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 follow the Panathenaic Way in Athens, from the Acropolis to 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. Our journey includes an optional extension to Crete where you can continue your exploration of history & culture on this beautiful island. 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.”
Although I have been teaching the history of theatre, including the tragedy and comedy of ancient Greece, for many years, no information before prepared me for what I saw and learned. Cornelia Eulert, San Diego, CA
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, and special guest appearances by modern Greek scholars, artists, and poets. Our journey will begin in Athens as we follow the Panathenaic Way, the ancient procession of the goddess, up to the Acropolis to explore this sacred site. At the Acropolis Museum we will discover the antique relics and findings from the site of the Acropolis, finally ending our day at the sacred centre of the Agora in the heart of the city.
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 Nafplion, we find cobblestone streets, Venetian balconies, picturesque cafés and fortresses. Continuing our journey, we stop in Mystra, Sparta, and 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. Finally, we return to Athens and bid a fond farewell to this magical land.
You may also continue your journey and join us on an optional extension to Crete, known as the “Island of the Gods”, according to Homer. Here we will visit Bronze Age sites and learn about the magnificent civilization that once inhabited this enchanting place.
Phil will spin many ancient tales on this journey, including the legend of the Minotaur and his labyrinth at Knossos. We will also visit the Paliani Monastery to discover its associations with Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, and the Malia Palace, the third largest of the Minoan palaces. We will marvel at three spectacular caves: the Dikteon Andron, which has long been considered the legendary secret birth site of Zeus, Skotino Cave with its paths leading to imposing chambers, and the Eileithyia Cave in Amnisos, dedicated to the goddess of childbirth Eileithyia.
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.
Sun, Sep 21
Arrive Athens (D)Read more
Arrive at the Athens airport and be met by our representative who will transfer you to the 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 as a group in the Plaka district at a local rooftop taverna with a splendid view of the Akropolis and Lycabettus 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)
Mon, Sep 22
Athens (B, L)Read more
Enjoy a traditional Greek breakfast followed by the first of our Long Conversations: "Everyday Life in Classical Athens." This morning, we follow the Panathenaic Way, the ancient procession of the goddess, up to the Acropolis. Once arrived, we will visit the magnificent ruins of the Parthenon, currently undergoing restoration, and visit the Theatre of Dionysus, the world's oldest theatre where great plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were first performed. We then visit the Acropolis Museum, which is home to all the findings and artifacts from this ancient site. The museum itself sits on the archaeological site of Makrygianni and over part of the ruins of Roman and early Byzantine Athens. We then take a break for lunch either at the museum or a nearby restaurant.
After lunch we walk to the Agora, the heart of Athens, and 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 discuss politics and 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.
This evening explore Athens independently or join Phil for dinner in the Plaka with his special Invited Guest Speaker, Thanasis Maskaleris, a Greek poet, translator and scholar in the work of Nikos ("Zorba the Greek") Kazantzakis. (Overnight in Athens at the hotel Hermes)
Tue, Sep 23
Athens to Delphi (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 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.
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 Amalia Hotel)
Wed, Sep 24
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.
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, followed by a visit to a local taverna for some traditional music. (Overnight in Olympia at the Hotel Antonios)
Thu, Sep 25
Olympia (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 the day visiting the ancient gymnasium, and the palaestra (wrestling forum). At the Temple of Hera, where the Olympic torch is lit every four years, we will gather for a group discussion. We will then visit 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. Breaking for lunch, we will dine at a nearby restaurant. After lunch, we walk through an old olive grove for a visit of the Olympics 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.
We return to the hotel to freshen up. This evening, stroll through Olympia on your own, or join Phil at an old tavern for an optional late night discussion. (Overnight in Olympia at the Hotel Antonios)
Fri, Sep 26
Olympia to Nafplion; Mystra; Sparta (B)Read more
After breakfast we will meet for a talk based on Cousineau's latest 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 depart from Olympia and journey to the 13th century monastic site of Mystra, famous for its mosaics and frescoes, and regarded as the “Florence of the Orient”. Later, we continue on to the ancient seaport town of Nafplion making a brief stop in Sparta, home of Menelaos and Helen of Sparta (and later Troy), and Leonidas, the leader who fought the Persians, along the way. We will also take a brief mid afternoon break for a picnic with a discussion of the origins of the Trojan War and the Greek cult of beauty, embodied in Helen, Aphrodite, and Paris.
