Athens, Parthenon, Plaka, Kalambaka, Meteora, Delphi, Olympia, Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Nafplio, Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
The depth of Western Civilization will emerge from the mainland and islands during your 12-day Greece highlights tour that revels in beauty, history, and heritage. Your custom-tailored tour provides you with specialized guides and immersive excursions from sailing across the Aegean Sea to the whitewashed villages of the Cycladic islands. Cobblestone medieval lanes on Rhodes, elegant beaches on Mykonos, and hanging monasteries at Meteora introduce you to Greece’s timeless splendor.
Athens – Gazing Up at the Illuminated Acropolis
Evenings can be magical in the heart of Athens. Locals fill the streets, bringing energy to the squares and terraces. The Acropolis is illuminated, a majestic centerpiece visible from almost anywhere in the city. A soft audible hum of chatter floats around, echoing down narrow lanes. After landing at Athens International Airport, you will be met by a guide and transferred into the city’s heart, with Plaka your neighborhood base for the next three nights. From here, it will be an easy walk to countless cafes and restaurants, and you are just steps from the history of classical Greece. From your terrace, you can begin to soak in the atmosphere, and then you can dive into the streets and begin your local experience.
Day 2 - 3
Athens – Soaking Your Senses Into All the Classic History
You can look at a thousand Parthenon photos but only when you stand beneath its Corinthian columns can you appreciate the majesty. There are hundreds of Acropolis postcards, yet only when you stand on the rocky hill can you understand the scale of this special place for yourself. Images simply do not do justice to these cradles of Western civilization. Enormous sculptures follow you with their eyes and Doric-style temples are alive with bas-relief friezes, so ornate and so ostentatious in their own ancient way. At the Erechtheion, you can follow the stories of Athena and Poseidon while at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, you can understand what it means when a building is 2,600 years old.
Some monuments have been restored with tens of thousands of marble slabs bringing history to life. Others stand in their state of decay, something that helps to showcase their age. You really need two full days to explore the classic history of Athens, and as it gets hot in the afternoon and these sights do require a significant amount of walking, splitting the Acropolis and Agora over two days also makes the experience more relaxed. Your local guide will plan out your itinerary based on your interests and energy levels to piece together the Ionic, Doric, Roman, and Hellenistic periods. Both evenings are at your leisure, and Plaka is a wonderful place to explore, and you can easily walk to Monastiraki, where more artisanal shops and cafes grab your attention.
Kalambaka – The Magnificence and Mystery of the Meteora Monasteries
Slowly the road rises, twisting into valleys marked with peaks and tiny villages. You will be heading to Kalambaka on a four-hour journey taking you to another period from history. It will be the landscape that immediately impresses, rocky pinnacles appearing like giant’s fingers across the land. Some are like shards while others are bumpy like misshaped potatoes. The rise in a valley, mostly surrounded by larger more domineering mountains, all of it created by the wind that whistles through. Check in to a Kalambaka hotel and feast on the landscape, nature at its most surreal stretching before your eyes.
Just to see this landscape is worth the journey, but there is more. From the 13th-century onwards, people built Orthodox monasteries atop these narrow pinnacles, believing that these islands in the sky would allow them to live and worship closer to god. Twenty-four were constructed, and from the inside, they are simple structures, beautiful and serene in a quiet way. They are dramatic from the outside, perched in seemingly precarious locations on these mountains. You will visit three of them, driving to two of the six that are accessible by road, then walking up the steps to another. While dramatic and widely popular as movie settings, the Meteora monasteries are not crowded, and it will be a pleasure to visit such a unique place without other people around.
Delphi – The Sacred Ode to Zeus and Other Greek Gods
Staying in the mountains will give you a strong sense of rural Greece, stopping in a small village for a farmhouse style brunch. Like Kalambaka, Delphi is remote, tucked away from the world. Its place in history is legendary, this being where Zeus would come to consult his oracle. As the legend grew stronger, it attracted pilgrims, with temples and theaters constructed here to honor the gods. What has been left behind is on a scale to match the Athens Acropolis, and because the temples have not been reconstructed, Delphi has preserved a mystery that befits its origins. Spend the full afternoon in Delphi, exploring its history while hearing the tales, imaging a time when the gods would come here for advice.
