Explore Ancient Greece’s rich history on this 18-day tour focussing on two of the most remarkable eras, the Aegean Bronze Age and Macedonian ruler Philip and his son Alexander the Great. In Crete, we explore the sprawling palaces of the Minoan Age. We then travel to Athens and the Peloponnese, entering the world of Mycenaean kings with their forbidding palaces and monumental burials. We continue via the great classical sites of Olympia and Delphi before arriving at Thessaloniki, gateway to ancient Macedon.
Minoan culture and history, considered Europe’s first civilisation
Greece’s defining symbol of cultural achievement, at the acropolis in Athens
Mycenaean civilisations dating back to 1500 BC
The legends and mythology of ancient times, including the story of Jason and the Argonauts
Ancient Olympia and its legacy of the Olympic Games, whose values have carried through to the modern era
Macedonian kings Philip II and Alexander the Great, whose exploits altered the shape of history
The palace of Minos at Knossos, home to the legendary Minotaur
Athens’ incomparable museums, acropolis and agora
The palaces of Agamemnon at Mycenae, the citadel of Tiryns and the beautifully preserved Palace of Nestor at Pylos
Delphi, home to the famous oracle
The stone pinnacles of Meteora, crowned by Byzantine-era monasteries
The Macedonian capital of Pella, birthplace of Alexander, with its opulent houses and fine mosaics
Vergina, where Alexander’s father Philip was assassinated, his spectacular unplundered tomb revealed in 1977
Days 1–3: Arrive Heraklion and explore the palaces of Knossos, Malia and Phaistos.
Days 4–5: Fly to Athens, admire the acropolis and the Archaeological Museum.
Days 6–7: Drive to Nafplio to visit Mycenae, Sparta and Tiryns.
Days 8–9: The Palace of Nestor and the Venetian castle at Methoni.
Day 10: The Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia.
Days 11–12: Continue to the seat of the oracle at Delphi.
Days 13–14: Travel to Volos via Meteora.
Days 15–17: Drive to Thessaloniki and explore the Macedonian kingdom of Pella and Vergina.
Day 18: Fly to Athens for departure.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Emirates and Etihad offer daily flights from Australia to Athens, with onwards connection through Aegean Airlines to Heraklion and return from Thessaloniki.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Saturday 5 May: Arrive
The tour commences at Athens Airport where we will board a flight to Heraklion. We arrive in Crete and transfer to our hotel for an introductory talk and drinks followed by dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Heraklion (D)
Sunday 6 May: Gournia, Malia and Knossos
Our day begins with a talk in the hotel before departing by coach for the Minoan town of Gournia, named for the hollow vessels found at the site. Gournia was excavated by an American team of archaeologists in the early part of the 20th century and consists of a central palace, some sixty houses and an interconnecting road system. We explore another Minoan site at Malia, the third largest palace on Crete after Knossos and Phaistos. Originally constructed c. 1900 BC it was later destroyed and the ruins we see today are of the second palace rebuilt c. 1650 BC. The palace was discovered in 1915 and excavations of the entire town continue today. After lunch 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, L)
Monday 7 May: Phaistos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum
This morning we travel to Phaistos, a Minoan royal palace complex on a dramatic hilltop site overlooking the Messara Plain. We return to visit the excellent Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, which re-opened in 2014 following a lengthy renovation with artefacts displayed both chronologically and thematically. Its collection includes Minoan artefacts and wall paintings from Knossos and the other Minoan palaces as well as the mysterious Phaistos Disk. Overnight Heraklion. (B)
Tuesday 8 May: Athens Agora and the Acropolis
We depart our hotel in Heraklion and board a flight to Athens where we transfer to our hotel. After lunch in a local restaurant we walk through the Agora, centre of the ancient city where citizens assembled for a wide variety of administrative, cultural, religious and political purposes. We continue up to the Acropolis. 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 Greece. We complete our tour with a visit to the Acropolis Museum where artefacts recovered from the site and spanning thousands of years are displayed. Dinner is in a local tavern. Overnight Athens. (B, L, D)
Wednesday 9 May: Athens Archaeological Museum
There is a talk in the hotel this morning preceding our visit to 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. These pieces will remain with us during the tour as exemplars of many of the sites we shall visit throughout the country in the coming days. The afternoon is at leisure to further explore the museum or enjoy more of Athens. Overnight Athens. (B)
Thursday 10 May: Mycenae and Tiryns
We depart for the Plain of Argos and arrive at 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. This morning we walk through the famous Lion Gate, 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. This afternoon we stop at the smaller Mycenaean citadel of Tiryns. Celebrated by Homer for their strength, the walls of Tiryns still impress as does the well-preserved acropolis, entrance ramp and gate house. We arrive at our hotel and settle in before dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Nafplio. (B, D)
Friday 11 May: Nafplio and Epidaurus
This morning we walk through the narrow-cobbled streets of the old town of Nafplio, characterised by Venetian architecture, through Syntagma Square to the Archaeological Museum to see the finds discovered from Tiryns, Mycenae and Epidaurus. We visit the baroque fortress of Palamidi, standing 216 metres above the town and named after Palamedes, the son of Nafplio and hero of the Trojan war. This afternoon we visit the impressive site of Epidaurus, the location of the Asclepeion, one of the most famous healing centres of the Classical world. The well-preserved 4th century BC theatre is regarded as the best in Greece for its fine structure and perfect acoustics. Overnight Nafplio. (B)
