating most major Near Eastern periods from the prehistoric Natufian period, through to the Islamic period.

Ben is a life member of the Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation at the University of Sydney and he currently sits on the board of the Foundation.

Ben has also travelled widely beyond the destinations to which he takes tours, has taught English in Japan for six months and has sailed on a dhow to Zanzibar. The consequence of this experience is that Ben is an adept traveller, unfazed by what the world may throw at him, and someone who has managed to amass a lot of information from various places and time periods that he is only too happy to impart.

Ben led his first tour to Jordan and Syria in 1993 and has gone on to take travellers to an eclectic range of countries including Mali, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Central Asia, China and Mexico. The common thread has been Ben’s interest in global history and the interconnections between both historical periods and cultures. How these interconnections are expressed in architecture, religion and governance is an abiding interest of Ben’s.

We asked Ben, what do you think clients get from travelling with you?

“I feel the people I travel with enjoy the way I can place great sweeps of history into context for them. On tour people often want to know what was happening elsewhere while such and such a building was being constructed. Fortunately I can use the experience I’ve built up over the years to answer such questions and then tie the particular culture we are looking at into the broader picture so that it links with things already known by the people in the group.”

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The Midnight Hotel, Canberra (3 nights)
Our hotel provides comfort, luxury and style in the heart of Canberra, close to museums and restaurants. midnighthotel.com.au

Tour Inclusions

What is included in the tour price? 

Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:

All tours

  • All accommodation at properties mentioned in the itinerary
  • Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Taxis may also be used for short trips on some tours. Some city stay tours may involve local transport
  • All breakfasts
  • Lunches and dinners indicated with the letters L and D in the itinerary
  • Beer, wine and soft drinks at sit-down lunches and dinners. Picnic and light lunches may not include alcoholic drinks
  • Services of tour leader throughout tour
  • All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
  • Local guides at some sites
  • All tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals

On international tours only

  • Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required, and when stated as included
  • Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
  • Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
  • Some trips may be made by public transport such as high-speed train and subway

What is not included in the tour price?

Our tours do not include the following:

  • Air or land travel from your home city to the tour start/end points
  • Local taxes and airport levies that we are not able to prepay on your behalf. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
  • Lunches and dinners not specifically indicated with the letters L or D in the itinerary
  • Personal expenses such as passports, laundry and phone calls
  • Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
  • Airport Transfers on international tours
  • Tours may begin at either the arrival airport or the first hotel. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel, and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers

Airport Transfers

Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.

Travel Insurance

We require all tour participants to have adequate insurance coverage.

  • For domestic tours, Medicare and your private medical insurance should be used to cover any medical expenses.
  • Domestic travel insurance is available and strongly recommended to cover non-medical expenses such as cancellation.
  • For international tours, we require you to have comprehensive travel insurance. Prices vary according to your age, your pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the length of your journey abroad.

Tour Details

Fitness Requirement

Grade Two

A Grade 2 tour is appropriate for travellers in good health with good mobility, who can comfortably participate in up to 3 hours of physical activity per day on most days.
More Details


A limited number of places remain on this tour and as such, internet bookings are not taken. Please contact our travel consultant listed below if you wish to make a booking.

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More information?

The consultant for this tour is Hannah Kleboe. For further information or to have the consultant call you, please email.
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