Olympia – A City in an Evocative State of Ruin
Hopping across the channel to Peloponnese you soon find yourself in Olympia, one of the largest of all the ancient Greek cities. Although nowhere near Mount Olympus, this is the city where the Olympic Games took place, every four years for over a millennium until the fourth century AD. Mostly this is a site where stones cover the ground with each slab of marble suggesting what existed here in the eighth century BC. Some avenues are flanked by Corinthian columns, while various buildings are enlivened by bas-reliefs and friezes. As you might expect, it will likely be the stadium that most enchants, especially when walking through the arched crypt to what remains of the theater.
A local guide will join you for your tour, helping you to understand what was constructed when. Mostly they are classical remains, but there is evidence of older structures along with embellishments made by Hellenist and Roman rulers. Olympia is a remote place and as you walk through there is often nobody else around, which only adds to the appeal. You can spend the night at a working winery nearby, staying in a boutique cottage that has been converted to provide comfortable accommodation in a magical setting. At night, you will see Olympia illuminated by the Olympic torches that are now so integral to the modern Olympic Games.
Nafplio – So Much History in Peloponnese
Travel across the Peloponnese peninsula today, and the itinerary is dependent on how much you want to see. You could cram in all the sights, or pick just a couple to gain a historical outlook. Besides the isthmus, you find the remains of Corinth, a hilltop fortress topped with nine Corinthian columns. In Mycenae, you can explore a 4,000-year-old city, less artistically impressive than Corinth but an essential part of the Greek narrative. It will be amazing how much of this prosperous city is still intact, particularly the archways and stone walls that have not been restored.
You will be staying in Nafplio, and there is quite a story from cave dwellings under excavation to a Venetian fortress and 17th-century streets with a rather Italian flourish. Just past Nafplio, you can explore a traditional fishing village, a good spot if you love seafood of course. And a little further from here is Epidaurus, its enormous theater one of the great icons of ancient Greece. To see and do everything will mean a very long day, which you may not mind given that the cruise starts tomorrow. But it’s also easy to pick and choose a little.
Mykonos – Start of the Four-Day Aegean Cruise
Crossing the isthmus, you will return to Athens and set sail on the first of four nights on a luxury cruise. Accommodation is on board for the next four nights, in a comfortable seaward facing cabin that has its own private balcony. Breakfasts are served on board, but other meals can be enjoyed in your destinations. Mostly you cruise at night, not having to be back on the ship until 9 or 10 pm, which means a chance to discover local island restaurants. There is some daytime cruising as well, a swimming pool on the upper deck a popular place to wile away those hours.
Today it will to Mykonos, disembarking in the middle of the afternoon to the whitewashed village of Hora. Go in search of the famous Mykonos windmills, admire all the blue flourishes, see why one place is called Little Venice, and see how Mykonos has become a chic hangout for visiting elite. There’s plenty of time to dine on the coast, possibly seafood with sunset views or perhaps a tiny taverna tucked into the mazy streets. Now that you are island hopping expect the pace to slow. Most excursions are unguided, and the focus is on finding your own way in these quiet coastal villages, which are easy to get around even without a map.
Day 9 - 10
Crete – Luxurious Sailing and Island Bliss
Over these two days, you will hop across the Aegean, combining destinations that each have their own appeal. First, it will be to another country as you dock in Kusadasi, Turkey, a port that is surrounded by various historical sights. Ephesus is the most impressive and provides a contrast to what you saw in Athens and Peloponnese. On the afternoon of day nine, you will sail to Patmos, a small and mostly untouched island that is perfect for a leisurely evening. At night the boat sails south to Rhodes, and after breakfast, you can step out into the island’s medieval old town.
