Explore the extraordinary world of ancient Greece, from the sprawling palaces of Minoan Crete and the citadels and monumental tombs of the Mycenaeans to the incomparable museums of Athens and the emergence of the Byzantines at the end of Antiquity. This 17-day tour by land and sea takes you from Crete to the Peloponnese, Olympia, Delphi and Athens, visiting archaeological sites and museums, and enjoying the dramatic landscapes – mountains, spectacular coastlines and rocky islands – of the Greek world. Get to know the deep history of the cultures that made Greece the cradle of western civilisation.
The tour includes 7 nights aboard the MS Galileo, with full board and shore excursions. The MS Galileo is a charming 25 cabin, 3-masted sailing ship, boasting classic interiors and served by a crew of 16. This ship is compact in design, with a lounge and dining room, and outdoor bar and sundeck.
The legacy of Venice’s medieval maritime empire at Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania
Knossos, palace of King Minos and home to the legendary Minotaur
Athens’ incomparable museums, the Acropolis and Agora
Epidaurus’s well-preserved 4th-century BC theatre
The palaces of Agamemnon at Mycenae, and the beautifully preserved Palace of Nestor at Pylos
Revered Delphi, home to the most famous oracle in Antiquity, and Olympia, birthplace of the modern Olympic Games
Days 1–4: Arrive Athens. Fly to Heraklion and explore the Palace of Minos at Knossos, Archanes and Phaistos.
Days 5–6: Travel to Chania via Venetian Rethymno and the Australian Infantry Forces sites at Souda Bay. Embark on the MS Galileo.
Days 7–12: Circumnavigate the Peloponnese, calling in at historic Epidauraus, Mycenae, Gythion, Pylos, Olympia and Delphi. Sail through the narrow Corinth Canal to Piraeus.
Day 13: Disembark the Galileo, return to Athens.
Days 14–17: Survey Athens, Acropolis and Agora; investigate the National Archaeological Museum and superlative Benaki and Cycladic museums.
The tour begins and ends at the Athens hotel. Emirates, Qatar and Etihad Airlines have direct flights daily into and out of Athens from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Sunday 3 November: Arrive
The tour commences at the hotel in Athens at 6pm. Meet your tour leader and fellow travellers in the lobby of the hotel for an introductions and drinks followed by dinner in the hotel. Overnight Athens (D)
Monday 4 November: To Heraklion
This morning we transfer to Athens Airport where we board a flight to Heraklion. We arrive in Crete and transfer to our hotel before John conducts an orientation tour of the Venetian city on foot. This evening, there is an introductory talk in the hotel followed by dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Heraklion (B, D)
Tuesday 5 November: Phaistos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum
A brief stroll from the hotel takes us to the excellent Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, which re-opened in 2014 following a lengthy renovation. The artefacts are displayed both chronologically and thematically and its collection includes Minoan artefacts and wall paintings from Knossos and the other Minoan palaces as well as the mysterious Phaistos Disk. This afternoon we travel to the site of Bronze Age Phaistos, a Minoan royal palace complex on a dramatic hilltop site overlooking the Messara Plain. Overnight Heraklion. (B, L)
Wednesday 6 November: Archanes and Knossos
Just outside of Heraklion is the rustic village of Archanes, a treasure house of heritage-listed neoclassical architecture. Archanes was an important Minoan hub and a likely summer retreat for the Knossos Kings. We visit the delightful Archaeological Museum which houses many significant finds from the region. This afternoon we visit Crete’s most famous site, the Minoan palace complex of Knossos. The area shows occupation from Neolithic times but the first palace was established c. 1900 BC. This was destroyed by an earthquake 200 years later and completely rebuilt. The site is, in fact, a complex of administrative, residential, and religious structures that offers an excellent idea of what life in Minoan Crete may have been like. Overnight Heraklion. (B)
Thursday 7 November: Rethymno and Souda Bay
This morning we depart for Rethymno and undertake a walking tour of the town which flourished under Venetian rule in the 16th century and where the old quarter retains a rich elegance. Our tour includes the massive Venetian Fort, the Nerantzis Mosque (built originally as a church by the Venetians and now the city’s concert hall), the Great Gate of the town, and the Venetian mansions along Arkadiou Street. We continue to Souda Bay to visit the Allied War Cemetery, where soldiers from the Commonwealth, including many Australians and New Zealanders who lost their lives in the Battle of Crete and the First World War, are buried. Our day concludes in Chania, a strategic location that first attracted the Minoans who founded the city state of Kydonia here in the Bronze Age. Since then it has been fought over by Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Turks, Egyptians, and finally the German Army in 1941. We explore the layers of history the invaders have left behind including the fortified Venetian harbour and the Mosque of the Janissaries. Overnight Chania. (B)
Friday 8 November: To Athens
Today we depart Chania and fly to Athens. Upon arrival we transfer to Marina Zea where we board the MS Galileo, meet the crew and set sail for Epidaurus. Overnight aboard MS Galileo (B, D)
Saturday 9 November: Epidaurus
Today we have an early start as we depart the ship forth the impressive site of Epidaurus, the location of the Asclepeion, one of the most famous healing centres of the Classical world. The sanctuary was raided by the Romans and Goths and little remains of it today. Testament to the prosperity brought by the sanctuary is Epidaurus’ well-preserved 4th century BC theatre with a capacity for 13000 spectators. Still in use today, the theatre is regarded as the best in Greece for its fine structure, symmetry and perfect acoustics. We return to the ship for lunch and set sail for Nafplion. Overnight aboard MS Galileo (B, L, D)
Sunday 10 November: Mycenae
After a short walk through Napflion we visit Mycenae, the seat of Agamemnon who served as leader of the Greek coalition at Troy and a site that gave its name to a whole civilization. We enter through the famous Lion Gate and see the Shaft Graves of Circle A and climb through the site to the crowning Megaron Palace where the Mycenaean king would have held sway over much territory. Blending back into the rocky hills, the ruins of this ancient powerhouse are in a spectacular location atop the citadel and ringed by well-preserved Cyclopean walls. After lunch back on board we sail to Gythion. Overnight aboard MS Galileo (B, L, D)
