Ancient Origins Tour IRAQ

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Unveiling Ancient Treasures: Epic Iraq Tour - Oct 2024

Embark on an archaeological journey through Iraq's ancient civilizations. Featuring the Sumerian cities of Eridu and Uruk with their ziggurats and cuneiform writing, Karbala's Al-Ukhaider Fortress and Babylon, as well as the ruins of Nineveh, Nimrud, and Khorsabad, this tour provides a deeper understanding of Iraq's rich history
Sunday, October 20
Arrive in Basra (Iraq)
Upon arrival at Basra Airport, meet and transfer to Movenpick Hotel for check-in, rest, and then head to visit the Basrah Museum, housed in a former palace of Saddam Hussein. Its collection is related to Mesopotamian, Babylonian, and Persian civilizations, as well as the history of the city itself. It opened its doors to the public in March 2019. Transfer to Zenat Al-Hayat Movenpick Hotel for check-in and overnight.

Note: Standard check-in time is 14h00, but we will do our best to have an early check-in in case of early arrival
Meals: L, D
Overnight in Zenat Al-Hayat Movenpick Hotel
Monday, October 21
Basra - Nasiriya (Eridu, Tell Al-Ubaid, Larsa & Ur)
Begin the day with a visit to Tell Al-Ubaid and Eridu. We will tour in 4x4 cars. These ancient sites in southern Iraq were home to some of the world's earliest civilizations. Tell Al-Ubaid was a Sumerian city that flourished around 4000 BCE, while Eridu was a city in ancient Mesopotamia and one of the earliest cities in the world, dating back to 5400 BCE. Also, visit Larsa, “Tell es-Senkereh” an ancient city-state in southern Iraq that was a significant power during the second millennium BCE. It is known for its impressive architecture, its political and economic influence in the region. Continue to Ziggurat of Ur. Its architectural characteristics are similar to the Tower of Babel mentioned in the Bible, and there are towers of a temple complex dedicated to the lunar god Nanna. Tour the archeological city of Ur, believed to be the birthplace of prophet, Abraham. Continue to Nasiriya and transfer to Sumerian Hotel or similar for check-in, dinner and overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Tuesday, October 22
Nasiriya (Uruk)
After breakfast, drive to Uruk, an ancient Sumerian city in southern Iraq dating back to the 4th millennium BCE. It was one of the most important cities of ancient Mesopotamia and is known for its massive ziggurat, temple complexes, and the world's oldest known writing system, cuneiform. Uruk was the capital city of Gilgamesh. There are three major tells within the site: The Eanna district, Bit Resh (Kullaba), and Irigal. Archaeologically, the site is divided into six parts, the ÉAnna ziggurat ' Egipar-imin, the É-Anna enclosure (Zingel), the Anu-Antum temple complex, BitRes and Anu-ziggurat, Irigal, the South Building, Parthian structures including the Gareus-temple, and the Multiple Apse building, and the "Gilgameš" city-wall with associated Sinkâsid Palace and the Seleucid Bit Akîtu. Return to the Hotel for dinner and overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Wednesday, October 23
Nasiriya (Lagash)
Begin the day with a visit to Lagash, a city-state in ancient Sumeria. It was known for its advanced irrigation systems, impressive architecture, and for producing some of the earliest known legal codes, such as the Code of Urukagina. It is also called Tell Al Hiba, one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East. Visit Girsu now called “Tell Telloh” and the ancient site of Nina (Tell Zurghul) which is approx. 6.2 miles away and marks the southern limit of the state. Nearby Girsu (modern Telloh), about 16 miles northwest of Lagash, was the religious centre of the Lagash state. Return to the Hotel for dinner and overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Thursday, October 24
Nasiriya (Nippure & Borsippa) – Karbala
Enjoy breakfast and then head to visit Nippur, an ancient city in Mesopotamia. It was a religious and cultural center, with important temples dedicated to Enlil and the goddess Inanna were home to some of the world's oldest known libraries. Enjoy lunch and then continue the drive to Birs Nimrud, an important ancient city of Sumer, built on both sides of a lake about 11 miles southwest of Babylon on the east bank of the Euphrates. The Ziggurat is today one of the most vividly identifiable surviving ones, identified in the later Arabic culture with the Tower of Babel. However, modern scholarship concludes that the Babylonian builders of the Ziggurat in reality erected it as a religious edifice in honour of the local god Nabu, called the "son" of Babylon's Marduk. Transfer to Baron Hotel for checkin, dinner and overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Friday, October 25
Karbala (Al-Ukhaider & Babylon) - Baghdad
Early morning visit to Al-Ukaider Fortress, a historic fort west of Karbala Governorate built during the Abbasid era. It is known for its impressive structure, which includes towering walls and watchtowers. Visitors can explore the different sections of the fortress, which has played an important role in Iraq's history. After a break to take your picnic lunch, continue to visit Babylon, an ancient city in central Iraq known for its rich history and archaeological remains. The Great Gate and the Tower of Babel ruins are some of the most notable structures in the city. Explore the city's ruins, including the Ishtar Gate, one of the best-preserved structures from ancient Babylon. Continue to visit Kish in Tell al-Uhaymir (1hr. 14 min.), an archeological site in central Iraq dating back to the Sumerian civilization. Explore the remains of the ancient city, including the Ziggurat, the largest structure on the site. Kish was an important center of trade and religion during the Sumerian period, and its remains provide valuable insights into civilization. Upon arrival in Baghdad, transfer to Noorland Hotel for check-in. Dinner at a nearby restaurant then return to the Hotel for overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Saturday, October 26
Baghdad (Samarra)
Begin the full-day tour with a drive to Samarra, an ancient city in central Iraq known for its impressive ruins and Islamic heritage sites. The city was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 9th century and boasts numerous historical monuments. Visits include the Abu Dulaf Mosque, considered one of the largest mosques in the world. It was built during the Abbasid period in the 9th century AD and is named after a Sufi saint, Abu Dulaf al-Qadri. The mosque has a unique design with a square plan, four minarets, and a central dome. The exterior is decorated with intricate geometric designs, while the interior has elaborate calligraphy and tile work. The mosque is an important historical and religious site for Muslims and attracts many visitors from around the world. Dar al-Khalifa, also known as "Jawsaq Palace," is historic and was built during the Abbasid Caliphate in the 9th century AD and served as a summer residence for the caliphs. The palace was initially decorated with lavish mosaics, frescoes, and other artistic features and is considered an outstanding example of Islamic art and architecture. Today, the palace is open to visitors as a museum, displaying artifacts and exhibits related to the history of the Abbasid period. Also, visit Al-Mutasim Rest House, a historic site built during the Abbasid period as a royal palace by Caliph alMutasim in the 9th century AD. The palace was later converted into a rest house and used to accommodate visitors to the city. The site features a courtyard, a mosque, and several rooms used to house travelers. The palace has been well preserved and restored over the centuries, and visitors can still see the beautiful tile work and intricate carvings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the building. The site is a popular destination for tourists and history enthusiasts interested in learning about the rich cultural heritage of Iraq. Continue the drive and visit Tell al-Alijviewing mound, a historic site that offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, and the Malwiya Spiral Minaret, a unique architectural structure located in the ancient city of Samarra in central Iraq. Built in the 9th century CE during the Abbasid Caliphate, the minaret is notable for its distinctive spiral ramp, which winds around the outside of the tower and leads to the top. The tower itself is over 50 meters tall. The Malwiya Minaret was originally part of a complex of buildings that included a mosque and a palace, and it is thought to have been used as a symbol of power and prestige for the Abbasid rulers. Today, the minaret remains an important cultural and architectural landmark, attracting visitors from around the world. Despite being damaged over the centuries, including by military conflicts, the Malwiya Spiral Minaret has been extensively restored and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Return to the Hotel for dinner and overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Sunday, October 27
Baghdad (Ctesiphon & Wasit)
Begin the day with a drive to Ctesiphon, an ancient city located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in modern-day Iraq. The city was founded in the 3rd century BCE and served as the capital of the Parthian Empire and later as the capital of the Sassanian Empire. Ctesiphon was known for its impressive architecture, including the Taq Kasra arch, one of the largest singlespan arches in the world, which served as the main entrance to the royal palace. The city was also an important center of trade and commerce, with a strategic location on the Silk Road connecting the East and West. Today, the ruins of Ctesiphon are a popular tourist destination, and the site has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, the ongoing conflict in Iraq has posed a threat to the preservation of the site, and efforts are being made to protect and conserve the cultural heritage of this important historical city. Continue the drive to Wasit - early mosque (3 hrs.), an ancient city in central Iraq known for its rich history and archaeological remains. It is one of the most notable structures in the city, dating back to the Umayyad period. Visitors can explore the city's ruins, including the remains of the city walls, houses, and the mosque. Wasit was an important center of trade and culture during the medieval period, and its remains provide valuable insights into the region's history. Return to Noorland Hotel for dinner and overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Monday, October 28
