Greece’s cultural riches, from the glorious remnants of ancient civilizations to a palate-pleasing bounty of wine, olives and seafood, await you on this eight-night journey to Athens and Gytheio! Ascend the Acropolis to admire the Parthenon and sweeping views of Athens. Explore the fortified Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae and discover a one-of-a-kind treasure, mountainside Mystras, an important center of Byzantine culture. During your stay in charming, seaside Gytheio, enjoy coastal life and get to know the Mani, a region known for its independent spirit, stone tower houses and beautiful beaches, plus journey to Monemvasia, a stunning, medieval walled city on an island. A wine tasting and a fun-filled dinner with music and dancing complement this well-rounded, small-group experience! You’ll also learn about Greek history, from classical to contemporary, during enriching lectures with experts. Includes deluxe and first-class hotels and a generous meal plan with wine at dinner.
Depart gateway city
AHI FlexAir passengers depart for Athens, Greece. Please check your luggage from your gateway city to your arrival city. Your claim checks should have the following airport code: ATH.
Arrive at Athens Eleftharios Venizelos International Airport. Proceed through immigration to the baggage claim area and retrieve your luggage. After completing customs, AHI FlexAir passengers traveling on flights that qualify for the group arrival transfer and Land Program passengers who have purchased seats on the group transfer should exit the baggage claim area and proceed to the Arrivals Hall, where an AHI Travel representative will meet you.
Transfer to the NJV Athens Plaza Hotel, centrally located on Syntagma Square. Please note, if you arrive before check-in time, your room may not be immediately available.
Free Time: Enjoy the rest of the day exploring on your own. At the other end of the square is the Greek Parliament building, where you can watch the changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every hour on the hour. Walk south from the Parliament, and see the National Garden, Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus to your left. Your Travel Director can offer more sightseeing suggestions.
This evening, join your fellow travelers for a Welcome Reception and Dinner and get better acquainted.
Discovery: Athens City Tour. Today, explore legendary Athens, the birthplace of democracy and Western philosophy, theater and architecture. On a scenic tour, see highlights including the neoclassical Academy of Athens, the University of Athens and the National Library. Then journey to the Acropolis, the hilltop sanctuary of monuments overlooking the city. The world-famous Parthenon and other temples at this UNESCO World Heritage site were built in the fifth century B.C., but the Athenians fortified the hill some 2,800 years earlier. Take in the Parthenon’s classical lines and the sweeping views over Athens. At the Acropolis Museum, view stunning artifacts from the Acropolis’ slopes and look through the glass floor to see the ruins of an ancient neighborhood. (Active)
Free Time: Pursue your own interests for the rest of the day. In the evening, take a stroll, or volta, in the Plaka; it is a social event many Greeks enjoy with family and friends when the sun goes down.
Mycenae | Gytheio
After breakfast, depart Athens for your journey to Gytheio, a seaside city on the ruggedly beautiful Mani peninsula, one of four peninsulas that extend south from the larger Peloponnese peninsula.
Discovery: Mycenae and Greek Wine. On your route, take a fascinating, guided tour of the hilltop ruins of Mycenae, one of the oldest archaeological sites on the Peloponnese and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Mycenaean civilization developed and flourished here during the Bronze Age from roughly 1600–1200 B.C., and their culture would later profoundly inspire the Greeks of the Classical period. One of its great cities, Mycenae features prominently in Greek mythology with Perseus as its founder and as the birthplace of Agamemnon, the king who conquered Troy. Imagine this fortified citadel in all its glory as you walk under the imposing Lion’s Gate. Afterward, travel to a winery for an excellent introduction to Greek winemaking that includes a tasting and lunch. (Active)
Continue to Gytheio and check in to the Las Hotel & Spa Gytheio overlooking the Laconic Gulf.
This evening at the hotel, receive a warm welcome to Gytheio as you enjoy a buffet dinner and a complimentary cocktail with your group.
