The Golden Ages of Greece
Explore the very birthplace of Western culture, tracing its rise from the island of Crete to the Peloponnese, Phocis and Athens. Visit the Minoan palace complex of Knossos, also famous as the site where Theseus slew the mythical Minotaur. Discover Olympia where Greeks came together to compete in the Olympic Games, and wander the wealthy ancient city of Corinth. Seek out the Oracle at Delphi before arriving in Athens, where Greek culture reached its zenith on the magnificent Acropolis.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Suggested evening departure from Australia on Qatar Airways (via Doha). Overnight in flight.
Midday arrival into Athens, connect with Aegean Airlines (A3 7314) departing 14:00 with arrival in Heraklion, Crete at 14:50. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
For flights arriving in the early afternoon, there is a group coach transfer at 15:30 from Heraklion airport to the hotel (included in tour price). For those arriving on other days or later flights, please make your own way to the hotel.
Arrive in Heraklion and check in to the hotel. In the evening, join Judy and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner.
After a morning talk by Judy, visit the famous Minoan palace complex of Knossos. Inhabited from the Neolithic period until Roman times, this fascinating site was the seat of the legendary King Minos and was where Theseus slew the Minotaur. It offers an excellent idea of what life in Minoan Crete may have been like.
After lunch, visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum and its outstanding collection of artefacts from the Minoan and Mycenaean palaces of Crete. Exquisite frescoes, the sarcophagus from Hagia Triada, the Knossos snake goddess, and the Phaistos Disk are among the museum’s treasures.
Optional late afternoon walk to Morosini Square to take coffee or ouzo with a sfakianopita, a Cretan cheese pie with honey.
Drive through beautiful countryside to the south of Crete and the ancient sacred centre of Phaistos, a Minoan royal palace complex on a dramatic hilltop site overlooking the Messara Plain. The mysterious Phaistos Disk (seen yesterday) was discovered here.
Enjoy free time for lunch – and maybe a swim – at Kalamaki where the sandy beachfront is lined with casual tavernas. Then visit the ancient remains of Gortyn, famous for its Law Code dating from 500 BC, written in the Dorian dialect of Greek and covering criminal and civil matters. Gortyn flourished in Roman times and was the capital of Crete and Roman North Africa.
In the morning, ascend through wooded countryside to the Lasithi Plateau, the fertile upland where Zeus himself was born. In order to protect him from being devoured by his father Kronos, Zeus was raised in secret in the Diktaian Cave, suckled by a she-goat, with his infant cries concealed by the din of the dancing devotees of his mother Rhea. Neolithic potsherds and Bronze Age votive items discovered in the cave attest to the religious importance of the site.
After free time for lunch in the picturesque village of Kritsa, visit the Byzantine church of Panagia Kera, the walls of which are adorned with 14th century frescoes. Continue to the Minoan site of Malia, excavated by the French Archaeological School, before returning to Heraklion.
Visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Souda Bay, the final resting place of 1,527 men killed in the last 10 days of May 1941 during the Battle of Crete.
Continue to Chania, founded in the Bronze Age by the Minoans as the city-state of Kydonia, and subsequently fought over by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Turks, Egyptians and finally the German Army in 1941. Explore this layered history in the fortified Venetian harbour, the Naval Museum, the Mosque of the Janissaries and the Archaeological Museum.
In the morning, check out of the hotel and transfer to the airport for a flight to Athens (included in tour price).
On arrival in Athens, drive to Nafplion via the Bay of Salamis and the Corinth Canal. En route, visit the archaeological site of ancient Corinth, a prominent city in Greek, Hellenistic and Roman times. Due to its location on the isthmus between mainland Greece and the Peloponnese peninsula, it was an important centre for trade and was famous for its art, architecture and pottery.
On arrival in Nafplion, check in to the hotel before visiting Palamidi Castle, built by the Venetians in the late 17th century after they had conquered the Peloponnese, defeating the Ottoman Empire. As it turned out, however, it was one of the last major constructions of Venice’s fading overseas power.
After a morning talk by Judy, visit Mycenae, the centre of the Mycenaean civilisation that spread throughout the Greek world in the late Bronze Age. When Heinrich Schliemann excavated the site in 1876, he thought that the cache of golden treasure he’d discovered belonged to King Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces in the Trojan War. In fact, it turned out to be from a glorious period 300 years earlier.
Nearby, visit the ruins of the acropolis city of Tiryns, famous for its massive Cyclopaean walls and tunnels which encircle the palace.
After lunch travel to Epidaurus, visit its ancient theatre with near-perfect acoustics, as well as its ancient healing centre which was the most famous in the ancient world – the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of healing.
Check out of the hotel and travel to Olympia in the west of the Peloponnese, the site of the ancient Olympic Games. First held in 776 BC, the Olympic Games was one of the four Panhellenic Games, attracting athletes from all over Greece. Competitors and spectators travelling to the games were protected by the sacred Olympic Truce.
Visit the archaeological site of Olympia, including the remains of the grand Temple of Zeus, which once contained the massive gold and ivory Statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, created by the legendary sculptor Phidias. In the 1950s, the Studio of Phidias was also excavated nearby.
