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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 with intact Roman streets, houses, churches, and baths dating back 2,000 years. On visits to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Boyana Church and Rila Monastery), you'll find that Sofia is the perfect balance of history and culture, and is also home to some of Bulgaria’s finest museums and restaurants, too.
Fly overnight to Athens
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Athens, Greece.
Arrive in Athens, and then transfer to Nafplion
Arrive in Athens and transfer to Nafplion, where a guaranteed sea-view room awaits you in this beautiful, romantic town in the eastern Peloponnese. This evening, get acquainted with your Cruise Director and fellow passengers during dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Your Cruise Director will also serve as your official guide on this voyage and, in accordance with Greek law, official guides are mandated to complete a rigorous art and history curriculum before licensure by the Greek government. Think of your Cruise Director as an expert on all things Greece, which you’ll soon see for yourself during myriad sightseeing excursions and an illuminating lecture series.
Please Note: On 6/29 and 8/31 departures, travelers will stay at the Amphitryon Hotel instead of the Hotel Nafplia Palace.
Please note: If you purchase your airfare from Vantage, a Vantage representative will meet you outside the customs area and your transfer to Nafplion (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 Nafplion’s gems, and visit a ceramics workshop
Following a Welcome Briefing, enjoy a morning sightseeing tour of Nafplion, a charming city with a fascinating past. Then you'll 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. 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 then return to the hotel and enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure.
Explore Olympia on an optional tour, or explore Nafplion on your own
Set off on an optional tour to Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympics. The tour includes a scenic drive across the Peloponnese Peninsula, entrance to the Olympia Museum, and lunch in a local taverna featuring Greek specialties. Alternatively, enjoy a day at leisure exploring Nafplion further.
Please Note: On 6/29 and 8/31 departures, travelers will stay at the Amphitryon Hotel instead of the Hotel Nafplia Palace.
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 and enjoy an included traditional Greek lunch with folk dancing. You’ll also have time to visit the museum on the site.
An architectural masterwork, and a stroll through ancient Corinth
Discover today what is often lauded as the most beautiful open-air theater in the world: the Theater of Epidaurus, part of the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sanctuary was dedicated to Asklepios, the god of medicine, and the valley of Epidaurus became an ancient medical center of sorts, attracting cure seekers from across the Greek Empire. Next, tour the ruins of Corinth, a city dating as far back as 400 BC and once home to 90,000 people.
Later, transfer across the Corinth Canal to the port of Piraeus and embark ship. Soon, we’ll cast off on our Aegean island-hopping voyage. A lecture on “Greek History: From Antiquity to the Present Day” during our transfer back to the ship will give us perspective on the wonders we’ve seen, and the ones that lie ahead.
Cruising the Aegean means sailing between hundreds of small inhabited and uninhabited islands. There are about 220 estimated islands in the Cyclades, so there’s always something to see!
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 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 fashionable Mykonos — possibly the most popular of the Greek isles — you’ll find a charming place filled with traditional homes and churches, shop-lined streets, and a picturesque harbor. Head out on a walking tour that includes a stop in a traditional taverna for Greek meze (small plates of food), accompanied by ouzo, Greece’s eponymous anise-flavored liqueur; then enjoy some time for swimming and exploring Mykonos on your own. Back on board, hear an enlightening lecture on “Greek Mythology”.
Naxos village life 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, trek local footpaths to Melanes, an ancient village nestled among fruit groves and olive trees. In a local garden, you’ll find a haunting statue depicting a guardian of Zeus, which was left unfinished. Afterward, join a local family in the village for a memorable 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 retreat of Santorini, where typical whitewashed homes scaffold up cliffs overlooking the crystalline sea. As we near the island, you’ll have views of the caldera and the cliffs of Santorini and its two main towns: Fira and Oia, home of the famous white houses with blue windows. Embark on a tour that will lead you to the archaeological site of Akrotiri, Profitou Iliou Mountain, and the town of Fira, the island’s capital. This afternoon, take an optional tour to a winery with a spectacular view of the Santorini Caldera for a light lunch and wine tasting. After lunch, we continue to the northernmost tip of the island to visit the village of Oia, which you may recognize from myriad magazines, movies, and postcards. Undoubtedly Santorini’s most beautiful village, Oia (pronounced “Eee-ya”) is home to charming churches and white homes, restaurants and shops, and some of the best views, seeing as how it overlooks the caldera. Because of its location, sunset lovers convene in Oia each night to witness Santorini’s renowned sherbet sunsets. If you choose not to join our optional tour, you'll have a choice to stay in Fira to explore on your own or return to the ship by cable car. Prior to dinner this evening, delve into more Greek history and heritage with a talk on “Architecture and Archaeology.”