Grandeur confronts you here, the old town being quite breathtaking in size and stature. It is more Roman in appearance, with thick fortress walls and rugged cobblestone lanes. Half a day is ideal for enough time to get around the major sights as well as eat lunch on a cafe terrace. On day ten, you will keep cruising to Crete and get to explore Heraklion. Although large and rather unimpressive at first glance, this large Cretan city hides an old town that is awash with archaeological sights. Go searching for El Greco in his birthplace and find a picturesque corner to watch the world, before a third night luxuriating on the boat.
Santorini – Cruising Past the Blue and White Villages
An afternoon in Santorini; could there be a greater pleasure? Blue and white villages hang on the cliffs, gazing out towards a volcanic cone. Vineyards stretch out beyond the cliffs, enticing you with their aromas. The narrow streets are barely wide enough for donkeys, and there’s a sense of peace when you’re walking without any traffic. You have time to visit both Fira and Oia, the two major villages, perhaps also one of the vineyards nearby. Then back on the boat, you can watch as the sunset changes the colors along the white village facades.
Athens – Departure
Overnight you cruised back to Athens, and you will wake up back in the capital. Disembark and you will be transferred to the international airport for your outbound flight, with an hour left over for shopping should you wish.
- Luxuriate on the Aegean with a four-day Greek island cruise
- Dive into history with a full day spent at Delphi and then Olympia
- Explore the mystery of the Meteora monasteries, as dramatic a sight as any in Europe
- Crisscross the blue and white island villages, your cruise taking you to Mykonos, Santorini, and Patmos, among others
- Connect four millennia of history around Nafplio, from the Epidaurus Theater to Mycenaean remains and Venetian streets
- Discover the very best of classical Greece with two full days in Athens, where the Acropolis and Agora are just the beginning of the stories
- Wander plenty of local neighborhoods along with the famous classical sights
- Spend one afternoon in Kusadasi, Turkey, where you can relax on the coast or explore Ephesus
The highlights of Greece fall into two very distinct categories. There is the ancient history with the mainland home to many of the world’s finest classical sites. And then there are the islands with the sun-drenched bliss of the Aegean Sea. This handcrafted 12-day tour to Greece combines the best of these worlds, with seven nights traveling between the cradles of Western civilization, before a four-day luxury island-hopping cruise. So after watching history come alive, move next to the whitewashed villages and beaches. Somewhere along the way, you will discover the atmosphere that ties history and islands together as Greece can transport you into another world, be it a distant past or a quiet escape.
For the first week, you are exploring, soaking all your senses into the history and mystery. Two full days in Athens means you can discover most of the legendary sites, without being undone by too much walking in the heat. Your guide will time your visits to avoid tour buses, and you can take it slow, allowing for time to reflect on places like the Acropolis and Agora. Travel to Kalambaka on day four and an afternoon in the Meteora monasteries, sacred places perched on the most mind-blowing mountain locations. Delve into the world of Zeus with a day in Delphi then walk the lonely old lanes of Olympia, a city that impresses vast scale and authenticity. There will be time for many more attractions as you spend one more night on the Peloponnese peninsula of Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Nafplio.
After a quick drive back to Athens you will embark on the four-day cruise, first sailing the sparkling sea to Mykonos. Travel to Turkey on day nine, disembarking in Kusadasi for a day on the beach or a day in famous Ephesus. The boat travels onwards, an evening on Patmos before the medieval old town of Rhodes. You will generally cruise at night and then wake up to a new island each morning. Next, it will be Crete, and then a stop in the blue and white bliss of Santorini. Over these four days, you will see beautiful beaches, time-warped villages, whitewashed towns, and dramatic sea cliffs. You will likely think about nothing at all, the Greek islands proving their ability to take you away from every-day life. Don’t take just our word for it - consider reading some of our travelers’ reviews of Greece.
$2,995 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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