Crete & Santorini

Reconstructed façade of the Bronze Age Palace at Knossos, based on the startling bright colours of the original fragments
Reconstructed façade of the Bronze Age Palace at Knossos, based on the startling bright colours of the original fragments
Dr Sandy MacGillivray in action at Knossos
Dr Sandy MacGillivray in action at Knossos
Knossos
Knossos
Knossos
Knossos
Excavations at Akrotiri
Excavations at Akrotiri
View across the harbour at Heraklion
View across the harbour at Heraklion
Heraklion Museum
Heraklion Museum
View from Oia over the caldera at Santorini
View from Oia over the caldera at Santorini

Explore the birthplace of western civilisation - Classical Greece. Let this epic odyssey through ancient Greece bring you ever closer to the foundations of modern society as we take in the key sites of this historic land. Beginning in the capital of Athens, we experience the hustle and bustle of life today as we tour the Acropolis and its park. Pore over enchanting artefacts at regional archaeological museums, learn more about ancient Greek beliefs, and take time to visit buildings (and, of course, remains) of significance on this ten-day adventure.

Its unique culture, stories of myth or legend, and the country’s natural beauty ensure that you will be left with lasting memories long after you return home.

  • Enjoy a special sunset visit to the Temple of Poseidon
  • Admire collections housed in fabulous archaeological museums
  • Indulge in delicious regional cuisine and traditional dishes
  • Tour the Corinth Archaeological Site alongside its former director
  • Explore the delights of Delphi & the Sanctuary of Apollo

Themes

  • Romans
  • Prehistory
  • Ancient Greek

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • Low Single Supplement
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2018

Day 1

Our flight touches down in Santorini, the southernmost island of the Cyclades. After checking in to our gorgeous hotel, we relax and prepare ourselves for the next few thrilling days of sightseeing, getting to know our fellow travellers over a laid-back evening of dinner and drinks.

Day 2

We begin our first full day on the captivating island of Santorini at the Prehistoric Museum in Fira, housing a selection of dazzling wall paintings from the Minoan buildings at Akrotiri, as well as a large number of artefacts found in various island excavations. Don’t miss jugs depicting elegant birds, dating from the Middle Cycladic period of 1800 to 2000 BC, and the statue of the golden goat, discovered in Akrotiri in 1999.

This afternoon we continue to Akrotiri itself. Destroyed by a catastrophic volcanic eruption in around 1500 BC and buried in ash, the city is reminiscent of Pompeii, and has retained some impressively well-preserved houses. The drainage systems, complex buildings, and magnificent wall paintings still in place indicate a once prosperous society, with many successful trade links. We admire the delightful ‘Fresco of the Monkeys’ and the ‘House of the Ladies’, with its striking central light well.

Day 3

After a delicious breakfast we journey up winding roads to the ancient city of Thera, located on a ridge of Messavouno Mountain, some 360 metres above sea level. The site has been under excavation since 1904, and findings from the city have contributed immensely to our understanding of Minoan culture and history. We imagine the people whose lives were centred around Thera’s 800-metre long main street; who attended performances in the city’s enormous theatre; and who worshipped Hermes and Heracles within the walls of the sacred grotto.

This afternoon we visit Panagia Episkopi, a Byzantine cathedral containing many beautiful frescoes, before an exhilarating catamaran ride takes us to our next destination: historic Heraklion. We arrive in Crete’s largest city in time for dinner.

Day 4

The fourth day of our holiday begins with a trip to the world-renowned Palace of Knossos, a majestic complex erected in Greece’s Bronze Age era, and the largest Bronze Age site in the country. The intricate, multi-storeyed layout of the palace has led to its connection with numerous myths and legends, including that of the Minotaur and the labyrinth. We take in the royal quarters, with their decorated Throne Room, as well as noting the axe stands within the House of the High Priest.

We continue on to the Minoan manor house and outbuildings of Vathypetro, the surviving remnants of a settlement that stretched across three hills. Here we observe an elaborate shrine as well as a wonderfully preserved wine press – one of the oldest in the world.

Following this we return to Heraklion to spend time at the exceptional Heraklion Museum, with its exquisite jewellery and brightly-coloured wall paintings. Within this peerless collection of artefacts from the Minoan age is the iconic bull’s head ‘rhyton’, or ceremonial drinking vessel, brought here from Knossos Palace.

