Greek Packages Follow Trails of History

The history, culture and geography of Greece offer matchless settings for active travelers, and tour operators have been quick to take advantage of them.

Following is a sampling. Prices are per person, based on two sharing; costs are land only except when noted, and two or more meals are included each day. Contact information and a thorough list of operators to Greece is available here.

Learning from the Past

Any vacation in any corner of Greece will be an experience in past-perfect touring, whether traveling overland or aboard interisland cruises of the Aegean and Ionian seas. On the mainland and on the islands, landscapes are dotted with amphitheaters and temples that were the hallmarks of early Greek city states, while museums overflow with artifacts found on those sites. Churches from relatively more recent Byzantine times are architectural marvels, their interiors are full of wondrous frescoes and reliquary.

  • Classical Cruises and Tours, New York. Guest lecturers on art and archeology accompany all its Mediterranean cruises. Its Classical World of the Aegean--a nine-night sailing from Athens to Santorini, Crete, Rhodes, Patmos, Kusadasi (for Ephesus in Turkey), Volos to visit Meteora, Limnos, Samothraki and Istanbul--will be taking passengers along ancient paths. The ship is the 84-passenger Clelia II. Price: Starts at $5,495, including accommodations in Athens before the cruise and Istanbul afterward. Departures: Oct. 28.
  • Collette Tours, Pawtucket, R.I. A new 14-day program, Turkey and Greece, explores ancient sites in the two Mediterranean nations and includes a three-day cruise of the Aegean Islands aboard a Royal Olympic vessel. Clients can stroll the medieval walled center of Rhodes; lose themselves in the labyrinthine ruins of King Minos' palace on Crete, and reassess the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis (believed to have fallen into the sea as the result of a volcanic eruption on Santorini) during stops at those three islands. Mainland enrichment includes visits to Delphi, Meteora and Thermopylae, as well as two days in Athens. Price: $1,779 to $1,999. Departures: Through November.
  • Following in the Steps of St. Paul

    Greece is rich in Biblical history, inspiring pilgrims, scholars and church groups to seek out some of the major centers of interest. One such site is the island of Patmos, called the Jerusalem of the Aegean because it was here that some 1,900 years ago St. John wrote the Book of Revelations. Elsewhere, pilgrims will find the mountain monasteries of Meteora, the Crusader castle of Rhodes and St. Paul's path through Thessaloniki, Philippi and Corinth.

  • Educational Travel Services, Lakeland, Fla. They offer a program called Greece--Journeys of the Apostle Paul, which begins in Thessaloniki, where St. Paul preached his first evangelical message and baptized the first Christian citizens on European soil. It continues to Philippi, Amphipolis, known for its Christian basilicas, Meteora, Delphi, Corinth and Athens. Price: Starts at $1,798 low season, $2,268 high, including air fares. Departures: Through October from New York.
  • Regina Tours, Chardon, Ohio. The Holy Land and Greece program combines six nights in the Holy Land with four nights in Greece. The program is based in Athens and includes a cruise to the Saronic Islands and an excursion to Corinth, where St. Paul went from Athens to teach the people "the word of God." Price/Departures: $2,249 for the Aug. 10 departure, and $1,859 for the Feb. 8, l999, departure, both include air fare.
  • Hiking Through History

    Sites of Greek mythology, fields filled with red poppies, craggy mountain backdrops and grand seascapes, Byzantine monasteries, secluded pearly beaches and warm village welcomes await clients on various walks about Greece. Byzantine Monastery

  • Country Walkers, Waterbury, Vt. The company explores two corners of Greece, the Southern Peloponnese and Crete. For the nine-day Southern Peloponnese trip, hikers meet in Athens, then travel via the Koskarakas Gorge and Kambos castles to Kardamili for a three-night stay and day hikes. They move on into the region of Mani to the sea caves of Pirgos Dirou to Stavri with a two-night stay in a restored tower-house; continue to Byzantine Mistra, walk the hills, return to Athens via Sparta. The trip follows easy to moderate terrain, average walking of six to 11 miles per day (shorter options on some days). Price: Land only costs $2,150. Departures: Aug. 29, Sept. 19, and Oct. 10 and 24.
    Country Walkers also invites hikers to walk through Crete, starting in Chania. Travelers explore the Agia Irini Gorge, swim in the Mediterranean and stay at family-owned pensions and small hotels. The eight-day tour follows easy to moderate terrain. Price: Land only costs $1,950. Departures: Sept. 11 and Oct. 2.
  • Backroads, Berkeley, Calif. Experienced hikers are taken on a nine-day trip to the Pindhos Mountains on the northern mainland and Corfu. Hikers start in Ioannina and the mountain outpost of Mestovo. They also encounter the Byzantine monasteries of Meteora and Zagorian villages such as Vista. The ferry to Corfu offers a rest before the hikers disembark to walk among the island's lush meadows, olive groves, ancient monasteries and isolated beaches. The difficulty rating is moderate (about four to six hours covering five to 12 miles per day on hilly terrain) to challenging (seven to 14 miles per day in five or six hours). Price: $2,698. Departures: May 23, June 20, Sept. 5 and 27.
  • Geographic Expeditions, San Francisco. Clients are treated to a six-night program of easy hiking in Cephalonia, with a visit to its fabled neighboring island of Ithaca, traditionally celebrated as the birthplace of Odysseus. Travelers are based at the Hotel Cavos in Assos on the northern part of the island, taking day hikes to such places as the Venetian fortress on the Erissos Peninsula and the Monastery of the Virgin of Sissia. They also make excursions to Mount Ainos, the village of Maganos and the fishing port of Fiskardo. Price: $1,690 with roundtrip air from Athens to Argostoli (Cephalonia). Departures: From Athens on Thursdays weekly in June, September and October.
  • Two-Wheeling Through Greece

    If cyclists have not thought of biking through Greece, now's the time to think again as outdoor tour operators are beginning to include the mainland and islands such as Crete, Rhodes, Samos and Zakinthos in biking itineraries.

