From Kerkyra to Thessaloniki

Day 1: Arrival in Corfu

Welcome to the island of the Phaeacians: an emerald-green island in the turquoise blue waters of the Ionian Sea. Corfu is the greenest island in Greece and can totally impress you with the numerous cultural influences from Romans, Venetians, Franks and British. The island has managed to retain the western-European culture and atmosphere without losing the Greek hospitality and vivid temperament of its inhabitants at all. Hotel stay for 4 nights. Welcome cocktail for the introduction in the program.

Day 2: The city of Corfu

Follow us to a journey through time and learn all the trivia about the Corfiot history and the capital of the island. First stop of our tour: the Kanoni peninsula which offers a fantastic view to the Mouse Island, Corfu’s landmark. After a short visit in the gardens of Mon Repos – the summer residence of the Greek royal family until 1967 – we continue to the centre of the old city of Corfu, contained in the list of UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage. The old city of Corfu with its narrow streets and its monuments with a history of 8 centuries stands between the New and the Old Fort, both built by the Venetians during their 500-year-dominion in the Ionian Islands. In the narrow streets of the old city you can find buildings with marble-flagged arcades hosting numerous galleries and souvenir shops. One of the most famous landmarks of the old city and favourite place for the locals is the enormous square of Esplanade (mostly known as “Spianada”), which is one of the largest squares in the Balkans. On the northern side of Esplanade stands the old city part of Kambiello, located by the sea. Do not miss a visit to the patron saint of Corfu, Saint Spyridon, thought by the locals to do miracles. In the wonderful baroque-style church decorated with western-art wall and ceiling paintings, you can find the remains of the Saint in a sarcophagus and his silver slippers, which according to the myth Saint Spyridon wears every night and takes a walk in the streets of the old city. Saint Spyridon died in about 350 A.D. in Cyprus, but when the Arabs conquered Cyprus in 650 A.D. the remains of the former Bishop of Trymithous were taken to Constantinople (today Istanbul) and later in 1453 from there to Corfu, in order to be protected by the Ottomans.

Day 3: Empress Sissi & South of Corfu

Our day begins with a visit of the famous Achilleion Palace, which was built for Empress Sissi and later belonged to Emperor Wilhelm II – an example of the romantic excitement for ancient culture in the 19th century. If you are lucky enough to find the upper level of the main floor open to the public, do not forget to see the painting of Franz von Matsch “The Triumph of Achilles”. It is said, that the painter committed suicide, after he realized that the wheel of Achilles’ s chariot seemed to have no movement. However, the palace as a building is not the only thing to see and admire in the site of Achilleion; the subtropical gardens of the palace with the two grand sculptures of the ancient Iliad’s warrior Achilles and the amazing view of the sea will impress you.
But the tour isn’t over yet. We drive to the South which is not so “touristically influenced” and still retains its purity. While around the village of Agii Deka the landscape is full with huge olive trees, the south-west coast of the island could be characterized as a dune landscape. On our way, we have the chance to see the Korission Lagoon, a real paradise for several bird species.

Day 4: Mount Pantokrator in the northern part of Corfu

The fourth day of our trip is full of landscapes which could inspire any artist. Driving over the Troumbetta Pass with a view of the city of Corfu and the Albanian coast, we reach the northern side of the island. Starting from Sidari, we take a one-hour-tour along the coastline to Cape Drastis, where the wind and the water have given the light-yellow sand strange forms. We continue to Roda and then over the mountains to the traditional port of Kassiopi with the church of Panagia Kassopitra, a famous resort of the past once visited even by Cicero and the Emperor of Rome, Nero.

Afterwards, we drive to Kouloura – only 1.5 km away from the Albanian coasts – and then to Kalami, a fishing village which once inspired Lawrence Durrell for his novels. Always driving along the coast, we end our trip by reaching the city of Corfu.

Day 5: Oracle of Dodoni & Lake Pamvotis

With the ferry from Corfu we reach the Greek mainland and drive through the mountain landscape of Epirus to Dodoni (or Dodona), an ancient Greek sanctuary and the oldest Greek oracle. After Delphi, Dodoni was the second most important oracle of the ancient Greek world. The combined with the oracle cult of Zeus seems to have been developed by an older cult. Later on, it remained an important religious sanctuary until the rise of the Christian religion. The predictions were made mainly by interpreting the rustle of the one of Zeus’s sacred oaks, as well as the flight of doves. The archaeological site of Dodoni, which is not in a very good condition and still not totally brought in light, includes the remnants of several temples and the profane administrative building. In a very good condition still stand the theatre, one of the largest of its style in Greece.
Next destination: Ioannina, the capital of the prefecture. The city of legends and traditions, of silversmiths and intellectuals is located in the centre of Epirus together with its castle and the Lake Pamvotis; a true jewel in the Greek alpine mainland. The history of the city, according to the archives, dates back to the 9th century. It is said, that it was founded by Emperor Justinian. In the 13th century, the city played an important role in the despotate of Epirus; during that time, it was the centre of an economic boost which lasted for a lot of centuries. After a political agreement in 1430, Ioannina was given to the Turks. From the end of the 18th century till the beginning of the 20ieth century, the city was the centre of Ali Pasha’s dominion. In that period of time, there was an enormous economic and cultural boom. The monuments of the city indicate its varied history. The castle, the monasteries with their wonderful frescos, the mosques, the synagogue and the old manors will accompany you to a journey through time and history. Hotel stay for 1 night.