Day 5

We enjoy a morning at the important Greco-Roman site of Gortyn in the verdant Messara Valley, a gem of the archaeological world since its discovery in 1884. Thought to have once been populated by over 300,000 people, the site is best-known for its collection of 5th century stone blocks, inscribed with the law codes of classical Greece – the oldest and most complete example of coded ancient Greek laws ever found.

We resume our adventures with the Minoans at the magnificent Palace of Phaistos. Famous finds here include thousands of documents, some inscribed with the earliest known occurrence of the still undeciphered writing of the Minoans – a script also known as ‘Linear A’. We leave the columns and courtyards of Phaistos to visit Ayia Triada, a grand but ruinous Bronze Age villa that has yielded more examples of Linear A tablets than any other site of its kind.

Day 6

Our day starts with a trip to the Palace of Malia, a huge Minoan complex just north of the Lasithi Mountains, significant not only for its size, but also its strategic port, skylights and grand facades. We then proceed to the well-preserved late Minoan town of Gournia, one of the few sites in the region to have been fully excavated. The remains of Gournia cluster around cobbled streets on the side of a hill and are crowned by the now-ruined palace. Traces of some 50 houses are in evidence here, as well as a court and cemetery.

This afternoon we have the option of a boat trip to the haunting and evocative island of Spinalonga, location of a former leper colony, which was still in use right up until 1962. It is believed that the island was cut off from the mainland by occupying Venetians in the 16th century in order to strengthen their defences.

Day 7

This morning we are treated to an encounter with the picturesque ruins of Chamaizi, best known for the unique oval-shaped Middle Minoan building which is located on the summit of the hill here – the only one of its type discovered to date. Following this we have the option to journey by fishing boat across the turquoise Gulf of Mirabello to the tiny island of Mochlos, on which an important Minoan town once stood – a hub of trade and industry. A number of pit graves and tombs have been unearthed here, and the excavations, begun in 1908, continue to this day.

This afternoon is free for us to enjoy our spectacular surroundings at our leisure. Stroll along the splendid coastline, doze in the sunshine or plunge into the warm and welcoming waters near our hotel.

Day 8

This may well be our last morning in Crete, but the discoveries aren’t over yet. Before we make our journey to the airport, we drive to stunning Sissi to visit the excavations on Kephali Hill, where the Minoan’s earliest known mortuary activity is thought to have taken place.

Alas, it is now time to say good bye to the Minoan world, and our fabulous group, as we make our way back home.

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

Our flight touches down in Santorini, the southernmost island of the Cyclades. After checking in to our gorgeous hotel, we relax and prepare ourselves for the next few thrilling days of sightseeing, getting to know our fellow travellers over a laid-back evening of dinner and drinks.

Day 2

We begin our first full day on the captivating island of Santorini at the Prehistoric Museum in Fira, housing a selection of dazzling wall paintings from the Minoan buildings at Akrotiri, as well as a large number of artefacts found in various island excavations. Don’t miss jugs depicting elegant birds, dating from the Middle Cycladic period of 1800 to 2000 BC, and the statue of the golden goat, discovered in Akrotiri in 1999.

This afternoon we continue to Akrotiri itself. Destroyed by a catastrophic volcanic eruption in around 1500 BC and buried in ash, the city is reminiscent of Pompeii, and has retained some impressively well-preserved houses. The drainage systems and complex buildings indicate a once prosperous society, with many successful trade links. We admire the delightful ‘Fresco of the Monkeys’ and the ‘House of the Ladies’, with its striking central light well.

Day 3

After a delicious breakfast we journey up winding roads to the ancient city of Thera, located on a ridge of Messavouno Mountain, some 360 metres above sea level. The site has been under excavation since 1904, and findings from the city have contributed immensely to our understanding of Minoan culture and history. We imagine the people whose lives were centred around Thera’s 800-metre long main street; who attended performances in the city’s enormous theatre; and who worshipped Hermes and Heracles within the walls of the sacred grotto.

This afternoon we visit Panagia Episkopi, a Byzantine cathedral containing many beautiful frescoes, before an exhilarating catamaran ride takes us to our next destination: historic Heraklion. We arrive in Crete’s largest city in time for dinner.

Day 4

The fourth day of our holiday begins with a trip to the world-renowned Palace of Knossos, a majestic complex erected in Greece’s Bronze Age era, and the largest Bronze Age site in the country. The intricate, multi-storeyed layout of the palace has led to its connection with numerous myths and legends, including that of the Minotaur and the labyrinth. We take in the royal quarters, with their decorated Throne Room, as well as noting the axe stands within the House of the High Priest.

