Visit Greece and Turkey on a journey via Athens, Gallipoli and Istanbul.

Explore Greece and Turkey on this whirlwind adventure. Get lost in cities of colourful chaos and natural beauty that must be seen to be believed. With a plethora of ancient treasures to discover, see where democracy began and how life was lived when Zeus called all the shots. Bask in the Grecian sun on lazy beaches and explore ancient ruins and rituals of the past. After days filled with lively adventure, unwind in the evening with a sip of ouzo over a banquet of culinary treats. Yamas!

Start
Athens, Greece
Finish
Istanbul, Turkey
Countries
Greece,
Turkey
Themes
Explorer
Code
ZMSJ
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
214kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Uncover thousands of years of civilisation in Athens with a visit to the world-famous Acropolis and the ancient Agora
  • Like endless pilgrims before you, visit the home of the Oracle of Delphi in Apollo’s sanctuary, one of Greece's most important archaeological sites
  • Be mesmerised by the magical monasteries of Meteora, an extraordinary site and sight, precariously perched high up on a series of ancient rock pinnacles that must be seen to be believed
  • Hit the glorious beaches of the local secret of the Chalkidiki Peninsula, or make for the hills to take in the scenery across mountainous spines and the sparkling blue Aegean Sea
  • Discover the many flavours of Greek cuisine. There's nothing quite like dining on rich and hearty moussaka or grilled lamb and tzatziki in a traditional taverna as Rembetika music floats around you
  • Get beneath the glorious chaos of Istanbul with a local guide, discovering parts of this continent-straddling metropolis that you would never have thought existed

Itinerary

Kalimera! Welcome to Greece. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today – confirm the time and place with reception. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. Named after the goddess of wisdom, the birthplace of Western civilisation, Athens has an amazing array of historic sites to explore; a weighty history that spills out over the modern city, represented most dramatically by the ancient Acropolis. There's much to be seen in the ancient capital of Greece, vibrant and refreshed following the 2004 Olympics, yet still retaining so much visible history. After the welcome meeting, perhaps head out for some gyros and ouzo with your new travel companions.
Today is a free day for you to explore Athens and all it has to offer. Highlights include the renowned changing of the guard at Syntagma (Constitution) Square, the National Gardens, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the original Olympic Stadium and of course the Acropolis where you can enter the Parthenon and enjoy the view of the city from this unique vantage point. Aside from the wealth of ancient history, it’s also worth delving into modern day Athens. The central market is a great insight into daily life – it remains the same as it has for decades, with a huge variety of fish, meat, spices and cheese on sale in its grand vaulted arcades. Many other options are available for your time here, including day trips to the Peloponnese peninsula, taking in ancient Epidavros and the ancient Corinthian canal. Maybe join an Urban Adventure day trip, such as 'Taste of Athens' or 'Markets, Ruins and Ancient Athens'. Make sure you enjoy an alfresco drink at a delightful bar terrace – like tree-lined Kolonaki Square – and then tuck into delicious Greek cuisine.
Travel by public bus to Delphi (approximately 3 hours). Located on the slopes of Mt Parnassos, by a valley of cypress and olives trees, this modern town and ancient ruins overlooks the Gulf of Corinth. The ancient Greeks regarded Delphi as the centre of the world (legend says that Zeus sent two eagles flying from opposite ends of the world and they crossed paths over Delphi), and today it’s one of the country's most inspiring and memorable archaeological sites. On arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk of the cliffside town of Delphi. Then, make the most of your free afternoon by visiting the ancient site of Delphi. Here you’ll find the famous sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena, which contain numerous monuments, temples, a well-preserved theatre, and the impressive reconstructed Athenian Treasury. The site was also home to the Delphic oracle, said to have spoken for Apollo himself – she sat on a chasm, inhaling vapours from the Earth and entering a trance-like state, her cryptic answers to questions translated by priests. There’s also a mountain-top stadium, which were used for the Pythian Games (an Olympic Games precursor), held every four years as early as 586 BC.
Travel by public bus to Kalambaka (approximately 4.5 hours). After leaving your bags at the hotel you’ll take on a short orientation walk of town, where your leader will point out amenities and help you get your bearings. Then it's off to nearby Meteora, home to 24 14th century monasteries that sit at the top of karst pinnacles, though only six are still occupied. They were once only accessed by rope ladders, but thankfully there are now steps. The cliff faces also feature caves where hermits lived an even simpler life than those in the teetering monasteries. The monasteries, which used to be supplied by rope and pulley systems, house woodcarvings, frescoes, paintings, and one even features the skulls of the first founders. In the evening, maybe head to a taverna for dinner and stroll the main square for a taste of Thessalian life.

