GLORIES OF GREECE
INSIGHT VACATIONS

Glories of Greece is a 7 day tour of the Greek mainland. I also had three extra days before the tour in the Greek Islands and an extra day in Athens after the tour ended.

GREECE - TRAVEL LOG

Wednesday
May 18th
I landed in Athens and proceeded to transfer to my flight to Crete. On arriving in Crete around 9pm, I experienced a rude taxi driver who in turn experienced a ruder passenger when he tried to play dumb as to my hotel. He seemed to remember where it was when it looked like I'd make trouble. I checked in and settled down for the night.
Thursday
May 19th
My first stop this morning was the palace of Knossos, where I spent a good 1.5 hours on site photographing the ruins. Again the bus drivers were loud and rude. I met fire with fire in typical style and returned to Iraklion.

After returning to town I visited the Venetian fort on the harbour before visiting the Archaeological museum. The Museum was only one room but contained some big ticket items, Phaistos disk, bulls head and frescoes from Knossos.

The rest of the day I went shopping and as it rained, I re-planned my trip. I had intended to visit Phaiestos and Gortny but these are similar to other sights I had seen and on the southern end of the island, so I investigated visiting the island of Santorini instead.
Friday
May 20th
I set off to Santorini by fast ferry. I arrived around 11am and took another rude taxi to the town of Firra. I was dropped off at the edge of town because the taxi driver thought I Firra was not his favourite destination and that I would like somewhere further out better. I visited their two museums and walked the various narrow shopping streets. The scenery was stunning, but the shops were all selling the same items. Although I did find the largest custard square on Earth (still searching for proof) less of a square more of a cube!

I caught a bus to Oia to see some other the more picturesque postcard scenes. Like Firra, there were plenty of souvenir shops to avoid (I even found fake Murano glass there) and after my photos I found the travel bug bitting again and I returned to Firra and then back to the port. You can't help but feel that Santorini is being spoiled by tourism.

After a good meal at the port I returned to Crete via the fast ferry.
Saturday
May 21st
Officially this is day 1 of the Glories of Greece tour, but my "free time in Athens" was actually to be spent on Mykonos and Delos. I was up early for a 6am flight to Athens and on to Mykonos. Mykonos has the port access to Delos, which is where I wanted to go. I landed in Mykonos at 9:30am and took a taxi in to town (finally a good taxi driver). The guide books talk of a bus service and there was evidence of a bus stop at the airport but no evidence of the bus.

I got in to town at 9:50 and found the Blue Star ferry booking office. I was dragging my bags from the plane and had to run around the cobbled port dragging my 20kg luggage behind me to catch the 10am sailing. Once on board I brought water and lunch before stowing my bags. Delos is a historical island with no permanent inhabitants. It is illegal to be born or die on Delos... don't ask me the punishment! We visited most of the main sites and the museum before the boat had to depart for Mykonos (1:30pm).

After returning to Mykonos I had a good meal and made friends with a cat who wouldn't let me leave. I took a taxi to the airport at 3:30pm, knowing I would be a bit early I thought I'd check my luggage in and wait there. The airport had no employees bar a cleaning lady until just after 5pm. I checked in but couldn't leave my luggage as the security scan desk wasn't manned. 5:30 they manned it and allowed us to check our luggage in. 6pm we departed. We arrived at 6:40 where I arrived at the baggage claim to see my bags being the first off the conveyor belt. I walked out of the airport unchallenged. Air security in Italy and Greece is very lax. My transfer was waiting at the terminal and we raced in to town. We pulled in at the hotel and I didn't get to check in before being ushered in to the "Insight Welcome drinks" event. At the drinks everything was explained up front and optional excursion bookings, departure transfer details and dinner arrangements were all required then - or at the latest by the following morning.
Sunday
May 22nd
Today was our day in Athens, and so firstly we visited the Acropolis and the Temple of Zeus before visiting Plaka the touristy shopping district.

