Tours

ancient-aegean-Kourion_86082194
ancient-aegean-Kourion_86082194

Cyprus, Crete & Santorini: Ancient Aegean Kingdoms

The sparkling Mediterranean waters of the Aegean, dividing mainland Greece from Turkey, were the genesis for the evolution of ancient maritime civilizations whose questing seafarers first linked ancient Greek and Roman cultures with the eastern civilizations of Anatolia and Levantine centers in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

 

Oct 7 – 21 2019 (15 days)
Price $6,995 | SS $1,400
Deposit $500

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Tour Description

Spending 6, 5 and 3 nights in Cyprus, Crete and Santorini respectively, our three-island odyssey unravels the complex story of these historic Aegean Kingdoms – a narrative telling of 9,000 years of history, from Neolithic villages to the Bronze Age cultures of the Minoans, Mycenaeans and Cypriotes, then on to Classical, Greco-Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic eras.

It’s a journey embracing a sequence of exceptional archaeological sites and museums, eloquently illuminating the enigmas and myths of these long-lost worlds. Of special note will be a trio of ancient Cypriote city-kingdoms (Kition, Amathous and Kourion), the Painted Churches in the Troödos Mountains Region (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) – and Knossos, setting of Crete’s greatest archaeological excavations and the ruins of a huge Minoan palace, possible inspiration for the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. We end on the picturesque Cyclades island of Santorini, with time to relax between visits to classical Thera and Akrotiri, the ‘Minoan Pompeii’ still emerging from its ashes.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Discover Gortyn and its famous 5th century stone blocks, inscribed with the laws of Classical Greece
  • Separate history from mythology as we explore the fascinating Minoan palace complexes of Knossos and Malia
  • Wander amid Cyprus’s Tombs of Kings at Paphos, a grand necropolis carved from the solid rock

  • Explore Heraklion Archaeological Museum, housing the world’s greatest exhibition of Minoan artifacts – and also Nicosia’s Cyprus Museum featuring artifacts from the Neolithic Age to the Byzantine period
  • Enjoy the Mediterranean’s friendly skies, inviting beaches and delicious local cuisines – all will enhance our quest for the secrets of these ancient civilizations

WHAT TO EXPECT

LED BY

Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

2019 Itinerary

Monday, October 7: ARRIVE IN LARNACA
We arrive in Larnaca and transfer to our first hotel. We take the rest of the day to relax after our flight, before enjoying our first dinner as a group.
Dinner included.

Tuesday, October 8: LARNACA
After an opening lecture, our touring begins with the site of Kition. Originating in the Mycenaean period, Kition became a place of commercial importance for its rich metal trade. In about 900 BC, the Phoenicians established a colony here, and it later became a way station for pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. Touring includes the mosque of Umm Haram, tomb of the maternal aunt of the Prophet Muhammad, one of the holiest shrines of Islam, the superb Byzantine mosaics in Kiti Church, St. Lazarus Church and Pierides Museum.
All meals included.

Wednesday, October 9: LARNACA
All day is spent in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia. A settlement since the Bronze Age, the city has been continuously inhabited for almost 5,000 years. Here, we visit the Cyprus Archaeological Museum, which houses the world’s most extensive collections of Cypriot archaeology. This afternoon we have free time to walk around the old town, including the well-preserved Venetian walls, built in an attempt to defend the city from Ottoman invasion.
All meals included.

Thursday, October 10: LARNACA – PAPHOS
We begin our tour at the site of Khirokitia, an exceptionally preserved Neolithic walled village with over 60 stone roundhouses. Afterwards, we visit Amathous’s celebrated classical city. During its long history, it served as a harbor to the Phoenicians, while under the Romans it was the capital of one of the four districts of the island. This afternoon, we drive to Kourion, one of the most important ancient sites in Cyprus. The sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, theater and baths of the acropolis command a spectacular panoramic sea view from its heights. We continue on to Petra tou Romiou, legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, before a visit to Kouklia with its famous Sanctuary of Aphrodite.
All meals included.

Friday, October 11: PAPHOS
We drive into the beautiful Troodos Mountains to visit a wonderful series of frescoed Byzantine churches including Agios Ioannis Lampadistis, which houses a fine Pantokrator in the dome, and Panagia tou Moutoulla, one of the oldest of the Troodos churches (AD 1279). Here we will see rare frescoes of St. George and St. Christopher, both dressed in Byzantine armor.
All meals included.

Saturday, October 12: PAPHOS
Our visit today is to the World Heritage Site of Paphos. We explore the elaborate rock-cut, so-called ‘Tombs of the Kings’ which date from the 3rd century BC. We spend lunch within Paphos Harbor before continuing to the Archaeological Park to see the well-preserved mosaics of mythological subjects at Villa of Theseus and the nearby Roman remains of the House of Dionysos.
All meals included.