Saturday 12 May: The Palace of Nestor at Pylos
Departing Nafplio we pass through Kalamata – the second largest town in the Peloponnese and famous for its olives and olive oil – on our way to Pylos, located on magnificent Navarino Bay, stopping at 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 arrive in Pylos and freshen up before dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Pylos (B, D)
Sunday 13 May: Pylos
Using the small town of Pylos as our base, we explore our immediate surroundings in order to examine the role of Pylos during the Peloponnesian War, as well as its role in hastening the end of Ottoman rule in Greece. The protecting island of Sphacteria, where 440 Spartan hoplites were trapped during the Peloponnesian War, forms a backdrop to a beautiful scene as we remember the decisive engagements that have taken place at this isolated location. In the afternoon we head to Methoni, which contains one of the best-preserved Venetian castles in the area. Founded during the Crusades, this castle with its impressive sea tower was a vital staging post for traders moving between the Levant and Europe. Overnight Pylos. (B)
Monday 14 May: Olympia
We depart Pylos 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 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 arrive at our hotel in Olympia and settle in before dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Olympia. (B, D)
Tuesday 15 May: To Delphi
This morning we travel to Delphi, chosen by the Greeks as the navel of the Earth and located on the spectacular cliff face of Mt Parnassus. This afternoon we visit the Delphi Museum and view its collection of treasures including the marble Sphinx of Naxos and the marvellous Charioteer, one of the finest extant bronze statues from the classical world. Our visit also prepares us for our visit to the site tomorrow. We check in to our hotel and enjoy dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Delphi. (B, D)
Wednesday 16 May: Sanctuary of Apollo
Today we visit the impressive and mystical archaeological site of Delphi, 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 today, exploring the Temple of Apollo, treasuries, the theatre, stadium and Altar of the Chians. Overnight Delphi. (B)
Thursday 17 May: Thermopylae
This morning we head east to Volos. Along the way, we make a short detour to the site of Thermopylae, the location of the famous last stand by Spartan soldiers during the 480 BC Persian Wars. Little remains at the site except for a bronze statue of Leonidas, the warrior King of the Spartans, erected in 1955. Overnight Volos. (B, D)
Friday 18 May: Meteora
We take a day trip to Meteora to see the amazing landscape of steep-faced sandstone pinnacles, often crowned with a Byzantine monastery. These buildings seem to fill the summit and their precarious position must have given a great sense of security, seclusion and spiritual elevation to the orthodox monks who inhabited them. Access to the monasteries was deliberately difficult, requiring long ladders tied together or large nets and baskets used to haul up both goods and people. Reaching the top required a leap of faith as it is said the ropes were only replaced “when the Lord let them break”, symbolising the fragility of life. Overnight Volos (B)
Saturday 19 May: To Thessaloniki
We have a leisurely morning in Volos before departing for Thessaloniki, located on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. As the second-largest city in Greece it is a major economic, commercial and transport hub for south-eastern Europe and the administrative capital of Greek Macedonia. Overnight Thessaloniki. (B, D)
Sunday 20 May: Thessaloniki
Founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon, Thessaloniki’s history spans some 2,300 years. An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. The city is home to numerous notable Byzantine monuments, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. Today we start by visiting the palace, Arch and Rotunda of Galerius, the Byzantine citadel and two incomparable museums: the Archaeology Museum and the Museum of Byzantine Culture. In the late afternoon you might like to stroll along Thessaloniki’s esplanade to one of the city’s iconic monuments, the White Tower. Overnight Thessaloniki. (B)
Monday 21 May: Pella and Vergina
Today we take an excursion to visit the premier cities of the ancient Macedonian kingdom: Pella and Vergina. In this world of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II, we visit the ancestral capital at Pella and view the beautifully executed pebble mosaic floors, the well-presented site museum and the streets and buildings of a city that, for the briefest of moments, ruled from Greece to India. At Vergina we visit the theatre where Philip II was assassinated and visit his tomb, now presented in a state-of-the-art complex that both covers his tumulus tomb and presents the beautiful objects found there in 1977 when the tomb was excavated by Manolis Andronikos. Returning to Thessaloniki we visit two important Byzantine monuments: the church of St. Sofia (Hagia Sophia) and the church of St Demetrius (Hagios Demetrios). These originally seventh and eighth century churches have suffered the vicissitudes of time but still retain tantalising glimpses of the fine early Byzantine wall mosaics and frescoes which survived the ninth century iconoclast movement. This evening we conclude our tour with dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Thesssaloniki. (B, D)
Tuesday 22 May: Depart
We depart for Thessaloniki airport for our included flight to Athens where the tour officially ends. Jemma York will be happy to help you with options if you would like to stay on in Greece or onward connections to Europe. (B)
Dr John Tidmarsh
The former president of the University of Sydney's Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation, and a former lecturer in the Department of Archaeology.
He is also Co-Director of the University’s excavations at Pella in Jordan, and the Australian Archaeological Mission at Jebel Khalid in Syria and has also excavated in Greece and Cyprus. He has led numerous tours to Oman, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and other countries in the eastern Mediterranean.
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.