Arrive in Athens and transfer to Piraeus to embark the Corinthian.
Visit Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympics, the ancient Sanctuary of Zeus and a vast sanctuary of well-preserved altars, temples and other ruins. Highlights of the site include the Temples of Hera and Zeus, the Council House and the Treasuries. The Archaeological Museum houses exquisite sculptures and other artifacts from the site.
From the pleasant port town of Kyparissia, drive through the impressive landscape of Arcadia to visit the celebrated Temple of Apollo Epikourios (“protector”), built on a rocky terrace about 3,500 feet above sea level. Constructed in the 5th century b.c., the temple is one of the best preserved in Greece (currently under a protective tent). Return to Corinthian and sail along the coast to attractive Pylos, built on the shore of spacious Navarino Bay, for an excursion to the Palace of Nestor, dating from the 14th century, the Mycenaean period. The palace’s archives contained tablets with Linear B inscriptions, the earlier form of Greek. Sailing late in the evening gives the opportunity to explore on your own Pylos, with its narrow arcaded streets.
Built between its beautiful waterfront and a steep hill, Gytheion is the port of ancient and modern Sparta, and according to legend, the place from where Helen fled with Paris to Troy. Today, the area around Gytheion is known for its excellent olive oil. Drive inland to Mystra, the best surviving Byzantine town in Greece (14th to 15th centuries), built on a rocky spur overlooking Sparta. Once a great center of learning, art, and culture, Mystra is dominated by its ramparts, palaces, and the graceful domes of its churches, many of which contain frescoes. In Sparta, visit the Archaeological Museum.
Crete, Zeus’s legendary birthplace, was home to the Minoan civilization, Europe’s first. Arrive in Rethymnon, where ancient minarets, Venetian and Turkish houses, and a medieval fortress intermingle to compose one of Crete’s most delightful towns. This morning, drive to the south of the island to explore the Minoan palace of Phaestos, a site occupied since the Neolithic period, which overlooks the fertile plain of Mesara. Also stop at the village of Vori to visit the splendid Museum of Cretan Ethnology.
Alternatively, enjoy the morning at leisure to explore Rethymnon, including its Archaeological Museum. In the afternoon, drive to Knossos, where the brilliance and refinement of the Minoans are revealed in the excavations found here. The largest palace of the period on Crete, Knossos is a labyrinth of corridors, stairways, and chambers decorated with frescoes illustrating life as it was 4,000 years ago.
Corinthian sails into the flooded volcanic crater of Santorini, one of the Mediterranean’s most spectacular islands. From the sea enjoy a beautiful view of the whitewashed village of Phira, set atop a 1,000-foot-high palisade. Then travel to Akrotiri, which, centuries ago, was inhabited by a sophisticated Bronze Age society. In the 2nd millennium B.C., volcanic eruptions shrouded the island in a blanket of pumice and ash, preserving many of Akrotiri’s buildings. Like Pompeii, the houses here still contain pottery and other household furnishings left as they were abandoned, and the narrow streets and broad squares remain much as they did 3,600 years ago. Return to Phira to visit its excellent museum, with the most complete collection of artifacts of the Minoan civilization in the world.
Arrive at Nafplion for an excursion to Mycenae, a center of the world of the Mycenaeans, an extraordinary civilization that flourished in the second millennium b.c. Homer described Mycenae, the home of Agamemnon, as “rich in gold.” A tour of the citadel includes the royal beehive-shaped tombs, set outside its walls, and the dramatic Lion Gate, which leads to the acropolis and grand palace. Drive to Epidaurus, the ancient shrine of Asklepios. The ruins are dominated by a 4th-century theater, one of the finest in Greece. Spend the afternoon at leisure in lovely Nafplion, one of Greece’s best preserved medieval towns.
Disembark in Piraeus and transfer to the airport in Athens for return flights home.