Kalimera! Welcome to Greece. As there's not much time to explore Athens on this trip before you head out to the islands, arriving a few days early is recommended. Highlights include the renowned changing of the guard at Syntagma (Parliament) Square, the National Gardens, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the original Olympic Stadium and of course the Acropolis, where you can enter the Pantheon and enjoy fabulous views over the city. Maybe join an Urban Adventure day trip, such as 'Taste of Athens' or 'Markets, Ruins and Ancient Athens'. You could also take a day trip to the Peloponnese peninsula via ancient Epidavros and the Corinthian canal. After the welcome meeting, perhaps head out for some gyros and ouzo with your new travel companions.
Today travel by metro to the port of Piraeus, then catch a relaxing scenic ferry to Syros (approximately 4 hours). In the heart of the Cyclades, Syros offers a rare opportunity to see the islands as the Greeks do. Also known as Syra, the island features typical whitewashed houses, farms, terraced fields and gorgeous sandy beaches. Upon arrival on one of the Aegean's most underrated islands, discover abandoned windmills, ancient ruins and charming villages on a network of stone-paved tracks that crisscross the island. Syros is also home to delicious sweets – take a wander through the main town of Ermoupolis, home to gorgeous neoclassical mansions and 19th-century tenement blocks, and try the hazelnut, almond or honey-filled wafers or the fruit-flavoured jelly from one of many one-room shops. You'll have plenty of time to explore tomorrow, so perhaps kick up your feet at a waterfront cafe and watch the setting sun turn the houses pink.
Take a walk through the fortress-like town of Ano Syros, which offers great views of the Aegean Sea. Wander the narrow alleyways, pass handmade-souvenir shops and keep an ear open for traditional Rembetiko music floating out of the family-run tavernas. Enjoy free time to further explore Syros at your own pace. Perhaps head to the various archaeological sites on the island, or you might prefer to simply hole up on a beach for the afternoon. Outside of Ermoupolis are many small tranquil coves, while the most popular beaches are on the southern side of the island. While some are sandy and others pebbly, all boast crystal clear waters for swimming in. In the evening, take taxis to a taverna in the a remotely located village in the rugged northern part of the island to sample delicious local specialities during an included meal, all while watching the sun set over the Aegean Sea.
Today board a two-hour ferry to Mykonos, a beautiful island named in honour of Apollo's grandson. Mykonos is legendary both in ancient and modern times. Known in ancient Greek mythology as the battlefield where Zeus fought the Gigantes, today the island is best known for its decadence, style, and nightlife. Join your leader for a walk through the maze-like old town and be captivated by the quintessential Greek Isles vista of squat white houses brightly juxtaposed against the cerulean sea. Browse the chic galleries and boutiques, follow flower-lined paths past age-old churches and tiny restaurants to secluded, sandy beaches, and spend the afternoon soaking up the rays and splashing in the water. As the sun sets, join the group for a picnic dinner of local specialties. Your leader will know the ideal spot to sit back and enjoy an Aegean sunset.
This morning you will take a half-day trip out to the nearby island of Delos. One of the most important archaeological and mythological sites in the Greek Islands, a sacred area that was once the political and religious centre of the Aegean, Delos is considered to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. A living museum, the wealthy built mansions in the town that developed around Apollo’s sanctuary, decorating them with luxurious frescoes, mosaics and statues. The island is overflowing with archaeological finds like the Terrace of the Lions and the Sacred Precinct, with many more still being uncovered. Later on today you might like to head to one of Mykonos' many beaches, which are some of the nicest in Europe. Take a short bus ride to the pumping Paradise or Super Paradise beach bars, or perhaps find a quieter spot to relax along the beautiful coastline. You could also check out the 19th-century House of Lena or the Aegean Maritime Museum in town. This evening you could make your way to the village of Ano Mera and seek out a tavern for a seafood dinner or perhaps wander down to Little Venice, where colourful balconies hang precariously over the sea.
Take a ferry and wind up this Greek adventure on the southern island of Santorini (approximately 3 hours). Renowned for its spectacular natural beauty, Santorini is one of Europe's tourist hotspots, the home of the iconic image of the Greek islands – whitewashed, blue-domed buildings clinging to the cliff face with sparkling water in the background. Discover the hilltop ruins of Ancient Thira and its fascinating Prehistoric Museum, as well as the archaeological site of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement that gives an insight into how the people here lived before the eruption. Check out the range of restaurants and shops in the island's capital, interchangeably called Thira or Fira. If you have time while you're here, perhaps head to one of Santorini's volcanic beaches, such as Red Beach or the black beaches of Perissa, Vlhada, Perivolos or Agios Georgios. Be sure to try some of the island’s delicious food – the nutrient-filled volcanic soil makes the ingredients grown here full of flavour.
In 1500 BC a volcanic eruption sank the centre of Santorini, forming one of the most significant geological formations on the planet – the awe-inspiring caldera. The spectacular natural beauty of this caldera is what makes Santorini such a special place. Today make an excursion along the crater rim, starting in Thira town and walking through little villages all the way to Oia, passing steep cliff faces and experiencing breathtaking views along the way. If you have time, you might also like to take a half-day trip to the island's volcano and hot springs in the centre of the lagoon. Or perhaps visit one of the island’s wineries – the vines here are cultivated in a very unusual way, with the plants being pruned to form a low basket shape that sits on top of the volcanic soil to protect the grapes from strong winds. On the last evening of your adventure, rub shoulders with friendly locals in packed pubs and cafes, sipping a cocktail as you witness a magnificent Santorini sunset.
Today your Greek Islands adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. You might want to extend your stay to see all Santorini has to offer. We are happy to book additional accommodation, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking.