In Greece, the cradle of Western civilization beckons to you with its proud monuments, sun-drenched isles, and friendly people. Journey to Greece on this Small Ship Adventure and discover the enduring treasures of antiquity, from the Temple of Apollo to the monasteries of Meteora. Then enjoy a Greek island cruise aboard Grand Circle’s private small ship, which holds two groups of just 25 travelers, and explore millennia-old settlements layered deeply in myth and history. Visit Delos, birthplace of Apollo … volcanic Santorini … bustling Syros … and Kusadasi, gateway to ancient Ephesus. Crown your Aegean cruise with two nights in Athens, where centuries of history mingle with modern sensibilities for an atmosphere like no other.
Make It Your Adventure
Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.
5 nights from only $1195
Journey far back in time to the Peloponnese—a peninsula south of mainland Greece steeped in ancient myths and enveloped in rugged scenic beauty. Discover the Neo-Classical splendor of Nafplion, the Bronze Age culture of ancient Mycenae, and the sanctuary of Zeus in Ancient Olympia, home of the first Olympic Games. Discover the ancient Greek world with a two-night stay in Athens.View Extension Itinerary
Fly from the U.S. to Athens, Greece.
You'll be met at the Athens airport and assisted to your Athens hotel to join passengers coming from the Ancient Glories: Olympia, Nafplion & Athens pre-trip extension. This afternoon, enjoy a walk to get acquainted with the area around the hotel. Then gather for a Welcome Drink and briefing, before dinner on your own.
After breakfast, travel overland across the Thessaly Plain before climbing the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Enjoy lunch on your own along the way. Later, you'll reach the picturesque mountain village of Arachova where you'll stay tonight.
A healthy Mediterranean style of cooking, Greek cuisine is popular throughout the world, with its reliance on olive oil, grains, wine, fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Late this afternoon, learn how to prepare classic Greek specialties during a special cooking lesson, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Then, enjoy an authentic taste of this cuisine when you and your fellow travelers gather for dinner.
Please note: Some travelers will visit Kalambaka before Arachova. All included tours and features will remain the same.
Today, absorb the majesty of ancient Delphi, including the Temple of Apollo where the oracle once prophesied. This ancient sanctuary is beautifully set in a landscape fit for a god, at the foot of a mountain with a vista over olive groves stretching to the Bay of Itea. This guided tour includes up to two hours of walking, with several sets of stairs (up to 60 stairs, consecutively).
Those entering the sanctuary of Apollo in ancient times first purified themselves with the water of the Castalia Fountain, situated in the area. As you approach the Temple of Apollo, you'll walk the Sacred Way used by ancient Greeks such as the historian Plutarch, who was a priest of Apollo at Delphi. See treasuries built here by the Athenians, the Thebans, the Corinthians, and the Syracusans—the great powers of their day—including the theater, built to seat 5,000 people, from which it's possible to get an amazing view if you climb to the top row. You'll also see the famous Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. Located a short distance from the main ruins, the circular structure was constructed between 380 and 360 BC and once consisted of 20 Doric columns, three of which have been restored.
You'll also visit the recently renovated Delphi Archaeological Museum. The unmatched holdings here include the larger-than-life bronze Charioteer, dating to about 470 BC and one of the finest surviving bronze works of antiquity. The museum is filled with other masterpieces from the Archaic, Classical, and Roman periods, including scenes of the gods watching the Trojan War, a nine-statue family monument from the fourth century BC, and a sculpture of Roman Emperor Hadrian's beloved friend Antinoos.
Enjoy the rest of the afternoon to make your own discoveries. Dinner is on your own this evening.
Please note: Travelers do not have to participate in the up to two-hour walk in Delphi if they feel it may be too difficult.
This morning, travel overland through a landscape studded with rocky pinnacles to Kalambaka. Enjoy lunch on your own en route. After your afternoon arrival, the balance of the day is yours to make your own discoveries. This evening, enjoy an included dinner at your hotel.
This morning, ride by coach to the towering rock formations, on top of which are built the famous monasteries of Meteora. You'll enjoy breathtaking views from this unique setting and visit the monasteries, some of which date to the 16th century. Meteora means “suspended in the air,” and these astonishing retreats are indeed perched atop pinnacles that rise about 1,000 feet from the valley floor. For centuries, the monasteries served as Christian redoubts while the Ottoman Turks ruled Greece, and the monasteries are still in operation today.