Baghdad (Iraq Museum & Selusia)
Begin the day with a visit to the Iraqi National Museum one of the Middle East's largest and most important museums. The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits related to the history and culture of Iraq, including artifacts from Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, and other periods of Iraqi history. The collection includes ancient artifacts such as pottery, statues, cuneiform tablets, jewelry, Islamic art, and other cultural objects from different periods of Iraqi history. Continue the drive and visit to Selucia, an archeological site in central Iraq dating back to the Hellenistic period. It was an important center of trade and culture during that time and played a vital role in the region's history. Visitors can explore the city's remains, including the remains of the city walls, houses, and the temple of Zeus. Return to Noorland Hotel for dinner and overnight
Meals: B,L,D
Tuesday, October 29
Baghdad (Abassid Palace, Bab alwastani & Aqargouf)
Begin the day with a visit to the Abbasid Palace, built in the 12th century AD by the Abbasid Caliph Al-Nasir li-Din Allah. The palace was distinguished by a distinctive architectural design, as it contains a central courtyard and two floors of rooms, with beautiful arches and muqarnas in brick and an impressive Iwan with brick ceilings and facades. Head to visit the Mustansiriya Madrasa, an Islamic educational institution located in the heart of the old city of Baghdad, Iraq. It was founded in 1227 CE by the Abbasid caliph al-Mustansir and is considered one of the oldest universities in the world. The madrasa was known for its impressive architecture, with intricate decorations and a large courtyard surrounded by lecture halls, dormitories, and other facilities for students and teachers. The curriculum includes various subjects, including Islamic law, theology, philosophy, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and literature. Many famous scholars and intellectuals studied and taught at the madrasa over the centuries, making it an important center of learning and culture in the Islamic world. Continue to visit the Copper market, one of the country's oldest and most famous markets, dating back to the Abbasid era. The market is known for its copper goods, including pots, plates, trays, lamps, other decorative items, and other handicrafts and souvenirs. Explore the narrow alleys and stalls of the market, haggling with vendors and admiring the beautiful and intricate copper wares on display. Also, visit Mutanabbi Street, known as the intellectual and cultural center of the city. Named after the famous 10th-century Iraqi poet Abu al-Tayyib al-Mutanabbi, the street has been home to many booksellers, publishers, and intellectuals for decades. The street features many bookshops, cafes, and galleries, where visitors can browse various books on various subjects, including literature, poetry, history, politics, and religion. The street is also home to many street performers, including musicians, artists, and storytellers, who entertain visitors with their talents. Visit Aqarqouf Ziggurat, known as Dur-Kurigalzu Ziggurat, an ancient, stepped pyramid near the city. Built during the Kassite period of Mesopotamian history (14th -12th centuries BCE), it is one of the best-preserved Ziggurats in Iraq. The Ziggurat was constructed as a religious center and served as a temple dedicated to the god Ninurta. It is built from mud bricks and rises to approximately 52 meters. Drive back to Baghdad stopping en route at Bab alWastani, also known as “Bab Khorasan”, one of ancient Baghdad gates and is the only remaining gate today. The site was restored and can be overlooked from the b>Muhammad al-Qassim Highway. At the same time, the surrounding graves, and mosques which date back to Abbasid era, known as Al-Wardiyya Cemetery, were uprooted in order to build the infrastructure for tourism surrounding the gate. Return to the Hotel for dinner and overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Wednesday, October 30
Baghdad (Ashur & Hatra) - Mosul
After breakfast, begin the drive to Ashur, the first capital of the Assyrian Empire, which remained a major religious, political, and cultural center for over 2,000 years. The city was known for its impressive architecture, including its massive city walls, impressive palaces, and the Temple of Ashur, which was dedicated to the city's patron god. The temple was a major pilgrimage site renowned for its wealth and splendor. The city also played an important role in developing writing, art, and other ancient Near Eastern cultural aspects. Continue the drive to Hatra, founded in the 3rd century BC, became a major trading center and a powerful regional political and military force. Hatra is known for its unique architectural style blend, combining Hellenistic, Parthian, and Persian elements. The city was surrounded by a large wall and featured many impressive buildings, including temples, palaces, and a grand theater. The temples were dedicated to various gods and goddesses, reflecting the diverse religious beliefs of the city's inhabitants. The city was also known for its highly skilled artisans, who produced intricate works of art, including jewelry, pottery, and textiles. Hatra's importance declined after the Roman Empire sacked it in the 3rd century AD and was eventually abandoned. Transfer to Modern Plaza Hotel for check-in, dinner, & overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Thursday, October 31
Mosul (Nineveh)
After breakfast, head to visit Nineveh, an ancient Assyrian city founded in the 3rd millennium BCE and grew to become one of the largest and most important cities in the ancient world, with a population of over 100,000 people. Nineveh served as the capital of the Assyrian Empire, a powerful empire that dominated the region for several centuries. The city was known for its impressive walls, palaces, and temples, including the Temple of Ishtar. However, the Babylonians sacked and destroyed the city in 612 BCE, marking the end of the Assyrian Empire. Begin the day with a visit to Tell Nabi Younnas, believed to be the site of the ancient city of Dur-Sharrukin, built by the Assyrian king Sargon II in the 8th century BCE. The place was abandoned soon after its construction and was later used as a burial ground by the local population. The name "Tell Nabi Younnas" means "the hill of the prophet Jonah" in Arabic refers to the tradition that the prophet Jonah was buried at the site. The site contains the remains of several large buildings, including a palace, a ziggurat, and a temple, as well as numerous smaller structures and tombs. Visit Mosul Museum (under renovation), established in 1952 and containing a vast collection of artifacts and antiquities from the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations and Islamic and Ottoman eras. The exhibition included sculptures, pottery, coins, manuscripts, and other objects of historical and cultural significance. However, during the ISIS occupation of Mosul in 2014, the museum was looted, and many of its priceless artifacts were destroyed or sold on the black market. Return to the Modern Plaza Hotel for dinner and overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Friday, November 01
Mosul (Nimrud- Khorsabad) - Erbil
Begin the day with a visit to Nimrud, an ancient Assyrian city founded in the 13th century BC and became an important center of the Assyrian empire. The city was known for its impressive architecture and monumental art and was home to several important buildings, including the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II and the Temple of Ishtar. Head to visit Khorsabad, founded by the Assyrian king Sargon II in the 8th century BC and served as the capital of the Assyrian empire for a short time. The city was known for its impressive architecture and monumental art and was home to several important buildings, including the Palace of Sargon II. The palace was decorated with elaborate reliefs, sculptures depicting the king, and various mythological and religious scenes. Transfer to Erbil International Hotel for check-in, dinner, and overnight.
Meals: B,L,D
Saturday, November 02
Erbil (Citadel & Bazaar)
Enjoy breakfast and then begin the drive to visit Erbil Citadel, a historic fortress located in the heart of Erbil, the capital city of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. With a history dating back over 6,000 years, the citadel has been continuously inhabited and is recognized as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Today, the citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been restored to its former glory, with traditional architecture, museums, shops, and restaurants. Continue the drive to the Erbil Bazaar, a bustling and vibrant market in the city's heart. The bazaar is the perfect place to explore traditional Kurdish culture and purchase local goods, including spices, textiles, jewelry, and traditional clothing. Enjoy bargaining with local vendors and trying traditional Kurdish food in one of the many restaurants and cafes in the bazaar. (Free time on own). Return to the Hotel for dinner and overnight

