Take a journey with Phil Cousineau three thousand years back in time to the roots of classical Greece and forward to the modern Mediterranean of magnificent land and seascapes.
An odyssey awaits you across the "wine-dark sea" in the land of ancient Greek gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, sacred and profane heritage sites. On this journey we will visit the sites of Athens, from the Acropolis to the Agora, travel to the sacred sites of Delphi and the Sanctuary of Eleusis, see the site of the first Olympic Games in Olympia, and relish breathtaking sunsets from the island of Santorini. READ MORE
Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, independent scholar, documentary filmmaker, travel leader, storyteller and author of over 30 books including the national best-seller The Art of Pilgrimage, The Book of Roads, and Stoking the Creative Fires, winner of the Book of the Year Award from “Spirituality & Health Magazine.”
Deeply engaging and enlightening dive with terrifically interesting fellow travelers and a major league guide. Beauty and reverence... My takeaway from this remarkable journey! Michael Hollander, Skillman, NJ
Take a journey three thousand years back in time to the roots of classical Greece and forward to the modern Mediterranean of magnificent land and seascapes, splendid museums, and sublime cuisine. An odyssey awaits you across the "wine-dark sea" in the land of ancient Greek gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, sacred and profane heritage sites.
Relive the ancient stories and timeless art that reveals the roots of Western civilization, woven together with the vibrant culture and hospitality of contemporary Greek people. Our time together will combine daily discussions, conversations, contemplative time, museum and site visits. Our journey will begin in Athens with a walk up through the Acropolis to marvel at the Parthenon and then back to the Agora, the heart of Athens, before visiting the National Archaeological Museum.
We continue on to the sacred site of Delphi and the Sanctuary of Eleusis to learn about the ancient secret rites and initiation ceremonies and discuss the role of the goddess in Greek mythology as well as the role of ritual in antiquity. We shall also wind our way up the ancient Sacred Way to the home of the Oracle at the Temple of Apollo, one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in all the world, and, in the spirit of the ancient pilgrims, we too shall ask a question.
At Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games, we shall learn about the relationship between athletics and spirituality, and the sacred dimensions of sports in ancient times. Travelling on to the seaport town of Nauplion, we find cobblestone streets, Venetian balconies, picturesque cafés and fortresses. Continuing our journey, we stop in Mycenae, eventually winding up our odyssey on the island of Santorini. With its dramatic caldera views and stunning sunsets, here we shall unravel mysteries of the ancient Minoan civilization that flourished in Akrotiri before a momentous volcanic eruption destroyed it in the 2nd century B.C.E. We will also discuss the Myth of Atlantis, which was born here, and has persisted for over two thousand years. From here we bid a fond farewell to this magical land.
More than just a tour that connects the dots of one of the friendliest and archaeology site-rich countries in the world, our journey will feature our trusty leader, Phil Cousineau’s innovative style of "The Long Conversation." Each day will be highlighted by talks and group discussion that evoke the soul of the country. We welcome you to join us on this mystical journey to connect with the power of the ancient gods and goddesses and be graced with all the magic and fascination this land has to offer.
Arrive at the Athens airport. You will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Depending on your arrival time, you will have time to explore this ancient city on your own. Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece, dominates the Attica periphery. One of the world’s oldest cities, Athens is full of myths, mysteries, and legends. Steeped with a rich history that spans around 3,400 years, the city is home to many sacred ancient sites, monuments, and landmarks. A fusion of old and new, Athens is also a cosmopolitan metropolis buzzing with lively activity and vibrancy.
In the evening we will gather at the hotel for a welcome juice at 6.30pm before walking as a group to the Plaka district. Here the Palia taverna Kritikou, with a splendid view of the Acropolis and Lycabettus, will be the stunning location for our Welcome Dinner. We will dine on delicious traditional Greek cuisine while admiring the beautiful views of ancient Athens. (Overnight in Athens at the hotel Hermes or similar)
Tue, Sep 25
Athens (B, L)Read more
Enjoy a traditional Greek breakfast followed by the first of our Long Conversations: “Everyday Life in Classical Athens.” We will then walk from the hotel up the western side of the Acropolis, marvel at the Parthenon, before taking a break for lunch at one of the traditional tavernas overlooking the Agora.
The Agora, the heart of Athens, is one of the most historically important, but least visited sites in Athens. The Agora is the ancient marketplace where Socrates, Plato and Aristotle strolled, and the traditional morning meeting place for the citizens in Athens. Here the people would argue politics, discuss philosophy, worship at one of the many altars, visit the Temple of Poseidon, and shop at one of the many markets. Today it is one of the quietest and most meditative places in Athens, with magnificent views of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis.
