Peloponnese: the Jewel of Greek Antiquity

Lo, how the woman-thing, the lioness
Couched with the wolf—her noble mate afar—
Will slay me, slave forlorn! Yea, like some witch,
She drugs the cup of wrath, that slays her lord
With double death—his recompense for me!
Ay, ’tis for me, the prey he bore from Troy,
That she hath sworn his death, and edged the steel!
Ye wands, ye wreaths that cling around my neck,
Ye showed me prophetess yet scorned of all—
I stamp you into death, or e’er I die—
Down, to destruction!
– Cassandra in “Agamemnon”, Aeschylus, 1448-1458

Day 1: Arrival

Welcome in Greece for a tour through time! Epicenter of our trip will be Peloponnese, a region where history and mythology blend so magically. Peloponnese has remained in history for the dreadful wars that took place in its territory and inspired the ancient Greek tragic playwrights, who wrote worldwide known masterpieces. In the afternoon we will have free time at our own disposal. 1 overnight stay in our booked hotel at the region of the Athenian Riviera.

Day 2: Modern & Ancient Meet in Athens

Our sightseeing tour begins right after our breakfast. The face of the oldest metropolis of Europe seems to be younger and fresher than ever! First stop: the Acropolis, the landmark of Athens. On the more than 2,500 years old Greek monument, we can admire the remnants of a glorious era: the marble Parthenon, the magnificent Propylaea, the delicate Erechtheion with the Caryatid Porch… Afterwards, we visit the Areopagus Hill, directly opposite the hill of Acropolis. The place is famous for two reasons; the trial of Ares, the ancient Greek god of war, for the murder of Poseidon's son Alirrothios and the speech Apostle Paul gave to the Athenians about the existence of one and true God. Next stop will be the ancient theater of Dionysus nearby and in the end comes the highlight for the museum fans: the New Acropolis Museum; the museum has been included in the list with the 10 most beautiful museums in the world and opened in 2009 under the oversight of the Swiss architect Bernard Tschume. There we can find 300 statues and metopes as well as 4,000 other smaller objects from the archaic period, the classical antiquity and the late antiquity, displayed till 2009 in the old Acropolis Museum on the hill of Acropolis or – because of lack of space – in magazine photos.
In the afternoon we cross the Corinth Canal (with short photo shooting stop) to Patras; until 1893, seamen had to travel around the rugged shores of Peloponnese to land e.g. in Sicily. The spectacular cutting through the Isthmus between the Saronic and the Corinthian Gulf clearly reduced the sea routes from Athens to the Mediterranean Sea. The builders blew up the rock at a length of 6.34 km, dug 60 m deep in the earth and created a shipping channel 24.5 m wide and 8 m deep. 2 overnight stays in our booked hotel in Patras. 

Day 3: Patras

Since the early Christian times, Patras has been a very important port in Greece. The port of Patras is till nowadays the city’s “main artery”. However, the highlight of the city is surely the new bridge of Rion-Antirrion connecting Peloponnese with the mainland. In Patras we visit at the Church of St. Andrew, the biggest church in the Balkans. The old Church of St. Andrew was built on the site where he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, so that his Cross is not the same as the one of Jesus. Our next stops will be the lighthouse, the ancient theater of Apollo and the fort of the city. The new Archaeological Museum of Patras will surely fascinate us with its exhibits as well as its modern architecture. Before lunch, we will also visit a Mycaenean tomb near Patras, which will lead us to the world of Agamemnon and his dynasty. Afternoon visit at the Winery Achaia Clauss, where we will taste some of the winery’s wines and learn about the famous visitors of the winery. 