Meals: B,L,D

Optional: Visit to the Museum of Civilization, one of Iraq's largest and most comprehensive museums, showcasing the region's history and culture from prehistoric times to the present day. The museum features a variety of exhibits, including artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, Assyrian and Babylonian empires, and Islamic civilization.
Sunday, November 03
Erbil - Departure
Transfer to the airport for your flight back

Meals: B

“We reserve the right to change the order of activities or places visited due to unforeseen schedule conflicts or in order to make the itinerary run smoothly”
Photos © Andrew Collins

Inner mysteries of Egypt and the Nile - October 2023

Delight in this 14-night/15-day luxury tour of Egypt visiting Giza, Cairo, Saqqara, Luxor, El-Fayyum Oasis, Karnak, Edfu, Abydos, Dendera, Kom Ombo, the Valley of the Kings, Abu Simbel, and many more outstanding destinations in the land of the pharaohs! Enjoy unique special access to the enigmatic Sphinx monument and Great Pyramid during private visits.
Day 1 – October 13, 2023
Arrive in Egypt
Arrive in Egypt. Pick up at Cairo International Airport and transfer to Giza hotel. Orientation in evening. First night in 5* Giza hotel (Steigenberger Pyramids).
Meals: D
Overnight in Giza Steigenberger Pyramids Hotel – Pyramid view upgrade
Day 2 – October 14, 2023
El Fayyum
Departure by bus for the el-Fayyum Oasis. In the morning travel by bus to the el Fayyum Oasis. Visit the Pyramid of Hawara, built for Amenemhet IV, and also the site of the fabled Egyptian Labyrinth, one of the most mysterious constructions of the ancient world finished by Amenemhet IV’s daughter, Egypt’s fabled first female king, Sobekneferu. Lunchtime at hotel. Free afternoon with lecture on the next day’s visit to Qasr el-Sagha temple. First night in el-Fayyum
Meals: B L D
Day 3 – October 15, 2023
El Fayyum
Journey by 4 x 4 vehicles north of the great Lake Birket Quran (the Lake Moeris of classical times) and arrive at the Qasr el Sagha temple. Made of polygonal blocks and cyclopean masonry, this mysterious megalithic structure is one of the remaining enigmas of ancient Egypt. We spend the entire day investigating the temple and the surrounding area looking for clues as to who built it, when and why. Experience the evening at the temple site before returning to the hotel. Second night in el-Fayyum.
Meals: B L D
Day 4 – October 16, 2023
In the morning leave el-Fayyum for Saqqara. See the enigmatic Serapeum, a labyrinth of underground catacombs housing gigantic sarcophagi said to have once contained the mummified remains of sacred Apis bulls. See evidence of the advanced technology used in the construction of these massive granite sarcophagi. Visit the Pyramid of Teti to see the Pyramid Texts recording the journey of the soul of the pharaoh to the afterlife and visit the Heb-sed court in front the Step Pyramid, built for the pharaoh Djoser around 2675 BCE. Journey on to Giza. Second night at Giza.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Giza Steigenberger Pyramids Hotel – Pyramid view upgrade
Day 5 – October 17, 2023
Giza Pyramid and Sphinx
Private visit to the Sphinx enclosure to watch the sunrise between 5-7am. The Sphinx is one of the most iconic monuments in the world. It is the head of a pharaoh and the body of a lion, thought to represent Khafre, the builder of the Second Pyramid circa 2550 BCE. Afterwards view the exterior of the Great Pyramid, the panorama view, and the Valley Temple of Khafre. Private visit to the Great Pyramid at night. Third night at Giza.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Giza Steigenberger Pyramids Hotel – Pyramid view upgrade
Day 6 – October 18, 2023
Grand Egyptian Museum
Visit the Grand Egyptian Museum. Depart to Cairo Airport for a flight to Aswan. First night in Aswan. Note, the museum is not yet open but hopefully it will be by October 2023. In case the Grand Museum is not open, we will provide visits to the Egyptian Museum and the Museum of Civilization, including the Mummy Hall.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Movenpick Hotel, Aswan Island - Nile View upgrade
Day 7 – October 19, 2023
Abu Simbel
Drive by bus to Abu Simbel. On the way stop off to inspect a natural rock mesa on the edge of the Libyan Desert. Examine its geology and take in the ambience of the desert environment. In the afternoon visit the iconic rock-cut temple of Abu Simbel, built during the reign of Rameses II and moved to its current position during a mammoth engineering project following the building of the Nasser Dam in the 1960s. See also the rock-cut temple of his wife Nefertari. Second night in Aswan.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Movenpick Hotel, Aswan Island - Nile View upgrade
Day 8 – October 20, 2023
Philae Temple & Unfinished Obelisk
Visit the Temple of Philae dedicated to the Goddess Isis. Later, visit the gigantic unfinished granite monolith still attached to the bedrock in a quarry. Examine the methods used to extract obelisks and statues from the living rock including the inexplicable scoop marks suggestive of the use of a lost technology. Felucca ride to Elephantine Island where you can see the ruins of the Khnum Temple. Free time in the evening for wandering in Aswan’s old markets. First night on Nile Cruise.
Meals: B L D
Overnight on 5* Nile Cruise Ship
Day 9 – October 21, 2023
Kom Ombo Temple
Sail north to Luxor. Disembark to visit the Temple of Sobek at Kom Ombo, built under the rule of the Ptolemaic kings circa 180–150 BC. Second night on Nile Cruise.
Meals: B L D
Overnight on 5* Nile Cruise Ship
Day 10 – October 22, 2023
Edfu Temple
Continue on Nile Cruise. Disembark during the day to visit the magnificent temple of Horus at Edfu, built during the Ptolemaic period circa 175 BC. Its walls contain the most complete accounts of the creation of the world and the coming of the gods during the age of zep tepi, the First Time. See the temple’s holy of holies which includes a wooden boat on which the God Horus came down from heaven. Third night on Nile cruise.
Meals: B L D
Overnight on 5* Nile Cruise Ship
Day 11 – October 23, 2023
Karnak Temple & Luxor Temple
Arrive in Luxor, ancient Thebes, the capital of Egypt in the south. Disembarkation, followed by a visit to Karnak Temple. Transfer to the hotel and check in for some rest. In the early evening visit the Temple of Luxor, illuminated by lights. Built during the New Kingdom period, 1575-1050 BCE, it marks the beginning of the newly reopened Sphinx Avenue, which has 1000 sphinxes - 800 on either side - lining the ceremonial site to Karnak temple. First night in Luxor.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Sonesta St George - Nile View upgrade
Day 12 – October 24, 2023
Abydos Temple & Dendera Temple
Journey north by luxury bus to the Temple of Abydos, built for King Seti I around 1290-1279 BCE. See also the extraordinary ancient structure known as the Osireion, a subsurface temple located beyond the present temple and thought to be a symbolic representation of the Tomb of Osiris, god of the dead. See the building’s cyclopean masonry and polygonal walls similar to those of the Qasr el Sagha temple in the el-Fayyum Oasis and the Valley Temple of Khafre at Giza. Ponder on its immense age and unique construction. After lunch continue on to the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. Visit its underground crypts where strange reliefs indicate the use by ancient Egyptians of advanced technologies. Return to Luxor. Second night in Luxor.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Sonesta St George - Nile View upgrade
Day 13 – October 25, 2023
Valley of the Kings, Ramesseum & Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple
Cross the Nile by boat and enter the Theban West Bank, the ancient Egyptian realm of the dead. Visit the Valley of the Kings and see the Tomb of Tutankhamun as well as other tombs decorated with reliefs showing the books of the underworld. Also visit the Ramesseum with its astronomical ceiling and colossal statues of Rameses II, as well as the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Stop off for photos at the Colossi of Memnon, gigantic statues of the pharaoh Amenhotep III dating to circa 1375 BCE. Third night in Luxor.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Sonesta St George - Nile View upgrade
Day 14 – October 26, 2023
Habu Temple, Deir Medina & Howard Carter’s House
Visit the West Bank again to cover the rest of the important sightseeing which can’t be missed there, including the Habu Temple, Deir Medina, and Howard Carter’s House. In the early evening fly back to Cairo, transfer to a hotel in the Le Meridien Cairo Airport.
Meals: B L D
Day 15 – October 27, 2023
Cairo departure
Final goodbyes and transfer to Cairo airport.
Meals: B
Photos © Andrew Collins

