Epirus & Macedonia - Greece's Northern Glories

Monastery atop a hill, Meteora
Monastery atop a hill, Meteora
Interior of a monastery in Meteora
Interior of a monastery in Meteora
City street in Ioannina
City street in Ioannina
Greek sesame bread rings
Greek sesame bread rings
Ruins of the ancient theatre, Dodona
Ruins of the ancient theatre, Dodona
Ruins of the ancient theatre, Dodona
Ruins of the ancient theatre, Dodona
Roman odeon, Nikopolis
Roman odeon, Nikopolis
White Tower, Thessaloniki
White Tower, Thessaloniki
Dolma from grape leaves
Dolma from grape leaves
Ancient ruins of Pella
Ancient ruins of Pella

We follow in the footsteps of conquerors and cross mountainous landscapes in mainland Greece. This dramatic region was the birthplace of two of the greatest rulers of the ancient world: Philip II and Alexander the Great. 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 Medieval monasteries perch on pinnacles of mountain rock - built as a means to withdraw from the world.

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

  • Experience a vast historical scope from the sites we visit
  • See the vertiginous, 14th century Meteora monasteries
  • Spend a day exploring wonderful Thessaloniki
  • Lose yourself in the diverse cultures of these areas
  • Visit the shrine and oracles of Zeus, and tour the sites therein

Themes

  • Romans
  • Historic Churches
  • Ancient Greek

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2018

Day 1

We Fly to Thessaloniki and drive over the Pindus Mountains to our hotel in Ioannina.

Day 2

We drive to Nikopolis, the great city of victory founded by Emperor Augustus following his victory of Anthony and Cleopatra in 31BC. We visit the sanctuary of the Actian games with theatre, circus and victory monument, and the city centre with tis walls and basilicas. Later we visit Kassiope, the ancient Epirote city abandoned to populate Augustus’ creation. 

Day 3

We journey to Dodona to visit the shrine and oracles of Zeus, where the god spoke to supplicants via the rustling of leaves in an oak tree. Today its great theatre and sanctuary can be visited. On to Orraon, an Epirote-Molossian city with impressive remains of houses and public buildings. An afternoon stroll around the city of Arta, once the capital of King Pyrrhus of Epirus.

Day 4

We spend time exploring the castrum of Ioannina, the fortress of Ali of Tepelena, with its mosques walls and typical Ottoman buildings. Visit the Byzantine and archaeological museums. A free afternoon to wander, or accompany your Guide Lecturer to the island in the lake with its late Byzantine monasteries and follow the amazing story of Ali Pasha to its ending.

Day 5

Today, we spend time at the spectacular, and vertiginous monasteries of Meteora – home to a monastic community dating back to the 14th century. Each monastery occupies a pug of rock in a striking and unique landscape. Afternoon visit to Dion, formerly the religious centre of the ancient Macedonian kingdom.

Day 6

We travel to the Vale of Tempe, the renowned ancient beauty spot and then on to visit the fine traditional house known as the Schwartz Mansion. In the afternoon we visit the great classical city of Dion.

Day 7

On the trail of Macedonian royalty we visit Verghina, the site of the ancient capital, Aegae, and the burial place of Kings. We visit the superbly displayed great tumulus, identified as the tomb of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. We continue on to Pella, Macedonia’s administrative capital with its royal palace.

Day 8

A day in Thessaloniki. We examine the remains of the great Roman imperial palace, built by Emperor Galerius but used by many of his successors, and finally the Archaeological Museum with its fine collections. We have the afternoon as leisure, choose to explore further, shop or to relax at the hotel.

Day 9

A trip to the fortress of Rendina, a Byzantine fortress which guarded the Via Egnatia – also the site of Arethousa once the home of Euripides. An afternoon exploration of the walls of Thessaloniki, the Agora and Forum and church of St. Demetrius.

Day 10

We return home today.

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We Fly to Thessaloniki and take the new Odos Egnatios highway over the wild Pindus Mountains to our hotel in Ioannina.