Note: A strict dress code applies when entering any of the monasteries – no bare shoulders or knees are permitted, and women must wear skirts. It is possible to borrow a long skirt at the door if you don't have one.
Climb into the heavens, just like monks have done for centuries, towards ancient monasteries precariously placed atop 400-metre-high rock formations. You’ll enjoy some great views back over the town. The area makes for incredibly dramatic photos – multi-colour streaked rock, bright green forest, and the pale terracotta of the monastery roofs against the Grecian sky. The mists than can surrounded the pinnacles make the constructions seem like they’re floating in the air. Hawks drift on the valley thermals looking for prey, and black-frocked priests shuffle silently around. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore the scenic area around Meteora, where the views are stunning whichever way you look. Having two days here allows you to explore at your own pace, discover the history and legends, witness the incredible views of one of the few World Heritage sites listed under both nature and art at different times of the day, and avoid the crowds. Your leader will have suggestions on hand.
Take a 2-hour bus ride to Kastoria today. This medieval town sits on the western shore of Lake Orestiada, in a valley surrounded by limestone mountains. Kastoria is full of interesting Byzantine churches and Ottoman-style architecture, including old distinctive villas from the skin and fur trade times. Once you arrive you’ll take an orientation walk along the labyrinthine lanes, with time to walk along the lakeside, where boats bob, Dalmatian pelicans and ducks make iridescent ripples on the water, and coniferous trees and mountains surround in the distance. Later, consider visiting the unspoilt Spilia tou Drakou, or Dragon Cave, one of the most impressive caves in Greece, and see stalactites and underground lakes in this mysterious natural wonder once believed to be a gold mine guarded by a sleepless dragon. Otherwise, perhaps visit the Neolithic lakeside village and reconstruction at Dispilio, which gives you a real feel for life in a village in the middle of the 6th Millennium BC.
Take a bus ride to cosmopolitan Thessaloniki (approximately 2.5 hours), where you’ll have some time to explore the second largest city in Greece. Relax in the splendour of what is regarded as the cultural capital of the country, maybe with shopping, dinner and a show. Walk along the waterfront to the White Tower, take in the Byzantine churches (like the beautifully frescoed Church of Saint Nicholas the Orphan), Ottoman sites and Roman ruins, and appreciate the wonderful views over the gulf. On a clear day you might even catch a glimpse of the home of the gods, Mount Olympus. If you’d like someone to show you the way, perhaps join an Urban Adventure for a local view. The city is undoubtedly the gastronomic capital of the Greece and its flavours are unique. For 2,000 years it’s been a melting pot of cultures, with eastern spices, French, Balkan and Mediterranean tastes. Seek out the eateries in the area around the agora, where age-old columns and arches brush up against modern apartments and the ancient Rotunda. This city especially comes alive in the evening, thanks in part to its large student population.
Building on the Ottoman influence on the cuisine, be sure to indulge in bougatsa (a rich breakfast pastry) and a frappé coffee first thing this morning. Then head out for a day trip, through fertile farming fields, to Pella (approximately 1.5 hours). This was the ancient Macedonian capital during the time of Alexander the Great, and the birthplace of the legendary conqueror. In the sprawling uncovered remains of this Hellenistic city, see the well-defined city blocks, temples, grand private homes, and wonderful pebble mosaic floors. In the centre of the city is the agora (or marketplace), built in the 4th century BC and an architectural gem, unique in conception and size, covering around 7 hectares. Pella is one of the first known cities to have had an extensive piped water supply to individual houses and a sophisticated wastewater disposal system for most of the city. Back in Thessaloniki, perhaps get to grips with the local flavours in this culinary hotspot with a cooking class.
Hop on a public bus and head for a spit of earth in the Aegean Sea (approximately 2 hours). Here there are three distinctive land legs sticking out into the sea, and the first thing you'll see when you arrive at the Chalkidiki (Halkidiki) Peninsula today is the azure blue of the sea and the green of the hills. When you arrive, perhaps get out and breathe in the beautiful air with a hike in the surrounding area, exploring the countryside of this hidden beauty. Otherwise, simply relax on the white sand of one of the beaches and enjoy the sun. Tonight perhaps feast on the local specialties of the area – like sundried and grilled octopus – in a taverna in the town of Ouranoupolis.
Today is a free day for you to explore the area. There is the option to head into the thickly forested hills of the Sithonia land tendril, where there are a multitude of hiking options, all of which afford glorious views across the sparkling blue Aegean Sea, the rugged coastline and the mountainous spine of the peninsula. You could also mountain bike through the pine-forest of the thigh-pumping interior. Alternatively, head to the beach, and sit back with a cocktail in hand. For the adventurous, you might want to consider embarking on a cruise along the shore of the third peninsula leg called Mount Athos, also known as the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain. Here, perched high above a wild and untamed land, monks have been living in isolation since the 9th century.
