Ruins of ancient Kourion, Cyprus
Ruins of ancient Kourion, Cyprus

Cyprus, Crete & Santorini: Ancient Aegean Kingdoms


15 days From $6,995

October 7 2019

The sparkling Mediterranean waters of the Aegean, dividing mainland Greece from Turkey, were the genesis for the evolution of ancient maritime civilizations whose questing seafarers first linked ancient Greek and Roman cultures with the eastern civilizations of Anatolia and Levantine centers in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

What's included?

  •  Expert Scholar & Tour Manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

Led by...

Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley

Dr Christina Hatzimichael Whitley is a Tutor in Greek Archaeology at the Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning (LEARN). She specializes in Minoan Crete, and is co-director of the Praisos survey and excavation Project (Crete).

Book Now $6,995
Includes deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,400

Tour highlights:

  • Discover Gortyn and its famous 5th century stone blocks, inscribed with the laws of Classical Greece
  • Separate history from mythology as we explore the fascinating Minoan palace complexes of Knossos and Malia
  • Wander amid Cyprus’s Tombs of Kings at Paphos, a grand necropolis carved from the solid rock
  • Explore Heraklion Archaeological Museum, housing the world’s greatest exhibition of Minoan artifacts - and also Nicosia’s Cyprus Museum
  • Enjoy the Mediterranean’s friendly skies, inviting beaches and delicious local cuisines – all will enhance our quest for the secrets of these ancient civilizations

Tour details

Dates October 7 2019 - October 21 2019
Duration 15 days
Cost $6,995
Single supplement: $1,400
Deposit: $1,250 , balance due by July 15 2019
Activity Level Moderate
Tour code A19CCS

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

October 7 2019: Itinerary

We arrive in Larnaca on the beach-fringed south coast of Cyprus and transfer to our first hotel. We relax until the evening, when we enjoy a welcome dinner as a group.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Lordos Beach, Larnaca

An introductory talk sets the historical and geographical scene before we begin our first day’s exploration at Larnaca’s archaeological site of the ancient city-kingdom of Kition. Established in the 13th century BCE by sea-trading Mycenaean settlers attracted by its rich deposits of copper, and followed in turn by a Phoenician colony in about 900 BCE, Kition later became a way-station for pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. Most interesting among today’s remains is the Temple of Aphrodite -Astarte, built by the same Phoenician masons as Jerusalem’s Temple of Solomon. Today’s other key locations visited include the 18th century lakeside mosque of Umm Haram, one of the holiest shrines of Islam as the burial-place of the maternal aunt of the Prophet Muhammad; the precious Byzantine mosaics in 11th century Kiti Church, including a rare 6th century representation of the Virgin Mary and Child; the venerable 9th century St. Lazarus Church, one of Cyprus’ finest Byzantine landmarks, beautifully restored in the 17th century; and the delightful Pierides Museum, a 200-year-old family mansion housing a major collection of artifacts garnered from all over Cyprus.

All meals included

Hotel: Lordos Beach, Larnaca

Our day is spent in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, under an hour’s drive away. A settlement since the Bronze Age, Nicosia has been continuously inhabited for almost 5,000 years. Today its Old City, ringed by ancient Venetian walls defending the city from Ottoman invasion, is a engaging medley of old and new, its mellow colonial-era buildings, churches and mosques watching over a vibrant street scene. Our morning focuses on the handsome Cyprus Archaeological Museum, home to the world’s most extensive collections of Cypriot archaeology, charting the development of the island’s civilization from the Neolithic Age to the 7th century Early Byzantine period. After lunch the afternoon is free to wander amid Nicosia’s colorful - and very walkable - old quarter at our own pace.

All meals included

Hotel: Lordos Beach, Larnaca

Today we travel to the west coast of Cyprus on a journey of discovery of around 100 miles encompassing five memorable locations, including four UNESCO-listed sites. Each has its own unique story to tell - and all have played an influential role in Cypriot history and mythology. Our first call is at Khirokitia, one of the Eastern Mediterranean’s most significant prehistoric sites, with a well-preserved Neolithic walled village of over 60 stone and mud roundhouses. We continue to the dramatic clifftop setting of Amathous, once overlooking a natural harbor for the Phoenicians and whose archaeological remains (including an agora, public baths and the Temple of Aphrodite) have yielded evidence of human activity from about 1100 BCE. In the afternoon we visit the coastal site of the ancient city-kingdom of Kourion, whose sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, a superbly restored Graeco-Roman theater, public baths and Roman agora command glorious sea views. From here we travel to the beach at Petra tou Romiou, a striking geological rock formation renowned as the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite. Our final stop is at nearby Kouklia, where the ruins of the one-time city-kingdom of Palaipaphos contain the ancient remains of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, dating back to the 12th century BCE. We continue to the ancient harbor-town and modern-day resort of Paphos, our base for the following three nights.