  • Classic Adventures, Hamlin, N.Y. A long-time devotee of cycling through Greece, they offer two spring and two fall departures yearly to the Peloponnese and Crete, always led by company founder Dale Hart. Tours--averaging 30 to 40 miles a day--are accompanied by other professional leaders, as well as support vans for assistance along the way. The 13-night Classical Greece mainland tour--rated easy to moderate--covers the classical sites of Corinth, Mycenae and Epidaurus, with a four-night island break pedaling about beautiful Zakinthos, with time for swimming and scuba diving. Then there is a ferry ride back to Olympia to return to Athens for a two-night stay at the Grande Bretagne. Price: The land cost is $2,589. Departures: Sept. 12. Biking Crete, with a difficulty level range of moderate to challenging, is a 12-night program starting in Heraklion and pedaling through quaint seaside fishing villages and mountain hamlets, with lengthy stops at Knossos, Lato and Phaistos to explore archeological sites. Time-outs are also taken to lounge on the beach, to enjoy a leisurely lunch at an outdoor taverna and to hike the famous Samaria Gorge on the final day from the Venetian port of Chania. Price: The land cost is $2,359. Departures: Sept. 26.
  • Northwest Passage, Wilmette, Ill. The operator is offering two fall departures of its seven-night Inn-to-Inn Cycling Adventure in Crete, starting from pickup at the airport in Heraklion, with the first day's cycling to Agios Nikolaos via the Lasithi Plateau. Cyclists then continue to Kritsa, Prina and Kalamafka on the way to Ierapetra; ride through farmlands to Matala; drive to the ancient excavations at Kommos, then bike to Phaestos and Agia Triada; travel the back roads to Frangokastello; shuttle to Omalos to hike the Samaria Gorge, with a final night on the island of Bali. Price: $1,490. Departures: Sept. 26 and Oct. 4.
  • Kayaking in the Wake of Odysseus

    Greece derives most of its identity from its many islands, and there is no more intimate way to travel between islands than in a kayak.

  • Mountain Travel*Sobek, El Cerrito, Calif. Odysseus may not have considered traveling from island to island in the Ionian Sea by kayak, but this year Mountain Travel*Sobek did, and invites clients to try something different on its 12-day Greek Island Odyssey, which includes five nights camping and five nights in hotels (plus a night in Athens coming and going) and involves moderate sea kayaking (some previous experience recommended) and easy day hikes. The adventure starts in Lefkas, one of the few islands accessible by vehicle, and spends eight days paddling to beautiful and remote Ionian Islands, including Meganisi, Kalamos and Ithaca. Most days, participants will paddle three to five hours in the morning, spend the afternoon exploring the island's beaches and villages, camp out or, when possible, stay at simple village hotels. A Zodiac with gear and supplies accompanies the trip. Price: The cost per person is $2,790 with nine to 12 participants, $3,190 with six to eight. Departures: June 13, Sept. 5 and 18.
  • Riding the Grecian Range

    It seems appropriate, in the land that brought us the Centaur, who had the head of a man and the body of a horse, to see the countryside on horseback.

  • Equitour, Dubois, Wyo. Travelers who love to ride can mount up for a Greek riding vacation with Equitour on the Pelion peninsula, which in mythology was home to the Centaur. In this wild and beautiful region, also rich in history and lore, riders follow trails along the coast from the starting point in Katigiorgis at the southern end of the peninsula (a five-hour drive from Athens) and up into the forests and highland villages. Daily rides in English tack are four to seven hours; the pace is slow; occasional hiking leading horses might be necessary when trails are steep. Accommodations for the seven-night (six riding days) Pelion Coast Ride are in coastal bungalows and historic guesthouses in the mountains. Guides accompany the ride, and luggage is taken ahead to each stop. Price: $900. Departures: From Athens on June 20, Sept. 5, Sept. 26, Oct. 10.
  • Tying The Knot

    A honeymoon is about magic and memories, and for couples planning for the big event--or years later, celebrating an anniversary--Greece could provide the setting.

  • Cloud Tours, New York. Cloud Tours offers an extensive choice of six- and nine-night honeymoons to the popular romantic islands of the Cyclades, Rhodes and Crete, as well as Skiathos/Skopelos and Cephalonia/Zakinthos.
  • The operator's centerpiece program offers a choice of plans for a wedding in Santorini, with assistance in arranging a civil or religious ceremony, plus preparation of required documents and arrangements for the special day, such as flowers, photographer, video taping and wedding dinner; arrangements may include assisting guests with travel plans. Price: The cost of a civil ceremony ranges from a basic plan at $949 to deluxe services at $1,499, with flowers, handmade wedding crowns, dinner/wine/wedding cake and a sunset cruise for the couple.

    The following operators offer various options; call for more information and prices.

  • Central Holidays, Jersey City, N.J. Honeymooners can spend eight nights in Greece--two in Athens, three each in Santorini and Mykonos, with candlelight dinner featured in each of the islands, champagne and flowers in Athens.
  • Tourlite International, New York. Tourlite offers choices of Honeymooner Tours with such extras as private transfers or flowers, from 10 to 13 nights that combine Athens with two or three island stays or with island stays and a four-night cruise.
  • Traveline, Toronto. Greece for Honeymooners & Romantics offers a selection of intimate inns and deluxe and first class hotels for its 13-night package that includes three nights each in Athens, Santorini and Rhodes and four nights in Mykonos.
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