Dive headfirst into history with this tour of some of ancient Greece's most important sites. Go from Athens and the Acropolis to the oracle at Delphi to the islands of Delos, Santorini, and Crete. Along the way, you'll see fascinating archaeological ruins and visit some of Greece's most beautiful locales. Wrap up your trip back on the mainland with a stop at Helen of Troy's home at Mycenae before returning to the modern era.  

Highlights

  • Explore the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis on Delos
  • Visit prehistoric Akrotiri, a possible inspiration for the lost city of Atlantis
  • Walk the Minotaur's labyrinth at the Palace of Knossos
  • See where Helen of Troy lived at Mycenae

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens Athens
Day 2 Guided Acropolis Visit Athens
Day 3 Day Trip to Delphi Athens
Day 4 Athens to Mykonos, Visit Delos Mykonos
Day 5 Mykonos to Santorini Santorini
Day 6 Discover Prehistoric Akrotiri, Ferry to Crete Heraklion
Day 7 Tour Knossos and Heraklion, Travel to Chania Chania
Day 8 Ancient Aptera Tour Chania
Day 9 Return to Athens, Visit Mycenae and Nafplio Nafplio
Day 10 Nafplio to Athens and Depart  

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

Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion
Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion

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: Day Trip to Delphi

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. After being transferred from your hotel to Delphi (about 2.5 hours from the city), you'll 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. 

Outside of the ruins, you'll head to an old town district that used to serve as the leather tanner's district. One of Greece's last bellmakers keeps his workshop here; if you're lucky, he may be on site for a visit. Lunch will be served under the plane trees in the town square, with cheeses, Amfissa olives, and traditional home cooking.

Head indoors after lunch to the museum, a short downhill walk away. Wander through its halls to find the bronze Charioteer of Delphi, marble Sphinx of Naxos, and what may be the first recorded notation of a melody once inscribed on the walls of the Athenian Treasury.

You'll be transferred back to Athens in the late afternoon to rest up or spend the evening out and about in the city.

Day 4: Athens to Mykonos, Visit Delos

Mykonos
Mykonos

You'll start your time in the islands on Mykonos, one of the most famous islands in the Cyclades chain. Known for its glitzy restaurants and nightlife, art scene, and jet set crowds, Mykonos will throw you headfirst into your island adventure.

After settling into your hotel, you'll travel back in time in the afternoon with a quick boat ride out to the archaeological site at Delos. You'll board a small boat at the old port to cruise for 45 minutes out to one of ancient Greece's most sacred sites. This small island was the center of the Cyclades during the Classical era and the mythological birthplace of twin deities Apollo and Artemis. Pilgrims from around the region were attracted to the mystical site and helped it evolve into one of the largest trade centers of the Mediterranean.

Your guided tour will wind you through the foundations of former traders' mansions, temples, and landmarks such as the Terrace of the Lions. Don't skip the island museum, where many of the smaller artifacts and frescoes have been moved to protect them from the elements.

You'll return to Mykonos in the evening with time to stroll through Little Venice, an 18th-century neighborhood where colorful former captains' mansions and seaside restaurants seem to sprout straight from the sea. It's also right next to the island's famous hillside windmills for great photo ops and a magical sunset.

Day 5: Mykonos to Santorini

Santorini's caldera
Santorini's caldera

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll get an early ferry to Santorini. Nothing says "good morning" like watching the sun coming up over the island's iconic cubic architecture. Upon arrival, you'll take in the island's central caldera—the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history—rising above you. 

The island's volcanic history has led to the formation of some of the more unique beaches in the Greek islands, along with the dramatic cliff views on the island's caldera side. Spend your day relaxing at the beach or catching some exercise—and even more views—from one of Santorini’s more than 12 scenic walking routes, ranging from between two to eight miles each.  At dinner, sample the island's signature cherry tomatoes and white eggplants as guest stars in seafood dishes or the main event.

Day 6: Discover Prehistoric Akrotiri, Ferry to Crete

Explore the wonders of Akrotiri
Explore the wonders of Akrotiri

Take a guided tour of one of the Aegean's most significant prehistoric settlements. You'll head to the excavated city at Akrotiri, hidden away at the southern tip of Santorini on the slopes of the caldera. These ruins were once the site of one of the Bronze Age’s most advanced settlements, which prospered for centuries before being buried by a volcanic eruption in the mid-second millennium BC. You'll have the morning to explore its well-preserved (thanks to the volcanic eruption) streets alongside a local guide who will share its stories.

The Museum of Prehistoric Thera Museum and Archaeological Museum of Thera complement your visit, with findings including murals preserved from Akrotiri and the settlement of ancient Thera once found on the eastern part of the island. On your way back, stop to see the three bells of Fira. The trio of bells atop this blue-domed church is pictured on many of the postcards you'll find on the island, and now it's your turn to take a photo of your own.

Once you've wrapped up, you'll catch a ferry over to Crete, the largest and most populous of the 230 inhabited Greek islands. 

Day 7: Tour Knossos and Heraklion, Travel to Chania

Palace at Knossos
Palace at Knossos

Set off for a guided exploration of the magnificent Palace of Knossos. This 3,500-year-old Minoan palace is a sprawling maze of royal chambers, grand staircases, storerooms, and workshops. The evocative Bronze Age site is believed to be Europe's oldest city; it flourished for nearly 2,000 years as an economic center, trading with cities across the Mediterranean.

Follow it up with a guided stroll through the streets of Heraklion, exploring the old city's medieval streets with architecture representing the island's Venetian past. Highlights include the elegant arches of the Loggia, now in use as the town hall, and the Koules Venetian fortress along the harbor walls. In the afternoon, don't miss the Archaeological Museum, home to one of the largest collections of Minoan artifacts in the world.

In the evening, you'll head onward to Chania, a city (and region) on the northwest coast of Crete. Chania itself is the second largest city in Crete and one of the most scenic spots on an island with stiff competition for that title. Life in this former Venetian city revolves around its charming 14th-century harbor, narrow streets with winding alleys, and colorful architecture influenced by past Ottoman and Egyptian eras.

Day 8: Ancient Aptera Tour

Surround yourself with history
Surround yourself with history

Travel back in time after breakfast with a guided trip to the archaeological site at ancient Aptera. The ruins of this once-powerful city are filled with traces of the past, from the times when archers used to inhabit the city for centuries before it was destroyed by an earthquake. Find out more from your guide or just indulge in the extraordinary views towards the Souda Gulf.

Your free afternoon and evening back in Chania will leave you plenty of time for souvenir shopping and exploration. Sample some of the area's Turkish influence with mezzes at Tamam, a taverna located inside a former Turkish bath in the old quarter, or opt for a creative modern twist on Cretan cuisine at Portes.

Day 9: Return to Athens, Visit Mycenae and Nafplio

The Lion Gate
The Lion Gate

Start the day early to head back to Athens, followed by a guided 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 with your guide 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. You'll take a guided 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.

Later, don't miss the climb up 1,000 steps to see the view from the Palamidi Castle. Spend a relaxing evening wandering the quiet streets or walking along the waterfront.

Day 10: Nafplio to Athens and Depart

Get in one more good look
Get in one more good look

Time to say goodbye to Greece! You'll be transferred back to Athens International Airport after breakfast.

Map

Map of Historic Athens, Mainland Greece, Cyclades and Crete - 10 Days
Map of Historic Athens, Mainland Greece, Cyclades and Crete - 10 Days