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Byzantine Peloponnese - 9 days tour

 

Day 1. Arrival / Athens.
Arrival at the Athens airport. Welcome assistance and transfer to the hotel in Athens. Short briefing about your tour and rest of the day at leisure.

Day 2. Athens / Athens.PanathinaikoStadium
The day is dedicated to the city of Athens. Departing from our hotel, we will take a panoramic tour of Athens, passing by the House of Parliament and the tomb of the Unknown soldier, the Presidential Palace, Panathinaikon stadium, Hadrian's Arch, and other main landmarks of Athens. Soon we will arrive under the sacred rock of Acropolis. Here we will visit the ruins of Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Propylae. On our exit we shall stop at Mars Hill where Paul delivered his well-known sermon, and start descending towards the Agora, the ancient market where Paul spoke to the Athenians. Afternoon will be free to explore more of the city of Athens or visit the old part of the city, the so called Plaka.

BourtziDay 3. Corinth canal, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Nafplion / Sparta.
We leave Athens behind taking the coastal road to the Corinth canal. Short stop for picture taking and we continue on to Mycenae. Visit the fortified citadel of Mycenean civilization and see the famous Lion's Gate and the tomb of Agamemnon before we continue on to Epidaurus. See the sacred site and sanctuary of Asklipios and marvel the unique acoustics of the largest theater on mainland Greece preserved from the antiquity. Next stop is the picturesque village of Nafplion. Free time to stroll in its narrow streets, to admire the little island of Bourtzi and to enjoy a lunch next to the sea. We continue our drive to arrive in Sparta for overnight.

Day 4. Geraki, Monemvasia / Sparta.Monemvasia
We leave our hotel for our full day tour. First stop is Geraki and its castle built on a low hill, at the southwest slopes of mount Parnon, near the village of Geraki. It was founded in 1209 by the Frankish baron Guy de Nivelet and remained under Frankish occupation until 1259. After the Franks were defeated in the battle of Pelagonia in 1259, the castle was given over to the Greeks in 1262 and supported the Despotate of Mystras (1262-1460). At the end of the 17th century the castle was captured by the Venetians, in 1715 was occupied by the Turks, and was finally abandoned at the end of the 18th century. Explore the site and see the church of St. George and St. Paraskevi before we continue on to Monemvassia. Monemvassia occupies a steep, rocky islet connected to the Laconian coast by a bridge. The settlement was founded in the 6th century A.D. by the inhabitants of Laconia. A second settlement was later founded on a lower level, and gradually developed into a town of significant strategic importance. After a short domination of the Popes, the area was captured by the Venetians in 1464. In 1540 it was occupied by the Turks and its decline became more evident. In 1690 it was given over to the Venetians and in 1715 was recaptured by the Turks. It was the first among the fortified towns of the Peloponnese to be liberated by the Greeks in 1821. Monemvassia is among the most beautiful castles in Greece offering spectacular views. We return to our hotel in Sparta for overnight.

Day 5. Mystras / Kalamata.Mystras
We leave Sparta for the highlight visit of our tour - Mystras. Mystras is a purely medieval town and citadel in its ruin. Churches, monasteries, palaces and houses line the narrow winding streets. Its location alone would make it an enchanting spot, but within its walls are preserved some of the finest examples of Byzantine art and architecture in Greece from the 13-15th century, and the numerous wall-paintings are among the most characteristic of their kind. It used to be the most important citadel of the Peloponnese, and here from the peninsula, was governed by a Despot, either a son or a brother of the Byzantine emperor. We shall visit at least two monasteries or churches. Among those the Cathedral built in the beginning of the 14th century, stands in a spacious court in which are an antique sarcophagus and a fountain. The church is a Basislica with a very fine marble iconostassis and a 17th century richly carved walnut throne well preserved through the years. The Pantanassa, the most beautiful church of Mystras was built in the middle of the 14th century. The interior of the church is adorned with frescoes, mostly dating from the 17th century. Leaving Mystras behind, we shall take the winding but truly picturesque road, up on Taigetos mountain and back down from the other side to reach the city of Kalamata for overnight

Day 6. Pylos, Navarino, Niokastro, Methoni / Olympia.MethoniCastle
As we continue our tour of the Peloponnese, our today's first stop will be Pylos, a picturesque village in the bay of Navarino, dominated by two castles on top of two hills above the town. We shall be visiting Niokastro, the newer one before we continue to Methoni and its castle that lies at the southernmost end of the west Peloponnesian coast. The site was fortified as early as the 7th century B.C., and in the period between 395 A.D. and 1204 A.D. was used as a Byzantine fortress. The area was dominated by the Franks for a very short period and in 1206 was captured by the Venetians who strengthened the fortification, incorporating the pre-Christian defensive structures. In 1500 Methoni was captured by the Turk Bayazit Pasha, again came under Venetian occupation from 1685 until 1715, and was for a second time dominated by the Turks who kept it under their control until 1829, when it was liberated by the French general Maison, along with other towns of the Peloponnese. Next stop is the Palace of Nestor. This is the best preserved of the Mycenaean palaces. It's a complex of various buildings. It consists of 105 ground floor apartments. It has four main buildings (SW building, central building, NE building, wine store) and some smaller ones. The most important compartments of the palace are the big rectangural "throne room" with its circular hearth, the room with the clay bath tube and the stores with their numerous storage vessels. The walls of the palace were decorated with fine wall paintings. Our long day will end with a drive to the village of Olympia for overnight.

OlympiaStadiumDay 7. Olympia / Athens.
Our tour of the Peloponnese wouldn't have been complete without a visit to ancient Olympia, one of the most important sanctuaries of antiquity, dedicated to the father of the gods Olympian Zeus. Olympia is the birth-place of the Olympic Games. The area, of great natural beauty, has been inhabited uninterruptedly since the 3rd millenium B.C. and in the late Mycenaean period it became a religious centre. See the Temple of Zeus, the Heraion, the stadium and visit the local museum with unique findings like the statue of Hermes of Praxitelis. After lunch, we take the road back to Athens to arrive in the evening for overnight.

Day 8. Cruise Aegina, Poros, Hydra / Athens.Hydra
This day is at leisure. We suggest to follow our optional one day cruise to the islands of Aegina, Poros and Hydra. We will have the chance to discuss all we've seen during our tour, while cruising the Saronic gulf waters. Live shows on board the cruise ship and seated lunch will ease our day. In the afternoon we will return to Athens.

Day 9. Departure.
Should the time allows, we shall take our last walks in the streets of Athens before we board our coach for the transfer to the Athens airport. Departure.