The Glory of Byzantium in Greece
Day 1 Arrival at Greece-Athens
Schedule your flight to arrive at Athens International Airport, where we will meet and transfer you to your hotel. Day at leisure, dinner and overnight in Athens.
Day 2 Athens / Acropolis / Plaka / Daphi Monastery / Byzantine and Christian Museum
Athens was known as the city of the goddess Athena and the birthplace of democracy, drama and philosophy. First of all, we will visit the Acropolis with the world-famous Parthenon, Erechtheion and other monuments. During the byzantine period these ancient temples were converted into Christian churches, the traces of which we can still see today. We explore the area of Plaka walking through the small alleys and discovering several middle byzantine churches with their characteristic dome of the Athenian style. The beautiful mosaics we will see next at the monastery of Daphni, give us a first impression of the ideal evolution of the ancient Greek painting and sculpture into the colors and figures of the Christian era. In the Christian Byzantine Museum of Athens our guide will point out the most important artifacts from the beginning of the early byzantine period to today. Finally, during our panoramic bus tour we will see the house of parliament, the first modern Olympic stadium, the temple of Zeus and the Hellenic Academy. Dinner and overnight in Athens.
Day 3 Athens / Orchomenos / Hosios Loukas / Athens
The Byzantine church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) of Skripou in Orchomenos is one of the first examples of the transition of the basilica into the cross-in square type of church dated to 873/4 A.D. The exterior of the monument is beautifully decorated with ancient and Christian spolia, a sundial and the inscription that mentions the name of the founder. Hosios Loukas is a historic monastery situated in Boeotia. It is one of the most important monuments of Middle Byzantine architecture and art mainly due to its wonderful mosaics. The complex consists of two different churches, the oldest one of which is dated to the end of the 10th c. and has a varied architectural decoration in the exterior. The second church was built in the beginning of the 11th c. in the domed-octagon type and it is richly decorated with mosaics and marble revetments. Dinner and overnight in Athens.
Day 4 Athens / Acrocorinth / Monemvasia
We depart from Athens and travel west with a rest stop and photos at the Corinth Canal. Acrocorinth is a typical example of castle architecture and it was the fortified citadel of both ancient and medieval Corinth. Its strategical position, overlooking Corinth and the Isthmus, led to its use throughout several historical periods. Stepping out of our tour bus, we will see the three lines of defense walls and admire the superb view. Dinner and overnight in Monemvasia.
Day 5 Monemvasia / Geraki / Sparta
Monemvasia is located in the southeast coast of the Peloponnese peninsula on a small island and it is known as the “Greek Gibraltar”. It was founded during the 6th c. A.D. by people who were seeking refuge from the Slavic invasion. It developed later on into an important trade and maritime center and it became famous because of the production of the Malvasia wine. In the Upper city we will see the church of Hagia Sophia and its breathtaking location at the edge of a sheer cliff. It is a domed octagon built in the 12th century and its wall paintings date to the 13th century. In the Lower city the dominant byzantine monument is the Church of the Elkomenos that houses an important 14th century icon of the Crucifixion. Geraki is another medieval fortified settlement, which we will visit in the afternoon on our way to Sparta. Founded in 1209 by the Frankish baron Guy de Nivelet it was given to the Greeks in 1262 after the battle of Pelagonia. Several churches are preserved until today, which are decorated with wall paintings from the 12th to the 15th c. A.D. Dinner and overnight in Sparta.
Day 6 Sparta / Mystras / Patra
Mystras is located on a hill west of Sparta at the foot of Mt. Taygetos. It was the seat of the Despotate of Moreas during the late byzantine period and it was there, where the last roman/byzantine emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos was crowned before going to Constantinople and ascending the throne. In a romantic landscape among cypress trees are scattered the remnants of Byzantium. We will see churches, such as Agios Dimitrios where the emperor was crowned and monasteries, for example Pantanassa, a convent still in use, which combines western and byzantine elements on its exterior. In the upper city lies the palace complex, the only one preserved from this era. Dinner and overnight in Patra.
Day 7 Patra / Nafpaktos / Nikopolis / Arta
Our first stop will be in Nafpaktos a beautiful small town by the water. It is known for its castle overlooking the city itself and the bay of Patras. In the area took place the famous naval battle of Lepanto in 1571. Nikopolis is the city that was founded by Octavian after the naval battle of Actium against Antony and Cleopatra in 31 B.C. We will see there the fortification walls built during the reign of Justinian in the 6th c. A.D. which are preserved in a very good condition as well as some early Christian basilicas decorated with floor mosaics. Dinner and overnight in Arta.
Day 8 Arta / Kalambaka
We will dedicate the morning to the town and monuments of Arta. After the fall of Constantinople to the crusaders in 1204 the city was chosen to be the capital of the Despotate of Epirus. This golden age is reflected on the monuments. In the church of Panagia Vlachernon we will see the litany of the icon of “Hodegitria”, the only surviving example of this event, that used to take place in Constantinople every Tuesday. The queen of Arta Theodora gave her name to the basilica which houses her tomb and which is decorated with the original marble floor. The external walls of St Basil are lavishly decorated with patterns in brick and tile and glazed icons. Panagia Parigoritissa (of Consolation) is the jewel preserved from this period that still impresses the visitor with its external and internal architectural decoration. Dinner and overnight in Kalambaka.
Day 9 Kalambaka / Kastoria
Kalambaka is built at the foot of the extraordinary rock formations, called “Meteora”, which means “suspended between earth and heaven”. It was during the 14th c. A.D. when the first monks climbed on these rocks and started building the monasteries, which we see today. We will visit one of them to admire icons, old manuscripts, wall paintings and the superb view! In these monasteries have worked artists from Crete and they have represented in an excellent way the Cretan School of Iconography. Strolling around the streets of Kalambaka, we will visit a byzantine monument from the 10th c. with the only surviving example of a pulpit in the middle of the church. In a traditional icon-painting workshop, you will have the opportunity to learn more about this art and its techniques. Dinner and overnight in Kastoria.
