Best of Greece
Athens to Santorini
Original explorer tour with Intrepid
Stretch your legs on the mainland before setting sail for the Cyclades: this is Greece at its very best.
Welcome to Greece – a land of crumbling ruins and crumbling feta, the sun-bleached cradle of modern civilization. A lot of Grecian itineraries begin with Athens’ historical highlights before skipping quickly off to the Greek Islands. But not this one. We’ve designed a comprehensive tour that includes the best of the mainland AND the islands. From the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi and the unbelievable monasteries of Meteora, all the way to the olive groves and sandy beaches of the Cyclades. Along the way you’ll discover that Greeks are passionate about a few very specific things: good times, good food, and good gossip. Kalimera!
Why you'll love this trip
Uncover thousands of years of civilisation in Athens with a visit to the world-famous Acropolis and the ancient Agora
Let the rest of the world melt away as you swim and snorkel in the warm waters of the Aegean Sea
Wander through the charming villages of Syros. When night falls, indulge in delicious seafood dinners in traditional tavernas as Rembetika music floats around you
With its boutique culture, gorgeous beaches and thumping nightlife, the chic isle of Mykonos invites you to embrace your hedonistic side
The sight of a Santorini sunset can turn even the most hardened of souls into a romantic. Walk along the volcanic rim of the island from Thira to Oia, passing through white villages that cling to plunging cliffs
Is this trip right for you?
We have had reports of travellers being pickpocketed on public transport in Athens. Please be careful with your valuables while travelling on the metro or the bus.
The main means of transportation in the Greek Islands is by public ferry. These ferries are large car ferries that transport hundreds of people, along with cars and trucks. There are no reserved seats and passengers are free to walk around the ferry freely. Luggage is stored in a designated area on the car deck and is not accessible while the ferry is moving.
Summer temperatures in Greece can reach up to 40°C, which can be uncomfortable for those not used to the heat. Please consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability to that season.
Please be aware that some of the Greek Islands are very hilly and mountainous, which means lots & lots of steps are an inherent feature of the landscape. You will have to be able to easily lift your luggage and carry it up and down stairs and inclines. Also, stone streets become very slippery when wet. Some people may find Greece's topography very demanding.
As accommodation on this trip is twin-share, single travellers will share a room with another traveller of the same sex. If you’d prefer not to share, a single room supplement is available at an additional charge. Please ask your travel consultant for more details. Also, hotels in Europe often don't have double beds, but rather two single beds that can be pushed together.
As this is a combination of 2 trips, your leader and the composition of your group may change upon return to Athens.
Day 1: Athens
Kalimera! Welcome to Greece. Named after the goddess of wisdom, the birthplace of Western civilisation, Athens has an amazing array of historic sites to explore; a weighty history that spills out over the modern city, represented most dramatically by the ancient Acropolis. There's much to be seen in the ancient capital of Greece, vibrant and refreshed following the 2004 Olympics, yet still retaining so much visible history. After the welcome meeting, perhaps head out for some gyros and ouzo with your new travel companions.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today – confirm the time and place with reception. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand.
Day 2: Athens / Thessaloniki
This morning head out to visit the famous Acropolis, one of the Western world's most important historical structures. Start with an ascent to the top of this sacred rock via the towering entrance, the Propylaia. Once inside, encounter the Parthenon – the greatest Doric temple in the ancient world. In the afternoon board a train to cosmopolitan Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. This city especially comes alive in the evening, thanks in part to its large student population, so make sure you hunt down the perfect gyros or some live music.
Day 3: Thessaloniki
Relax in the splendour of what is regarded as the cultural capital of the country. Walk along the waterfront to the White Tower, take in the Byzantine churches (like the beautifully frescoed Church of Saint Nicholas the Orphan), Ottoman sites and Roman ruins, and appreciate the wonderful views over the gulf. On a clear day you might even catch a glimpse of the home of the gods, Mount Olympus. If you’d like someone to show you the way, perhaps join an Urban Adventure for a local view. The city is undoubtedly the gastronomic capital of the Greece and its flavours are unique. For 2,000 years it’s been a melting pot of cultures, with eastern spices, French, Balkan and Mediterranean tastes. Seek out the eateries in the area around the agora, where age-old columns and arches brush up against modern apartments and the ancient Rotunda.
