Ideal tour for those looking to visit some amazing sites without wasting time driving in & out of Athens, but instead overnight & enjoy beautiful, authentic “Greek” locations like Sparta & Mystras, Monemvasia, Nafplio town, and Dimitsana village. Furthermore, you’ll be exploring Zagorochoria, beautiful Ioannina city, Delphi, Vergina, and Meteora. A great mix! Included is a great accommodation that you can’t experience in the big cities. For up to 7 people but we can also plan for bigger groups as long as there are no “strangers” in your group! You can also adjust the tour by adding, removing, or substituting sites/locations.
DAY 1: FROM ATHENS TO ANCIENT CORINTH – MYCENAE – EPIDAURUS – NAFPLIO
You will meet your private driver/tour leader at your Athens hotel for an 8:00 a.m. departure. On a short trip of no more than 1 hour, you enter the Mythical Peloponnese through the Corinth Canal for this “real Greece” experience. The Corinth canal is the first stop and then on to MYCENAE, home to some of Greece’s most famous ancient ruins.
Wander around the site & museum before hopping back in the vehicle and exploring the “old town” of NAFPLIO, the famous Venetian fortress of Palamidi with its 999 steps. Then head to EPIDAURUS, home to an ancient, beautifully preserved theater.
Overnight at probably the most beautiful Greek town, Nafplio.
DAY 2: FROM NAFPLIO TO MONEMVASIA CASTLE
Starting from Nafplio, our destination will be Monemvasia but -should you also agree- to taking not the fast/shorter motorway route but exploring the glorious coastline of the East Peloponnese before climbing up the mountain range with several stops and lunch on the way.
Late afternoon and the evening is dedicated to the MONEMVASIA, where you will spend the night (if you book early enough to secure one of the great guesthouses of your choice) enjoying the atmospheric castle-town, the views of the castle, and the amazing blue water, plus food & drink.
Monemvasia is located on a small island linked to the mainland by a short causeway. The town walls and many Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period.
DAY 3: FROM MONENVASIA TO MANI PENINSULA – SPARTA & MYSTRAS
Leaving behind Monemvasia, there will be a long great day in the MANI Peninsula, the most famous peninsula and one of the wildest and most beautiful areas of Greece. A dramatic coastline of sleepy fishing coves and fortified villages like the beautiful Oitilo, Gerolimenas & Limeni. The amazing DIROS caves that you will optionally explore with a guide and a boat.
Lunch in one of the stone-built villages where Pirates were a permanent threat. Next is SPARTA, the ancient rival of Athens known for its fierce warriors! Wandering around the byzantine castle town of MYSTRAS is probably the highlight of the day.
Overnight at lively Sparta or Mystras.
DAY 4: FROM MYSTRAS TO ANCIENT OLYMPIA & TO THE ARCADIA MOUNTAIN VILLAGES
Breakfast and an early start for a long day with two UNESCO World Heritage sites to visit. But first a quick stop at Sparta to photograph the statue of King Leonidas of the famous 300. Then a 1h.30′ drive to ancient OLYMPIA to walk through the impressive ruins of the area where athletes trained and ran in the old stadium, just as ancient Olympians did after victory 3,000 years ago. Olympia hosted the original Olympic Games, founded in the 8th century B.C. Its extensive ruins include athletic training areas, a stadium, and temples dedicated to the gods Hera and Zeus.
You will also visit the world-famous Olympia museum and get the chance to see some unbelievable sculptures such as the sculpted decoration of the marble temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the famous Hermes carved by the ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles.
If long, straight stretches of road are your thing, you might want to skip this tour. In Greece the mountains are tall and the bends are many, which is a small price to pay for the sheer beauty you will encounter at every turn of this tour.
Next, we head for the Arcadia mountain range in the center of the Peloponnese to overnight at one of its famous stonebuilt villages.
Alternative/Option: Ancient Messene (not Mycenae!) and finish at the mountain villages of Arcadia
In size, form, and preservation, Messene is one of the most important cities of antiquity, and one which still has a great deal to offer. It boasts not only religious and public buildings, but also imposing fortifications, houses, and funerary monuments.
From the spectacular remains uncovered through excavation – mostly in the last thirty years or so – it has become clear that Messene prospered and thrived until well into the Roman period.
The city has the rare advantage of not having been destroyed or covered by later settlements and of being situated in an untouched Mediterranean natural environment par excellence. This landscape combines the mountainous majesty of Delphi and the lowland riverine tranquillity of Olympia.
Yes, we can all agree that the alternative (option 1) is “Ancient Olympia” and a must-visit. However, for some, Ancient Messene is -maybe- only second best to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. But still even better for the visitor because of the size and the numerous findings! It is simply not so well-known and visited because of its remote location which is not an issue for this multi-day tour!
DAY5: CAVE OF LAKES, ODONTOTOS RACK RAILWAY, RION BRIDGE & DELPHI
Breakfast at a mountain village of Arcadia and we head to another mountain range to visit the very popular Cave of Lakes which is only the beginning of a long day.
