Explore the treasures of ancient Greece on the mainland and then escape to the Cyclades islands for a week relaxing in stunningly beautiful beaches. From the astonishing Acropolis of Athens to whitewashed homes and blue-domed churches of Oia in Santorini, this varied programme is the perfect choice for an unforgettable family holiday.
Acropolis Museum: Layer upon layer of ancient Athenian history can be found in this dazzling modernist structure
Kouros statue: Naxos is home to three ancient statues, dating from between eighth to sixth centuries BC
Fava: Santorini’s most famous dish is made from mashed split peas and served with olives, bread and some feta cheese
Athens: Greece’s capital is packed with the ruins of ancient civilisation, none greater or more iconic than the Acropolis
Delphi: This legendary sanctuary where the oracle of Apollo spoke was the ‘navel of the world’ in classical times
Olympia: The ruins of the site of the ancient Olympic Games evoke the glories of classical sports
Syros: Enjoy a morning hike to the village of Ano Syros in this spellbinding island
Naxos: Hike to the villages Moni and Halki, and explore the longest accessible coastline of any Cyclades island
Santorini: Spend three days in this magical island created by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago
Once you arrive in Athens, make your way towards your hotel in the capital.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a day exploring Athens’s classical heritage and savouring her exuberant ambience. To ease movement in the capital, receive a day pass for public transport. The fun of the Athens metro is to see underground excavations which are still in the subway stations. Head to the astonishing Acropolis, crowned by the ruins of the Parthenon, overlooking the entire city. Explore the Acropolis, admiring relics such as the Old Temple of Athena, the Erechtheum, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and, of course, the Parthenon itself. Continue to the Acropolis Museum, where almost 4,000 ancient artefacts recovered from the site are displayed. At the foot of the Acropolis is Plaka, the liveliest district in Athens. This maze of narrow and quaint streets is bursting with shops and affordable restaurants and cafés.
Take to the road after breakfast at the hotel, with a three-hour dive to Delphi. Immerse yourself in the myths and legends of classical Greece at this magical UNESCO World Heritage Site. Delphi was regarded by the ancient Greeks as the centre of the earth (the omphalos, or navel of the Gaia, the goddess of the Earth). According to legend, Zeus released two eagles at both ends of the world and that where they was the omphalos. Located on a hill overlooking a verdant valley, Delphi today boasts the ruins of temples, an amphitheatre a stadium and treasury as well as hosting an interesting museum, which is also visited.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before continuing the classical tour at Olympia in the Peloponnese peninsula, a drive of some three-and-a-half hours. The site of the ancient Olympics boasts more than 2,700 years of history, with ruins dating to the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. Accommodation is in a village near Olympia. On arrival, perhaps take a dip in the pool or visit one of the nearby tavernas.
Visit Olympia after breakfast at the hotel. See the palaestra and gymnasium, where wrestlers and other athletes would have rained before competing, the ruins of the temples of Zeus and Hera, and much more. In the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, there is an impressive collection of artefacts such as statues of Zeus and the Nike of Paionios as well as displays of helmets, including the remnants of that worn by Athenian general Miltiades at the legendary Battle of Marathon. Nowadays, Olympia is a powerful and symbolic link with the past as every four years, the Olympic flame is lit here.
Return to Athens after breakfast at the hotel. Drive through beautiful green and hilly landscapes on the way to the picturesque village of Lagadia, which is situated on a mountainside. Wander around the village, exploring it at your own pace before continuing to Athens. Rest of the day free on arrival in the capital.
Head to the port of Piraeus after breakfast at the hotel to board the ferry to Syros in the Cyclades islands. Syros is in the centre of the 220 or so islands of the Cyclades group and also where the capital, Ermoupoli, is located. This town of pastel-coloured houses is spread over two hills. Ermoupoli has a vibrant old harbour with many cafés and shops.
Wake up early and stock up at breakfast time because we’re going for a magical morning stroll to the hilltop town Ano Syros. The summit is crowned by Agios Georgios Cathedral, from where there are beautiful views over the island. You have plenty of free time in the afternoon to visit the rest of the island or relax on one of the beautiful sandy beaches.
Head to the port after breakfast to catch the ferry to the island of Naxos, sailing for about two-and-a-half hours. The largest of the Cyclades, Naxos is considered by some to be the greenest and most beautiful of the group. Unlike the other islands, Naxos is a fertile and has a verdant interior with traditional villages and ancient ruins. On the coast, turquoise waters wash against golden sandy beaches. The old town of Naxos (also known as Hora) is a charmingly laidback spot and ideal for a stroll along the harbour front promenade to savour the atmosphere. Accommodation is a comfortable hotel with pool.
Experience rural life in a Greek island after breakfast, visiting a number of picturesque inland villages. From rustic Apeiranthos, with its myriad galleries and cafés, take a walk to the villages of Moni and Halki. The whitewashed homes of Moni rise from groves of olive trees, while in Halki, the faded glory of decaying mansions and tower houses speaks of the town’s glory days as the island’s capital. Meet locals by dropping into tavernas and restaurants in which the men playing backgammon are as a much a part of the scenery as olive groves and Orthodox churches. At the end of the walk, enjoy lunch in a local restaurant. Afternoon free.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a free day. Naxos has lots of beautiful, wide and long, sandy beaches and this is just the island to laze on a lilo in the turquoise waters. The best beaches in Naxos are in the southwest. Plaka beach is a long and wide sandy beach with a gently sloping sea level. Naxos is renowned for its water sports and there are plenty of options available.
After breakfast at the hotel, head to the harbour to board a ferry for the last time during this trip and sail to Santorini. As the boat enters the flooded volcanic caldera and comes under the shadow of Santorini, the island imposingly rises from the azure sea. Atop the cliff faces, whitewashed houses with blue roofs flicker like diamonds in the sun. Spend the next three nights in the capital, Fira, which is perched on the edge of a high cliff.
The tranquillity, the whitewashed houses, blue roofs, the windmills... Oia has become the personification of Greece as you’ll discover this morning with a guided walk to Oia. Explore the charming harbour, head to one of the tavernas for a Greek lunch or stay in Oia living the dream before returning to Fira by bus.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a free day. Discover Santorini at your own pace or simply relax at the beach. Go tonight for one last meal at a cosy taverna and enjoy one last tzatziki. This is how two weeks in Greece should be celebrated!
All good things must come to an end and after an unforgettable fortnight, the time has come to fly home.