All meals included

Hotel: Capital Coast Resort & Spa, Paphos

An utterly contrasted Cyprus heritage awaits us today as we travel inland to explore the Troodos Mountains, the island’s rocky backbone that rises to over 6,000 feet (and hosts skiing in winter!). Our quest extends beyond just scenery, though, as here beneath mountain peaks and on terraced hills nestles one of the finest collections of ancient churches and monasteries of the Byzantine Empire - hidden far away from the island’s vulnerable coastline. A galaxy of ten of these historic treasures features on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, all vividly decorated with often highly-refined icons and frescoes depicting saints, Apostles and stories from the Bible. Our route offers a memorable overview of this unique cultural bequest on a series of visits that includes Agios Ioannis Lampadistis, whose dome houses a fine Pantokrator icon, and diminutive Panagia tou Moutoulla, among the oldest (1280 CE) of the churches, notable for its frescoes of St. George and St. Christopher, dressed in Byzantine armor.

All meals included

Hotel: Capital Coast Resort & Spa, Paphos

We remain firmly at sea level on a day devoted to one of Cyprus’ oldest communities, where archaeology and history connoisseurs are spoilt for choice. Its popularity as a beach resort may make Paphos sound an unlikely spot to meet treasures from the past - but its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a reminder that Paphos has been inhabited since the Neolithic period and was later. a center of the cult of Aphrodite and of pre-Hellenic fertility deities. The remains of its villas, palaces, theaters, fortresses and tombs have made it a site of great archaeological significance. Our morning’s exploration includes the elaborate called the “Tombs of the Kings” - a misnomer as local aristocracy and important officials rather than monarchs that occupy this necropolis. Its 100 house-like tombs are carved from solid rock, some with Doric columns and frescoed walls, and many dating from the 4th century BCE. We relax over lunch within the lively Paphos Harbor area before visiting the nearby Archaeological Park, home to the major remains of ancient Greek and Roman Paphos. Among the highlights we explore are the impressive Roman Villa of Theseus and the House of Dionysos, adorned with colorful mosaic floors portraying images from Greek mythology - well-preserved despite being nearly 2,000 years old.

All meals included

Hotel: Capital Coast Resort & Spa, Paphos

After a relaxed morning at leisure, we depart for our flight to Crete.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Aquila Atlantis Hotel, Heraklion

Our first morning in Heraklion takes us to the Archaeological Museum’s exceptional collection of Minoan treasures and artifacts from the island’s palaces, towns and villas, spanning over 5,500 years of Cretan history. The rest of our day is free to relax or for independent sightseeing, perhaps to view the 13th century Venetian harbor fortress and Byzantine-style St. Minas Cathedral.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Aquila Atlantis Hotel, Heraklion

A definite highlight of our tour will be today’s visit to the ruined palace-city of nearby Knossos. Inhabited continuously from the Neolithic period, this grew to become the ceremonial and political center of Crete’s great Minoan civilization. The excavated site we now see dates from Greece’s Bronze Age era and is the country’s largest Bronze Age site. At its height a flourishing Aegean center of trade with a population of 100,000, Knossos was abandoned at around 1380–1100 BCE. The site’s principal feature is the world-renowned Palace of Knossos, rebuilt in 1720 BCE after an earthquake, linked by extensive flights of stairs and colonnades with numerous other buildings on the hilly site. The intricate, multi-storeyed layout of the palace has led to its connection with numerous myths, most famously that of Theseus, the bull-like Minotaur and the labyrinth. We explore the Palace royal quarters with their decorated throne room and banquet halls, the Little Palace, the House of the High Priest, the House of the Frescoes and other principal features of this impressive site. From Knossos we continue to the Minoan villa and outbuildings of Vathypetro, dating from about 1600 BCE and the remnants of a settlement that spread over three hills. An elaborate shrine and a wonderfully preserved wine press (one of the oldest in the world) seem to reflect contrasting Minoan priorities!

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Aquila Atlantis Hotel, Heraklion

Today’s circular tour opens with a morning at the extensive Graeco-Roman site of Gortyn in the fertile Messara Valley. Here were discovered 5th century stone blocks inscribed with parts of the famous Law Code of Gortyn, the oldest and

most complete known example of coded ancient Greek laws. Once a major community with a population of over 100,000, Gortyn made a pact with Roman invaders and flourished for centuries as the capital of Roman Crete. We then meet up with the Minoans again at the magnificent panoramic setting of Phaistos, the second-most important Minoan palace-city. Famous finds here include thousands of documents, some bearing the earliest known examples of the Minoan’s still-undeciphered writing (named “Linear A”). We leave the sunburnt columns and courtyards of Phaistos to visit Agia Triada, a grand but ruinous Minoan “Royal Villa” that has yielded the largest Linear A archive found in Crete to date.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Aquila Atlantis Hotel, Heraklion

We are never far from the sea today as we follow the island’s mountain-backed northern shore en route for the principal archaeological sites of eastern Crete. A short drive brings us to Malia - third largest of the Minoan palace complexes, built at around the same period as Knossos and notable not only for its size but also for its strategic port, skylights and grand Minoan facades. A little further on lies the well-preserved late-Minoan town of Gournia, A few hundred yards from the sea in the Gulf of Mirabello, its fully-excavated hillside remains reveal evidence of a court and cemetery, as well as some 50 houses, clustered around cobbled streets and crowned by a now-ruined palace. After lunch we explore the intriguing ruins of Chamaizi, best-known for the enigma of its oval-shaped Middle Minoan building on the summit of its hill - the first of this type to be discovered. We return to Heraklion to enjoy a relaxed evening in our own way - perhaps to make for the harbor for a stroll and dinner at a local restaurant.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Aquila Atlantis Hotel, Heraklion