Day 4: Kalambaka
Travel by public bus or train to Kalambaka (approximately 3 hours). Upon arrival embark on on a short orientation walk of town, where your leader will point out amenities and help you get your bearings. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore the scenic area around Kalambaka and Meteora, where the views are stunning whichever way you look. Having two days here allows you to explore at your own pace, discover the history and legends, witness the incredible views of one of the few World Heritage sites listed under both nature and art at different times of the day, and avoid the crowds. Your leader will have suggestions on hand. In the evening, maybe head to a taverna for dinner and stroll the main square for a taste of Thessalian life.
Day 5: Meteora / Kalambaka
Climb into the heavens, just like monks have done for centuries, towards ancient monasteries precariously placed atop 400-metre-high rock formations. Meteora is home to 24 14th century monasteries that sit at the top of karst pinnacles, though only six are still occupied. They were once only accessed by rope ladders, but thankfully there are now steps. The cliff faces also feature caves where hermits lived an even simpler life than those in the teetering monasteries. The monasteries, which used to be supplied by rope and pulley systems, house woodcarvings, frescoes, paintings, and one even features the skulls of the first founders. You’ll enjoy some great views back over the town. The area makes for incredibly dramatic photos – multi-colour streaked rock, bright green forest, and the pale terracotta of the monastery roofs against the Grecian sky. The mists that can surround the pinnacles make the constructions seem like they’re floating in the air. Hawks drift on the valley thermals looking for prey, and black-frocked priests shuffle silently around.
A strict dress code applies when entering any of the monasteries. No bare shoulders or knees are permitted, and women must wear skirts. It is possible to borrow a long skirt at the door if you don't have one. Please also note that today will involve a fair bit of walking with many stairs, so it is recommended you wear comfortable shoes.
Day 6: Delphi
Travel by public bus to Delphi (approximately 4,5 hours). Located on the slopes of Mt Parnassos, by a valley of cypress and olives trees, this modern town and ancient ruins overlooks the Gulf of Corinth. The ancient Greeks regarded Delphi as the centre of the world (legend says that Zeus sent two eagles flying from opposite ends of the world and they crossed paths over Delphi), and today it’s one of the country's most inspiring and memorable archaeological sites. On arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk of the cliffside town of Delphi. Then, make the most of your afternoon by visiting the ancient site of Delphi. Here you’ll find the famous sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena, which contain numerous monuments, temples, a well-preserved theatre, and the impressive reconstructed Athenian Treasury. The site was also home to the Delphic oracle, said to have spoken for Apollo himself – she sat on a chasm, inhaling vapours from the Earth and entering a trance-like state, her cryptic answers to questions translated by priests. There’s also a mountain-top stadium, which were used for the Pythian Games (an Olympic Games precursor), held every four years as early as 586 BC.
Day 7: Athens
Travel back to Athens today by bus, arriving in the late afternoon (approximately 3,5 hours). Shop for the perfect souvenir at the Monastiraki flea market or take a relaxing stroll through the Greek national gardens. If you haven’t already, check out the Temple of Olympian Zeus or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to watch the changing of the guard. While in the neighbourhood explore the excellent Museum of Athens, Syntagma square with the Parliament building, and the Panathinaiko Stadium which housed the first Olympic games in 1896.
Day 8: Athens
Today you'll have more time to explore Athens. Highlights include the renowned changing of the guard at Syntagma (Parliament) Square. Maybe join an Urban Adventure day trip, such as 'Taste of Athens' or 'Markets, Ruins and Ancient Athens'. You could also take a day trip to the Peloponnese peninsula to ancient Epidavros and the beautiful city of Nafplion.
As this is a combination trip, your leader and the composition of your group may change at this point. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary. You're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Day 9: Syros
Today travel by metro to the port of Piraeus, then catch a relaxing scenic ferry to Syros (approximately 4 hours). In the heart of the Cyclades, Syros offers a rare opportunity to see the islands as the Greeks do. Also known as Syra, the island features typical whitewashed houses, farms, terraced fields and gorgeous sandy beaches. Upon arrival on one of the Aegean's most underrated islands, discover abandoned windmills, ancient ruins and charming villages on a network of stone-paved tracks that crisscross the island. Syros is also home to delicious sweets – take a wander through the main town of Ermoupolis, home to gorgeous neoclassical mansions and 19th-century tenement blocks, and try the hazelnut, almond or honey-filled wafers or the fruit-flavoured jelly from one of many one-room shops. You'll have plenty of time to explore tomorrow, so perhaps kick up your feet at a waterfront cafe and watch the setting sun turn the houses pink.
