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Insight Vacations Grand Tour of Greece and the Balkans (Summer 2017) (E946)

16 Days starts and ends in Athens Print
Tour Style: Regional Trip
Europe & Britain 2017/18
Visits: Greece, Albania

Discover the land where Alexander became Great and the Gods were consulted through mysterious Oracles. Explore sun-kissed temples and magnificent monasteries and enjoy superb lakeside scenery.

ADDITIONAL INCLUDED HIGHLIGHTS

  • Athens: See Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus.
  • Delphi: See the Parian marble Treasury of the Athenians, Polygonal Wall and the Temple of Apollo.
  • Thermopylae: See the memorial to Leonidas and his heroic Spartans.
  • Thessaloniki: Experience the best of this Byzantine metropolis, as well as exploring some of the city's colourful markets and culinary highlights.
  • Sofia: See the Cathedral, churches, and Soviet-era buildings.
  • Skopje: A guided walk through these enchanting streets to see the churches, mosques and old Turkish buildings.
  • Ohrid: Walk through the cobbled streets with a guide.
  • Tirana: Enjoy a guided sightseeing tour.
  • Patras: Cross world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge.
  • Corinth Canal: Cross the amazing rock-cut channel dividing the Peloponnese from mainland Greece.

AUTHENTIC REGIONAL FLAVOURS

  • Olympia: Join a qualified chef for an entertaining cookery demonstration, then enjoy these authentic flavours of Greece.
  • Athens: Enjoy a Celebration Dinner in true Greek style, complete with wine.
  • 14 Buffet Breakfasts (BB), 4 three-course table d'hôte Dinners or Buffets (D) with tea or coffee; 1 Welcome Dinner (WD), 3 three-course table d'hôte Dinner (DW), 1 Signature Evening (SE) and 1 Celebration Dinner (CD) all with wine, plus tea or coffee.

SIGNATURE EXPERIENCES

  • Athens: Ascend the ‘Sacred Rock', the Acropolis, to admire the Parthenon built in 5th century BC as well as the smaller Temple of Athena Nike and Caryatid Beauties.
  • Delphi: Ascend the Sacred Way in mystical Delphi, past the superb Polygonal Wall to reach the temple where the mysterious Oracle breathed her enigmatic 'words'.
  • Meteora: Visit the amazing hanging Monasteries of Meteora, incredibly perched on top of pinnacles of rock.
  • Vergina: Descend through subterranean stone passageways to a specially built museum housing the tomb of Alexander the Great's father.
  • Thessaloniki: Experience the history of ancient Macedonia through important findings dating back to the end of 6th century B.C. at the Archaeological Museum.
  • Rila: See the Rila Monastery, the largest and most important symbol of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
  • Ioannia: Visit the Theatre of Dodona, one of the largest and best preserved of ancient Greece.
  • Olympia: See the Olympic Stadium where the original games took place in 776BC, plus the ruins of temples dedicated to Zeus.
  • Mycenae: Walk through the Lion Gate, see the Royal Palace and Tomb of Agamemnon on this ancient site.
  • Mycenae: Walk through the Lion Gate, see the Royal Palace and Tomb of Agamemnon on this ancient site.
  • Argolis: View beautiful works of art during your visit to a family-run pottery studio, which embraces traditional methods.

STAY AT THE BEST ADDRESSES

  • Ohrid: Surrounded by a magnificent pine wood and 100 yards from the shore of Lake Ohrid, the Hotel Belvedere is a comfortable hotel with a unique ambience and friendly service.
  • Ioannina: Situated next to the lake of legends, the Du Lac Hotel is a modern hotel offering excellent facilities.