Monday 11 November: Mani Peninsula
This morning we visit Ancient Gythion which was used by the Spartans as a port and naval base, after they enlarged the natural harbour. Crossing the Mani Peninsula to Cape Tenaro at the tip of the Peloponnese, we reach Diros and visit the spectacular caves, among the most important natural sites in Greece. We descend into the caves and explore the dramatic stalactite and stalagmite formations by boat. After a stroll through the nearby town of Areopolis we reboard our vessel and head to Pylos. Overnight aboard MS Galileo (B, L, D)
Tuesday 12 November: Palace of Nestor
The seaside town of Pylos is the site of an important in Greek naval history after the Venetian fleet defeated the Ottomans, leading to the independence of Greece in 1829. Located on a scenic hilltop, we visit the Mycenaean period ‘Palace of Nestor’, seat of power for wise king Nestor in Homer’s Iliad. This recently restored site contains one of the best-preserved Mycenaean palaces ever excavated and the small area allows easy interpretation. We continue a short distance to Hora and visit the superb archaeological museum which holds an array of artefacts recovered from the site. This afternoon we sail for Katakolon. Overnight aboard MS Galileo (B, L, D)
Wednesday 13 November: Olympia
Disembarking the ship early this morning we depart Katakolon for the ancient site of Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games and where the Olympic flame is still lit every four years. Home to the Temple of Zeus, one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary at Olympia not only lies in a beautiful and peaceful setting but its largely non-reconstructed remains allow a unique opportunity to visualise how this complex would have looked during its heyday. Also within the sanctuary is the ancient Temple of Hera, while just outside the precinct are the gymnasium and well-preserved stadium. The archaeological museum is a treasure trove of artefacts excavated from the sacred precinct including superb architectural sculptures from the Temple of Zeus itself. We reboard the ship at Patras and depart for Itea in the Gulf of Corinth. Overnight aboard MS Galileo (B, L, D)
Thursday 14 November: Delphi
Today we travel to Delphi, chosen by the Greeks as the navel of the Earth and located on the spectacular cliff face of Mount Parnassus. We visit the impressive and mystical archaeological site, home to the most important oracle of the ancient world whose influence on rulers and the ruled alike was profound. Political decisions were made and colonies around the Mediterranean were founded only after consultation with the Oracle. We examine the site, exploring the Temple of Apollo, treasuries, theatre and stadium. The adjoining Archaeological Museum houses a collection of treasures including the marble Sphinx of Naxos and the marvellous Charioteer, one of the finest extant bronze statues from the classical world. Returning to the ship, we traverse the Corinth Canal and sail to Marina Zea outside of Athens. Overnight aboard MS Galileo (B, L, D)
Friday 15 November: Disembark – Dafni
This morning after breakfast, we say farewell to the Variety Voyager. On our way to Athens we stop at the eleventh-century Byzantine Monastery at Dafni. Founded in the sixth-century on the site of the Sanctuary of Apollo it has undergone several restorations resulting in the cloisonné style exterior common to Greek Byzantine churches we see today. The interior is laid out in a simple Greek cross-octagon with an important mosaic of Christ the Pantocrator gazing down sternly from his place in the heavens atop the dome. Arriving in Athens, there is a short orientation walk before dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Athens (B, D)
Saturday 16 November: Acropolis and Benaki Museum
This morning we explore the Acropolis and its monuments, which form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world. The Parthenon, Erechtheion, and the exquisite temple of Athena Nike are the centrepieces of the ancient buildings on the Acropolis and encapsulate both the beauty and achievements of ancient Greek spirit and civilisation. We continue at the Acropolis Museum where artefacts recovered from the site and spanning thousands of years are displayed. This afternoon we visit the Benaki Museum illustrating the Greek world through its extraordinary collection of Greek, Roman and Byzantine antiquities in the family’s neoclassical Athens mansion. Overnight Athens (B)
Sunday 17 November: Athens Agora and Archaeological Museum
We depart for a guided walking tour through the Agora, centre of the ancient city where citizens assembled for a wide variety of administrative, cultural, religious and political purposes. This afternoon we visit the National Archaeological Museum of Greece, with its incomparable collection of Mycenaean and classical period art and artefacts. Originally built to house finds from around Athens it has become a truly national museum with collections devoted to prehistory, sculptures, metallurgy and pottery. Overnight Athens (B)
Monday 18 November: Cycladic Museum
This morning we visit the Museum of Cycladic Art, a private collection of Cycladic, Ancient Greek and Cypriot artefacts accumulated by Dolly and Nicholas Goulandris since the 1960’s. Over 3000 artefacts from the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean cultures dating from the 4th century CE are housed over four levels in two separate buildings. As one of the most important exhibits of Cycladic art in the world, the collection contains austere marble figurines depicting the naked human form that have inspired 20th-century artists such as Brancussi, Modigliani and Moore. The afternoon is at leisure before a farewell dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Athens (B, D)
Tuesday 19 November: Depart
The tour concludes after breakfast. Passengers who have booked their international flights through Academy Travel will be provided with a transfer to the airport. (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.
He is also a Clinical Endocrinologist (MBBS, FRACP) who worked previously in private practice and at Bankstown Hospital in Sydney, and is now at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
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.”
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
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 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.
What is not included in the tour price?
Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.