After lunch we take our bus to the National Archaeological Museum, the largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient Greek art. It was founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, thus displaying their historical, cultural, and artistic value. We will see such world renowned artefacts as the marble bust of the Minotaur, the golden Mask of Agamemnon, the Aphrodite of Cnidus, and the Antikythera Mechanism.
This evening explore Athens independently or join Phil for dinner in the Plaka. (Overnight in Athens at the hotel Hermes or similar)
Wed, Sep 26
Athens to Delphi; Eleusis (Elefsina) (B, L)Read more
Enjoy a traditional Greek breakfast followed by our morning discussion on “The Eleusinian Mysteries,” to prepare us for our pilgrimage to nearby Eleusis, one of the most mysterious sites in Greece. In Eleusis (now known as Elefsina) we visit the Sanctuary of Eleusis, one of the greatest shrines of antiquity in honour of Demeter and Persephone. Here we will learn about secret rites and initiation ceremonies that honoured the wandering Demeter and her daughter Persephone who was held hostage in the underworld by the god Hades. Their drama was enacted here and witnessed by initiates under a vow of secrecy. Sophocles remarked that “happy is man who has seen the secret rites,” which were intended to reveal the mysteries of rebirth. This morning we will take time to roam the ruins and share in a discussion about the role of the goddess in Greek mythology and the role of ritual in Greek life.
Lunch at the Cyceon, a traditional Greek restaurant near the ruins with a beautiful olive garden and delicious pastries.
Upon our arrival in Delphi in the afternoon, we will settle into our hotel and then have time to stroll around the town and do a little shopping. (Overnight in Delphi at the Hermes Hotel or similar)
Thu, Sep 27
Delphi; Olympia (B, L) Read more
After breakfast at the hotel, we gather for a morning discussion about the Oracle of Delphi, also called the Pythia, or the Sibyl, who uttered prophecies for pilgrims who came to her temple for over twelve hundred years. Afterward, we will walk in silence from the small town of Delphi and wind our way up the ancient Sacred Way to the home of the Oracle at the Temple of Apollo.
Here, we will dwell on the threshold of one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in all the world where everyone will have time to approach the temple, and, in the spirit of the ancient pilgrims who brought their deepest questions here for 1200 years, we too will ask a question —and listen for an oracular answer.
We will then visit one of the most beautiful stadiums in ancient Greece, and the old theatre. Finally, we will visit the Delphi Museum, which features the original stone omphalos, symbolic of Delphi being the navel or centre of the ancient world, and see the brilliant bronze sculpture of the Charioteer found in a shipwreck in the 19th century.
We then enjoy lunch in a local restaurant and admire the spectacular views before continuing on to Olympia, a sanctuary of ancient Greece, and home to the Olympic Games of the classical period. Olympia was considered a national shrine for the Greeks and housed many treasures and works of art ranging from temples, monuments, sacred altars, theatres, and statues. This evening, Phil will lead a late evening discussion based on his book, The Olympic Odyssey, which was endorsed by the U. S. Olympic Committee, and has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese, followed by a visit to a local taverna for some traditional music (at own expense). (Overnight in Olympia at the Hotel Antonios or similar)
Fri, Sep 28
Olympia; Nauplion (B, L)Read more
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, followed by a morning discussion on “The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” a list that included the Statue of Zeus at Olympia. Together we shall make our way to the site of the ancient Olympics and spend time visiting the ancient gymnasium and the palaestra (wrestling forum). We follow this with a visit to the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and finally enter the excavated stadium, the origin site of all Western athletics. We will then walk through an old olive grove for a visit of the Olympia Museum, which features a collection of Olympic torches, medals, and memorabilia of the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the visionary who revived the Modern Olympic Games in the belief it would revive the spirit of the well-lived life. Here we will have another group discussion about the relationship between athletics and spirituality, and the sacred aspect of sports in ancient times.
Lunch at a nearby restaurant before departing for the ancient seaside village of Nauplion. A free evening to promenade along the harbour or enjoy a traditional Greek meal in the beautifully restored Syntagma (Constitution) Square. (Overnight in Nauplion at the Hotel Agamemnon or similar)
Sat, Sep 29
Nauplion, Mycenae (B, L)Read more
After breakfast we will meet for a talk based on Phil's book, Who Stole the Arms of the Venus de Milo? The famous statue was inspired by the story of the torrid love affair between Paris, the prince of Troy, and Helen of Sparta, the tale that has inspired more art than any other one from classical times, and which will prepare us for our visit today to the ruins of the palace she shared with Menelaus.