Sunday, October 13: PAPHOS/HERAKLION
After a morning at leisure, we depart for the airport and our flight to Crete.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Monday, October 14: HERAKLION
Touring begins with a trip to the world-renowned Palace of Knossos, a majestic complex erected in Greece’s Bronze Age era, and the largest Bronze Age site in the country. The intricate, multi-storeyed layout of the palace has led to its connection with numerous myths and legends, including that of the Minotaur and the labyrinth. We take in the royal quarters, with their decorated Throne Room, as well as noting the axe stands within the House of the High Priest. We continue on to the Minoan manor house and outbuildings of Vathypetro, the surviving remnants of a settlement that stretched across three hills. Here we observe an elaborate shrine as well as a wonderfully preserved wine press – one of the oldest in the world.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Tuesday, October 15: HERAKLION
Touring begins with a trip to the world-renowned Palace of Knossos, a majestic complex erected in Greece’s Bronze Age era, and the largest Bronze Age site in the country. The intricate, multi-storeyed layout of the palace has led to its connection with numerous myths and legends, including that of the Minotaur and the labyrinth. We take in the royal quarters, with their decorated Throne Room, as well as noting the axe stands within the House of the High Priest. We continue on to the Minoan manor house and outbuildings of Vathypetro, the surviving remnants of a settlement that stretched across three hills. Here we observe an elaborate shrine as well as a wonderfully preserved wine press – one of the oldest in the world.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Wednesday, October 16: HERAKLION
We enjoy a morning at the important Greco-Roman site of Gortyn in the verdant Messara Valley, a gem of the archaeological world since its discovery in 1884. Thought to have once been populated by over 300,000 people, the site is best-known for its collection of 5th century stone blocks, inscribed with the law codes of classical Greece – the oldest and most complete example of coded ancient Greek laws ever found. We resume our adventures with the Minoans at the magnificent Palace of Phaistos. Famous finds here include thousands of documents, some inscribed with the earliest known occurrence of the still undeciphered writing of the Minoans – a script also known as ‘Linear A’. We leave the columns and courtyards of Phaistos to visit Ayia Triada, a grand but ruinous Bronze Age villa that has yielded more examples of Linear A tablets than any other site of its kind.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Thursday, October 17: HERAKLION
Our day starts with a trip to the Palace of Malia, a huge Minoan complex just north of the Lasithi Mountains, significant not only for its size, but also its strategic port, skylights and grand facades. We then proceed to the well-preserved late Minoan town of Gournia, one of the few sites in the region to have been fully excavated. The remains of Gournia cluster around cobbled streets on the side of a hill and are crowned by the now-ruined palace. Traces of some 50 houses are in evidence here, as well as a court and cemetery. This afternoon we are treated to the picturesque ruins of Chamaizi, best known for the unique oval-shaped Middle Minoan building which is located on the summit of the hill here – the only one of its type discovered to date. The evening is free to spend at leisure, perhaps take a walk around the harbor and check out one of the local restaurants.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Friday, October 18: HERAKLION – FIRA
A ferry brings us to Santorini, the southernmost island of the Cyclades. Our two nights here offer time to explore the maze of picturesque narrow streets.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Saturday, October 19: FIRA
After breakfast, we journey up winding roads to the ancient city of Thera, located on a ridge of Messavouno Mountain, some 360 meters above sea level. The site has been under excavation since 1904, and findings from the city have contributed immensely to our understanding of Minoan culture and history. We imagine the people whose lives were centered around Thera’s 800-meter long main street; who attended performances in the city’s enormous theater; and who worshipped Hermes and Heracles within the walls of the sacred grotto. We spend the afternoon in the new Museum of Prehistoric Thera and the old Archaeological Museum of Thera. Both house a selection of dazzling wall paintings from the Minoan buildings at Akrotiri, as well as a large number of artifacts found in various island excavations. Don’t miss jugs depicting elegant birds, dating from the Middle Cycladic period of 1800 to 2000 BC, and the statue of the golden goat, discovered in Akrotiri in 1999.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Sunday, October 20: FIRA
This morning is consumed by a visit to Akrotiri. Destroyed by a catastrophic volcanic eruption in around 1500 BC and buried in ash, the city is reminiscent of Pompeii, and has retained some impressively well-preserved houses. The drainage systems, complex buildings, and magnificent wall paintings still in place indicate a once prosperous society, with many successful trade links. We admire the delightful ‘Fresco of the Monkeys’ and the ‘House of the Ladies’, with its striking central light well. This evening we gather for a special farewell dinner as a group.
All meals included.

Monday, October 21: DEPART SANTORINI
We transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.
Breakfast included.

Additional Information

Calendar Year

2019

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