4 DAYS FROM $949
4 DAYS FROM $949
With a history reaching back over seven millennia, Sofia is one of Europe’s youngest capitals but oldest cities. Modern Sofia is full of cobblestone boulevards, domed churches, and vast parks, but behind this eclectic city is a history as rich as any capital. The city’s full heritage was only recently brought to light; when bulldozers broke ground to dig a path for the city’s new metro only a decade ago, they unearthed an ancient world, complete with intact Roman streets, houses, churches, and baths dating over 2,000 years back. Add in the fact that the city is also home to some of Bulgaria’s finest museums and restaurants, and you’ll find that Sofia is the perfect balance of history and culture. Your explorations include two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Boyana Church and Rila Monastery.
Overnight flight to Athens
Board your overnight flight to Athens, Greece.
Arrival in Athens
Arrive in Athens and transfer to Napflion, a beautiful, romantic town in the eastern Peloponnese. Your guaranteed sea-view room will be waiting at your Deluxe hotel. This evening, get acquainted with your Cruise Director and fellow passengers at a Welcome Dinner. Please note: If you purchase your airfare from Vantage, you’ll be met outside the customs area and your transfer to Napflion (less than two hours en route) will be included. If you plan to purchase your own airfare, ask when you reserve your trip about arranging your transfer with Vantage, at a considerable savings over local fares.
Tour the seaside gem of Nafplion and visit a ceramics workshop
Enjoy a morning sightseeing tour of Nafplion, a charming city with a fascinating past. Then travel inland to the ruins of Mycenae, the Bronze Age capital of one of the first great empires of the ancient Mediterranean, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Look for the massive archway with the carved lions, the symbol of the ancient city-state. Cultural Connection: After lunch in a local restaurant, you'll visit a ceramics workshop to witness a pottery-making demonstration by skilled artisans. If you're interested, items made in the studio will be available for purchase. You'll have the balance of the afternoon and evening at leisure.
Enjoy Nafplion or explore Olympia on an optional tour
After breakfast, you’ll have a day at leisure to enjoy the many splendors of this ancient and captivating place. Alternatively, you can set off on an optional tour to Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics. The tour includes a scenic drive across the Peloponnese Peninsula, entrance to the Olympia Museum, and a lunch in a local taverna featuring Greek specialties and traditional music.
Embark on a full-day discovery of ancient Olympia, the original site of the eponymous games and the inspiration for the revived version we all know today. You'll learn about the history of the games as you stroll through the areas where competitions once took place. You’ll also have time to visit the museum on the site.
An architectural masterwork, and a stroll through ancient Corinth
Today, we discover what UNESCO described as “one of the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture” when it named the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus to the World Heritage list. The sanctuary was dedicated to Asklepios, a revered healer, and the valley of Epidaurus became an ancient medical center of sorts, attracting those seeking cures from across the Greek Empire. You’ll also catch a glimpse of another notable site as you visit Corinth, an important city of antiquity. As far back as 400 BC, Ancient Corinth was home to 90,000 people — we’ll learn about the major city that once was as we tour its ruins.Later, transfer across the Corinth Canal to the port of Piraeus and embark ship. Soon, we’ll cast off our voyage of discovery among the ancient ports and serene islands of the Aegean. Cultural Connection: A lecture on “Greek History: From Antiquity to the Present Day” will give us perspective on all the wonders that lie ahead.
Cruising the Cyclades: sacred Delos and hedonistic Mykonos
Despite its status as one of the smallest of the Cyclades, Delos was once the most sacred of the islands, a place steeped in mythology and known as the birthplace of the Apollo the Sun God, and his twin sister, Artemis, Goddess of the Moon. As you’ll discover on your visit, the entire island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with ongoing work to excavate, measure, and preserve the countless treasures, including, temples, monuments, and mosaics. Then, from the serene and timeless precincts of Delos, it’s on to an island of very different character. Beneath the glitz and glitter of Mykonos, there is a charming, fashionable destination and possibly the most popular of the Greek Islands. It is likely what you picture when you think of a typical Greek island, with small houses and churches, shop-lined streets, and a pretty harbor. Head out on a walking tour that includes a stop in a traditional bakery for Greek meze (small plates of food), accompanied by ouzo, the popular anise-flavored liqueur. Cultural Connection: Hear an informative lecture on “Greek Mythology.”
Discovering village life in Naxos and a home-hosted lunch
A scenic morning cruise brings us to Naxos, largest of the Cyclades. This morning’s tour takes you across the island to the village of Kournochari. From here, we’ll trek local footpaths to Melanes, a valley hamlet nestled amid groves of fruit and olive trees. In a garden in the village, you’ll see a haunting ancient statue, meant to portray a guardian of Zeus, which was left unfinished. Cultural Connections: Afterward, join a local family in the village for a home-hosted lunch. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Tonight, enjoy a performance by local musicians aboard ship.
