Go beyond Greece’s resort island exterior and discover the emergence of Western Europe’s great city-states through their archaeology. This new 19-day tour begins in Athens, before going back in time to the Mycenaean kings of the Peloponnese, the great classical sites of Olympia and Delphi, and the sprawling Minoan palaces of Crete. The tour continues to Greece’s most beguiling islands: Santorini with its Bronze Age city preserved by volcanic ash, tiny Delos, whose wealth arose from the Hellenistic slave trade, and Mykonos, with its whitewashed houses and narrow winding streets.
The incomparable museums, acropolis and agora of Athens, and their impact on Western European art and architecture
The palaces of Agamemnon at Mycenae, the citadel of Tiryns and the beautifully preserved Palace of Nestor at Pylos
Delphi, home to the most famous oracle in Antiquity, and Olympia, birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games
Minos’s palace at Knossos, the legendary Minotaur’s lair and Heraklion’s superb archaeological museum on Crete
Bronze Age Akrotiri, “the Pompeii of the Aegean,” on Santorini
The opulent mansions of Delos, with their colonnaded courtyards and colourful mosaics
Days 1–3: Arrive in Athens. Survey the acropolis and the Archaeological Museum.
Days 4–7: Drive to Nafplio to visit Mycenae, the theatre at Epidaurus, Tiryns and the Palace of Nestor at Pylos.
Days 8–10: Travel to the Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia and continue to Delphi.
Days 11–13: Drive to Athens and fly to Heraklion, investigate the Archaeological Museum and palaces of Knossos and Phaistos.
Days 14–15: Take the ferry to Santorini and explore Akrotiri’s remarkable excavations.
Days 16–19: Travel to Mykonos by ferry, enjoy a daytrip to Delos before flying to Athens.
The tour begins at our hotel in Athens and ends at Athens Airport. Emirates, Qatar and Etihad Airlines have direct flights into and out of Athens from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Saturday 26 September : 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 drinks followed by dinner. Overnight Athens (D)
Sunday 27 September: The Acropolis & Acropolis Museum
Our day begins with a talk in the hotel before we walk 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. Our welcome dinner is in a restaurant situated on top of Lycabettus Hill affording incredible views over Athens. Overnight Athens
Monday 28 September: Athens Archaeological Museum
This morning 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. 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 to visit another of the city’s great museums. Overnight Athens (B)
Tuesday 29 September: Mycenae and Tiryns
We depart Athens 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 in Nafplio and settle in before dinner in a converted stable. Overnight Nafplio (B, D)
Wednesday 30 September: 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. 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)
Thursday 1 October: Palace of Nestor
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 seafood restaurant. Overnight Pylos (B, D)
Friday 2 October: 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)
Saturday 3 October: 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)
Sunday 4 October: 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)
Monday 5 October: Hosias Loukas and the Sanctuary of Apollo
This morning we travel to the walled monastery of Hosias Loukas. An important monument of the Middle Byzantine period, the lavish frescoes and marble and mosaic decorations reflect the classic decorative style for this era. We also visit the crypt where the relics of St Luke are held. In the afternoon 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)
Tuesday 6 October: To Crete
We depart for Athens airport to board our flight to Heraklion. Upon arrival we transfer to our hotel before taking an orientation walk around the Venetian Harbour. Dinner tonight is in the hotel restaurant. Overnight Heraklion (B, D)
Wednesday 7 October: Archaeological Museum & Knossos
This morning we 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. In the 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 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 8 October: Phaistos
Today we travel to Phaistos, a Minoan royal palace complex on a dramatic hilltop site overlooking the Messara Plain. Inhabited since the Neolithic era, the first palace was built around 2000 BC and is the second largest place on Crete after Knossos. Construction of the original palace required the enormous task of excavating three terraces into the hillside, however the architecture here is simpler and more orderly than at Knossos and in contrast, devoid of frescoes. Following our visit, we head towards the seaside town of Matala for lunch in a seafood restaurant. Overnight Heraklion (B, L)
Friday 9 October: To Santorini
We make our way to the port and join the ferry to Santorini. The Cyclades boasts many beautiful islands but few compare to Santorini. Here the whitewashed houses perch on the side of a massive caldera, formed when the volcanic island erupted in 1450BC. Upon arrival we check into our hotel before taking a walking tour through the main town of Thira. Overnight Santorini (B)
Saturday 10 October: Akrotiri
Today we visit the Minoan Bronze Age site at Akrotiri. One of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean, it was destroyed by the Theran eruption and buried in volcanic ash and was possibly the inspiration behind Plato’s story of Atlantis. Excavations begun in 1967 have revealed a large settlement, extensive drainage systems and multi storeyed buildings painted with frescoes. We also visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira which houses artefacts and frescoes from Akrotiri and Neolithic and Cycladic era pottery. After lunch in a local restaurant the afternoon is free to relax or explore the main town overlooking the caldera. Overnight Santorini (B, L)
Sunday 11 October: To Mykonos
We depart Santorini today and take the ferry to Mykonos, a journey of about two and a half hours. On arrival we transfer to the small archaeological Museum built in the early 20th century to house finds from the excavations at the nearby islands of Rinia and Delos. The collection includes statues, jewellery, funerary stelae, weapons, ceramics and vases from the Cycladic workshops dating back to the 9th century BC. We check in to our hotel and enjoy dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Mykonos (B, D)
Monday 12 October: Delos
The island of Delos is a short ferry ride and millennia away from bustling Mykonos. One of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, Delos is uninhabited apart from the few archaeologists who work on what is essentially an open-air museum. According to legend the island was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis and our tour today includes the Sanctuary of Apollo, the House of the Dolphins with its fine mosaic, the theatre, built to hold over 5,000 spectators, the famous Lion Terrace and the Sanctuary of Dionysus with its extraordinary statuary. Though the island is small the sites are numerous and we spend most of the day here including lunch in a local restaurant. Returning to Mykonos the evening is at leisure. Overnight Mykonos (B, D)
Tuesday 13 October: Mykonos
This morning we wander through the narrow maze of streets in the main town of Chora lined with restaurants, small churches and boutiques, and explore Little Venice, the artists’ quarter named for the painted balconies that jut out over the harbour. We head to the quiet village of Ano Mera and visit the Tourliani Monastery. Founded in 1537 the domed church features an ornate gilded iconostasis and small museum displaying vestments, religious documents and icons. The afternoon is at leisure before we gather at a local restaurant for our farewell dinner. Overnight Mykonos (B, D)
Wednesday 14 October: Depart
We depart for Mykonos airport for our group flight to Athens where the tour officially ends. (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.