ADDITIONAL FIVE STAR SERVICES

  • An expert Insight Tour Director, at the pinnacle of their career, will guide you on your journey. Serving as your 'travelling concierge', this skilled guide will act as consummate organiser and be your 'friend in a foreign land'.
  • Enjoy the unique comfort of Insight's luxury air-conditioned 40 seat coach with extended leg room and on-board restroom. It's business class comfort.
  • A personal radio headset gives you the freedom to wander during visits to famous highlights, without missing any of your Local Expert's fascinating insights and commentaries.
  • Baggage handling everywhere, with seamless and prompt delivery to your door at every hotel.
  • Hotel and restaurant tips included - you'll never have to worry about how much to give, nor search for foreign currency. Plus we include all taxes and porterage charges at hotels.
  • Stay connected with friends and family with our complimentary coach and hotel Wi-Fi.
  • Insight Flourishes - from time to time, your Tour Director will enchant you with local tidbits, each representing authentic food or beverages unique to the destination.
  • Included airport transfers at scheduled times on arrival and departure days.

Insight Vacations Tour Itinerary

Day: 1 Your Journey Begins
Board your overnight flight to Europe (please ask about our great deals).
Day: 2 Welcome to Athens
You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel, where there is time to settle in and relax. Later, meet your Tour Director for a Welcome Reception and an opportunity to mingle over a pleasant evening of dinner and wine.(WD)
Day: 3 Athens, City of the Gods
Sightseeing with a Local Expert, takes you past the University and the Stadium where the first modern Olympics took place in 1896. See the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch before moving on to the Acropolis with its exquisite Temple of Wingless Victory and majestic Parthenon. In the afternoon, you may want to hunt for bargains in the Monastiraki flea market or join the relaxed café scene on Constitution Square? Alternatively, the energetic may wish to visit the Theatre of Dionysos where the great Greek tragedies were first performed, or stand with the strangely costumed soldiers guarding the Royal Palace.(BB)
Day: 4 Spectacular scenery leads to Delphi and Kalamabaka
A scenic drive brings you to mystical Delphi, clinging to the side of Mount Parnassus at 600m. With a Local Expert, ascend the Sacred Way, once lined with offertory temples and statues to the honour of Apollo. See the Parian marble Treasury of the Athenians and superb Polygonal Wall, its interlocking stones still perfectly intact, even after thousands of years. Now approach the Temple of Apollo itself, where the mysterious Oracle breathed her enigmatic ‘words'. Continue north via Thermopylae, site of the famous battle between the Spartans and Persians. Stop for a wonderful photo opportunity before driving through fertile Thessaly to Kalambaka.(BB / D)
Day: 5 Meteora, Vergina and on to Thessaloniki
Today's fascinating journey takes you from vertiginous clifftop monasteries to unearthly, underground tombs. With a Local Expert, visit one of the amazing hanging Monasteries of Meteora, incredibly perched on top of pinnacles of rock and enjoy stunning views over the Peneios Valley. Continue to Vergina in the foothills of the Pierian Mountains, site of ancient Macedonia's first capital, where one of the world's most astonishing discoveries awaits. Descend through subterranean stone passageways to a specially built museum housing the tomb of Alexander the Great's father and the treasures found within. Muted lighting dramatically showcases King Philip II's exquisite golden burial treasure. Now on to Thessaloniki.(BB / D)
Day: 6 Thriving Thessaloniki
Join a Local Expert to explore the second city of modern Greece, a vibrant port full of great gastronomic tradition. Thessaloniki rose to prominence under the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD. During this time, many fine churches were built and your sightseeing showcases the best of this Byzantine metropolis. See the historic Arch of Galerius followed by a visit to the Archaeological Museum and explore some of the city's colourful markets and culinary highlights. The afternoon is at leisure in this vibrant city.(BB)
Day: 7 Through the Balkan Mountains to Rila Monastery and Sofia
