Athens is named after Athena – the goddess of wisdom – who, according to legend, won the city after defeating Poseidon in a duel. The goddess’ victory was celebrated by the construction of a temple on the Acropolis, the site of the city’s earliest settlement in Attica. As a city state, the coastal capital of Athens reached its heyday in the fifth century BC. The office of the statesman, Pericles – between 461BC and his death in 429BC – saw an unprecedented spate of construction resulting in many of the great classical buildings – the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Hephaisteion and the temple at Sounion – now regarded as icons of ancient Greece. Physical evidence of the city’s success was matched by achievements in the intellectual arts. Democracy was born, drama flourished and Socrates conceived the foundations of Western philosophy. Remarkably, although the cultural legacy of this period has influenced Western civilization ever since, the classical age in Athens only lasted for five decades. Under the Macedonians and Romans, the city retained a privileged cultural and political position but became a prestigious backwater of the Empire rather than a major player. The birth of Christianity heralded a long period of occupation and decline, culminating in 1456 and four centuries of Turkish domination, which has left an indelible cultural mark on the city. Modern Athens was born in 1834, when the city was restored as the capital of a newly independent Greece. To understand the essence of Greece one must experience Athens, ancient monuments surviving in a sea of cement, startling beauty amid squalor, tradition and modernity side by side. Athens is an intriguing crossroads, blending elements of Middle Eastern and Western cultures.
Tonight, enjoy a welcome dinner at a local taverna with beautiful views of the Acropolis. Feast on dolmades, saganaki, Greek salad, melitzanosalata, and many traditional Greek dishes.
Your home for the next two nights is the Cypria Hotel. This quiet and cozy hotel is located just off Syntagma Square and puts you in the perfect location to discover all that Athens offers. The spacious rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, complimentary high-speed internet access, hair dryers, in room safes, and satellite TV. An American breakfast will help you start your daily touring. Overnight at CYPRIA HOTEL or similar. http://athenscypria.com/
The Acropolis still dominates the Athenian skyline, and seems to rise above the human realm. It was an important site as early as the Bronze Age, when it housed a Mycenaean citadel. In the 6th century BC, the Athenian tyrants used the Acropolis as a base, but they were the last of the ancients to live there. By the Classical Age, it was home to the gods, not mortals. Further, the burning of the Acropolis during the second Persian invasion (480 BC) left the site almost barren. It would not be until after the middle of the 5th century BC, at Athens’s Golden Age, that reconstruction, urged by Pericles to express the power and glory of Athens. These messages can still be seen as the monuments on the Acropolis reflect the successive phases of the city’s history. Some of them were converted into Christian churches, houses of the Franks and later on, of the Turks. After the liberation of Athens from the Turks, the protection, restoration and conservation of the monuments was one of the first tasks of the newly-founded Greek state. This major effort is continued until today, with the large-scale restoration and support of the monuments, which started in the 1970’s and is still in progress.
The most famous of the remaining monuments is the Parthenon. Built under Pericles between 447 BC and 432 BC, it is the culminating masterpiece of Greek architecture. The temple is peripteral, with eight Doric columns at each end and 17 on the flanks (46 in all); it stands upon a stylobate three steps high. The body of the building comprised a cella and behind it an inner chamber (the Parthenon proper), which gave the temple its name.
Ample time will be spent exploring the Acropolis Museum, located in Athens’s historic area of Makryianni. The Museum stands less than 1,000 feet southeast of the Parthenon, at the entrance of a network of pedestrian walkways that link the key archaeological sites and monuments of the Acropolis. This location was carefully selected to enable a dialogue between the Museum’s exhibition spaces and the Acropolis buildings. Enjoy lunch at the museum followed by the balance of your day at leisure.
“The new Acropolis Museum was designed with two objectives: the first to offer the best conditions for the exhibition of its exhibits and secondly to be a Museum that welcomes and befriends its visitors. A walk through its galleries is a walk-through history – between the masterpieces of the Archaic and Classical periods, but also in the ancient neighborhoods of Athens. The Museum offers many opportunities for rest and recreation, as well as a visitor friendly environment for some of the most emblematic works of antiquity.” Overnight at CYPRIA HOTEL or similar
In the age of myth Corinth was always being thrown into turmoil by tribes pouring into the Peloponnesus from the Isthmus. With the setting of the Dorians (9th c. BC), Corinth’s history began. It became a great naval power and perfected the trireme. The Corinthians were the first to have the idea of cutting through the Isthmus but were unable to accomplish this feat. Instead they invented and built a paved slipway, called the diolkos, to haul their boats over the Isthmus. They were foremost in the arts, particularly ceramics. The 5th century was their most glorious period. But with the success of Athena as a powerful force, Corinth was eclipsed and fell into decline. In 146 BC the Romans completely destroyed the city. In 67 BC Nero tried his hand at digging through the Isthmus and got as far as a big trench, but works were abandoned with his death, and not until 1891-1893 did the canal finally become a reality. Invasions and looting by barbarians threw Corinth into a new decline and the city was not heard from again until the early Byzantine era.
Your sightseeing is concluded with a visit to the home of Agamemnon, the ancient king, who united and commanded the Greeks during the Trojan War. The ruins of Mycenae were thought to be a myth until Heinrich Schliemann proved otherwise. At one time the city overlooked a large bay which is now the plain of Argos. The site is impressive and features the Palace of Agamemnon, the Treasury of Atreaus, and the tomb of Clytemnestra, the wife of the great king who, with the aid of her lover Aegisthus, stabbed him to death for sacrificing their daughter to get favorable winds for the journey to Troy. Aegisthus and Clytemnestra then ruled Agamemnon’s kingdom, but were eventually killed by Agamemnon’s son, Orestes. The famous Lion’s Gate is the oldest monumental sculpture in Europe and is said to be the coat of arms of Atreus, mythical king of Mycenae.