Gytheio | Areopoli | Limeni | Thalames
Discovery: The Mani Peninsula. Begin your day with a short walk in Gytheio to see its landmarks and learn more about its history. Then embark on a scenic drive through the remote and splendid Mani, where orange groves that dominate the eastern landscape turn into a blanket of olive trees as you head west. Your first stop is Areopoli, famous for the role it played in the Greek Revolution, when local Maniots defiantly declared war against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. On a stroll in the lovely old town, delight in its warm ambience and traditional stone houses. Afterward, travel to Limeni, one of the Mani’s prettiest seaside villages, for fabulous views of the crystal-clear turquoise bay, and pause for a lunch of the region’s specialties along your route. Round out your travels with a tour of a working olive mill in Thalames with a rare stone mill. (Moderate)
Enrichment: Greek History. A local expert discusses the significant figures and critical periods in Greek history that are the foundation for the modern-day republic.
Mystras | Sparta
Enrichment: Classical Greece. Learn about the widespread influence of ancient Greece on the Western world and how Greek accomplishments in philosophy, literature and science led Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance.
Discovery: Mystras, the Greek Olive and Sparta. Today, travel through the picturesque countryside to another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Byzantine city of Mystras, dramatically set on a mountainside over the Laconian plain. Looking over the city from the top of the mountain are the ruins of a castle built in 1249 by William II of Villehardouin, the Frankish prince who ruled over the southern Peloponnese. Just 13 years later, Byzantine forces captured the fortress and controlled it for two centuries until it fell into the hands of the Turks and, later, the Venetians.
Upper and lower towns grew below the mountaintop fortress, and the city reached its peak during its Byzantine years, when it was the center of the empire’s power in the Peloponnese. In fact, the last Byzantine emperor was crowned in Mystras. As you tour the spectacular ruins, hear about Mystras’ significance in Byzantine culture and admire the chapels, monasteries and churches adorned with frescoes. Break for a relaxing lunch afterward.
Next, travel to Sparta for a guided walk amid the ruins of one of ancient Greece’s greatest city-states. See ruins from the ancient city that was home to Greece’s fiercest warriors. Afterward, visit Sparta’s informative and interesting Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil, which details why the olive is so prized by the Greeks. Discover how the olive and its oil has seeped into nearly every aspect of Greek culture and daily life. (Active)
Discovery: Monemvasia. Gazing from the mainland at the rocky island before you, you wouldn’t suspect that a fortified medieval town lies on it. To avoid enemy attacks, Monemvasia was built on the opposite side, facing the sea, with only one entrance via a narrow causeway. Enter this breathtaking, hidden gem today through the castle gate, and meander on the labyrinth of cobblestone streets lined with honey-colored stone mansions, churches and mosques that reflect its Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman past. See Christos Elkomenos, the Lower Town’s most famous church, and Agia Sofia, a Byzantine church that sits atop a cliff. Afterward, soak up more of Monemvasia’s charm as you enjoy some free time for lunch on your own. (Moderate)
In Gytheio tonight, watch the sun set over the Laconian Gulf from a special spot, then dine with your group in town.
Enrichment: Contemporary Greece. A local expert discusses how modern attitudes and lifestyles in Greece reflect ancient customs and traditions.
Free Time: Savor the beauty of your surroundings today! Maybe you’ll set up a chair in the sand to chill on nearby beaches like Mavrovouni or Ageranos and follow up with a leisurely lunch at a taverna by the water.
Discovery: Greek Night. Cap off your time in the Mani with a festive glendi, or party! Relish a wonderful dinner, listen to folk music and watch dancers perform traditional routines. If you’d like, join hands for a joyful folk dance.
Corinth | Athens
This morning, depart Gytheio for Athens with a stop in Corinth along your route.
Discovery: Corinth Canal. First opened in 1893, this deep channel separates the Peloponnese from the mainland and connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf. Get an up-close look during a boat ride and enjoy lunch in the area after your cruise. (Mild)
Continue to Athens and check in to the NJV Athens Plaza Hotel.
Free Time: There’s still plenty to see and do in Athens on your final afternoon and evening. Odos Ermou (Ermou Street), the city’s main shopping area, is just off Syntagma Square. Look for familiar shops as well as Greek department stores here. If you prefer more of a market atmosphere, Monastiraki is nearby, and you can find olive wood spoons, olive oil products, spices, evil eye souvenirs and more.
Depart for gateway city
After breakfast, AHI FlexAir passengers traveling on flights that qualify for a group transfer and Land Program passengers who have purchased seats on the group transfer depart for Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport for your return flights home. Your Travel Director will provide the details.
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