Greece ~ Kalamata & Athens

Greece ~ Kalamata & Athens

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 Kalamata! Ascend the Acropolis to admire the Parthenon and sweeping views of Athens. Visit the celebrated birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games at Olympia and explore the fortified Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae. Set off to an under-the-radar gem, the beautifully preserved classical city Messene, and discover a one-of-a-kind treasure, mountainside Mystras, an important center of Byzantine culture. During your stay in seaside Kalamata, enjoy the bustling coastal life plus savor its namesake olives and freshly caught seafood. 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.

Trip Itinerary:

September 30 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.

October 1 Athens, Greece

Arrive at Athens Eleftherios 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. Please note, if you arrive before check-in time, your room may not be immediately available.

Free Time: The rest of the day is free to explore on your own. Located on Syntagma Square, the hotel is centrally located near many attractions. 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, start off your Greek adventure with your fellow travelers at a Welcome Dinner.

Accommodations - NJV Athens Plaza Hotel
Meals - Dinner

October 2 Athens

Discovery: Athens City Tour. Get acquainted with 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 built the world-famous Parthenon and other temples in the fifth century B.C., but 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 Athens. In the evening, take a stroll, or volta, in the Plaka; the volta is a social event many Greeks enjoy with family and friends when the sun goes down.

Accommodations - NJV Athens Plaza Hotel
Meals - Breakfast

October 3 Mycenae | Kalamata

This morning, depart Athens and travel toward Kalamata on the Peloponnese’s southern coast.

Discovery: Mycenae and Greek Wine. Explore the impressive ruins of Mycenae, one of the great centers of the Mycenaean civilization that thrived during the second millennium B.C. According to Greek mythology, it was home to Agamemnon, the king who conquered Troy. Imagine this fortified city in all its glory as you walk under the imposing Lion’s Gate. Afterward, sample fine Greek wines with lunch at a nearby winery. (Active)

Continue to Kalamata and check in to the Pharae Palace Hotel.

Enrichment: Greek History. Learn about important figures in Greek history and critical periods that are the foundation for the modern-day republic.

As a special welcome to Kalamata, enjoy a cocktail and a buffet dinner with your group this evening.

Accommodations - Pharae Palace Hotel
Meals - Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

October 4 Kalamata | Messene

Discovery: Kalamata’s History and Cuisine. Discover Kalamata, capital of the Messenia region and the second-largest city of the Peloponnese, this morning. On a guided stroll in the charming Old Town, learn about Kalamata’s tumultuous past. In ancient times, the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta and a few more societies at one time or another ruled over the city, called “Farai” by Homer. By the middle ages, Kalamata had claimed its modern name and was part of the Byzantine Empire. In 1204, after Crusaders sacked the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, two Frankish Crusaders led a force to conquer the Peloponnese. Four years later, one of those knights, Geoffrey of Villehardouin built a castle atop the ruins of a previous fort on Kalamata’s acropolis, which overlooks the Old Town. Within a century, however, the city was back in Byzantine hands, and in 1481, the Ottoman occupation began. Sovereignty bounced between the Ottomans and the Venetians until 1715, when Venice permanently lost control of the Peloponnese. The Ottomans held the city until March 23, 1821, when Kalamata became the first Greek city to be liberated during the Greek War of Independence. As you listen to stories of Kalamata’s history and see points of interest, stop along your walk to taste Greek classic foods, like their world-famous, fruity, sharp olives and fresh seafood. (Moderate)

Try more specialties during lunch in the Old Town.

Discovery: Messene. Messene is an under-the-radar archaeological gem is set in a serene mountain valley at the foot of Mount Ithome. This afternoon, visit the extensive ruins of the city, founded about 369 B.C. on the site of an earlier settlement. Neighboring Sparta had dominated the region of Messenia and subjugated its people for more than three centuries until the defeat of the Spartans by the northern city-state of Thebes two years earlier at the Battle of Leuctra. As a result of the Spartan defeat, Messenia regained its freedom, and Messene, a great fortified city, was built to protect Messenia from future encroachment from its aggressive neighbors. Unlike other sites, this ancient city was largely untouched by later settlements, so its remains are remarkably intact. Marvel at the temples, agora, theater, stadium and more on a guided tour of this vast array of ancient relics. (Moderate)

Accommodations - Pharae Palace Hotel
Meals - Breakfast, Lunch

October 5 Sparta | Mystras

Enrichment: Classical Greece. Learn about the profound 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: Sparta, the Greek Olive and Mystras. Today, 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. 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. Learn how the olive and its oil has seeped into nearly each aspect of Greek culture and daily life.

Break for a relaxing lunch afterward.

Next, travel through the scenic countryside to the Byzantine city of Mystras, dramatically set on a mountainside over the Laconian plain. Looking over the city from the top of the 2,070-foot 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. Not only does the city have a wealth of art and architectural styles in its churches, monasteries, palaces and mansions, but it also is an excellent example of Byzantine urban planning. Tour the spectacular ruins of the medieval city. Hear about Mystras’ significance in Byzantine culture from your guide and admire monasteries, chapels and churches adorned with frescoes. (Active)

Accommodations - Pharae Palace Hotel
Meals - Breakfast, Lunch

October 6 Ancient Olympia

Discovery: Ancient Olympia. This sacred site dedicated to Zeus was the celebrated birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, which were first played in his honor in 776 B.C. As you explore with your guide, discover what the earliest Olympic games were like and stand at the runners’ original starting line in the stadium! See the Temples of Zeus and Hera, then visit the Archaeological Museum to see beautiful sculptures from the temples, bronze artifacts and other finds. (Moderate)

In Kalamata this evening, join your fellow travelers for a delightful sunset cruise on the Messenian Gulf.

Accommodations - Pharae Palace Hotel
Meals - Breakfast

October 7 Kalamata

Enrichment: Contemporary Greece. Discover how modern attitudes and lifestyles in Greece reflect ancient customs and traditions.

Free Time: Spend your day at leisure in Kalamata. Unwind on the hotel’s beach, enjoy a drink and lovely views at the rooftop lounge, take an optional cooking lesson or explore on your own.

Discovery: Greek Night. Conclude your amazing week in Greece at a festive glendi, or party. Savor a wonderful dinner, listen to a live band play spirited folk music and watch dancers perform traditional routines. If you’d like, join hands for a joyful Kalamatianos folk dance!

Accommodations - Pharae Palace Hotel
Meals - Breakfast, Dinner

October 8 Corinth | Athens

This morning, depart Kalamata for Athens and stop in Corinth during your journey.

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)

Head on to Athens and check in to the NJV Athens Plaza Hotel.

Free Time: There still is 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.

Accommodations - NJV Athens Plaza Hotel
Meals - Breakfast, Lunch

October 9 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.

Meals - Breakfast


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