A Gay Travel Greece Cultural Tour. Visit classic landmarks of Greece’s Golden Age in Athens, Sparta Olympia and Delphi. See Byzantine churches below the stark cliffs of Monemvasia, mountaintop monasteries of Meteora, and echoes of St. Paul’s epic preaching to the Thessalonians. Conclude with a walk in the footsteps of Alexander the Great!
Ancient Greece presided over an age of incomparable human achievement. Great historians like Herodotus and Thucydides, great dramatists like Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, and the brilliant philosopher Socrates still shine like beacons of light in today’s search for knowledge and understanding of our world.
Democracy was embraced as an experiment that would set the foundation for governments to come. Amazing structures were built in Athens and other Hellenic city-states, many of which still stand to remind us of the genius and creativity of the early Greeks. It was an age of human discovery and achievement – an age which proudly bears the name classical. For almost two weeks we will experience the Golden Age of Greek Civilization first hand. Starting in Athens, we’ll visit the Parthenon, the iconic structure overlooking the city from the Acropolis, we’ll dine in traditional tavernas, and stroll through the lovely Plaka. From there our journey takes us west to historic Peloponnese sites such as Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus and Olympia. Our home base to start our exploration will be Nafplio, a charming city perfectly situated on a promontory overlooking the Argolic Gulf.
We will pause in our journey in the southern seacoast town of Monemvasia, where we can enjoy outdoor activities, or take a swim in the Mediterranean Sea (weather permitting). Then after a night in Olympia we head to Delphi, arguably one of the most stunning of all the temples extant in mainland Greece, staying in the hillside village of Arachova.
We then head north to view the monasteries of Meteora that historically were only accessible by being lifted up in a basket. We conclude our journey through Classical Greece in Thessaloniki, where we learn of Alexander the Great’s origins in nearby Pella and Vergina. From there you can start your journey home, or for those looking for some island adventures, we can arrange individual travel to Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and other Greek Isles as well.
• See the Parthenon, a paradigm of classic Greek architecture, which crowns the Acropolis in the heart of Athens.
• Enjoy a seaside stroll in Nafplio, a lovely port in the Peloponnese.
• Tour the sites of the ancient cities of Mycenae and Epidaurus.
• Relax in our hotel built into a castle wall in Monemvasia.
• Visit Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games.
• Walk in Apollo’s footsteps at the famous Temple of the Oracle at Delphi.
• Pause for reflection at the sacred monasteries that crown the outcroppings of Meteora.
• Imagine where Alexander the Great was born, educated and ruled.
• Explore the Byzantine churches and monuments of Thessaloniki, and listen for echoes of St. Paul preaching to the Thessalonians.
• Savor the variety of flavors of Greek cuisine and wines during several special meals.
Get ready to step back in history to the Golden Age of Greek Culture and Civilization. For the next several days we will walk in the footsteps of great figures from history and mythology. We will climb up to the Parthenon, stroll through Olympia, search for the oracle of Delphi and enjoy a first-class gay travel Greece holiday. It’s not all history and ruins though. There will be plenty of delicious meals in traditional tavernas, seaside photo ops, and a chance to enjoy stunning Greek sunsets.
Days 1-2 -
Upon arrival at Athens Airport you will be transferred to our spacious hotel located near the Plaka. The Plaka is the oldest part of the city and distinguished by its narrow streets, winding lanes and authentic churches, shops and restaurants. You may want to take a stroll to shake off the jet lag and check out the colorful shops and vendors. We’ll dine together at a modern and stylish restaurant nearby, toasting the beginning of our journey with the famous Greek ouzo or perhaps another Greek favorite, homemade lemonade.
The next morning, our fun gay group will enjoy a half-day tour of the city’s highlights. Our first stop will be the Parthenon, the famous Doric temple that crowns the Acropolis and dominates so many views of the city. We will also see the 1896 Olympic Stadium and the Parliament, and enjoy a visit to the National Archeological Museum. We’ll have a late lunch together in the Plaka. Tonight our welcome dinner will be on the terrace of a lovely restaurant overlooking the Parthenon, which crowns the floodlit rocky promontory of the Acropolis.
Days 3-4 -
This morning, we depart Athens to explore the Peloponnese peninsula. We’ll cross over the Corinth Canal, and our first stop will be at the rarely-visited ruins of the early Olympic Games stadium of Nemea. We will also pause for a luncheon and wine-tasting to learn more about the vintages of the Peloponnese.
We will spend the next two nights at a bright, centrally-located hotel in Nafplio, a scenic port dominated by the Citadel of Acronauplia. There’s plenty to explore including the fort, where a walk to the top is rewarded with expansive views of the city. The seafront is a charming place to stroll, along with nearby Constitution Square is nearby and the elegant St. George Cathedral.
One night we will have a special dinner by the sea, and on the second night the evening is free to wander the quaint streets and sample one of the other fine restaurants.
During our full day in Nafplio we will take an excursion to Epidaurus. Set in the golden hills of Argolid, Epidaurus is one of the finest classic Greek theaters still visible today. The setting is magnificent; the lines and proportions are poetic. The theater was restored in 1954 and many famous artists have performed here including Maria Callas.
We also visit Mycenae with its famed arch and the Palace of Agamemnon, and we will stop at the tomb of Atreus, Agamemnon’s father.
Days 5-6 -
Today we will journey onward, stopping for coffee and homemade candies during a tour of the 10th-century Monastery of Loukou, then onward to wander among the exquisite collection at the Archeological Museum of Sparta. We’ll have some free time to explore the town for lunch.