We arrive in Nafplion in the late afternoon, where we will find one of the best examples of restoration in modern Greece. After checking into our hotel and freshening up, sample some local restaurants and enjoy a stroll through the beautiful cobbled town square of Nafplion. (Overnight in Nafplion at the Hotel Agamemnon)
Sat, Sep 27
Nafplion, Mycenae (B) Read more
Following our breakfast we will gather for a conversation about the infamous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, and the round of plays by Aeschylus that provides the backdrop for our visit to Mycenae. We then head to the ancient citadel of Mycenae, with its cyclopean walls and history of Menelaus and Clytemnestra. Here, we will spend the morning exploring the archaeological site, first excavated by Heinrich Schliemann (discoverer of Troy, in Turkey). We then visit the nearby tholos or beehive huts. Surrounded by the glorious scenery, we will enjoy a picnic and discussion where we will examine the influence of Homer on our impression of Greek history. We then return to Nafplion for the evening. Tonight you are free to roam this charming town, sample delicious cuisine in the town square, or immerse yourself in the lively culture. (Overnight in Nafplion at the Hotel Agamemnon)
Sun, Sep 28
Nafplion; Athens to Santorini (B, D)Read more
Enjoy breakfast at our hotel then join us for a morning discussion on "Dream and Drama in Ancient Greece." Our first stop today will be in Epidaurus to visit the famous sixth century B.C.E 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.
Later in the afternoon, we will make a brief but poignant stop in Corinth, home of King Sisyphus, and the infamous temple built in honour of Aphrodite. In a beautiful grove overlooking the ruins we will revisit the stories of those two great figures of ancient Greek mythology by reading out loud from Ovid's brilliant Metamorphosis. Once in Athens, we transfer to the airport and hop on a quick flight to magical Santorini. We check into our hotel upon arrival and then stroll to a local restaurant for our dinner this evening. (Overnight in Santorini at the Kallisti Thera hotel)
Mon, Sep 29
Santorini; Oia (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 and sail to Nea Kameni to visit the active volcano. We stop on the island for a while and then continue on to Palea Kameni where the thermal springs provide natural heated baths. We then sail along nearing Thirassia Island and begin to feast on our delicious buffet dinner. By dessert we have reached Oia where we end a splendid evening with a magnificent sunset. (Overnight in Santorini at the Kallisti Thera hotel)
Tue, Sep 30
Santorini to Athens (B, L)Read more
Enjoy one last breakfast with the whole group this morning. We then travel by coach to visit the Akrotiri Site. 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. We will enjoy a personal local guide here, and have a nearby picnic lunch discussion of the far-reaching implications of the volcanic explosion here in 1627 BCE. Later, transfer to the pier to board a hydrofoil to Piraeus (Athens). Upon arrival, check into the hotel. (Overnight in Athens at the hotel Hermes)
(Photo: Norbert Nagel, Wikimedia Commons)
Wed, Oct 1
Depart Athens (B)Read more
Breakfast at your leisure at the hotel before transferring to the airport for your return home.
The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil Cousineau
September 21 - October 1, 2014
Crete Extension: The Island of Gods and Goddesses: An Encounter with Zorba and Minoan Crete
September 30 - October 5, 2014
Main Tour Includes:
10 nights accommodation 3* and 4* star hotels based on double/shared occupancy
Arrival and Departure Transfers
Breakfast Daily, 5 Lunches and 3 Dinners
Transportation by by Deluxe A/C Private Coach
Flight from Athens to Santorini
Hydrofoil Santorini to Piraeus
Baggage Handling at the Hotels (1 bag per person)
Admission to all sites as per itinerary
Local Guides for visits in Athens and at Mycenae, Epidaurus and Akrotiri
Travel with author, teacher and filmmaker, Phil Cousineau
Insightful Group Discussions and “Long Conversations”
Welcome Dinner with Traditional Entertainment
Visit the Acropolis, Parthenon & Theatre of Dionysus
Visit the Acropolis Museum
Visit the Sanctuary of Eleusis
Visit the Temple of Apollo
Visit Delphi Stadiums and Old Theatre
Visit the Delphi Museum
Visit the Site of the Ancient Olympics and the Olympic Museum
Visit the Ancient Citadel of Mycenae & the Tholos
Visit the Dream Temples of Asclepius & the Ancient Amphitheater in Epidaurus
Visit Akrotiri Museum
Crete Extension Includes:
4 nights accommodation in 4* star hotel in Heraklion, based on double/shared occupancy