You’ll get a different perspective of Santorini on this excursion, which takes you first to a local winery. Here, sample some of the crisp white wines, and enjoy spectacular views over the water while you enjoy a light meal typical of the island. Afterwards, we head to the village of Oia, on the northernmost point on the island. Built on a steep slope of the caldera, Oia was once the home of wealthy seafarers. See their colorful two-story mansions and houses nestled in niches in the volcanic rock. Walk the narrow, cobbled streets to view tiny shops selling local handicrafts. Stop in one of the coffee shops set on the edge of a cliff for stunning views of the sea and back along the curve of Santorini to Fira, the island’s primary port. After returning to Fira, time permitting, you can spend time at leisure or return to ship via a cable car to the pier.
The underrated shores of Milos
Perhaps one of the most undiscovered of the Greek isles, Milos offers stunning beaches (more than any other Greek isle, in fact) and a fascinating landscape molded by volcanic activity. This is also the discovery site of 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 includes photo stops along the famous volcanic coastlines. You can also use your free time here to explore the Old Town. Later, hear a lecture on Alexander the Great.
Touring historical hot-spots on the up-and-coming isles of Paros and Syros
This morning we call at Paros, an island renowned for its bucolic beauty, laid-back fishing port, and traditional hill villages connected by ancient footpaths. A walking tour in the unpretentious but charming capital of Parikia reveals the traditional bleached architecture so typical in this part of the Aegean. After lunch on ship, arrive at Syros, once a thriving 19th-century trading port. 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. You'll also have a chance to enjoy a tasting of flavorful “Loukoumi” candy. 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
As we cruise to Aegina, located in a bay between Piraeus, Cape Sounion, and Poros, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Greek mainland in the distance! This charming island is close to Athens yet possesses 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. Later, learn about Greece’s spiritual side during a lecture on “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 patron 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 — the Parthenon and the sprawling Acropolis
After breakfast on board, disembark ship and enjoy the day in Athens. A panoramic tour unveils a unique city, where modern life is intertwined with 4,000 years of history. We'll climb up the iconic Acropolis, perched high on an overlook of the entire city. The Acropolis is also 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, and the Pan Athenian Stadium. We'll also stop into a Vantage-recommended shop and browse for fine Greek art, antiquities, and souvenirs. 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 in the birthplace of democracy. We’ll visit the National Archaeological Museum as well as the New Acropolis Museum, adding some rich background into your historical discoveries the day prior. After lunch, spend the rest of the day at leisure in Athens.
Venture to Cape Sounion, or spend afternoon at leisure in Athens
Join an optional excursion to Cape Sounion today. Bordered by the sea on three sides, Cape Sounion’s sharply indented coastline is fringed with beautiful beaches. On top of a cliff from where King Aegeus threw himself into the sea that even now bears his name, you’ll find the 17 remaining Doric columns of the 5th-century-BC Temple of Poseidon.
Or, spend a day at leisure to enjoy more time in the Greek capital city. Your hotel is conveniently located near the upscale Kolonaki district in the center of Athens, close to many shops and restaurants, as well as some of the city's best museums.
Tonight, meet up with your fellow passengers one more time for a Farewell Dinner at the hotel.
Return home, or begin your extension to Albania
Transfer to the airport for your flight home or begin your post-trip extension in Tirana, the capital of Albania.
At the end of the Communist era, Albania’s compact capital of Tirana blossomed into a cheerful city of parks, fountains, and cafés. The first thing that might strike you is the city's famous painted buildings, which are colorfully, vibrantly bedecked in all hues and even geometric designs — an artistic mandate from Tirana's former mayor. During this extension, you’ll explore Tirana's architecture on panoramic and walking tours. You'll also head into the countryside on the way to Shkodra, one of Europe’s oldest cities, and visit the town of Lezhe for a slow food experience that will introduce your palate to farm-fresh Albanian cuisine. This extension is a superb opportunity to become acquainted with yet another destination in the endlessly fascinating Balkan 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.