After lunch on your own in the provincial town of Kalambaka, Thessaly, you'll discover a Byzantine tradition during a visit to a nearby icon-painting workshop.
This evening, enjoy a Home-Hosted Dinner with a local Greek family, an exclusive Discovery Series event.
After breakfast, begin your return transfer to Athens, where you will embark your small ship. You will have time for lunch on your own before you arrive.
This evening, meet your crew and enjoy a Welcome Drink followed by dinner. During the night, your ship sails toward the island of Syros.
This morning, explore Syros—whose main port town, Ermoupolis, is the capital of the Cyclades. This is the largest of the island ports that you'll visit. In the late 19th century, it was the main port for all of Greece, and it has a wealth of beautifully restored historic buildings including old mansions and churches. Enjoy a walking tour and discover the charms of this lively traditional Aegean port town. Here, you'll also taste one of Greece's favorite sweets, loukoumi, a gelatin candy dusted with powdered sugar.
Have lunch onboard, then cruise to Mykonos. You'll have the afternoon free to explore this vacation spot popular with international jet-setters.
Enjoy dinner together onboard and moor for the night in Mykonos.
This morning, take a short cruise to Delos. The mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, Delos has been settled for more than 5,000 years. You'll stroll among the restored remnants of markets, towers, and fountains, and see the preserved mosaics that earned this island its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While enjoying lunch onboard, your ship continues on to Kusadasi, Turkey. The afternoon is yours to relax or mingle with your fellow travelers before dinner. Your ship arrives in Kusadasi late tonight.
Disembark your small ship in Kusadasi this morning and head out to probe the ruins of nearby Ephesus—one of the best-preserved and most extensive (2,000 acres) classical Greco-Roman cities in Asia. Located 60 miles from Izmir, Ephesus dates to at least 1300 BC and was home to the early philosopher Heraclitus. As the commercial center and capital city of Roman Asia Minor, it was once the fourth-largest city in the Roman Empire, boasting a population numbering more than 300,000.
One ancient legend attributes the founding of Ephesus to the Amazons of Greek mythology. Another credits the Athenian Androclus, who received advice from an oracle to establish a colony at the "place of the fish and the boar." And so, when he and his crew saw a wild pig charge out of underbrush set ablaze inadvertently by locals grilling fish, he staked his claim on the Anatolian shore. Since 1992, Grand Circle Foundation has been contributing to the preservation and ongoing excavations of this remarkable site, with its donations to the Foundation of Friends of Ephesus.
Your discoveries in Ephesus include a visit to the Basilica of St. John, constructed in the fifth century over the tomb of the evangelist St. John, and the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
After Ephesus, visit a local cooperative to learn how hand-woven Turkish carpets are produced, an exclusive Discovery Series event. You'll also enjoy an included lunch here.
Return to your ship early this afternoon to depart for the island of Patmos. Dinner will be onboard tonight.
This morning, explore the beautiful and rugged island of Patmos, named a Sacred Island by the Greek government in 1981 and long a popular pilgrimage site. According to Roman legend, the island received its name when Poseidon stepped on it (patima being Greek for "step").
The island served as exile for an important figure from history: St. John the Evangelist, one of Jesus' twelve apostles. At the time, the island's near inaccessibility made it a perfect site for the banishment of criminals and political agitators. Exiled from Ephesus, St. John lived in a grotto beneath the Temple of Diana for 18 months, between AD 95 and 97. It was there that he was said to have received his vision of fire and brimstone and dictated the Book of Revelation. He also wrote the Fourth Gospel during this period.
During this morning's included tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you'll visit the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse, where St. John lived and worked. If you see cracks in the walls of the cave, consider that they are said to have appeared when the apostle heard the voice of the Lord. You'll also explore the eleventh-century Monastery of St. John, built by the monk Christodolous on the ruins of the Temple of Diana. Fortified over the next two centuries to protect it against marauding pirates, this imposing monastery is visible virtually everywhere on the island and has remained in continuous operation for more than 900 years.