We continue on to the Minoan manor house and outbuildings of Vathypetro, the surviving remnants of a settlement that stretched across three hills. Here we observe an elaborate shrine as well as a wonderfully preserved wine press – one of the oldest in the world.

Following this we return to Heraklion to spend time at the exceptional Heraklion Museum, with its exquisite jewellery and brightly-coloured wall paintings. Within this peerless collection of artefacts from the Minoan age is the iconic bull’s head ‘rhyton’, or ceremonial drinking vessel, brought here from Knossos Palace.

Day 5

We enjoy a morning at the important Greco-Roman site of Gortyn in the verdant Messara Valley, a gem of the archaeological world since its discovery in 1884. Thought to have once been populated by over 300,000 people, the site is best-known for its collection of 5th century stone blocks, inscribed with the law codes of classical Greece – the oldest and most complete example of coded ancient Greek laws ever found.

We resume our adventures with the Minoans at the magnificent Palace of Phaistos. Famous finds here include thousands of documents, some inscribed with the earliest known occurrence of the still undeciphered writing of the Minoans – a script also known as ‘Linear A’. We leave the columns and courtyards of Phaistos to visit Ayia Triada, a grand but ruinous Bronze Age villa that has yielded more examples of Linear A tablets than any other site of its kind.

Day 6

Our day starts with a trip to the Palace of Malia, a huge Minoan complex just north of the Lasithi Mountains, significant not only for its size, but also its strategic port, skylights and grand facades. We then proceed to the well-preserved late Minoan town of Gournia, one of the few sites in the region to have been fully excavated. The remains of Gournia cluster around cobbled streets on the side of a hill and are crowned by the now-ruined palace. Traces of some 50 houses are in evidence here, as well as a court and cemetery.

This afternoon we have the option of a boat trip to the haunting and evocative island of Spinalonga, location of a former leper colony, which was still in use right up until 1962. It is believed that the island was cut off from the mainland by occupying Venetians in the 16th century in order to strengthen their defences.

Day 7

This morning we are treated to an encounter with the picturesque ruins of Chamaizi, best known for the unique oval-shaped Middle Minoan building which is located on the summit of the hill here – the only one of its type discovered to date. Following this we have the option to journey by fishing boat across the turquoise Gulf of Mirabello to the tiny island of Mochlos, on which an important Minoan town once stood – a hub of trade and industry. A number of pit graves and tombs have been unearthed here, and the excavations, begun in 1908, continue to this day.

This afternoon is free for us to enjoy our spectacular surroundings at our leisure. Stroll along the splendid coastline, doze in the sunshine or plunge into the warm and welcoming waters near our hotel.

Day 8

This may well be our last morning in Crete, but the discoveries aren’t over yet. Before we make our journey to the airport, we drive to stunning Sissi to visit the excavations on Kephali Hill, where the Minoan’s earliest known mortuary activity is thought to have taken place.

Alas, it is now time to say good bye to the Minoan world, and our fabulous group, as we make our way back home.

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach, boat & catamaran
  4. Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; 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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2018 Tour Details

Tue 11th September - Tue 18th September

Call for Availability

£2,495

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE18C

Led By: Dr Sandy MacGillivray

Tue 25th September - Tue 2nd October

Available

£2,495

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE18D

Led By: Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

Tue 2nd October - Tue 9th October

Available

£2,495

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE18F

Led By: Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

Tue 9th October - Tue 16th October

Available

£2,495

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE18E

Led By: Dr Rita Roussos

2019 Tour Details

Tue 23rd April - Tue 30th April

Available

£2,450

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE19A

Led By: Dr Sandy MacGillivray

Tue 7th May - Tue 14th May

Available

£2,450

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE19B

Led By: Dr Rita Roussos

Tue 14th May - Tue 21st May

Available

£2,450

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE19C

Led By: Dr Sandy MacGillivray

Tue 10th September - Tue 17th September

Available

£2,450

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE19D

Led By: Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

Tue 24th September - Tue 1st October

Available

£2,450

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE19E

Led By: Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

Tue 1st October - Tue 8th October

Available

£2,450

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE19F

Led By: Dr Rita Roussos

Tue 8th October - Tue 15th October

Available

£2,450

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE19G

Led By: Dr Rita Roussos

Tue 15th October - Tue 22nd October

Available

£2,450

inc.

sgl supp: £295

CRE19H

Led By: Dr Sandy MacGillivray

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