Day 10: Syros
Take a walk through the fortress-like town of Ano Syros, which offers great views of the Aegean Sea. Wander the narrow alleyways, pass handmade-souvenir shops and keep an ear open for traditional Rembetiko music floating out of the family-run tavernas. Enjoy free time to further explore Syros at your own pace. Perhaps head to the various archaeological sites on the island, or you might prefer to simply hole up on a beach for the afternoon. Outside of Ermoupolis are many small tranquil coves, while the most popular beaches are on the southern side of the island. While some are sandy and others pebbly, all boast crystal clear waters for swimming in. In the evening, take taxis to a taverna in the a remotely located village in the rugged northern part of the island to sample delicious local specialities during an included meal, all while watching the sun set over the Aegean Sea.
Day 11: Mykonos
Today board a two-hour ferry to Mykonos, a beautiful island named in honour of Apollo's grandson. Mykonos is legendary both in ancient and modern times. Known in ancient Greek mythology as the battlefield where Zeus fought the Gigantes, today the island is best known for its decadence, style, and nightlife. Join your leader for a walk through the maze-like old town and be captivated by the quintessential Greek Isles vista of squat white houses brightly juxtaposed against the cerulean sea. Browse the chic galleries and boutiques, follow flower-lined paths past age-old churches and tiny restaurants to secluded, sandy beaches, and spend the afternoon soaking up the rays and splashing in the water. As the sun sets, join the group for a picnic dinner of local specialties. Your leader will know the ideal spot to sit back and enjoy an Aegean sunset.
Day 12: Delos / Mykonos
This morning you will take a half-day trip out to the nearby island of Delos. One of the most important archaeological and mythological sites in the Greek Islands, a sacred area that was once the political and religious centre of the Aegean, Delos is considered to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. A living museum, the wealthy built mansions in the town that developed around Apollo’s sanctuary, decorating them with luxurious frescoes, mosaics and statues. The island is overflowing with archaeological finds like the Terrace of the Lions and the Sacred Precinct, with many more still being uncovered. Later on today you might like to head to one of Mykonos' many beaches, which are some of the nicest in Europe. Take a short bus ride to the pumping Paradise or Super Paradise beach bars, or perhaps find a quieter spot to relax along the beautiful coastline. You could also check out the 19th-century House of Lena or the Aegean Maritime Museum in town. This evening you could make your way to the village of Ano Mera and seek out a tavern for a seafood dinner or perhaps wander down to Little Venice, where colourful balconies hang precariously over the sea.
Day 13: Santorini
Take a ferry and wind up this Greek adventure on the southern island of Santorini (approximately 3 hours). Renowned for its spectacular natural beauty, Santorini is one of Europe's tourist hotspots, the home of the iconic image of the Greek islands – whitewashed, blue-domed buildings clinging to the cliff face with sparkling water in the background. Discover the hilltop ruins of Ancient Thira and its fascinating Prehistoric Museum, as well as the archaeological site of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement that gives an insight into how the people here lived before the eruption. Check out the range of restaurants and shops in the island's capital, interchangeably called Thira or Fira. If you have time while you're here, perhaps head to one of Santorini's volcanic beaches, such as Red Beach or the black beaches of Perissa, Vlhada, Perivolos or Agios Georgios. Be sure to try some of the island’s delicious food – the nutrient-filled volcanic soil makes the ingredients grown here full of flavour.
Day 14: Santorini
In 1500 BC a volcanic eruption sank the centre of Santorini, forming one of the most significant geological formations on the planet – the awe-inspiring caldera. The spectacular natural beauty of this caldera is what makes Santorini such a special place. Today make an excursion along the crater rim, starting in Thira town and walking through little villages all the way to Oia, passing steep cliff faces and experiencing breathtaking views along the way. If you have time, you might also like to take a half-day trip to the island's volcano and hot springs in the centre of the lagoon. Or perhaps visit one of the island’s wineries – the vines here are cultivated in a very unusual way, with the plants being pruned to form a low basket shape that sits on top of the volcanic soil to protect the grapes from strong winds. On the last evening of your adventure, rub shoulders with friendly locals in packed pubs and cafes, sipping a cocktail as you witness a magnificent Santorini sunset.
Day 15: Santorini
Today your adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. You might want to extend your stay to see all Santorini has to offer. We are happy to book additional accommodation, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking.
Prices are based on low season travel - seasonal surcharges apply
Specific travel dates apply
*per person share twin