Greece’s Northern Kingdoms

Monastery atop a hill, Meteora
Monastery atop a hill, Meteora
Interior of a monastery in Meteora
Interior of a monastery in Meteora
Ruins of the ancient theatre, Dodona
Ruins of the ancient theatre, Dodona
Ruins of the ancient theatre, Dodona
Ruins of the ancient theatre, Dodona

We follow in the footsteps of conquerors and cross mountainous landscapes while exploring the two northern kingdoms of ancient Greece and their successors. Three conquering kings arose from northern Greece, Pyrrhus of Epirus and Philip II and his son Alexander the Great in Macedonia. Epirus boasts famous sanctuaries and monuments to victory, while palaces, houses, painted tombs and exquisite pebble mosaics survive at the Macedonian cities of Verghina and Pella. We travel to towering Meteora, deep in the Pindus Mountains, where sky-scraping Byzantine monasteries perch on pinnacles of rock - built as a means to withdraw from the world, and we see the Roman imperial grandeur of Thessaloniki.

This tour of Northern Greece is full of fantastic archaeological sites, marked over the centuries by a cornucopia of peoples and cultures.

  • Visit the richest ancient burial ever found in Europe, the tomb of Philip II and its extraordinary museum below the great tumulus of Verghina
  • See the vertiginous, 14th century Meteora monasteries, each on a separate crag
  • Spend a day exploring wonderful ancient sites of Thessaloniki

Itinerary 2020

Day 1

We arrive in Thessaloniki and transfer to Ioannina over the Pindus Mountains to our first hotel.

Hotel: Overnight in Ioannina
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

We drive to Nikopolis, once the capital of Epirus Vetus, constructed by Augustus in celebration of the Battle of Actium in 31 BC with well-preserved ruins. Here, we visit the Actian sanctuary, with its altar, theatre and stadium, the museum and parts of the ancient city centre including its walls and basilicas. In the afternoon, we visit the small Hellenistic fortified centre of Orraon, an Epirote-Molossian city, with very well-preserved houses.

Hotel: Overnight in Ioannina
Meals: Breakfast included

Day 3

We drive to the Ionian coast to visit the Nekromateion of the Acheron. This is a controversial site, which might be part of the oracle of the dead known form classical sources. On to the Hellenistic city of Kassope. Situated high in the hills it has spectacular views of the plain below, and is a model city, with agora, theatre and a regular street grid. Kassope was abandoned along with other settlements to provide the population for the new city of Nicopolis.

Hotel: Overnight in Ioannina
Meals: Breakfast and picnic lunch

Day 4

Our journey leads us to Dodona, the oldest oracle in Greece, to view the shrine and oracles of Zeus, where the god spoke to supplicants via the rustling of leaves in an oak tree. It was the location of huge festivals. We drive southwards to Arta, on the Ambracian Gulf. The capital of Pyrrhus of Epirus it was also an important Byzantine centre and we will visit the archaeological museum, the remarkable church of Panagia Parigoritissia and the famous bridge.

Hotel: Overnight in Ioannina
Meals: Breakfast included

Day 5

An opportunity to get to know Ioannina, one of the loveliest towns of Greece. This morning, we visit the Archaeological Museum, where the finds from Dodona can be seen, including oracular responses. We take a walking tour of the Castro and its museums. This was the medieval town and the heart of the realm of the Vezir, Ali of Tepelena whom Byron included in his poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Our afternoon is free to explore the city, or why not take a boat ride across the lake?

Hotel: Overnight in Ioannina
Meals: Breakfast included

Day 6

We drive to Meteora and spend the whole day wandering among the spectacular, vertiginous monasteries here - home to a monastic community dating back to the 14th century. Settled for reasons of isolation and security each pinnacle of rock sustains a monastic community reached by stairs cut into the rock. We will visit several monasteries.

Hotel: Overnight in Meteora
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

An early start and a drive across the wide plains of Thessaly. We will pass through the Vale of Tempe, a beautiful gorge which was thought to be the haunt of Apollo and the Muses in antiquity, and where Xerxes the Persian King of Kings passed during his invasion of Greece. In the afternoon we visit Dion at the foot of Mount Olympus, the religious capital of Macedonia. On to Thessaloniki.

Hotel: Overnight in Thessaloniki
Meals: Breakfast and lunch

Day 8

The morning is devoted to Thessaloniki, founded by King Cassander as a new capital city. We explore the Agora and Roman forum before heading to the Late Roman palace complex of Galerius to see the Rotunda and the triumphal arch of the emperor. In the afternoon we travel to the ancient city of Pella. This was Macedonia’s administrative capital and the birthplace of Alexander the Great. We visit the monumental agora, and houses and the outstanding mosaics, now on display in the museum.

Hotel: Overnight in Thessaloniki
Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9

This morning, we visit the Archaeological Museum with extraordinary finds from the city and its region, including the stunning Derveni bronze crater. Afterwards, a visit to the adjacent and equally superb Byzantine Museum which completes our survey of the archaeology of the region. In the afternoon, we drive out to Verghina, the ancient capital of Macedonia to visit the tumulus, identified as the tomb of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.

Hotel: Overnight in Thessaloniki
Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10

On our last day of the tour, we transfer to the airport for our flight home.

Meals: Breakfast included

Travel the ancient world in the company of expert archaeologists and historians from the finest universities.

Andante Travels has been a leading specialist in cultural travel almost three decades and we are very pleased to be working with Oxford and Cambridge in the UK to create these programmes exclusively for alumni. Fascinating journeys to beautifully-situated ancient sites, in the company of erudite and articulate experts and like-minded fellow travellers - what could be better?

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2020 Tour Details

Mon 21st Sep - Wed 30th Sep

Available

£3,125

inc.

sgl supp: £500

OXG20A

Led By: Dr Milena Melfi

Guide Lecturer

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