Greek Isles & Aegean Wonders: A Round-Trip Cruise from Athens


Join us as we explore Athens and the fabled isles of the Aegean. Discover the ancient ports of the Turkish coast and visit remarkable archaeological sites including Istanbul center of the Ottoman Empire.

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 Santorini at sunset
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Join us for this idyllic spring cruise of the Aegean when the spring flowers dot the islands and the weather is pleasant. You’ll explore great centers of antiquity and six of the most renowned Greek Isles.

Highlights Include:

  • Athens: See the dramatic Parthenon and enjoy tours of the Acropolis and Benaki Museums.
  • Crete: Learn about the Minoan civilization at the Palace of Knossos.
  • Delos and Mykonos: Step ashore at sacred Delos, birthplace of Achilles, and enjoy time on Mykonos.
  • Ephesus and Pergamum: Walk through Ephesus, including the Terrace Houses, and ascend to the top of the amphitheater at Pergamum.
  • Istanbul: Spend two days in Istanbul to explore its many treasures.
  • Rhodes: Explore either the Old Town and Grand Master's Palace or the Acropolis at Lindos.
  • Santorini: View the ancient site of Akrotiri, view Bronze Age artifacts at the archaeological museum, and meander through the whitewashed towns of Oia and Fira.
  • Troy: Visit the archaeological site of legendary Troy or the World War I site of Gallipoli.

Space reserved for 60 Smithsonian Journeys participants.

Itinerary

Day 1 — Depart the U.S.

Smithsonian Journeys Travelers depart their gateway city on overnight flights for Athens, Greece.

Day 2 — Athens, Greece

Arrive Athens International Airport and transfer to the deluxe InterContinental Athenaeum Hotel where accommodations await. The evening is at leisure to relax and explore the hotel.

Day 3 – Athens

Join fellow travelers on a full morning’s escorted tour of the ancient citadel of Athens, the Acropolis a World Heritage Site. Built during the “Golden Age” of Athens under the orders of the great statesman Pericles, the Acropolis represents the magnificent achievements of Athenian culture during this remarkable era. You will also visit the recently opened Acropolis Museum. The afternoon is free so let your interests be your guide and explore on your own. You may want to head to the Old Quarter known as the Plaka. This evening get together with fellow travelers at a Welcome Reception at the hotel. (B)

Day 4 – Athens

The day is free of planned activities so you can follow your own path and explore independently or take an Optional Excursion to Delphi. One of the most important archeological sites in Greece, Delphi was inhabited as early as Neolithic times. By the Mycenean period, it was already an important religious center. Delphi was believed to be the center of the world, and its oracle was said to have the gift of predicting the future. People came from miles away to hear Pythias, the priestesses, make predictions as they muttered incomprehensible sounds in a state of trance. See the Temple of Apollo, the Athenian Treasury, and the Delphi Archaeological Museum. Lunch will be included with this optional tour. (B)

Day 5 — Athens and Piraeus

The morning is free of planned activities. In the early afternoon, visit the superb Benaki Museum, which is dedicated to Greece’s artistic heritage. Established and endowed in 1930, the museum is housed in the Benaki’s family mansion located a few blocks from Syntagma Square in central Athens. Afterward, travel to the port of Piraeus where you’ll embark the Aegean Odyssey.   

During the cruise a Smithsonian Journeys Expert will travel with you to offer exclusive lectures. Smithsonian Travelers will get to know fellow travelers in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers' Corner to exchange experiences and engage in lively conversation. Times and locations will be advised during the cruise. (B,D)

Day 6 – Santorini

You’ll want to be on deck this morning to see one of the Aegean's most spectacular sights; the cliffs of Santorini rising from the great half-moon caldera of an extinct volcano. Explore the Minoan settlement of Akrotiri dating from the 16th century BC. This ancient city was preserved under tons of volcanic ash and some historians hold the settlement, as well as the disaster that left it unknown to history, was the inspiration behind Plato’s story of Atlantis. Continue on to exquisite Oia, a village of whitewashed houses, blue domed churches, and taverns carved into cliffs. Continue to visit the cliff-top town of Fira and the Archeological Museum. This evening join the Captain of the Aegean Odyssey for a Welcome Reception. (B, L, D)

Day 7 – Crete

As the great monuments of Egypt rose from the sand and before the Phoenicians became masters of the sea, another civilization was emerging on the island of Crete. Ideally situated between the Near East, Greece, and North Africa, by 2,000 B.C., Crete had become the epicenter of Mediterranean commerce. The culture that developed on Crete we now call “Minoan” after the legendary King Minos. The Palace of Knossos was a remarkable complex, center of the ancient Minoan Kingdom ,and home to the mythical Minotaur. Sir Arthur Evans, the famed British Archaeologist who excavated the site in 1900 A.D. restored large parts of the palace in a way that makes it possible today to appreciate the grandeur and complexity of a structure. The original palace was destroyed during earthquakes, invasions, and a volcanic eruption. Today, the restored palace offers a look at its former magnificence. After a remarkable day, begin the evening with an exclusive pre-dinner Reception for Smithsonian Journeys Travelers. (B, L, D)

Day 8 – Rhodes

Upon arrival in Rhodes, you have a choice of one of the following two fascinating excursions:

The Old Town and Grand Master’s Palace

Take a leisurely stroll through the Old Town and discover some of the wonderful highlights of Rhodes. Travel from the port, past the old port of Mandraki to the site where the Colossus of Rhodes one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is said to have stood. Continue the tour to visit a stunning ensemble of Gothic architecture.  Visit an outlook known at Mount Smith with its Grand Master’s Palace. The Knights of Rhodes built this remarkable palace in the 14th century. Visit the Archeological Museum located in the former Knights Hospital where you’ll see many artifacts and statues some date back to the 4th century. The medieval city of Rhodes is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Acropolis at Lindos

Drive past picturesque villages with glimpses of the sea and a splendid landscape of orange and lemon groves, vineyards, and olive trees. It is no wonder that the ancient Greeks, Byzantines, and the Knights of St. John all made good use of this remarkable Acropolis that dominates the small town and the bay below. Here you will find the ancient Doric Temple of Athena Lindia, a double-winged portico, a Byzantine church, and the fortifications of the Knights of St John, including the remains of the Governor's Quarters. The panoramic view is truly remarkable and includes St. Paul's Bay, where the Apostle Paul is said to have sought shelter during a massive storm. Below the Acropolis, there are the clustered whitewashed houses and the narrow streets of a delightful village.