You will see some priceless religious relics during your visit here, and be sure to listen for the remarkable acoustics inside the main chapel. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Aegean in Hora, the 17th-century town of dazzling white houses that tumbles down the hillside surrounding the citadel.
After enjoying lunch onboard, the afternoon is yours to explore more of Patmos independently. Return to your ship this evening for dinner, then relax as your ship sails on to Santorini.
Alight from your ship this morning and take in the exquisite beauty of Santorini. This remarkable island is the remnant of the rim of a volcanic caldera, much of which was blasted away by a huge eruption in 1600 BC. The bay enclosed by the crescent is nearly 1,300 feet deep, and our destination, the village of Fira, is perched on the caldera rim, about 1,000 feet above the water. You may choose your method of ascent: a funicular (cable car) or a traditional donkey ride.
In this spectacularly situated town, gleaming white houses look down hundreds of feet to the bay. You'll visit a local museum and learn about the excavations at Akrotiri—an ancient Minoan city buried by volcanic ash—during your tour here. You'll also visit the picturesque village of Oia and learn about the fascinating ancient history of this area. Please note: Should the museum be closed, your visit will be substituted by an alternate activity.
You may enjoy some free time in Santorini, then enjoy dinner aboard the ship this evening as you cruise on to Naxos.
Early this morning, ride across Naxos to the village of Kourounochari, then hike to Melanes—a valley hamlet rich with fruit and olive trees. You'll visit a garden where a half-finished ancient kouros sculpture lies on the ground. This kind of statue of a young man from Greece's Archaic period may have been intended to portray a guardian of Zeus, and was modeled after the formal style of ancient Egyptian sculpture.
From here, transfer to the town of Naxos, where you’ll have the chance to savor an authentic island meal when you join a local family for a Home-Hosted Lunch. Your afternoon is free to relax or to explore Naxos further on your own.
Afterward, return to your ship and toast to your discoveries during your Capitan’s Farewell Cocktail reception, followed by a Farewell Dinner. Late this evening, begin the overnight cruise to Athens.
Disembark your ship this morning for a full day of discoveries in Greece’s capital, beginning with a visit to one of its most defining sites—the ancient Acropolis. Located atop a rocky outcrop, many of the Acropolis’ most important buildings—including the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike—were built in the fifth century BC, likely as shrines to Athens’ patron goddess. With their Doric columns and distinct decorative flourishes, these enduring structures are today considered among the most important examples of Classical Greece.
Following your tour here, descend from the hill atop which the Acropolis sits to explore the Plaka district. Nestled in the shadow of the mighty citadel, Plaka is Athens’ oldest neighborhood, and is filled with welcoming cafes, flower-lined patios, and shops specializing in hand-painted icons, jewelry, and antiques. Your stroll through Plaka concludes at Monastiraki Square, where you’ll enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant.
The remainder of the afternoon is yours to explore Athens independently, perhaps shopping in the large market in Monastiraki Square, or visiting one of Plaka’s many museums. Dinner is on your own tonight.
After breakfast, the day is yours to do as you please. You may choose to visit the National Archaeological Museum, considered one of the greatest and most important museums in the world. Founded by Greece’s prime minister in 1829, the museum houses artifacts from archeological sites around the country, including sculptures, frescoes, and Mycenean and Cycladic art.
Or, you might explore the Benaki Museum. Located in a formerly private mansion in downtown Athens, the Benaki museum is home to an extensive collection of Greek art from prehistoric times to the modern age. A stroll through its corridors is like a panoramic tour of the evolution of Greek civilization.
Your Trip Leader will be happy to offer other suggestions, and can also recommend the best restaurants and cafes to enjoy an authentic Greek lunch. This evening, celebrate your discoveries during a Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers at a local restaurant. Your meal this evening also includes entertainment: Greek dancers will demonstrate a traditional performance as you dine.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flights home or begin your post-trip extension in Cappadocia, Turkey.
4 nights from only $1095
Delve into Turkey's ancient civilizations as you immerse yourself in Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site honeycombed with rock-cut settlements and colorful stone valleys. Witness centuries-old cave churches in Goreme, explore subterranean cities in Kaymakli, witness fairy chimneys from Pasabag to Zelve, and so much more.View Extension Itinerary