Trace 5,000 years of Greek history while exploring the country's incomparable archaeological treasures. From the legendary Acropolis in Athens to the cliff-top monasteries of Meteora and the Mycenaean treasures of the Peloponnese, delve into the mythology and masterpieces of ancient Greece with local scholars and archaeologists.
This expedition was inspired by the National Geographic television series The Greeks, the July 2016 National Geographic magazine photo-essay, and the 2016 National Geographic Museum exhibition The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great.
In Athens, meet a classics professor for a tour of the ancient Agora, and then step behind the scenes of a nearby archaeology lab and restoration workshop.
Enjoy lunch at a family home on Aegina Island, and learn about olive oil production at a working olive oil press.
Explore the Temple of Apollo with an archaeologist who works at this active excavation site.
Itinerary - 11 Days
Day 1 — Athens, Greece
Arrive in Athens and transfer to our hotel near the charming Plaka neighborhood. Gather for a welcome reception and dinner on the hotel's rooftop, which offers breathtaking views of the Acropolis. Herodion Hotel (D)
Day 2 — Athens
Begin the day at the New Acropolis Museum, examining panels of the famous Parthenon frieze, along with many other ancient works. Visit the hilltop complex of the Acropolis, crowned by the magnificent Parthenon. Venture back into the Plaka neighborhood for a delicious lunch. At the ancient Agora, once frequented by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, explore the origins of democracy with a professor of classical archaeology. Herodion Hotel (B,L)
Day 3 — Athens/Náfplio
Visit the National Archaeological Museum, home to countless treasures including Mycenean gold masks, Greek vases, and evocative marble sculptures. Travel south over the Isthmus of Corinth to see the Temple of Apollo and the Forum with an American archaeologist who excavates the site. This evening, gather for a festive evening of dinner and Greek dancing. Amalia Hotel Nauplia (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Náfplio/Mycenae/Epidaurus
Explore the fortified city of Mycenae, the center of the powerful Mycenaean civilization that flourished in the second millennium B.C. Enter the citadel through the Lion Gate, discovering an ancient grave circle, the royal palace, and the Tomb of Agamemnon—the largest of the tholos (beehive) tombs found here. Journey into the renowned wine region of Nemea for lunch. Visit an olive oil press in the village of Lygourio and learn about the process for harvesting and pressing olives, then enjoy an olive oil tasting. Later, visit the theater of Epidaurus, renowned for its exceptional acoustics. Return to Náfplio for dinner. Amalia Hotel Nauplia (B,L)
Day 5 — Olympia
Discover the picturesque mountain villages of Arcadia on our way to Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore this evocative collection of ancient temples, altars, and a stadium. Visit the archaeological museum to learn about Olympia's origins as a sanctuary honoring Zeus. Enjoy a wine tasting and dinner this evening at our hotel. Olympion Asty Hotel (B,L,D)
Days 6 & 7 — Delphi
Depart the Peloponnese for mainland Greece. Arrive at the sanctuary of Delphi, considered by ancient Greeks to be the center of the world. Walk the sacred way to the Temple of Apollo and explore Delphi's awe-inspiring ruins of the theatre, a stadium, treasuries, and altars. Enjoy a weaving demonstration in the hilltop village of Aráhova. Stop in at the 11th-century monastery of Hosios Loukas, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture.
Amalia Hotel Delphi (B,L,D; B,L,D)
Days 8 & 9 — Kalambáka/Meteora/Athens
Journey to Kalambáka, our base for exploring the extraordinary monasteries of Meteora. Built atop sandstone megaliths that rise some 1,200 feet from the valley floor, these monasteries offered refuge from hostile attacks during the waning days of the Byzantine Empire. Venture into chapels and courtyards adorned with beautiful frescoes. Take in panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, when on a clear day, you can see as far as Mt. Olympus. Travel to the mountain pass of Thermopylae, where Persian and Greek armies clashed in 480 B.C. Upon return to Athens, meet with a local expert to discuss the political and economic landscape of contemporary Greece.
Grand Meteora Hotel; St. George Lycabettus Hotel or Electra Palace Athens (B,D; B,L)
Days 10 & 11 — Athens/Aegina
Travel to the port city of Piraeus, stopping to view a striking mural by the Greek visual artist iNO, whose artistic process was captured in the National Geographic television series The Greeks. Board a ferry to the island of Aegina, once an important maritime power. Explore the fifth-century B.C. Temple of Aphaia and have lunch at a family home, dining among pistachio and olive trees. Return by ferry to Athens and depart for the airport the next day.
St. George Lycabettus Hotel or Electra Palace Athens (B,L,D; B)
Author, historian, and educator Diane Harris Cline has investigated the creativity and innovation of the ancient Greeks for 35 years. As the author of National Geographic’s The Greeks: An Illustrated History, she collaborated with the filmmakers who produced the PBS/National Geographic video series The Greeks and led 14 tours of the exhibition while it was in Washington, D.C. She has traveled extensively in the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas as an expert study leader. As an associate professor of classics and history, Diane teaches courses on Greek history, religion, mythology, literature, and culture at George Washington University. In her research, she is a pioneer in the digital humanities, applying social network analysis to the ancient Greek personalities of Pericles, Socrates, and Alexander the Great.
"I am especially excited to spend the night in Nafplio, one of the most charming towns in Peloponnesian Greece," says Diane. "Much of the architecture dates to the Venetian occupation in the early 18th century, including the high castle 'Palamidi' towering above, and the island fortress called 'Bourtzi' used as a prison, a palace for officials, and then a luxury hotel just off shore. At sunset locals still participate in the quaint and charming tradition of the Volta, walking with families or friends back and forth in the central plaza or along the promenade by the sea, where for generations teens first laid eyes on their potential mates as they passed each other back and forth with their families. In Athens, I am excited about our special access to an archaeological conservation lab, where we will learn about the most advanced sciences being put to work to preserve the humanities. The American School of Classical Studies in Athens has been the preeminent center for the study of the Greek world from antiquity to the present since it was founded in 1881."
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What to Expect
This is a moderately active trip that involves walking several miles per day, often on uneven surfaces, cobblestones, and up steep inclines. Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time.
National Geographic Explores Ancient Greece
This trip was inspired by National Geographic's PBS series The Greeks, the July 2016 National Geographic magazine photo-essay on ancient Greece, and National Geographic Museum exhibition, The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great.