Day 4: Olympia, the Roots of Olympic Games

The archaeological site of ancient Olympia: a worldwide symbol for unity, peace and good sportsmanship. We will have the chance to walk through the area where athletes trained for the Olympic Games and admire the Temple of Zeus (once hosting the nowadays nonexistent Statue of Zeus, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world), the altar of the Olympic flame in front of the Temple of Hera, the Agora in front of the Stadium, the Stadium and the Museum, where we will find the famous statues “Hermes of Praxiteles” and “Nike of Paionios”. Not far away from the archaeological site, we visit after our lunch the new Archimedes Museum for ancient technologies. 1 overnight stay in Olympia. 

Day 5: Pylos, Methoni & Messini

The day begins with drive to Messene, metropolis of the ancient times and nowadays the largest archaeological site in Greece. Landmark of the region is the Arcadian Gate, the best preserved ancient city gate in Greece. On our way back, we discover the history of the ancient murals, the temple and the theater.
Next stop is the fortress of Pylos standing majestically over the road leading to the bay of Navarino, where a naval battle against the Ottomans took place. An obelisk standing at the port reminds us of the battle. Of the same importance is the fortress of Methoni at the southern cape of Messene with its fortified tower in the sea. The top of the tower offers an unbelievable view. After our lunch we drive to Kalamata; 3 overnight stays. 

Day 6: To the Magical Monemvasia

Today we will take a one-day-excursion to Monemvasia. Monemvasia is located on a small island off the southeast coast of the Peloponnese. The island is linked to the mainland by a short causeway 200 m in length. Its area consists mostly of a large plateau some 100 m above sea level, up to 300 m wide and 1 km long, the site of a powerful medieval fortress. The town walls and many Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period. The town's name derives from two Greek words, “mone” and “emvasia”, meaning “single entrance”. Its Italian form, Malvasia, gave its name to Malmsey wine. Monemvasia's nickname is the “Gibraltar of the East” or “The Rock”. Visit the castle of Monemvasia, firstly inhabited by people coming from the region of Lakonia during the 6th century AD for their protection against the Arabs. These were the ones who built the first bridge connecting the rock of Monemvasia with the mainland; the two parts of land were separated by an earthquake in 375 AD. Monemvasia had always been a target of the barbarians and conquerors and it retains its beauty and sense of history till today.
The name of the city means “the only embasis”, the unique entrance to the island over the bridge. The Byzantine emperor Maurice established Monemvasia in the first year of his reign in 582 AD and the settlers were brought from Lakedaimonia. Its survival after the attacks of the Goths, Avars and Slavs transformed Monemvasia into a great port, on the trade route between the Mediterranean and the Levant. The city had an important strategic position and was known as a great trading stop. It is a typical architectural example as a Greek city transformed by the Venetians, the experts on military architecture, and completely restored by Ottoman rulers; such is obvious at the exceptional fortifications of the city.
After a photo shooting stop we drive to Theodorakakos Winery, where we will taste delicious Greek wines and enjoy our lunch. Last destination of the day: Gythio, a beautiful coastal town on the southern side of Peloponnese. Built on the hill slopes around a natural bay, Gythio is the largest town in the region of Mani, an isolated, barren place with ghost villages. Before driving back to our hotel, we stroll through the streets of the city to discover its hidden beauties. 

Day 7: To the Fortified Villages of Mani

Today we visit the labyrinthlike Cave of Diros, one of the most magnificent caves in Europe. A boat leads us into the cave with its magnificent landscape formed by stalagmites and stalactites. Afterwards we take a walk through the pathways of typical villages of Mani; the ones with the characteristic fortified houses and towers. Lastly, we head on to the southernmost part of Mani driving by the CapeTaenaron, the bay of Porto Kayo, Kotronas and the ancient death oracle “Nekromanteio”.