Day 10 Kastoria / Veria / Serres
Kastoria is situated on the western shore of the Lake Orestiada in northern Greece. It is famous for its fur clothing industry and its many Byzantine churches. Most of the monuments have a similar external decoration characteristic for the region. In the church of Agioi Anargyroi can be seen the traces of different painters from the 10th up to the 12th c. with an excellent quality representing the Komnenian period. One of the oldest churches in the city is Hagios Stefanos with the very first (chronologically) wall painting in Greece depicting the “Last Judgment”. Koumbelidiki was named after the Turkish word “koumbes” which means the dome. In the narthex is the one of the earliest depictions of the anthropomorphic “Holy Trinity” in byzantine style. The city of Veria we will visit next, has the nickname “Little Jerusalem” because of the many byzantine and post-byzantine churches. The decoration of most of them has been influenced directly by the center of the empire, Constantinople. The old Metropolis of Veria is considered to be the jewel of all the monuments built in the end of the 11th c. It shows elements that are also found in the basilica of Hagios Dimitrios in Thessaloniki. Its wall paintings are dated to different periods from the 12th up to 14th c. Dinner and overnight in Serres.
Day 11 Serres / Hagios Ioannis / Philippi / Ouranoupoli
We will start our day with the walled monastery of Hagios Ioannis Prodromos (Forerunner) a little bit outside of Serres. The convent was protected in the past by an impressive byzantine tower which is very well preserved. Its church was built as a one aisled basilica and the first layer of the wall paintings have been attributed to the very well-known artist Panselinos. Some of the icons were created in Constantinople during the 14th c. Philippi was named after the father of Alexander the Great, Philip II King of Macedonia although at first it was called Krinides. It became a roman colony after the homonymous battle in 42 B.C. It was located on the main artery, called Via Egnatia, which connected Rome with New Rome/Constantinople. In the archaeological site have been excavated the forum, dated to the imperial period and all around it lie the ruins of several early Christian basilicas. Dinner and overnight in Ouranoupoli.
Day 12 Ouranoupoli / Mount Athos / Thessaloniki
Mount Athos is the largest monastic complex in Greece. It is the last surviving remnant of the glory of Byzantium where the monks maintain the original way of life as it was during that era. In the twenty fortified monasteries are preserved the treasures of Byzantium. The largest collection of manuscripts, documents, ecclesiastical textiles and icons in the world is to be found there. Based on the privileges given by the emperors of Byzantium to the monks of Mount Athos - which are still accepted by the international law - women are excluded from the area. Our group will be divided in two. The gentlemen will have an early start and they will visit with our guide Mount Athos. In Protato, which is the “cathedral” of the monastic community, we will admire the wall paintings attributed again to Panselinos. If time permits, we will have a glance at the nearby monasteries. The ladies will enjoy therefore a nice cruise along the west coast of the peninsula of Athos and they will have the opportunity to see some of the monasteries and listen to interesting information about this unique place in the world. Dinner and overnight in Thessaloniki.
Day 13 Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki was the second most important byzantine center after Constantinople. Ancient ruins and byzantine churches are scattered everywhere and the most important ones of them we will visit together. An early Christian basilica is dedicated to Hagios Dimitrios the patron saint of the city. In its vicinity, has been excavated the roman forum. Hagia Sophia is still decorated with two beautiful mosaics dated to the years after the iconoclastic period. On the way to Rotonda we will marvel at the Triumphal Arch of Galerius. Rotonda is the oldest church in Thessaloniki from the 4th c. A.D. and it is decorated with splendid mosaics of the same period. During our tour we will also admire the fortification walls which surround the old city. In the byzantine museum we will complete our journey into the Glory of Byzantium. Dinner and overnight in Thessaloniki.
Day 14 Depart from Greece – Thessaloniki
According to the schedule of your return flight you will be taken to “Makedonia” (airport of Thessaloniki).
Deluxe bus transportation for airport transfers and for the tours according to the program - 50-seats bus.*
… overnights, on HB basis in 4* or 5* hotels .
Professional qualified English-speaking tourist guide throughout the tour.
The whispers set.***
Full liability insurance.
All legal taxes and VAT.
Possible tips and personal expenses.
Meals outside of package.
The Overnight Stay Tax, which is 3,00€ per room, per overnight in 4* hotel and …€ per room, per overnight in 5* hotel.
What is not clearly described as included in the program.
* According to Covid-19 protocols, the capacity of the tourist bus must be at 65% of the seats.
** The cost of entrance tickets is based on the prices given by the Ministry of Culture up to now. If the prices of the entrance fees change, the cost will be adjusted accordingly.
***Losses or destruction of the whispers:
The following charges without VAT apply for the loss or destruction of the equipment:
- Receiver € 75.00
This tour package can be combined with:
1 day cruise to Poros, Hydra and Aigina
1 day cruise to Mount Athos.
3 nights Iconic Aegean Sea Islands cruise.
4 nights Iconic Aegean Sea Islands cruise.
We can design shorter or longer itineraries according to your interest.
You may combine the above program with any itinerary regarding Cyprus, Israel, Italy and Turkey.
We bear no responsibility in case of unannounced and unexpectedly closed archaeological sites, museums, churches or monasteries,
We recommend to be dressed with respect towards the religious places we are going to visit – covered knees and shoulders.
We also strongly advise you to always wear a hat, comfortable shoes, sunglasses and have sunblock with you.