The Splendours of Ancient Anatolia and Turkey - Oct 2023

Ancient Origins' Dr Alistair Coombs reveals the histories and mysteries of Turkey and ancient Anatolia on this exclusive tour. From sublime views on the summit of Mount Nemrut, to the unique underground cities of Cappadocia, and of course a journey through Göbekli Tepe, this trip will provide you with amazing experiences!
Day 1 - Wed, 11 Oct, 2023

Arrive directly in Istanbul. Pick up at the airport and private transfer to the hotel. In the evening enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation by your tour leader.

Meals: D
Overnight in Levni Hotel (Sultanahmet), Istanbul
Day 2 - Thu, 12 Oct, 2023

After breakfast depart for your full day tour of Old Istanbul. The group will depart for the Hippodrome, where you will visit the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. Late afternoon, depart for the bustling Grand Bazaar, a fascinating place to see traders and do some shopping. Return to the hotel.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Levni Hotel (Sultanahmet), Istanbul
Day 3 - Fri, 13 Oct, 2023

After breakfast, depart for more sightseeing in Istanbul, including the Basilica Cistern, the Archaeological Museum complex and the Turkish Islamic Art Museum. Have lunch in a traditional restaurant. Time-permitting, visit the Spice Market. Return to the hotel.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Levni Hotel (Sultanahmet), Istanbul
Day 4 - Sat, 14 Oct, 2023
Istanbul – Adiyaman

After breakfast in Istanbul, transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Adiyaman. Proceed to visit Karakus Timulus, Cendere Bridge and Arsemia. Finally you will visit Nemrut Dagi (Mount Nemrut). At the apex of this mountain (at over 2,000 meters) are the enigmatic statues of a pre-Roman king, Antiochus I Theos of Commagene, and the various gods he believed to be his ancestors. The views from the summit are sublime.
(NOTE: it is a 30-45 minute walk to the summit depending on your pace. The path is uneven. We recommend wearing layers as the temperature is much colder at the summit).
Afterwards, proceed to your hotel in the mountains.

Note: a light lunch will be served on the flight

----- Cendere Bridge is one of the world's oldest bridges still in use, constructed during the empire of Septimus Severus (193-211). Composed of 92 stones, each weighing around 10 tons, it is thought to be the second largest Roman bridge still in existence, spanning an impressive 122 metres. The bridge today appears as a simple, unadorned arch, but was originally decorated by four Corinthian columns dedicated to Septimus Severus and his wife. Arsemia was the summer capital of the Commagene Kingdom and burial place of Mithridates. It is home to the largest rock inscription found in Anatolia, which describes the political and religious beliefs of the inhabitants.

King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene claimed himself a god, but there is no denying that his royal lineage was impressive. He was the creator of Mount Nemrut and the monumental pantheon of statues of himself and the gods on the mountain summit provide ring-side seats to history unfolding on the staged landscape before them. Gazing towards the east over centuries, the headstone of Antiochus would have seen the rise and fall of the Achaemenid Dynasty, as well as the Parthians; and gazing towards the west he would have seen the advance of Alexander the Great, the rivalry between the Seleucid and Orontid Dynasties for control of Armenia and finally the Roman legions marching into his land, swallowing his little Kingdom of Commagene. Behind the display of statues are some well-preserved slabs of stone which feature figures in relief carving and are originally thought to have formed a large frieze. Archaeologists interpret the figures as Antiochus' ancestors, which included Greeks and Persians. It is the perfect place to experience a sunset or sunrise as the views from the summit are sublime.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Hotel Euphrat Nemrut
Day 5 - Sun, 15 Oct, 2023
Adiyaman – Gōbekli Tepe - Urfa

Today we drive to Urfa, stopping en-route at one of the world’s most significant archaeological sites - Gōbekli Tepe. We will spend a couple of hours exploring Gōbekli Tepe, the world's oldest stone temple complex, constructed nearly 12,000 years ago, making it the oldest megalithic site on the planet. See its extraordinary circles of T-shaped standing stones with carved reliefs of birds, animals and other abstract forms. Learn its history and place in the origins of civilisation.