Cross the Bulgarian border and follow the fertile River Struma northward, before turning off towards the Balkan's highest mountain range. Rising out of a forested valley, the magnificent Rila Monastery is the largest and most important symbol of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Its austere fortress-like exterior belies the striped red-and-cream brickwork and kaleidoscopic frescoes inside. A Local Expert explains the apocalyptic artwork beneath horseshoe-shaped arches, while black-robed monks go about their daily business. Continue on to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.(BB / DW)
Day: 8 Sophisticated Sofia
Scattered around Sofia, are various ruins and remains proclaiming the city's early origins. Sightseeing with a Local Expert takes in the St. Sofia Church across the square from the golden domed St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the archeological complex, dominated by St. George's Church. The afternoon is at leisure to shop or continue sightseeing.(BB)
Day: 9 Skopje then on to Ohrid
Cross the border in the morning, and head for the FYR Macedonian capital. Skopje is an ultra modern city with an age-old bazaar, where Turkish influences can still be seen and felt. Enjoy a guided walk through these enchanting streets to see the churches, mosques and old Turkish buildings. Then continue south to the lakeside resort of Ohrid, where you can wander café-lined promenades or cobblestone streets of the old town and shop for the famous Ohrid pearls.(BB / DW)
Day: 10 The Albanian Capital, Tirana
(Relaxed Start) Cross into Albania, Europe's last Cold War convert and drive to Tirana, renowned for its unfailingly friendly locals. Meet a resident expert at the landmark Skanderbeg Square for an insider's look at the Albanian capital, taking in the Et'hem Bey Mosque, Clock Tower, National Historic Museum and other major sights. As the cool of evening descends, why not head for the green spaces of the city where Albanian families gather to play ball, drink coffee or catch up on gossip.(BB / DW)
Day: 11 Charming Ioannina
Spectacular scenery brings you back to the northern mountainous region of Greece and the pretty resort of Ioannina, on the banks of placid Pamvotis Lake. Maybe take a stroll beneath the walls of the citadel and gaze out over the waters to the island.(BB / D)
Day: 12 Dodona and Olympia
Visit the peaceful Shrine of Dodona in the morning, overlooked by the majestic twin peaks of Mount Tomaros. The original Holy Oak, where Zeus' voice would whisper in the breeze, has long since gone, however, the enormous, ancient theatre remains. Its weather-beaten limestone seats are the perfect place to contemplate the prophetic priests who could interpret the will of the Gods. Continue south around the small fishing villages and shallow waters of the Ambracian Gulf, before crossing the soaring Rio-Antirrio Bridge to the Peloponnese. In Olympia in the evening, join a qualified chef for an entertaining cookery demonstration. Afterwards, these authentic flavours of Greece are yours to taste for dinner.(BB / SE)
Day: 13 Birthplace of the Olympics and on to Nafplio
Join your Local Expert to see the Olympic Stadium, where the original games were first held in 776BC, plus the athletes' gymnasium and time-worn temples. Then a delightful drive through the Arcadian Mountains takes you into the heart of Argolis before continuing on to the elegant seaside town of Nafplio, first capital of modern Greece.(BB / D)
Day: 14 Ancient Mycenae
A Local Expert will join you as you head to the ancient site of Mycenae, home to several important excavations such as the Lion Gate, Royal Palace and Tomb of Agamemnon, all of whose sophisticated architecture testifies to the advanced culture of the Mycenaean civilisation. Later, learn traditional ceramic techniques and patterns, meet the artisans and view beautiful works of art at a family-run pottery studio. In the evening enjoy a rousing Celebration Dinner in true Greek style, complete with wine and good cheer.(BB)
Day: 15 Return to Athens
Cross the Corinth Canal, begun in the 1st century BC by the emperor Nero but not completed until the 19th century - an amazing rock-cut channel dividing the Peloponnese from mainland Greece. Follow the shores of the Saronic Gulf back to Athens, where the rest of the day is at leisure for last-minute shopping. In the evening, enjoy a rousing Celebration Dinner in true Greek style, complete with wine and good cheer.(BB / CD)
Day: 16 Depart Athens
Your journey comes to an end with a transfer to Athens airport.(BB)

Available Room Types: Single, Twin, Triple

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Guaranteed Departure 08/24/2017 $3,675.00
Guaranteed Departure 09/21/2017 $3,675.00
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