Check in to the hotel in Olympia before dinner in a local restaurant.
Check out of the hotel and explore the Olympia Museum, housing artefacts excavated from the archaeological site visited yesterday. Treasures include a statue of Hermes by Praxiteles and bronze helmet of Miltiades, the Athenian general at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC who dedicated it to Zeus at Olympia after his victory.
Continue to Delphi on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth. Cross the gulf via the elegant white 2.8 km-long cable-stayed bridge that was constructed to coincide with Greece hosting the Olympic Games in 2004. The first people to officially use the bridge were the Olympic torchbearers!
After a morning talk by Judy, visit the archaeological site of the Sanctuary of Apollo, the centre of the world according to the ancient Greeks. It was believed that Zeus released an eagle from each of the two ends of the earth and the birds met at Delphi, thereafter declared the omphalos (navel) of the world and a cultic site of Apollo.
Walk the Sacred Way through the sanctuary, exploring the Temple of Apollo, the theatre and the ancient stadium, and then visit the Sanctuary of Athena.
After lunch, visit the Archaeological Museum at Delphi that houses a stunning collection including some of the finest works of ancient Greek statuary such as the oversized bronze Charioteer and the statue of Antinous, lover of Roman Emperor Hadrian.
The remainder of the afternoon and evening are at leisure.
Depart Delphi and travel to Athens via Marathon, visiting the site of the Athenians’ most important battle with the Persians in 490 BC. Herodotus, whose writings on the Greco-Persian War established the very genre of history, relates that the vastly outnumbered Athenians lost only 192 men as against the Persians’ 6,300 dead. The burial tumulus of the Athenians still rises above the battlefield today.
Following lunch, explore the nearby Marathon Museum before continuing to Athens.
Check in to the hotel in Athens, and in the late afternoon enjoy an optional orientation walk around Syntagma Square in the heart of the city.
After an orientation talk by Judy introducing you to the city’s 3,500-year history, visit Athens’s famous Acropolis where many famous edifices were constructed during a golden age of public works in the 5th century BC under the leadership of the Athenian statesman Pericles. Explore the Sanctuary of Athena, the city’s patron goddess, and the magnificent Parthenon, Erechthion, Temple of Athena Nike and a multitude of other sacred places.
After lunch, visit the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum and view the stunning art and architecture collection skilfully displayed across four floors. In the afternoon, stroll back to the hotel via the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which took some 650 years to complete.
Enjoy a morning walk through Monastiraki, the former heart of Ottoman Athens that borders the Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library. Monastiraki is home to the fascinating Tower of the Winds, a Hellenistic water clock, as well as a bazaar and market stalls selling everything from jewellery to linen and food.
After lunch in Plaka, the historic heart of Athens, visit the Agora, the ancient hub of the city where shopping, business and politics were conducted. Continue to the nearby Kerameikos district which was a burial ground from the 12th century BC, and provides clues to ancient Greek culture in the style of its graves, monuments and artwork.
Begin the day with a talk by Judy, and then visit the National Archaeological Museum, which displays a priceless collection of ancient Greek art including sculpture, pottery, jewellery and paintings. Among the exhibits are gold treasures from Mycenae including the ‘Mask of Agamemnon’, fine bronze statues recovered from shipwrecks, Neolithic painted pots, and frescoes from Akrotiri on Santorini.
After free time for lunch, travel down the coast of Attica to Cape Sounion and gaze at the stunning 5th century BC Temple of Poseidon, perfectly situated on high cliffs surrounded on three sides by the Aegean Sea. Visit Brauron, a cultic centre of Artemis, and enjoy dinner on the way back to Athens.
In the morning, visit the Benaki Museum, an outstanding private museum in the pleasant Kolonaki district. Its exquisite collection spans over 5,000 years and includes an array of Greek arts and crafts, paintings, jewellery, costumes and political memorabilia.
After free time for lunch, visit the Museum of Cycladic Art. Founded in 1986, the museum houses the collection of Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris, enthusiastic collectors of the art of the Cyclades Islands, which flourished in the period between 3300 and 1100 BC. Continue to the Byzantine and Christian Museum, with an extensive collection of frescoes, sculptures, fabrics and manuscripts.
In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner at with Judy and fellow travellers.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
If returning to Australia today, we recommend an afternoon departure on a Qatar flight to Australia. Arrival in Australia is on the evening of Friday 08 June. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
23 March 2018
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Qatar and Aegean Airlines
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require visas for Greece.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 star superior hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wines
- Lectures and talks throughout with Judy Roberts
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Economy Class flight from Heraklion to Athens
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Transfers in Heraklion and Athens if travelling on suggested flights on day of tour arrival and departure.
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Transfers on tour arrival and departure if not travelling on suggested flights
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Heraklion – Astoria Capsis ****
Nafplion– Grande Bretagne ****
Olympia – Amalia Olympia ****
Delphi – Amalia Delphi ****
Athens – Electra Metropolis ****
NB: Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.