9. From Athens: Mainland Greece 4-Day Private Tour with Hotel
Day 1: Athens, Canal, ancient Corinth, Mycenae, Nafplion, Olympia
Your private four-day tour starts from Athens early in the morning. Drive towards the scenic coastal road of Athens to the magnificent structure of the Corinth Canal, which is in the Peloponnese, the southern peninsula of Greece. The Canal connects the Saronic with the Corinthian Gulf in the Aegean Sea. A dream of the ancients, that came true in 1893. Time for a rest and some amazing photos above the canal.
Leave Isthmos and driving to ancient Corinth (the city of Apollo and Aphrodite, plus one of the most important places of St. Paul who lived here for almost two years doing missionary work). Ancient Corinth was an important state city during the ancient years, the richest and most famous port of the ancient Greece. Make a short stop for some great photos. Here you will visit the archaeological site and museum, plus the church that has the 1st Letter to the Corinthians written in four languages: Greek, Arabic, French and English.
Then, the driver will take you to Mycenae, the golden city of king Agamemnon, the one who united all the Greek cities to fight for a common purpose against Troy. Mycenae was the city from where the Mycenaean civilization started and has an archaeological site to visit. There you will see the burial Royal Tombs of the kings and queens, the cyclopian walls, the Lion Gate and the treasury of Atreas, the Cyclopean Walls. There is an option to visit Epidaurus where you will be able to see the ancient theater of Epidaurus with its fantastic acoustics that is even used nowadays mostly in the summer for festivals, theatrical plays and music concerts. A must-see is also the sanctuary of Asklipeios, who was the son of the god Apollo.
On to Nafplion, the first modern capital of Greece from 1821 till 1834. You will see the castle of the city, the Palamidi that's above the town as well as Mpourtzi the island fortress, the first defence line of the port. This is a wonderful seaside place, ideal to walk around and taste the famous Greek cuisine and have a memorable lunch in a traditional restaurant or tavern. There you can see the old houses of the Nafplion, as well as the local shops that sell handmade objects and jewelry for all tastes and wallets.
After your lunch, you will be driven to Olympia and overnight there. Free leisure time.
Day 2: Olympia, Rio Antirio Bridge, Nafpaktos, Itea, Delphi
Ancient Olympia is the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games in classical times. There you will visit both the archaeological site and choose between Archaeological Museum of Olympia with a great amount of artifacts and statues, and the Museum of the Olympic Games. The Games were held every four years from the 8th century BC until the 4th century AD.
Visit the Temple of Zeus, Pelopion, the stadium, the Temple of Hera, the Phillipeion, the Phidias workshop and many other structures that are worth your attention. You can feel the aura of the Olympic Games, of fighting on the Pallestra or running around the stadium and understand why ancients took the cultivation of body, mind and soul so seriously.
After lunch at your choice of restaurant in Olympia, you will drive to Delphi, through the largest cable bridge in Europe, Rio Antirio, and see the magnificent town of Nafpaktos and Itea. Overnight and free time in Delphi.
Day 3: Delphi, Amfissa, Lamia, Trikala, Kalambaka, Meteora
Delphi was the first touristic attraction of antiquity. It was the place the god Apollo had his sanctuary, were the propheses were given to every man, prince, general and king by the Pythia High Priestess. It was the center of the universe, according to Zeus, king of the gods. You will visit the Oracle of Apollo, the Omfalos, the temple of Athena Pronaia, Kastaleia Spring and see some magnificent artifacts and statues, such as Eniochos the charioteer, the twin Brothers and Sphynx of Naxos.
Have lunch in Delphi with a great view of Parnassus and Itea and then you'll head to Meteora, passing by many towns like Amfissa, Lamia (the capital city of the Thessaly Plain), Trikala, Kalambaka. Overnight and free leisure time in Kalambaka or Kastraki.
Day 4: Meteora, Thermopylae, Athens
After your breakfast you will visit the monasteries of Meteora. They come second in religious importance and size after mount Athos in orthodox christianity. Meteora means "middle of the sky", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above" and the monasteries are built on high pillars at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains. Since the 11th century monks and nuns have lived here. The monasteries are: St. Nicolas, Grande Meteoro, Varlaam, Rousannou, Holy Trinity and St. Stephen.
You will visit up to three monasteries, depending on the day. Admire the wonderful, panoramic views. After lunch, drive back to Athens with a short stop at the battlefield of Thermopylae or Hotgates and the Hot Springs, where King Leonidas and the 300 brave Spartans gave their lives for the freedom of Greece.