Day 6: The wafting Meteora

In the morning we drive to Metsovo, an alpine village in the mountains of Pindos, where the highest vineyard acreage in Greece is located in a height of about 1,000 m. It is widely believed, that Metsovo is one of the most beautiful alpine villages in Europe, known for its pasta products, the Metsovone cheese and the famous wines of Averoff family. By driving over the Katara-Pass we reach Kalambaka.
Next stop: the monasteries of Meteora, which are literally hanging from the sheer cliffs over the Thessalic plain. A visit in the two of the monasteries provides us with wide knowledge about art in late and after Byzantine times (14th–16th centuries), as well as an in-depth look at the Greek-Orthodox faith. Hotel stay for 1 night.

Day 7: Alexander the Great

Our stunning drive through the mountainous region of Macedonia brings us to Vergina. Today we get scent of what Alexander the Great once inherited from his father King Philip II. We have the chance to see the famous royal tombs hosted in a fascinating underground museum. After seeing the golden treasures and the spectacular exhibits from the National Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage), we keep on driving to Edessa.
Edessa is known for its waterfalls and the wonderful view of the valley it offers. Late in the evening, we reach the capital of northern Greece, Thessaloniki. Hotel stay for 3 nights.

Day 8: The Nymph of the Thermaic Gulf

Thessaloniki, the 210-years-old city, is the second largest city in Greece and the capital of northern Greece. In 1997 it was nominated by UNESCO as the European Capital of Culture. We visit Ano Poli, the highest point of the city, with the walls and the Byzantine fort. We continue with a city tour and visit of White Tower, the landmark of Thessaloniki situated by the sea, the Rotonda, the Arch of Galerius (known as “Kamara” among the locals), as well as some important Byzantine churches: Hagia Sophia (8th century), the Monastery of the Vlatades (14th century), Profitis Ilias (14th century) and the Basilica of Aghios Demetrios (5th century) with the crypt discovered in the early years of the 20ieth century.
The church of Saint Demetrios is located north-eastern of the ancient agora in the present Aghiou Demetriou Street, almost in the centre of the old city. Saint Demetrios is the patron saint of the city, and thus the Basilica – built with dissimilar stones placed together– is the most widely known church in Thessaloniki and very important for the locals. The original building was built in about 413 A.D. by Leontius, the eparch of the Illyrian prefecture. The church was built in the position of an old chapel, dedicated to Saint Demetrios the “Myrrh-streamer” (in Greek: Myrovletes). In the great fire of Thessaloniki in 1917, the monument was almost totally destroyed and later it was rebuilt with the remains of its original parts.
Afterwards, we will visit the old city part, known as “Ladadika” and after having lunch in the old city, our tour will end with visit to the new excellently designed Byzantine Museum.

Day 9: Holy Mountain Athos

Drive to the peninsula of Chalkidiki. Our first stop will be in Ouranoupoli, the last destination before entering the “abaton” of Mount Athos. From there, you will take the boat for a short cruise around the “Holy Mountain”, which will offer you a great view of the monk republic. Mount Athos is really a small republic of monks with 20 monasteries, where no women or other female creatures are permitted since the 11th century. The only exception is the hens, because the monks need the eggs for icon painting.
From the boat perspective (which is allowed to proceed up to 500 meters away from Athos), you can catch a glimpse of the monasteries and the hermitages. Although the peninsula had once 20,000 monks, now they are only about 1,700 monks, who live according to their own rules, as well as their own calendar and hour adjustment. Among the 20 monasteries, the 17 ones are inhabited by Greek, one by Russian, one by Bulgarian and one by Serbian monks. Moreover, not all monks live in the big monasteries; some have chosen to live in small traditional village-like monk houses, others in hermitages and other in totally isolated places on the peninsula.
On our way back to Thessaloniki, we make a short stop in Stageira, motherland of philosopher Aristotle. The ancient town is said to have been rebuilt during the reign of King Philip II and his son Alexander the Great.
Back in Thessaloniki, we will enjoy a farewell dinner in one of the oldest taverns of the city.

Day 10: Departure – “Geia sas”

Free time till your departure flight. Transfer to the Thessaloniki International Airport "Macedonia" – Departure


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