A ferry-crossing of about two hours brings us to Fira, the improbably pretty little capital of Santorini, southernmost of the Cyclades Islands, whose dazzling honeycomb of narrow streets and whitewashed terraced houses we shall have time to explore during our two nights here.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Splendour Resort, Santorini

After breakfast we journey up winding roads to the archaeological site of the ancient city of Thera, high on a ridge of Messa Vouno mountain, with stunning views over the Aegean. Post-dating Santorini’s great volcanic eruption over 3,500, years ago, the extensive site’s Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine ruins include the remains of temples and sanctuaries, an agora, theater, houses, Roman baths and a gymnasium. We devote the afternoon to the new Museum of Prehistoric Thera and the smaller Archaeological Museum - together offering a rich collection of vibrant Minoan wall paintings from nearby Akrotiri, as well as ceramics (notable among them beautifully decorated bird jugs some 4,000 years old), jewelry and artifacts from other island excavations.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Splendour Resort, Santorini

This morning we visit nearby Akrotiri, the vast site of a Bronze Age Minoan settlement famously buried in ash and destroyed by the catastrophic eruption of a marine volcano in around 1650 BCE (long before Pompeii suffered a similar fate). Retaining some impressively well-preserved houses, Akrotiri’s complex buildings and even drainage systems still in place tell of a once-prosperous port town and trading community - as do the magnificent wall paintings (protected over time by layers of ash) with many images of seascapes, animals, fish, and plants celebrating  a love of the sea and the natural world. After our return to Fira we gather this evening for a farewell group dinner.

All meals included

Hotel: Splendour Resort, Santorini

We transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

October 7 2019: Additional Info

October 7 2019: Accommodation

Situated on a private beach of Larnaca Bay, Lordos Beach offers rooms with a balcony featuring side views of the Mediterranean Sea. Facilities include outdoor pools and on-site water sport facilities.

All rooms and suites of Lordos Beach Hotel have air conditioning, mini fridge, and satellite TV. Some rooms have a private garden and a wooden deck, which leads down to shared hot tubs. A minibar is included in some units or it can be requested.

Lordos Beach Hotel offers a large range of on-site water sports, including scuba diving, windsurfing, and water skiing. The hotel also has an indoor pool, a tennis court, and a kids club. Free WiFi is available in the bar and the lobby.

Guests can enjoy traditional Cypriot, Mediterranean or international dishes in the 2 restaurants. The 3 bars serve a wide variety of drinks, including local wines and exotic cocktails.

Exclusive accommodation is on offer at Paphos' Capital Coast Resort and Spa. This beachfront resort has a Spa, featuring a hot tub, hammam, sauna and massage treatments.

The bright guest rooms have contemporary and elegant décor. Some include a fully equipped kitchen with oven and dishwasher. There is a large living area fitted with flat-screen satellite TV and DVD player.

Capital Coast Resort and Spa’s restaurant serves a combination of traditional and international dishes. The hotel offers an outdoor pool bar and a roof top bar with views over the Mediterranean Sea. Certified Cypriot breakfast is served in the morning.

With 2 pools, a gym with cardio-fitness activities, and a tennis court, the resort provides an array of in-house activities. Diving and snorkeling services are available at the nearby beach.

Within 200 yards from the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, the 5-star Aquila Atlantis Hotel features an outdoor pool with unobstructed views over the harbor, a semi-covered pool and an elegantly decorated restaurant.

Fitted with parquet floors and earthy colours, all rooms and suites of Atlantis Hotel enjoy views over the city of Heraklion, the harbour or the hotel's atrium. Each unit includes a desk and comes equipped with air conditioning, flat-screen TV with satellite channels, coffee machine and minibar. The modern bathrooms are stocked with free toiletries, bathrobes and slippers.

Guests can relax at the sun loungers by the pool and enjoy a refreshing drink from the on-site bar. Breakfast is served daily at the modern setting of the lounge bar, where drinks and cocktails can also be enjoyed. Mediterranean flavors accompanied by fine wine are available daily at the hotel's main restaurant.

Situated in the scenic Firostefani, Splendour Resort offers elegant 5-star accommodation with views over the Aegean Sea. It includes a swimming pool with poolside bar and an on-site restaurant. Free WiFi access is provided throughout.

The air-conditioned rooms and suites are bright and decorated in light tones. Each with a private balcony, they are equipped with a flat-screen satellite TV, mini fridge and free toiletries. 

Guests can enjoy fresh juices, cocktails and light meals at the pool bar, while Greek and Mediterranean dishes can be enjoyed at the a la carte restaurant for lunch or dinner. Buffet breakfast is prepared daily and served by the pool.

The lively town of Fira is around a 15-minute walk away from the complex and offers many dining and entertainment options. 

October 7 2019: Enquiries

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