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 while exploring the two northern kingdoms of ancient Greece and their successors. Three conquering kings rose from this area, Pyrrhus of Epirus from the Ionian coast, 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
  • Explore Pella, capital of Macedonia and the birthplace of Alexander
  • Visit the shrine and oracle of Zeus at Dodona built around the sacred oak

Themes

  • Romans
  • Historic Churches
  • Ancient Greek

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We fly from London to Thessaloniki and then drive to Ioannina over the Pindus Mountains to our first hotel.

Hotel: Saz City Life
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

We drive to Nikopolis, once the capital of Epirus Vetus, constructed by Augustus in celebration at the Battle of Actium just to the south. We visit the Actium sanctuary, with its alter of victory, theatre and stadium. We will see other elements of the city centre and hopefully the new museum. In the afternoon, we visit Kassope, an Epirote city abandoned to populate Nikopolis. Its layout is based on the Hippodamian plan and considered as one of the best remaining examples of its kind.

Hotel: Saz City Life
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

We head to Dodona with its extensive pilgrimage area to view the shrine and oracle of Zeus, where the god spoke to supplicants via the rustling of leave in an oak tree. We travel on to Orraon, an Epirote-Molossian city, with impressive remains of houses. An afternoon trip to Arta, capital of King Pyrrhus and the medieval Despots and visit the Archaeological Museum and Panagia Parigoritissa, one of the most important Byzantine churches in Greece.

Hotel: Saz City Life
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

Today will be spent in Ioannina. This morning, we visit the Archaeological Museum which has, alongside other finds, items from Dodona, including pilgrim’s questions to the God and Zeus’ responses! After we will walk around the citadel, the core of the medieval town and fortress of Ali Pasha, the famous Ottoman governor an acquaintance of Lord Byron. We see some of its museums. Our afternoon is free to either explore Ioannina at your own leisure or take a trip across the lake.

Hotel: Saz City Life
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

We drive to Meteora to spend the whole day wandering the spectacular, vertiginous monasteries here home to a monastic community dating back to the 14th century. We hope to visit Grand Meteora itself and several other monasteries. Be prepared for steps and heights!

Hotel: Grand Hotel Meteora
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

An early start and a drive across the wide plains of Thessaly, where the Macedonian kings recruited their cavalry. 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: Electra Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

We spend the morning in Thessaloniki exploring its ancient sites and monuments. We see the Roman forum, and then on to the Palace complex of the emperor Galerius, the Rotonda, the Arch of Galerius and the remains of his palace. In the afternoon, we drive out to Verghina, the site of Aigai, the ancient capital of Epirus, to visit the tumulus, identified as the tomb of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.

Hotel: Electra Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

This morning, we visit the Archaeological Museum with extraordinary finds from the city and its region, including the stunning Derveni bronze crater, a milestone from the Via Egnatia, and golden finds from tombs attesting to the wealth of the region. In the afternoon we travel to the ancient city of Pella. This was Macedonia’s administrative capital and the birthplace of Alexander the Great, to visit the monumental agora, and houses and the outstanding mosaics, now on display in the museum

Hotel: Electra Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 9

Thessaloniki has two great churches, St Demitrius, home of the patron saint of the city, a fabulous Late Roman building, and Santa Sofia, a massive building with a cupola, built by the iconoclastic Byzantine emperors of the seventh and eighth centuries. In the afternoon we will drive up to the acropolis of Thessaloniki to visit the Heptapyrgion fortress built by the Turks form the ruins of Byzantine churches, and also stretches of the Roman and Byzantine wall circuit and the view over the city.

Hotel: Electra Palace
Meals: All meals included

Day 10

In the morning we have time to visit the Byzantine Museum. This is the counterpart to the Archaeological Museum next door and contains a cornucopia of material illustrating the life of the city and Macedonia through the Middle Ages and Turkish periods. We transfer to the airport for our return flight home

Meals: Breakfast included

Itinerary 2020

Day 1

We fly from London to 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: All meals 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, lunch & dinner included

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: All meals 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 pilgrim’s questions and the Gods answers! 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 and lunch 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: All meals included

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 lunch included

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: All meals included

Day 10

On our last day of this tour, we transfer to the airport for our return flight back to the UK.

Meals: Breakfast included

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - Most 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

Guaranteed Departure

£2,785

inc.

sgl supp: £375

MAC19B

Led By: Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

Mon 23rd September - Wed 2nd October

Available

Guaranteed Departure

£2,865

inc.

sgl supp: £375

MAC19C

Led By: Dr Milena Melfi

2020 Tour Details

Mon 6th April - Wed 15th April

Available

£2,995

inc.

sgl supp: £495

MAC20A

Led By: Oliver Gilkes

Mon 14th September - Wed 23rd September

Available

£2,995

inc.

sgl supp: £495

MAC20B

Led By: Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

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