Hop in a private bus and head east along the coast to Kavala, also known as the cyan city (approximately 2 hours). This is the principal seaport of eastern Macedonia and is located on the Via Egnatia, a 2nd century Roman road whose remains can still be seen today. When you arrive, take an orientation walk around the town, whose centre is dominated by the huge 16th century aqueduct that was still used to supply the city with drinking water until very recently. There's a Byzantine castle up on the hill, and a rambling town spilling down the foothills of Mt Symvolon to the harbour. With your free time, there are plenty of fantastic beaches around to chill out on, the old Turkish quarter of Panagia to wander, where pastel-coloured houses tangle in narrow streets, and restaurants filled with delicious catch of the day seafood with influences from Asia Minor.
Today you will visit the excavations of the ruins of Philippi, 15 kilometres inland from Kavala (approximately 30 minutes). Philippi was established by Philip II of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great), who seized the original town of Krenides in the 4th century BC. He wanted to control an important east-west route and get the gold found in the hills. Later, a great battle was fought here between Julius Caesar’s assassins and the armies of Marc Anthony and Octavian. The city was the first in Europe to embrace Christianity after a visit by the apostle St Paul, and today features the remains of the first churches, destroyed by an earthquake in the 7th century AD. There are also public baths, an amphitheatre, the walls of the old market, and the recently uncovered tomb of an important person still to be identified. Poke around the archaeological museum, which showcases finds from the ancient settlement.
Today you’ll travel by private bus to Turkey (approximately 3.5 hours). Cosmopolitan cities brimming with modern delights, archaeological sites filled with ancient splendour, curious landscapes straight out of a storybook and picture-perfect coastlines frequented by the jet set… this is tantalising Turkey! You won't forget travelling through this exotic land, which sits at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, yet displays a fair bit of Middle Eastern flair. This afternoon you’ll head out with your guide to the Gallipoli Peninsula. It’s a spot of pilgrimage and reverence, and the calm lapping waters belie the murderous campaign that took place here during the First World War. At this now-serene site you’ll get a sobering insight into the plight of the ANZAC, Allied and Turkish forces. It’s hard to think that this beautiful area was once the battlefields of Nek and Lone Pine, and saw such brutal scenes of war. It’s possible to look down upon the rough and barren hills and gullies that sadly became the graveyard for so many thousands of young men from both sides. This is an opportunity to stroll through time; a moving experience for people from all nations. Tonight you’ll stay in Canakkale, a charming traditional fishing town that has a great range of dinner and nightlife options.
This morning travel by public bus to Istanbul (approximately 4.5 hours), the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. A beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west, intriguing Istanbul has a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored. When you arrive, take an orientation walk to discover hidden charms, including the areas around Sultanahmet and Eminonu. Maybe visit the local spice markets and Bazaar quarter, an amazing maze complex of 4,000 shops, and see the Suleymaniye Camii moaque that sits high above the natural harbour of the Golden Horn. End your walk among myriad traders at the port of Eminonu. Each leader has their own exciting unique take on Istanbul. Also among the sights are the Topkapi Palace and harem, Istanbul's iconic Blue Mosque, the incredible Hagia Sophia, and the Archaeological Museum. After all that sightseeing, maybe take a stroll down to the waterfront and hop on a boat up the Bosphorus, leaving the minarets and towers that give the city its distinctive skyline in your wake. To end your adventures, maybe head with the group to Istiklal Caddesi, arguably the city’s most popular strolling, shopping and snacking street, taking a walk with the people who call this city home.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. As there is a great deal to do in Istanbul we recommend allowing a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city, perhaps taking an Urban Adventure. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be able to assist.
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Inclusions

Meals
11 breakfasts
Transport
Metro, Private vehicle, Public bus, Taxi
Accommodation
Hotel (14 nights)
Included activities
  • Orientation Walk - Delphi
  • Orientation Walk - Kalambaka
  • Meteora Monastery Visits
  • Meteora Hill Hike
  • Orientation Walk - Kastoria
  • Orientation Walk - Thessaloniki
  • Pella Day Trip
  • Chalkidiki Peninsula Hiking
  • Orientation Walk - Kavala
  • Archeological Museum of Philippi
  • Guided Tour of Gallipoli Peninsula
  • Orientation Walk - Istanbul

Dates

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Important notes

A single supplement will be available on this trip. Please see trip notes for details.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Athens to Istanbul trips score an average of 4.14 out of 5 based on 7 reviews in the last year.

Athens to Istanbul , September 2015

Athens to Istanbul , June 2015

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