Long dominated by the omnipresent Parthenon, Athens mingles its classical past with a budding art scene and bustling markets. You'll spend twelve days exploring this city's many cultural treasures and cool neighborhoods—along with day trips to archaeological sites in nearby Eleusis, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Olympia and Delphi. See why the epicenter of antiquity and philosophy is well worth a trip today.

Highlights

  • Get a tour of the Acropolis and Athens' best architectural sites with a local guide
  • Spend evenings dining on mezze in the lively neighborhoods of Psyrri and Plaka
  • Take a road trip through key archaeological sites and seaport towns in Greece's mainland
  • Break up the sightseeing with a 3-hour ancient cooking class
  • Experience the best of Greek wines during a tasting experience in one of the city's hippest neighborhoods

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens Athens
Day 2 Guided Acropolis Visit Athens
Day 3 Private Architecture of Athens Tour Athens
Day 4 Visit Kallimarmaro, Ancient Cooking Class Athens
Day 5 Visit Cape Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon Athens
Day 6 Archaeological Site of Eleusis Athens
Day 7 Free Day in Athens, Greek Wine Tasting Evening Athens
Day 8 Visit Mycenae and Nafplio Nafplio
Day 9 Explore Nafplio and Epidaurus Theater Experience Nafplio
Day 10 Olympia Archaeological Site to Nafpaktos Nafpaktos
Day 11 Visit Delphi, Return to Athens Athens
Day 12 Depart Athens  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Athens

Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis
Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis

Welcome to Greece! You'll begin your trip in Athens, home to both the iconic Acropolis and so much more. The mythology of this spectacular city precedes it, with towering temples to Classical deities and the ruins of ancient marketplaces rubbing shoulders with lively nightlife, crowded flea markets, and contemporary cuisine. Make the most of your time in the city at some of these spots:

  • Check out the views of the can't-miss Parthenon. (Pro tip: The Parthenon is the temple, the Acropolis is the hill.) This temple to Athena has enchanted visitors since its construction was completed in 438 BC. It's probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of ancient Greece and is visible from many of the city's high points.
  • Stop at the sprawling National Museum for a crash course in ancient iconography. Be sure to seek out the room housing the Antikythera mechanism, essentially an ancient astronomical computer.
  • Visit a smaller archaeological site at the Tower of the Winds, then stroll down neighboring pedestrian Aiolou Street to stop at shops and cafes. 
  • Find your perfect souvenir or sun hat in the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market. 

Spend your evening exploring the up-and-coming Pangrati neighborhood or amid the nightlife and mezze of the Psyrri district.

Day 2: Guided Acropolis Visit

Caryatids
Caryatids

Today you'll get to experience the mighty Acropolis—ruins of the iconic 5th-century BCE complex located on the rocky hilltop overlooking the city. Take a guided tour of the entire settlement with an English-speaking professional guide who will share the stories of the country's most famous monument. In addition to the iconic Parthenon, dedicated to the city's patron goddess Athena, you'll view and learn about the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the most sacred temple of Erechtheion, all located on the sacred rock of the Acropolis.

Complement your tour with a trip to the nearby modern Acropolis Museum. Many of the more delicate statues and other artifacts originally found at the Acropolis have been moved here, but you can imagine them in their previous home as you explore the exhibits. Complete your visit with a stop in its cafe for either lunch or a relaxed snack and coffee.

Stop to explore the Anafiotika neighborhood on the northeast side of the hill before you leave. The oldest neighborhood in the city, Anafiotika's classic white geometric architecture echoes the motifs of the Cyclades in this tranquil urban oasis.

Day 3: Private Architecture of Athens Tour

Hadrian's Arch
Hadrian's Arch

With centuries of history piled on top of each other, Athenian architecture deserves an experience of its own. Set out after breakfast with your private guide to discover the secrets of the modern architecture rubbing shoulders with neoclassical construction and the iconic Athenian two-storied houses, adorned with tiny geranium-bearing balconies. 