Drive to Urfa, check-in at hotel and early evening, visit the Pools of Abraham in the centre of Urfa.

----- Göbekli Tepe, the oldest place of worship in the world, is an archaeological site without equal. Prior to its discovery in 1994 and its subsequent excavation it was widely believed by anthropologists that religion evolved as a result of living in larger communities which was itself the result of the change from foraging to agriculture. However, Göbekli Tepe has turned our theories of our own evolution on their head. The vast religious site dates from the hunter gatherer period and there is no evidence of any agriculture or even human habitation, suggesting that it may have been the emergence of religion that lead us to civilisation and thus to agriculture. The site contains a vast array of circular structures and huge pillars, some with beautiful limestone carvings of lions, foxes, snakes and birds, believed to be gatekeepers of the entrance to the next world. To date, less than ten percent of the site has been excavated.

Urfa (a.k.a. Sanliurfa, "the prophet's city", or Edessa in ancient times) is the most spiritual city in Eastern Turkey. It is a major centre for pilgrimage and its traditions are very much alive and well. The "Sanli-" part of its name (meaning "great" or "dignified") was awarded by the Turkish legislature in 1984 in recognition of the city's pivotal role in the Turkish war of Independence. Of particular note for visitors are Urfa Castle (the current walls were constructed by the Abbasids in 814AD), the Pool of Sacred Fish where Abraham was thrown in to the fire by Nimrod, the park of mosques, the market area and the Urfa museum.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Urfa
Day 6: Mon, 16 Oct, 2023
Excursion to Karahan Tepe – Sogmatar - Harran

In the morning we will visit Karahan Tepe and Sogmatar. Later in the afternoon, travel to the ancient city of Harran, once the centre of Egypt's Hermetic tradition. See its "Astrological Tower", citadel and the local village known for its unique ‘beehive’ homes. Return to Urfa early evening.

----- Not far from Göbekli Tepe is another Pre-Pottery Neolithic site called Karahan Tepe, which dates to a similar age as Göbekli Tepe. Stone rows, T-shaped stone pillars, and other standing stones cover a hill but they have not been excavated.

Sogmatar, about 57 km (35.41 miles) from the ancient city of Harran, flourished as a cultic center and holy city during the time of the Abgar dynasty of Edessa, from the 2nd century BC to the 3rd century AD. Among the ruins in Sogmatar are the remains of walls and turrets on the main hill that date to the 2nd century AD. A sanctuary to the planets is also found on the hill. Among the gods worshiped in the city are the principle deities from the surrounding cultures such as Sin, the Mesopotamian moon god whose main site of veneration was Harran.

The main temple, which still stands today, was an open-air temple where sacrifices were held. The temple was built on a hill which is surrounded by the ruins of seven large buildings which may have had religious significance. If these seven structures are associated with the temple, they may represent the five planets visible in antiquity and the sun and moon. It is not clear if there are any astronomical alignments associated with the hill or the seven structures surrounding it. The nearby subterranean temple which contains definite references to the planets and the moon god, however, makes it probable that this sacred hill involved worship of the celestial bodies as well. This makes the site potentially important for the study of ancient astral religion

Mentioned in the Book of Genesis, Harran is believed to have once been home to the Prophet Abraham. The site of the first Islamic university in Anatolia, Harran also boasts the remains of an 8th century mosque, a citadel and some 300 year- old beehive mud homes which enjoy a constant temperature throughout the year, winter or summer.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Urfa
Day 7: Tue. 17 Oct, 2023

Today you can take your time to explore the Urfa Archaeological Museum and the nearby Mosaic Museum.

Rest of the day is free to explore more of Urfa, including its tombs and Urfa Castle.

The Urfa Archaeological Museum contains many of the archaeological finds from Göbekli Tepe including steles and sculptures. It also contains Hittite sculptures from Golpinar and pieces from Harran, Nevali Cori and Kabahaydar.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Urfa
Day 8 - Wed, 18 Oct, 2023
Urfa – Ankara

Take the morning flight to the capital Ankara. On arrival we will have lunch followed by an afternoon visit to the Anatolian Civilisation Museum of Ankara and then Ankara Fort. In the museum you can expect to see artefacts and reconstructions from various Neolithic sites such as Catalhoyuk. Return to hotel in Ankara.

----- The Ankara Anatolian Civilisation Museum boasts many archaeological finds related to the excavations in Hattusa and Çatalhöyük, and will help you to gain a good understanding of these areas. The historical centre of Ankara sits overlooking the town on a hill and is littered with the remains of Hittite, Phrygian, Byzantine, Roman and Christian monuments and settlements. Of particular interest as a surviving example of ancient architecture is the Temple of Augustus. Often also referred to as 'Angora', Ankara is home to the Angora goat with its luxury wool and the unusual animal breeds of angora cats and rabbits.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Urfa
Day 9 – Thu, 19 Oct, 2023
Ankara – Hattusa – Cappadocia

After an early breakfast we will set off from Ankara to the Hittite capital of Hattusa (approx 3 hours drive). Spend 2-3 hours exploring the site and after lunch proceed by road to Cappadocia (3 hours). Dinner on arrival at hotel in Gōreme. Note: this day will involve quite a lot of driving.

----- Hattusa was once the centre of the Hittite Empire, dating back to the late Bronze Age. Set in what were once rich agricultural fields and among scenic, rolling hills, the city has some fine examples of early ancient architecture. Originally the inner city was a vast array of temples and monuments, overlooked by the royal residence on the acropolis. An architectural masterpiece in its time, the city gateway was once adorned with reliefs of warriors, lions and sphinxes, framing four temples, each of which had their own courtyard. The city was destroyed, along with the Hittites themselves, in the 12th century BC. By the 20th century, the principal remains of Hittite inscriptions were found on over 10,000 tablets.

The archaeological site of Hattusa, former capital of the Hittite Empire, is notable for its urban organization, the types of construction that have been preserved (temples, royal residences, fortifications), the rich ornamentation of the Lions' Gate and the Royal Gate, and the ensemble of rock art reliefs of the gods at Yazilikaya. The city enjoyed considerable influence in Anatolia and northern Syria in the 2nd millennium B.C.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Radisson Blu, Ankara
Day 10 - Fri. 20 Oct, 2023

After breakfast spend the day exploring some of Cappadocia's famous sights and dramatic landscapes. Sites will include: Gōreme Open Air Museum, Kaymakli Underground City and some of Cappadocia’s fairy chimney landscapes.