After an amazing lunch and drinks at the top of the mountains (next to a ski center), you will ride the Odontotos Rack Railway train from the top of the mountain down to the coastline through the Vouraikos river/gorge.
Our target for the late afternoon is to reach Delphi by crossing the amazing Rion Bridge (and Rio Castle) which is one of the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges and the longest of the fully suspended type. It crosses the Gulf of Corinth linking the Peloponnese peninsula to mainland Greece by road.
The Archaeological Site & Museum of DELPHI, one of the most important in Greece, exhibits the history of the Delphic sanctuary with the most famous ancient Greek oracle. Its rich collections are comprised primarily of architectural sculptures, statues, and minor objects donated to the sanctuary. These reflect its religious, political, and artistic activities from its early years, in the eighth century BC to its decline in Late Antiquity.
After exploring DELPHI, we’ll finally overnight at a surprise location away from the many tourist traps of this highly touristy-spoilt area.
DAY 6: FROM DELPHI TO IOANNINA TOWN
This is a long trip to reach the northwest of Greece and Ioannina city, the Jewel of Western Greece. There will be many locations to enjoy a coffee break and stretch your legs before arriving at Ioannina. This is an elegant town with a long multicultural history. You will immediately be captivated by the legends of Ali Pasha – the one-time Ottoman ruler of the city, by the narrow streets of the Castle district, and by the beauty of the lake.
Although the next day will be dedicated to exploring the famous Zagorochoria villages, Ioannina will be there for you to enjoy on foot for two evenings. You will spend two nights in this town and at a beautiful ideally placed boutique hotel.
Knowing the area like locals or even better, we will experience the Greek landscape, views, people, food, and hospitality that even Greeks would not know how to.
DAY 7: A DAY TOUR FROM IOANNINA TOWN TO EXPLORE ZAGOROCHORIA (villages)
After you enjoy breakfast, we begin our exploration to travel back in time and visit the famous Zagorochoria “where stone gives birth to stone”. These are the most famous villages in Greece and a dream visit for even a Greek. This is a day of exploring and trying to fit in as much as possible depending on your pace and likes or dislikes.
We visit the villages we know are the trademarks of the area but also the non-touristy ones! Some great viewpoints to see are the famous Vikos gorge, the amazing Aristi village, the Rock Pools, the beautiful blue water of Voidomatis river where river rafting begins, and then the small and large Papigo village. Papigo, for many, is considered to be the most beautiful mountain village in Greece. To discover the beauties of this unique place, walking around the stone-paved alleys is necessary! We will stop for lunch and drinks at a hidden location to enjoy local cuisine and hospitality.
On the way back to our base in Ioannina city we shall visit a special location from where you can admire the whole city, the lake, and the island inside the lake.
In the evening you must grab the chance to explore the Castle of the city situated right next to your hotel and maybe enjoy a walk next to the lake as most of the locals do.
DAY 8: FROM ZAGOROCHORIA TO METSOVO, VERGINA or ZAGOROCHORIA
Option 1: VERGINA – The royal tombs of Macedonia
We leave behind this unique area of Greece to head towards VERGINA the royal tombs of Macedonia stopping for coffee and mixing with the locals at the popular lively mountain town of METSOVO.
We drive on to reach Vergina (ancient Aigai) near Veria town. At Vergina, you will live the experience of a visit to the unique museum, created in the Great Tumulus covering the royal tombs of Macedonia. Admire the astonishing findings from the tomb of King Phillip II, Alexander’s father, and feel the thrill of the greatest discovery of the 20th century.
Option 2 (our preference): Zagorochoria – Monodendri, the Stone Forest, and the best viewpoint of Vikos Canyon.
We still leave Ioannina to head for Meteora (overnight) but we stop at Metsovo town for lunch after further exploring some more very nice areas of the (limitless) Zagorochoria villages.
Locations like the famous and numerous stone bridges, Monodendri and Vitsa village, the Stone Forest, and the best canyon viewpoint. On the way, Tsepelovo or Kipoi village is an excellent location to walk and/or enjoy a coffee.
DAY 9: FROM METEORA TO THERMOPYLAE AND BACK TO ATHENS
After your breakfast at a hotel exactly opposite the famous Meteora monasteries, we need to drive just 10 minutes and then start exploring.
Meteora (“suspended in the air”) was the hiding spot for the monks from the Romans. We explore two (or 3) amazing monasteries depending on your fitness and speed of exploring. We drive around the Meteora maze finding different spots to take amazing photos and enjoy the amazing views. Holy Trinity monastery was the filming location in the 1981 James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only” and several other movies were also shot at the Meteora monasteries. Not all monasteries are open every day. Each day one of them is closed. So we will plan accordingly and make sure you don’t miss any favorites.
We leave Meteora behind to start our drive back to Athens with a stop to stretch our legs at Thermopylae; where the battle between the 300 Spartans and the 200,000 soldiers of the Persian Empire took place. Don’t let anyone tell you that Thermopylae is more than a very historic … dot on google maps where you can only admire the statue of Leonidas and let your imagination do the rest.
We will arrive at your hotel in Athens around 17:00-18:00 but flexible depending on your plans.