Once you've completed your tour, visit Hadrian's Arch, the gateway to the city. Made of Pentelic marble, this archway has been standing for nearly 2,000 years. Spend your evening in the posh Plaka district, where outdoor tables line the streets. Diners feast on Greek favorites such as the classic horiatiki salad, souvlaki, lamb dishes, and more. Go mezze-style to try them all.

Day 4: Visit Kallimarmaro, Ancient Cooking Class

The Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium

Start off the morning with a trip to the sweeping stands of Kallimarmaro, also known as the Panathenaic Stadium. The grand facility made entirely of marble was constructed in 1896 to host the first modern Olympics and is made entirely out of marble to honor the ancient stadiums.

Once you've been sufficiently inspired to feats of athleticism, you'll move on to feasts of Greek cuisine instead. A resident chef will take you on a journey of discovery into the methods used by the Ancient Greeks to cook their meals. You'll use ingredients available today to reproduce the distinct flavors found in classical dishes over the course of this 3-hour class. And no class is complete without the opportunity to sample the fruits of your labor over dinner (with wine included, of course).

Day 5: Visit Cape Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon

Quite the dramatic setting for the temple!
Quite the dramatic setting for the temple!

Take a leisurely morning with breakfast and the opportunity to explore the city on your own time, revisiting any favorite shops or undiscovered archaeological sites.

In the afternoon, you'll head down to the Athenian Riviera, full of both history and stunning island views. Your adventure will take you along the coast to visit the Temple of Poseidon, providing you with historical background on the way. The views overlook the Saronic Gulf, with one of the best sunset views Greece has to offer. Sip a complimentary beverage and take in the sunset while you listen to music and immortalize the moment with a Polaroid-style photo.

You'll be transferred back to your lodging in the evening just in time for a late (Greek-style) dinner. Or, if you're not ready to call it a night, you can request a drop-off at some of the most popular beach bars to dance until the sun comes up.

Day 6: Archaeological Site of Eleusis

Part of the ruins
Part of the ruins

Your main activity for today is a visit to archaeological site at Eleusis located just outside of the city of Athens. These ruins were the site of one the most compelling rituals of the ancient world: an initiation ceremony into the cult of Demeter. So little is known about the ritual that it's still referred to as the Eleusinian Mysteries. Explore the site and see what you can find out!

Schedule your guided tour for whenever suits your schedule, whether you prefer to sleep in late or start early, and return to the city for dinner in the evening. Get a taste of the islands at Kriti restaurant, which specializes in Cretan cuisine.

Day 7: Free Day in Athens, Greek Wine Tasting Evening

Toast to your travels
Toast to your travels

Start your day by picking up a koulourithe popular Athenian street sesame bread rings, or sweet loukoumades donuts with Greek coffee. You have plenty of time during the day to seek out the city's culinary highlights, including souvlaki in the Monastiraki neighborhood or neo-tavernas on Aiolou Street.

Visit a new neighborhood in the afternoon with a trip to Kerameikos, home to the ancient city cemetery. Wander through the graves and look for the carvings depicting portraits and everyday scenes to envision what life and death were like in the ancient world. Pass through the Sacred Gate, where pilgrims from Eleusis used to pass on their way to the Eleusinian ritual, or the Dipylon Gate, which used to be the starting point of the Panathenaic Procession. The neighborhood isn't all history, though—it's now home to some of the city's most interesting restaurants, ranging from two-Michelin-star Funky Gourmet to Ta Kanaria cafe, which is also home to a street theater company, to one of the city's only Thai restaurants. 

In the evening, you'll head to a wine bar in the stylish Koukaki neighborhood for a guided wine tasting. Your dedicated sommelier will introduce you to a selection of Greek wines paired with the appropriate delicacies. You'll learn about the wines' origins, specific characteristics, and how to best experience them on your own later over the course of two hours.