----- The Gōreme Open-Air Museum has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984 and is a vast complex of monasteries, each of which has its own church. These churches are the finest of the rock-cut churches, boasting beautiful frescoes (wall paintings). There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia and the largest one is Kaymakli Underground City. These troglodyte cave-cities were excavated as early as Hittite times, and expanded over the centuries as various pillaging armies crossed Central Anatolia in search of captives and plunder. The Kaymakli Underground City has low, narrow and sloping passages and consists of eight floors below ground, although only four of them are open to the public today. The number of the storage rooms in such a small area supports the idea that a great number of people resided here, archaeologists estimate figures of up to 3,500 people. As well as chapels, stables and storage, an efficient man-made system of air shafts provided ventilation even at the deepest levels of the underground cities, meaning people could survive there for lengths of time when necessary. The people of Kaymakli village have constructed their houses above nearly 100 tunnels of the underground city. The inhabitants of the region still use the most convenient places in the tunnels as cellars, storage areas and stables, which they access through their courtyards.

Meals: HB
Overnight in MDC Cave Hotel (or similar), Cappadocia
Day 11 - Sat, 21 Oct, 2023
Cappadocia - Konya

Drive towards Konya. On the way, we stop at Ashikli Hoyuk for a brief visit to this site, which is 10,000 years old. Stop for lunch. Visit Çatalhöyük, the world's oldest city, then return to Konya for a tour around its archaeological museum, with its spectacular Çatalhöyük exhibition. In the evening take in a Whirling Dervishshow.

--- Konya is an affluent, mid-sized city in Central Turkey. It is the centre of all things Sufi and also strongly linked to Seljuk culture.

Çatalhöyük, widely believed to be the world's first town, is one of the best preserved examples of a Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement. Built around two hills of the Anatolian plateau, the settlement was inhabited for 2,000 years between 7500 BC and 5700 BC. Çatalhöyük began life as a village and, unusually, in a time when village settlements were abandoned and new land used to build cities, the buildings were adapted and urbanised to accommodate a growing population. With a particularly advanced culture for its time, Çatalhöyük boasts impressive early artworks: unusual artistic wall paintings, flint daggers with decorated bone handles and most notably, the clay and marble figurines found scattered around the site which archaeologists take as evidence of a female deity. The housing designs are perhaps the most striking – all the houses were clustered together in a maze-like manner, but instead of streets or footpaths the roofs functioned as paths between the houses which were accessed through steps and ladders leading through the ceiling. With no windows either, these 'doorways' in the ceiling were also the only means of ventilation. Çatalhöyük also had unusual burial customs, burying their dead under the floorboards, painting skulls with ochre.

Meals: HB
Overnight in MDC Cave Hotel (or similar), Cappadocia
Day 12 – Sun, 22 Oct, 2023
Konya – Istanbul

Take the morning flight back to Istanbul. End your trip with a delightful private sunset cruise on a yacht on the famous Bosphorus river. After disembarking, enjoy a farewell dinner with your group and tour leader.

----- Joining the Black Sea with the smaller south-western Sea of Marmara, the 20 mile-long Bosphorus has always been a site of great strategic and commercial importance. The desirable traits of providing access to Asia and being particularly narrow has meant that The Bosphorus has a long history of conflict that dates back to the 5th century BC with the Persians. The Bosphorus' shoreline is densely populated and possesses a number of architectural features that demonstrate its rich historical past.

Meals: B, D;
Overnight in Novotel Bosphorus, Istanbul
Day 13 – Mon, 23 Oct, 2023

Transfer to the airport at the appropriate time for your onward travel.

** If you would like to extend your stay in Turkey or any of the neighbouring countries contact us for options. **

Meals: B
Photos © Andrew Collins

The Minoan Islands: Crete and Santorini - 6 Day Extension

Let the adventure continue! Extend your tour of ancient Greece with six days exploring the palaces and towns of the Minoan Civilization on the islands of Crete and Santorini.
DAY 1: Tuesday 29 August
Crete – Knossos
Those joining us on the extended Minoan island tour will leave the Athens hotel early morning for the airport and we fly to Crete in the morning.

Arrangements will be made with our hotel in Athens to leave extra luggage there, since domestic flights have limited luggage allowances.

On arrival at the capital Heraklion, we check into the hotel, and we take a bus to Knossos, palace of the Minoan civilization – home of the mythical King Minos and the Minotaur which was slayed by Theseus. The Palace of Knossos was a multi-storey structural labyrinth, which differed from other contemporary palaces in that it had no defensive walls. Since there are no kitchens, it is believed the palace was a shrine or a ceremonial palace, rather than inhabited on a full time basis. Sir Arthur Evans the excavator, named the Megaron or Throne Room, King and Queen’s chambers, Grand Staircase, Pillar Halls, Lustral Baths, Hall of the Double Axes and the central court. We will see the famous Knossos frescoes depicting life at the palace.

We return to the capital Heraklion.
Meals: B
Overnight in Crete: Heraklion
DAY 2 Wednesday 30 August
Crete- Phaistos
We leave the hotel after breakfast to visit Phaistos. The historian Diodorus Siculus indicates that Phaistos, together with Knossos and Kydonia, are the three towns that were founded by King Minos on Crete. Phaistos was inhabited from about 4000 BC. A palace, dating from the Middle Bronze Age, was destroyed by an earthquake during the Late Bronze Age. Knossos along with other Minoan sites was destroyed at that time. The palace was rebuilt toward the end of the Late Bronze Age.

The first palace was built about 2000 BC. This section is on a lower level than the west courtyard and has a nice facade with a plastic outer shape, a cobbled courtyard, and a tower ledge with a ramp, which leads up to a higher level. The old palace was destroyed three times in period of about three centuries. After the first and second disaster, reconstruction and repairs were made, so there are three different construction phases. Around 1400 BC, the invading Achaeans destroyed Phaistos, as well as Knossos. The palace appears to have been unused thereafter, as evidence of the Mycenaean era have not been found.

We return to Heraklion, where you have the afternoon free at leisure.
Meals: B
Overnight in Crete: Heraklion
DAY 3 Thursday 31 August
Crete – Santorini
We check out after breakfast and take a ferry boat (2 hours) to the island of Santorini (ancient Thera). Enjoy the hospitality of Poseidon on the Mediterranean Sea. We check into the hotel. You are free to roam and explore in the afternoon and night at your leisure.
Meals: B
Overnight in Santorini: Fira
DAY 4 Friday 1 September
We leave the hotel after breakfast and we visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri – Akrotiri was a Minoan site enveloped in ash when the volcano erupted in the 17th century BC destroying the Minoan civilization. Akrotiri is a city preserved where one gets a unique glimpse in the every-day life of its Bronze Age inhabitants. Fresco’s, pots, beds, tables, ovens and toys tell the story of an almost fantastical civilization – whom some believe may have been Atlantean – that existed on this magical island.