Day 2

We drive to Nikopolis, the great city of victory founded by Emperor Augustus following his victory of Anthony and Cleopatra in 31BC. The first of the great imperial vanity cities, it took almost 150 to even approach completion, with its vast monuments and civic facilities. We visit the sanctuary of the Actian games with theatre, circus and victory monument, where Augustus had pitched his tent, and the city centre with its walls and basilicas. Later we visit Kassiope, the ancient Epirote city abandoned to populate Augustus’ creation.

Day 3

This morning we drive to Arta, ancient Ambracia, and once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Epirus and chief city of King Pyrrhus. Arta was also the capital of the later medieval Byzantine Despotate of Epirus whose unlikely monarchs ruled the western Balkans. We will visit the museum, the mighty 13th century church of the Paragoritissa and other monuments. In the afternoon we procced on to Orraon, an Epirote-Molossian city with impressive remains of houses and public buildings.

Day 4

We journey to Dodona to visit the shrine and oracle of Zeus, where the god spoke to supplicants via the rustling of leaves in an oak tree. This is the most ancient oracle in Greece and a rival to the more famous sibyl at Delphi. Today its great theatre and sanctuary, where festival brought thousands of pilgrims, can be visited.

Returning to Ioannina, we shall visit the archaeological museum, where the finds from Dodona, including some of the lead tablets where the questions to and responses from the God, are on display with a wealth of other material. Later we spend time exploring the castrum of Ioannina, the fortress of Ali of Tepelena, with its mosques walls and typical Ottoman buildings.

Day 5

Today, we return westwards through the craggy mountains to spend a day at the spectacular, and vertiginous monasteries of Meteora – home to a monastic community dating back to the 14th century. Each monastery occupies a plug of rock and are accessed by paths and steep rock-cut staircases in a striking and unique landscape. We will visit several of these extraordinary religious refuges.

Day 6

Driving northwards we pass through the Vale of Tempe and enter the realm of Macedonia. This renowned ancient beauty spot was where the allied Greeks originally gathered to stop Great King Xerxes and the Persian army in 480 BC. In the afternoon we are at Dion. This city, at the foot of Mount Olympus, was the religious capital of Macedonia with numerous shrines to Zeus and the other Olympian deities. The museum contains some marvellous finds form these shrines and the remains of a water organ!

Day 7

On the trail of Macedonian royalty we visit Verghina, the site of the ancient capital of Aegae, and the burial place of Kings. The excavations of the Great Tumulus in the 1980s revealed a number of royal burials one of which is believed to be King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. The finds have bene superbly displayed. We continue on to Pella, Macedonia’s second capital, where the Kings laid out a vast parade ground of an agora and market place, and where the palace and wealthy houses were equipped with fine Hellenistic pebble mosaics. The museum is famous for the extraordinary ‘golden warriors’.

Day 8

We explore another capital city, Thessaloniki. Built by Macedonian King Cassander, it was adopted as one of the capitals of the Tetrarchy of the later Roman Empire and was used as an imperial centre by Emperor Galerius. We examine the excavated and displayed forum, remains of the great Roman imperial palace, built by Galerius but used by many of his successors, and finally, in the afternoon, the Archaeological Museum with its fine collections.

Day 9

A trip to the fortress of Heptapyrgion at the summit of the ancient walls of Thessaloniki. Built against the Roman and Byzantine walls, the fortress was erected by the Ottoman Turks to control the great city. We will also visit the Byzantine Museum and the church of St. Demetrius.

Day 10

We transfer to the airport for our return flight to London.

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels
  8. Flights

Travel Information

For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.

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2019 Tour Details

Mon 20th May - Wed 29th May

Available

£2,750

inc.

sgl supp: £375

MAC19B

Led By: Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

Mon 30th September - Wed 9th October

Available

£2,750

inc.

sgl supp: £375

MAC19C

Led By: Dr Milena Melfi

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