Explore sacred islands and sprawling ruins
Of the thousands of Greek islands which are scattered over the Aegean Sea, the Cyclades have the most evocative mythology. The archipelago is named for its encircling of the sacred isle of Delos, the legendary birthplace of Apollo and Artemis but its surrounding islands are no less fascinating. From the now unassuming Tinos, which once flourished as a centre for worship to Poseidon in the 5th century BCE, to Santorini, home to one of the most important archaeological sites in the Aegean – the buried Minoan city of Akrotiri. The islands display evidence of settlement from as early as 5000 BCE and had a distinctive culture in the early middle Bronze Age. Obsidian (volcanic glass) was produced here and exported throughout the Aegean, along with lead, copper and marble. Travelling by land and crossing by ferry from port to ancient port, we explore the best of the archaeology there is to see on the archipelago.
Your Departure date
Deposit: £750 Single supplement: £545
Day 1 - London - Santorini
We fly from London to Santorini and transfer to our hotel.
|Meals included||Afternoon tea|
Day 2 - Thera & Akrotiri
We visit ancient Thera, the classical city built after the catastrophic eruption that ended the Bronze Age prosperity of the island. The site sits on the peak of Mesa Vouna clinging to the rock 320M above sea level and offers panoramic views of the whole region. Public buildings, markets, theatre, baths, temples, private residences and one complete road network with sewage system constitutes the city’s picture. After, we continue to Akrotiri, the once well-connected Minoan port town with trading links throughout the eastern Mediterranean. When excavations started in 1967, they revealed a prehistoric town in an extraordinary state of preservation with buildings still standing two or even three storeys high. The site is now covered by a state-of-the-art bioclimatic roof spanning three acres. It took over a decade to build but now safeguards the fragile buildings and frescoes. Afterwards we visit the Prehistoric Museum where finds from the area are on display including some of the vibrant Bronze Age frescoes found at Akrotiri.
Day 3 - Santorini - Ios
We take the early afternoon ferry to the hilly island of Ios. In antiquity the island prospered because it lay at the junction of key trading routes that linked the Cyclades with mainland Greece, Crete and Asia Minor. Occupied since the early Cycladic period, there is archaeology here from all the major periods of this region’s history – Minoan, Mycenean, Phoenician, Roman and Byzantine. We start our exploration at the small Archaeological Museum which displays artefacts found during excavations on the island over the last 30 years. After lunch we will check in to our hotel for some free time to relax.
Day 4 - Ios
This morning we explore this rugged, hilly island visiting first the remains of the Paleokastro built by the Venetians in the 15th century. Now very ruinous, this was once a substantial fort and there are spectacular views over the seas to neighbouring islands. We continue to Homer’s tomb, allegedly one of three grave sites on the northern edge of the island. Inscriptions, coins and some texts, including some from Herodotus, testify that Ios is the birthplace of Homer’s mother and the place where the great poet was laid to rest but little is known of his life or indeed where he was buried.
After lunch we visit Skarkos. Situated in Kambos, one of the most fertile areas of the island, this middle Early Bronze Age settlement is one of the oldest and best-preserved Cycladic prehistoric site in Greece. Here we see evidence of organised urban planning, a modern system of rainwater disposal as well as a sewage system.
Day 5 - Ios - Naxos
Taking to the sea once more we cross to Naxos, the largest island in the archipelago, where we arrive in time for lunch. Naxos is one of the few Greek islands that does not need to depend on tourism, there is a large farming community here and the island produces apricots, honey, olives and the local small potatoes are renowned. In the afternoon, we drive to the south of the island and the fertile valley of Livadi to visit the ruins of the Sanctuary of Iria, dedicated to the god Dionysus. Its importance is attested not only by splendid architectural finds but also the numerous votive offerings found here. A limited sample of the movable finds can be seen in the small on-site museum.
Day 6 - Naxos
Spending the day on Naxos, we drive to the Sanctuary of Apollo and Demeter at Sangri to see the remains of the all marble temple constructed in the late 6th century. It represents one of the earliest buildings of the Ionic order. We continue to Koronos for lunch before continuing to the Flerio area where ancient marbles quarries were situated. Here we see the two oversized but incomplete stone figures of young men (Kourai) dating to the early 6th century BC. Probably damaged during their creation, these marble statues each weighing between 7 and 8 tonnes, were abandoned on the mountainside.
Day 7 - Delos
Today we take our private boat to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Delos, now ‘an isle of ghosts, uninhabited since antiquity’ (John Freely) it was once one of the most sacred places of ancient Greece and one of the most robust trade centres. Situated at the centre of the Aegean, the island was of strategic importance to those crossing to and from major commercial centres on the mainland and its claim as the birthplace of Apollo gave Delos a strong religious identity that lasted for hundreds of years. Eventually its wealth was its downfall; it was looted and devastated in 88 BCE by Mithridates and the population dwindled until the nearly deserted island became a pirate stronghold. Excavations began in 1872 and are still in progress having unearthed the Sanctuary and a good part of the Hellenistic town and the findings are in the on-site museum. We spend a full day exploring the temples, houses and agorae of this sacred island.
Day 8 - Naxos - Tinos
On our last morning in Naxos, we visit the Archaeological Museum. Situated in the central square leading to the Kastro, it is housed in a wonderful 17th century Venetian house and spread over several storeys. Its collection of Early Cycladic marble figurines is second to only that of the National Museum in Athens. In the early afternoon we catch our ferry to Tinos, an island often overlooked by foreign travellers. This unsophisticated, mountainous island is famous for its marble and distinctive architecture – Tinian dovecotes, a legacy of the Venetians, are scattered across the landscape.
Day 9 - Tinos
Today we visit the Archaeological Museum which includes finds from excavations from the Sanctuary of Poseidon. Afterwards, we will visit the Sanctuary itself situated opposite the lovely beach of Kionia. Tinos was the only island in the Cyclades that dedicated an entire Temple to Poseidon. Worshippers would come here first to cleanse and purify before travelling to the sacred island of Delos. We end the day at the excellent Pyrgos Museum which is dedicated to the local history of marble and explains the quarrying and sculpting techniques that have been used on the island since antiquity.
Day 10 - Tinos - Athens
We take the ferry to Rafina and from there we travel to Sounion, where we visit the beautiful Temple of Poseidon. Later we transfer to Athens for our final night in Greece.
|Meals included||All meals included|
Day 11 - Athens - London
We transfer to Athens airport for our return flight.
Tour dates & prices
Included in your cost:
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Professional Tour Manager
- Local travel aboard a private air-conditioned coach
- Meals as per the itinerary, wine and tea or coffee with dinner
- Entries to all sites as per the itinerary
- All taxes & gratuities
- Field notes
|Tour Departure||Tour ID||Departure date||Return Date||Guided by||Price||Deposit||Single supplement||Availability|
|25 May 2023||AICY230525||25 May 2023 (Thursday)||4 June 2023 (Sunday)||Dr Christina Hatzimichael-Whitley||£4,275
|£750||£545||Book your trip|
|5 October 2023||AICY231005||5 October 2023 (Thursday)||15 October 2023 (Sunday)||Dr Christina Hatzimichael-Whitley||£4,275
|£750||£545||Book your trip|