We return to Fira, the capital of Santorini. Enjoy the rest of your day at leisure taking in the sights of the island, spend the day at the beach, visit the thermal spa or take a bus to Oia and watch the spectacular sunset.
Meals: B
Overnight in Santorini: Fira
DAY 5 Saturday 2 September
Santorini – Athens
Enjoy your last morning in Santorini. We meet at a predestined time at the hotel, take the bus down to the port and take a speedboat back to Piraeus / Athens. We check into the hotel.
Enjoy your last evening in Athens.
Meals: B
Overnight in Athens
DAY 6 Sunday 3 September
Transfer to airport at appropriate time for your flight home or to your onward destination.
Photos © Andrew Collins

An unforgettable cultural immersion experience of Hellenic heritage - Aug 2023

Explore the ancient wonders of Greece with our exclusive tour. Immerse yourself in the rich history of the birthplace of Western civilization as you visit iconic archaeological sites such as the Acropolis, the ancient city of Olympia, and the Oracle of Delphi. This is a journey you won't soon forget!
DAY 1: Friday 18 August
Arrival in Athens airport. Private transfer to hotel
DAY 2: Saturday 19 August
Athens: Acropolis, Philopappos Hill, Pnyx, Socrates prison, Acropolis Museum, Anafiotika, Plaka, Roman Agora
After breakfast, leave for the Acropolis, taking in the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereu, the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the Stoa of Eumenes and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus as we walk up the ancient rock. At the top we pass through the Propylaea, with the Temple of Athena Nike towering on our right. We see the famous Parthenon, the Erechtheum and the Temple of Poseidon as well as other sites on the rock. We feast our eyes on the views of Athens.

We descend and stroll over to the Philopappos Hill, just below the Acropolis to view the prison of Socrates and the Pnyx Hill, where the Athenian Assembly met and the stateman Pericles made his famous speech.

We visit the new Acropolis Museum, including the third floor Parthenon Gallery displaying original friezes as well as plaster copies of pieces missing – in December 2022 Pope Francis donated three fragments of Parthenon Marbles – the head of a horse, the head of a boy and the head of one of the metopes – that had been in the possession of the Vatican since the 18th century to the Acropolis Museum and hopefully these will be on display. We are holding thumbs that negotiations with the British Museum may be concluded to view the missing Elgin Marbles in their place in the Acropolis Museum.

After the museum we go to Anafiotika – a quaint little village on the slopes of the Acropolis, resembling a Greek island, where we have lunch at any one of the little restaurants lining the alleys. After lunch we wander through the Plaka to the Roman Agora, with Hadrian’s Library, the Horologion of Kyrrhestos /Tower of the Winds, and the Vespasianae or public ancient toilets. The rest of the afternoon is free for wandering around the shops and flea markets of the Plaka and dinner. Return to the hotel.
Meals: B L
Overnight in Athens
DAY 3: Sunday 20 August
Greek Agora, Kerameikos Cemetery, National Archaeological Museum, Temple Of Zeus, Panathenaic Stadium
We leave after breakfast and visit the Greek Agora, heart of ancient Athens’ hustle and bustle, where philospohers, statesmen, generals, metics and slaves mingled in the Stoa of Attalos, Hephastion, Stoa Basileios, seat of the archon basileus, Strategeion where the Athenian generals met and many other historic monuments you have read about.
We walk (10 minutes) to the ancient Kerameikos, a cemetery built along the ancient Sacred Way. We view the tombs of famous statesmen, artists, warriors and ordinary people and the museum. At the end of Kerameikos is the Akademes or school of Plato.

The bus picks us up and takes us to the National Archaeological Museum. Highlights at the museum is the Golden Mask of Agamemnon, the Bronze statue of Zeus/Poseidon, the jockey from Artemision, the Antikythera device and shipwreck display. Antiquities of Thira (Santorini), and the collection of Mycenaean Antiquities covers several halls. The Death Mask of Agamemnon as well as the jockey from Artemision are included in the exchange agreement between Greece and the British Museum. So if we are lucky enough to view the missing Parthenon Marbles, we may miss out on the mask and jockey, as they would be traveling to Britain.

The bus takes us to the famous Syntagma square, where we have lunch at any of the street cafes and view the changing of the guard in front of the Parliament building. The bus takes us to the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch for a photo session. This is the remnants of the largest temple built in Greece. It took six hundred years of interrupted construction until it was finally completed under Roman Emperor Hadrian’s reign. Next to it Hadrian’s Arch has an inscription: “This is Athens, the city of Theseus…” walk around the Arch and read another inscription on the opposite side.

The bus then takes us to the Panathenaic Stadium, completely built of marble where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896. After a photo session the bus takes us back to the hotel, from where you can wander among the souvenir shops and Flea Markets in the Plaka or the neighborhood of your hotel.

If possible, we will enquire whether there is a show at the Theatre of Odeon, or a light show of the Acropolis from Pnyx Hill during our Athens stay.
Meals: B L
Overnight in Athens
DAY 4: Monday 21 August
Athens – Brauron, Lavrion Sounion
We leave the hotel after breakfast to take the bus to the east coast of Attica to visit Brauron (45 minutes’ drive). Brauron was once one of the twelve cities of ancient Attica and an important site during the Mycenean period. Brauron was an important temple cult site for Artemis and the Arkteia festival was held here every four years. Young Athenian girls approaching maturity, called ‘arktoi’ or she-bears donned saffron coloured robes, danced and left offerings to her into the sacred spring and then walked in a procession back to the Acropolis.

From Brauron we drive to Thorikos (30 minutes) and Lavrion. Thorikos was also one of the twelve original settlements that were united in the synoikismos attributed to Theseus to form Archaic Athens. Thorikos directly faces Crete to the south, across the open Aegean Sea and is celebrated in mythology as the residence of Cephalus, whom Eos carried off to dwell with the gods, as well as the landing place of the goddess Demeter, when she came looking for her lost daughter Persephone. There are Mycenean tombs at this site. There is also a theatre believed to be the oldest standing theatre in the world. Just a few kilometers further, we find Lavrion, the site of the ancient silver mines, where we will visit the Mineralogical Museum, and the Archaeological Museum of Lavrion explaining the silver mines and their economical attribution to Athens, especially during wars. We have lunch on the Port of Lavrion.

We get back on the bus and drive to Sounion (10 minutes) to the magnificent Temple of Poseidon, crowning the cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. Legend tells that it was here that King Aegis of ancient Athens committed suicide by jumping from the cliff – giving the Aegean Sea its name. There is also a Temple of Athena on this site. The Temple of Poseidon is one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

We take a leisurely drive back along the scenic east coast of Attica, past the beaches of Varkiza, Vouliagmeni and Glyfada. If you like we can stop for sundowners and dinner (at your cost) at a beach side restaurant to watch the sun set on the Aegean Sea, whereafter we return to the hotel.
Meals: B L
Overnight in Athens
DAY 5: Tuesday 22 August
Nea Makri, Marathon, Rhamnous, Eleusis
The bus picks us up after breakfast and we drive to Nea Makri (45 minutes) where we have a short visit to the sanctuary of the Egyptian gods, built in 160 AD by Herodotus Atticus – some believe this was his estate. There is also a Roman bathhouse.

From Neo Maki it is a short drive to the Archaeological Museum of Marathon with the highlight of the tumulus of Plataeans. This is where Athens and Plataea under General Miltiades fought the army of King Darius of Persia, and won. The myth has Pheidippides running from Marathon to Athens after the battle, to announce the Greek victory with the word "nenikēkamen!" we've won! whereupon he promptly died of exhaustion. The distance eventually became fixed at 42.195 kilometres (26 miles 385 yards).

