A Celebration of Mediterranean Life
October 17 – 29, 20111
November 7 – 19, 2011
Visitors to Greece often dash from one ancient site to another or shuttle from island to island to see amazing treasures and glorious landscapes, but miss out on the real Greece. There is another way! In a small group of no more than 16, see glorious antiquities, dip into island life, and discover the cultural threads that tie today’s Greek society to the ancient world.
Days are designed with a balance between guided outings to major sites and time on your own. Through conversations with friendly locals, cooking and language lessons, concerts, and leisurely meals in private homes, host Eleni Zachariou will guide you through relaxed days filled with rich experiences. An Athens native, acclaimed guide and expert on Byzantine and Classical Greece, Eleni will share her Athens and also welcome you to her charming second home set in olive groves on the beautiful island of Aegina, an hour’s ferry ride from the city.
Sip rich coffee at corner cafés, browse antiques in hidden shops, and explore small, gem-like museums: discover the hidden, authentic, Athens. By the time you leave, you’ll be navigating the city like a native, with a deep appreciation for this ancient (and modern!) Mediterranean culture.
- Meet the welcoming Zachariou family who will open doors to a very special Greek experience.
- Live in residential, central Athens with easy access to neighborhood shops as well as the city’s main sites.
- Relish the unspoiled island of Aegina, popular with Athenians and virtually unknown to tourists.
- Savor delicious Mediterranean cuisine where fresh foods star and meals are an event.
- Relax and enjoy the slower Greek pace of life.
- Rediscover classical Greek art and architecture.
Days 1 & 2 – Travel Deeper to Athens and Meet the Zacharious
Depart the U.S. and arrive in Athens the following day. Check into your charming, family-run hotel in a residential neighborhood in central Athens. Tonight, join Eleni and your fellow travelers for aperitifs on the hotel’s terrace overlooking the Acropolis.
Day 3 – Athens: The Acropolis
Learn close up about one of Western civilization’s most recognizable sites, the Acropolis! You’ll be surprised at the size of the massive Parthenon and the subtlety of its design. From the Holy Rock, take in panoramic views over all Athens. Back in your own neighborhood see how the exquisite sculptures from the Acropolis—displayed in the spectacular new (2009) Acropolis Museum—offer another perspective on ancient Athens.
Day 4 – Athens: National Archaeological Museum, Taverna lunch, a Walk through Antiquity, and Classical Music
The golden treasures of Mycenae and other priceless artifacts await during a private visit to Greece’s National Archaeological Museum, where Eleni weaves fascinating stories of their history. Later, the owner/chef of a local taverna displays pans brimming with colorful dishes for diners to make their choices. Learn the Greek names for popular dishes as you savor the specialties. Stroll back to your hotel, walking right past Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Stadium where the first modern Olympics were held. Tonight hear classical music at Athens’ world-class Concert Hall.
Day 5 – Argolis: Corinth, Mycenae, and Epidaurus
Travel into the countryside to the Argolis district to visit three legendary sites. Cross the Corinth Canal and then stroll the marble streets of 10th century Corinth, once the richest port of ancient Greece. At Mycenae, be amazed at the “cyclopean” walls made of stones so massive they were deemed too large for humans to lift. Lovers of drama are thrilled by Epidaurus, where the 15,000-seat theater’s acoustics are so amazing the sound of a match struck at center stage can be heard by those seated in the back row!
Day 6 – Marathon, Sunset at Cape Sounion, and Ouzo at the Zacharious’
Retrace the route of the first marathon. Legend has it that a runner delivering the news of the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 BC, ran the 26 mile route, announced the news, and promptly expired. Then head toward Cape Sounion for a spectacular view of the sun setting over the sea behind the famed Temple of Poseidon. This evening meet local Athenians as you sip ouzo and share meze at the home of Eleni’s son, Stelios.
Day 7 – Athens: Greek Orthodox Service and Markets Old and New
Incense and flickering candles fill the air at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens on Sunday mornings. Attend the ancient and complex Greek Orthodox service today, with Eleni there to guide you through the rituals. Walk through the Agora, the ancient Athenian marketplace, and along the narrow market streets of the Plaka, the oldest corner of modern Athens. This evening, join a local expert for an introduction to Greece’s financial situation followed by a lively session of Q&A.
Day 8 – Aegina: Life in a Fishing Village
A quick ferry ride takes you to the island of Aegina for a two-day interlude to experience Greek village life. Eleni lives here part-time, so you are welcomed to the charming, rose-colored island hotel as a family guest, rather than a tourist. See the stunning Temple of Aphaea, which predates the Parthenon and has splendid views. Sample fresh Aegean seafood, visit a pottery workshop, see how pistachios are cultivated at a local orchard, and soak up the rhythms of a quiet afternoon at a local café.
Day 9 – Aegina: School Visit, Markets, Cooking Class
Children are another fascinating window into Greek culture. Visit with students today to see what they are learning, and find out whether they’re more into pistachios or Hannah Montana. Stop at a pastry shop to sample flaky baklava and then visit the local farmers and fish markets to choose ingredients for a cooking class in Eleni’s kitchen. Learn to prepare savory taramosalata, phyllo cheese triangles, minty meatballs, baked anchovies, and more—so you can enjoy the tastes of Greece when you’re back home. Local friends join you for lunch on the terrace before an afternoon ferry to Athens.
Day 10 – Athens: Parliament, Benaki Museum
This morning join Eleni’s son Stelios, a specialist in Modern Greek History, for a fascinating talk on Greek-American relations over breakfast. Then visit the Greek Parliament, housed in the gorgeous Old Royal Palace. Have lunch on the rooftop terrace of the Benaki Museum, a former private mansion, where you’ll see an elegant art collection illustrating the character of the Greek world through a spectacular historical panorama.
Day 11 – Delphi
Today create your own experience in the city, on the sea, or out in the countryside. Explore Delphi or another site you’ve always dreamed of visiting. Discover a quiet beach, join a day cruise on the sparkling Aegean, or sample a collection of art galleries in the city. We’ll be happy to arrange it for you. Or, simply spend the day exploring a quiet corner of Athens, where you’re now feeling so at home.
Day 12 – Athens: Scavenger Hunt, Monastery Walk, Farewell
Visit your favorite sites in Athens to search for clues during a scavenger hunt, followed by a festive farewell lunch in the Plaka, featuring all the foods that have captivated your palate. Join Eleni for a stroll on the garden grounds of another Byzantine monastery, just 15 minutes from the center of Athens, but a world away in its quiet atmosphere. Reflect on all that the modern world has gained from Greece, and on all that you personally have gained as well.
Day 13 – Return to the U.S.
If you want more time in Greece (and who doesn’t?), stay on your own for a few more days now that you’re comfortable in the culture and savvy about getting around. Some popular destinations are Crete, the Cycladic Islands (including Santorini and Mykonos), the monasteries of Meteora, and the island of Rhodes near the Turkish coast. We are happy to help you design an itinerary to make your dreams come true.