After a bit more driving, we’ll cross a narrow peninsula and enter the ancient, cliff-side city of Monemvasia, at the southern tip of the Peloponnese Peninsula. We’ll take a tour of this walled city climbing up the hillside for a breath-taking vista over red tiled roofs and across the deep blue Aegean Sea.
During our two days in the area, we’ll take a short trip to the seaside town of Neapolis, and a swimming excursion in the crystal clear waters off Elafonisos Island (weather permitting).
Day 7 -
As we travel toward Olympia, we’ll make a few stops, including the ruins at Ancient Messini with time for an independent lunch, as well as the small holy site of Agia Theodora.
We’ll check into our charming small hotel in Olympia with time to relax before our dinner together.
Day 8 -
This morning we take a visit to Olympia, the birthplace of the famous games. Carved into the side of a wooded slope with olive trees covering the surrounding landscape, there is magic in the air as you step onto the track where the Games were first held. Every Olympic year (Winter and Summer alternately) the Olympic torch is lit at this very site. Legend says Hercules initiated gymnastic and athletic training and events in this area near the shrines of Pela, Hera, and Zeus. Today the town of Olympia remains a destination for pilgrims who wish to see the sacred sites and the hallowed ground of past athletic achievement.
Our three-hour drive from Olympia to Delphi will begin as we cross the Gulf of Corinth from the Peloponnese back to mainland Greece. We will cross the Rion-Antirion Bridge, the world’s second longest cable-stayed bridge, a remarkable example of technology and a very impressive sight. Our destination is Delphi but we will be staying nearby in Arachova, a lovely village with services and accommodations not found in Delphi. Arachova is a traditional village perched on Mount Parnassus, with homes made out of stone, nice restaurants, bars and shops. It is a perfect place for a relaxing stroll or to stop and contemplate the history of the region. It is sometimes called the Mykonos of the winter, as nearby ski resorts attract many regional visitors.
Day 9 -
Lunch today features a cooking lesson on regional cuisine while enjoying a glass of local wine. We then tour the tour the ancient sites of Delphi, the most important religious center of its time. Often considered the center of the world, Delphi was Apollo’s dwelling place and home to the famous Oracle of Delphi. Situated on Mount Parnassus and overlooking the River Piesto with the Bay of Corinth in the distance, the views from Delphi are breathtaking. We’ll follow the Sacred Walk up to the Temple, passing the Treasuries, the polygonal wall and several other buildings. Finally, we will reach the Temple of Apollo, dating from the 4th Century BC. This classic structure holds a commanding view over the sprawling agora and surrounding area. Within the confines of the Temple we will pay our respects to the Oracles of Delphi. The oracles were given a small chamber where a magical spring flowed and sent the oracles into a trance. We will pause for a moment to see if we will be touched by the ancient wisdom-giving spring.
We’ll visit the theater of Delphi, just above the Temple of Apollo, and one of the best preserved in Greece. With 35 rows of seats, it could accommodate 5,000 people. Finally, no visit to Delphi would be complete without a tour of the museum. The museum houses many of the artifacts saved from the ruins. It also houses arguably one of the most famous and beautiful statues of early Greece, The Charioteer. This wonderfully preserved bronze statue from 478 BC is a remarkable example of the achievements of the Greek sculptors of their day. Dinner tonight will be on your own at one of the many fine choices in Arachova.
Day 10 -
Today we take a drive to see the impressive monasteries of Meteora, perched high atop the almost inaccessible rock spires. Historically, the monks had complete protection from their enemies, so no-one could reach the monasteries unless he was hoisted up in a bucket. (Nowadays, they are happily somewhat more accessible!)
For a change of pace we will get a living history lesson when we visit Dimos Arc, a local farm whose proprietor breeds and maintains the animals we can recognize from Greek legends and ancient texts. In the afternoon we’ll enjoy a traditional BBQ lunch in a tavern by the ranch.
Days 11-12 -
Today we travel north to Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki. This city (also known as Salonika) was Europe’s Cultural Capital a few years ago, and is known for its art, music, architecture and churches, as well as St. Paul’s preaching to the Thessalonians. We will tour some of its renowned churches and monuments such as the White Tower, originally part of the ramparts that surrounded the city, and locations where Saint Paul visited and spoke nearly 2000 years ago.
We will also head into the countryside to visit some of the most fascinating sites of the Macedonia region of Greece. We will make our first stop at the Palace of Aiges (home of King Philip II of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great), then we will visit the royal tombs. This necropolis is where the ancient Macedonian leaders buried their kings even after they transferred their capital to Pella during the 2nd Dynasty. We will see the tomb and gold from Philip II, who was a descendant of Hercules. Here you will also get a chance to see the tomb of the son of Alexander the Great and Roxana. Many people say that they lived in a magical moment at this place.
Next we will head to Pella, the ancient home of Philip II and his rather more famous son, Alexander the Great. Today we can visit the Museum and also see the foundations of the palace and other structures that dominated this former capital city in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC. Still well-preserved are amazing mosaic pavements that were once used to decorate the floors of the nobles’ homes.
During our stay in the region, we will go to Miesa, a place near Thessaloniki where Aristotle had his school and where Alexander, Kassandros and Ptolemey were said to study together with other friends as they passed their youth, before they departed to conquer Asia. The park is a paradise where we can see a small theatre sculptured from the rock, and also the location of the school. We’ll join a walking tour today with enough free time to take lunch on our own. After our visit we’ll enjoy a scrumptious farewell dinner of traditional Greek cuisine paired with a wine tasting.
Day 13 -
Our Greek holiday is complete. Transfers to the Thessaloniki Airport will be provided for those departing on this day.