Then we drive to Rhamnous (20 minutes) where we find the sanctuary of the goddess Nemesis – the goddess of vengeance as well as a temple of the goddess Themis, the goddess of justice. The ruins of the ancient fortified acropolis offers a stunning view of the island of Evia.

We will drive to the Gulf of Elifsina to visit Eleusis (1 hour 10 minutes), site of the ancient Eleusis Mysteries celebrating Demeter’s search for Persephone, her descent and return from Hades. Eleusis has been voted the 2023 Culture Capital of Europe. Those brave enough can approach the Ploutonion, where Hades abducted Persephone to the Underworld, and we see the Telesterion, the "place for initiation" and even the sacred sanctuary of Demeter where only the high priestesses were allowed. Eleusis was also the end of the route of the Sacred Way from Athens, which hosted fine processions.

The bus will take us back to Athens in the late afternoon. If there is a show in celebration of the Culture Capital 2023, in Eleusis, we can book tickets for you.
Meals: B L
Overnight in Athens  
DAY 6: Wednesday 23 August
Athens – Aegina
Pack your bathing costumes! We take a day trip by boat (schooner) to the island of Aegina, where we visit the Temple of Apollo on the coast and the little museum. We relax in the town of Aegina, enjoy a taste of Greek island life and have lunch either on the waterfront or on the boat back to Piraeus.

The bus returns us to the hotel.
Meals: B L
Overnight in Athens
DAY 7: Thursday 24 August
Delphi, Thermopylae
We check out of our hotel after breakfast and board the bus where we take the long drive (2 hours) all the way to Delphi in the north, stopping at the memorial of the Battle of Thermopylae, where King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans stood against the Persian forces of Xerxes, for a photo session.

We visit the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. In ancient times this was a sacred precinct that served as the seat of Pythia, the major oracle who was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. The ancient Greeks considered the centre of the world to be in Delphi, marked by the stone monument known as the omphalos (navel). Besides the Temple of Apollo, we visit stoas, the Sybil rock, and of course the famous circular Tholos of Delphi. We have a peek at the statue of the Charioteer at the Archaeological Museum of Delphi.

After lunch we drive 4 hours to the town of Kalambaka to arrive early evening and check into the hotel. We will only be staying here for one night.
Meals: B L
Overnight in Kalambaka
DAY 8: Friday 25 August
Meteora Monasteries
We check out of our hotel after breakfast and we visit the magnificent Meteora, a rock formation with precipitously balancing cliff monasteries built by of Eastern Orthodox monks. We will visit at least two of these exceptional constructions. They contain artistic treasures, frescoes and rare old manuscripts. Until the end of the 19th century, they could only be accessed by rope and baskets, but today we climb steps – an average of 140, to reach them. In the 1981 James Bond flick ‘For Your Eyes Only’, James circumvented the steps by scaling the rocks with a winch.

After an early lunch we board the bus and take a long drive (3 and a half hours) to reach the town of Nafpaktos in the late afternoon, where we book into our hotel. Nafpaktos was indebted for its historical importance to its harbour at the entrance of the Corinthian gulf. During the Peloponnesian War it was the headquarters of the Athenians in all their operations in Western Greece and the scene of the Battle of Nafpaktos in 429 BC. Relax and explore the port area on your own time and find a taverna.
Meals: B L
Overnight in Nafpaktos  
DAY 9: Saturday 26 August
We leave the hotel after breakfast and crossing over to the Peloponnese (2 hours), we arrive at the ancient site of Olympia where in 776 BC Iphitos, leader of the Eleians dedicated the local games to Zeus, which marks the first date of the Olympiad, held every four years, up to the 4th century AD. As we enter we notice the Prytaneion where the ceremonies honoring the winners took place. There is also the Philippeion, commemorating Philip of Macedon, his son Alexander, and wife Olympias, Amyntas III and Eurydice I. There is the hippodrome for horse races, and of course the stadion. Then there are the sites of the palaestra for wrestling training, various stoas, a bouleuterion, the workshop of Pheidias, the gymnasion, and the Leonidaion where the athletes stayed. Olympia was also known for the gigantic chryselephantine (ivory and gold on a wooden frame) statue of Zeus that was the cult image in his temple, sculpted by Pheidias, which was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Few people know before the site was dedicated to Zeus, female Olympics or Heraea were celebrated at the site. This was founded by Hippodameia out of gratitude to Hera, for granting her marriage to Pelops. The Temple of Hera and Metroon or Temple to an ancient Mother Goddess marks the site as originally female.

We drive down to Kalamata (80 km) to check into our hotel.
Meals: B L
Overnight in Kalamata  
DAY 10: Sunday 27 August
After breakfast we drive to the ancient city state of Messene. The site was founded in the Bronze Age as Ithome, an ancient city originally of Achaean Greeks which eventually came under the hegemony of the military state of Sparta and the Spartans eventually destroyed it. Epaminondas of Thebes eventually built the new city of Messene on the site in 369 BC over the ruins of Ithome and invited the return of the previous inhabitants and their descendants. The city features springs, an agora, gymnasium, the Asclepieion, its place of sacrifice, the tomb of the hero Aristomenes and the temple of Zeus Ithomatas.

We return to Kalamata and have the afternoon free. This evening we visit the Kastraki restaurant and castle for a dinner overlooking the sea. Preset menu dinner is on us, (drinks excluded).
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Kalamata  
DAY 11: Monday 28 August
Mycenae, Ancient Corinth – Athens
We check out of our hotel after breakfast and drive to Mycenae, the city where a dynasty was founded by Perseus, reaching down to Atreus and his son Agamemnon, who led the Greeks in the Trojan War. At the archaeological site, we pass through the Lion Gate and marvel at the Cyclopean masonry. On our right we encounter the Grave Circle A, where many skeletons of royalty and numerous treasures and grave goods were excavated. Some gold funerary masks even display Egyptian influence. We follow the path up towards the citadel, past the cult centre with the shrines of the idols, the High Priest’s house where the fresco of the well-known Mycenaean Lady was found – up to the Palace of Agamemnon. In the megaron the throne of the Wannax or King was found. From 1400 – 1200 the Mycenaean civilization was ruled from this room and this palace and the Great Ramp offers a spectacular view, before descending. We visit the Tholos Tombs outside the city walls, called the Treasury of Atreus – named after the mythological character of Agamemnon.

After Mycenae we stop for lunch and drive to ancient Corinth, a cosmopolitan city flourishing on trade. The agora of Corinth is a major archaeological site featuring many stoas and the beautiful Temple of Apollo. Following in the footsteps of St Paul along the broad paved streets, we wonder if he quenched his thirst at the Fountain of Glauke and the Pirene Fountain. Did he curse the temple prostitutes as he gazed up at the temple on Acrocorinth or did he attend the ancient theatre? The Corinthians were the first to build a paved slipway called a ‘diolkos’ to haul their boats over the Isthmus.

Then we cross the Isthmus of the Corinth Canal and drive back to Athens (1 hour) to our hotel.
Meals: B L
Overnight in Athens
DAY 12: Tuesday 29 August
End of main tour. Departure transfer to airport.

For those wanting to extend their tour with a 6-day extension to Crete and Santorini click here

Meals: B
Photos © Andrew Collins