Classical Greece Itineraries

Classical Sites

Lovers of art, antiquity, and mythology journey to Greece to make a pilgrimage to its great archaeological sites. Here, at Delphi, Olympia, and Epidauros, the gods of Olympus were revered, Euripides's plays were first presented, and some of the greatest temples ever built still evoke the genial atmosphere of Greece's golden age (in spite of 2,500 years of wear and tear). Take this tour and you'll learn that it's not necessary to be a scholar of history to feel the proximity of ancient Greece.

2 Days: Athens

Begin at the beginning—the Acropolis plateau—where you can explore the greatest temple of Periclean Greece, the Parthenon, while drinking in heart-stopping views over the modern metropolis. After touring the ancient Agora, the Monument of Lysikrates, and the Odeon of Herod Atticus, finish up at the National Archaeological Museum (check opening hours).

Logistics:Your Acropolis ticket also gets you into the other archaeological sites in Athens. Use the efficient Metro to avoid constant traffic slowdowns.

1 Day: Sounion

Sun, sand, art, and antiquity all lie southeast of Athens in Sounion. Here, the spectacular Temple of Poseidon sits atop a cliff 195 feet over the Saronic Gulf. Pay your own respects to the god of the sea at the beach directly below or enjoy the coves of the Apollo coast as you head back west to the seaside resort of Vouliagmeni for an overnight.

Logistics:If you don't want to go on your own, most travel agencies offer tours to Sounion, and then you can spend another night in Athens.

1 Day: Eleusis and Corinth

Heading west of Athens, make a stop at Eleusis (Elefsina in modern Greek), home of the Sanctuary of Demeter and the haunted grotto of Hades, god of the Underworld. Past the isthmus of Corinth—gateway to the Peloponnese—Ancient Corinth and its sublime Temple of Apollo beckon. Head south to the coast and Nafplion; en route, stop at a roadside stand for some tasty Nemean wine.

Logistics:Stopping briefly at Eleusis is easier if you have a car. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of bus schedules.

2 Days: Nafplion, Tiryns, Mycenae, Epidauros

Nafplion is a stage set of spectacular Venetian fortresses, Greek churches, and neoclassical mansions, and you can explore the mysteries of forgotten civilizations in nearby Tiryns (Tiryntha in modern Greek), Mycenae, and Epidauros. North is Tiryns, where Bronze Age ramparts bear witness to Homer's "well-girt city." Farther north is Agamemnon's blood-soaked realm, the royal citadel of Mycenae, destroyed in 468 BC. Then take a day trip east to the famous ancient Theater at Epidauros, where a summer drama festival still presents the great tragedies of Euripides.

Logistics:Set up base in Nafplion and visit the nearby sights at your leisure. It's obviously easier to do this if you have a car.

2 Days: Olympia and Bassae

After your third overnight in Nafplion, head west to Olympia—holiest site of the ancient Greek religion, home to the Sanctuary of Zeus, and birthplace of the Olympics. Walk through the olive groves of the sacred precinct; then get acquainted with Praxiteles' Hermes in the museum. Overnight here and then make a trip south to the remote Temple of Apollo at Bassae (if traveling by car, look for road signs to Vasses).

Logistics:From Nafplion, you can get to Olympia via Argos by train or Tripoli by car (on the E65).

1 Day: Delphi

Set aside a day to discover Delphi, whose noble dust and ancient ruins are theatrically set amid cliffs. Despite the tour buses, it is still possible to imagine the power of the most famous oracle of antiquity. From here, head back to Athens.

Logistics:From Olympia, head north through verdant forests of the Elis (Ilieia) region to Patras or nearby Rion for the ferry or bridge across the Corinthian gulf; travel east along the coast and overnight in chic Galaxidi, with its elegant stone seafarers' mansions.

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