We then head to the ancient citadel of Mycenae and its neighbouring museum, with its cyclopean walls and history of Menelaus and Clytemnestra. Here, we will spend the morning exploring the archaeological site with a very special guest, Agamemnon Dasis, the great-great-grandson of the man who lodged the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann (discoverer of Troy, in Turkey) when he excavated Mycenae, in 1876. After our tour of the citadel we will visit the nearby tholos or beehive huts, then lunch at Agamemnon’s restaurant and hotel, La Belle Helene (named after Helen of Troy). Over the years many luminaries have stayed here, including: André Malraux, Stephen Spender, Jack Kerouac, Rebecca West, Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller, Virginia Woolf, Carl Jung, Freya Stark, and J. K. Rowling. (Overnight in Nauplion at the Hotel Agamemnon or similar)
Sun, Sep 30
Epidaurus; Athens (B)Read more
Our first stop today will be in Epidaurus to visit the famous sixth century BCE dream temples of Asclepius and the ancient amphitheatre, which is known around the world for its breathtaking acoustics. Here, we will participate in a discussion about the ancient roles of dreams, healing, herbs, and the oracle. We will take time to meditate, journal, sketch, and walk the ancient grounds. After visiting the temples, we will visit the on-site museum.
We will then return to Athens, stopping at the Corinth Canal on route. First proposed in the seventh century BCE, the narrow canal was finally begun in 1881 and completed in 1893, and is now mainly used by tourist vessels, connecting the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. (Overnight in Athens at the hotel Hermes or similar)
Mon, Oct 1
Piraeus; Santorini (B)Read more
Early morning transfer today to Piraeus port for our departure to beautiful Santorini. Upon arrival we will transfer to our hotel and then be treated to an orientation tour of Fira town. (Overnight in Santorini at the El Greco hotel or similar)
Tue, Oct 2
Santorini (B)Read more
Today we enjoy a full day island tour including a guided visit to Akrotiri, a winery visit, and a short stop at the village of Monolithos, where many writers and artists lived in the post-war years, including the legendary poet Jack Gilbert. We are fortunate that the thirty-six hundred year-old ruins of Akrotiri, the Bronze Age Minoan settlement, have reopened after several years of restoration. (Overnight in Santorini at the El Greco hotel or similar)
Wed, Oct 3
Santorini (B, D)Read more
Following our breakfast we will gather in a taverna overlooking the breathtaking caldera and have our morning discussion on “The Competing Myths of Minoan Crete and Atlantis.” Phil will share a tale of the labyrinth at the Knossos Palace, and talk about Theseus, Ariadne, and the mighty volcanic explosion in Santorini that destroyed much of the island as well as parts of distant Crete, and with it, Minoan civilization.
Later this afternoon we depart on a Farewell Dinner Cruise. Our first stop is Nea Kameni to visit the active volcano of Santorini. Here you will have the opportunity to climb the volcano and take photos of the active crater – a truly unique experience! Our next destination is Palia Kameni where you can swim in the natural hot springs created by the neighbouring volcano. Sailing above the underwater craters from Palia Kameni to Thirasia Island, the boat will anchor close to the island and pause for a full traditional Greek dinner buffet with local wine. Enjoy the endless blue of the famous Caldera of Santorini and the picturesque villages on top! By dessert we have reached Oia where we end a splendid evening with a magnificent sunset. (Overnight in Santorini at the El Greco hotel or similar)
Thu, Oct 4
Depart Santorini for onward flights home (B)Read more
Breakfast at your leisure at the hotel before transferring to Santorini airport for onward flights home. You can book your flights to depart Santorini for anytime today.
(B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner)
Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to conditions beyond our control.
The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil Cousineau
September 24 - October 4, 2018
10 nights accommodation in charming, centrally located 3* and 4* star hotels
Breakfast Daily, 5 Lunches
1 Welcome Dinner & 1 Farewell Dinner
Transportation by Deluxe A/C Private Coach
Arrival Transfer Athens Airport to hotel
Departure Transfer hotel to Santorini airport
Hydrofoil Piraeus to Santorini (one way)
Baggage Handling at the Hotels (1 bag per person)
Admission to all sites as per itinerary
Travel with author, teacher and filmmaker, Phil Cousineau
Insightful Group Discussions and “Long Conversations”
Private full day tour in Santorini, including Akrotiri excavations and a winery visit with local English speaking guide
Sunset Dinner boat excursion in Santorini
Tour Does Not Include:
Airfare to Athens and return airfare from Santorini
Cancellation & Medical Insurance (ask us for a quote)
Meals and drinks not specified
Cost to obtain valid passport
Tips and gratuities to guides, drivers, hotel staff
Any items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks and telephone calls. Any item that is not specifically detailed on our website or in the final retreat itinerary