Day 8: Visit Mycenae and Nafplio

The Lion Gate
The Lion Gate

Start the day early with a trip back to a true classic. You may recognize Mycenae from its role in Homer's Iliad: It was home to the famous Helen, whose Mycenean husband King Agamemnon led his people to war when she left him for Paris of Troy. See its Cyclopean walls, whose construction method is still a mystery. They got their name due in part to the belief that only the mythical Cyclops would have been strong enough to lift their boulders.

You'll pass through the Lion Gate to enter the ruins of the city, wandering past the tombs of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra and the Treasury of Atreus.

You'll go on to Nafplio, one of the prettiest seaport towns in the Peloponnese peninsula and once believed to have been founded by the son of Poseidon. The town was the first capital of the new Greek state after the war of independence in the 1800s. Take a stroll through the old town, where you'll pass statues honoring significant figures from Nafplio's history, Ottoman fountains, and Venetian architecture along the winding streets, topped off by the Bourtzi Castle in the middle of the harbor. Don't miss the climb up 1,000 steps to see the view from the Palamidi Castle.

Day 9: Explore Nafplio and Epidaurus Theater Experience

The ancient theater at Epidaurus
The ancient theater at Epidaurus

Take the morning to relax and explore peaceful Nafplio at your own pace, perhaps lingering over a coffee and Greek yogurt or pastry. If you're feeling active and haven't climbed the Palamidi Castle yet, now is the perfect day to do so.

In the afternoon, you'll set out for a full theater experience that will provide you with a thorough understanding of the world of ancient Greek plays. On a guided tour, you'll visit the real-life location where the action of an ancient play took place, before viewing the play itself (with English subtitles, of course) in the third-century BCE theater of Epidaurus, one of the best remaining examples of its type due to the excellent acoustics and aesthetic arrangement. Learn the connection between the works of Aristophanes and the Ancient Cemetery of Keramikos, Aeschylus, and Mycenae, or Electra and the city of Argos with this immersive outing.

Day 10: Olympia Archaeological Site to Nafpaktos

Fields of Olympia
Fields of Olympia

Explore the site of the first Olympic Games at the archaeological site of Olympia. There's plenty to cover—it's one of the largest sites in the country, surrounded by wild olives and plane trees. Your comprehensive guided tour will take you under the grand temple columns, past the Sanctuary of Olympian Zeus and through the onsite Archaeological Museum. 

There will also be free time after the tour to explore the site on your own. Scope out the treasuries, sacrificial altars, and stadium once used by the ancient world's best athletes. The natural landscape surrounding the site is also full of opportunities for a day hike if you'd like to put your muscles to use.

Once you've completed your explorations, head north over the Rio-Antirrio Bridge across the Gulf of Corinth—one of the world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges. You'll spend the night in Nafpaktos overlooking the waters of the gulf and the town's castle. Spend your evening exploring the town's charming streets.

Day 11: Visit Delphi, Return to Athens

The Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi
The Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi

Today, you'll seek out the oracle during a day trip to the ruins of Delphi, once home to priestesses of Apollo who Ancient Greeks believed could predict the future. Take a guided tour through this sprawling archaeological site, with stops such as the Treasury of the Athenians, the Temple of Apollo, and expansive theater.

Explore the ruins or venture up an ancient footpath once used by worshippers of the god Pan, who started from the temples of Delphi and proceeded to Corycean Grotto for their religious rites, surrounded by the valley of olive trees and views of the Corinthian Gulf and peaks of the Peloponnese on your way. 

Don't skip the neighboring museum, which contains masterpieces such as the Bronze Charioteer and the image of the famous athlete Aghias.

Return to Athens in the evening and enjoy an al fresco dinner in a neighborhood you haven't yet visited.

Day 12: Depart Athens

Wave to the city
Wave to the city

Time to say farewell to Greece. Enjoy your final Athenian breakfast before your transfer to the airport.

Map

Map of Best of Athens & Ancient Greece - 12 Days
Map of Best of Athens & Ancient Greece - 12 Days