We met our tour director/tour guide Anastassia (pronounced Arna-star-see-er) who took us around the Acropolis and then down to the Temple of Zeus. We then met up with our other tour director, Anna, for the shopping excursion. We had to meet after lunch for the excursion to Cape Sounion. Cape Sounion was 1.5 hour drive out of Athens, unfortunately there was a cave diving event planned for that time and they hadn't planned an alternate route. We were stuck in traffic and the return journey which took us 3 hours.

After arriving late for dinner I found it easy to consume everything put before me. I had only had a slushy since breakfast.
Monday
May 23rd
We left Athens, crossing at Corinth for Naphlion, Mycenae and finally Olympia.

Unfortunately we didn't stop to see the archaeological site at Corinth, but we did get to stop at Naphlion. It was a small harbour village with a Venetian castle overlooking it on the hill and a small fort in the harbour itself.

We carried on to Mycenae to see the famous Lions gate and palace of Agamemnon. The museum was definitely a must see with some nice items well exhibited. We also saw the tomb of Clytemnestra which was more complete. We continued on to Olympia where we stayed at a hotel overlooking the town.
Tuesday
May 24th
Olympia has both the archaeological site and a museum. We visited both before having lunch in the village. Of course Olympia was the site of the first Olympic games. I walk the 192 meter track in an attempt to say I had done it without showing anyone up.

We departed Olympia in the afternoon crossing the bridge at Rio and Antimo and visiting the picturesque town of Nafpaktos.

We took a very scenic drive across the mountains to the town of Delphi. Dinner in Delphi was the best on tour although like all of Greece there was no sign of traditional Greek food. Later after dinner I went out exploring the town and shopping. I managed to purchase three Greek chess sets (Acropolis, Troy and Thermopylae) that were actually made in Greece!
Wednesday
May 25th
We visited the archaeological site and museum of Delphi before passing through Thermopylae on to Kalambaka.

The site at Delphi required some walking and some on the tour opted to do just part of it. We didn't visit the Temple of Athena in the lower section as I guess we would need more time. The Greeks considered Delphi to be the centre of the world and it was the site of the oracle. It was also the site of the Pythian Games, one of the four sporting events on the Greek calendar which included the Olympic games.

The tour continued on to Thermopylae where we visited Leonidas' monument. The landscape now has changed considerably as this is no longer a thing mountain pass, but a large plain.

Continuing on we stopped at a truck stop that had the biggest pieces of cake for the cheapest prices. I struggled through the whole plate of cake. It merely cost just 2.90 euros! After that cake stop we came to Kalambaka the town at the foot of the monasteries at Meteora.
Thursday
May 26th
Meteora has some spectacular scenery featuring the monasteries perched precariously on shear rocks.

The tour took us to two such monasteries. The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron which is the largest and The Monastery of Saint Stephen.

After our time in Kalambaka we set off back across Thessaly on to that cake stop en-route to Athens. They hadn't replaced the piece I had had the day before. After arriving in Athens, we found a restaurant around from the hotel who were totally unprepared for customers.
Friday
May 27th
The tour now over, I had the full day in Athens to explore and see the sights at my own pace.

The hotel features a free shuttle bus service to Syntagma Square. From there I walked to the museum and saw some amazing exhibits from prehistoric times like from Crete and Akrotiri (Santorini), Mycenae (bulls head, mask of Agamemnon, gold cup, jewelry etc) and many items from classical Greece and Roman times.

I continued back to Plaka and visited the Roman Forum and Hadrian's Library as I shopped in Plaka.
Saturday
May 28th
This was my last day in Greece and so I set off again back to Syntagma square and on to see the Athens Forum and its small museum.

My airport transfers were organised for just after 1pm so I headed back to check out of the hotel. Again their were protests in Athens the clogged the traffic and we were some 20 minutes late getting to the airport.

I departed Athens en-route for Dubai and an overnight stay in their airport hotel and the largest rooms I experienced on tour. Breaking the flight with a sleep and breakfast was a good move as it was a long flight home on one of the big double decker A380 airliners.

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