After the excursions, return to the ship for dinner and evening activities. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Delos and Mykonos

Explore the rocky island of Delos a World Heritage site and believed to be the birthplace of the god Apollo. Pilgrims from all over the Greek world came to pay tribute to Apollo, making the island one of its most sacred places, a position retained throughout antiquity. In the early 19th century, excavations uncovered the remains of an entire ancient city. The most important of the antiquities found are the Naxos Marble Lions, three beautiful temples dedicated to Apollo and various houses with their splendid mosaic floors.

Later in the day arrive at Mykonos where you have time at leisure to explore on your own. The island enjoys a vibrant mix of boutiques, whitewashed homes, bougainvillea, and the ubiquitous windmills. (B,L,D)

Day 10 – Izmir, Turkey

Located just an hour’s drive from Izmir, Ephesus is one of the most important archaeological sites of the ancient world. There is evidence that St. Paul, St. John, and the Virgin Mary lived in this fabled city. Highlights of your walking tour include the Terraced Houses of the elite Ephesians with their remarkable frescoes and mosaics; the Temple of Hadrian; the Library of Celsus, with its splendid columned façade; and the Grand Theater, where St. Paul once preached his sermons to the Ephesians. Few places on earth bring the ancient past so vividly into focus. (B,L,D)

Day 11 – Izmir

Explore Pergamon, a World Heritage site and a truly magnificent example of dominance in the ancient world. At the Acropolis, rising above the modern day town of Bergama, you will see many remains of the Hellenistic period. Discover the Lower and Upper Acropolis containing the Temple of Trajan, and the base of the monumental Altar of Zeus, the top half of which now resides in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. You will also see the Shrine of Dionysus, the Sanctuary of Demeter, the Gymnasium, and the Agora or central meeting place. The true highlight of this magnificent site, however, is the spectacularly situated Hellenistic Theatre, which is carved into the side of the hill. Seating up to 10,000 people, it is known to be the steepest theatre in the world. Continue to visit the Asclepion, just a short drive from the Acropolis. See the ancient health center for physical and mental rehabilitation and the place of an ancient spring used for healing. You will also see the remains of a Roman Theatre. This evening Smithsonian Journeys Travelers gather for an exclusive pre-dinner Reception. (B,L,D)

Day 12 – Canakkale

Take your choice of one of two shore excursions offered today at Canakkale.

The Ancient City of Troy

Canakkale is the gateway to the storied city of Troy, a city described in ancient Greek lore and a World Heritage site. Troy itself was long believed to be a mythical city until the late 19th century, when a series of excavations uncovered the ruins of a fortress and other evidence of a great city. These digs provided vital information about the ancient Greeks and Romans who built the city, which as a great commercial port helped develop this region as a crossroads between East and West. View the remains of massive walls, a Roman Theater, and the reputed Palace of King Priam, along with a remarkable replica of the Trojan Horse.

Memorials and Battlefields of Gallipoli

The excursion begins with a ferry ride across the famed Dardanelles to the moving WWI Memorials and Battlefields of Gallipoli situated on the Gelibolu peninsula. After arriving in Eceabat, visit North Beach, Anzac Cove, the Beach Cemetery, Lone Pine Cemetery, and Chunuk Bair. After the visits return to the ship via ferry.

After the excursions, return to the ship for dinner and evening activities. (B,L,D)

Day 13 – Istanbul

Depart the ship and begin a tour of the city of Istanbul whose historic areas are classified as World Heritage Sites. Formerly the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, the city was once known as Constantinople and is today a fascinating blend of East and West. Visit the Hagia Sophia, once a Greek Orthodox Basilica, then an Imperial Mosque, and now a museum.  Continue to the Topkapi Palace, where stunning Ottoman jewels and treasure can be admired, highlighted by the 86-carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond. Ottoman Sultans resided in the palace for four centuries. The ship will overnight in Istanbul. (B,L,D)

Day 14 – Istanbul

Continue to explore Istanbul with a visit to the remarkable Blue Mosque, built by Sultan Ahmet I in the 17th century and renowned for the blue Iznik tiles adorning its exquisite interior. Continue to the visit Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, an intricate maze of corridors and shops selling carpets, clothing, local food, and sweets. It’s a fascinating experience and one you’ll not soon forget. This evening gather for a Farewell Reception before dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 15 – At Sea and Skiathos, Greece

This morning, sail past Mount Athos, a revered site of the Greek Orthodox religion that is open only to men. As you sail by, you will be able to spot some of the 20 monasteries, dating from the 10th and 11th centuries, that dot the coast. This afternoon, the ship will arrive at the less traveled island of Skiathos. On this quiet island, enjoy time exploring on your own. (B,L,D)

Day 16 – Return Flights to U.S. Gateway Cities

Arrive Piraeus in early morning and depart the ship for Athens International Airport for return flights to the U.S. (B)

Program Note: Itineraries, included features and schedules are subject to change due to operational considerations.