Resume your drive to Nafplion. With its marble pavements, looming castles and remarkable homogeneous architecture, Nafplion is the most elegant town in mainland Greece. Defended to the south by the Akronafplía and Palamídi fortresses and to the north by Bourtzi castle, the town occupies the northern side of a peninsula at the head of the Argolic Gulf. After checking into your hotel, dinner this evening will be at a local restaurant.
The Grand Hotel Bretagne is located on Philellion Square and just a short walk from the port in the heart of Nafplion. Its central location will allow you to wander the narrow streets, smelling flowers that seem to grow everywhere, visiting boutiques, and noshing on olives bought at local markets. Rooms feature air conditioning, Wi-Fi internet access, safes and hair dryers. Overnight at the GRAND HOTEL BRETAGNE or similar. http://www.grandebretagne.com.gr/
Return to Athens to board your flight and brace yourself for romantic and fabulous Santorini, regarded by many as the most spectacular of the Greek islands. Upon arrival you are transferred to your hotel for the next two nights.
The town of Fira provides a backdrop of white-washed houses, narrow streets, open-air cafes and glittering boutiques clinging to steep cliffs. A typical Cycladic village made of charming white houses with blue windows and doors, separated from each other by small paved streets, many of its beautiful buildings were constructed back in the times of the Venetian invasion, including some blue domed churches and sun-bathed verandahs that offer an incredible view of the volcano and the sunset.
El Greco hotel is located minutes away from the center of magnificent Fira town. The traditional and colorful architecture found here enhances the spacious surroundings and adds to the overall environment of leisure. All rooms are tastefully decorated in the Cycladic style and offer modern comfort. At the beautiful verandah, which is next to the pool, you can enjoy your American style buffet breakfast. Also sample a variety of served dishes both in Greek and international cuisine for lunch or dinner. The hotel features the newest spa center in the island offering a complete range of massages, beauty treatments, a fully equipped gym and a large indoor, heated swimming pool. Overnight at HOTEL EL GRECO or similar. http://elgreco.com.gr/
Next, enjoy a stop at Perivolas Beach. Here you can enjoy lunch on your own and take a dip in the Aegean. Stop at Megalohori for some time to explore and take photographs. A very quiet, traditional village sitting on a hill facing to the east in the heart of the island, you may find the roads are narrowly frightening!
Afterwards a short drive takes you to one of the islands most acclaimed wineries, where you can sample the stunning locally produced wines, hear of the “kalathies” vines and the unique way that locals have been growing grapes for centuries and see the cave like cellars housed in beautiful traditional architecture.
Your final stop is Oia, where you will have free time to navigate the narrow streets. Wander down to Amoudi Bay for a cocktail at one of the tavernas and watch local fishermen bring in their daily catch. Enjoy the stunning sunset before returning to Fira for dinner at your hotel. Overnight at HOTEL EL GRECO or similar.
Milos is a volcanic Greek island in the Aegean Sea, just north of the Sea of Crete. This quiet island is the southwestern most island in the Cyclades group, full of many unique geographical features that can only be enjoyed by being on the sea. White rock is eroded by the wind and sea as if a giant carved it from clay; the water, a cobalt blue no picture could do justice, contrasts the blinding white even more. Sarakiniko, Tsigrado, Firiplaka and Paleochori are among the most beautiful beaches on the island, while the sea region of Kleftiko amazes visitors with the rocks coming out of the sea. This evening enjoy dinner at your hotel.
Situated on the marvelous sandy beach at Provata, the Hotel Golden Milos offers rooms appointed with crisp white linens. Each room has air conditioning, Wi-Fi internet access and hair dryers. You can relax by the pool or on the beach, and enjoy coffee or a cocktail from either the Asteria Pool Bar or the Ammos Open Beach Bar. Overnight at HOTEL GOLDEN MILOS BEACH or similar. http://www.goldenmilosbeach.com/
Crossing the straits between Milos and Kimolos, you will arrive at the island of Polyegos, known for its unblemished beaches and calm seas. Polyegos (meaning island with lots of goats), or Ypolivos as otherwise known, or Polivos, with an area of approximately 6.9 square miles is the largest uninhabited island of the Aegean and one of the largest in the Mediterranean. Stop for a first swim at Blue Waters or the bay of Mirsini as it is called in nautical terms. This bay is famous for the beautiful colors of the waters and is a worldwide destination of famous yachts and sailing boats.
Afterwards continue your journey to Tsigardo, a small beach situated in the south of Milos with white sand and unique light blue waters.
As you head back to the port of Adamas you will stop at Kleftiko, a unique landscape with gigantic gray-rock formations emerging from the waters. This group of peculiar sea rock formations with a labyrinth of caves is the symbol of Milos. As many claim, if you have not visited Kleftiko at least once, you have not visited Milos. The name Kleftiko comes from the Greek verb “klevo” meaning “I steal.” In the Middle Ages this location was a place where pirate ships hid and initiated their attacks. Kleftiko is also known as The Sea Meteora.
On your way back to port be ready to capture the beautiful coastline scenery on your cameras to retain the memories of this unforgettable day. Overnight at HOTEL GOLDEN MILOS BEACH or similar.
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