A walking tour of stylish Santorini
Cruise to the popular island of Santorini, where whitewashed houses rest on rugged cliffs overlooking a crystal-blue sea. Set out on a tour that takes you to the archaeological site of Akrotiri; Profitou Iliou Mountain; and Fira, the island’s capital. Then, take a cable car ride back to the ship. This afternoon, relax on board, explore Santorini on your own, or join an optional tour of the Village of Oia, which includes a light lunch and wine tasting. Cultural Connection: Prior to dinner this evening, learn about one of the crowning glories of ancient Greece in a lecture entitled “Architecture and Archaeology.”
The underrated shores of Milos
Perhaps one of the most underrated of the Greek isles, Milos offers stunning beaches (more than any other Greek isle, in fact) and a fascinating landscape shaped by volcanic activity. This is also the birthplace of the famed Venus de Milo, one of the world’s most famous sculptures currently on display at the Louvre. You’ll discover this island on a sightseeing tour, which will include some time at the legendary beaches here. Cultural Connection: Enjoy a lecture on Alexander the Great.
Touring the up-and-coming Paros and Syros’ historical hotspots
This morning we call at Paros, an island renowned for its scenic beauty, with traditional hill villages connected by ancient footpaths. A walking tour in the low-key capital of Parikia reveals the traditional white-washed architecture so typical in this part of the Aegean. Cultural Connection: During your visit, enjoy a tasting of flavorful “Loukoumi” candy. After lunch aboard ship, we arrive at Syros, which thrived as a trading port in the 19th century. During your sightseeing tour, you’ll discover the island’s rich layers of history, from ancient ruins to religious monuments to the capital Ermoupoli’s medieval quarter. Cultural Connections: Learn more about the ancient empires of the Mediterranean in a lecture entitled “Byzantium.” Afterwards, a lively troupe of folk dancers comes aboard ship to entertain us.
A day at leisure in Aegina, or set off on an optional island tour
This island is tantalizingly close to Athens, yet it has its own distinct character. Enjoy an orientation walk, followed by time to yourself to soak in Aegina’s charms. Or, in lieu of free time, set off on an optional island tour this afternoon that includes the well-known Temple of Aphaia, which dates back to 480 BC. Cultural Connection: Learn about the spiritual heritage of Greece during a lecture entitled “Religions in Greece.”
Explore Aegina in depth on a tour that takes you to some of the island’s highlights — including the famed Temple of Aphaia. This temple was built around 500 BC, and was dedicated to the lesser-known goddess Apahaia (sometimes known as a partron of child care). The site is renowned not only for its setting — offering breathtaking views of the island and the sea — but as one of the more impressively preserved structures from the ancient world. Get the most of your time here on Aegina with this optional tour.
Athens’ icons — from the Acropolis to the Parthenon
After breakfast on board, disembark ship and enjoy the day in Athens. Enjoy a panoramic tour of this city of contrasts, where modern life is intertwined with 4,000 years of history. We'll visit the iconic Acropolis, where it was said that Poseidon and Athena fought over who would be patron of the city. This was the architectural pinnacle of Athens, crowned by its breathtaking Parthenon. You’ll also visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Parliament House on Constitution Square, the Pan Athenian Stadium, and the Presidential Palace. We'll also stop into a Vantage-recommended shop that sells fine Greek art, antiquities, and souvenirs, where you can browse the collections. Afterwards, enjoy time at leisure, with lunch on your own in the charming, flower-bedecked Plaka district at the foot of the Acropolis.
More historical and architectural marvels in Athens
Enjoy another day to discover the treasures at the birthplace of democracy. We’ll visit the Archeological Museum as well as the New Acropolis Museum, adding some rich background into your historical discoveries here. After lunch, you’ll have the rest of the day at leisure.
An afternoon at leisure in Athens
You’ll have the day to yourself today to uncover more of Athens treasures, or you can opt for an excursion to Cape Sounion.You hotel is conveniently located near the upscale Kolonaki district in the center of Athens, with many shops and restaurants, as well as some of the city's best museums, right nearby. Bordered by the sea on three sides, Cape Sounion’s sharply indented coastline is fringed with beautiful beaches. Here on top of the cliff, from where King Aegeus threw himself into the sea that even now bears his name, stand the 17 remaining Doric columns of the 5th-century BC Temple of Poseidon. It is a remarkable site to explore. You’ll have the rest of the day at leisure to enjoy your time in the Greek capital. Tonight, meet up with your fellow passengers one more time for a Farewell Dinner at the hotel.
Return home, or head to Albania on your extension
Transfer to the airport for your flight home or begin your post-trip extension in Tirana, the capital of Albania.
With the end of the Communist era, Tirana, the compact capital of Albania, blossomed into a cheerful city of parks, fountains, and cafes. The first thing that will strike you will be the vivid colors of the buildings, running from deep reds and oranges to the most delicate of pastels. During this extension, you’ll explore Tirana's historic district. You'll also make the trip across the border visit Prizren, in Kosovo, the world's newest country. You’ll learn about the differences and similarities between the two cultures, and their intertwined histories. You'll also visit Medieval Monuments of Kosovo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This extension is a superb opportunity to become acquainted with yet another destination in the endlessly fascinating Adriatic region.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Cruise Director or regional expert.