Day 8: Sparta & Mystras

Our first stop of the day will be in Sparta, motherland of Leonidas, who bravely fell in the battle of Thermopylae against the Persians (480 BC). At the small local museum of the region we will have the chance to learn how hard and modest the Spartan life was. But we have to hurry; Mystras is waiting for us. The “wonder of Morea”, as it is known, was built as an amphitheater around the fortress erected in 1249 by the prince of Achaia, William of Villehardouin. The city was reconquered by the Byzantines, then occupied by the Turks and the Venetians and finally abandoned in 1832, leaving only medieval ruins of churches, palaces and houses standing in a beautiful landscape, and thus creating a wonderful open-air museum.
Further drive to Nemea, the place where legendary Hercules killed the vicious Nemean Lion; the monster could not be killed with mortals' weapons, because its golden fur was impervious to attack and its claws were sharper than mortals' swords and could cut through any armor. Ancient Nemea was also famous in the antiquity for one of the most important ancient Greek sport festivals: the Panhellenic Nemean Games. The archaeological site includes the stadium of Nemea, which could host 40,000 spectators, and the sanctuary and temple of Nemean Zeus. Nowadays, Nemea is known for its vineyards; we visit the Palivou Estate Winery, the wines of which have been multiply awarded for their quality.
Further drive to Corinth, where we will stay for the night. 

Day 9: Argolis – A Province Full of Glance

Our day begins with drive to Epidaurus and the Temple of Asclepius which dates back to the 4th century BC and was designed and built by the architects Theotokos and Thimotheos; the Healing Temple Asclepieion, designed for 250 patients (70.92 m x 9.42 m); the Library, built by the Roman emperor Antonios and his successors; the Gymnasium (69 m x 53 m). We also visit the ancient theater of Epidaurus, a wonder of architecture because of the absolute uniqueness of its acoustic. It is worth wondering how ancient Greeks managed to create such an architectural masterpiece using the knowledge and machinery of that time. The theater dates back to the 4th century BC but still hosts theatrical plays for 14,000 spectators. People from all over the world attend theatrical plays and concerts in Epidaurus, especially in summer months, as the experience offered at this theater is unique.
Next stop: the city of Nafplion, the absolute jewel of Argolis region. Nafplion was the first capital of modern Greece and is widely known as one of the most idyllic and romantic Greek cities. Today, we will have the freedom to discover Nafplion at our own disposal. We can take a walk through its picturesque streets with the wonderful buildings; admire the fortified islet of Bourtzi standing on the background, while drinking our coffee or having lunch at one of the numerous cafés and taverns. And for those in good shape, Palamidi Castle is totally recommended. In order to reach it, you have to climb all of its 999 steps carved into the rock. The castle where the most important hero of the Greek Revolution Theodoros Kolokotronis was imprisoned is absolutely worth our time and energy; the view from above is breathtaking!
The legendary Mycenae with its famous beehive (tholos) tombs, capital of Agamemnon’s kingdom, is our next destination. At Mycenae we will visit Europe’s oldest fortress and the stage for Iliad, one of Homer’s bloody epic poems. It all started in Aulis, where King Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter Iphigenia, so that the Greeks could sail to Troy. After Agamemnon’s return from the Trojan War, Clytemnestra murdered her husband with the help of her lover, Aegisthus. Her children Elektra and Orestes in turn assassinated their mother to revenge the murder of their father. The story of Atrides’ dynasty has inspired the famous Greek tragic writers Aischylos, Sofokles and Euripides, whose tragedies and their modern adaptations are still being played in theaters all over the world.
On our way to Athens, we make a stop in Ancient Corinth, where we can cast a glance over the fortress located on Mount Kyllini. At the foot of the mountain we visit the ancient city situated under the large fortress; the ancient central street, the agora and the Temple of Apollo are waiting for us. We also visit the archaeological site of the region as well as the museum, which is definitely worth seeing.Ancient Corinth has been the richest port and the largest city in ancient Greece. Its strategical location on the connection between Peloponnese and the mainland of Greece made the city a powerful commercial center near two seaports. The city is also very famous in the world of Christianity as one of the main stops of Apostle Paul during the journeys he made to spread the word of Jesus. 1 overnight stay in Athens. 

Day 10: Departure – “Geia sas!”

 According to itinerary transfer to Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”. Departure.

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